Archive for the 'Politics' Category
Posted by Jonathan on 28th October 2014 (All posts by Jonathan)
This is one of David Brooks’s better columns.
Politics is obviously a passionate activity, in which moral values clash. Debates over Obamacare, charter schools or whether the United States should intervene in Syria stir serious disagreement. But these studies are measuring something different. People’s essential worth is being measured by a political label: whether they should be hired, married, trusted or discriminated against.
The broad social phenomenon is that as personal life is being de-moralized, political life is being hyper-moralized. People are less judgmental about different lifestyles, but they are more judgmental about policy labels.
The features of the hyper-moralized mind-set are all around. More people are building their communal and social identities around political labels. Your political label becomes the prerequisite for membership in your social set.
There is much to this, though I would disagree that “people’s essential worth is being measured” by their politics. It would be more accurate to say that among nonreligious people politics is becoming a substitute for religion, an idea not unfamiliar to readers of this blog.
Where Brooks falls flat is in eliding the easily observable fact that the social politicization he discusses is much more characteristic of the American Left than of the Right. But there’s an election coming and the Democrats are set to lose big, so it’s time to anticipatorily attribute the outcome to societal problems rather than the policies of the losing party. Still, he makes good points and his column is worth reading.
Posted in Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society | 8 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 28th October 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Those of you who know Dostoievski will remember the scene of the ‘Grand Inquisitor,’ where the problem is poignantly unfolded. If one makes any concessions at all to the principle that the end justifies the means, it is not possible to bring an ethic of ultimate ends and an ethic of responsibility under one roof or to decree ethically which end should justify which means.
My colleague, Mr. F. W. Forster, whom personally I highly esteem for his undoubted sincerity, but whom I reject unreservedly as a politician, believes it is possible to get around this difficulty by the simple thesis: ‘from good comes only good; but from evil only evil follows.’ In that case this whole complex of questions would not exist. But it is rather astonishing that such a thesis could come to light two thousand five hundred years after the Upanishads. Not only the whole course of world history, but every frank examination of everyday experience points to the very opposite. The development of religions all over the world is determined by the fact that the opposite is true. The age-old problem of theodicy consists of the very question of how it is that a power which is said to be at once omnipotent and kind could have created such an irrational world of undeserved suffering, unpunished injustice, and hopeless stupidity. Either this power is not omnipotent or not kind, or, entirely different principles of compensation and reward govern our life–principles we may interpret metaphysically, or even principles that forever escape our comprehension This problem–the experience of the irrationality of the world–has been the driving force of all religious evolution. The Indian doctrine of karma, Persian dualism, the doctrine of original sin, predestination and the deus absconditus, all these have grown out of this experience. Also the early Christians knew full well the world is governed by demons and that he who lets himself in for politics, that is, for power and force as means, contracts with diabolical powers and for his action it is not true that good can follow only from good and evil only from evil, but that often the opposite is true. Anyone who fails to see this is, indeed, a political infant.
Max Weber, Politics as a Vocation (1919).
Is Weber right? Is Aristotle (“man is by nature a political animal”) wrong?
One hour, one blue book.
The highlighted language from Weber I recently read in “The Private Faces of Public Virtue” Michael Knox Beran, in The Claremont Review of Books, Vol. XIV, Number 3, Summer 2014, a review of The Founders at Home: The Building of America, 1735-1817 by Myron Magnet. Magnet’s book sounds good. And for that matter, Beran’s book, Forge of Empires: Three Revolutionary Statesmen and the World They Made, 1861-1871, looks good, too.
Far too many books, far too little time.
It has been many years since I read “Politics as a Vocation” — an acknowledged classic. I need to read that again.
Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Politics, Quotations, Religion, Tradeoffs | 1 Comment »
Posted by Lexington Green on 27th October 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Fifty years ago today Ronald Reagan made a famous televised speech in support of Barry Goldwater’s doomed presidential candidacy. The speech was entitled “A Time for Choosing” — but it came to be known simply as “The Speech”.
As Goldwater crashed and burned, Reagan ascended in a single bound to being the leader and embodiment of the American Conservative movement.
It was a spectacular launch to his political career.
Michael Barone has a good piece about The Speech today.
The text of The Speech is here.
Much of it could be read today and it would still apply, word for word.
Here is a good article about The Speech and the rise of Reagan: Reagan, Goldwater and Rise of Conservatism, by Pat Horan.
Posted in Conservatism, History, Politics, Reagan Centenary, Speeches, USA, Video | 13 Comments »
Posted by TM Lutas on 17th October 2014 (All posts by TM Lutas)
The usual formulation for discussing air travel bans is how many ebola cases making it to the US before President Obama is forced to stop air travel to and from west Africa. But there’s another variant of the question, how many ebola cases in the US before others will stop air or sea travel to and from the this country?
I do not think it likely that we will reach such numbers in this outbreak but it’s an interesting change from the usual breathless journalistic speculation of the US imposing a ban. If we don’t keep our house in order, others will isolate us to keep themselves safe.
