Archive for Political Science Fiction

A mayor to be named later

“It’s been pretty steady,” said an official at the precinct when I arrived to cast my ballot for Mayor of Oklahoma City. The place was empty at the time, so it must have been steadily slow. Ballot #169 went into the box at almost precisely 5 pm. I’ve seen worse, but not much worse.

(For those keeping score: we use paper ballots, optically scanned. I don’t think anyone in this town would prefer that fancy computerized stuff.)

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You call this conservative?

“Right,” if you include the political sense of the word, has two meanings. Leaders, and I use the term loosely, on the political right, recognize only the one:

The right simply instinctively says and does the binary, polar opposite of the left. The right does not operate from principle or position but from its own mob’s instincts and from dumb cultural inertia. The right has no idea what conservatism is and by now actually actively rejects much of the founding structural architecture, preferring a list of statism a mile long.

May we see that list?

Federal “social security” and MediCare/Aid medicine plus prescription drug plans; the nearly $1T welfare state as some permanent, arbitrary, political, “safety net” percentage of all expenditures; central schooling, the two-income household, and the resultant progressive national morality as a component of the former; a NASA fetish — which is socialism for scientists; personal income tax as “skin in the game”; untaxed corporatism and the central corporate oligarchy that studies show has nullified the individual’s voice in Congress in favor of laws actually written by its lobbyists; overt congressional graft and campaign recklessness — calling it “free speech”; central banking and the casino bank — the “investment bank” is its sanctified, pro-“capitalism” title; the holy primacy of the stock market, which really is stock buybacks and incredible Fed subsidies, along with algo trading, HTFs, and elite market access; the utter, cross-linked abyss of financial derivatives built thereon; progressive monetary policy, fractional reserve — because “there’s not enough money” — fiat reserve currency, and monetizing everything; the petro-dollar; endless foreign entanglements; militarism and military expansionism; the industrial war complex; military and war culture fetishism; veterans culture and its socialized expenses; militarized police, the surveillance state and sacrificing 4A for “safety”; and instinctively identifying about half of tax-funded public servants as HEE-roes because they wear a uniform.

And with the Right now occupying the Left’s territory, where is the Left going?


Walter Duranty! thou shouldst be living at this hour.

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Upright citizen

News Item: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi staged a record-breaking, eight-hour speech Wednesday in hopes of pressuring Republicans to allow a vote on protecting “Dreamer” immigrants — and to demonstrate to increasingly angry progressives and Democratic activists that she has done all she could.

When I heard about this, the first thing that crossed my mind — well, besides “Since when does the House have a filibuster?” — was “Does Nancy Pelosi even own a pair of flats?” I mean, she’s not going out there in really high heels at the age of 77, but I can’t imagine her in Birks either.

Found on photographer Erin Schaff’s Instagram, taken for The New York Times, a shot of the Minority Leader’s shoes:

The shoes Nancy Pelosi wore to give her 8-hour Dreamers speech

Four inches, right? I mean, seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in flats.

(Via Heather Barmore.)

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Is this a trend?

Received so far, stuck to the front door: two candidate pitches, presumably left by the candidates themselves or their surrogates. They’re for different offices: one for Oklahoma County Commissioner District 1, one for Senate Distict 40, and they’re both four inches by nine inches. Both candidates are fairly young women: the older of the two might be 45, maybe. Both have Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and Web sites. What they don’t have, apparently, is party affiliation, which is kept sprucely out of sight in all these places.

I’m assuming they’re Democrats, for two reasons:

  1. The Republican majority is so large at the moment that it’s practically the default, suggesting that they’d be fine if someone thought they were Republicans;
  2. After a decade in a half in this precinct, I have learned that GOP candidates seldom come calling, while Democrats always do.

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Effacing the Prince

Severian’s notes on stability, or the absence thereof:

The Founding Fathers knew their Machiavelli. By making the “nobles” nothing more than members of “the people” temporarily elevated to power, they hoped to prevent the kind of political instability that has always led to anarchy, then tyranny.

