The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Power and Greed

It looks like 77 year old Bernie Sanders is gearing up for another run at the presidency. Sanders, the godfather of "democratic socialists" is ramping up his class warfare rhetoric, using the same tired tropes used by all socialists over the past 100 years. Catherine Clifford reports (and editorializes):
The power and greed of billionaires in the United States is threatening the country.

So says Bernie Sanders, the 77-year-old senator from Vermont who tried unsuccessfully to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

“We live in a nation owned and controlled by a small number of multi-billionaires whose greed, incredible greed, insatiable greed, is having an unbelievably negative impact on the fabric of our entire country,” Sanders told Paul Jay, CEO and senior editor of The Real News Network, in an interview posted Thursday.

Sanders, who has become a political figurehead for the liberal end of the Democratic Party, said billionaires and their greed are to blame for any number of social problems in the United States.

“When we deal with climate change, when we deal with the economy, when we deal with housing, when we deal with criminal justice or immigration issues, we have got to deal with those in a holistic way, and understand why all of that is happening. Not see them as silo-ized separate issues,” Sanders said. “A lot of that has to do” with the pervasive power of the ultra rich in this country, he said.

It is the responsibility of America to look at the extreme gap between the rich and the poor, Sanders said.
In the run-up to his takeover of Venezuela 20 years ago, Hugo Chavez said essentially the same thing. He demonized the rich in Venezuela, told the "poor" that their lives would improve, and suggested that his path would lead to a utopian existence in which everyone would be "equal." He promised better healthcare, better education, better ... everything. That's not how it worked out.

Oh by the way, Chevez died a billionaire, having stolen about $2 billion from his country. But nevermind—the dictates suggested by class warfare are always aimed at others, never the leaders of the socialist movement.

Bernie's rhetoric is powerful but empty—not because he's alway wrong—he does identify systemic problems, but because his "solutions" would wreck our economy and hurt the "poor" and the "middle class" in exactly the same way Chavez (and later Maduro) ravaged those constituencies in Venezuela. The problems associated with income distribution in a society cannot be solved through confiscatory taxation, oppressive government controls, excessive regulation, and the demonization of those who create companies, employ millions, and spur economic growth. But demonization is the lingua franca of class warfare, and class warfare is the only strategy that socialists have.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Gilets Jaunes

The events in France continue to unfold, three things become increasingly clear.
  1. The "Normals" (as Kurt Schlichter calls them), have finally woken up. Working men and women across the income spectrum always bear the brunt of excessive taxation (despite the empty rhetoric of socialist politicians implying that only "the rich" will bear the burden) and are finally saying "enough." Socialist states throughout Europe rely heavily on various direct and indirect taxes to fund the programs that Democrats in the United States yearn to copy (e.g., "free" national health care). The problem, of course, is that these programs are hardly "free." They are enormously expensive, often inefficient, and sometimes ineffective, so to fix them, more and more money is needed. Finally, the socialist governments begin to run out of other people's money and in desperation, increase taxes until a tipping point is reached. That precipitates movements like the Gilets Jaunes in France
  2. The elites that govern Western countries have no feeling whatsoever for the struggles of working people. Many of the elites are consumed with social justice issues that are so far removed from the everyday struggles of the Normals that it's laughable. Even worse, the elites have no compunction about forcing the Normals to fund their pet causes or defund issues that the Normals believe are important (e.g., strong border security). For example, whether you believe that anthropogenic climate change is at a crisis level or not, unproven and often questionable policies to mitigate the "crisis" can make the lives of Normals more difficult. Understandably, there's push back as the Gilets Jaunes are doing right now.
  3. The condescension that the elites and their media hamsters heap on the Normals (think: "deplorables") suggesting that only the elites know what is best has created anger just below the surface. The Gilets Jaunes exemplify that anger in many ways.
All of this frightens and frustrates the elites, who had a long run during which their leadership was generally unquestioned. Until that leadership failed not once, or twice but repeatedly and sometimes catastrophically (think: the neocons). That's part of the reason why Donald Trump makes the elites crazy—his presidency, his sometimes crazy rhetoric, his bombast, and his direct attacks provide clear and irrefutable evidence that the elites have lost their central position. And they hate it!

