Archive for Political Science Fiction

Success through failure

The Z Man reminds us that we’ve seen this sort of thing before:

Failing up is so common today it feels like it is new, but it has been a feature of the human condition for a long time. Alcibiades is a guy who would be comfortable in today’s culture of failing up. Instead of screwing up the invasion of Syracuse, he would have run a bank into the ground and then run for the Senate.

In prior ages, society could afford precious few of these sorts of people. Mistakes were simply too costly to tolerate having too many idiots in powerful positions. In the post scarcity world of today, it feels like we can tolerate an unlimited supply of losers, grifters and charlatans.

Carly Fiorina on a talk showCertainly we’re never going run short of such individuals — there are times when I think we’re breeding them deliberately — though I have to admit that I’m not quite sure exactly which of those three descriptors, or which combination thereof, he means to apply to Republican candidate Carly Fiorina:

A fair number of people who think of themselves as diehard conservatives are fans of Fiorina. She is polling in the single digits, but the GOP will find some reason to get her on the debate stage. The reason, of course, is she is a woman. To her credit she says the sorts of things you expect a Republican to say, which says a lot of about the state of the party, but the only thing that matters is she lacks a penis.

As distinguished from several Republicans of past and present who lacked testicles.

Looking ahead, then:

Fiorina is smart enough to know she is not winning the nomination. This is the long con and that means angling for the VP spot or maybe a cabinet position. She will get on the stage and look good in the debates. By spring of next year she will be out of the race and have a good idea as to who will win the nomination. She will make a big show of endorsing that person and campaigning on their behalf.

In 2017 she will be nominated as Secretary of HHS and she will do to health care what she did to Bell Labs.

Quite a shame, really. One of the things Fiorina has going for her is a record of firing people, something that doesn’t get done nearly often enough in Washington.

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Quote of the week

“Equality”? Forget that, Jack:

The Socialist State gives all power to the government, and therefore cuts much deeper than any other government, in practice, the chasm between the governor and the governed. In every society there is the public official and the private citizen. But the number of things that the public official can do is increased and not diminished by the collectivist change. In short there can not be political equality, even if there is economic equality. Even if we have abolished aristocracy and plutocracy, there can still be bureaucracy; and perhaps a particularly bullying bureaucracy.

Once again, devastating clarity from G. K. Chesterton’s crystal ball. This piece from New Witness originally appeared on 23 December 1921.

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Trumpetuously so

Bill Quick finds some redeeming social value in the Presidential campaign of Donald Trump:

The GOP lineup is desperately trying to find some way to not piss off the base so much that it bolts or stays home, and yet at the same time keep the oligarchs who are financing their campaigns happy. Trump is blowing all that straight to hell.

Still, The Donald is only slightly more Republican than I am, and has actually tossed a few dollars into the massive Clinton money hole, which suggests a position for him on the outside, shooting in:

I hope he ends up going third party. I’m not sure who it would hurt the most — the GOP or the Dems.

You know, just once in my life I’d like to see a Presidential election actually thrown into the House. (And there are, not 435 votes, but fifty.)

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Yeah, good luck with that

One of the candidates for House District 85 is sending out this flyer:

The seat was last won by David Dank, who campaigned to keep it in the family after wife Odilia ran up against term limits. (Mrs. Dank died in 2013; Mr. Dank died this past April.) A special election will be held this fall; four Republicans, including Mr. Jackson, will meet in a primary in July. (Only one Democrat, Cyndi Munson, filed for the seat.) District 85 is generally just north of me.

As for Senator Holt’s observation — aren’t we about to do Civil War II anyway?

(On the nullification idea itself, see Cooper v. Aaron.)

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The final word on ACA

I mean, it’s not going anywhere, and the chances that an upcoming Republican administration will toss it are next to nil. (There are times when I think the chances of an upcoming Republican administration are next to nil; few snatch defeat from the jaws of victory more assiduously than today’s GOP.) That said, here’s a quick postmortem from Dave Schuler:

The good news in the Court’s decision is obvious: millions of people won’t lose their subsidies. The bad news is less obvious. One bit of bad news is that the Court has again taken it on itself to reward the Pelosi-Reid Congress for slovenly work. Don’t be surprised if at some point SCOTUS is forced to throw the Congress a brushback pitch. It can’t allow itself to become Congress’s whipping boy.