Here again, this works in a rough frontier society, with power jealously guarded at the lowest practical level by men who have skin in the game. Once the government centralizes past a certain point, however, most of its functions aren’t handled by elected officials, but by career bureaucrats (as Machiavelli himself was). You can stave off the inevitable consequences of this for a little while with good old fashioned machine politics, where most civil service jobs are handed out as rewards for party loyalty and thus turn over every election cycle, but the Pendleton Act squashed that. The result is all around you: Rule by unelected, unaccountable career bureaucrats.

Which leads to a crisis of legitimacy. As Hobbes said back in Part I, “the power of the mighty hath no other foundation, but in the opinion and belief of the people.” Princes have the trappings of aristocracy to firm up the people’s belief; elected officials have the “dignity of office.” Career bureaucrats have neither. Neither ancient ritual nor political philosophy will ever convince the majority of people to obey them.

Which is how allegedly peaceful organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency wound up with their very own SWAT Teams.

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Pocket now better lined

Anyone who listened to the yammering — “debate” just doesn’t describe it — over the Trump administration’s insistence on a tax cut of some sort would be eminently justified in asking “Yeah? How much?”

I clearly don’t know how you did, but here’s how I came out. Despite my allegedly lofty position on the org chart, I am paid on an hourly basis. Over the past two years, I’ve cut those hours back somewhat, from 94 or so every other week to more like 84. The first order of business, therefore, was to find a pay period pre-Trump that, in terms of hours and bennies, matches my first post-Trump check. Only had to go back to October ’17. The difference in take-home: $32.05. Over a year’s time, this comes to $833. One could legitimately say that this is not a huge sum. On t’other hand, it’s more than my house payment. (Keep in mind that I have yet to see a proper Form 1040 or its instructions.)

The (at one time) Loyal Opposition has pointed out that these cuts, as enacted, will expire in ten years. Then again, I can reasonably expect to expire in ten years, if not sooner.

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We’ll be Dahmed

District 33 Senator Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) seeks to replace Jim Bridenstine, nominated by President Trump to be the next administrator of NASA, as 1st District Congressman. The most likely result, I’m thinking, is that rather a lot of Dahm’s proposed legislation will be dug out of the archives, including the Piers Morgan Constitutional Right to Keep and Bear Arms Without Infringement Act, which, if nothing else, got him an invitation to appear on Morgan’s CNN TV series, canceled shortly thereafter, presumably for non-Dahm-related reasons.

Then there’s this year’s SB 1457, which reads as follows:


SECTION 1. AMENDATORY 29 O.S. 2011, Section 7-204, is amended to read as follows:

Section 7-204. All wildlife found in this state is the property of the state Almighty God. The people of the State of Oklahoma place the authority to manage all wildlife pursuant to the Oklahoma

SECTION 2. This act shall become effective November 1, 2018.

Almighty God has not yet commented on this measure, but if I were Nathan Dahm, I might want to stay away from thunderstorms, especially if they’re packing lots of lightning.

(Via Bridget Trowbridge.)

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Lest we miss one single voter

The state came up with a decent idea a few years back: tag agents would ask each license customer “Are you registered to vote?” Upon receipt of a negative response, they would then offer to register the customer on the spot.

That deal wasn’t quite good enough for Rep. Mickey Dollens (D-OKC), who hopes to turn it into a negative-option scheme: we will register you unless you tell us not to.

Pertinent passage:

F. The Secretary of the State Election Board shall develop a system by which the Department of Public Safety and motor license agents shall provide to the Secretary electronic records containing the legal name, age, residence, citizenship information and the electronic signature of each person who is a qualified elector or will be a qualified elector within the next two (2) years.

G. Upon receiving the electronic record for and electronic signature of a qualified elector or a person who will become a qualified elector within the next two (2) years, the Secretary shall provide the information to the county election board of the county in which the person may be registered or preregistered as a qualified elector. The Secretary or county election board shall notify each person of the process to:

    1. Decline being registered as a qualified elector; or

    2. Adopt a political party affiliation.

H. If a person notified under subsection G of this section does not decline to be registered as an elector within twenty-one (21) calendar days after the Secretary of State or county clerk issues the notification, the person’s electronic record and electronic signature submitted under subsection F of this section shall constitute a completed registration card for the person for purposes of this section. The person shall be registered to vote if the county election board determines that the person is a qualified elector and the person is not already registered to vote.