Update: Since this post was written the arrival of travelers from the ebola hot zone have been restricted five airports where screening has been put in place and just now the CDC has announced that all arrivals will be under 21 day observation from entry in a sort of loose post entry disease defense regime. If they travel, they need to notify the CDC and they need to call in daily temperature readings and report any ebola-like symptoms. This might work, and considerably reduces the possibility that we will be under travel ban because we let ebola come in and get out of control.
Posted in Health Care, Politics, Transportation | 6 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 16th October 2014 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
Sometimes looking at politics, the only explanation that makes sense is a personal identity based mental illness affecting the politicians involved.
So, we see this reported —
Texas Health Presbyterian nurse Briana Aguirre criticizes hospital over Ebola response
Nurse speaks out on TODAY Show
Ashley Fantz, Holly Yan and Catherine E. Shoichet CNN
9:54 AM, Oct 16, 2014
“The federal government is weighing putting those who treated Duncan on a list that would prohibit them from being able to fly, an official familiar with the situation told CNN.
In June 2007, federal agencies developed a public health Do Not Board list, which allowed domestic and international public health officials to request that people with communicable diseases who meet specific criteria and pose a serious threat to the public be restricted from taking commercial flights departing from or arriving in the United States. The CDC and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security manage the Do Not Board list. “
So follow me here.
American citizens who have been in the vicinity of an Ebola patient, particularly healthcare workers, would be considered “a serious threat to the public” even though;
1. They have simply been around people with Ebola but,
2. They are not exhibiting signs of the disease.
These individuals (who demonstrate no symptoms of Ebola) may soon be placed on a “Do Not Board List” by the Center for Disease Control and Department of Homeland Security.
Meanwhile, non-citizens, people from West Africa who are now:
1. Surrounded by an “out of control” Ebola virus outbreak,
2. Who are living in countries saturated with Ebola due to its rampant community spread,
3. Who are not now showing symptoms of the disease yet,
4. Are free to travel to America, plus wherever they like to in America without restrictions after they get here.
A sane Federal government would have put all passengers from Ebola Pandemic affected West African nations on a “Do Not Board List” long past. Yet they are not sane, and it gets worse.
Not only is this “American Citizens With Ebola Only “Do Not Board List” a dumb policy that destroys the credibility of the Federal Government in time of crisis when it is needed most. It is law suit bait on equal protection grounds in Federal court. Yet both Obama and Congressional Democrats, plus a few Republicans, support limiting AMERICAN CITIZENS rights to travel, but not that of WEST AFRICANS.
What we are seeing here is the outstanding symptom of a mental illness called OPEN BORDERS DERANGMENT SYNDROME. A mental illness shared by 99.5% of Democrats and the Republican leadership in the US Senate.
A political identity based mental illness now set to kill lots of Americans by Ebola for the sake of cheap immigrant labor now and future Democratic votes later (like 2016 via voter fraud enabled by Democratic Party opposition to Voter ID laws).
Posted in Current Events, Ebola, Health Care, Immigration, Politics | 10 Comments »
Posted by Grurray on 15th October 2014 (All posts by Grurray)
This year has seen many historical anniversaries, and one that has gotten some recent notoriety is the 90 year anniversary of the planned obsolescence of the light bulb by an industry cartel.
How exactly did the cartel pull off this engineering feat? It wasn’t just a matter of making an inferior or sloppy product; anybody could have done that. But to create one that reliably failed after an agreed-upon 1,000 hours took some doing over a number of years. The household lightbulb in 1924 was already technologically sophisticated: The light yield was considerable; the burning time was easily 2,500 hours or more. By striving for something less, the cartel would systematically reverse decades of progress.
It’s even more notable because last week three pioneers in LED technology just won the Nobel Prize.
We all know about the efficiency standards for light bulbs that are effectively banning incandescent bulbs in slow motion. I’ve noticed during my usual stops at the home improvement stores that the choices for the vintage bulbs are fewer and farther between, and the prices for what’s left are creeping up.
The promise of the new standards is that the new LED lighting is far superior. While it’s much more expensive, the steady drumbeat of the diffusion of technology is supposed to reduce the costs, eventually putting them within reach of the common household.
The costs have indeed dropped exponentially, but that’s undoubtedly been helped by government aid and deliberate shortages of the old technology. Besides the federal standards, every state has some sort of efficient lighting rebate program that artificially decreases the price. Tax breaks and other incentives have encouraged manufacturers like GE to expand production in the US and create a few hundred jobs, which, although nice, don’t quite make up for the thousands they shipped to China during the Great Light Bulb Leap Forward. How much of the price gains can be attributed to Moore’s Law type improvements and how much to government supports is a legitimate concern.
Now there’s some question about how long prices are going to keep falling going forward.
In stark contrast to the promised dynamics that the technology is supposed to follow, LED prices actually rose considerably last month.