From my point of view the worst piece of news in the decision is that the lesson the Congress will learn from this is to minimize its paper trail.

Yep. Future bills will magically appear with no indication whatsoever of their origin.

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Flinging the door open

State Democrats are contemplating abandoning the closed-primary model:

Oklahoma’s 261,000 independent voters would be allowed to cast votes in Democratic primary elections under a proposal state party delegates are expected to support in a meeting next month.

The move is intended to show the party is inclusive of differing viewpoints and is aimed at boosting support for Democratic candidates in a state dominated by the GOP.

I’m not quite sure how this would work to the party’s advantage. Most of the people I know around here who are registered Independent did so because (1) the Democrats weren’t far enough to the left or (2) the Republicans aren’t far enough to the right. (Yes, Virginia, it is possible for Republicans to be even farther to the right, though I believe this is due to repositioning of the center.) Still, that’s more anecdote than data.

On balance, given the generally horrible way the state treats independent candidates, the widening of the Democratic tent might prove to be a good thing in the long run, provided the GOP doesn’t get the same idea, and I’m thinking they won’t:

Randy Brogdon, the tea party favorite who is chairman of the state Republican party, has no interest in allowing independents to participate in GOP primaries.

“A majority of the independents have come from the Republican party primarily because we haven’t done an excellent job of promoting Republican principles of limited government and lower taxes,” he said. “We want to give them a reason to come back.”

I’ll give Brogdon this: he’s right about the lack of excellence. And there’s an issue for the GOP at the national level as well:

Whereas the Democrat Party is run by people who actually share the same beliefs as the people who vote for the Democrat Party, the GOP is run by people who do not remotely give a fuck about GOP voters. Karl Rove hates Republican voters. All elite GOP operatives share a profound disdain for the party’s grassroots electoral base.

There’s one tent that won’t be expanding.

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For some reason, I seem to have been put on Carly Fiorina’s mailing list, and this is something her campaign sent out yesterday:

Fox News recently announced how they will select participants for the first presidential campaign debate.

I’ll skip straight to the point: I look forward to participating in the Fox News debate. I’ll make it clear that I’m ready to take on Hillary Clinton.

But I need your help to get on that debate stage. In order to secure an invitation, I need to grow my team of supporters. Will you make a donation of $13 today to help me get on that debate stage?

I’m not sure what the significance of 13 is, though given the enormous amount of superstition that pervades the American electorate, it’s bound to draw some sort of attention. (As it has, for instance, here.)

I am not, of course, voting in the Republican primary, for the most obvious of reasons. That said, Fiorina strikes me as the least annoying GOP candidate thus far: she avoids evasive answers, she’s generally prepared for the questions she’s asked, and she’s about half an order of magnitude tougher than the beta (sometimes gamma) males in the press pool.

At HP, I wasn’t afraid to shake up the status quo. My decisions didn’t always make me popular — but they would ultimately prove to be the right ones.

Real leadership means making tough choices and taking responsibility. Real leadership means standing by your principles and answering the difficult questions. Real leadership means standing by your record, not hiding from it.

I conclude from this that she’ll give short shrift to the “They took err jerbs!” people. And while I’m naturally suspicious of “Government ought to be run like a business” stuff, it’s got to be an improvement over the last couple of decades, in which it’s been run like a fraternity house with no adult supervision.

The skirtwatcher side of me gives her a solid B, not bad for sixty: ahead of Bachmann, behind Palin.

And there’s this:

In the business world, we don’t have the luxury of hiding from our problems until they go away, like Hillary does on the campaign trail. We have to actually accomplish something.

She’s not hiding. She’s simply refusing to acknowledge that such things exist. (And if the Democratic primary in this state comes down to Hillary vs. Bernie, as well it might, I pull the lever for Sanders and smile the whole time.)

I’d still like to know where Fiorina came up with the precise sum of $13.

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Hey, it works in Nebraska

Gary Jones is pushing the notion of switching to a unicameral legislature:

The state auditor has a controversial plan to save millions of dollars by combining the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma Senate.

State Auditor Gary Jones says it may be time for a change.