I. A county election board shall not send a ballot to, or add to an elector registration list, a person who meets eligibility requirements until at least twenty-one (21) calendar days after the Secretary or county election board provided notification to the person as described in subsection G of this section.

I’m not so sure I like this plan. Negative-option schemes bring back memories of Columbia House and remembering (or, more often, not remembering) to decline the current month’s selection.

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The man who would be Governor

BatesLine heard Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett on the radio in Tulsa, to the extent that one can actually hear an empty suit:

Jamison Faught at Muskogee Politico has posted about the pro-Cornett super-PAC, whose major donor was Sue Ann Arnall, oilman Harold Hamm’s ex-wife. Arnall was a major donor to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and has been a generous contributor to other Democrats. Campbell asked Cornett to explain why a Clinton backer would be such an enthusiastic advocate for him; Cornett gave a rambling non-answer.

Asked about what he specifically did as mayor of Oklahoma City, Cornett described himself as a “chief spokesperson,” for Oklahoma City, “traveling the world” to talk about the city. Cornett cited no policies or initiatives for which he was responsible. He sounded like a Convention and Visitors Bureau spokesperson, which is probably the job he should be seeking.

One could argue — I certainly would — that this is what OKC actually wanted from him during his four terms as Mayor. (No one else has served more than three.) Then again, OKC is relatively prosperous these days, and the level of scandal at City Hall is fairly low; no one, excepting possibly Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid, is sounding much of an alarm. By comparison, state government, by almost anyone’s reckoning, is buried in deep doo-doo, and Cornett’s shovel is mostly ceremonial.

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The view from 87

House District 87, where I’ve lived since 2003, has been getting bluer all the time; after a long line of Republicans, the district elected Democrat Collin Walke in 2016.

Walke didn’t raise a great deal of fuss during last year’s session. This year he has bigger plans:

State Rep. Collin Walke was among the first representatives out of the gate with new legislation. This session he will push to raise Oklahoma’s minimum wage to $11 per hour. The current state minimum wage is tied to the federal wage of $7.25.

Pretty much de rigueur for Democrats nationally. But this other measure is distinctly different:

Walke, D-Oklahoma City, also wants to alter the process for introducing bills. House Bill 2535 would require legislators to disclose the source for legislative language, whether it be a state official, agency or organization. Lawmakers commonly use language borrowed from other state statutes or build their own proposals from model legislation endorsed by national policy groups.

Would this law also reveal non-governmental sources? If Larry Nichols of Devon Energy dictated a bill to a House staffer, would we know?

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Can you dig them?

Holes are in the news these days for some inscrutable reason:

How about the countries maligned by Trump — El Salvador, Haiti, and countries in Africa? In El Salvador, La Prensa Gráfica renders it as agujeros de mierda, “holes of shit” (or “shit holes”), but in the headline made it agujeros de mier.., which is like putting shi…holes. I’m sure their consideration for the delicate eyes of their readers was appreciated; they could all pretend he said Wednesday holes (agujeros de miércoles) and imagine the accent on the e. (There’s really no other Spanish word that mier… could stand for.)

In Haiti, of course, the description would be in French:

In Haiti, if you look in Le Nouvelliste, you will find it rendered as trou de merde, which is literal. But the French word trou is a more all-purpose word than Spanish agujero; it can also mean “pit”, “grave”, “mouth”, and — yes — “insignificant town”. (As it happens, though, trou de merde can be found in French literature — all the way back in Rabelais — meaning “asshole”.)

Curiously, the niftiest variation on this theme comes from a non-maligned country:

[N]o one can quite top the Croatians for this. It’s not that their best word translates exactly to shithole or Bumfuck nowhere. It almost does it better (although Google Translate does render it as “shithole”). It’s vukojebina, and it means “the place wolves fuck” — or, if we were to make a real equivalent English place name, something like Wolffuckington or Wolf-fuck-ville. (Birds may not lay eggs there and dogs may not shit there, but the wolves? They get busy.)

