"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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Posted by Lexington Green on 6th November 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Senator Mike Lee has the best article yet about what the new, GOP-majority congress ought to do. It is entitled “Five Steps To Restore Trust, Transparency, And Empowerment.” Please RTWT.
Senator Lee makes several observations which are highly consistent with the picture Jim Bennett and I painted in America 3.0.
America’s health care, energy, higher education, telecommunications, security, and criminal justice needs (to name just a few) appear to be in the midst of transitions, nearing tipping points that will help define our nation in decades to come.
Most systems we use to provide government services were designed decades ago, before the tech and telecom revolutions that have changed the way Americans do almost everything else. In 20 years, will we need, say, a Government Printing Office or Internal Revenue Service in anything like their current forms? If disruptive innovations continue to personalize and localize the economy, will centralized, monolithic bureaucracies be the right instruments to regulate it? Or is government just as badly in need of some disruptive innovations that would enable market forces, public desires, and longstanding constitutional principles to once again show us the way and make our institutions more accountable?
… we know that our society and our economy have rocketed out in front of our government, and that the bureaucracy in its current form is unlikely ever to catch up.
Everything about American life today is becoming more decentralized, open-source, localized and personalized. Everything, that is, except government. An increasingly customizable economy and diverse social networks of mini-communities will not long tolerate the innate incompetence of clumsy, self-serving, Big Government.
Let Congress operate less like a nineteenth-century industrial mill, and more like a twenty-first-century open-source network.
In today’s world, individual and community empowerment are strengths for organizations who know how to use them.
This is all good stuff.
Yes, America is in the “midst of transitions”, and many sectors are indeed “nearing tipping points”.
Yes, America’s governmental legacy systems were designed before the contemporary “tech and telecom revolutions” occurred and should be fundamentally re-thought.
Yes, “disruptive innovations” will “continue to personalize and localize the economy” and this presents an opportunity to remake government in a more transparent and cost effective way.
Yes, the “bureaucracy in its current form” is doomed to fall behind the revolutionary pace being set by the American people and the innovations they are creating, which is making “everything about American life … more decentralized, open-source, localized and personalized.”
Yes, the old system has to be replaced, to become compatible with an “increasingly customizable economy and diverse social networks of mini-communities.” (That last phrase, a “diverse social networks of mini-communities” is particularly nice.)
Yes, Congress itself has to change from an America 2.0 model, ” a nineteenth-century industrial mill”, and move into America 3.0 as “a twenty-first-century open-source network.” (That will be cool, actually. It can be done.)
Senator Lee is being a visionary realist, the best kind.
Let’s hope his approach will be adopted by the incoming GOP Congress.
Remember: America’s greatest days are yet to come!
My comment in Carl’s previous post was getting a bit long and morphed into this post.
“First off, I want to thank God. I want to thank God for his abundant grace and mercy – win or lose, it is more than sufficient for each and every one of us”
The above quote is how Scott Walker began his victory speech Tuesday night, after winning here in Wisconsin for the third time in four years (Gov. in 2010, recall in 2012, and Gov. in 2014). Here is the clip if you care to watch:
When I was watching it, I was sort of sitting there, mouth agape. What a way to start your speech. While I am not the most devout of individuals, I can appreciate a politician who answers to a higher and just power. The rest of the speech is good, after all of the thank you’s. Rebecca Kleefisch, our Lt. Governor is looking good out there too.
I have been emailing and texting Lex Green back and forth over the last few months about Walker. His campaign was one of the most interesting that I can remember. He simply circled the state nonstop. He shook hands and took photos at businesses for ribbon cuttings, job announcements, and the like. He stopped at farms to talk to people. He went to diners, restaurants and broke bread old school style. There were very few massive rallies. But every single day Walker was out there rubbing shoulders with, as O’Reilly calls them, “the folks”.
In contrast, his opponent had giant rallies with Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, and President Failure himself. The rally with the President was toward the end of the campaign and I think was a desperation “Hail Mary”, so to say. Walker’s opponent was one of the few Democrats that wanted a photo op with the President toward the end of the campaign. Walker actually took time to take a photo with the President a few months ago when he was in the state. At that time, Walker’s opponent was still at arm’s length from the President – what a juxtaposition.
The polls were always wrong. They were pegging the race as a dead heat, but I called it from the start – Walker was ahead comfortably. I think he knew it from his internal numbers. He never showed any sign of desperation whatsoever. So this could be just bad polling data, or the polls could have been in cahoots with the media to sell more ads, and/or the Democrats to help pull their (bad) candidate over the line.
For the last four years, Scott Walker has been subjected to the very worst of the worst. The capital building packed with “protesters”, dumb drum circles, and all the rest. They even came out with some sort of “freedom flotilla” and were shouting at the executive residence from Lake Mendota. The politically motivated John Doe investigations failed. Act 10 stands. The whole state of Wisconsin is still run by Republicans; Governor, Assemblly, Senate, AG, and now even Treasurer. I love the Republican who won the office of Treasurer running on the platform of eliminating it since it is basically a symbolic office. I hope he actually does it.