American elites look nervously toward Europe and ask whether the analog to the Gilets Jaunes will arrive in America. If they keep doing what they're doing ...
  • growing government every bigger,
  • weaponizing major government agencies in a partisan fashion,

  • using the media as a propaganda arm,

  • whining about incivility and divisiveness while working hard to promote both,

  • pushing for the impeachment of a duly elected president,

  • conducting specious investigations that accomplish nothing,

  • instituting programs that are overly costly and generally ineffective,

  • continuing the hypocritical, sanctimonious, and dishonest rhetoric that exemplifies modern politics,

... there's a very strong likelihood that it will.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

-63 Percent

Now and then, one or more members of the "democratic socialist" wing (it's becoming more like the "body") of the Democratic party suggests that more government control of everything from healthcare to prescription drug production is the best path for success. After all, private enterprise is suspect and capitalists are worrisome.

In fact, in unguarded moments, some of the wing's most extreme members suggest that the government should nationalize specific companies (e.g., newbie congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested that Tesla IP should be nationalized so that all cars can become electric quickly.* That's naive at best and monumentally ignorant of the realities of the auto industry at worst, but whatever.

Spencer Jakab reports:
You know things are bad when North Dakota zooms past you.

Venezuela, by some measures home to the world’s largest crude reserves, saw oil output drop in September to a four-decade low of 1.17 million barrels. The same month saw North Dakota, owner of the Guinness World Record for the most snow angels, produce a record of nearly 1.3 million barrels.

Fracking technology accounts for North Dakota’s ascent, but so does bad policy. Go back to 2000, Hugo Chávez’s first full year in power, and Venezuela pumped nearly 3.2 million barrels a day, or about 33 times what North Dakota managed.

At least Venezuela still has better weather, global warming notwithstanding. North Dakota recorded the coldest temperature on earth to ring in 2018 on a day when Caracas only dipped to 73 degrees Fahrenheit.
Gosh ... the socialists' dream of nationalizing a major industry worked well for Venezuela, didn't it? In less than 18 years, oil production in that country is down by 63 percent! Just another small indicator of the wonders of socialism.

FOOTNOTE:
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* As the owner of two EVs myself, I'm a strong proponent of the technology (it's simply better in every respect) but I'm also a strong proponent of allowing the free and independent markets to dictate buying patterns (and that's already happening with EVs). The government might have a peripheral role to play via tax incentives and a reduction in regulatory actions, but it should NOT interfere with the private sector in substantive ways.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Mueller Chase

If the Democrats and their trained hamsters in the media are really convinced that Donald Trump is a liar, a fascist, a racist, a misogynist, an incompetent, a Russian stooge, and a really, really, really, really bad president, you'd think they's exhibit just a little patience, recognizing that the 2020 election will turn Trump out of office in a landslide for Joe Biden, or Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren, or Kamila Harris, or Beto, or some other Democrat superstar. But deep down, they remain obsessed and frightened by Hillary Clinton's upset loss. They have to prove that the Dem narrative didn't lose, that their candidate were wasn't rejected by half the country ... it was the RUSSIANS!

This weekend, the Dems and their media hamsters were all aflutter about Michael Cohen, Trump's scumbag fixer who flipped for Mueller and turned states's evidence. We learned the shocking (!) news that the Trump organization talked with Russians about real estate deals that never came to fruition, that no money changed hands, and that no meeting with actual high level government officials (only Cohen level Russian scumbags who claimed to be connected to Russian officials) took place. We also learned that that Trump paid hush money to a few women who he hooked up with years before he decided to run for office. The humanity!! This confirmed what every person in America already knew, that Trump is a serial philanderer.

Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler—politicians whose "honesty" makes Michael Cohen look like the most upstanding man on the planet—are already threatening an indictment with clear implication that impeachment is at hand. I have only one thing to say to the Dems—go for it! No matter that it will poison politics for a generation, roil the country, create uncertainty in the markets, foster instability in international relations, and otherwise damage the country—Trump Derangement Syndrome must be served.

With the stern look of law enforcement professionals, Mueller and his colleagues in the Southern district of New York have demonstrated how concerned that are about "campaign finance violations" connected with Trump's payoffs to a porn star. Interesting though, that the Southern District never talked indictments when the Obama campaign literally turned off international credit card validation software that allowed tens of millions of dollars in patently illegal international campaign contributions to Obama's presidential campaign (the campaign got a civil penalty of about $400,000), and the trained hamsters barely reported it. Nah, that was nothing compared to payout of personal money to a porn star. It's the hypocrisy and double standards that are galling, but it is what it is, I suppose.

