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

Friday, September 20, 2019

Lost

Roger Kimball make what amounts to rather a obvious comparison between the upheaval of the 1960s (for those of us old enough to remember those years) and the even more extreme actions now occurring as part of the Trump era. At the center of the upheaval within both eras is the Left, provoking change that is occasionally good, but far more often bad. Kimball offers useful insight when he writes:
... many of our most prominent cultural figures seem to believe that they occupy a unique perch at the very apogee of virtue and moral rectitude and are therefore entitled, O how entitled, to discard the achievements and admonitions of the past as so many false starts and dead ends on the way to true enlightenment, which is to say to whatever they happen to believe at the moment.

It is important to remember how general was the assault on our civilization in the Sixties. It wasn’t just protests against the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, the new hedonism. What was aimed at was nothing less than what Nietzsche called the transvaluation of all values. Among other things, it represented a categorical repudiation of the American consensus, not just its engines of prosperity and individual liberty but also the basic tenets of our self-understanding, tenets that went back through English liberalism and the Scottish Enlightenment to the political meditations of the Greeks and the Romans.

We see something similar today in a different modality. In some ways, indeed, the assault on the fundamental values of our civilization is more thoroughgoing today than it was in the 1960s. This is partly because those conducting the assault are not launching their fusillades from outside the establishment but are themselves well integrated into and often highly-placed members of the establishment. They are, in a word, the Elite. It is also partly because the assault is no longer undertaken in the name of freedom and truth, however spurious, but, strange though it sounds, against both.

George Orwell was right when he observed that the first indispensable step towards freedom is the willingness to call things by their real names. We — which is to say, our masters in the media and cultural establishment — have lost that fortitude. The triumph of political correctness has encouraged an epidemic allergy to candor. The hope is that the embrace of euphemism will alter not only our language but also the reality that our language names.
It's a cliche to note that not only the gray-headed elites who grew up in the 60s, but many of their children, now are in leadership positions in business, media, entertainment, academia, and the deep state have to a great extent adopted the ideology of the Left. That means that those who follow them, younger millennials, are being mentored to act, think, and respond in ways that parrot that same ideology, and as a consequence, will set the stage for a massive change in governance.

That's a probable future reality, but here's the problem. This is the era of the euphemism—changing the name of something is believed to change the reality of that thing. It's nonsense, of course, it's authoritarian by design, and its intent is to warp reality to fit a particular worldview.

But why? The reason, I think, is that the worldview promoted so vigorously by modern elites will fail in its effort to achieve its utopian promise. Deep down, I suspect that at least some of the elites know this, but their thirst for power is so strong that they suppress it. As a consequence, when faced with the failure of their ideas and the unrest that will likely result, the elites must be able to control the language, the medium, the history, and the actions of those among them who might begin to ask questions. Those questions will be deemed "racist," or "misogynist," or "classist" or any of a growing number of epithets that describe thought crimes.

Orwell was right—freedom is the ability to call things by their real names, to use appropriate adjectives to describe people who have done despicable things, to jettison magical thinking and rely on reality (even if that reality collides with political correctness). That won't happen under the governance of the modern elites. As massive change in governance occurs, freedom will be lost.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Politics, Predictions, and Policy

Do you know Greta Thunberg? She's a Swedish teenager who travels the world warning about the threat of climate change. She demands that those in power accept the finding of scientists and public policy "experts" who have formed a "consensus" that dire things will happen in 12-, 30-, 50-, and 100-years because our climate is changing as a direct result of human-generated pollutants dominated by CO2. Given her impressionable age, her fervor is understandable. Her argument is that her generation and those that follow are threatened by the actions of this generation and the ones that preceded it. She demands action and has become a darling of the media. She is not a scientist or an expert in climatology.

Michael Crichton [1942-2008] was a novelist, screenwriter, and medical doctor who wrote well over a dozen bestselling novels that explored science and technology and its impact on the future. His books were rich in scientific/technological detail and his stories (think: The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, State of Fear) are becoming closer and closer to reality as the 21st century proceeds. I recently ran across a speech given by Crichton in January, 2003 in which he discussed science, consensus, and how both can be manipulated to impact public policy in ways that are often counter-productive.

In his speech, Crichton discussed a variety of instances in which unproven scientific hypotheses and limited, sometimes manipulated data were used to make frightening predictions that were themselves used to influence public policy. During the 1970s, the threat of nuclear war between the United States and the USSR was real. No one—and I do mean NO ONE—was in favor of nuclear war. As if a nuclear exchange wasn't bad enough, an even more terrifying specter was raised by some scientists. Crichton writes:
In 1975, the National Academy of Sciences reported on "Long-Term Worldwide Effects of Multiple Nuclear Weapons Detonations" but the report estimated the effect of dust from nuclear blasts to be relatively minor. In 1979, the Office of Technology Assessment issued a report on "The Effects of Nuclear War" and stated that nuclear war could perhaps produce irreversible adverse consequences on the environment. However, because the scientific processes involved were poorly understood, the report stated it was not possible to estimate the probable magnitude of such damage.

Three years later, in 1982, the Swedish Academy of Sciences commissioned a report entitled "The Atmosphere after a Nuclear War: Twilight at Noon," which attempted to quantify the effect of smoke from burning forests and cities. The authors speculated that there would be so much smoke that a large cloud over the northern hemisphere would reduce incoming sunlight below the level required for photosynthesis, and that this would last for weeks or even longer.

The following year, five scientists including Richard Turco and Carl Sagan published a paper in Science called "Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions." This was the so-called TTAPS report, which attempted to quantify more rigorously the atmospheric effects, with the added credibility to be gained from an actual computer model of climate ...

[The nuclear winter model was structured so that] none of the variables can be determined. None at all. The TTAPS study addressed this problem in part by mapping out different wartime scenarios and assigning numbers to some of the variables, but even so, the remaining variables were-and are-simply unknowable. Nobody knows how much smoke will be generated when cities burn, creating particles of what kind, and for how long. No one knows the effect of local weather conditions on the amount of particles that will be injected into the troposphere. No one knows how long the particles will remain in the troposphere. And so on.

And remember, this is only four years after the OTA study concluded that the underlying scientific processes were so poorly known that no estimates could be reliably made. Nevertheless, the TTAPS study not only made those estimates, but concluded they were catastrophic.

According to Sagan and his coworkers, even a limited 5,000 megaton nuclear exchange would cause a global temperature drop of more than 35 degrees Centigrade, and this change would last for three months. The greatest volcanic eruptions that we know of changed world temperatures somewhere between .5 and 2 degrees Centigrade. Ice ages changed global temperatures by 10 degrees. Here we have an estimated change three times greater than any ice age. One might expect it to be the subject of some dispute. But Sagan and his coworkers were prepared, for nuclear winter was from the outset the subject of a well-orchestrated media campaign. The first announcement of nuclear winter appeared in an article by Sagan in the Sunday supplement, Parade. The very next day, a highly-publicized, high-profile conference on the long-term consequences of nuclear war was held in Washington, chaired by Carl Sagan and Paul Ehrlich, the most famous and media-savvy scientists of their generation. Sagan appeared on the Johnny Carson show 40 times. Ehrlich was on 25 times. Following the conference, there were press conferences, meetings with congressmen, and so on. The formal papers in Science came months later.

This is not the way science is done, it is the way products are sold.
Crichton went on to cite multiple instances in which the consensus of prominent scientists was proven to be dead wrong. Here are a few excerpts:
I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.

In addition, let me remind you that the track record of the consensus is nothing to be proud of. Let's review a few cases.