In contrast, 40W equiv. LED bulb prices were up 14.3% in the U.S. market. Manufacturers including Cree, Philips, GE and other renowned brands have raised prices for certain products in the U.S. market.
Because of industry consolidation, the top ten LED manufacturers now control 61% of the market. That much control brings pricing power over the market, and they are apparently now using it.
With green energy executive orders on Obama’s agenda and the unelected EPA issuing mandates, the oligopoly is sure to get worse with permanently higher cost per lumens the possible result.
The LED industry, taking a page from the incandescent bulb industry so many years ago, is discovering the key to the rent seekers’ success – competition is for losers, and unfortunately sometimes so is progress.
Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Politics, Tech | 21 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th October 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
A caller to a radio show has described officer Darren Wilson’s version of the attack by Michael Brown. It pretty much follows what we know now.
CNN said it verified with its police department sources that the story Josie told on the radio was the same as Wilson’s version of events. CNN called the stories an exact match.
First, we know that Brown had robbed a convenience store and manhandled the clerk shortly before the shooting.
Second, we know that the Holder DoJ tried to suppress the video.
Next we know about the race hustlers coming to town and stirring up racism by many outsiders.
The crowd was “peaceful and jovial” the Post-Dispatch informs us, and dotted with people who had traveled long distances. “Antonio Cuffee, 30, drove 13 hours from Baltimore with six others to join in the protests,” we are told. “‘We felt we had to come out here to be part of change,’ Cuffee, a policy worker, said. ‘It’s a shame so many black people are getting killed by police,’ he said. ‘Just by the nature of being black we are targeted, we are suspect.’”
This, of course, is nonsense as most murders of black men are by other black men.
The story told by the officer’s friend is as follows.
Wilson said 18-year-old Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were walking in the middle of the street, so Wilson pulled up in his patrol car and told them, “Come on guys, get out of the street,” but they refused, saying they were almost at their destination.
He kept rolling beside them and they cursed at him. He finally pulled over, at which point Josie said she believes he called for backup.
“He pulled up ahead of them. And he was watching them, and then he got a call-in that there was a strong-arm robbery,” she said. That was the convenience-store robbery shown on surveillance tapes of Brown grabbing a handful of cigars and pushing a clerk away when Brown and Johnson left without paying.
The pair matched the description of the robbers, and also appeared to be holding cigars.
This was the moment when the event began to spin out of control.
“So he goes in reverse back to them. Tries to get out of his car. They slam his door shut violently. I think he said Michael did,” Josie said. “And then he opened his car again. He tries to get out. And as he stands up, Michael just bum-rushes him, just shoves him back into his car, punches him in the face. And then Darren grabs for his gun. Michael grabs the gun, at one point he’s got the gun turned totally against his hip. And Darren shoves it away, and the gun goes off.”
Brown and Johnson then ran, Josie said, and got about 35 feet away.
“Darren’s first protocol is to pursue. So, he stands up and yells, ‘Freeze!’ Michael and his friend turn around. And Michael starts taunting him, ‘Oh, what are you going to do about it? You’re not going to shoot me.’ And then he said all the sudden he just started to bum-rush him. He just started coming at him full speed. And so he just started shooting. And he just kept coming. So, he really thinks he was on something because he just kept coming.”
This sounds reasonable to me. The rest of the story is at the link.
Why the virulent racism and riots by blacks ?
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Obama, Politics, The Press | 1 Comment »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 11th October 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Roger L Simon has an interesting column on the consequences of a GOP win this fall.
Barack Obama is a man unaccustomed to losing. Life has been exceptionally kind to him, sailing, as he did, through balmy Oahu sunsets, college, law school and career on into the presidency with scarcely a bump. He has been a protected man beyond any in recent memory, feted and praised virtually everywhere he went until the last couple of years. Even now, despite catastrophe after catastrophe, there are acolytes who continue to celebrate him, paying tens of thousands merely to have their photographs taken with him.
When such cosseted people are forced to confront failure, they typically do not do so with grace.
Obama’s style of governing seems to be quite unusual for modern presidents. He does not have a circle of “Wise Men” as most presidents have done, including Bill Clinton, who had Robert Rubin advising him on economics and the bond market.
Obama, instead, relys on a small circle of advisors with little or no experience in national affairs.
Insider books by Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta have appeared in rapid succession, implying or directly alleging that the president lives in a bubble, unwilling to listen to advice. He frequently threatens to — and sometimes does — go around the Congress to get his way via, often unconstitutional, executive fiat. We all know that he lies, constantly.
His closest advisor appears to be Valerie Jarrett who has no policy experience and who seems to be a Chicago insider.
