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After two losses to the farthest left president ever, conservatives have been agonizing over how win back the presidency. More importantly, the truly thoughtful among us have been agonizing over how to win back a once freedom-loving culture drifting ever farther leftward.
On the political front, the debate is over moderates (who might win the middle) and conservatives (who might excite the base). That seems to be the debate that sucks up all the oxygen. I would make the case that if you are focusing on the political front, you are fighting a battle, but have already lost the war.
I take the position that politics, while important, is merely the manifestation of what is happening to the culture. If you lose the culture, you are going to lose the elections. It’s that simple.
I think it was post 2012, where Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit, opined that conservatives should start buying up media, so that they could compete, at least partly, with the progressives’ dominance in the MSM. I think that is a good idea, and would argue that it is far better investment than giving money to another think tank. It isn’t easy, though. First you have to buy the medium, then you have to market it so it is followed. Last, and most important, that medium has to do much more than Fox News and talk radio, both of which do little more than pound the rubble for the already converted – making conservatives angrier and less palatable in the process.
It’s a great idea, but difficult. What if there is an easier way?
I see that the 70th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki this last weekend brought the usual hand-wringing and heart-string twanging on the part of the news media, and another round of the endless discussion over whether it was justified or not, with the same old patient answering of what the alternative would have been. I’ve really nothing more to add to that particular discussion, save noting that the stocks of Purple Heart medals struck and stockpiled in anticipation of American casualties in a full-frontal invasion of Japan have only in the last fifteen years been diminished to the point where a new order for them had to be initiated – this, after Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Kosovo, Gulf War 1, and Iraq.
Dan and I follow municipal bonds, which is a bit more exciting than it sounds. The State of Illinois, the City of Chicago, Cook County, and many other entities in which I am a semi-unwitting participant will likely soon be on the front pages of newspapers as it sinks in that we can never repay these debts.
Back in late 2008, during the height of that financial crisis, the State of Illinois issued debt. In this post I basically asked the question “Who is buying this crap?” and the answer was JP Morgan, showing its solidarity (in a way) with the state of Illinois by buying the ENTIRE issue.
Puerto Rico is the new problem child of debt failure, and as Dan calls it, a “gapers block” over the entire municipal debt market. There were a lot of good reasons to buy Puerto Rico municipal bonds for many years – it was tax exempt, it had high yields, some of it was insured and / or tied to revenue streams like power or water, and historically there had been few or no failures of large-scale municipal bond issuers. It was great to own this debt and collect the high interest rates, as long as you watched it and got out before it collapsed. In a way this is “momentum investing” of sorts – get in and enjoy the ride up, but make sure you clear the exit before everyone else runs out of the movie theater screaming “fire”.
But the question in the back of my mind was always “Who is buying that crap”. Not sophisticated investors who knew how to ride the wave up and get out before it collapsed, but people who honestly believed that a set of statements by politicians and / or laws as they were currently constructed would magically allow a tiny and impoverished island to pay inordinate debts while their economy imploded around them.
To Lev Steinberg, it seemed like a good place to park his nest egg. Puerto Rico bonds offered high returns and tax-free income. And there was little chance, his broker assured him, that the government would default on its debt. So Mr. Steinberg went all in, investing more than 85 percent of his retirement savings in funds with large concentrations of Puerto Rico bonds.“They told me this was safe,” said Mr. Steinberg, a 64-year-old mathematics professor at the University of Puerto Rico, “that the legal protections to repay the bonds were strong.”
The NY Times article describes how local brokers and banks created products that leveraged up these bonds with borrowed money and then they were sold to Puerto Rico citizens (they were illegal on the mainland). The article said that 20% of Puerto Rican debt is owed to local citizens, and they bought many of the most “toxic” issuances (those with the least protections, like pension obligation bonds).