In past centuries, the greatest killer of women was fever following childbirth . One woman in six died of this fever. In 1795, Alexander Gordon of Aberdeen suggested that the fevers were infectious processes, and he was able to cure them. The consensus said no. In 1843, Oliver Wendell Holmes claimed puerperal fever was contagious, and presented compelling evidence. The consensus said no. In 1849, Semmelweiss demonstrated that sanitary techniques virtually eliminated puerperal fever in hospitals under his management. The consensus said he was a Jew, ignored him, and dismissed him from his post. There was in fact no agreement on puerperal fever until the start of the twentieth century. Thus the consensus took one hundred and twenty five years to arrive at the right conclusion despite the efforts of the prominent "skeptics" around the world, skeptics who were demeaned and ignored. And despite the constant ongoing deaths of women.

There is no shortage of other examples. In the 1920s in America, tens of thousands of people, mostly poor, were dying of a disease called pellagra. The consensus of scientists said it was infectious, and what was necessary was to find the "pellagra germ." The US government asked a brilliant young investigator, Dr. Joseph Goldberger, to find the cause. Goldberger concluded that diet was the crucial factor. The consensus remained wedded to the germ theory. Goldberger demonstrated that he could induce the disease through diet. He demonstrated that the disease was not infectious by injecting the blood of a pellagra patient into himself, and his assistant. They and other volunteers swabbed their noses with swabs from pellagra patients, and swallowed capsules containing scabs from pellagra rashes in what were called "Goldberger's filth parties." Nobody contracted pellagra. The consensus continued to disagree with him.

There was, in addition, a social factor-southern States disliked the idea of poor diet as the cause, because it meant that social reform was required. They continued to deny it until the 1920s. Result-despite a twentieth century epidemic, the consensus took years to see the light.

Probably every schoolchild notices that South America and Africa seem to fit together rather snugly, and Alfred Wegener proposed, in 1912, that the continents had in fact drifted apart. The consensus sneered at continental drift for fifty years. The theory was most vigorously denied by the great names of geology until 1961, when it began to seem as if the sea floors were spreading. The result: it took the consensus fifty years to acknowledge what any schoolchild sees.

And shall we go on? The examples can be multiplied endlessly. Jenner and smallpox, Pasteur and germ theory. Saccharine, margarine, repressed memory, fiber and colon cancer, hormone replacement therapy, the list of consensus errors goes on and on.

Finally, I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.
The parallels with modern day claims of catastrophe supported by scientific "consensus" and backed by models for which "the underlying scientific processes [are] so poorly known that no estimates could be reliably made" is striking. Crichton commented on the broader issue:
As the twentieth century drew to a close, the connection between hard scientific fact and public policy became increasingly elastic. In part this was possible because of the complacency of the scientific profession; in part because of the lack of good science education among the public; in part, because of the rise of specialized advocacy groups which have been enormously effective in getting publicity and shaping policy; and in great part because of the decline of the media as an independent assessor of fact. The deterioration of the American media is dire loss for our country. When distinguished institutions like the New York Times can no longer differentiate between factual content and editorial opinion, but rather mix both freely on their front page, then who will hold anyone to a higher standard?

And so, in this elastic anything-goes world where science-or non-science-is the hand maiden of questionable public policy, we arrive at last at global warming. It is not my purpose here to rehash the details of this most magnificent of the demons haunting the world. I would just remind you of the now familiar pattern by which these things are established. Evidentiary uncertainties are glossed over in the unseemly rush for an overarching policy, and for grants to support the policy by delivering findings that are desired by the patron. Next, the isolation of those scientists who won't get with the program, and the characterization of those scientists as outsiders and "skeptics" [or "deniers"] in quotation marks-suspect individuals with suspect motives, industry flunkies, reactionaries, or simply anti-environmental nutcases. In short order, debate ends, even though prominent scientists are uncomfortable about how things are being done. When did "skeptic" become a dirty word in science? When did a skeptic require quotation marks around it?
Crichton wrote this over 16 years ago. Had he lived, I suspect he would be unsurprised by the celebrity achieved by Greta Thunberg.

Being a skeptic doesn't say that you're dismissing any scientific claim out of hand, but it does say that every scientist must be able to prove that their hypotheses and models conform to the real world today and provide compelling evidence that those same hypotheses will conform to the world in the future. And until hard, irrefutable proof is forthcoming, public policy and the politicians who craft it should proceed cautiously when relying on "consensus."

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Broken Glass

In the aftermath of the latest failed attempt (by the New York Times) to perpetrate a vicious smear of SCOTUS Justice Brett Kavanaugh, people have been reminded of past attempts perpetrated by the Democrats and their trained hamsters in the media. And more than a few of those people are fed up — pissed off big time. John Kass, an actual journalist (as opposed to the partisan hacks who work for the NYT) for the Chicago Tribune is one of those people. He writes about the forces that motivated the NYT to lie, omit critical facts, and otherwise attempt to ruin Kavanaugh's reputation forever—all because he doesn't accept their Leftist world view:
The left lost control of the Supreme Court through the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, who has nominated two conservative justices and may nominate another if he’s reelected in 2020. Since 2016, the left has waged cultural war, delegitimizing all institutions that may stand in their way.

Theirs is a dangerous game with far-reaching implications, but the left reveals itself, clearly, as determined to destroy Kavanaugh’s credibility, and that of the Supreme Court itself, to protect past gains. Unhindered, in fact aided and cheered on by many in the media, the left proceeds on its scorched-earth strategy.

What is dangerous is that what is burned in their culture war are American institutions, and the scorched earth is the American republic ...

The left’s end game is the delegitimization of the Supreme Court, if justices don’t give them the political outcomes they can’t achieve through legislation.

One way to accomplish this is to sear into the American mind the idea that Kavanaugh is personally illegitimate, and therefore, his reasoning and decisions are illegitimate. Though the allegations against him remain uncorroborated, and most are incredible and fall apart in embarrassing fashion, like the one most recently in the Times, the assault continues.

And not only against Kavanaugh, but also against other justices and future nominees. They are warned that destruction and humiliation await.

So, the left would hang upon his neck an asterisk like some medal of shame, a reminder to future history that everything he accomplishes is illegitimate.
Democrat politicians condone this behavior, and their leftist supporters justify it because in their fever swamp of Trump Derangement Syndrome, an elected president (and his nominees, once confirmed) must be removed 'by any means necessary.'

Those of us who have observed this despicable behavior smile and nod when reading this tweet by @johnekdahl (who did not vote for Trump in 2016 and doesn't particularly like his style):



He won't be alone. #Walkaway.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Failure

If you were to listen to the Democrat candidates for President, you're surely convinced that minorities are suffering, women are chattel, and the middle class is in the dumps because we have a "racist," "misogynist," "fascist" president who is a "FAILURE." One thing is certain, based on actual economic data, Trump has "failed" to hurt the very people the Dem's tell us he loathes.

Investor's Business Daily provide a radically different set of facts, not opinions:
To its credit, [The Washington Post] recently analyzed Labor Department data. What it found was shocking: More than 86% of the jobs added since the end of 2016 went to minorities. Out of 5.2 million new jobs, minorities accounted for 4.5 million.

If Trump’s a racist, he’s an abject failure.

What about that other favorite epithet of the left, “misogynist”? If Trump hates women so much, why do his policies seem to provide so many opportunities for them?

As The Daily Signal’s Mary Margaret Olohan notes: “Among full-time, year-round workers, the number of women increased by 1.6 million and the number of men increased by about 700,000 between 2017 and 2018.”

The median real income for female-headed households with no spouse rose 5.8% from 2017 to 2018. For married couples, there was no change. The poverty rate for female-led households shrank from 26.2% in 2017 to 24.9% in 2018.

OK, but surely, billionaire Trump hates the poor and his policies have been disastrous for them, right?

In fact, as the Census data show, the number of people living in poverty fell by 1.4 million people in 2018 alone, with the poverty rate dropping from 12.3% to 11.8%, its lowest since before the 2007 financial crisis. That decline was led by female-headed households, minority ones in particular, the most vulnerable of all.

