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    Draining the Swamp: Progressive Politics – the Road to Crony Capitalist Perdition

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 17th June 2018 (All posts by )

    From A Libertarian Republic to Majoritarian-Totalitarian Democracy: a Summary

    The 2016 American Presidential Election

    Trust in government fell by almost 80% from the end of the Eisenhower Administration to the end of the Obama Administration. Then Americans endured one of the most divisive and longest two year election campaigns leading up to the 2016 election. Former Democrat turned Republican Donald trump defeated a field of 17 traditional center-right Republicans to run against traditionally center –left Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton who turned left to defeat her socialist competitor Bernie Sanders in the primary. Sanders correctly argued that the U.S. political system is rigged – more than he knew at the time – but responded by promising his generally young supporters socialism without totalitarianism. The public has endured another two years of divisiveness as the losing party tries to undermine and some would impeach the winner.

    Republican nominee and arguably crony capitalist businessman Donald Trump, the son of a crony capitalist housing developer, ran on the paradoxical promise to “drain the swamp.” The faux democratic election of crony capitalist supremo Vladimir Putin in 2011 drew the public reprobation of then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the subsequent Democratic Party nominee. Putin responded with a campaign of not so fake news not to elect Trump – they had the same polls as everybody else – but to expose Clinton as a crony capitalist who also engaged in election-rigging. He hit pay dirt. The faux Russian collusion scandal has since been used to undermine the legitimacy of the trump Administration.

    On the issue of trade there was no difference between the three main candidates – all opposed the new TTP trade agreement. The U.S. trade deficit has been about $500 billion a year during this century, consumption financed mostly with additional debt. Candidate Clinton, who supported China’s entry into the WTO during the Clinton Administration agreed she would if elected renegotiate NAFTA, the trade bill passed at her husband’s initiative. On the related issue of immigration, candidate Clinton voted for the bipartisan Secure Fence Act of 2006, as did then senators Obama and Schumer.

    The Obama Administration had doubled the federal debt outstanding to over $20 trillion – and the unfunded liability is approximately ten times that. President Obama’s Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff publically warned as early as 2010 that the debt was a threat to national security. Candidate Clinton promised she wouldn’t add a penny to the national debt, but her platform had an imbedded $10 trillion increase, less than Sanders to be sure. Candidate Trump promised to eliminate the debt in eight years by increasing economic growth. Clinton’s was a political lie, Trump’s an outlandish campaign promise since going unfulfilled: his appropriations bill contained a $200 billion increase in spending, a Democratic victory for domestic spending in return for Republican defense spending.

    Candidate Trump ran against the “deep state” wars and military interventions that candidate Clinton had voted for. But as President, Trump embraced it with overwhelming Democratic support to punish Russia.

    Progressivism’s Administrative State

    The Democrats’ agenda has arguably fared much better under Trump than Republicans did under Obama. Given these similarities in proposed and actual policies, the subsequent animosity might appear puzzling. But the biggest difference among the candidates relates to the relative roles of the public and private sectors. The U.S. is now governed by an unaccountable patria administrative state: judicial and legislative subsumed in the executive branch and sometimes independent even of that – judge, jury and executioner. The new religion is “science” requiring a faux consensus and leadership by the “experts” as proposed by John Kenneth Galbraith in the New Industrial State (1967) over a half century ago.

    Washington, D.C. is a place where self interested deals are made in hotel lobbies and K street offices, but the entire federal bureaucracy sits on a former swamp. Most federal politicians are political swamp people having worked their way up in local and state politics by making political deals for budget and/or tax subsidies and/or regulatory discretion – legal extortion. Candidate Clinton a self described progressive and candidate Sanders a socialist, the former supports state control of business, the later favors more direct state ownership.

    The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, followed by the Soviet Union two years later. In 1995 U.S. President Bill Clinton declared “The era of big government is over.” Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, publishing in a Fabian pamphlet in 1998 argued: “Liberals (classical, i.e., American conservatives) asserted the primacy of individual liberty in the market economy; social democrats promoted social justice with the state as its main agent. There is no necessary conflict between the two, accepting as we now do that state power is one means to achieve our goals, but not the only one and emphatically not an end in itself.” But “the values which have guided progressive politics for more than a century – democracy, liberty, justice, mutual obligation and internationalism” has lead in practice to “state control, high taxation and producer interests (crony capitalism).” By the end of the century a few years after Blair spoke, the market had reached The Commanding Heights of the economy. But a decade later the Obama Administration had put the state back on top, seeking to control not just health care but finance and energy.

    Progressivism – like fascism and communism – started with the best of intentions, in opposition to crony capitalism. Social welfare programs were implemented to spread the wealth and provide a safety net, but during the progressive Obama Administration economic growth per capita stagnated. Candidate Trump believed that rolling back the administrative state regulations and the tax on savings and investment as suggested by Blair would restore real private economic growth, the key to managing the public deficit. His Democratic opponents both favored a vast expansion of the administrative state and increases in the tax on capital.