Which should insure a steady supply of wolves for the next millennium or so. And if nothing else, this is a dandy illustration of how Donald Trump, whether he wants to be or not, is a source of inspiration to us all.

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Does this door revolve?

Ben Cardin, senior Senator from Maryland since 2007, has been just what you’d have expected from the senior Senator from Maryland: he departs from present-day Democratic orthodoxy only on special occasions. Environmentalists complained when Cardin, then working on a bill to clean up Chesapeake Bay, reached across the aisle to work with James Inhofe (R-OK), whom they consider an enemy. And whatever Middle Eastern distraction the rest of his party might be fidget-spinning, Cardin has generally stuck by Israel.

But Cardin will be seventy-five this fall, and his term is up. Will he retire?

“Everything that I am planning to do would indicate that I am, but I’m not gonna make any announcements yet,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.)… “I’m gonna campaign based upon what I think is consistent with my record and a strategy to win elections.”

That said, there’s already a candidate to fill Cardin’s seat, and I’d expect her to be at least as far to the left as Cardin:

Manning has plenty of name recognition, but not all of it is positive name recognition. If Ben Cardin decides not to run for another term, this race will be worth watching simply to see what sort of arguments opponents will trot out against her. I have to figure, though, that in blue-to-ultraviolet Maryland, violations of the Espionage Act aren’t any big deal, so long as they’re not committed by Republicans.

Addendum: Manning’s first campaign video:

Now I’m wondering if Ben Cardin will stay in just to thwart her.

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The E-word

That word is “Empörungsgesellschaft,” and David Warren is at least somewhat happy to explain it:

We might wish to translate this term simply, as “outrage society,” and that would get us, superficially, near. But the pregnant ambiguities on either side of the fused appellations conduct a lot of electricity through the matrix, in the absence of a circuit-breaking hyphen.

From what I can make out, the new E-word assumes the floundering of the Fourth Estate (or “legacy” journalism) before the invasive “fifth force” of social media. Crazy bloggers, twitterers, facebooklings, and so forth, are able to impinge upon the public consciousness in new and historically unprecedented ways. “Facts” are concocted to order, and subsequent “fact-checks” are concocted, too; opponents thus label each other constantly as liars. Discussion of every topic is politicized, in the lynch-mob spirit of shrieking moral outrage. The old-fashioned newsman’s criterion of “relevance” is replaced by cross-links to imaginary events and conspiracy theories. Attention is suddenly focused on the most unlikely details. The Internet itself is configured to encourage bizarre confirmation subcultures; users can funnel a round-the-clock supply of whatever “information” might please them. This provides them with a Wundpflaster against their aching kognitive Dissonanz. All public policy must be determined not only in live time, but in the full knowledge that at any moment, anyone can become the object of a Scheiße-Sturm (“shit-storm”).

If this fifth force ever achieves the status of an Estate, we are thoroughly boned.

(Via American Digest.)

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2, 4, 6, 8, let us go and reinflate

So far as I can tell, the Venezuelan bolívar fuerte is worth 100 céntimos, and one céntimo is worth nothing. President Maduro has now made it more so:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced a 40 percent increase to the minimum wage as of January, a move that will foment what many economists already consider hyperinflation in the oil-rich but crisis-stricken nation.

What’s 40 percent of nothing?

Venezuelans will now earn some 797,510 bolívars a month, factoring in food tickets, or just over $7 on the widely used black market index. Millions will still be unable to afford three meals a day, while the increase is likely to stoke inflation further. Prices went up 1,369 percent between January and November, according to figures released earlier this month by the opposition-led Congress, which estimated the 2017 rate would top 2,000 percent. The Venezuelan government no longer publishes inflation data on a regular basis.

Of course not. They can’t print it fast enough to keep up.

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You were expecting maybe Blogger?, the official Web site of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, has changed its underpinnings:

Eight years ago, the Obama administration chose an open-source content management system to power the website. In 2017, the Trump administration also chose an open-source CMS, albeit a different one from what has been in use since 2009.