The bond rating for Wisconsin over the last several years has gone to practically gold status, relative to other states, and on the 10 year, the spread to AAA is only around 25 basis points. Compare that spread to Illinois at 156 basis points. Wisconsin’s pensions are 99.9% funded, number one in the US tied with South Dakota (compare to Illinois at under 40%). Wisconsin is running a gigantic surplus, and through Act 10, the cities and other municipalities aren’t locked into monopolistic negotiations with the government unions. And on and on.
Through all of the attacks, Walker has come through them with the sort of class that I have rarely seen. If people were threatening my family, I would just start shooting and ask questions later, in a figurative sense. I think Walker actually just sits down and prays for them. It is readily apparent that he is driven by religion and actually cares about people and the State.
I would be sad if we lost him to the job of President, but I think he certainly has the stones for it after what he has been subjected to here. The state would be left in good hands with Rebecca Kleefisch, but time will tell to see if she could win an election. I always think of this clip of Walker during the “protests” when he was handing out awards to Special Olympians and some sort of zombie protest entered the ceremony. It is easily the most disgusting event of the whole “protest” deal.
I would have gone nuts. But he just held his own and continued. Pretty amazing.
I hope he can convince you to vote for him if he decides to run. You won’t be disappointed. Then again, it is early, and I imagine there might be something in Walker’s past that might hurt him, but at this point, after all the angst we have seen in Wisconsin, I am having a hard time imagining what that may be. Time will tell, as always.
Wanted to give a brief congratulations to Bruce Rauner who won the Republican governorship in Illinois. He beat the fumbling and inept Pat Quinn, who wouldn’t concede even though he lost by FIVE PERCENTAGE POINTS. I’m sure that Madigan and the cronies in Springfield are engineering hijinks to occur while Quinn is a lame duck and then our state will immediately move to some sort of deranged gridlock situation. No matter, gridlock is preferable to a stone blue state running into oblivion.
Scott Walker also won comfortably. He has faced the voters a bunch of times and each point come out on top. I was talking to Dan and he said the liberals were all crying as if they were being sent off to the gulag. There is zero learning in their world – to them the loss is due to Republicans being “uneducated and clueless” – there is nothing to be understood from defeat or that their statist views on economics and reactionary views on everything else are driving the electorate away from them.
The governors are the real heroes here – it is one thing to be a politician in DC away from all the drum circles and personalized vicious attacks that are the hallmark in particular of Madison and soon to be Illinois. There is no quarter for the Democrats when they are supporting what they view as their positions so they will use all negative weapons available in an attempt to re-impose their will.
Now the only stone blue state in the Midwest is Minnesota, although one house of their state legislature is now Republican, so like Illinois is is only 2/3 blue instead of 100% blue as Illinois was. Here is a summary of the Minnesota election.
From the midwest we are seeing a rejection of the redistributionist and economically statist plans that the Democrats throw to their constituents. The union jobs are not coming back and are a huge albatross on the economy and only benefit the teachers and government workers that remain behind, clinging to their posts until oblivion.
The Cook County Board of Elections Deputy Communications Director Jim Scalzitti said the machine’s failure was “a calibration error of the touch-screen on the machine,” and that Moynihan’s votes were not actually registered. Scalzitti said that voters are always asked to double-check their votes before they’re counted.
Illinois has tremendous strengths. We are a state rich in agriculture, mineral resources and manufacturing. With road, rail and air, Illinois is a transportation hub. The state boasts outstanding universities and one of the world’s most vibrant cities. We are only held back by our public policies and the antiquated political processes through which they are instituted
The good news is Illinois’ problems are man-made. The damage can be undone by changing public policy, and returning checks and balances to state government. With independent, principled policymakers, Illinois can implement reform-focused legislation that will limit government and the power of special interests; legislation that will give individuals dominion over their own lives, and reduce burdens on businesses.
We advocate for such policies because we believe in the power of the individual to create opportunity and to overcome obstacles – even obstacles as great as those Illinois currently faces.
Time is running out, the man explains, speaking calmly and confidently, in the manner of a university professor. A deadly disease, spread by primitive tribespeople through dead bodies, will kill vast numbers of Americans unless the Federal government uses its powers to stop it.
As I write this, the most widely-read individual blog in the English-speaking world, written by a genuine university professor, is infested with (invariably pseudonymous) commenters not readily distinguishable from Weston; we can only hope that none of them will act on their impulses as he did. Read the rest of this entry »
Caroline Glick makes good suggestions for Jewish student groups contending with campus anti-Semites:
Educational efforts are of little value in contending with thugs. But this doesn’t mean that there is nothing to be done. Groups like Block the Boat for Gaza, Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voices for Peace, Adalah, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center and Direct Action for Palestine need to be investigated.