Thank you, NY Times, for helping to answer the timeless question “who is buying that crap”. The answer is gullible citizens, who believed in their government’s promises, and also thought that years and years of high returns could be manufactured endlessly out of thin air without corresponding risk.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on August 9th, 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
This is a new term to me but it makes a lot of sense. It seems to have begun in Britain where it has been explained well.
“The most savage, bilious, self-righteous rants are from people living affluent self-pleasing lives in comfortable homes, doing lucky and rewarding jobs with like-minded friends. What they are doing (I risk losing a friend or two) is “virtue-signalling”: competing to seem compassionate. Few are notably open-handed: St Matthew would need a rewrite of Chapter 19. “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. So he went on Twitter instead and called Michael Gove a ‘vile reptilian evil tory scumbag’, and linked to a cartoon of Iain Duncan Smith stealing a paralysed woman’s wheelchair. And lo, he felt better and went for a £3.50 caramel macchiato with some mates from the BBC”
Now that Vermont has a mandate to get 75 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2032, residents will have to ditch automobiles and embrace a whole new way of life, the state’s top renewable energy CEO says.
“We’re probably going to have to abandon the car,” David Blittersdorf, president of All Earth Renewables, told Addison County Democrats in a recent presentation titled “Vermont’s Renewable Energy Future.
“The idea that we’re going to be flying around in airplanes — it’s one of the worst consumers of energy and emitting carbon. … I tell my kids … if you’re going to travel, travel now. Don’t wait 50 years. It’s going to cost you 10 times as much for every one of those flights.”
Chicago Boyz community member Robert Schwartz has some thoughts about the Obama administration’s Iran deal:
By now I think everybody, who is not sunk into Obama idolatry, agrees that Obama’s deal with the Iranian Regime fails in numerous dimensions. Some day it will be used in business school classes as an object lesson in poor negotiating technique.
Be that as it may, The Deal has been set, and the only remaining issue is whether the Congress of the United States will vote to disapprove it, and be able to override a veto of that resolution. The announcement of opposition by three prominent Congressmen, Reps. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and the very negative polling results for the Deal, show that this is a possibility.
Arthur Koestler, himself a former Communist, wrote about closed intellectual systems:
A closed sysem has three peculiarities. Firstly, it claims to represent a truth of universal validity, capable of explaining all phenomena, and to have a cure for all that ails man. In the second place, it is a system which cannot be refuted by evidence, because all potentially damaging data are automatically processed and reinterpreted to make them fit the expected pattern. The processing is done by sophisticated methods of causistry, centered on axioms of great emotive power, and indifferent to the rules of common logic; it is a kind of Wonderland croquet, played with mobile hoops. In the third place, it is a system which invalidates criticism by shifting the argument to the subjective motivation of the critic, and deducing his motivation from the axioms of the system itself. The orthodox Freudian school in its early stages approximated a closed system; if you argued that for such and such reasons you doubted the existence of the so-called castration complex, the Freudian’s prompt answer was that your argument betrayed an unconscious resistance indicating that you ourself have a castration complex; you were caught in a vicious circle. Similarly, if you argued with a Stalinist that to make a pact with Hitler was not a nice thing to do he would explain that your bourgeois class-consciousness made you unable to understand the dialectics of history…In short, the closed system excludes the possibility of objective argument by two related proceedings: (a) facts are deprived of their value as evidence by scholastic processing; (b) objections are invalidated by shifting the argument to the personal motive behind the objection. This procedure is legitimate according to the closed system’s rules of the game which, however absurd they seem to the outsider, have a great coherence and inner consistency.
The atmosphere inside the closed system is highly charged; it is an emoional hothouse…The trained, “closed-minded” theologian, psychoanalyst, or Marxist can at any time make mincemeat of his “open-minded” adversary and thus prove the superiority of his system to the world and to himself.
In debating with “progressives,” one often encounters this kind of closed-system thinking: there is absolutely no way you are going to change their minds, whatever the evidence or logic. (I don’t think this is true of all “progressives”–otherwise the situation in America today would be even more grim than it actually is–but it’s true of a lot of them.)