In October 2009, the open-source Drupal CMS was chosen to power the website, a move that was heralded at the time as a big win for both Drupal and open source. With relatively little fanfare, the website was relaunched on Dec. 15 using a WordPress CMS, instead of Drupal.

Why go through that sort of change? Some say it’s money:

According to a report in the Washington Examiner, the move to WordPress is all about cost saving, with the relaunched site saving U.S. taxpayers an estimated $3 million a year.

The distinguished developer and “open-sourceror” Snipe isn’t buying that explanation:

The decision for the whitehouse to move from Drupal to WordPress makes no sense. No money is saved, and more likely they will end up using insecure WP plugins (or risky defaults) which will increase the threat profile.

I’m also not buying the money-saving explanation, but I’m thinking purely politically here: the Trumpians wanted to toss Drupal because the Obama administration picked Drupal. No other reason is necessary.

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The worst to be assumed

In this post-historical age, where getting the facts right takes second (maybe third) place to the maintenance of convenient fictions, historian Robert Conquest (1917-2015) is probably best known for his Three Laws of Politics:

1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.

2. Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.

3. The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

To Sheila O’Malley, Dr Conquest is a true hero:

Here’s the post I wrote when he died. Conquest was a very important part of my political education, along with other “apostates” like George Orwell, Rebecca West and Arthur Koestler. I have no political “ideology.” Not really. I distrust ideology. I distrust Orthodoxy. I distrust GROUPS. I’m great at parties! If I had a political “ideology” it would be something along the lines of the Hippocratic Oath, I guess. But the one constant in my sparse personal political system is that Man should never be trusted with power. Neither should Woman. Either. Neither should be trusted with power. Ever. I mean, that’s basically it. Let the chips fall where they may, and we will spend our lives making messes and then cleaning them up, but that’s the only place to start. Don’t trust ANYONE with the keys to the castle. No one is immune to corruptibility. And those who present as “incorruptible” are often the WORST. Keep your wits about you. Idolize no one. Distrust anyone who speaks of Utopias, especially political Utopias. Conquest is one of the ones who taught me that.

Greatest regret, from my point of view: an updated version of Conquest’s book The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties did not come out with the title I Told You So, You Fucking Fools. (Conquest didn’t actually suggest that title — old friend Kingsley Amis came up with it — but I’m sure he would have endorsed it.)

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Perm Rep

It’s too long to fit on her business cards, but this is Nikki Haley’s official title: “Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, and Representative of the United States of America in the Security Council of the United Nations.” You may address her as “Madam Ambassador,” and by “you” I mean this worthless little slimeball.

Rather a lot of globalist panties were rendered into a wad by Haley’s mic-drop in front of the General Assembly last week, which has had some Republican pundits starting to speculate as to her chances in further domestic elective office. I think this is way premature. But I have to admit, it’s fun to think so, especially when you consider some of the GOP back-benchers who will try to claw their way into the public eye. None will be as easy on the eye as Nikki Haley.

Nikki Haley meets with the Israelis

Nikki Haley surrounded by books

Nikki Haley at the podium

Nikki Haley at Women In the World

Her 2012 autobiography, Can’t is Not an Option, I have not yet read, but I have no reason to think it’s a cut above the usual political palaver; the one review I’ve seen, by Vani Saraswathi in The Hindu, dismissed it thusly: “It is obviously not meant for a wider audience. It is clearly for her vote bank.” Which describes almost all such books, actually.

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Status thimbles

Oregon Muse ranted yesterday morning on AoSHQ:

“It’s pretty funny when feminists stamp their feet and demand their safe spaces from guys whistling and catcalling them, because they’re not telling you what they really want. What they really want is not to be whistled at and catcalled by unattractive guys. In other words, they want a world where they can flirt and sexually banter with alpha male sports stars and multi-millionaires, but the lowly office geek who dares ask any of them out on a date will feel the full force of the law landing on them.”