“Just because we’ve done it that way doesn’t mean that’s the best way of doing it. If we believe in smaller, more efficient government, I think that government itself is what we need to look at,” Jones said.

Jones says each year, between offices, salaries and staff, the Oklahoma Senate alone costs the state between 15 and 20 million dollars.

This prompted some derision, mostly justified, from Patrick at The Lost Ogle:

I’ve asked Ogle Moles in the past why we have a bicameral legislature, and none of them really have a good answer. Even though it’s a dysfunctional mess, I can see why you’d want to have a Senate and House of Representatives for a Federal Government comprised of 50 states, but why does a state need one? It’s not like each county gets two state senators to balance out the population advantage of cities. Senate districts are determined by the same imaginary gerrymandered lines as the House of Representatives. It’s redundant. Right? Or am I totally wrong?

Well, no, he’s not totally wrong. As to those Senate districts, I refer you to a 2014 scheme specifically to abolish the Oklahoma House by Senator (of course) Patrick Anderson (R-Enid):

Anderson says he wants to save a few bucks, not the worst idea in the world, though it would have been nice if he’d said something about Reynolds v. Sims, in which the Supreme Court decided that legislative houses in the states had to be divided into equal population districts. (Before this 1964 decision, each county would have at least one House member, regardless of population.) In effect, this makes one chamber in each and every bicameral state legislature — all 49 of them — largely irrelevant. Then again, Reynolds was decided three years before Anderson was born, so it’s probably not uppermost in his mind.

And Patrick doesn’t think the Jones scheme has any future:

Obviously, our hypocritical small government state lawmakers want nothing to do with it, and I doubt the political parties want a unicameral legislature either, so this will need to be championed and passed by the people. Since the proposal has nothing to do with discriminating against gays or letting people bring guns to music festivals, I doubt anything will happen.

He’s probably not wrong about that either.

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You shall not Escape

Once again, Donald Trump is taking advice from the ferret occupying his scalp:

Republican presidential hopeful and billionaire Donald Trump wants to bring the pain via punitive tariffs to Ford for manufacturing vehicles in Mexico.

During his announcement of his 2016 campaign Tuesday, The Detroit News says Trump vowed he would levy a 35 percent tariff on Ford parts and vehicles imported from Mexico if the automaker presses forward with a $2.5 billion investment in the nation, claiming the move would “take away thousands” of jobs from American workers.

Ford, being Ford, shrugged; they’ve heard this sort of noise before. And besides:

Of course, Trump wouldn’t be legally able to punish Ford for building its plants wherever it wanted, let alone single out Ford with his plan without also doing the same to General Motors and FCA (how he would deal with Fiat owning Chrysler would be a whole other round of metaphors and hyperbole altogether).

Now if The Donald comes back and says he can so do this, via executive order — well, he’s cut his own throat, and we will definitely thank him for his quick disappearance from the campaign scene.

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Earth-shattering news

Six Democrats and a single Republican hope to become mayor of Akron, Ohio. The office has been in turmoil of late — two mayors have resigned in the past two weeks — so it seems that this fellow would be the obvious choice:

Natural Hunka Kaboom, an activist who lives in North Hill, was the first Democratic candidate to officially file. He told WAKR radio that, through dreams, a spiritual body told him that he was going to be the next mayor.

A regular speaker at council meetings, Kaboom made national news a few years ago when he left his duct-tape wrapped walking stick on the third floor of the city’s municipal building with his name, Kaboom, written on the side. The building was evacuated and a bomb squad was called.

What? Oh, no. Like it says, he’s not the Republican.

(Via Nancy Friedman.)

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Quote of the week

The Z Man says we’re now in a post-democracy world:

[T]he ruling elite conspires with and manipulates local elected officials into gaming the public, foiling them into being looted by the global elite. We think our elections are about arbitrating disputes between the ruling class over public policy. In reality they are festivals to keep the public busy so they don’t revolt against their leaders. The Greeks can have as many elections as they like, the results will not change. The turd sandwich is what they get. The English can vote Tory or Labour. The results will be the same.