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Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Elections, Human Behavior, Iraq, Leftism, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Politics | 9 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th October 2014 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
… I think. My crystal ball is out for re-calibration so I cannot be absolutely certain, but I’ve been expecting a crisis or bundle of intersecting catastrophes for some time now. There have been murmurings for the last year regarding the probability of Ebola spreading out of Africa. And now it has happened – a person sick with it has exposed lord only knows how many other people on his way back to Dallas from a visit to Africa. Which is horrific enough, but just getting started. Meanwhile, an enterovirus which attacks the respiratory tract and in some instances has an effect very like that of polio has been here for some months, sickening children – especially those who have respiratory difficulties.
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Posted in Americas, Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Immigration, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, Middle East, Politics, Tea Party, Terrorism, Urban Issues, USA | 18 Comments »
Posted by TM Lutas on 9th October 2014 (All posts by TM Lutas)
In the US, property taxes are public record. Income taxes are not. It’s viewed as an intrusive violation of one’s right to privacy to view a person’s 1040 without good cause but everybody can go over the property taxes without justification. After a bit of research there doesn’t seem to be a lot of discussion why that is. It’s like there’s deep consensus that this is the way that things should be but no justification laid out in living memory to keep things this way. I agree with the consensus, that property tax records should be public. I just don’t like the thought that I don’t know why and I don’t know why income taxes are categorically different.
Posted in Politics, USA | 11 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 9th October 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
(That is me on the far right, where I belong!)
My thanks to the Chicago Young Republicans, who invited me to speak to them last night at their monthly meeting. It was an enjoyable and educational event.
I was on a panel with the very distinguished Dan Proft of, inter alia, 89 WLS and Jonathan Greenberg of the Illinois Policy Institute.
The topic of discussion was the upcoming election. One theme was the concern that Bruce Rauner may end up losing to Pat Quinn, despite Quinn being an unmitigated disaster. Polls show Rauner slightly ahead, but the trends are bad. Rauner has not yet closed the deal with Illinois voters, who are upset and concerned about the direction the state is going, but who are not yet convinced that Rauner is the guy who can fix the problems. I hope Rauner manages to make that connection with voters before election day.
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Posted in America 3.0, Chicagoania, Illinois Politics, Politics | 9 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 2nd October 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
The festival of lights in Thailand
Three Irish girls win the Google Science Fair with an approach to bacteria-enhanced crop growth
Two versions of “Oklahoma” at Bookworm, with discussion
10 Disney cartoons from the 1930s, with link to an article on the evolution of Disney’s cartoons over several decades
The lost art of political persuasion. This piece at Ricochet argues that politicians are now less about converting the opposition and persuading the undecided, and more about activating those who are already members of their choir.
Bill Whittle thinks it’s time to talk about some good news (video)
A recent study suggests that empathy can lead to scapegoating
Book giveaways during WWII contributed greatly to the popularization of reading and the subsequent growth of the publishing industry.
This article by a Wharton professor argues that “emotional intelligence is overrated” and, specifically, that it is overrated in sales. He cites a study in which hundreds of sales people were tested both for emotional intelligence and cognitive ability, and their sales performance subsequently tracked…with the conclusion that cognitive ability was more than 5X as powerful as emotional intelligence in predicting sales performance. (Actually, I’m pretty sure that the importance of cognitive ability and the importance of emotional intelligence both vary greatly depending on what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to, and also on what kind of resources the salesman needs to leverage within his own organization.)
Posted in Arts & Letters, Business, Education, Elections, Film, History, Human Behavior, Management, Photos, Politics, Science, USA | 2 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 24th September 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
…and the Democrats have so far been doing very well at fundraising. (See for example Democrat e-mail fundraising, Super PAC fundraising, Very large donors, and another piece on Online fundraising.) One factor that works to the advantage of the Democrats is that there are quite a few Left-leaning celebrities who are willing to put their high visibility to work for the party: see for example the work of George R R Martin (the fantasy & science fiction writer) on behalf of Thomas Udall.
In addition to the advertising that they can explicitly buy with the money they get from contributions, the Democrats also have the advantage of overwhelming support from the media–indeed, a considerable % of news and editorial coverage consists basically of unpaid advertorials for Dem positions and Dem candidates.
If you care about the future of the United States, and are not happy with the “progressive” approach to government, as exemplified in the administration of Barack Obama, please consider maxing out your political contributions and doing it soon. If the Democrats keep control of the Senate, and especially if they are able to regain control of the House, the next two years may be very dark indeed, and the country may well slide into a place from which it will be very difficult to recover.
Posted in Elections, Politics, USA | 5 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 23rd September 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
There has been much discussion recently of Catalist, a database system being used by the Democratic Party to optimally target their electioneering efforts…see Jonathan’s post here. I’m reminded of Eugene Burdick’s 1964 novel, The 480. The book’s premise is that a group within the Republican party acquires the services of a computing company called Simulation Enterprises, intending to apply the latest technology and social sciences research in order to get their candidate elected. These party insiders have been inspired by the earlier work of the 1960 Kennedy campaign with a company called Simulmatics.