    Progressive Internationalism and the New World Order

    Progressives supported freer trade even if not reciprocal in the post WW II era because America could still enjoy a balance of trade surplus that could be used to fund investments abroad and a “new world order” of American dominance in a bi-polar world with the Soviet Union and its satellites. The European Union evolved as a mechanism to end European – especially German – “nationalism” in favor of this plan. Two events undercut this agenda of international control through capital flows: the 1960s wars on poverty and Vietnam turned American surpluses into deficits, and the common European currency created a German economic hegemony over Europe. The U.S. today is to China what Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland are to Germany, and that’s not a compliment. Both China and Germany – whose exports equal China’s with only 6% of the population – are mercantilist countries pursuing low wages and consumption domestically so that future generations can live off the debt that finances their over-consuming customers.

    Germany understands perhaps better than any country the problem of using foreign debt to finance current consumption as it did to feed a starving population during the interwar years. The excessive debt undermined the fledgling Weimar Republic, giving rise to Hitler. Trumps trade policy appears incoherent, as is much of the criticism. Progressives still argue for globalism and internationalism while conservatives and libertarians are hung up on Ricardian theory of comparative advantage in international trade and the accounting identity of the trade and capital balance.

    The problem isn’t global trade per se, but progressive policies that repress national saving and domestic labor and capital productivity while growing the administrative state. National boundaries still matter. In the EU the single currency zone has destabilized previously relatively stable prosperous countries, threatening political and economic collapse. The relationship between the U.S. and China reflects a similar dynamic: the willingness to accept American debt has kept the dollar from falling and trade adjusting. China holds over trillion dollars of debt backed by taxpayers, and was the biggest foreign funder of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during the sub-prime lending bubble. Progressives argued that we would grow out of this debt, but simultaneously and inconsistently deny that the failure to grow during the Obama Administration reflected economic repression but “secular stagnation” – that capitalist innovation has run its course. If so, we are doomed when countries attempt to collect.

    Thus far the main part of the Trump agenda, the tax reform and regulatory roll back – against universal Democratic opposition and condemnation – appears to be working. Economic growth per capita has picked up, unemployment is the lowest since the turn of the century, and business investment net of depreciation is rising from historic lows. But it is way too early to declare success. China entered the WTO without meeting the minimum requirements for intellectual property protection or reciprocity, a Clinton Administration oversight. Fixing the former should be uncontroversial. Reciprocity insures that the most competitive – not the most subsidized – win. Subsidies may benefit American consumers temporarily, but the dislocations are costly and overconsumption dangerous, the debt leading to contemporary “gunboat diplomacy” to settle debts. A reciprocal tariff is a consumption tax, not irrational to consider under those circumstances.

    Progressive efforts to Impeach President Trump: the Totalitarian Administrative State Strikes Back

    Yet since the election, some progressive Democrats have been pushing for impeachment on grounds of Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, although no evidence has yet been produced of that after two years of investigation.

    One thoughtful progressive commentator dismisses these grounds, arguing that the real grounds for impeachment are the “threats Trumpism poses to democracy and rule of law.” If true, those would indeed be grounds for impeachment but he doesn’t define Trumpism or provide evidence. The many articles in the progressive media can be summarized thus: Trump is tweeting against the administrative state agents that are out to get him.

    Libertarians and Republican conservatives have argued that progressives have been undermining liberty and the rule of law for over a century to create the administrative state, obfuscating their agenda by manipulating words to mean the opposite of their historical meaning. Trump’s Court appointments are intended to reverse that trend. Statism is usually associated with one-party faux democracy to prevent state power from turning against the entrenched interests with a change of government. Trump ran against the progressive new world order, arguing to “put America first.” The Democrats didn’t think Trump had any chance to win. This seems the more compelling reason for their impeachment efforts. The anti-Trump organized hysteria bears a marked resemblance to the largely Soros funded Republican and Democratic efforts to ignite the democratic color revolutions in the former Soviet states described by F.William Engdahl in Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order (2009).

    This isn’t about Trump tweets. It’s a battle for the commanding heights.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crony Capitalism, Economics & Finance, History, Leftism, Libertarianism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Public Finance, Taxes, Tradeoffs, USA | No Comments »

    The OIG Report

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 16th June 2018 (All posts by )

    The OIG Report os over 600 pages and I have neither the time nor the interest (my CCW class is later this morning) to read the whole thing. Andy McCarthy does have several serious columns on the topic this week.


    The Ethos of Law Enforcement
    It has become a refrain among defenders of the FBI and Justice Department that critics are trying to destroy these vital institutions. In point of fact, these agencies are doing yeoman’s work destroying themselves — much to the chagrin of those of us who spent much of our professional lives proudly carrying out their mission.