If there is any doubt about this just look at American politics. The GOP ran against ObamaCare in 2010 and won a huge majority in the House. They spent the next two years trying to enfeeble the Tea Party movement, rather than halt ObamaCare. They won big again in 2014, capturing the Senate and a bigger majority in the House. So far they have managed to pass more of Obama’s agenda in six months than Reid and Pelosi did in six years.

Which, if nothing else, suggests that the Republican Party at the very top is indistinguishable from the Democratic Party at the very top: they evidently get their orders from the same place. This is called “bipartisanism,” which presumably sounds nicer than “collusion.”

In the authoritarian age, violent revolt was the check on the skimming class. The ruling families could only loot so much of the people’s wealth before they ran into dangerous resistance. In the democratic age, the ballot box forced the skimming class to compete for the public’s affection. Get on the wrong side of the voters and you ability to skim was diminished. In the global age, what will be the check on the skimming class?

There won’t be. The need to buy campaign ads — hell, the need to buy voters — will guarantee that politicians will kneel to the plutocrats for the foreseeable future.

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I could have told you that

In which Mike Huckabee, perhaps despite himself, lines up behind me, a mere 19 years after the fact. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional.


Meanwhile in Area 41

Jeb Bush is running for President, and I have had no trouble curbing my enthusiasm up to this point: “Read my lips,” I once said. “No more Bushes.” And indeed, a year and a half before the actual election, Jeb hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. What could change the electorate’s indifference? Will Truman makes the dark calculation:

I think he has a better chance than any other individual candidate, but if I were betting for or against him, I’d bet (lightly) against him.

Unless, that is, his father dies sometime between now and then. Which gets me to the point of this post. His father is somebody that it’s become kind of hard to say much negative about, generally speaking. Republicans see him as one of their own and from the Reagan era at that. Democrats see him as fundamentally different from the current lot of Republicans. It’s considered poor taste to speak ill of the just dead, but I think there will be less tongue-biting.

Which makes his father’s death, if it occurs between now and next November, a potentially important thing.

George H. W. Bush turns 91 next month. I say with all sincerity that I hope he makes it at least to 93.

(Side note: Typing “Bush 41” into the Wikipedia search box does indeed bring up the article for Papa George; “Bush 43” will do the same for W.)

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Reasons not to vote

Several have occurred to me over the years, including the fairly compelling “Why would I vote for any of these mooks?” And in this particular instance, there’s no arguing with Tam:

This was a municipal primary election: That is, where the members of the Republican and Democrat parties go and pick their candidates for the ballot in November’s general election. I am not a member of either party, and so I have no business weighing in on either party’s candidate selection process. Further (and I checked) there were no ballot questions such as “Do you want to get milked for more dough to support some useless project?” to which I could say “No.”

So apparently Hoosierville has a closed-primary system, which is fine with me; I lack the Machiavellian tendency to want to screw around with Those Other Guys when the primary is open. And I suppose there’s something to be said for the idea that even if you can’t vote for, you can always vote against.

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Too old for this

In which I bewail the state of the world while quoting both Karl Marx and Danny Glover. It’s a nasty job, but somebody has to do it.


Quick-ish study

Carly Fiorina’s campaign team whiffed early on, failing to secure the domain; it now belongs to a troll who’s using it to remind people of the massive layoffs during Fiorina’s tenure at Hewlett-Packard.

Apparently, however, she learns fast. The other night on Late Night with Seth Meyers:

When Meyers pointed out Fiorina’s mistake, she asked the host: “Do you know who owns”

“I do,” Fiorina said after Meyers noted he did not know. “I just bought it in the green room, actually.”

Watch the sequence here.

And of course, she’s making hay with it:

I am not quite awed, but certainly amused. (And I must point out that a dot-org domain from my host is only $9.95.)

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Definitely a Taipei personality

Next to this, kissing a girl was child’s play:

Popstar Katy Perry took the stage in Taipei this week in a glittery dress covered with sunflowers, which happen to be the emblem of Taiwan’s anti-China protests last year. She also draped herself in the flag of the Republic of China (Taiwan), a symbol of the island’s continued separation from China, and one that is allegedly so unpalatable to Beijing that it was pulled from the 2012 Olympic Games arena.