But what are the “axioms of great emotive power” in which “progressives” believe? It is pretty easy to write down on one sheet of paper the basic beliefs of Christianity, or of Marxism, or of American Democratic Republicanism. The fundamental tenets of Naziism…Nationalism, Socialism, anti-Semitism, etc….were well summarized by Joseph Goebbels in this pamphlet.
I find it difficult to summarize today’s “progressive” belief system. It does not seem to be a coherent intellectual system, not even a faux-coherent intellectual system such as Marxism. But it clearly appeals deeply to millions of people, and has largely pervaded many if not most institutions, ranging from academia to popular media, throughout America and Western Europe.
So let’s try to identify these axioms. What are the things in which one must believe if one is to be a good “progressive”? Please try to be maximally objective and to maintain emotional distance, as if you were describing the religious beliefs of a lost tribe in South America or a band of Christian heretics in the Middle Ages, and try to separate the intellectual content of the belief system from the emotional drivers of those beliefs.
(Yes, as a break from the glum seriousness of war, nuclear Iran, international terrorism and Planned Parenthood operating a chop shop for baby parts, it’s time for another adventure in Luna City, the small town in Texas where eccentricity does not just run in the streets – it stampedes through them in herds) Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Diversions, USA | Comments Off on A Diversion – Luna City: The End of the Road
In his essay for Powerline, Codevilla turns his attention to the political phenomenon of the improbable GOP presidential front runner, billionaire and reality TV star, DonaldTrump. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Codevilla is not a huge fan of the bombastic Mr. Trump, but his analysis of why Trump has captured the moment so easily has some astute insights about the decaying state of our political system and the seething anger of the electorate:
Lieb notes, that the U.S. is only seeing 350 new general surgeons a year. That is not even a replacement rate, she observed.
A few years ago, I was talking to a woman general surgeon in San Francisco who told me that she did not know a general surgeon under 50 years old. The “reformers” who designed Obamacare and the other new developments in medicine are, if they are MDs, not in practice and they are almost all in primary care specialties in academic settings. They know nothing about surgical specialties.
They assume that primary care will be delivered by nurse practitioners and physician assistants. They are probably correct as we see with the new Wal Mart primary care clinics.
The company has opened five primary care locations in South Carolina and Texas, and plans to open a sixth clinic in Palestine, Tex., on Friday and another six by the end of the year. The clinics, it says, can offer a broader range of services, like chronic disease management, than the 100 or so acute care clinics leased by hospital operators at Walmarts across the country. Unlike CVS or Walgreens, which also offer some similar services, or Costco, which offers eye care, Walmart is marketing itself as a primary medical provider.
This is all well and good. What happens when a patient comes in with a serious condition ?
President Obama will unveil on Monday a set of environmental regulations devised to sharply cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants and ultimately transform America’s electricity industry. The rules are the final, tougher versions of proposed regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2012 and 2014. If they withstand the expected legal challenges, the regulations will set in motion sweeping policy changes that could shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants, freeze construction of new coal plants and create a boom in the production of wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources.
What is interesting is that the EPA recently had their ever-expanding mandate struck down by the Supreme court just a few short weeks ago, when their attempt to kill off coal through regulation of mercury and other pollutants was invalidated for not sufficiently weighing the cost of the proposed initiative.
“There is an economic war here and this company, Polar, is at the heart of it. They hide products from the population, and inflate their prices!”
The government had first notified the landlord of plans to expropriate the industrial park in 2013, Nestle spokesman Andres Alegrett said by telephone from Caracas on Thursday. Nestle used the facility to dispatch about 10 percent of its products in the country, supplying sweets and drinks to the western side of Greater Caracas, he said.
About ten years ago I went on a junket to Switzerland and attended a talk with the CEO of Nestlé. Listening to him, it became very clear to me that he had little to no interest in free markets or capitalism properly understood. He saw his corporation as a “partner” with governments, NGOs, the U.N., and other massive multinationals. The profit motive was good for efficiency and rewarding talent, but beyond that, he wanted order and predictability and as much planning as he could get. I think that mindset informs the entire class of transnational progressives, the shock troops of what H. G. Wells hoped would lead to his liberal-fascist “world brain.”