Along those lines, Robert Stacy McCain recounts the saga of Matt Lauer:

His public image was as one of the “good guys,” a liberal in good standing, beloved by millions of adoring female viewers — and yet he was a serial harasser, a guy who had a “ape button” installed in his desk so he could lock his office door by remote control whenever he wanted to get jiggy with a female colleague. How many years did this go on, and why did no one at NBC complain? Because he was high status, that’s why. Whatever women might say about Lauer now that he’s been exposed, at the time all these shenanigans were going on, women at NBC were quite flattered to have Lauer make a move on them. A handsome multimillionaire TV star? You know the interns who fetched his coffee were bragging to their friends if Lauer ever flirted with them.

Amy Winehouse, rest her soul, knew this was coming:

Fearless to the last, she chose to bestow this advice on the half of the species that needed it more: her own.

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We put the “smug” in “smuggler”

The only possible surprise here is that anyone would be surprised at this:

When I was in Nashville last summer, a friend asked me to bring him home five cartons of cigarettes. In some parts of the country there is as much tobacco smuggling going on as cannabis. NYC just raised the minimum price for a pack of cigarettes to $13.00. The average price of a pack of cigarettes in Kentucky is $4.52. My Honda Fit gets about 38 mpg on the highway. That’s about 20 gallons from Lexington to NYC, about $50. Do the math.

Math done. Five cartons = 50 packs = $226 in Kentucky plus $100, um, transportation costs, versus $650 in NYC. For that $650 it would be possible to buy twelve cartons in Kentucky and still get the large fries at lunch.

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Yeah, that would make one tired of politics:

Back when I was in high school I had a civics teacher who exhorted us to learn about the issues facing our community, state, nation, world, so that come election time we could make informed decisions. Well, that’s great, except once you start looking into an issue you find it is more complicated than it originally appeared, so you dig a little deeper hoping to get to the truth of the matter. But you never do, because there is no bottom to these things. It’s kind of like archaeology. The more you dig, the more you uncover and the more you find that your initial impression was wrong.

That was 50 years ago when the world was a simpler place. Actually it wasn’t, it’s just that since then we have added umpteen layers of spin doctoring. Issues are now so obscured with purple bullshit that there is no getting to the bottom of anything anymore.

Still, it remains possible to tell if a politician is lying to you. (Check for the moving lips.)

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Cut tax with an axe

The various versions of the GOP’s new tax scheme have not won overwhelming popularity. (I’m not keen on it, though it would be worth $1200 or so to me in the first year; all they did was shuffle a deck of tax breaks, and the new tax code is no simpler than the old one.) Why, then, are they so insistent on getting this passed? An actual political scientist of my acquaintance explains it in fewer than 280 characters:

The only one of these I’d question is #2: since when is the Republican Party concerned with the desires of its base?

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Less is Moore

Dave Schuler (from Chicagoland) points out the following lessons of the Alabama special election:

1. Don’t chase after girls half your age.

2. Don’t even be open to the charge that you’ve chased 14 year old girls.

3. The bad or just dumb things you’ve done in the distant past can come back to haunt you, even if you’ve been given a pass on them for 30 years.

4. Don’t support a bad candidate for strategic reasons.

5. Don’t double down on your support for a bad candidate for strategic reasons.

6. There are some boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed even in presumably rock-solid states.

Anent item number two, Randy Newman says:

They say that money
Can’t buy love in this world
But it’ll get you a half-pound of cocaine
And a sixteen-year-old girl
And a great big long limousine
On a hot September night
Now that may not be love
But it’s all right

Newman wrote that at thirty-five, which strikes me as an age when you might take entirely too much interest in teenagers. Not that I’d know anything about that, of course.

The rule for robbing the cradle, as I learned it in the Deep South, was a minimum of half your age plus seven years. If your eye is on a 14-year-old girl, you need to be, um, at least 14. Damn math.