As Perry took the stage at the Taipei Arena in the politically-charged costume, some members of the crowd were “moved to tears,” the Taiwanese newspaper Liberty Times Net reported — though it is far from clear if she intended to make a political statement.

I mean, maybe she just likes sunflowers:

It is entirely possible that, like musician Kenny G at the Hong Kong protests, Perry just bumbled into a situation that could infuriate the Chinese government and affect her net income for the rest of her life. China is a huge market for concerts and album sales, and the government has banned artists in the past who “threaten national sovereignty.”

The sunflower dress is part of a recurring theme, as a fan noted a week before the Taiwan show, and Perry has performed with a “sunflower” microphone since at least last June, when she appeared in Raleigh, N.C. with backup singers dressed as sunflowers.

Left Shark was not available for comment.

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Quote of the week

Doug Mataconis, on why the 2016 presidential election is an exercise in futility:

Even if you’re not much of a “horse race” person, though, the 2016 election doesn’t give you much to look forward to. More so [than] ever in the past, we are going to see candidates and their supporters pushing out tightly crafted messages designed largely to appeal pander to the worst aspects of their base supporters Joining them will be the SuperPACs that will be pushing messages different from those of the campaigns themselves, and far more negative. This guarantees that there will be little serious discussion of the issues facing the nation, whether we’re talking about the economy, immigration, entitlements, tax policy, federal spending, the relationship between Washington, D.C. and the states, social issues, and foreign policy. Instead, we’ll get prepackaged slogans, exaggerated claims, over-the-top attacks on opponents, and of course stump speech after stump speech of meaningless flowery rhetoric. Both sides will argue that this is “the most important election ever” and that their opponent will bring doom and gloom to the nation. All of this will be covered breathlessly by the always-on political media, which now exists both on cable news networks and the Internet, to the point where it will be impossible for anyone to get away from it. It is enough to make one want to completely unplug, or perhaps retreat to a desert island.

Vanuatu, anyone?

Then again, this is inevitable in our current hyperpolitical culture:

To a significant degree, we live in a nation that is almost equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. One of the things this means is that even the most trivial differences between the two sides become exaggerated to the point where compromise becomes nearly impossible. Additionally, the fact that both sides generally spend most of their time sending messages to their own bases means that they feed into the hyperpartisanship that has been created by cable news, talk radio, and the Internet to the point where it all becomes a horrible, soul-sucking, self-sustaining entity. As long as that’s the case, it hardly matters who wins one election or the other, or which party controls Congress by a handful of seats, because the way the system works guarantees that the battle will continue until … well, that’s really the point. The way we fight political battles today, the only way either side can be happy is if the other side is utterly destroyed. That’s never going to happen, though. There will always be Republicans, Democrats, liberals, and conservatives. They used to be able to talk to each other, but now all they seem to do is yell at each other, and as a result we have a political system that is frustrating, annoying, tiresome, and so predictable that is utterly boring.

Some folks, largely Democrats, whine about “getting the money out of politics.” I’d be happy if they got the frigging politics out of politics.

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Scoobyus minimus

Most of the chatter about Hillary Clinton’s van trip has been about Chipotle and burritos and such, with hardly any attention paid to the Mystery Machine itself. Ronnie Schreiber has determined that it’s an Explorer Van, a conversion done on an existing Chevrolet chassis, and that it’s not exactly opulent:

While some of Mrs. Clinton’s critics have described the van as luxurious, and Explorer Van’s sales manager described it to me as a “loaded Limited SE model,” he also said that most of its products are used as family vehicles, not executive limousines.

A fully equipped Chevrolet-based Explorer Van runs about $66,000. You can configure your own Explorer Van and check out the standard features and options here. Considering how many of America’s moms are carpooling kids to school in $40-50K Lexus RXes and Audi Q5s, Hillary’s van hardly seems extravagant. She’s traveling comfortably I’m sure, but I’ve reviewed Audis and Jaguars that were more luxurious and exclusive.

Equipment? Meh:

Yes, it does have a decent sized flatscreen television, but it’s not anything close to sybaritic luxury. The seats are leather upholstered, but the second row has standard captain’s chairs and not the airliner first class style seats with footrests like you’d see in the back of long wheelbase luxury cars in China, the new Mercedes-Benz S600 Maybach, or in a Japanese domestic market executive van like the Toyota Alphard.