Yes, Nestle has a history of cooperation with various do-gooder initiatives although it has kept its eye on profits.
Girlwithadragonflytattoo has a post on anger, in which she argues that expressing one’s anger is generally not a good idea, from the standpoint of one’s own mental health.
Dragonfly Girl’s post reminded me of a recent post by Grim, in which he discusses anger in a political context, and channels Andrew Klavan to point out that anger can make you stupid.
Grim: We need to be cunning. We need to think and act strategically.
Klavan: You want to win back your country? Here’s how. Fear nothing. Hate no one. Stick to principles. Unchecked borders are dangerous not because Mexicans are evil but because evil thrives when good men don’t stand guard. Poverty programs are misguided, not because the poor are undeserving criminals, but because dependency on government breeds dysfunction and more poverty. Guns save lives and protect liberty. Property rights guarantee liberty. Religious rights are essential to liberty. Without liberty we are equal only in misery.
Anger of course does have a purpose. In politics, it is anger at bad policies and their destructive impact that can motivate one to get involved and work hard for positive change. In relationships, anger at mistreatment can motivate one to fix it or get out of it. But anger needs to be controlled and moderated or it becomes the enemy of judicious thought and effective action.
Speaking of effective action, the original post also reminded me (oddly enough!) of a famous event in military history, the Charge of the Light Brigade. This unnecessary disaster took place during the Crimean War, in 1854, and seems to have been driven in considerable part by toxic emotions on the part of British officers involved. While the details of the Charge are still being debated by historians, 161 years later, the general outline was as follows…
The Light Cavalry Brigade was commanded by Lord Cardigan, who in turn was subordinate to the overall Cavalry commander, Lord Lucan. The two men were related, and they could not stand each other, to the point where they avoided communication. Neither was popular in the army.
On October 25, the overall British commander in the Crimea, Lord Raglan, was situated on high ground, from which he had a far better view of the field than did Cardigan and Lucan. He and his staff observed that the Russians had captured some heavy British guns and were about to haul them away. An order was dispatched to Lucan under the signature of Raglan’s chief of staff:
Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front – follow the enemy and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troop Horse Artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. R Airey. Immediate.
The Daughter Unit and I were watching Northern Exposure this week, and I had an errant thought; what would a town like Cecily be like, if it were in South Texas? A charming and quirky place, full of slightly skewed, interesting people, with an eccentric history all it’s own. And before long, we had come up with Luna City, Texas, and a whole long cast of characters, drawn from people we know, or have met, and little towns that we have visited, or know about. Eventually, this will be another book. It seems to me at times like this, with news of horrific or distressing events arriving in wholesale lots … well, a bit of mental refuge might be in order. If such is not to your taste, or seems terribly frivolous … well, then skip over to the next post.) Read the rest of this entry »
I mentioned this long ago in terms of Not In Our Name, and also suggested that Jonathan Haidt overlooks those places where liberals are just as purity vs. disgust* concerned as conservatives. (See also environmentalism, vegetarianism, NASCAR and a host of other disgust issues, including, I think wealth – though that is more ambiguous in both camps.
*And authority driven, another trait supposedly more common among conservatives. The imprimatur of Roberth Reich or Paul Krugman is enough in economics; climate change catastrophe is based on choice of authorities.
This is a delightful interview of Krauthammer by William Kristol from earlier this year. It’s quite long but the whole thing is worth watching.
In this conversation, Charles Krauthammer reflects on his upbringing in a politically-tumultuous Quebec, his work in medicine, and his views on Zionism, Judaism, and religion. Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol also discuss some of the key ideas, questions, and themes of his writing—including the “Reagan Doctrine,” an idea he coined, the role of America in a new post-Cold War world, and whether the America of 2015 is in decline.
