Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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What he asked

October 14, 2017

Ben Sasse asks Trump’s supporters a good question, following the President’s tweet about licensing TV news networks. (Something that doesn’t even exist, of course.)

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But the larger point about Trump & his tweeting is how he manages to keep everyone reacting to him. I have to wonder whether he’d shut up if everyone just ignored him. So I liked Charles Cooke’s article asking Trump to keep quiet (even though I think it’s a futile request).

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“Just shut up and president,” as I’ve said before.


The day Trump kicked over the tweet-hive again, I happened to get email from the Cato Institute about Gene Healy, who wrote The Cult of the Presidency. And the attitude toward the presidency that Healy describes is the root of the matter, IMO. This situation’s been a long time coming.

The Imperial Presidency in the Age of Trump

“I alone can fix it,” Donald J. Trump proclaimed during his unlikely rise to the White House: “all of the bad things happening in the U.S. will be rapidly reversed!” It’s proven to be a bit more complicated than that.

More than eight months into the Trump presidency, the office that’s supposed to be “a symbol of our national unity” is the source of bitter division, as the president vents his frustration with Twitter attacks on Saturday Night Live skits, “so-called judges,” and the United States’ nuclear-armed rivals. Abroad, where the president’s authority is alarmingly unchecked, Trump has already launched some 20,000 airstrikes, threatened North Korea with nuclear annihilation, and refused to rule out a “military option” in Venezuela.

And yet, Donald Trump didn’t invent the Imperial Presidency: he inherited it. As Gene Healy warned in his widely acclaimed book, The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power, the “most powerful office in the world” has become far too powerful to entrust to any one fallible human being. Moreover, “We, the people” bear an enormous share of the blame for the presidency’s transformation into a constitutional monstrosity. As Healy argues, it is the public’s demand for presidential salvation from all problems great and small that drove that transformation: “the Imperial Presidency is the price of making the office the focus of our national hopes and dreams.”

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Constitution Day

September 17, 2017

Here’s John Stossel (again).

Raise a glass to its authors.

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Athens on the Potomac

September 12, 2017

Hey, we’ve done it! $20,000,000,000,000! To quote Feynman again:

"There are 1011 stars in the galaxy," [Richard] Feynman once said. "That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers."

Take it, John.

And Andrew does a parody of Cosmos.

Jon Gabriel joins in:

But John Stossel gets the last quote.

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I second that emotion

January 6, 2017

Nick Gillespie writes a retrospective of last year’s Libertarian presidential campaign.

It reflects my views pretty well, including the part about Bill Weld. But RTWT.

Thank You, Gary Johnson, for Being the Best Thing in 2016!

Before we completely flush 2016 down the memory hole, let us pause to remember Gary Johnson, the former two-term governor of New Mexico who generated a record number of votes as the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president. If there was anything good that happened in 2016 — a year filled so much awfulness that even the Chicago Cubs could win the World Series after a thousand-year drought — it was @govgaryjohnson‘s ramshackle campaign to bring a very different way of thinking and talking about national politics to America.

In the end, of course, there was a lot of disappointment. He didn’t crack 15 percent in polls to route around the bullshit criteria created by the two major parties to keep people like him off the stage; he supported the inalienable rights of gay Nazis to force homophobic Jewish bakers to make German chocolate cakes in the shapes of swastikas; he spaced out while talking to recidivist plagiarist Mike Barnicle on Morning Joe and asked, What is Aleppo?; and so much more. Yeah, yeah, I get it. […]

To all of it, I say, politely: Go screw yourselves, all of you.

Gary wasn’t perfect and I still don’t really comprehend anything about that tongue-thing while talking to NBC reporter Kasie Hunt, who was understandably all like, Get me the hell out of here. But in the end, Johnson pulled almost 4.5 million votes (3.3 percent of the total), compared to 1.3 million votes (1 percent) four years ago. Of course, all of us who voted for Gary Johnson wanted him to do better still, but the world exists to disappoint us believers in small government. […]

During the race I noticed that people had begun to figure out there was such a word as ‘libertarian’ in the language. (I wonder how many points that would get you in Scrabble.)

When I slapped a Johnson-Weld sticker on my ride and got a couple of high signs and honks from passing vehicles, I figured the word was trickling out. One couple saw the sticker in a parking lot and came over to talk about the Governor. In short, the sticker worked better than my Bernie is My Comrade shirt, which only seemed to confuse most people.

But turning the political outlook is hard work and slow as well. Think about the last time a new major political party emerged quickly in the U.S. It was when the Republican party was organized at the start of the Civil War.

Nobody’s written "The Battle Hymn of Free Trade" – or seems likely to. So the LP‘s got a long row to hoe.

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Trade, automation, and employment

December 17, 2016

This is sort of a rambling post about items I’ve come across recently that are loosely related.

ReasonTV released this clip this week.

This pretty much confirms what I’ve read about NAFTA. And that’s one reason I’ve never been happy about Trump’s bashing free trade agreements, NAFTA in particular.

Trade’s not a case of one-side-wins-while-the-other-side-loses. Trade works to mutual advantage: that’s why people engage in it, after all.