All of which would cost somewhere in six figures American. So if Mrs C is not exactly dead broke, she’s not living especially high on the hog while she’s on the road, which perhaps will reflect favorably on her: said Schreiber, “The fact that she’s a return customer for Explorer Vans humanizes her in my eyes, even if I may have some skepticism about political road trips.” The fancy stuff comes later.

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The fourth-idiot theory

So how about this Marco Rubio dude? The Z Man is not overly impressed:

After eight years of Obama, the GOP is convinced they must have a non-white at the top of their ticket. So much so Jeb Bush is ready to change his name to Juan Eduardo Arbusto. Since that’s not likely to fly, the GOP has Marco Rubio warming in the bullpen, ready to step in as their man for the nomination. Rubio has the added benefit of the immigrant’s back story. He’s a meat head, but charming with a good narrative to sell.

That’s the thing with Rubio. He’s basically a Cuban Sarah Palin. He’s not stupid, but he is not sitting around working physics problems in his free time either. He’s also a man of pedestrian tastes and sensibilities. Unlike Palin, he has the brown force field around him so no one dare call him stupid or even hint at it, for fear of being called a racist.

A good argument for None of the Above? Not as good as this is:

The last 25 years seem to prove that we could just do away with the office entirely. After all, if the last three idiots could not bring down the nation, the office must hold no power at all, relative to the rest of the country.

But watch that next step: it’s a doozy.

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Quote of the week

If “Why do all the candidates suck?” has crossed your mind of late, you might want to take a look in the nearest mirror:

Just as people like the semblance of getting a “real” glimpse into the Real Housewives of Wherever’s lives, we like the semblance of a genuinely approachable, relatable, human, real-keeping presidential candidate. But when the candidate says something a little too raw or real or sarcastic or even eccentric (as real people might) about abortion, or entitlements, or cronyism, or civil liberties, or foreign policy, we freak out.

When we have a choice between the more open, straight-talking candidate or the one that does everything through self-managed media so that they can control the message to the maximum conceivable degree, we go for the latter.

When we have a choice between uncomfortable substance and truth on the one hand, and reality or feel-good talking points and make-believe on the other, we reject the former.

When we have a choice between airbrushed images in magazines or seeing the way people actually look, we want the Photoshop.

When we have a choice between meeting people in real life, with all the potential awkwardness that might entail, or just sitting around texting and Facebook messaging, more and more, we seem to go for the “virtual.” We don’t want the sacrifices or pain entailed to really achieve; we prefer the comfort of telling ourselves that we are excelling, even when any objective analysis would show that is at best a half-truth. We don’t actually want reality, whether in our entertainment, our jobs, our education, our lives, or our politics. We just want something that kind of looks like it.

What’s that? You say we’re not like that at all? Too bad you missed President Santorum. Or Sanders. Or any of those folks we were told are “unelectable” for whatever reason.

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Inauthenticity is everything

Victor Davis Hanson seems puzzled that Hillary Clinton is even running for President:

Mrs. Clinton has neither a past record that she is proud to run on nor support for an Obama administration tenure that she will promise to continue. She is not a good speaker and has a disturbing habit of switching accents in amateurish attempts to mimic regional or racial authenticity. She accentuates her points by screaming in shrill outbursts, and dismisses serious questions by chortling for far too long. She is deaf to human cordiality, has a bad temper, and treats subordinates with haughty disdain.

So she’s an utterly disagreeable individual. Since when is that a disqualifier in Washington? The electorate claims to want Nice People, but there’s little evidence to support the idea that they’ll actually vote for any.

(Via Fishersville Mike.)

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Tehran of things

The Z Man contemplates the proto-deal with Iran:

Even the parties to the deal are at odds over what is in the deal. They only agree that the deal is an agreement to strike a deal at some point in the future. The Americans take this to mean “soon,” while the Iranians have no understanding of the concept. Persia, in one form or another, has been around for five thousand years. “Soon” is measured in decades.