(A timeline of the interview appears on the interview’s YouTube page.)
“I fear that what could happen is if Congress were to overturn it, our friends Israel could actually wind up being more isolated and more blamed,” Kerry said.
A good column today by David Gelernter makes a strong case that Obama will be remembered for what he is doing with Iran.
Obama will be remembered ultimately for the Iran treaty, as Johnson is remembered for Vietnam. Like Johnson, Obama is wrapped in a warm blanket of advisers who flatter his earnest, high-school views of world politics. Like Johnson, he lives in his own delusional world in which he’s commander-in-chief not merely of the military but of the whole blessed nation. Like Johnson, he has been destroyed by the arrogance of power; and his blindness has endangered America. Unlike Johnson, he was never big enough for the job in the first place.
His comparison with Lyndon Johnson is excellent. I read HR McMaster’s “Dereliction of Duty,” and the resemblance to Obama’s policies is astonishing. I recently read another book that points out the consequences of Obama’s decision to abandon Iraq. It is written by a young British woman named Emma Sky and is called “The Unraveling.”
The future is still to be written but we see a few hints. The Iranians are already celebrating and by “Iranians” I do not mean the oppressed citizens of that sad country. They are passengers on a runaway train driven by lunatics. We have now given those lunatics the keys to the atomic bomb.
To explain the inexplicable rise of Donald Trump is to calibrate the anger of a fed-up crowd that is enjoying the comeuppance of an elite that never pays for the ramifications of its own ideology. The elite media, whose trademark is fad and cant, writes off the fed-up crowd as naïve and susceptible to demagoguery as the contradictory and hypocritical Trump manipulates their anger. In fact, they probably got it backwards. Trump is a transitory vehicle of the fed-up crowd, a current expression of their distaste for both Democratic and Republican politics, but not an end in and of himself. The fed-up crowd is tired of being demagogued to death by progressives, who brag of “working across the aisle” and “bipartisanship” as they ram through agendas with executive orders, court decisions, and public ridicule. So the fed-ups want other conservative candidates to emulate Trump’s verve, energy, eagerness to speak the unspeakable, and no-holds barred Lee Atwater style — without otherwise being Trump.
This is one of VDH’s best recent columns and explains well the appeal (for now) of Donald Trump to conservative voters. Worth reading.
This highlights an under-appreciated reality. You do not just need candidates with good values and good ideas. You do not just need candidates who can also win elections. You need these candidates to stay true to their commitments, which will impose a personal cost, once they are in office.
In our book, America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century–Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come, we discuss the decline and dissolution of the economic and political institutions of industrial-era America, which we call America 2.0. We describe a different and better America 3.0 which we expect and hope will replace it. But as we make clear, this process will not be pleasant. The transition from agricultural to industrial America was hard. The change to a world dominated by emerging technology, post-industrial, networked America 3.0, will be every bit as hard, and will happen much faster.
America 3.0 is a long book, and we could not put everything into it.
One topic which we hope to write about more in the future is the steps that will have to be taken to make the transition. We got into some of this in the later chapters of the book, but there is a lot more that needs to researched and developed.
One area which we barely touched on, but which is critically important, is the personal character which will be called for from a generation which will in effect be a new “founding generation.” The old order will have many defenders, many of them with good motivations, many with not-so-good motives. There will be unrelenting efforts to prop up the world everyone is used to, and to crush any person, group or business trying to make serious innovations and necessary reforms.
As I said in my IOP post:
To really matter, to really do something, to really change the direction of our state, means that there will be hardship, rejection, unpopularity, vilification, rejection of material benefits, making people mad by refusing to do what “everybody does,” attacks by the people who benefit from the status quo, not many pats on the back, and incomprehension even from good people.
The committed reformer has to be willing to go up against all that.
What is the reformer’s motivation, then?
If it is not money, prestige, popularity, an easy life, what is it?