    The problem is not the existence of miscreants; they are an inevitable part of the human condition, from which no institution of any size will ever be immune. The challenge today is the ethos of law-enforcement. You see it in texts expressing disdain for lawmakers; in the above-it-all contempt for legislative oversight; in arrogant flouting of the Gang of Eight disclosure process for sensitive intelligence (because the FBI’s top-tier unilaterally decides when Bureau activities are “too sensitive” to discuss); in rogue threats to turn the government’s law-enforcement powers against Congress; and in the imperious self-perception of a would-be fourth branch of government, insulated from and unaccountable to the others — including its actual executive-branch superiors.

    I have been reading some of the OIG Report and here is an interesting section:

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Current Events, Law Enforcement, Politics | 25 Comments »

    The Current Range of Derangement

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th June 2018 (All posts by )

    I freely confess to having initially thought that when Donald Trump threw his hat into the political ring and began campaigning for election to the highest office in our fair land – it was a colossal joke and not one in particularly good taste. But I was never an adamant never-Trumper, and eventually came to think that hey – a wheeler-dealer Noo Yawk property developer (who after all HAD run a good-sized business enterprise for years) couldn’t possibly stuff up the job any more disastrously than He Who Dances With Teleprompters and his merry band of faculty lounge theorizers, career bureaucrats and second-gen beneficiaries of elite parental, fraternal or marital connections. In any case – I’d vote for practically anyone than Her Inevitableness the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua, even if I had to pin my nostrils shut with C-clamp. So – what the hell. Reader, I voted for him. I have to admit that when it sends rabid lefty celebs like Robert De Niro into a spittle-flecked rant on live television, I am tempted to rub my hands together and cackle with evil glee like Mr. Burns in the Simpsons, watching them come unglued with their hate for flyover country and those denizens of it which also voted for him. A man is known in a large part by the character and quantity of his enemies; Trumps’ are as numerous and as varied as any collection of grotesqueries in a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

    So I started this post as yet another meditation on how ever-flipping-out-of-their minds the current iteration of Trump-haters are … and then the meeting in Singapore happened, and actually promises … maybe, if all goes well, a resolution to a war which started just before I was born, in a country to which my father was stationed as an Army draftee when I was born, in which I served for a year (three and a half decades later) and in which my daughter might very well have drawn duty in her turn. The Korean War – bloody and vicious, as we are reminded through M*A*S*H reruns – ended in an armistice and a heavily-armed border which slices the Korean peninsula into halves. Not anywhere equal halves, other than geographical.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, History, International Affairs, Korea, Obama, Politics, Trump, War and Peace | 26 Comments »

    “. . . the significant, blood-sport destruction of my business . . .”

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd May 2018 (All posts by )

    Leon Cooperman: Two changes that could help fix what is wrong with our regulatory process:

    It seems logically manifest to me that something transpired between September 2016 and March 2017 that led to the Commission’s dramatically downwardly-revised settlement offer. Despite numerous attempts to ferret it out, I have been unsuccessful in getting a response, either from the current chairman or from his predecessor who oversaw my case (and who told me, when I saw her at a conference after she left office, that even innocent people often find settling with the government preferable to hazarding the system). As an American taxpayer, I believe that I deserve an answer to my question. And as an analytical person, it is hard for me to reconcile the significant, blood-sport destruction of my business that this matter has occasioned without understanding the dynamics behind the resolution from the Commission’s perspective.

    “Something transpired between September 2016 and March 2017” that led the SEC to dial back the brutality of its regulatory attack on Mr. Cooperman’s firm. I wonder what that something could have been?

    Elections have consequences. The Obama administration was so openly hostile to business, and so casually willing to use its power to reward allies and punish critics, that prominent business people were reluctant to criticize the Administration publicly, especially in the early days before the 2010 elections. If I recall, Mr. Cooperman was more courageous than most of his contemporaries in expressing public concern about Mr. Obama’s policies.

    As the man said, this is how you get more Trump.

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crony Capitalism, Law, Obama, Politics, Trump | 1 Comment »

    “Hey, Google. . .”

    Posted by Jonathan on 15th May 2018 (All posts by )

    Q: How old is the President?

    A: Barack Obama is 56 years old.

      

    Try it for yourself and report back.

    Posted in Leftism, Politics, Tech | 7 Comments »

    Preference Cascades and Past Elections

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th May 2018 (All posts by )

    So, I meant to write something sarcastic and slashing about … whatever over the last weekend, but I got distracted by life, and by a couple of different news reports – one of them being that Kanye West apparently has gotten in touch with his inner conservative and decided – for the moment – to come out enthusiastically for Trump. While not a particular fan of his brand of pop music and acknowledging that his judgement may not be all that – the man married a Kardashian, for g*d’s sake – I have never heard of anyone calling him a stupid man. Talented – yes, fabulously successful, and financially well-rewarded for exercising those talents; there must be more to him than pure dumb luck. Lamentable as it is to me that present-day celebrities wield more social influence than is good for them, and for us … that someone with that much influence in the black community is pointing out some self-evident truths must count for something. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Culture, Current Events, Obama, Politics, Trump | 21 Comments »

    Paying Higher Taxes Can be Very Profitable

    Posted by David Foster on 17th April 2018 (All posts by )

    (originally posted in 2010)

    Chevy Chase, MD, is an affluent suburb of Washington DC. Median household income is over $200K, and a significant percentage of households have incomes that are much, much higher. Stores located in Chevy Chase include Tiffany & Co, Ralph Lauren, Christian Dior, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Saks-Jandel.