Meanwhile, Department of Agriculture data show that 6.3 million Americans have fallen out of the food stamp program since Trump took office. The main reason: parents in poor families are getting jobs and are no longer eligible.
Say what you will about Trump the man, Trump the president deserves credit for an economy that is helping everyone.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Kavanaugh-5

With all of the problems facing our world and our country—the opioid crisis, gun violence and the way in which we try to control it, on-going racial tensions, bankruptcy facing major U.S. cities, a climate crisis that we are told will lead to the destruction of the planet, a roiled Middle East in which the hegemon Iran is conducting a shadow war via proxies against its neighbors, North Korea as a growing nuclear power, the India-Pakistan conflict, the Russians' mischief as they try to regain a power position that has long since faded, the economic upheaval in the EU, and on and on—you'd think the Democrats and their progressive allies would have plenty to worry about and policy positions to propose.

Instead, they appear to want to reprise one of the most despicable episodes in American political history and take yet another swipe at Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh. The New York Post reports:
New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly spent months reaching out to Yale alumni for more dirt on Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s undergraduate years more than three decades ago, and came up empty.

That’s the actual bottom line of their Times article that dropped online Saturday, though they suggest otherwise — since they clearly want to not just boost sales of the book, but also do whatever they can to further smear the justice.

How dishonest was the piece? Well, its biggest “shocker” is noting the existence of yet another alleged Kavanaugh incident — but the article leaves out the fact that the supposed victim doesn’t remember a thing.

Mollie Hemingway, one of the authors of Justice on Trial, a book that honestly looks at the Kavanague hearings, reinforces the Post's position:
“The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation” is neither a look at the education of Brett Kavanaugh nor an investigation. They admit they found no evidence to support the claims made by Christine Blasey Ford or Debbie Ramirez, although they say their “gut reaction” to the allegations is that they are true. They generously concede that their “gut” tells them that Michael Avennati client Julie Swetnick’s claims are not true, citing the lack of corroboration.

The “lack of corroboration” standard was unevenly held to by the authors. Blasey Ford’s four witnesses all denied knowledge of the party at which her alleged assault took place. Ramirez went from telling Ronan Farrow “I don’t have any stories about Brett Kavanaugh and sexual misconduct,” to telling friends of an incident for which she “couldn’t be sure” Kavanaugh was involved, to now being the centerpiece of the Pogebrin and Kelly book. Ramirez also had no eyewitness support for her story that allegedly took place at a well-attended party, even after friendly media outlets contacted some 75 classmates trying to find corroboration. Both women had the support of many friends and activists, however.
This lack of journalistic integrity would be surprising if it wasn't so common at the NYT. In fact, it appears that the NYT will publish any lie as long as it serves to bolster the progressive cause du jour.

At the time of his confirmation hearing, I commented at length about the Democrats depraved treatment of Kavanagh—here, here, here, here, and here. And now, some Democratic candidates for president* have decided to double down on their truly disgusting behavior and suggest that Kavanaugh be impeached.

And this crew tells us we should allow them to lead? Incredible.

FOOTNOTE:
----------------

* Left leaning New York magazine proudly reports:
At least six Democratic presidential candidates have released statements calling for the impeachment or removal of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh after new details supporting and adding to the sexual misconduct allegations against him were revealed over the weekend.
They go on to suggest that Kavanaugh's impeachment will become a 2020 election issue, demonstrating just how out-of-touch the majority of leftists actually are. It's heartening to note that a substantial number of Democrats and virtually all Independents were appalled by Kavanagh's treatment by the Democrats in the Senate. If the Dems think that dredging up this unseemly debacle yet again (with more wholly unsubstantiated allegations) will help them, they truly are deranged.

UPDATE-1:
-------------------

Willian A. Jacobson comments on the manner in which Democrats can't accept reality or for that matter, political defeat:
It’s never over.

It wasn’t and isn’t over for Clarence Thomas, who continues to be maligned some 27 years later. The permanent investigation and torment of Brett Kavanaugh follows a well-worn Democrat path.

That’s why Kavanaugh has been and continues to be such a clarifying event.

Trump supporters are going to support Trump. The continued attacks on Kavanaugh serve as a motivator, as Rita Panahi expressed:
Nothing has galvanised conservatives more than watching an innocent man being smeared by false accusations. Astonishing that the Left still hasn’t worked out that Kavanaugh in the news cycle is hugely beneficial to Trump.
There are many others who may not be Trump supporters, but are willing to support Trump. John Ekdahl, who isn’t a Trump supporter and voted for Gary Johnson in 2016, expressed a sentiment I suspect is widely shared:
The Kavanaugh railroad is the most politically clarifying event in my life, and it is why, as the New York Times seems intent on reminding us, I will crawl over broken glass to vote for a guy I don’t particularly like next year.
This latest smear attempt against Kavanaugh tells us a lot more about the Dems that it does about Justice Kavanaugh. It's vicious, dishonest, and reprehensible, but that's the game plan. I truly do hope it becomes a "clarifying event" for those who might be on the fence for next year's election.


UPDATE-2 (9-17-2019):
-------------------

Hopefully the last word on the ugliness associated with the Democrat's to use lies, omissions, and outright viciousness in an attempt to "put an asterisk" next to Brett Kavanaugh's name:

William Mcgurn provides us with insight into the reasons and strategy behind the Dem's repugnant behavior in the Kavanaugh situation:
This is what Democrats do when they believe there could be a fifth vote to overturn Roe, the 1973 decision that upended the laws of all 50 states to legalize abortion. It’s why Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1987 slandered Judge Robert Bork as a man working for an America where “women would be forced into back-alley abortions” and “blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters.” It’s why Judge Clarence Thomas was savaged in 1991, when he faced his own last-minute inquisition over alleged sexual harassment. And it’s why the assassination of Justice Kavanaugh’s character continues.
Personally, I'm pro choice. But that doesn't mean I would countenance vicious attempts to destroy a good person's life and reputation because of the CHANCE (!!) that he MIGHT (!!) vote in a way that would jeopardize Roe v. Wade. If there are solid reasons why current precedent should be maintianed (and I believe there are), the Dems should work hard to convince a majority of the country that they are valid. Rather than the on-going ugly smear that they have initiated, might it not be better to push for solid law that would protect the right to choose, replacing Roe v. Wade with something that is unassailable. But that requires work and compromise—ad hominem attacks against a sitting justice on SCOTUS are so much easier.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A few Questions—II

Before the first Democratic debate in June, I proposed a set of questions that I thought might be useful to ask. Now that 10 candidates remain, these questions (most have not been asked) remain relevant, so I repeat them here with a few modifications. The debates, hosted by two titular democratic operatives (rather than objective newspeople) will offer up softball questions so that Bernie and Liz, Joe and Beto, Kamala and Pete look good. Here are a few questions that should be asked:

[One plus sign (+) represents a core question and two plus signs (++) represent a follow-up]:

The Economy

+ By every reasonable measure, the U.S. economy under the Trump administration is strong. Do you agree?
++ If not, please explain how 3.6 percent unemployment and GDP growth of 3.2 percent are bad things? Then explain how your policies would improve the economy.
+ Has the Trump economy benefited African Americans and Latinos?
++ If not, how do you explain the fact that both groups are experiencing the lowest unemployment and the highest wage growth in history?
+ Has the Trump economy improved the wages of middle class workers?
++ If not, what specific policies would you implement to improve on the 4.4 percent wage growth of the past four years?
+ Have women been sidelined in the Trump economy?
++ If yes, how do you explain that women have experienced the lowest unemployment rate in history over the past two years?
+ Deficits and debt have grown during this administration and your party has indicated that it is against both. Do you think that reduced federal spending is an effective way to reduce the deficit and the debt?
++ If yes, what specific federal spending would you reduce?
++ If no, would you raise taxes to reduce the deficit and the debt? How would you implement the tax increase? With respect, please provide us with actual numbers, not broad platitudes.

