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Saturday, 10 December 2016
When You Lose Matthew Dowd...
Topic: The Media

 

For conservatives devoted to the cultivation of schadenfreude—you know who you are—the election of Donald J. Trump, alarming as it was in some ways, had much to recommend it. Can we all just admit that memories of the parade of shocked and fraught faces that flashed across our TV screens on election night are sweet indeed?

 

Among those who had obvious trouble coping with the Trump Putsch was ABC’s Martha Raddatz, whose tragic visage and trembling voice were widely mocked. Late in the evening, with a Trump victory balanced on the brink of certainly, Raddatz lamented his lack of qualifications to serve as commander-in-chief. Fair enough. But then she went on to relate how Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate who has a son serving in the Marine Corps, had publically stated that he’d fear for his son’s safety if Trump were elected president. (More on that later.)

 

Now it will be obvious to anyone reviewing the Raddatz snippet that she was distraught over the prospect of a Trump presidency. Nothing surprising there. Serving as a presidential debate moderator Raddatz had made plain her contempt for and detestation of The Donald. It might be argued that to laugh at her display of emotion is petty cruelty, and there’s something to that. But on the other hand Raddatz is a highly paid, highly privileged member of the media elite who has made no particular secret of what she thinks not only of Trump but of his supporters: a fascist thug leading a parade of deplorables. So to the extent that I feel her pain, I believe she had it coming.

 

Enter Matthew Dowd.

 

I should mention until the incident about to be related I had very little idea of who Mr. Dowd is. Later I learned from Wikimedia that he’s “an American political consultant who was the chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney ’04 presidential campaign and current ABC News political analyst.” But at the time we crossed paths on Twitter Dowd was, to me, no more than a hazily recalled name.

 

What happened was this. In the course of his kick-off thank-you tour speech in Ohio on December 1, Donald Trump mocked what he characterized as the over-the-top media reactions to his election, mentioning in particular one journalist who, he said, had gone so far as to cry on the air. Though he named no name there was little doubt that Trump was referring to Martha Raddatz.

 

This sally apparently infuriated Raddaz’s ABC colleague, Dowd, who took to Twitter to nail Trump’s monstrous lie. Truthfully enough, he pointed out Raddatz had not actually cried. This I happened to see because someone I follow retweeted it and I replied: “Merely, her lips trembled and her voice quavered, i.e. Ms. Raddatz was clearly distraught…”

 

Well. My comment was not at all to Mr. Dowd’s liking. He shot back a denunciation of my insensitivity and lack of regard for “context,” capped by the news that he was blocking me on Twitter and punctuated with a final “Adios”—a grievous act of cultural appropriation, incidentally. Guess he thought he showed me!

 

About that word, though, “context.” Though he didn’t deign to elucidate I suppose what Dowd meant by it was Raddatz’s subject matter: national security and, specifically, Senator Kaine’s shot at Trump. She called his statement “extraordinary.” Well, I had a different take: Kaine’s words struck me as vile and outrageous. I believe I have the standing to make this criticism because my daughter, a US Army veteran, spent a year deployed to Afghanistan in 2010-11. Alex was an MP, hers was a post of some danger, and it was a stressful twelve months for me and my wife. Fortunately, though, Alex was returned to us safely. Today our daughter is married and as of this writing she’s an expectant mother of twin boys.

 

I’m no great fan of President Obama and have been a constant critic of his performance as commander-in-chief. But I would never have made such a statement regarding Obama, as Kaine did regarding Trump, while my daughter was a serving soldier—not to her or to anyone. I try to imagine myself telling her something like that while she was back home with us on mid-deployment leave. Not possible—not even thinkable. But what kind of a father would say a thing like that? Apparently one like Kaine, who saw in his son’s service the opportunity to strike a low political blow. Nor do I believe that Martha Raddatz’s evident distress on election night had much to do with Kaine’s (irresponsible and opportunistic) statement. No, she was upset over the growing likelihood that Trump would be elected president.

 

So what was up with Matthew Dowd? I’m nobody special, just an on-line dabbler with a blog few people read and about 280 followers on Twitter. Should I be flattered that some ABC News big shot thought I was important enough to slap down? Nah. Mr. Dowd in his own distress over the election of Trump was simply lashing out, I happened to be standing athwart his four-lane highway to historical irrelevance, and schadenfreude will remain in season, it seems, for some time to come…


Posted by tmg110 at 12:02 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 10 December 2016 12:05 PM EST
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Wednesday, 30 November 2016
Liz the Ludicrous
Topic: Liberal Fascism

Not only is Senator Elizabeth Warren (Bolshevik, MA) dumb—she thinks that you and I are dumb, too.

The other day Princess Pocahontas was ranting on the floor of the Senate, her subject being the recently concluded election and her argument being that the Democrats actually won. She noted, first, that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the presidential contest. Now of course that’s true as far as it goes, which really isn’t very far. As Senator Warren may know, a US presidential election isn’t about the popular vote. It’s about the electoral vote and presidential candidates campaign accordingly. In 2016 both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump pursued strategies designed to get them over that magic number, 270 electoral votes. Broadly speaking, such strategies are formulated by dividing states into three categories: sure things, battlegrounds and goners. Trump, for example, categorized Indiana as a sure thing, Pennsylvania as a battleground and California as a goner. Thus the Hoosier State got minimal attention, the Golden State got none but the Keystone State got plenty. This proved to be a winning strategy: Trump raked in his sure-thing states and prevailed in enough battleground states to carry him to victory.