    PowerLine observed that during the 2008 election season, yards in Chevy Chase were thick with Obama signs–and wondered how these people were now feeling (in October 2009) about the prospect of sharp tax increases for people in their income brackets.

    The PowerLine guys are very astute, but I think they were missing a key point on this one. There are substantial groups of people who stood to benefit financially from the policies of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid triumvirate, and these benefits can greatly outweigh the costs of any additional taxes that these policies require them to pay. Many of the residents of Chevy Chase–a very high percentage of whom get their income directly or indirectly from government activities–fall into this category.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Politics, Taxes, USA | 4 Comments »

    Quote of the Day (Follow Up)

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th March 2018 (All posts by )

    Conrad Black:

    Mr. Trump isn’t the problem, but among the symptoms of the problem are that the director and deputy director of the FBI have been fired for cause as the Bureau virtually became the dirty-tricks arm of the Democratic National Committee, and that, as the Center for Media Studies and Pew Research have both recorded, 90% of national-press comment on Mr. Trump is hostile. Mr. Trump may have aggravated some of the current nastiness, but his chief offense has been breaking ranks with the bipartisan coalition that produced the only period of absolute and relative decline in American history.

    I think Black is too harsh on George W. Bush but this column is otherwise excellent.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Law, Law Enforcement, Media, North America, Politics, Systems Analysis, Tea Party, Trump | 3 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th March 2018 (All posts by )

    Conrad Black:

    Here are two current examples of [the failings of the legal system and of journalism]: Canadians don’t like Donald Trump, largely because his confident and sometimes boorish manner is un-Canadian. He is in some respects a caricature of the ugly American. But he has been relentlessly exposing the U.S. federal police (FBI) as having been politicized and virtually transformed into the dirty tricks division of the Democratic National Committee. Few now doubt that the former FBI director, James Comey, was fired for cause, and the current director, backed by the impartial inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility, asserts that Comey’s deputy director, Andrew McCabe, was also fired for cause. There are shocking revelations of the Justice Department’s illegal use of the spurious Steele dossier, paid for by the Clinton campaign, and of dishonest conduct in the Clinton email investigation, the propagation of the nonsense that Trump had colluded with Russia, and of criminal indiscretions and lies in sworn testimony by Justice officials. It is an epochal shambles without the slightest precedent in American history (certainly not the Watergate piffle), yet our media slavishly cling to a faded story of possible impeachable offences by the president.
     
    The American refusal to adhere to the Paris climate accord is routinely portrayed as anti-scientific heresy and possibly capitulation to corrupt oil interests. The world’s greatest polluters, China and India, did not promise to do anything in that accord; Europe uttered platitudes of unlimited elasticity, and Barack Obama, for reasons that may not be entirely creditable, attempted to commit the United States to reducing its carbon footprint by 26 per cent, at immense cost in jobs and money, when there is no proof that carbon has anything to do with climate and the United States under nine presidents of both parties has done more for the ecology of the world than any other country. Journalistic failure on this scale, and across most of what is newsworthy, added to an education system that is more of a Luddite day-care network, produces a steadily less informed public, who, while increasingly tyrannized by lawyers, elect less capable public office-holders.
     
    Lenin famously wrote: “What is to be done?” We must ask ourselves the same question but come up with a better answer than he did.

     

    Posted in Anglosphere, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Law, Law Enforcement, Media, North America, Politics, Systems Analysis, Tea Party, Trump | 8 Comments »

    Catalist, “The 480,” and The Real 480

    Posted by David Foster on 19th March 2018 (All posts by )

    (In the light of the Cambridge Analytica revelations and controversy. I thought this 2014 post might be due for a rerun)

    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.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Elections, History, Human Behavior, Marketing, Obama, Politics, Polls, Predictions, Trump, USA | 14 Comments »

    The Sec of State Tillerson Firing

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 13th March 2018 (All posts by )

    There was no single reason for the Sec of State Tillerson Firing…there was a laundry list.

    According to various sources, Tillerson was pretty much against implementing President Trump’s foreign policy, trade and immigration agenda for Trump’s 2nd year as President and chaffed Pres. Trump over Russia besides:

    1. Tillerson was working with the EU to stop the President from tearing up the Iran deal.
    2. Tillerson wanted to remain in the TPP, TAP, & NAFTA.
    3. Tillerson was against NK talks.
    4. Tillerson was against China Tariffs.
    5. Tillerson wanted to remain in the Paris Climate accord.
    6. Tillerson did not support making Jerusalem the home of our embassy.
    7. Tillerson wanted to keep open borders/high refugee resettlement.
    8. Tillerson was talking that Russia affected our election results just before the Nunes Committee put a bullet in the head of the “Muh-Russia Collusion Delusion.”