Socialism

+ Please describe for the American people your definition of the term, "Democratic Socialist?"
++ Do you consider yourself a Democratic Socialist and why?
++ Is capitalism a good system that benefits the middle class?
+ Do you support the notion of Universal Basic Income?"
++ If yes, how can you explain a recent study by Public Services International, a decidedly left-wing, pro-Union organization, that came to the conclusion that UBI is unworkable and doesn't improve the prospects of those who receive it?
+ Did Venezuela's rapid adoption of socialist policies under Hugo Chavez and then Nicholas Maduro have anything to do the economic collapse of the country and the resultant humanitarian disaster? Please explain your answer.
++ Should Nicholas Maduro remain in power, and if not, why not?
++ Why do you think it is that a current presidential candidate, (i.e., Bernie Sanders) once praised Hugo Chavez?
+ Democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders or Liz Warren ignore the failure and repression in socialist countries like Cuba or North Korea, Venezuela or Nicaragua, but instead use Scandinavian countries as examples of"successful socialism." Yet the leaders of those countries argue that they are NOT socialist but rather free market economies with some generous social programs. Do you honestly believe that generous social programs that work in, say, Denmark, a country that has a relatively homogeneous population that is smaller than that of many major US cities can be scaled up to a country of 320 million people?
++ If yes, please explain how you would accomplish such scaling.
+ Do you agree that socialism, even when instituted with the best intentions, has a tendency to go bad, sometimes, very very bad.
++ If you disagree, how would you characterize the millions who died by oppression and starvation under Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong, or the utter destruction of a country and economy under Cuba's Fidel Castro or Venezuela's Nicholas Maduro?
++ Why is it, do you think, that large centralized government control sometimes leads to very bad things (e.g., Mao's Great Leap Forward policy which led to the deaths of up to 45 million people)? How can you assure the American people that some Democrats' brand of socialism won't ultimately lead to very bad things.

Medicare for All

+ Are you in favor of eliminating private health insurance in conjunction with universal health care, a.k.a. Medicare for all?
++ If yes, how can you assure the American people that the same federal government that has been shown to be less than efficient in its programs and services (e.g., the VA) will somehow provide exemplary medical care?
++ If yes, how can you assure the American people that the "cost controls" that are inherent in such a system won't result in doctor shortages that are now occurring in the United Kingdom?
++ Since all 320 million citizens will now be on Medicare, how will your administration ensure that care will not be rationed or that waits will not be overly long?
++ What level of additional taxation will be required to pay for your Medicare for all program? Howe much will the program cost over ten years?
+ Will participants in "medicare for All" be able to keep their own doctor?
++ Why is it, do you think, that President Obama made that promise but didn't keep it?
+ Are you in favor of price controls for big pharma?
++ If yes, do you think that big pharma will reduce the amount of R&D it currently performed to develop new drugs? If you don't think that will happen, what incentive will you provide to have them continue at their current rate for R&D when their revenues go down?

Taxation

+ It is the position of many Democrats that the "rich" don't pay their far share of taxes. Given that the top 10 percent of all taxpayers currently pay about 70 percent of all federal income taxes, what percentage should they pay? 80 percent, 90 percent, 100 percent? Please be specific.
++ Some in your party have suggested that people making over $50 million a year pay a 70 percent "mega-millionaires" tax. Do you agree?
++ If yes, will the money raised appreciably reduce our deficit?
++ Others in your party have suggested that becoming a billionaire is somehow immoral. Do you agree?

Income Inequality

+ Many members of your party have made much of income disparity in the United States. Some have suggested that a corporate CEO should earn no more than 15 or 20 times the pay of the average worker in their company. Do you agree?
++ Would you suggest the same 15 or 20 times pay multiple for entertainers who currently make tens of millions of dollars for movies or music tours or for professional athletes who are paid very large salaries?
+ Do you think it's fair and appropriate that ex-presidents or other politicians are paid very large speaking fees after leaving office?
++ Specifically, is it fair that Barack Obama was recently paid a reported $700,000 for a one hour speech?
+ Who specifically would you hold responsible for income inequality?
+ Can you identify a period in world history where there was no income inequality?
+ Why is it that government workers have average salaries that are considerably higher than equivalent average salaries in the private sector?
++ Is that an "inequality?
++ Should it be remedied by decreasing government worker pay rates?
+ In the interest of reducing income inequality, would you endorse the notion that members of congress be paid a salary that is in line with the average wage in their congressional district or state?
++ If it's worth considering, would you be willing to endorse the idea of a rather substantial pay cut for members of congress to make that happen?

The Living Wage

+ Are you in favor of a mandatory "living wage" of $15.00 per hour, even for entry level jobs?
++ Can you explain how that number was derived and why it isn't higher, say $20 or $30 per hour?
++ How do you explain the fact that in locales that have implemented the living wage, entry level jobs have decreased in unprecedented numbers?
++ Given that, how has the living wage helped those workers who no longer have a job?
+ Are you in favor of limiting the amount of automation a company can install in the workplace?
+ Are you in favor of a special tax on automation devices (e.g., robots)?

Immigration

+ Many in your party argue that they are NOT for open borders but want high tech solutions to illegal border crossing rather than physical barriers. Can you describe the "high tech" solutions and provide evidence that they will, in fact, reduce illegal crossings?
+ Members of your party have suggested that border walls are ineffective or are "against American values?" Do you agree, and if so, will you pledge to take down already-constructed walls on our southern border since they are ineffective and against our core values?
+ Many in your party suggest that asylum be granted liberally. Do you agree? And if so, under your administration, how many asylum seekers would be admitted each year? Please provide an order of magnitude—10,000, 100,000, 1 million, 10 million?
+ Is there ever a reason to deport an undocumented immigrant? If the answer is no, why? If the answer is yes, what crimes would qualify as deportable offenses?
+ Do you agree that ICE should be abolished?
+ Would you be in favor of deporting a known member of the murderous gang, MS-13, if he or she was proven to be an illegal immigrant?
+ Do you believe that the 2020 census should ask each respondent whether or not they are a U.S. citizen?
++ If not, why not?
++ And if you argue that the question should not be asked, please explain why the suppression of important measures of our population is somehow a good thing?

Law Enforcement

+ Everyone agrees that there are racial incidents that do occur in law enforcement, but do you believe that there is systemic racism throughout the law enforcement community?
+ Do you believe that the FBI and U.S. intelligent agencies should act against a duly-elected President of the United States because they do not like his political positions or his personality?
++ If the Republicans developed a dossier on you, would you be comfortable allowing the FBI to use it as the basis for an investigation of your campaign? And if you were elected, your presidency?
++ If a special prosecutor were named to investigate your administration would you be comfortable with a prosecutor whose entire team was composed on GOP lawyers?
++ Do you believe that James Comey, John Brennan, and James Clapper are honest and non-partisan members of the law enforcement and intelligence communities?
+ Do you believe that senior members of law enforcement, intelligence, and DoJ plotted against Donald Trump both before and after he was elected president?
++ If not, how do you explain the evidence recently brought to light by ongoing IG investigations within the FBI and by the DoJ?
++ If you suggest that thise investigation are bias, are similar investigation by Democratic House committees also biased?
++ If not, please explain why that is.
+Do you believe the special counsel's finding that Donald Trump did not collude with Russian in any way? If not, do you know of any evidence to contradict those findings, and if you do, can you provide a brief summary of that evidence?