Victor Davis Hansen comments:
Mueller and the New York federal attorneys were rightly upset that Cohen allegedly lied and admitted that he lied under oath. By all means, let us jail Cohen for subverting the entire foundation of our legal system that must rely on honest testimonies in all government inquiries.

And in that same spirit, let the Department of Justice also charge former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for lying under oath when he deliberately misled congress about NSA surveillance (and admitted to lying), and John Brennan as well, who as CIA director lied on two occasions about drone collateral damage and CIA surveillance of Senate staff computers (and admitted to such), and has serially misrepresented his efforts with then-Senator Harry Reid to seed the Steele dossier.

And let us indict either the former director James Comey or the deputy director Andrew McCabe of the FBI—or both—for making false statements to federal investigators and Congress, given their respective testimonies under oath about leaking to the press and the role of the Steele dossier in FISA warrants cannot be reconciled.

With all due respect to Michael Cohen, what is currently destroying the concept of the American system of jurisprudence are not the self-serving lies of such a minor shady operator, but rather the deliberate and more artful prevarication under oath of the nation’s top intelligence and law enforcement officers.
But we all know that none of that will happen. Trump must be undone, and it's Mueller's job (along with the NY state AG) to undo him. Witch hunt? It is, masked as a righteous search for justice, which it isn't.

Hansen continues:
What then is the Mueller chase all about?

In reductionist terms, in the midst of a political campaign, and as “insurance” for an expected Clinton victory, had Hillary Clinton not hired the Perkins Coie law firm (masking her own role) to hire Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS, to hire foreign national Christopher Steele, to hire foreign national Russian sources, to spin yarns about Donald Trump’s alleged “collusion” (spiced up for media leakage with lurid stories of Trump urolagnia), to create 11th-hour election anti-Trump hysteria throughout the media and federal government, then special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation would never have existed.

Or is it even worse than that?

Had Hillary Clinton just won the election as she was supposed to do, and Donald Trump, as he too was supposed to do, just sulked back in humiliation and media ridicule to his penthouse suite at Trump Tower, then the 2016 campaign’s sensationalized leaked yarns from the Steele dossier would have at best warranted a tiny lurid goodbye hit piece on Trump from the New Yorker or Vanity Fair. But simply by winning, Donald Trump brought untold misery upon his family, friends, associates—and himself.

What all the later unmaskings of U.S. citizens’ names by Obama officials, all the daily leaking of “bombshell” rumors to warp an election, transition, and presidency, all the lying under oath, all the texting of Page and Strzok, all the machinations of Andrew McCabe and James Comey, all the FBI insertions of informants, all the involvement of the CIA, Justice, and State Department in seeding the rumors and slander, all the collusion of a foreign national spying on a presidential candidate—what it was all about in the end was simple: In 2016, legions of bureaucrats wanted to score points in Hillary Clinton’s foreordained new administration by vying with each other to “insure” her blowout, to brag they had done in the ogre Trump, and to expect not so much impunity as adoration for their illegal but supposedly patriotic service beyond the call of duty. Trump was not just to be defeated but humiliated and destroyed as a lesson.

Then Clinton lost—or rather she blew a sure Electoral College victory.
And all hell broke loose.

UPDATE:
-----------------

As I mentioned, it's the double standard that is most galling. If Mueller and the Southern District of NY, along with every Democrat politician are so, so concerned about violations of campaign finance laws, why are they silent on Hillary's massive abuses during the 2016 campaign. Yeah, I know, Trump is president, but HRC ran for president, and her prosecution along with Trump's would be an object lesson for future candidates. Wait, what?!? Applying standards even-handedly—never!!

This tweet covers it nicely:


Friday, December 07, 2018

Retrograde Slide

Over the past month or so, I've been following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter, the Left's new telegenic, intersectionally acceptable (i.e., young, latin, female) celebrity. It's informative.