    Working behind Pres. Trump’s back with the EU over maintaining Pres Obama’s Iran nuclear deal — which Pres. Trump wants eliminated and the abandoned sanctions reinstated — was the last straw for Tillerson.

    Discuss.

    Posted in Big Government, Current Events, International Affairs, Iran, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics | 34 Comments »

    The Russia Collusion story is becoming more clear.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 8th March 2018 (All posts by )

    I was a little late coming to the Trump supporters, but it was interesting almost back to the beginning.

    Then it began to form a preference cascade.

    Can the GOP really be so out of touch with the legions of out-of-work Americans — many of whom don’t show up in the “official” unemployment rate because they’ve given up looking for work in the Obama economy? With the returning military vets frustrated with lawyer-driven, politically correct rules of engagement that have tied their hands in a fight against a mortal enemy? With those who, in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino massacres by Muslims, reasonably fear an influx of culturally alien “refugees” and “migrants” from the Middle East?

    April 2016:
    Trump is a coward, four time bankrupt loser, con artist, bully, 12 time business failure, WWE character, hypocrite, liar, dullard, loose cannon and has very poor character. He will lose in November and people need to wake up to that fact. Otherwise, hello President Hillary.

    A year later, that commenter is a supporter.

    Trump was in touch with them.

    The result was “Deep Confusion.”

    I left Queens for Brooklyn to meet Dany L. Esquilin, a Republican I met in the first week of this assignment, aboard a train to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

    Mr. Esquilin was not a stereotypical Trump supporter. His parents were born in Puerto Rico, he is black and he had once been a Democrat. (Then again, so had Mr. Trump.) A retired private investigator, Mr. Esquilin worked to marshal Republican votes from Jews, Russians and Chinese-Americans.

    Oh Oh.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Elections, Politics, Trump | 32 Comments »

    “Why Did It Take Two Weeks To Discover Parkland Students’ Astroturfing?”

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd March 2018 (All posts by )

    This Federalist post by David Hines is well worth reading and full of points about political organizing that need to be made over and over to conservatives and libertarians.

    However, Hines’s post is annoying because he confounds conservative voters with the Republican political establishment. It was probably obvious to most politically alert conservatives within hours of the Parkland murders that the media and Democratic Party response was scripted and agenda-driven. Most of us probably expected this if not that it would come so soon. Similarly, the seemingly spontaneous overnight emergence of attractive, articulate Parkland students with anti-gun views, and the sophisticated promotion of anti-RKBA demonstrations and similar political events, was no surprise. We didn’t know the details but the outlines of a coordinated media-activist campaign were clear.

    So, no, it didn’t take two weeks to discover the Parkland students’ astroturfing. The only people who seemed to believe the spin about a supposedly spontaneous anti-RKBA youth movement were naive liberals and establishment Republicans. (From a John Kasich press release from 21 February: “Friend, in case you missed my interview on CNN this morning, I called on the President and Congress to end the politics and produce common sense gun laws that make sense.” Clueless and a sell-out.) The rest of us knew what was going on and knew that the Republican establishment would be weak, inept and slow in response. We agree with Hines about the importance of political organizing. That is one of the reasons why we voted against the effete Republican establishment in 2016 and will continue to do so. Perhaps one day conservatives and Republicans will become as good at politics as the Left and Democrats are. Until then we will vote for Trump because unlike many establishment Republicans he appears to mean what he says, and has real skill at promoting and defending his agenda even if he does so mostly rhetorically and without outside help.

    UPDATE: Perhaps I was too negative on Hines based on a quibble. Ace’s post summarizing some of Hines’s tweets is worth reading, and Ace’s conclusion is particularly good:

    I would further say the biggest division on what used to be called “The Right” are the two main factions’ understanding of this tactic and this desired end-state, and their total rejection of it — or soft toleration of it.
     
    Some of us are still in Business as Usual Mode and some of us are highly alarmed at how close the left is to achieving its end-state of a society divided between the Empowered True Believers and the Denigrated and Threatened Underclass, and are no longer willing to walk towards the gulags.
     
    As we consider civil equality and freedom-in-fact (not just theoretical freedom, but actual real freedom in the real world) to be principles that are more important than any other, we are willing to violate some of the less-important procedural principles to fight the left’s objective of complete subjugation of us.
     
    To many of us, it appears the Business As Usual crowd is focused on fairly trivial procedural matters while performing their appointed duties as the left’s enablers and enforcers of complete social and cultural rulership by the left.

    The Republican establishment is defined by its business-as-usual attitude in response not only to leftist political activism but to actual subversion of governmental and civic institutions.

    Posted in Leftism, Media, Politics, RKBA, Trump | 19 Comments »

    Just sayin’

    Posted by Margaret on 24th February 2018 (All posts by )

    In all the righteous indignation about the story that there were four cops who failed to enter the school after the shooting, I’ve yet to see a source cited other than CNN.