Supreme Court

+ During the hearings for Judge Kavanaugh, your party had no problem probing his high school record. Many members of your party also noted that it is incumbent upon everyone to "believe the woman," regardless of any lack of supporting evidence. Will you go on record right now supporting the notion that any Supreme Court nominee you name should be investigated all the way back to his or her high school yearbook and that any untoward behavior during high school would be disqualifying for that nominee regardless of their lifelong achievement and record?
++ I wonder if you'd comment on the sexual abuse allegations leveled against VA Lt. Governor, Justin Fairfax, with specific emphasis on why we should not "believe the woman" and demand that he resign immediately?
++ Why do you think that both individual remain in office in VA?

Anti-Semitism

+ Your party has not explicitly condemned or censured Rep. Ilhan Omar for her anti-Semitic statements? Are you willing do so now, and if not, how would you explain your reticence to Jewish supporters of the Democratic party?
++ If you argue that Omar's statements are NOT anti-Semitic, do you believe that support of organizations like CAIR—a rabidly anti-Israel group—is appropriate for a member of congress?
++ Would you endorse CAIR's positions on Israel?
+ The New York Times published a decided anti-Semitic cartoon earlier this year. Would you reject an endorsement from the NYT because of that.
++ If not, would you condemn any GOP opponent who might accept the endorsement of a media source that, say, published a racist cartoon.
+ Do you support the BDS movement, a movement supported by some of the Left that tries to boycott, divest, and sanction the State of Israel?
++ If not, would you be willing to reject those on the left that do endorse BDS?
+ Do you think that someone can be anti-Israel, but at the same time, not anti-Semitic?
++ Regardless of your answer, is it also possible to be anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, like, say, the palestinian group Hamas or the leadership in Iran?

Race

+ Some in your party have suggested that reparations be paid to African Americans for slavery. Do you agree, and if so, how would you implement this policy?
+ Are racial preferences in education and business a good thing?
++ If yes, can you cite specific research or evidence to support your position?
+ Do you subscribe to the belief that our country is systemically racist?
+ Do you subscribe to the belief that "white privilege" is the dominant reason for economic disparity between the races?

The New Green Deal and Climate Change

+ Many in your party have taken the position that anthropogenic climate change is the "existential threat" of the 21st century. Some have suggested in the New Green Deal that we have 12 years to act or catastrophe will occur. Others have suggested that we should mount a WWII level effort to correct the problem. We understand that the New Green Deal is "aspirational," but what aspects of it would you implement in your first term in office?
++ Given the threat of climate change, would you be willing to impose sanctions on or take military action against, say, India or China because they are the world's primary polluters?
++ Since climate change is an existential threat, and private jet aircraft are notorious polluters, would you be willing to forego all private jet travel for the remainder of this campaign?
++ What increase in electricity rates across the nation would your administration be willing to accept to save the planet from climate change. Please be specific and provide a percentage.

The Vote

+ Are you in favor of voter ID laws to eliminate even the appearance of voter fraud?
++ If you oppose such laws because of claimed "voter suppression," please explain why the requirement for an ID doesn't suppress applications for other government programs (e.g., SNAP EBT cards), air travel, using a credit card, cashing a paycheck, or getting a driver's license?
++ Please explain how the argument that members of one group are incapable of getting a government ID isn't condescending and racist?
+ Are you in favor of the constitutionally mandated electoral college?
++ If you are in favor of abolishing the electoral college, please explain what the phrase, "tyranny of the majority," means to you?
++ If you are in favor of abolishing the electoral college, are you also in favor of limiting states rights and allowing a central government to control most aspects of our society?
+ Do you believe, as many of your party indicated in 2016, that failure to accept the results of a properly conducted election is anti-democratic and wrong?
++ If so, can you explain how the continuing efforts of democrats to remove a duly elected president from office isn't simply a failure to accept the results of an election?

International Relations

+ Can you identify the actions that caused Libya to become a failed state?
+ Can you identify the actions that caused Syria to become a failed state?
+ Why is it, do you think, that so many Muslim majority countries in the Middle East are failed states or economically crippled?
+ Do you view Israel as an "oppressor?"
++ If not, what would you say to members of your own party who think that it is?
++ Do you believe that some elements of the Left are anti-Israel?
++ Do you support the BDS movement?
+ Do you believe that trade negotiations with China are a good thing?
++ If that's the case, what would you do if negotiation broke down?
+ Many in your party defended Barack Obama's Iran Deal and condemned Donald Trump when he nullified the deal. Where do you stand on Iran and what would you do if they continue their development of nuclear materials and/or ICBMs?
+ Many in your party have criticized Donald Trump for his interactions with North Korea and Iran. Do you agree with that criticism?
++ If you do, what would you have done differently if you were president in the same circumstances?

Censorship and Free Speech

+ Do you agree with Antifa activists who shout down conservative speakers in the name of anti-facist action?
+ Do you agree that a university has the right to charge conservative student groups a "security fee" to protect the speakers they invite on campus from progressive activists who might try to disrupt the speaker?
++ Why is it, do you think, that progressive groups are not charged the same fee?
+ Do you agree that political views different than yours have a right to be heard?
+ Should private corporations in the form of major social media players, who are now analogous to public communication utilities, be able to censor speech they do not like?
++ If yes, how do you define hate speech or incitement?
++ Why is it, do you think, that the majority of those banned from Twitter or Facebook come from the conservative side of the political spectrum?
++ If so, who, if anyone, should make a decision on whether those views will be heard?

Election Interference

+ Many members of your party have suggested that the Russians helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election. Earlier they claimed that Trump colluded with them in that regard. Yet, Robert Mueller found absolutely no evidence of collusion. Do you accept that finding?
++ If you do not accept Mueller's findings, what evidence can you offer to refute Mueller's conclusions?
++ If you do accept Mueller's findings, do you think that members of your party who claimed the evidence was compelling—Rep. Adam Schiff comes to mind—should apologize for making spurious, unsupported claims of collusion?
+ Many members of your party have suggested that an unsolicited offer of "dirt" on an opponent from a foreign adversary MUST be reported to the FBI. Do you agree?
++ If you do agree, how would you characterize a covert paid solicitation of "dirt" on an opponent from a foreign adversary, for example, the Clinton campaign's paid solicitation of a salacious dossier on Donald Trump built on Russian-supplied disinformation. Is that the same or worse?
++ If you agree that it's the same (or worse), do you endorse a full-blown federal investigation into Clinton's actions in 2016?
++ If you think it's not as bad, explain your reasoning.

Impeachment

+ Do you agree that Donald Trump should be impeached?
++ If yes, please cite specific—not abstract—evidence that would rise to the level of impeachable offenses.
+ At the time, were you in favor of Bill Clinton's impeachment?
++ If no, please explain why and how his actions did not rise to an impeachable offense, yet Donald trump's action have.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

18th Anniversay

On this 18th anniversary of an Islamist terror attack that killed almost 3000 Americans and created billions in economic damage, we remember the heroism and the sacrifice of that day and the days that followed.. It will not be forgotten by good people everywhere.

However, a question remains. Why is it that virtually all progressives, almost all Democrats, and even a few members of the GOP elite seem unable to use appropriate adjectives when describing the perpetrators of that heinous event, now known as 9/11? They become "violent extremists" or go without any description or even any embodiment. They have become an abstraction, forcing far too many to forget that their brethren still exist and mean to do us grave harm.

A few months ago, Leftist Democrat, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) stated that "Some people did some thing" when referring the to 9/11 attack. I suppose that's understandable, given that Omar is a noted anti-Semite (as well as a rabid anti-Israel activist), and has been accused (rightly, I believe) of being anti-American. Just today, the chronicle of leftist thought, The New York Times, tweeted the following:

Hmmm. It appears that the NYT would like to give the impression that unmanned airplanes somehow took off autonomously, flew hundreds of miles, and then crashed in the World Trade Center. It seems that its tweet writers couldn't bring themselves to use a more meaningful adjective to describe the people who perpetrated this despicable act and decided to attribute it to an object. The tweet has subsequently been deleted.