Simulmatics was a real company. It was founded by MIT professor Ithiel de Sola Pool, a pioneer in the application of computer technology to social science research. Data from 130,000 interviews was categorized into 480 demographic groups, and an IBM 704 computer was used to process this data and predict the likely effects of various alternative political tactics. One question the company was asked to address by the 1960 Democratic campaign, in the person of Robert F Kennedy, was: How best to deal with religion? There was considerable concern among some parts of the electorate about the prospect of choosing a Catholic as President. Would the JFK campaign do better by minimizing attention to this issue, or would they do better by addressing it directly and condemning as bigots those who would let Kennedy’s faith affect their vote?
Simulmatics concluded that “Kennedy today has lost the bulk of the votes he would lose if the election campaign were to be embittered by the issue of anti-Catholicism. The simulation shows that there has already been a serious defection from Kennedy by Protestant voters. Under these circumstances, it makes no sense to brush the religious issue under the rug. Kennedy has already suffered the disadvantages of the issue even though it is not embittered now–and without receiving compensating advantages inherent in it.” Quantitatively, the study predicted that Kennedy’s direct addressing of the religion issue would move eleven states, totaling 122 electoral votes, away from the Kennedy camp–but would pull six states, worth 132 electoral votes, into the Democratic column.
It is not clear how much this study influenced actual campaign decision-making…but less than three weeks after RFK received the Simulmatics report, JFK talked about faith before a gathering of ministers in Houston. “I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end,” Kennedy said, “where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind.” (Burdick’s novel also suggests that the Kennedy campaign used Simulmatics to assess the effects of a more-forthright posture on civil rights by the campaign, and furthermore to analyze Kennedy’s optimal personality projection during the debates–I don’t know if these assertions are historically correct, but the religion analysis clearly was indeed performed.)
Considerable excitement was generated when, after the election, the Simulmatics project became publicly known. A Harper’s Magazine article referred to to the Simulmatics computer as “the people machine,” and quoted Dr Harold Lasswell of Yale as saying, “This is the A-bomb of the social sciences. The breakthrough here is comparable to what happened at Stagg Field.” But Pierre Salinger, speaking for the Kennedy campaign, asserted that “We did not use the machine.” (Salinger’s statement is called out as a lie in the recent book, The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.)
In Burdick’s novel, the prospective Republican candidate is John Thatch, head of an international engineering and construction company. Thatch has achieved popular renown after courageously defusing a confrontation between Indians and Pakistanis over a bridge his company was building, thereby averting a probable war. Something about Thatch’s personality has struck the public imagination, and–despite his lack of political experience–he looks to be an attractive candidate. But initially, the Republicans see little hope of defeating the incumbent Kennedy–“the incumbent is surrounded by over four years of honorific words and rituals,” a psychologist explains. “He seems as though he ought to be President. He assumes the mantle.” This outlook is deeply disturbing to a Republican senior statesman named Bookbinder, who strongly believes that defacto 8-year terms are bad for the country…but if it is true that Kennedy is unbeatable, then the best the Republicans can hope to do is lose as well as possible. Things change when Kennedy is assassinated and the election becomes a real contest.
Bookbinder and Levi, another Republican senior statesman, are introduced to Simulation Enterprises by a young lawyer named Madison (Mad) Curver and his psychologist associate (quoted above), a woman named Dr Devlin. Mad and Dr Devlin explain that what Sim Enterprises does is different from the work done by garden-variety pollsters like the one they have just met, Dr Cotter:
“The pollster taps only a small fragment of the subject’s mind, attention, background, family influence, and habits. The Simulations thing, just because it can consider thousands of elements influencing the subject, even things he may not know himself, gets much better results.”
“And one further thing, Book,” Mad said. “Simulations Enterprises can predict what people will do in a situation which they have never heard of before. That was the whole point of the UN in the Midwest example. No one has gone out there and asked them to vote on whether we should get out of the UN, but Dev outlined a procedure by which you can predict how they will react…if they ever do have to vote on it.
Again Bookbinder had the sharp sense of unreality. Unreal people were being asked invented questions and a result came out on green, white-lined paper…and when you got around to the real people six months later with the real question they would act the way the computer had said they would.
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Posted in Advertising, Book Notes, Elections, History, Human Behavior, Politics, Polls, Predictions, Tech, USA | 8 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd September 2014 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees! – R. Kipling
I started my first stretch in the military as Jimmy Carter was elected and sworn into office. I did not think anything of him, particularly – either pro or con, although being a bit of a snob, I did think it was distinctly juvenile of him to be known as Jimmy, rather than James. Boys are called by the diminutive; men ought to go by their proper names. The one big issue that I did hold against him for most of my first hitch in the military was when he declined a military spending bill which would have provided for the rebuilding of the Misawa AB high school, which at the time of my assignment there was housed in three pre-WWII buildings which had once been Imperial Japanese Army stables. On hot days, those buildings still smelt faintly of horse, and the students had to use the base gym for their PE classes. I recollect that there was grumbling resentment among the senior NCO cohort (and likely among the officers , too) whose teenaged dependents attended the school, to the effect that that Amy Carter did not attend classes in 70+ old shacks that smelled of ancient horse-shit. The Iran hostage situation and his limp-wristed response to it didn’t develop until later. And Carter – that bundle of mind-numbing sanctimony and anti-Semitism – was gone by the time I was done with that first tour, having pretty much disappointed everyone who assumed that having been a wartime Naval Academy graduate and serving USN officer would have been good for something when it came to being a commander in chief.