    We on the right have spent a lot of time and energy yelling that CNN is untrustworthy.

    Why, then, do we uncritically accept this story from CNN?

    Posted in Politics | 19 Comments »

    Boycott the NRA Boycotters

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd February 2018 (All posts by )

    Start with the Enterprise and Alamo and National car rental companies. Add other companies to the list as they join the PC #BoycottNRA bandwagon.

    Do these people remember the Smith & Wesson boycott? Perhaps not. And the anti-RKBA boycotters in this case aren’t gun companies and therefore don’t stand to lose as much from a conservative/pro-RKBA boycott as S&W did. The management of National et al no doubt figure their political opportunism won’t cost them much. They may be mistaken. Late-night TV hosts can get away with antagonizing half of their potential audience if doing so gets them increased viewership from the other half. However, sellers of ordinary goods and services are unwise to expect any such political partisanship to be good for their businesses.

    Posted in Current Events, Politics, RKBA | 36 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: How My Next Academic Article Begins

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th February 2018 (All posts by )

    Since 2008, I have argued in multiple publications that the Foreign Emoluments Clause’s Office-language (and closely similar language in other constitutional provisions) reaches only appointed federal officers, and not any elected federal officials, including the presidency. My position has not gone entirely unnoticed; indeed, it has even occasioned some firm and thoughtful opposition. My goal in this Article is not to illustrate the full spectrum of views opposing my position on the subject. There are far too many such views—many of which contradict one another—many of which (do not appear to) have gone through any sort of independent review process, by student editors, by peer review, or otherwise. Instead, my more modest goal here is to illustrate how deeply idiosyncratic some of these views are—not merely in their conclusions, but more importantly in their broad methodological approach.

    Read the entire post.

    Posted in History, Law, Politics, Trump | Comments Off on Seth Barrett Tillman: How My Next Academic Article Begins

    Seth Barrett Tillman: How My Next Academic Paper Ends: The Way Forward

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th February 2018 (All posts by )

    First, the commentators above (along with other commentators) believe their position carries a strong presumption of correctness (if not certitude), that it is my duty to displace that presumption, and that they will be the judges if I have carried that burden. Certainly, I have never agreed to such terms for this debate. Nor should I. The text of the Constitution does not expressly state that the Foreign Emoluments Clause applies to the President. The text of the Constitution does not expressly define the scope of the Constitution’s “Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States]” language. The Supreme Court has had no occasion to address the scope of the clause or the meaning of the clause’s operative language (or even the scope of similar language in other clauses.). As educated generalists who have chosen to recently inject themselves into this debate, their opinions should get a hearing. I would add: so should mine. And since, what is involved here is a debate between opinions lacking firm judicial support, our divergent ideas (and we) meet as equals. I add that the Legal Historians are supporting the plaintiffs in active litigation. Generally, in civil litigation, the burden of proof, production, and persuasion falls on the plaintiff, not on the defendant.
     
    Second, it is time for my intellectual opponents to be fair. Claims that they have made that they know or now know to be incorrect should be withdrawn or revised. Claims that they have made asserting the existence of documentary support, should be supported, and promptly, with actual documents—or else the claims should be withdrawn. If they have to go through this process repeatedly, they might ask themselves if their position (and expertise) is really as strong as they have led themselves and others to believe.
     
    Third, it is time for my intellectual opponents to be forthcoming in regard to an improved debate and debate atmosphere—an atmosphere rooted in mutual respect and goodwill…

    Read the whole thing.

    Posted in History, Law, Politics, Trump | Comments Off on Seth Barrett Tillman: How My Next Academic Paper Ends: The Way Forward

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th February 2018 (All posts by )

    Theodore Dalrymple:

    But censorship by language reform is not a matter of logic, it is a matter of power. As Humpty Dumpty said, it is a question of who is to be master (if one may still be allowed the word), that’s all.

    Like many things.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Quotations, Rhetoric | 1 Comment »

    Josh Blackman and Seth Barrett Tillman: The Emoluments Clauses Litigation, Part 6: Are the Claims Against the President in his Official or Individual Capacity?

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th February 2018 (All posts by )

    Arguments progress:

    On January 25, 2018, Judge Messitte held oral arguments in Greenbelt, Maryland. Blackman attended. The very first question from the bench referenced our amicus briefs, and asked the parties to address whether the Maryland Complaint concerns actions taken in the President’s official or individual capacity. Over the course of nearly five hours of argument time, counsel for the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia maintained that Trump’s receipt of (purported) emoluments concerned his official capacity. But once confronted by skeptical questions from the bench, Plaintiffs volunteered to amend their complaint to bring claims against the President in his individual capacity.
     