Although not a Democrat party leader (actually, not even a Congresswoman at this point), Cortez provides a important window into Democratic Socialist thinking and possibly, the direction of the Democratic party. She is unabashedly in favor of big government solutions for everything from healthcare, to income inequality, to climate change. She says all of the right things (if you're a progressive) and has a large following of mostly young progressives who idolize her in a way not seen since the fawning praise heaped on Barack Obama before he did anything as president. Recall that Obama was awarded a Nobel peace prize prospectively, yet after eight years of serial failure on the world stage, slaughters in Syria, Libya, capitulation to Iran, and other geopolitical missteps, his media hamsters still characterize the man as a transcendent figure. Oh well, I digress. Back to Cortez.

In a recent "climate summit" Tom Elliott reports that Ocazio-Cortez said:
“I believe that the progressive movement is the only movement that has answers right now,” she said. “We're the only ones that are drawing from the lessons of history, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, from some of the most ambitious projects that we have pursued in American history. And that truly again is the scale that it's going to take.”
Hmmm. I suppose that depends on the questions.

I find it interesting that Cortez wants to go back to FDR's 1940s for direction, but refuses to acknowledge that a far a more recent socialist experiment in Venezuela has ended catastrophically. During the climate summit, she proposed nationalizing Tesla's EV technology in much the same way as Hugo Chavez suggesting nationalizing Venezuela's oil and gas industry. That did NOT work out well for Venezuela and it would NOT work out well for the United States, but Cortez is either too ignorant or too ideological to recognize the dangers (and failures) of centralized government control of an economy.

Cortez, her mentor Bernie Sanders, and the rest of the Dem Socialist crowd view the private sector as part of the problem, not part of the solution. Whether it's demanding centralized big government control of almost all aspects of our economy, dictating the wages that businesses should pay their workers, inventing regulations that strangle innovation, or demonizing capitalism, their Marxist-Leninist march toward the future is actually a retrograde slide into an ugly and failed past.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Look Deeper

George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st President of the United States, will be laid to rest today. He lived a life of accomplishment and by any standard, was a good and decent man. In death, Bush was praised in a bi-partisan manner, but there was a not-so-subtle edge to the praise, aimed squarely at the current president, Donald Trump. The tone was that Trump is the anti-Bush, and there's some truth to that. Here's what WaPo (certainly no friend of Trump) wrote: “Trump’s time in office, by contrast, has been defined by a war against virtually all of the norms and institutions that Bush held dear.”

But the WaPo's statement, although partially true, is hypocritical. Daniel Henninger comments on this:
Most of the Bush values can be found on any list of what are called—or used to be called—virtues. It is telling that these same simple virtues are now being praised by a media that has done so much in the past 30 years to undermine them.

Bush entered the White House in 1989. Since then, two overlapping currents have run through American life—one cultural, the other political. The big change that was coming in the political culture hit me hard at the Republican National Convention in Houston in 1992 ...

The novelist Norman Mailer covered the Houston convention for the New Republic and what he wrote about Barbara Bush spoke for repelled liberals everywhere:

“That was just what she did in her speech on Family Values. It was no rhetorical gem. On the page, it read like one of those decaffeinated pieces of prose that used to blanket the old Reader’s Digest, affirmative, highly simplified, and emotionally available to anyone whose I.Q. had managed to stay below 100.”

The media, or much of it, chose to conflate “family values” with “the right.” (While we’re on the subject, the right’s dismissal of “the Bushies” even now is cut from the same uselessly reductionist cloth.) That stereotyping of popular concerns about traditional values was one reason why a partisan political gulf began to open in those years ...

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who by the time of their presidential campaigns represented the victors in the culture wars, still took time to rhetorically slam the losers, who by then really were clinging to what was left from those battles ...

Times change. Family values have been displaced by a more media-driven agenda: racism, identity, gender, immigration, tariffs. Taxes are a constant, but if President Trump raises taxes next year in a compromise with the Pelosi Democrats, don’t expect the Beltway press to give him the same praise 41 is getting this week for reversing his no-new-taxes pledge.

Perhaps, like Bush, Donald Trump will be a one-term president, and for the same reason—a slowing U.S. economy. But if you want to discover why America lost the personal and political values of George H.W. Bush, forget Donald Trump. Look deeper.
The Democrats and their trained hamsters in the media don't want us to "look deeper." They would have us believe that Donald Trump is the source of all the political incivility, name-calling, bombast, and dishonesty we see in present day politics. But as Hennenger correctly states, Trump is the result of the political incivility, name-calling, bombast, and dishonesty that have been the modus operandi of the Democratic party and their media hamsters for decades. That's not an excuse for Trump's behavior, but it does help explain it.