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Posted in Big Government, Current Events, Military Affairs, Obama, Politics | 18 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 21st September 2014 (All posts by Jonathan)
As it turned out, virtually all of the polling in recent weeks had been wrong. In the end, the vote wasn’t very close: it was a clear and decisive No. Whatever poll respondents had said – or been afraid to say – about their intentions because they felt coerced or intimidated by the aggressive tactics of the other camp, when it came to it, they were free to do as they pleased.
This is a salutary lesson in the limits of militant political activism: you can bully people in the street, shout them down at public meetings and dissuade them forcibly from displaying posters or banners you don’t like. You can, with the help of your friends and comrades, create what seems to you, inside the bubble of mutual congratulation, to be an unstoppable momentum.
But making people afraid to voice contrary opinions just reinforces the delusion into which political tribes so easily fall when they are waging war. And, even more dangerously, it leaves them utterly out of touch with the slow-burning resentment they are creating in the opponents they are so determined to crush. The inviolable privacy of the polling booth puts paid to all that: the ordinary citizen, who may well have had his anger and resolve strengthened under fire, gets his revenge.
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Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Civil Society, Political Philosophy, Politics, Polls, Predictions, RKBA | 9 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 21st September 2014 (All posts by Jonathan)
It is one thing if Tom Steyer gives money to further causes that would harm his opponents and benefit his allies. Steyer is, I regretfully admit, an American. But it is another thing entirely when a foreign government self-interestedly enters policy debates—and does so in secret.
Many of the countries giving to think tanks are American allies like Norway: NATO powers, Japan, South Korea, France. They would have to comply with my beefed up FARA as well. And yes, haters, so would Israel, should Israel actually donate money to U.S. think tanks, which it does not.
But these allies have nothing to fear from transparency. They already have constituencies in the American political system. Many of them have treaty guarantees. And Israel has a broad, deep, and thriving community of supporters both Jewish and Christian. There will always be an Israel “lobby” because of the ethnic and religious and ideological connections between our two countries. There is no Qatari lobby without Qatari money.
It makes sense to require US political nonprofits to disclose foreign monetary contributions.
Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Politics | 6 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 18th September 2014 (All posts by Jonathan)
This is a must-read. It describes how the Democrats have very successfully used technology to get out the vote, perhaps decisively, from far-left constituents who otherwise would not have voted. The key points are 1) an understanding that if a party can identify members of its base it is much cheaper to convince them to vote for the party’s candidates than it is to convince uncommitted moderates, 2) effective cooperation among Democratic operatives and politicians at all levels to gather and share contact and demographic data about as many voters as possible, and 3) the application of modern analysis techniques to those data, and the subsequent targeting of the most-likely Democratic voters for GOTV efforts. This is part of how Obama got himself reelected in 2012 despite his exceptionally weak record. Meanwhile Republicans have futilely attempted, at great cost in money and in support from members of their conservative base, to win over indecisive moderates.
Posted in Obama, Politics, Tech | 13 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 9th September 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The rise of ISIS seems to have caught the attention of hitherto oblivious segments of the US public. Cutting off the heads of western journalists seems to do that. What we are seeing is the total collapse of civilization in that part of the world.
That is what civilizational decline looks like in real time. The roots of the crisis were visible four years ago before the so-called Arab Spring beguiled the foreign policy wonks. Hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrian farmers already were living in tent camps around Syrian cities before the Syrian civil war began in April 2011. Israeli analysts knew this. In March 2011 Paul Rivlin of Tel Aviv University released a study of the collapse of Syrian agriculture, widely cited in Arab media but unmentioned in the English language press (except my essay on the topic).
The Syrian food crisis had a lot to do with the collapse of Syria.
In response to the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, President Assad reduced taxes on oil and sugar, and cut import tariffs on basic foodstuffs. This action had unintended consequences. A blogger on the Syrian website sy-weather.com reports, “I spent fifteen days on formalities to reduce customs duties on some basic food items, but I have not seen a glimmer of hope on the horizon. This was supposed to reduce the prices of the targeted goods. On the contrary, a liter of oil that sold for 65 Syrian pounds [US$1.38] now sells for 85 pounds.” That’s an increase of 30% over the month. Other bloggers report that the prices of basic foodstuffs have risen by 25% to 30%.
This has resulted in the presence of 14 million refugees with no hope of relief.