    Judge Messitte did not order the Plaintiffs to amend their complaint, but during the hearing, counsel for Plaintiffs represented that they would do so in due course, presumably through a Rule 15 motion. At the hearing, the Justice Department did not indicate that it would oppose such a motion—rather, the Government suggested that it would file a new motion to dismiss. In short, the Maryland action, which had been set either to be dismissed or to proceed onto discovery, now sits in limbo awaiting a Rule 15 motion to amend, a new round of briefing on a motion to dismiss (and possibly in regard to the Rule 15 motion too), and, presumably, a new oral argument on the revised motion to dismiss (and, perhaps, also in regard to the Rule 15 motion). Moreover, all Plaintiffs have to do, to move the litigation into its new “path,” the obvious direction it should always have been in, is to change the Complaint’s caption and the 1-page prayer for relief; yet, it is now more than a week later, and still no amended complaint has been filed.

    Read the whole thing.

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    Posted in History, Law, Politics, Trump | Comments Off on Josh Blackman and Seth Barrett Tillman: The Emoluments Clauses Litigation, Part 6: Are the Claims Against the President in his Official or Individual Capacity?

    “This Civil War – My South Carolina Tea Party Convention Speech”

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th January 2018 (All posts by )

    Daniel Greenfield:

    The attacks on Trump show that elections don’t matter to the left.
     
    Republicans can win an election, but they have a major flaw. They’re not leftists.
     
    That’s what the leftist dictatorship looks like.
     
    The left lost Congress. They lost the White House. So what did they do? They began trying to run the country through Federal judges and bureaucrats.
     
    Every time that a Federal judge issues an order saying that the President of the United States can’t scratch his own back without his say so, that’s the civil war.
     
    Our system of government is based on the constitution, but that’s not the system that runs this country.
     
    The left’s system is that any part of government that it runs gets total and unlimited power over the country.
     
    If it’s in the White House, then the president can do anything. And I mean anything. He can have his own amnesty for illegal aliens. He can fine you for not having health insurance. His power is unlimited.
     
    He’s a dictator.
     
    But when Republicans get into the White House, suddenly the President can’t do anything. He isn’t even allowed to undo the illegal alien amnesty that his predecessor illegally invented.
     
    A Democrat in the White House has “discretion” to completely decide every aspect of immigration policy. A Republican doesn’t even have the “discretion” to reverse him.
     
    That’s how the game is played. That’s how our country is run.
     
    [. . .]
     
    The Trump years are going to decide if America survives. When his time in office is done, we’re either going to be California or a free nation once again.

    Read the whole thing.

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    Posted in Big Government, Political Philosophy, Politics, Tea Party, Trump | 15 Comments »

    Shithole Countries

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th January 2018 (All posts by )

    Anecdote of a recent conversation:

    A: Where are you from?

    B: A bad part of Kingston.

    A: What part is that?

    B: All of it.

    Did Trump say “shithole”? It sounds like his typical bombast that enrages people who don’t like him. It also sets a trap for his political opponents by reframing the conversation. The questions whether we should favor immigrants from specific countries and with specific personal qualifications are back in play. Many voters think these questions are important despite the continuing efforts of establishment pols of both parties to stipulate them as beyond the pale. The attempt to conflate the characterizations of countries and of individuals is a rhetorical sleight of hand intended to dismiss doubts about mass-immigration by unskilled people from dysfunctional countries. Ann Althouse nailed this point. The doubts are reasonable — Wouldn’t the French and Germans have been better off heeding such concerns in the recent past? Shutting up people who express such thoughts may be more likely in the long run to lead to an immigration moratorium or other crude measures than to convince the doubters to acquiesce in the admission to the USA of more unvetted young Somali and Central American men.

    What Trump was saying, as ordinary people will understand it, is obviously true: We should encourage immigration based on our country’s needs rather than on the needs of prospective immigrants; we should favor people who are likely to be highly productive; and we should attempt to screen out criminals, terrorists and people who are mainly interested in welfare-state subsidies.

    There are many talented people in Haiti, but as a country Haiti is troubled and unproductive, which is why so many Haitians want to leave. Perhaps Mia Love is bound to criticize Trump based on Trump’s crudeness of expression and reported disrespectful words, but Trump is right. There were good reasons for Congresswoman Love’s family to leave Haiti for the USA. We are lucky to have them, but that’s not the same thing as saying that we should let in every Haitian who wants to come here. We should be more selective and we should reform our immigration bureaucracy to make things easier for the people we want.

    We can expect additional inflammatory stories about Trump’s supposed racism and other character flaws while his negotiations with Congress on immigration continue.

    Posted in Immigration, Politics, Rhetoric, Trump | 69 Comments »

    The Gods of the Copybook Headings are Coming.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 7th January 2018 (All posts by )

    There is a poem by Rudyard Kipling, explained by John Derbyshire here, That warns of consequences that will come no matter how much we wish it otherwise.