The NYT's idiotic tweet along with Omar's earlier utterance, exemplifies the left's inexplicable effort to avoid attributing a terror attack to "Islamic extremists"—not the more palatable "violent extremists" but rather those scum who believe that Islam provides them the justification necessary to kill and main innocent "heretics" or "apostates."

If we are to remember 9/11, we have to remember who brought this horror to our shores, the Islamist/Wahabbi ideology they adopted, and the continuing lack of effort on the part of Islam to expunge it. "Somebody" isn't good enough. "Airplanes" don't fly themselves into buildings.

Oh ... I know the stated rationale. Those who talk about "violent extremists," or "somebody" or "airplanes" avoid the use of adjectives associated with Islam so that the 'deplorables' won't burn down Mosques and murder innocent Muslims. What condescending garbage! The American people acted with amazing restraint after 9/11. Few, if any, anti-Muslim acts occurred in the United States. 18 years later, that restraint remains.

By its virtue signaling on this topic, the Left once again proves that it has a very low opinion of our country and the people who live here. All of us should remember that simple fact when they ask us to allow them to lead.

CA Senate Bill 419

Progressives feel that it is rarely if ever a good idea to expel a K-12 student who is disruptive in class. They argue that there are deep societal reasons for the disruptive behavior and that if only we achieved the utopian society they envision, these disruptive, sometimes violent students would somehow change their ways. As if to accentuate this position, the home of progressive thought, California, has codified this as law. The Sacramento Bee reports:
It is will soon be illegal in California for both public and charter schools to suspend disruptive students from kindergarten through eighth grade

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed into law Senate Bill 419, which permanently prohibits willful defiance suspensions in grades four and five. It also bans such suspensions in grades six through eight for five years.

The law goes into effect July 1, 2020 ...

Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who wrote the new law, said it would “keep kids in school where they belong and where teachers and counselors can help them thrive.”

“SB 419 puts the needs of kids first,” she said.

California students missed more than 150,000 days of school because of suspensions for unruly behavior in the 2016-17 academic year, according to a California Senate analysis of SB 419.

Skinner and other supporters of the bill argued that students of color are disproportionately affected by such suspensions.
It's worth noting that the same progressive mindset (although not codified as law but implemented as policy) was at work in Parkland, FL in the years prior to the tragic mass-shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, 2018. In a new book written by the father of one of the girls murdered that day, we learn that the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was a mentally unstable student who was long recognized as such by faculty, administrators and students. Cruz was dangerously disruptive and potentially violent. The authors, Andrew Pollack and Max Eden write about Cruz in the years prior to his admission to MSD High School:
Westglades [Middle School] students and staff had never seen anyone like Nikolas Cruz ... If something frustrated Cruz, he would curse and threaten anyone nearby. He would hide behind corners and doors, jump out and scream at people, and then cackle at their fear. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, he would burst into maniacal laughter.

Cruz’s torture and killing of animals became a source of pride for him as he interacted with other students. One student, Devin, recalled that, although he tried to avoid Cruz, Cruz would approach him almost every day and ask, “Would you like to see videos of me skinning animals?” Devin always declined, but Cruz kept asking.

Cruz’s records suggest that his reign of terror at Westglades Middle School began halfway through his seventh-grade year, in February of 2013. For the next calendar year, Cruz was suspended every other day. Why did the school allow him to remain enrolled despite his daily, deranged behavior for a full year? Not by negligence, but by policy.

Students with disabilities are supposed to be educated in the “least restrictive environment” possible, regardless of whether their disability is that they’re dyslexic or a psychopath, and the paperwork requirements to send them to a specialized school can take many months.
The authors go on to recount documented behavior that indicates clearly and unequivocally that Cruz was mentally ill. Pollack and Eden write:
When Cruz’s teachers were asked what he was interested in or enjoyed, almost every single one mentioned guns, the military, or war.

... Cruz appears to have calmed down for a few months, and that was enough to earn him a ticket to Marjory Stoneman Douglas. In April, he told Ortiz that he wanted to enroll in the high school Junior Reserve Officer Training Core program.

Ortiz recorded, “interested in [J]ROTC? — not advised … Discussed the safety of others/himself.”

But the next month, every member of Cruz’s “Child Study Team” recommended that he be mainstreamed for two class periods a day at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year: for one class to be determined and JROTC.

Nikolas Cruz couldn’t possibly have made himself any clearer. Broward schools staff knew exactly who and what he was. Yet they not only allowed him to enroll in Marjory Stoneman Douglas, they literally gave him an air gun, shaped like an AR-15, and let him practice shooting.

This may sound astonishing. But it was all according to policy. The official review of Nikolas Cruz’s educational history registered no objections to anything you just read.
The manner in which we handle mentally ill people must change, yet far too many cases, political correctness ties the hands of those who recognize that there is a serious problem. It is true that there is a danger that the rights of mentally unstable individuals will be violated. On the other hand, severely mentally ill people, by virtue of the potential danger they pose, forfeit at least some of the privacy and due process protections that others might have. Mentally unstable people live and work among us, and in a small, but non-trivial number of cases, they exhibit potentially violent and even deadly behavior. They're relatively easy to identify, but managing the mentally ill is a serious societal challenge.

One thing is certain. Laws such CA Senate Bill 419 won't do a thing to help and might lead to results that mimic the events that led to the tragic story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ju Jitzu

It is mildly ironic that a substantial majority of those who follow and idolize socialist politicians like Bernie Sanders or Liz Warren or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, graduate from college with degrees in English lit, or drama, or fine arts among may other "soft" degrees that do little to prepare them for the working world. In many cases, either they or their parents went into significant debt to allow them to acquire those degrees and now, of course, they cheer as the socialists suggest that college debt be foisted on all taxpayers.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal provide a few distressing facts:
... If you’re a parent going into hock to pay for your son or daughter’s degree in English lit, you may be feeling a mite anxious about what you are getting for all those dollars.

A just-released Bankrate study won’t make you feel any better. In a ranking of 162 college majors by median income and unemployment rate, English majors landed among the bottom dwellers, at 132. At $47,800 in median income, they did better than those in drama ($35,500) or fine arts ($37,000), but they earned less than half as much as someone who majored in, say, electrical engineering ($99,000).

Alas, even if your undergrad is happy with his English major now, other studies say he will come to regret it. In June, a Payscale survey of 250,000 college grads reported 1 in 5 with a humanities degree as saying that, next to their student loans, their choice of major was their biggest educational regret. A 2017 MarketWatch story was blunt: It called English “the most regretted college major in America.
Because every socialist lives in a fantasy world in which "big corporations" or "capitalism" is to blame for just about everything, they construct a fact-free artifice in which poor decisions made upon entry to college are never the responsibility of the parents or the student (or for that matter, the college), but instead, are the fault of the "system." But then, in an amazing feat of ideological ju jitsu, they demand that the "system" use the resources it demands of those who work within it (tax dollars) to save those who have been supposedly been victimized by it.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Decoupling

There's an old saying out of the peace movement of the 1960s—"What if they held a war and no one showed up?" For decades, the Chinese have conducted a one-sided trade war with the United States—one in which the U.S. never showed up. As a consequence, Democrat and Republican administrations allowed the Chinese to manipulate its currency, steal intellectual property and trade secrets, and restrain trade in U.S. exports to China, leading to massive trade imbalances. Both GOP and Dem presidents made noises about the problem, but gladly kicked the can down the road to avoid any unpleasantness. Until Donald Trump.