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Magnifico Giganticus, redux

The Wikipedian began his tale this way:

The Mule is a fictional character from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. One of the greatest conquerors the galaxy has ever seen, he is a mentalic who has the ability to reach into the minds of others and “adjust” their emotions, individually or en masse, using this capability to conscript individuals to his cause. Not direct mind-control per se, it is a subtle influence of the subconscious; individuals under the Mule’s influence behave otherwise normally — logic, memories, and personality intact. This gives the Mule the capacity to disrupt [Hari] Seldon’s plan by invalidating Seldon’s assumption that no single individual could have a measurable effect on galactic socio-historical trends on their own, due to the plan relying on the predictability of the actions of very large numbers of people.

Were it not for that word “subtle,” I think this contemporary comparison might actually have worked:

Maybe these guys figured they could clever their way out [of] some embarrassment by maneuvering Trump into appointing a special prosecutor. Then he and his people would not get too curious about this stuff as no one dares take on a special prosecutor. They just assumed Trump would be like a normal politician and roll over for them. Instead, Trump is banging away at them. Suddenly we have serious people saying Trump should fire Mueller and bring in someone fresh.

Back when Trump started running in the primary, I started calling him The Mule, after the character in the Asimov novel. For two years now, everyone who has dared to take on Trump has been blown to bits, usually by their own hand. It is quite remarkable. The arc of the Trump political career is littered with the obituaries of people who foolishly challenged him. The fact that Trump has maneuvered all of the main actors into the same box now, suggests he may have been way ahead of these guys all along.

I can believe that more easily than I can that business about, oh, four-dimensional chess.

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That pesky tax bill

I don’t think much of it, personally; it tosses out some tax breaks and replaces them with others, which is not what I was wanting done, since it simplifies the Tax Code not a whit. This was inevitable, of course, since what Congress values above all else is the power to buy votes through the Treasury.

That said, this is the best possible outcome:

I predict that if the final bill to emerge from the conference committee is reasonably close to the one passed by the Senate, there will be an increase in the rate of American economic growth that will add substantially to federal revenues. I also predict that no matter what those revenues might be, Congress will overspend them, adding to the national debt.

There’s no amount of money that can’t be overspent. Congress’s fatal power:

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

… amplified to infinity by the Federal Reserve system, guarantees it. The object of any particular expenditure will be the exercise of an anti-Constitutional power nine times out of ten. Yet no court will rule against such an exertion of power.

And no Congress will vote for an actual cut in spending, no matter what its members may have “promised” in the campaign.

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I, deficit hawk

Social media these days are dominated by three words. If we had a lick of sense, we would put those words to some actual work instead of having to wallow in virtue-signaling.

Hence this proposal. Use of the word “hate” should be charged to the user at $1.00 per utterance, proceeds to go to the United States Treasury.

Charge $2.00 for “fascist” and $2.50 for “Nazi,” and the national debt will be gone in two years. Count on it.

Possible side effect: Some people whose vocabulary extends no farther might actually have to leave the country. Like that’s a problem.

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Quote of the week

Nary a statesman in the bunch, says Mike Hendrix:

When was the last time you heard any of these contemptible cretins referred to as a “statesman”? The very idea of comparing any of the villainous poltroons currently in Congress to, say, James Madison, James Monroe, or, for that matter, Peter Muhlenberg of the first Federal Congress is risible on its face. The kind of people drawn these days to “serve” in Congress couldn’t be trusted to walk your damned dog. You certainly wouldn’t dream of hiring them to babysit your daughter, even for five minutes.

The profligate treachery and self-serving arrogance of John McCain; the addled witlessness of Maxine Waters; the complete mendacity and dishonesty of Nancy Pelosi; the smug double-dealing of Harry Reid; the slimy disingenuousness of Mitch “Yertle” McTurtle — these aren’t exactly ringing endorsements of the caliber of people in charge of government in the modern era. Some of them — most, probably — might be vain and presumptuous enough to think they’d fare well in a comparison to the true statesmen of an earlier age. But that only adds “delusional” to the litany of their inadequacy.

The character traits of those attracted to national elective office effectively guarantee that they’ll be the very type of person we wouldn’t want there. An overblown sense of self-importance; a desire to lord it over others, and an unswerving belief in their competence to do so; a monstrously and unjustly inflated ego; a mania for attention and affirmation; a near-sociopathic lack of interest in the needs or desires of other people; dishonesty and shamelessness; short-sightedness and disinterest in long-term consequences; basic fiscal greed — these pathologies, crippling disqualifications in just about any other field, are now requirements for success as an American career politician.