    Published in October 1919 when the poet was 53 years old, “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” has proved enduringly popular, despite the fact that copybooks disappeared from schoolrooms in Britain and America during, or shortly after, World War 2. A copybook was an exercise book used to practice one’s handwriting in. The pages were blank except for horizontal rulings and a printed specimen of perfect handwriting at the top. You were supposed to copy this specimen all down the page. The specimens were proverbs or quotations, or little commonplace hortatory or admonitory sayings — the ones in the poem illustrate the kind of thing. These were the copybook headings.

    The poem is severe and depressing, as Kipling was when he composed it.

    As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
    There are only four things certain since Social Progress began: —
    That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
    And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

    We are now in an era where the rules of civil society seem to have been repealed, or at least violated with impunity.

    Retribution is sure to follow.

    The present Deep State, or “Swamp” if you prefer, seems to be nearing some sort of denouement

    The House Intelligence Committee now has the bank records of Fusion-GPS. They were turned over Friday after a federal judge on Thursday shot-down a last-ditch effort by attorneys from Fusion to get an emergency injunction.

    Chairman Devin Nunes and the House Intelligence Committee now have the records of payments made by Fusion-GPS to “journalists and media companies” during 2016 and early 2017 when Glenn Simpson, Mary Jacoby and Peter Fritsch were shopping the Christopher Steele ‘Russian dossier’ to enhance the “Insurance Policy”.

    I expect to see rats going overboard now on a daily basis.

    Most of the direct (“small group”) FBI (CoIntel), DOJ (NatSec Division) and Special Counsel co-conspirators are only able to talk amid themselves. They know by now they are being monitored and they have strong suspicion the size of the surveillance upon them. [Hi guys.] No-one else is willing to put themselves at risk now. Congressional allies now view the small group as carrying a legal ebola virus. Contact is now a risk.

    I consider Congressman Devin Nunes one of the two heroes of this story. The other is Admiral Mike Rogers.

    Rogers warned Trump that his transition team was under surveillance right after the election. For this the Obama people tried to fire him from his position at NSA.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Elections, Politics, Trump | 10 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: The Blue Book & the Foreign Emoluments Clause Cases Against the President: Old Questions Answered

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st December 2017 (All posts by )

    In 1792, the Senate directed President Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, to draft a financial statement listing the “emoluments” of “every person holding any civil office or employment under the United States.”[1] Hamilton took more than nine months to draft and submit a response, which spanned some ninety manuscript-sized pages. The report included appointed or administrative personnel in each of the three branches of the federal government, including the Legislative Branch (e.g., the Secretary of the Senate and Clerk of the House and their staffs) and the clerks of the federal courts.[2] But Hamilton’s carefully-worded response did not include the President, Vice President, Senators, or Representatives.[3] The presumptive meaning of this document is that Hamilton accurately responded to the Senate’s precise request: elected officials do not hold office . . . under the United States, and so they were not listed.
     
    Contrary explanations do not hold up…

    Read the rest.

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    Posted in History, Law, Politics, Trump, USA | Comments Off on Seth Barrett Tillman: The Blue Book & the Foreign Emoluments Clause Cases Against the President: Old Questions Answered

    Entitled

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 31st December 2017 (All posts by )

    I see by another link on Insty Saturday afternoon that the United Airlines- Sheila Jackson Lee flap has not quite faded away – much as MS Jackson Lee, AKA ‘the Queen’ or ‘Cruella’ Jackson Lee likely wishes it would. I surmise that this bit of congressional bad behavior is still rattling the newshounds and the commentariat for several reasons. The first of these is that ‘Cruella’ is one of the dumber members of Congress. (The honor of the dumbest must go to Hank “Guam Might Tip Over!” Johnson, of whom it might rightfully said – stealing a paraphrase from the late Molly Ivins about another spectacularly dumb career politician – “Lose any more IQ points, and his staff might have to put him in a pot in the corner and water him three times a week.”) But there’s more! ‘Cruella’ Jackson Lee has been acknowledged hands down for many years as the rudest and most abusive boss on Capitol Hill. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Civil Society, Current Events, Customer Service, Diversions, Human Behavior, Politics | 17 Comments »

    I Am a Barbarian

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 23rd December 2017 (All posts by )

    Scott, James C. Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017.

    Scott has hit another metaphorical grand slam with this one, a worthily disconcerting follow-on to his earlier work. I have previously read (in order of publication, rather than the order in which I encountered them) The Moral Economy of the Peasant, Seeing Like a State, and Two Cheers for Anarchism, and found them congenial. Scott is particularly good at encouraging a non-elite viewpoint deeply skeptical of State power, and in Against the Grain he applies this to the earliest civilizations. Turns out they loom large in our imagination due to the a posteriori distribution of monumental ruins and written records—structures that were often built by slaves and records created almost entirely to facilitate heavy taxation and conscription. Outside of “civilization” were the “barbarians,” who turn out to have simply been those who evaded control by the North Koreas and Venezuelas of their time, rather than the untutored and truculent caricatures of the “civilized” histories.

    By these criteria, the United States of America is predominately a barbarian nation. In the order given above:

    Read the rest of this entry »

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