Where does their money come from? Who are their leaders? What are their ties to terrorist groups? What are their ties to organized labor? What are their ties to politicians? What is their tax status and what do their tax returns say? If members of various groups are intimidating Jewish students then there should be restraining orders against them. Criminal complaints should be filed against them. Their tax-exempt status should be challenged.
Jewish students should be demanding that Students for Justice in Palestine be expelled from their campuses along with other hate groups, like Jewish Voices for Peace. Jewish alumni should be organizing to withhold all donations from universities that permit anti-Semitic groups to operate on campus. And Jewish lawyers should be filing lawsuits against universities and other institutions that enable the operation of anti-Semitic groups on their premises.
“If you are sniffling and sneezing, you produce microorganisms that can get on stuff in a room. If people touch them, they could be” infected, said Dr. Meryl Nass, of the Institute for Public Accuracy in Washington, DC.
Nass pointed to a poster the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly released on its Web site saying the deadly virus can be spread through “droplets.”
Why is this stuff coming out in drips (sorry for the pun) like it was Benghazi ?
“The CDC said it doesn’t spread at all by air, then Friday they came out with this poster,” she said. “They admit that these particles or droplets may land on objects such as doorknobs and that Ebola can be transmitted that way.”
I won’t duplicate any more of Patterico’s post as he has been on the case nearly as long as I have.
Maine state police were stationed outside the home of Ebola nurse Kaci Hickox Wednesday as Gov. Paul LePage said he was seeking legal authority to force the “unwilling” health care workers to remain quarantined for 21 days.
The 33-year-old nurse, who has shown no symptoms of the deadly virus, arrived in Maine on Monday after being forcibly held in an isolation tent in New Jersey for three days under that state’s strict new law for health care workers who have recently treated Ebola patients in West Africa.
It turns out that Kaci Hickox is a registered democrat and Obama supporter who works for the CDC. “The nurse currently quarantined in New Jersey is an employee for the Centers for Disease Control and a registered Democrat with a history of left-wing advocacy,” reports GotNews.com.
Spare a thought for the stay at home voter Empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows And a parade of the gray suited grafters A choice of cancer or polio
–The Rolling Stones, 1968
I think quite a few people, including many conservatives/libertarians, are intending to sit this one out. It’s an understandable sentiment–the “strange beauty shows” have not gotten any more substantive since 1968, quite the contrary, and the “gray suited grafters” have as a class become even graft-ier. And there is plenty wrong with the institutional Republican Party…too much crony capitalism at the expense of the real free market, too much go-along-to-get-along behavior, too many lame candidates, too much incompetence in political marketing.
Nevertheless, I think it is of extreme importance for everyone who truly cares about the future of this country–and who understands the harm being done by Barack Obama and the “progressive” movement that he represents–to vote, and in almost all cases to vote for the Republican candidate.
Because what is facing us right now is not “a choice of cancer or polio.” It is a choice between a chronic disease which is unpleasant, but may eventually be curable, and an accute disease that will kill or permanently cripple the patient in short order.
Free speech is under severe attack by the American Left. There have been moves to have the FCC and/or the FEC regulate Internet expressions of opinion, further entrenching the monopolistic position of the establishment media…and even traditional media companies are finding considerable hostility from the Obama administration should they step the least little bit out of line. “Political correctness” dominates many if not most university campuses. People in the private sector have been driven out of their jobs because of their personal political opinions. The administrative and police power of the State is being used against political opponent; see for example the IRS case and the use of SWAT teams to invade the homes of Scott Walker supporters on highly questionable grounds–actions which, George Will argues convincingly, are politically motivated by a desire to intimidate Walker supporters and defeat him in the upcoming election. Direct violence or threats of violence by Leftists and their supporters, directed at purveyors of non-Left-approved opinions, also appears to be on the upswing; see for example the hundreds of death threats directed against a black Chicago pastor who had the audacity to endorse a Republican candidate for Illinois governor.
My point is that the window for deflecting the “progressive” takeover of American politics and institutions is rapidly closing. Intrusions on free expression, and enablement of voting corruption, are likely to make it increasingly almost impossible to change directions in the future. A Republican majority in the Senate, and a maintained or increased Republican majority in the House, together with a goodly number of Republican governorships, will not solve these problems, but will offer a far better chance of bringing them under control than will the alternative.
There are also very serious threats facing the United States and its allies on the international front: especially, the prospective Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons. There is every reason to believe that Obama intends to reach a deal which lifts sanctions without seriously dismantling Iran’s uranium-enrichment capabilities. The likelihood of this happening is definitely increased or decreased by any increase or decrease in the political power of the Democratic Party.
I urge you most seriously to vote–to vote Republican (unless there is an alternative candidate who can really win, not just “make a statement”)–and to contribute money directly to your preferred candidates…you may not be able to match the very large contributions being made by Hollywood types and other wealthy Democrats and entities such as the teachers’ unions, but every bit helps. Voting and contributing now helps ensure that you will have a meaningful opportunity to vote, contribute, and engage in political discourse in future elections.
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 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
… 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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. Read the rest of this entry »
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.