Like a bull in a china shop, Trump decided to show up—castigating the Chinese for decades of unanswered trade warfare and indicating that he would react in kind. Establishment GOP types gasped, telling anyone who would listen that nothing good ever comes from a trade war. Dems, suffering a never ending case of Trump Derangement Syndrome, told anyone who would listen that Trump would wreck our economy, while at the same time mollifying their big union allies by saying that, yeah, Chinese trade practices are a problem. And Trump? He does what he always does—say nasty things about the Chinese on odd-numbered days, and nice things about Chinese leadership and their desire to settle trade disputes on even-numbered days. With Trump, it's a chaotic negotiating process, but it just might work.

Jake Novak notes that the tone of Chinese comments on the trade war has changed over the past few weeks and suggests that something important is happening:
Given the timing of the change in tone, it seems more likely that what’s making the difference is a realization on both sides that there’s another way this trade war could end – and that possible ending is one the U.S. is very unlikely to lose.

That alternate ending is summed up in one word: decoupling.

The decoupling push is quite different than any U.S. efforts to get China to open up more of its economy to American companies. Instead, it focuses on reducing America’s extremely heavy reliance on China for so much of its manufacturing needs.

Even if China’s economy weren’t so closed off to so many American goods and services, a strong argument has long been made that the U.S. needs to diversify its sources for imports. While finding those new sources wouldn’t necessarily do anything to dent America’s trade imbalances, it would reduce the risks of a major disruption to the U.S. economy based on disputes or other problems connected to a single foreign country.

So what happened between Aug. 23 and this week’s trade optimism-fueled rally?

Thanks to some major news about Google, the world got its clearest notice yet that U.S.-China decoupling has gone from just a theory to something that’s really happening.

Just five days after that trade war flare up, the Nikkei business daily reported on Aug. 28 that Google is shifting its Pixel smartphone production to Vietnam from China starting this year and that the company is also looking to shift some of its smart home speaker assembly to Thailand.

It’s not that Google is the first U.S.-based company to announce some shift away from China; more than 50 other big names have moved out or scaled back. But the timing of Google’s reported plans and how they seem to have affected Beijing can’t be ignored.
It would be a very good thing if the United States began to decouple its dependence on China as a manufacturing hub and diversify to a number of different international sources (e.g., Viet Nam, Mexico, India). In fact, it just might be a matter of national security.

The Chinese, for their part, don't want this to happen, and seeing the early signs of decoupling may have spooked them.

Nothing may come of this, but if Trump can pull off a trade agreement that even begins to remove the existing inequities with China, it will be something that Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama were unwilling and unable to do. It will also demonstrate yet again that the wise counsel of establishment elites is not as wise as they think it is.

Friday, September 06, 2019

The Point of Maximum Entropy

The inimitable Richard Fernandez takes a unique approach when he discusses how the Western Woke, the European elites, the Chinese, and the Russians strive to control the future by demanding that only ideas from the past are viable, and anything else is unacceptable. He writes:
From the point of view of information theory, the future is an alien signal. But unlike the characters in [a science fiction movie who have been contacted by aliens], the Chinese, Russian, European, and American elites are unwilling to start at a point of maximum entropy. Rather, they want to control the future and load the dice by constraining it with their legacy theories. That is because the Woke, EU, Chinese Communist Party, and the Kremlin are convinced they already know the future and the only difficulty is in getting the recalcitrant deplorables to go along.

In succumbing to the control urge, they achieve the opposite. By overspecifying the future, they make true discovery harder. As a result we don't hear the alien; instead what we hear is Bernie Sanders doing his best impression of a spaceman. But it's still a voice from the past. Observers get less information from an experiment when they rig it to prove what they already believe. But the explainers can't help it and rig it they must.
By controlling the message that comes out of academia, the mainstream media, Hollywood and the arts, along with a troubling percentage of "scientists", the left is rigging the experiment "to prove what they already believe."

But what does Fernandez mean by "maximum entropy?" He describes things this way:
True discoveries result from the unanticipated when the apparently random begins to take on an emerging pattern. When things don't make sense at first then gradually do, you are onto something. As a Khan Academy instructor explains it:
If I select a random word from a book ... you will have no clue what I might be ... if, instead I give you a random word from a book and ask you to predict the word that follows it ... you'll notice its likely easier to guess this word. If I give you a sequence of two words and ask you to predict a 3rd word it becomes more predictable still. ... Claude Shannon's measure of entropy ... as you recall, is a measure of surprise. Entropy can be thought of as the number of yes or no questions, or bits, required to guess the next word. As predictability increases, the information entropy decreases.
First, the surprise then the understanding. But not before one receives the first random word. This is known as the principle of maximum entropy. "In ordinary language, the principle of maximum entropy can be said to express a claim of ... maximum ignorance. The selected distribution is ... the one that admits the most ignorance beyond the stated prior data."
When we listen to the current crop of contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, it's pretty obvious that (1) the majority have not a clue what entropy is, and (2) their ideas don't even consider the notion that we may just be ignorant about what the future holds. That's why they talk with such certainly about the future and adopt magical thinking that assumes the steady state. Everything will proceed as they imagine, they say, because ... they see the future clearly, even though their ideology and policy recommendations are from the past and have failed repeatedly in the past.

So the elites drone on, asking us to believe. Fernandez thinks otherwise:
Today the political elites are in a crisis resulting from an expected future that didn't happen. The End of History didn't pan out; Russia and China failed to join the liberal democratic club; the EU fell apart. The global world failed to last. But Brexit and the defeat of Hillary did not spur them to listen; instead, it inspired frantic efforts to reimpose absolute control via Chinese 5G, facial recognition, Google surveillance, G7 pacts against hate speech, and the NYT witch hunt against white supremacy.

Is it any wonder they are failing? That depression is rising among youngsters and social tensions are increasing? Not only are they jamming themselves, they are suppressing the small still voice that whispers in the heart of undiscovered genius. As the political elites gnaw at the ends of their stale agendas it is hard to remember that the future is still full of hope, danger, love, opportunity and things yet undreamed of.
I can remember a time when liberals were the ones who were "full of hope, danger, love, opportunity and things yet undreamed of." Now their "progressive" offspring have a vision that is dark — unaccepting of competing ideas, intolerant of other voices, incapable of seeing anything but a dying planet, and uncomfortable with the notion that tens of millions of "deplorables" just might not go along with their clearly authoritarian ideas (e.g., everyone should stop eating meat to save the planet!).

As we look to the future, we are, inherently, at the point of maximum entropy. But since progressives generally don't understand the meaning and the implications of that term, they, like the proverbial dying man, grasp at straws from the past.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

1619

The New York Times is the newspaper of record for the American Left and as such, it supports virtually every leftist narrative, regardless of how dishonest, hyperbolic, or contrived. Like all good propaganda sources, the NYT produces stories with embedded commentary that do have elements of truth. That makes the overall dishonesty and hyperbole far easier to believe and defend. As a case in point, let's spend a few paragraphs exploring the Left's decision to paint the entire early history of the United States as racist—a time when slavery was the dominant driving force. If we believe this narrative, it leaves a stain of immorality that demands ... yes, demands ... that white people in the USA wear the modern equivalent of sack cloth and ashes and pay reparations to the multi-generational descendants of American slaves. The NYT's 1619 Project explores slavery in America, but unlike a legitimate history, it makes slavery the center of the American experience and therefore demonizes that experience. It implies that our founding and our founders had deep, irreparable moral flaws, setting the stage for a complete restructuring of our country (defined of course, in the philosophical image of the Left's 'social justice' narrative). As I mentioned, there are elements of historical truth in the NYT's discussion of slavery, but what's lacking is context, and without it, the story and the "1619 Project" becomes dishonest propaganda.