The only point I can take from Trump’s comments is that the U.S. is big enough to gain concessions by threatening to stop trading so freely. (He may be correct about that but I think it would be a bad idea.)


Being a free trade kind of guy, I was more than a little surprised to read about Stephen Moore’s turn to "the Dark Side."

If you know anything about Moore’s background, his new position is a fundamental shift for him. (For example, the Wikipedia article about him says, "Moore is known for advocating free-market policies…")

But read this whole thing to find out why Moore now backs Trump’s approach to trade and the economy.

Welcome to the Party of Trump

I stirred up some controversy last week when I told a conference of several dozen House Republicans that the GOP is now officially a Trump working-class party. For better or worse, I said at the gathering inside the Capitol dome, the baton has now officially been passed from the Reagan era to the new Trump era. The members didn’t quite faint over my apostasy, but the shock was palpable.

I emphasized that Republicans must prioritize delivering jobs and economic development to the regions of the country in the industrial Midwest — states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri. These are places that, for the most part, never felt the meager Obama recovery and where blue-collar Reagan Democrats took a leap of faith this election and came back to the Republican party for the first time since 1984. The GOP will be judged in 2018 and in 2020 on whether they deliver results for this part of the country and for the forgotten middle-class men and women (“the deplorables”) whom Democrats abandoned economically and culturally. This is all simply a political truism.

What roused the ire of some of my conservative friends was my statement that “just as Reagan converted the GOP into a conservative party, with his victory this year, Trump has converted the GOP into a populist, America First party.”‎

One friend lamented that I must have been drunk when I said this.

No. I meant exactly what I said, but I will clarify. […]


And here’s an interesting TED Talk by David Autor, professor of Economics and Associate Head of the MIT Department of Economics. It was published at the end of last month.

Prof. Autor has some explanations for the fact that the more we automate, the more people we have working. There are more jobs, not fewer.

Near the end of the clip, he makes a good point about the influence of culture on the employment picture.

Update 12/19/16:

I ran across an interesting post at pseudoerasmus that goes into detail on Prof. Autor’s topic. Despite its mocking tone and focus on conspicuous consumption, I think it’s a pretty fair explanation of how employment can increase despite increasing automation. (It doesn’t have a lot to say about people working in fields that weren’t even possible before automation enabled them, unfortunately.)

The emptiness of life will save us from mass unemployment

I don’t I have much to add to the debate about the dystopian robot future scenario envisioned by many people. But I do think the nightmare scenario is less mass unemployment than a kind of revamped neo-mediaevalism. I’m not predicting that, so much as saying that’s the worst-case scenario. {Edit 28/12/2016: This was written more than 2 years ago as a half-joke to mock trends in luxury consumption more than anything else.}

In the past 250 years, technological progress has not caused unemployment because human wants have been infinite. Every time productivity (output per unit of input) rises, the implied extra income in the economy still gets spent on something (at least when there isn’t a recession), and extra work gets created to produce that something. In other words, fewer inputs may be used to make one unit of output, but more output always gets desired / created. (OK, that sounds Say’s Law-ish, but please be patient.)

Environmentalists understand keenly that when energy prices fall, people frequently just drive more or fly more, or the savings get spent, ultimately, on something else that uses energy. Productivity growth produces the same effect. Which is why, as of now, we’ve never had permanent mass unemployment from technological displacement.

After the basic needs of food and shelter are satisfied, people go in search of other fulfillments — more caloric, varied, and exotic diets; more living space to fill with ever more stuff; 58 changes of clothes instead of 2 per year; more leisure in the form of vacations and entertainment; and ever more marginal extensions of life expectancy. That’s all very obvious.

But as people get wealthier, they demand not only more quantity of stuff, but also ever more trivial and even imaginary increments to the quality of goods and services. How else to explain the market for, say, honey in a jar that’s ‘raw’, unfiltered, unpasteurised, ‘fair-trade’, non-GMO, single-country-origin, single-bee-colony, and single-flower-species? […]


Finally, I learned yesterday that the Cato Institute has a session scheduled next month with the author of Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis. From the descriptive blurb at Amazon:

Today, nearly one in six prime working age men has no paid work at all—and nearly one in eight is out of the labor force entirely, neither working nor even looking for work. This new normal of “men without work,” argues Eberstadt, is “America’s invisible crisis.”

I have to wonder if all these people are really unemployed or whether some of them are simply working off the books in the underground economy.

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#ExxonKnew in a Texas court

November 24, 2016

Here’s an update from Watts Up With That about the group of attorneys general who have issued subpoenas to ExxonMobil (and others). I first wrote about this last April in Sounds like a conspiracy to me.

Don’t mess with Texas – #ExxonKnew AG’s to be hauled into court

Judge to haul state AGs to Texas for deposition

A federal judge in Texas has ordered the attorney general of Massachusetts to appear for deposition next month in a lawsuit Exxon Mobil Corp. filed as part of an attempt to block investigations into what the company knew about climate change.

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade ruled yesterday that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) should appear in Dallas on Dec. 13. The judge will enter a second order regarding Schneiderman’s deposition after he files an answer in the case.