When I wrote in 2011 that Islam was dying, this was precisely what I forecast. You can’t unscramble this egg. The international organizations, Bill Clinton, George Soros and other people of that ilk will draw up plans, propose funding, hold conferences and publish studies, to no avail. The raw despair of millions of people ripped out of the cocoon of traditional society, bereft of ties of kinship and custom, will feed the meatgrinder. Terrorist organizations that were hitherto less flamboyant (“moderate” is a misdesignation), e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood (and its Palestine branch Hamas), will compete with the caliphate for the loyalties of enraged young people. The delusion about Muslim democracy that afflicted utopians of both parties is now inoperative. War will end when the pool of prospective fighters has been exhausted.
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Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Current Events, History, Immigration, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Politics, Terrorism | 19 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 4th September 2014 (All posts by Jonathan)
Richard Epstein, Rand Paul’s Fatal Pacifism:
There is nothing in libertarian theory that justifies dithering at home as conditions abroad get worse by the day.
This point has been one of the main differences among people who consider themselves libertarian. Libertarian isolationism in response to threats of aggression from overseas is like a self-defense strategy in which you let an assailant shoot at you before you think yourself justified in shooting back. In reality you sometimes have to take preemptive action if you want to survive. Life isn’t a court of law where you have the luxury of due process before deciding if you are justified in punishing the accused. An individual, group or nation that behaves in a way that reasonable people see as threatening should have no expectation of being left alone by potential victims.
Posted in International Affairs, National Security, Political Philosophy, Politics, Quotations, War and Peace | 64 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 27th August 2014 (All posts by Jonathan)
Strategy Page has a very interesting discussion of how Israel’s military has learned and adapted from its failures in the 2006 Lebanon war:
After the 2006 war Israel realized two things; its military was still superior to Arab forces and its military was not as superior as Israel believed it was. The major Israeli deficiency was communications. What the Arabs, or at least Iran-backed Hezbollah, had done was learned to move faster and more resourcefully than the Israelis expected. What really shocked the Israelis was that although they could spot and track these Hezbollah moves they could not get artillery, aircraft or ground troops moved quickly enough to take out a lot of identified targets before the enemy managed to change position. All the different levels of Israeli headquarters and combat units could actually communicate with each other, but not fast enough to hit a target that had been identified and located but was not staying put long enough for the completion of all the procedures and paperwork required to get the strike order sent to the unit best able to carry it out.
The solution was new technology and procedures. Since 2006 Israel has built a new communications system that is faster and able, according to Israeli claims, to hit a lot more targets than the 2006 era forces could manage. Much of the solution had nothing to do with radical new hardware but to simply standardizing the procedures everyone had long used to call for fire, or to deliver it. Now commanders at all levels can see the same data and call for and receive fire support quickly. Thus when a target is identified the bombs, shells or ground attack follows quickly. Everyone was shown how easy, and damaging it was to underestimate the enemy. In training exercises the “enemy” is controlled by Israeli troops with ordered to be imaginative and try real hard to not get spotted and hit. It’s been amazing what these “enemy” troops come up, and necessary to keep this secret so that the real enemy does not find out.
While we withdraw from the world in the face of external threats, downsizing our military, slow-walking R&D and firing thousands of experienced NCOs and mid-level officers, other countries are learning and adapting. Not all of those countries are our allies.
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Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Iran, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Politics, Terrorism, War and Peace | 5 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 20th August 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I thought it would be interesting to look at a post from my own blog from March 2008. This was when the Democrats were planning to abandon Iraq no matter who they elected president.
Christopher Hitchens has some strong feelings about Hillary’s laughable Tuzla story. He doesn’t think it is funny, however, and says why. What is forgotten in the Democrat’s rush to abandon Iraq is how we get into these things in the first place. Saddam invaded Kuwait, imitating the Japanese who united the USA in 1941 by attacking Pearl Harbor. Had they nibbled away at Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, which is what they really wanted, they might very well have gotten away with it as we focused on Europe. What is different today is the influence of television.
We went into Somalia because CNN was showing thousands of starving Somalis and got out when Clinton’s attempt at nation-building caused casualties. Why did we go into the Balkans ? CNN was showing the massacre of Bosnian civilians by Serbs. We had no strategic interest in Somalia or Bosnia. In fact, the first Bush administration made the decision to stay out of the war, a decision criticized by Bill Clinton during the 1992 campaign. After he was elected, he dipped a toe in the water a couple of times and finally decided to bomb Serbia from high altitude to avoid casualties. The Serbs eventually got out but the example set by Clinton probably encouraged Saddam in his ambitions toward Kuwait.
What would happen if Obama were to be elected and a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq resulted ?
Zbigniew Brzezinski thinks he knows:
Contrary to Republican claims that our departure will mean calamity, a sensibly conducted disengagement will actually make Iraq more stable over the long term. The impasse in Shiite-Sunni relations is in large part the sour byproduct of the destructive U.S. occupation, which breeds Iraqi dependency even as it shatters Iraqi society. In this context, so highly reminiscent of the British colonial era, the longer we stay in Iraq, the less incentive various contending groups will have to compromise and the more reason simply to sit back. A serious dialogue with the Iraqi leaders about the forthcoming U.S. disengagement would shake them out of their stupor.