That has not stopped the 24×7 clown show that is the American media from having a food fight over the deal to make a deal. The Progressives are hailing the deal as the greatest achievement of man since the wheel. Conservative Inc. is condemning the deal and calling Obama Chamberlain. They have a Nazi fetish, comparing every Muslim with a bad attitude to Hitler. I watched a bit of Fox yesterday and it was clear that none of them knew more than my cat about this deal, but they were certain they were right.

However, at least one projected outcome is practically guaranteed:

The fact that every energy firm on earth is lining up to make a deal with the mullahs says the sanctions are sure to be lifted, no matter what Iran does or does not do. Western governments are the tools of their rich people and their business interests. Western business loves groveling to despots. It is their natural state.

That I don’t doubt in the least: business has, or at least has persuaded itself that it has, needs sufficiently urgent that just waiting around for government to address them would be tragic, or at least less profitable.


Arithmetic, how does it work?

It seems to work better for some than for others:

Emmanuel Goldstein wonders who these Koch Brothers are.

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Mrs. Cleaver is not impressed

There are, contrary to at least one popular stereotype, some decent folks in the public sector, but you don’t hear quite as much about them:

While there are wise and good men and women holding office — and an awful lot of hard-working minor functionaries making the wheels go ’round on meager pay and less respect, embedded with the time-servers, no-hopers and don’t-carers who make bureaucracy a bother — most of government is dominated by the same Eddie Haskell types, snobs, hollow suits and authority addicts who ran student government back in High School. They are the lowest common denominator, and any sufficiently large enterprise will sink to just that. They are supposed to be uplifting my morals and yours, too? Really?

All I need add is this:

Beaver: How come Eddie’s such a creepy guy?

Wally: He works at it.

It’s a talent, sort of.

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Policy wonks may be excused

In fact, they may be escorted to the border and left there:

[W]hat’s a non-politico to do during election season? Here’s an idea: Escape to Oklahoma, the best state to get away from the political circus.

Oklahomans consistently rank near the bottom on a variety of measures of political obsession — or engagement, depending on your perspective. Only two states saw a smaller share of eligible voters cast ballots in 2012, and just seven states had a smaller share of residents registered to vote, according to census data. People in Oklahoma were 10th most likely to say they never vote in local elections, 11th most likely to say they infrequently discuss politics with family and friends, and 14th most likely to say they don’t express their political or community opinions online, according to data collected by the census in 2013.

A major benefit of this disengagement:

You won’t just be avoiding conversations about the presidential election in Oklahoma, you’ll also be shielded from campaign ads. During the seven months leading up to the 2012 election, the major parties spent just $1,300 on ads in the state, according to FairVote, a nonprofit that promotes fair elections.

There are people who truly believe that there is no higher calling than politics. In this state, there is no higher calling than making banana splits at Braum’s, and we don’t give a flying feather about the machinations of those retards at 23rd and Lincoln or of the criminals in the District of Columbia: worthless, the lot of them. And you think we’re going to get out the vote for such pinheads? Life is too short to encourage people who can’t even make proper banana splits.

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Marginal improvements

Any human endeavor which requires spending money eventually reaches a point of diminishing returns, and health care is no different:

Health care reached the point of diminishing returns about fifty years ago. 100 years ago America spent 3% of GDP on health care and people lived to about 60. Today we spend about 15% on health care and people live to about 80. A good portion of that increase in life expectancy is due to better food and less violence. It is axiomatic that as things like health care improve, the cost of further improvement escalates. The marginal return on investment declines.

Getting people to about 100 would cost — what, 75% of GDP? Inevitably there will be some starry-eyed character who cries “But you can’t put a price on people’s lives!” Sure you can. In fact, it’s the only thing you can do, inasmuch as the money tree in the back yard is not producing.

I figure everything that threatens me on a regular basis — blood-sugar anomalies, hypertension, osteoarthritis, Al Gore — will be gone shortly after I am. However, I don’t even want to imagine the price tag for any one of those developments.

Then again, we do know how to do health care right. We just don’t:

America has the greatest health care system on earth. It is super cheap, with lots of options and a high degree of customer satisfaction. It is called veterinary medicine. American pets get better health care than 95% of the world population for pennies. The reason is there are few barriers to suppliers so there are many options along the price curve. There’s also incentives to innovate. My Vet has world class lab equipment because it helps attract business.

On the other hand, few pets live to 100 or 80 or even 60.