Nor are these traits reserved solely to persons named on ballots; the last few administrations have had an unerring knack for finding underlings at commensurate levels of fatuity. Deluged by smears and countersmears, those of us who have better things to do than play Fantasy Despots all week have a tendency to lose interest — which, of course, makes life easier for those who would rule us.

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Slightly less expensive

When the word got out that the Oklahoma legislature, as a reward for screwing up the budget process once more, was getting a pay cut, I knew I had to see what Patrick at The Lost Ogle had to say about it. And he said it, all right:

The inept, hodgepodge collection of right wing ideological assholes, special interest shills, oil industry lemmings, and perverse deviants that we know as Oklahoma lawmakers (some, I assume, are good people) will receive an 8.8% pay reduction effective in November.

Some of those categories overlap.

From the AP wire story:

All of Oklahoma’s 149 state senators and representatives will get a pay cut of 8.8 percent in November 2018 after an independent nine-member panel narrowly voted to approve the reduction.

The Legislative Compensation Board voted 4-3 on Thursday to impose the pay cut effective on the next group of legislators elected next year.

Members of the panel are appointees of the governor, speaker of the House and president pro tem of the Senate. Several said the decision was a difficult one, but that the total annual compensation for legislators of $62,000 was too generous given the salary of the average Oklahoman or state worker.

Well, this action affects only the salary ($38,400 a year, to be reduced to $35,020). Per diem remains unchanged. (Patrick: “Considering a first year Oklahoma teacher only makes $31,600 a year, that still seems too high.”)

A fraction of those lawmakers will be gone after 2018 because of term limits; they will never have to experience the indignity of a pay cut. It will be interesting to see how many legislators not facing term limits after 2018 decide to move on.

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Harare up

Roberta X ponders a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe:

Too soon to tell if Robert Mugabe’s actually on the outs in Zimbabwe or if the government there will see much change, but one can hope. They’d’ve been better off with an honest commie, too, instead of the crappy strongman socialism that has impoverished and starved a country that used to export food. It’s too much to expect that the government will dip much of a toe in democracy, but if ever a place was ripe for it, Zimbabwe is. It’s about time the people there got a break. Will they? If past history of even freely-voting people is any guide, they will not; they will opt for more of the devil they know. Still, sometimes you flip a coin and it stands on the edge.

Just finding a coin to flip has been tricky at times:

In its 2014 mid-term monetary policy statement, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) said it would import special coins, known as Zimbabwean bond coins, to ease a shortage of change in the economy. Like the original 1980 coins, these special coins would be denominated in 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, but would have values at par with US cents. There would also be South African rand coins of 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 rand, 2 rands, and 5 rands. The RBZ’s statement did not specify when or where these coins would be imported from, but a later report on November 26, 2014 clarified that over $40 million worth of these coins were expected to be delivered within the next week from Pretoria. On 18 December 2014, the 1, 5, 10, and 25 US cent denominations were released into circulation. The 50 US cent denomination followed in March 2015. A 1 dollar bond coin was released in November 2016.

If there’s any Zimbabwean paper currency left, they should probably sell it to Venezuela, which sorely needs the paper, as there have been no Sears, Roebuck catalogs for ages.

Meanwhile, this happened last night:

Seems official enough.

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Ketchup with the budget

A letter to the editor of the Oklahoman, published yesterday:

I have a simple solution for Oklahoma’s budget crisis. If we were to add a dime tax to every order of french fries sold in Oklahoma per day, no one would notice! Tax dollars raised would cover teacher pay, DHS, law enforcement, fire, construction and everything else we need to fund. Obesity kills many more Oklahomans than smoking does. Oklahomans will quit smoking, but they will never give up french fries.

Scott Uselton, Edmond

Does this include hash browns? Tater Tots? For Heinz’ sake, man, we need details!

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And this is what we’ve come to

I’m guessing this means a third-party candidate.

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