Before going any further, no one, and I do mean NO ONE, is suggesting that slavery is anything but evil or that great misdeeds were done to those who were slaves. But applying 21st century mores to 17th century history is dishonest and disingenuous at the same time. Let's consider a little context and history, provided by Alma T. C. Boykin:
So, this year marks 400 years since enslaved Africans were brought to eastern North America. That the Spanish and Portugese had already been bringing African slaves over, and that almost every other people on the American continents practiced slavery, and that the rest of the planet practiced slavery, doesn’t seem to matter. That slavery is still practiced today, in part because some religious texts [e.g., the Koran] positively command it, doesn’t matter to those who are concerned with chattel slavery of Africans as practiced in the British colonies.

Yes, slavery has been around as long as humans have been around in sufficient numbers to get into disputes. And it continues, either openly as slavery, or as debt-peonage, or concubinage, or debt-slavery, or “life servants,” or “gift servants.” Only Europeans tried to end the practice, because they believed that all men were created equal, and that enslaving people was no longer a right and moral practice. But that doesn’t count, or so the New York Times and other sources suggest.

Me being me, I have to wave my penalty flag. First off, slavery is not unique to the Americas, Europeans, or Africans. Everyone enslaved everyone else, ever since waaaay back when. Second, there were as many flavors of slavery as there were reasons for it, ranging from working people to death (the mines of Athens and Persia, sugar-cane plantations in Iraq,) to having more women and children to boost the population after eliminating the enemy’s men (all over the world), to domestic service (almost all over the world), to having soldiers (Russians, Ottomans), to agricultural workers (all over the world), to skilled workers (Rome, Western Europe between AD 450-950 CE). Even in the US, some slaves were skilled craftsmen, some worked on the task system and had free time as soon as the job was finished, and some where the cotton plantation slaves that everyone thinks of.

Africans enslaved other Africans, and sold them to everyone else. Until almost 1800, it was native Africans who controlled the sale of slaves to Europeans in west Africa. To this day, if people find out you are descended from a slave, you may be treated as a second-class citizen and lose job and marriage prospects. After all, if your ancestors were weak or dumb enough to be enslaved, then you’re probably not much better.

The Mongols, and later Tatars captured millions of Europeans and sold them into slavery over the course of time from around 1000 until the 1700s. The last slave raids against England and Iceland were in the late 1600s! Part of the job of the Royal Navy was to keep Barbary Pirates from landing and kidnapping English men and women to sell in North Africa.

A few European individuals thought slavery lacked moral foundations, most notably Emperor Charles V, and some later thinkers, but no one really tried to stop it until the mid 1700s, when some crazy folks began to argue that just because people had always done it didn’t mean that buying and selling other people was still right. Eventually France and England banned slavery at home, and then started stopping the trade on the sea ...

So yes, the Dutch brought enslaved Africans to the Carolinas in 1619. And Africans gradually replaced indentured British and Irish men and women, in part because it was harder for them to blend into the population and disappear. And the US fought a bloody, terrible war against itself in 1861-65 in order to end the practice (among other things). But we need the rest of the story. Having practiced chattel slavery makes the US neither unique nor especially evil. It means we were like other humans since the eighth day of creation. And we don’t do it any more. Unlike certain other places and people today.
The NYT in particular and the Left in general are quite selective in their interpretation of history and are particularly hesitant to discuss state sponsored slavery in a more modern context. It can be argued that the Stalin's communist Russia or Mao's communist China enslaved tens of millions. It could be further argued that Castro's communist Cuba and Chavez' socialist Venezuela destroyed many of the freedoms of additional millions. These four near-term historical realities are analogous in some ways to what happened in North American in the 17th - 19th centuries. One large group was subjugated by a smaller power elite. The details differ, of course, but in the end, the death of freedom resulted.

The irony is the the NYT and the Left now champion the same underlying socialist ideology that led to Russia, China, Cuba, and Venezuela. Their version, they insist, will allow us to unburden ourselves from the moral stigma of slavery. The only problem is that if they succeed and take the reins of power, over time we will be led into slavery in a different guise, but slavery nonetheless.

UPDATE (9/4/2019):
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African American commentator Jason Riley comments on the history of blacks in America when he writes:
In 1907 Booker T. Washington, the educator and former slave, published a book detailing the economic progress of blacks since emancipation. He reported that between 1860 and 1900 black homeownership rates grew from infinitesimal to more than 20%, and that among homeowners a higher percentage of blacks than whites completely owned their residences. “I am unaware that history records such an example of substantial growth in civilization in a time so short,” wrote Washington. A hundred years ago, black marriage rates exceeded those of whites, and most black children were raised in two-parent homes. Today, that’s no longer true and slavery can’t explain the retrogression.

Liberals want to harp on how blacks have been treated, but a focus on how they progressed in earlier eras notwithstanding that treatment would be of far greater use to today’s black underclass. The black experience in America is much more than a history of what whites have done to blacks, even if our politicians, commentators and comedians often find it expedient to pretend otherwise.
The progressive narrative focuses almost solely on racism to justify a narrative that emphasizes victimization by a "racist system," and then encourages government dependency as a solution. African Americans should take a hard look at those who have promoted this narrative for multiple decades and ask themselves whether it has helped or hurt certain segments of their community. If they look at the narrative introspectively and honestly, their next step should be to #WalkAway from those who promote the narrative.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Dorian

I stood on a Florida beach this morning and watched storm-generated waves crashing into a rock jetty. Beyond the rocks and across only 100 miles of ocean, Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm, pummeled the Bahamas with 180 mph winds. It is a truly dangerous and catastrophic storm.



Living in South Florida, hurricanes are a frequent summer and early fall occurrence. They are dangerous and often destructive and in the extreme, can be life threatening. But that's in the extreme. In general, hurricanes are massively inconvenient and sometimes create major problems and expenses for homeowners, renters and businesses. But it's exceedingly rare when people die, and even rarer when people starve or perish from thirst. Yet you'd never know that if you listen to the local and national media narrative.

The media specializes in "catastrophizing" hurricanes and as a consequence, whips some people into a pseudo-hysteria that is as ridiculous as it is unnecessary. Long before the hurricane comes close, gas lines form and the shelves at grocery stores empty. People began to hoard for no good reason because ... hurricane!! One can only wonder what would happen in a real national emergency.

Sure you have to prepare. FEMA does need to position resources, our power company, FP&L has to position workers and equipment, and government officials do need to warn those on the coast about potential evacuation.

But all of this should be tempered by the information gleened from short-term NOAA models, that although extremely useful, still have a "cone of uncertainty," even when predicting a storm's path 3 days out.*

As I write this, Dorian is moving 1 mph and beginning its predicted northward turn (thank goodness). It's highly probably that we won't be in the target zone—this time.

AN ASIDE:
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* It's worth noting that even with a relatively well-understood meteorological models, real-time data coming in from aircraft, satellites, ocean buoys, weather data that identifies high and low pressure regions around the storm, there is uncertainly at three days, and considerable uncertainly at 7 days. The predictive hurricane models focus on a path area that is about 150,000 square miles and properly admit that there's a lot of uncertainty at the margins.

Now, for just a second, consider other models that purport to predict climate change, not days or weeks or months out, but decades out. Those models are not as well understood as hurricane models, are notoriously inaccurate when they are applied to known past data and asked to predict current climatic conditions, must consider an order of magnitude more variables that are difficult to collect in real time, and most important, attempt to predict climate across 200 million square miles (the surface of the planet).

To their credit, meteorologists have the humility to admit that there is considerable statistical uncertainly in their predictions at 5 or 7 or 10 days (that's why the cone of a hurricane predictive model becomes wider and wider as time passes). One would think that climatologists and those politicians who tell us that "the science is settled," would have the humility to admit that there is rather considerable statistical uncertainty in their predictions. After all, they're using provably weaker models to predict a more complex phenomenon that covers an area at least a thousand times as large as hurricane predictions.