So, a pain-free withdrawal happens. Fine. What if he is wrong and genocide results ?
Kevin Drum is not concerned:
there’s no point in denying that U.S. withdrawal might lead to increased bloodshed in the short term. It most likely will. But it’s highly unlikely to lead to a catastrophic regional meltdown of the kind that the chaos hawks peddle on cable TV. What’s more, Brzezinski is also right that the risk of increased violence is inescapable at this point and, in fact, probably grows the longer we stay in Iraq. The events in Basra over the past week ought to make that clear.
What neither of them address is what happens when the TV networks show massive genocide of Sunnis followed by a Sunni intervention by the Saudis to avoid an Iranian takeover ?
They don’t say.
Obama in a clumsy interview says he would have a “strike force” ready to do whatever…. That sounds like “Blackhawk Down” all over again. If I were an Army ranger who had been yanked out of Iraq just as we were on the verge of winning, what do you think my attitude would be about being ordered back ?
Especially by a wimp like Obama ?
Emphasis added. I couldn’t resist. A couple of those links are corrupted after 6 years.
Posted in Elections, History, Iraq, Leftism, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Politics | 15 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 17th August 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
(Millions of kids are already headed back to school, making it an appropriate time to again rerun this post from 2012)
Peter Orszag, who was Obama’s budget director and is now a vice chairman at Citigroup, thinks it would be a good idea to cut back on summer school vacations for kids, arguing that this would both improve academics and reduce obesity.
I’m with Jeremy Lott: But to look at the vast wasteland that is American public education — the poor teaching, the awful curriculum, the low standards, the anemic achievement, the institutional resistance to needed reform — and say that the real problem is summer vacation takes a special sort of mind.
I wrote about the war on summer vacation back in 2006, after stopping at a store in Georgia on the first day of August and discovering that this was the first day of school for the local children. In this post, I said:
The truth is, most public K-12 schools make very poor use of the time of their students. They waste huge proportions of the millions of hours which have been entrusted to them–waste them through the mindless implementation of fads and theories, waste them through inappropriate teacher-credentialing processes, waste them through refusal to maintain high standards of performance and behavior.
When an organization or institution proves itself to be a poor steward of the resources that have been entrusted to it, the right answer is not to give it more resources to waste.
Orszag and similar thinkers seem to have no concept that good things can happen to children’s development outside of an institutional setting. Plenty of kids develop and pursue interests in science, literature, art, music…plus, there is plenty to be learned simply by interacting with friends in an unstructured environment.
Would the world be better off if Steve Wozniak and Jeri Ellsworth..to name only two of many, many examples..had their noses held constantly to the school grindstone rather than having time to develop their interests in electronics?
Lewis E Lawes, who was warden of Sing Sing prison from 1915 to 1941, wrote an interesting book titled Twenty Thousand Years in Sing Sing. The title refers to the aggregate lengths of the sentences of the men in the prison at a typical particular point in time.
Twenty-five hundred men saddled with an aggregate of twenty thousand years! Within such cycles worlds are born, die, and are reborn. That span has witnessed the evolution of the intelligence of mortal man. And we know that twenty thousand years have seen nations run their courses, perish, and give way to their successors. Twenty thousand years in my keeping. What will they evolve?
Following the same approach, the aggregate length of the terms to be spent in K-12 schools by their current students is more than 600,000,000 years. What proportion of this time is actually used productively?
And how many of the officials who supervise and run the public schools, and the ed-school professors who influence their policies, think about this 600,000,000 years in the same serious and reflective way that Lawes thought about the 20,000 years under his supervision? Some do, of course, but a disturbing percentage of them seem to be simply going through the bureaucratic motions.
And the politicians and officials of the Democratic Party are the last people in the world who are ever going to call them on it.
Posted in Crime and Punishment, Education, Politics, USA | 12 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 15th August 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
I mentioned Oliver P. Morton, the Governor of Indiana during the Civil War, in this post.
The statue in front of the Indiana state house has a plaque which says he shall “ever to be known in history as
The Great War Governor.” When the Union veterans who built the state house and put up the statue were alive, I am sure they believed the heroic deeds of the war would “ever be known … .”
But one of the lessons of history is the fleetingness of fame. The things that move and inspire one generation are rejected by the next, or simply forgotten. This is especially true in America, where we are a forward looking people and typically not terribly concerned about what happened in the past. Henry Ford spoke for America when he said history is more or less bunk.
This short article from the Indiana Historical Bureau, entitled OLIVER P. MORTON AND CIVIL WAR POLITICS IN INDIANA is worth reading.
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Posted in Anglosphere, Biography, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, History, Military Affairs, Politics, Quotations, Tradeoffs, USA, War and Peace | 4 Comments »