The Bushes were vilified during their tenure in the White House, but they didn't fight back in any substantive way. They were gentleman in the old school tradition. Trump is different. He does fight back using the same political incivility, name-calling, bombast, and dishonesty that is directed at him. He is not the source of it, just the first president to return fire in kind. That isn't a good thing, but it's the reality of our current situation.

As I've mentioned in other posts, for the last 30 years, the Dems have used political incivility (think: Clarance Thomas), name-calling (think: Mailer above), bombast (think: pushing Grandma off a cliff) and dishonesty (think: "You can keep your Doctor") to bully anyone who challenged their positions or disagreed with their politics. They haven't been called on it because the media hamsters are nothing more than Democratic operatives with bylines. A bully never likes it when their target pushes back—hard. Trump, for better or worse, does just that and does it (via twitter) outside the control of the trained hamsters in the media. The Dems don't like it one bit.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Camile

Camile Paglia is an independent thinker, an iconoclast, a Democrat of the classical liberal school, and a brilliant observer of the American scene. The Spectator published a brief interview of Paglia today and characterizes her thusly:
Camille Paglia is one of the most interesting and explosive thinkers of our time. She transgresses academic boundaries and blows up media forms. She’s brilliant on politics, art, literature, philosophy, and the culture wars.
I couldn't agree more.

Here are a few snippets from the interview that are worth noting:

On the 2020 Democrat presidential field:
If the economy continues strong, Trump will be reelected. The Democrats (my party) have been in chaos since the 2016 election and have no coherent message except Trump hatred. Despite the vast pack of potential candidates, no one yet seems to have the edge. I had high hopes for Kamala Harris, but she missed a huge opportunity to play a moderating, statesmanlike role and has already imprinted an image of herself as a ruthless inquisitor that will make it hard for her to pull voters across party lines.

Screechy Elizabeth Warren has never had a snowball’s chance in hell to appeal beyond upper-middle-class professionals of her glossy stripe. Kirsten Gillibrand is a wobbly mediocrity. Cory Booker has all the gravitas of a cork. Andrew Cuomo is a yapping puppy with a long, muddy bullyboy tail. Both Bernie Sanders (for whom I voted in the 2016 primaries) and Joe Biden (who would have won the election had Obama not cut him off at the knees) are way too old and creaky.

To win in the nation’s broad midsection, the Democratic nominee will need to project steadiness, substance, and warmth.
Instead, the Dem field can best be characterized as a group suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome. The Donald lives rent-free in each of their heads.

On Donald Trump:
Most Democrats have wildly underestimated Trump from the get-go. I was certainly surprised at how easily he mowed down 17 other candidates in the GOP primaries. He represents widespread popular dissatisfaction with politics as usual. Both major US parties are in turmoil and metamorphosis, as their various factions war and realign. The mainstream media’s nonstop assault on Trump has certainly backfired by cementing his outsider status. He is basically a pragmatic deal-maker, indifferent to ideology. As with Bolsonaro in Brazil, Trump rose because of decades of failure by the political establishment to address urgent systemic problems, including corruption at high levels. Democrats must hammer out their own image and agenda and stop self-destructively insulting half the electorate by treating Trump like Satan.
The Dems keep waiting for Trump to crash and burn, nurturing their fantasy of impeachment. Is that because deep down they sorta know that given all his real accomplishments over the past two years, they'll have trouble beating him in 2020?

On the "deep state:"
The deep state is no myth but a sodden, intertwined mass of bloated, self-replicating bureaucracy that constitutes the real power in Washington and that stubbornly outlasts every administration. As government programs have incrementally multiplied, so has their regulatory apparatus, with its intrusive byzantine minutiae ... Its spreading sclerotic mass is wasteful, redundant, and ultimately tyrannical.

I have been trying for decades to get my fellow Democrats to realize how unchecked bureaucracy, in government or academe, is inherently authoritarian and illiberal. A persistent characteristic of civilizations in decline throughout history has been their self-strangling by slow, swollen, and stupid bureaucracies ...