Faith is part of it. Patriotism is part of it. Moral principles are part of it. A sense of duty is part of it. Gratitude for what we have been given is part of it. A commitment to a better future for ourselves, our families, and our children is part of it.
A hopeful vision of how things could be, should be, must be, will be better if we change course in Illinois, that is also part of it.
Substitute “America” for “Illinois” and it still works.
This challenge is going to require a lot of effort, from a lot of people. We need to be realists about that. But we must not be cynical. With a hopeful and realistic picture of the future to inspire us, there will be enough people, enough talent, enough drive, enough fortitude, to build America 3.0.
To further the current work in progress (which will feature the heroine being in Galveston during the hurricane of 1900), I am re-reading Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm– a gripping and almost novelistic account of the hurricane which struck the Texas Gulf coast city of Galveston on Saturday, September 8th, 1900. The Isaac of the title is Isaac Cline, the resident meteorologist in Galveston for the U.S. Weather Bureau – who paid a devastating price – the loss of his heavily pregnant wife when his house was swept away at the height of the storm – for miscalculations made; miscalculations made both by himself and by the Weather Bureau headquarters policies in far-distant Washington DC.
That 1900 storm still stands as the single deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the United States, with a death toll equal of all later storms combined; at least 6,000 in Galveston alone – a quarter of the population at the time – and along the Texas coast. The storm surge went for miles inland, and may have carried away another 2,000, whose bodies were never found – and never reported missing, as there was no one left to do so. Galveston Island – a coastal sand-bar, little more than eight feet above sea level at its highest point – was a busy and strategic port. At the turn of the last century, it was the largest city in Texas; a center of commerce, transportation hub and port of entry for immigrants coming into the Southwest by sea. Galveston was connected to the mainland across a normally placid lagoon by three railway trestles. Although the rival port city of Indianola, farther west along the Gulf Coast had been wiped out by a pair of hurricanes fifteen and twenty-five years before, generally the citizens of Galveston were complacent, comfortable in the belief that any storm – and they had easily weathered many of them – was readily survivable. And after all – this was a new century, one marked by unparalleled technologic and scientific advances! So a sea-wall proposed by certain concerned citizens was never built; indeed, Isaac Cline had written an article for the local newspaper in 1891, arguing that such a wall was not necessary; it was impossible for a storm of sufficient destructive intensity to strike Galveston. And he, of course, was an expert. Read the rest of this entry »
Chanting, “What side are you on, my people, what side are you on?” and “Black lives matter,” the demonstrators moved to the front of the ballroom about 20 minutes into the event as Mr. O’Malley discussed proposed changes to Social Security. They remained there, heckling the candidates and posing questions, until organizers shut down the event, one of the centerpieces of the annual Netroots Nation conference.
The Democrats are going to have serious problems with the black activist movement.
Connecticut state Democrats voted Wednesday to remove the names of former presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from their annual fundraising dinner, reportedly because of their ties to slavery.
According to the Hartford Courant, it only took two minutes for the Connecticut Democrat State Central Committee to unanimously pass a resolution stripping both names from the title of the Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey Dinner.
Party Chairman Nick Balletto proposed the change. He told the Daily Caller the decision, which apparently came under pressure from the NAACP, was about party identity.
There’s things going on that I can’t really write about these days. This is a bit painful, much as I have become accustomed over the last twelve or thirteen years to blogging about things that concern me; things both personal and political and which I have always tossed out there in the ether for consideration. It’s a kind of ‘thinking aloud’ – writing a note, sealing it in a bottle and throwing it into the vast ocean of the blogosphere, whereupon someone may discover it, uncork the bottle, read it and say to themselves – “My, that is interesting!” Or relevant, insightful, et cetera. Which I can’t do any more as regards the family; in the wake of Dad’s death, Mom came to feel that certain of my musings and posts were an invasion of family privacy, and directly asked me not to blog about them – so I have not, in deference to her wishes. She is as well as can be expected, though … and the current situation is something that Pip and Sander are handling, as they are geographically the closest.