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Quote of the week

Governor Pence has already signed it, but this is what one of his constituents thought about it:

The Religious Freedom law wending its way to the Indiana Governor’s desk should have been easy for the Legislature to write. All they had to do is dig up some of the Jim Crow laws from the Deep and not so Deep South one hundred years ago.

One of his commenters elaborates:

I’m tired of people filing lawsuits because some dumbass narrow-minded idiot uses a religious reason to deny service to someone who violates their sense of right and wrong. The dumbass narrow-minded idiot has a right to his opinion, and the last I looked his business wasn’t owned by the government. A normal person thus dismissed would simply nod and walk away, and make it clear to everyone he met that the dumbass narrow-minded idiot was a bigot and should be boycotted out of business. That’s his right, too. Then the free market can take over and either the shop stays in business or goes out of business, depending on what the market thinks.

The lawyers who dominate legislatures, however, have thoroughly imbued the American public with the notion that anybody should sue anyone anytime over anything, down to and apparently including mere butthurt.

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1600 and all that

Mister, we could use a man like Calvin Coolidge again:

I want to see — just once! — a competent Chief Executive, someone who appoints the various Directors and Cabinet members on the basis of ability, not on how much money they donated, how stalwart a partisan they are or even plain chumship. I want a President who’ll hold ’em to account and send them packing if they screw up.

I don’t care if he or she is any good at giving speeches. I don’t care if the rest of the world loves them or hates them. I don’t care about the President’s age, ugliness, gender, ethnic background, marital status or religion. I’m hoping not for a hawk or a dove but for someone who is slow to anger and measured but decisive in action, who acts only when action is truly necessary.

The problem, of course, is that someone meeting this general description isn’t likely to run for high office: (s)he knows the primaries are going to be filled up with knaves and fools and such, and those who would be power brokers are attracted to those individuals and to no others.

A pertinent Coolidge quote, from an address he gave in Baltimore in 1924, at the dedication of a monument to Lafayette:

Great changes have come over the world since Lafayette first came here desirous of aiding the cause of freedom. His efforts in behalf of an American republic have been altogether successful. In no other country in the world was economic opportunity for the people ever so great as it is here. In no other country was it ever possible in a like degree to secure equality and justice for all. Just as he was passing off the stage, the British adopted their reform measures giving them practically representative government. His own France has long since been welcomed into the family of republics. Many others have taken a like course. The cause of freedom has been triumphant. We believe it to be, likewise, the cause of peace. But peace must have other guarantees than constitutions and covenants. Laws and treaties may help, but peace and war are attitudes of mind.

That “shining city on a hill” business still works, if we work to maintain its light. Otherwise, darkness spreads, and not the romantic sort with the full moon and the gentle breezes either.

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Heaven on earth and other jokes

Various outcroppings of what is occasionally called “progressivism” are perhaps best understood as religions without all that tedious God business. There is, however, one distinct difference:

One of the things about these Rousseau-ist cults is they always end up handing power to the worst elements in their cult. From The Reign of Terror forward the pattern has always been the same. The movement grows increasingly fanatical until control is in the hands of psychotic lunatics.

The reason for this is that utopian religions have no natural limit. There’s no line that reads, “This is enough.” Christianity has those lines. Judaism has those lines. Once you do certain things, show you believe certain things, you are pious enough. Built into the religion is an upper bound and a caution about trying to go beyond it. The Catholic Church burned more than a few heretics for trying to immanentize eschaton.

In Rousseau-ist cults, no such limit exists. They are premised on the firm belief that there is a way to arrange things just the right way to create heaven on earth. They don’t call it that, but the echos are there in discussion of health care or poverty programs, for example. Obama spent three years talking about his plan to have more people on government health services while also lowering the cost, a mathematical impossibility.

And it’s inextricably bound up with a political impossibility: everyone, with the possible exception of Ted Cruz, has pretty much decided that reducing the number of people on government health services, irrespective of cost savings, can’t be allowed to happen, because optics. Do not wait by your window for the postman to bring you word that the ACA has been repealed: it will not happen. This bothers me less than the idea that the next scheme by the Rosseauvians — and there’s always a next scheme — will be something much, much worse.

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