In the modern world, so wondrously but perilously interconnected, a principle of periodic reduction of bureaucracy should be built into every social organism. Freedom cannot survive otherwise.
The Trump administration is a threat to the deep state, and it, more than any other entity other than the media, has become his sworn enemy.

On political correctness:
... I never fully understood [Oscar] Wilde’s caustic satire of Victorian philanthropists and humanitarians until the present sludgy tide of political correctness began flooding government, education, and media over the past two decades. Wilde saw the insufferable arrogance and preening sanctimony in his era’s self-appointed guardians of morality.

We’re back to the hypocrisy sweepstakes, where gestures of virtue are as formalized as kabuki. Humor has been assassinated. An off word at work or school will get you booted to the gallows. This is the graveyard of liberalism, whose once noble ideals have turned spectral and vampiric.
Yeah ... "insufferable arrogance and preening sanctimony" covers it perfectly!

It's interesting that the trained hamsters in the media rarely give Camile Paglia the voice she deserves. Maybe that's because she doesn't fit neatly into the narrative they want to present.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

All About Power

In a thoughtful piece on how the elites on both the right and the left have failed in their attempts at effective governance, Chris Bray writes:
Today a well-entrenched class of professional thinkers largely understands expertise as the product of formal education and relationships to elite universities: You become an expert, or start to, by acquiring academic credentials. Extra points for grad school, and more points still for being a professor like Paul Krugman or Jonathan Gruber. Like the administrative class in Vichy France, or the scholar-officials of imperial China, you’re smart if you go to school a lot and excel on your exams, so you get to be in charge of some piece of the political or cultural mechanism.

But is it working? Are our credentialing instruments producing people who are capable of practical action? To borrow a question from firefighters, can our credential-holders put the wet stuff on the red stuff?

Nearly a decade ago, Angelo Codevilla noticed the calcification of the American ruling class, a thing we sometimes pretend not to have. Our elites, he wrote, are “formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits.” Thoroughly enculturated, the American elite gathers itself around a “social canon” that one does not question. Speaking of societal controversy with the wrong words puts a person outside the circle, out there in flyover country with the deplorables.
The simple reality is that the "best and the brightest"—many graduates of Ivy League schools, most with backgrounds in Law or political science, have made a real mess of governance.
  • They are experts at identifying problems but never effectively solving them.
  • They hide behind the decision of a group so that they won't have to take responsibility for decision made on their own.
  • They are often ignorant of the challenges facing those who actually do try to accomplish things in the private sector, but at the same time are unduly influenced by private sector lobbyists and big money coming from private sector entities.
  • They are adept at sponsoring specious studies, but never having any intention of actually acting on their findings.
  • They love to conduct hearings and "investigations" (just wait for House Dems to get started in the next Congress), but have neither the intelligence nor integrity to know when an "investigation' has become an inquisition.
  • They are successful at acquiring power, but abject failures at accomplishing anything that truly benefits a broad segment of the governed.
  • They are adept at spending other people's money on groups, projects, and things that benefit no one but the groups, projects and things that feed off the largess of the elites.
  • The are facile liars who consciously decide to embrace dishonest by convincing themselves its for the greater good
  • They are hypocrites, they are sanctimonious, and they are appallingly ineffective.
Bray continues:
For some time now, the credentialing of new American elites has centered not on knowledge and ability but on a set of cultural postures and social signals ... As Codevilla noted, our cultural upper classes and our economic upper classes don’t invariably overlap; a magnificently wealthy pro-Trump owner of coal mines or slaughterhouses is a lower-class person who happens to have a bunch of money. Don Blankenship doesn’t dine in the Hamptons with Lynn Forester de Rothschild. National political journalists, a status group that once ranked on par with show people and bartenders, are upper class, no matter their salaries. They lose their class status the moment they speak the wrong social code words, like, “I think Trump is doing a good job.” They know this, and live with an existential sense of status anxiety over it. For 40 years, with gathering uniformity of purpose, our credentialing institutions have taught postures rather than skills, attitudes rather than knowledge. This isn’t invariably true, and many fine scholars have taught many excellent practitioners, especially outside of the humanities and social sciences. But the overarching trend is toward training in intellectual and psychological uniformity, toward the world of excellent sheep.
Bah. Bah. Bah. But there's more to it than that. Those who govern build teams, and those teams are often composed on people just like them. Bray provides an example:
So the very finest people, elevated to positions of responsibility, do essentially nothing, but with elaborate demonstrations of rhetorical restraint. Samantha Power was a highly regarded journalist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who taught at our top-ranked school of government at one of our most elite universities. As a diplomat, she accomplished — what? In Syria, In Libya, in Iran, in Cuba, in Russia or China or Yemen or Saudi Arabia or North Korea, what did the highly credentialed mandarins of the Obama administration, led by a graduate of Harvard Law School, accomplish in the real world? Staffing up a new administration, Barack Obama hired Power, professor Cass Sunstein, professor Steven Chu, professor Christina Romer, and so on. Donald Trump hired generals, CEOs, and governors, people who were credentialed by lives of action and management. This isn’t disagreement; this is a difference of foundational premises. In short: Trump declines the authority of the cultural sectors that most assertively claim it. That’s the conflict, and that’s why it’s being played in a relentless tone of hysteria. There are credentialing authorities — and credential-holding elites — who can see the path to their own obsolescence. Like the empress dowager, they will not go quietly.
Maybe more than anything, it's the threat Trump poses to the cultural dominance of the elites and their followers that drives Trump Derangement Syndrome and its ugly tactics. After all, it is all about power.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Bad Guys-II