Kinkeade issued the order one day after a telephone status conference with the parties.

It marks the latest victory for the oil giant in an escalating legal and political battle that has come under scrutiny by Republicans on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, fossil fuel industry advocates and environmental groups. […]

The company alleged in a filing last week that the two attorneys general were “conducting improper and politically motivated investigations of Exxon Mobil in a coordinated effort to silence and intimidate one side of the public policy debate on how to address climate change” (ClimateWire, Nov. 14).

Both attorneys general participated in a news conference this spring, along with former Vice President Al Gore, in which they accused fossil fuel companies of committing fraud by lying about climate change science and announced a multistate effort to hold them accountable (Greenwire, March 29).

Kinkeade issued an order in mid-October suggesting that Healey may have acted in “bad faith” against the company. He pointed to comments made during the spring news conference as cause for “concern.” […]

If you’re not familiar with all this, check ExxonMobil’s statement about this case and the site exxonknew.org.

The parallel I drew in my last post about this – between ‘Big Tobacco’ and ‘Big Oil’ – is explicitly mentioned at ExxonKnew.org.

This case seems to target a single business with deep pockets that’s unpopular with many people. Why aren’t coal companies or electric utilities or commercial airlines or automobile makers included? So ExxonMobil’s claim of "politically motivated investigations" seems like a fair question at this point.

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The cost of political correctness?

November 11, 2016

These are a few interesting items I came across in the last two days about how the current atmosphere of political correctness may have affected Tuesday’s election.

What occasionally strikes me is that many organizations, including our government, are so invested in regulating diversity of race, sex, and gender that they’re doing so at the expense of diversity of opinion. The antidote to free speech you don’t like is more free speech, not less. Let speakers open their mouths and show themselves to be fools*.

Likewise, the antidote to those who break laws to harm people (or to damage property) is to prosecute them for those crimes. Allowing your government to increase penalties for hate crimes is just giving it power that it might someday use it against you — when a later set or governors decides to redefine "hate".

Robby Soave writes at Reason (my emphasis):

Trump Won Because Leftist Political Correctness Inspired a Terrifying Backlash
What every liberal who didn’t see this coming needs to understand

Many will say Trump won because he successfully capitalized on blue collar workers’ anxieties about immigration and globalization. Others will say he won because America rejected a deeply unpopular alternative. Still others will say the country is simply racist to its core.

But there’s another major piece of the puzzle, and it would be a profound mistake to overlook it. Overlooking it was largely the problem, in the first place.

Trump won because of a cultural issue that flies under the radar and remains stubbornly difficult to define, but is nevertheless hugely important to a great number of Americans: political correctness.

More specifically, Trump won because he convinced a great number of Americans that he would destroy political correctness. […]


Katherine Timpf at National Review had this to say:

Classes Being Canceled Because Trump Won Is Why Trump Won

So, Donald Trump won the presidential election, and colleges and universities around the country are predictably canceling classes and exams because students are predictably too devastated to be able to do their schoolwork.

It’s everywhere. […]

Reading all of these stories, I really have to wonder: Do any of these people realize that this kind of behavior is exactly why Donald Trump won? The initial appeal of Donald Trump was that he served as a long-awaited contrast to the infantilization and absurd demands for political correctness and "safe spaces" sweeping our society, and the way these people are responding is only reminding Trump voters why they did what they did. […]

The headline of Ms. Timpf’s article reminds me of the headline of Matt Taibbi’s article in Rolling Stone about Brexit: The Reaction to Brexit Is the Reason Brexit Happened.


Here’s Jonathon Pie (British comedian Tom Walker) with a hilarious rant about why he thinks Trump got elected – and why Brexit happened and why the Tories rule England. Mind the volume: the language gets a little salty.

The only comment I’ll add to this monologue is that in addition to being shamed by the dominant media stories of their opponents, potential Trump voters may also have been shamed by things Trump himself said or did. I’m guessing it got a little complicated for some of them.


Jonah Goldberg (also at NR) writes about priorities in the Democrat party:

The party of obsession with diversity forgot about bread-and-butter issues

[…] Liberals want to claim that racism explains it all. That’s a hard claim to square with the fact that a great many of the blue-collar counties that favored Barack Obama — the first black president, in case you hadn’t heard — by double digits also favored Trump by double digits.

The fact that so many liberals went straight to this explanation gives you a sense of why the Democrats lost the white working class in the first place. The Democratic party went crazy for issues that appeal to the new Democratic base: campus leftists, affluent cosmopolitan whites, and racial minorities.

One obvious example is diversity. There’s nothing wrong with placing a high value on racial, sexual, and gender inclusion. But Democrats have earned the reputation of being obsessed with it to the exclusion of bread-and-butter issues.

Moreover, by constantly invoking the primacy of identity politics for minorities and immigrants, they encouraged many whites to see themselves as an aggrieved racial or religious constituency. That genie will be hard to get back into the bottle. […]


*IMO, we’re all ‘Children of Eve’ and I don’t care whether you take that to mean the Evolutionary Eve, the Biblical Eve, or a figurative Eve of Enlightened Self-Interest on a global scale. Treat your cousins well.

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