There appears to be nothing—absolutely nothing— that senators love more than sanctimonious criticism of something that won't result in political blowback. Consider the case of "journalist" Jamal Khashoggi. As I mentioned when the story broke, this is a case of Middle Eastern bad guys killing other middle eastern bad guys. The Saudis are certainly not angels, and Khashoggi is a Muslim Brotherhood Islamist who, had he been given the power, would have advocated the institution of Sharia law in the United States.

The Senate, however, decided that Khashoggi's murder was a last straw that somehow trumped U.S policy in the Middle East. They decided to demonstrate their strong moral compass by voting to abandon support of Saudi's proxy war against Iran in Yemen. After all, empowering Iran—a country that regularly murders its dissidents—in order to punish the Saudis makes sense — uh ... no it doesn't.

Conrad Black comments:
An oceanic volume of tears was shed over the cruel and barbarous fate of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post contributor and recent American resident, Muslim Brotherhood member, and Saudi critic of the Saudi regime, apparently in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by Saudi officials allegedly directed by the prince regent, Mohammad bin Salman. It appears to have been a disgusting and thoroughly premeditated crime. There is plenty of precedent among America’s allies for such crimes. The Soviet Union, which suffered 95 percent of the human casualties and 99 per cent of the physical damage in subduing Nazi Germany, was led by the almost incomparably barbarous Josef Stalin, who murdered more people than our common enemy, Hitler, but was no less valuable an ally for that. The “Free World,” which the United States led to victory in the Cold War, included in its ranks Spain’s dictator, Francisco Franco, Portugal’s Salazar, the Shah of Iran, Chiang Kai-shek, South Korea’s Syngman Rhee, the feudal monarchic despotisms of Arabia, and many of the bemedaled but often blood-stained juntas and strongmen of Latin America, Turkey, Greece, Pakistan, and post-Sukarno Indonesia. The fact that Mao Tse-tung was responsible for the deaths of scores of millions of Chinese did not make him any less prestigious in the United States, nor a less desirable party with whom to triangulate the relationship with the USSR starting in 1972.

Khashoggi had recently become an American resident of convenience, but that did not make his fate at the hands of the government of his country any particular business of the United States. Life is cheap in the Middle East, the hypocrisy of the high-handed Erdogan regime in Turkey is especially grating, geopolitical realities make Saudi Arabia a valuable ally opposite the Iranians and Palestinians, and the remonstrations of the U.S. government have driven the Saudis to denounce and disown their own actions and purport to try individuals responsible for Khashoggi’s murder. The purists who imagine that if everything is hinged on holding others to ideal standards, the United States can conduct any foreign policy at all beyond tourism, a little trade, and a few cultural agreements are dreaming.
Making pragmatic decisions can sometimes be harsh, but in my view, I'd rather punish the bad guys (the mad Mullahs of Iran) who want us and most other Westerners dead or subjugated than the bad guys (the Saudis) who are helping us keep the first set of bad guys in line. Just sayin'.