If he’d bothered to campaign in California, Trump would probably have managed to improve his performance there. But what was the point of that? Additional votes from California would have done nothing to boost his all-important electoral vote total. And it was this strategic decision, not the popular appeal of the Democratic Party, that led to Clinton’s meaningless popular vote victory. If US presidential elections were decided by a straight popular vote, Donald Trump would have spent significant time in populous blue states like California. But they aren’t, so he didn’t, rendering Warren’s claims hollow and baseless.

But it gets worse. In the same speech Warren pointed to the popular vote totals in the 2016 Senate elections—more Democratic than Republican—as further evidence that the former actually won. If her reasoning at the presidential level is dubious, here it becomes plain idiotic.

As Senator Warren may recall, in the US Senate all the states are treated equally. Both diminutive Delaware and colossal California have two senators. Moreover, in any given election year one-third of the Senate (33 or 34 seats) is up for election. Thus the popular vote totals in Senate elections are dependent on the actual states in which Senate elections are taking place. In 2016, as it happened, Senate elections occurred in California, Illinois and New York, all populous blue states in which the Democratic candidate was a sure thing. In addition, there were Senate elections in a couple of midsized blue states where again the Democrat was a sure thing: Oregon and Washington. The three largest states that went red at the Senate level were Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Thus the configuration of the 2016 Senate election, not Warren’s claimed popular preference for the Democratic Party, accounts for the popular vote outcome.

Oh, and the Senator neglected to mention that in the House elections, which covered every state, the GOP outpolled the Dems by more than 3 million votes.

Some in the media claim that Elizabeth Warren is the bright and shining star of the Democratic Party: a dauntless populist advocate for everyday Americans, etc. and so forth. But on the basis of her election analysis I’d have to assess her as both stupid and malicious: the former because she apparently thought that no one would nail her lies and distortions, the latter because her lies betray her contempt for those everyday Americans she claims to champion. In short, she’s an insufferable twerp: Exhibit A for the proposition that Donald Trump is fortunate in his enemies, indeed.


Posted by tmg110 at 1:29 PM EST
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Friday, 18 November 2016
A Landscape of Opportunity for Trump
Topic: Politics & Elections

After explaining why Donald Trump could not possibly snag the Republican Party presidential nomination, and then explaining why GOP presidential candidate Trump could not possibly beat Hillary Clinton, the media have moved on to explain why President-Elect Trump will find it impossible to govern. His transition team is in disarray! He’ll never be able to make good on his promises! There will be no border wall! The Iran nuclear agreement will stand! The world will turn against him! Obamacare is here to stay! Etc. and so forth. 

Well, color me dubious. These shrill predictions of failure and catastrophe, coming as they do from sources that proved spectacularly wrong about the just-concluded election, are somnewhat lacking in credibility. And when you look at the actual situation confronting the incoming president, it’s obvious that he has been vouchsafed multiple opportunities to make an early and substantial down payment on his campaign promises. And for that he can thank…soon-to-be-former President Barack H. Obama…and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

A substantial number of the people who voted for Donald Trump were not particularly enamored of him. Theirs was a strategic vote to keep Hillary Clinton out: specifically to prevent her from loading the Supreme Court with progressive lefties. And now, at the top of his to-do list on the first day of his presidency Trump will find: Nominate Supreme Court Justice—the gift of that much-reviled GOP Establishment fixer, Mitch McConnell. It was he who deep-sixed Obama’s attempt to fill the high court vacancy created by the untimely death of Justice Scalia. The President, his minions and his media claque all condemned McConnell’s maneuver as obstruction of the deepest dye. They were confident that a public outcry would force Senate Republicans to cave. But they didn’t, Obama’s nominee went nowhere, and now Trump with his list of twenty-one potential justices gets to name Scalia’s replacement. A large number of strategic Trump votes are about to pay off. 

Then there’s Obama’s gift to Trump. Frustrated by the results of two midterm elections that decimated House and Senate Democrats, unwilling to work with congressional Republicans, the President resorted to his pen and his phone, striving to ram through as much of his agenda as possible via executive orders. Some of these have already been slapped down by the courts but many more survive. And what is created by a stroke of the presidential pen can be quashed in the same way. Knowing Trump he’ll make a media event of this, melodramatically wielding his pen to mow down ranks upon rank of Obama-era executive overreaches. Thanks, Barry! 

Then there’s the Iran nuclear deal, which supposedly President Trump will find impossible to scuttle. But as various commentators have pointed out all he really needs to do is stop paying blackmail and ransom to Iran, which is the means by which the Obama Administration has kept the deal from collapsing. Once the flow of dollars stops the ayatollahs themselves will denounce the agreement and that will be that. (What the US should do then is a sticky question for another day.) 

On illegal immigration and border security no one expects this complex and difficult problem to be solved in a matter of weeks. But the people who voted for Trump do expect to see prompt action. He has only to show that he means business—say by cracking down on sanctuary cities that shield criminal illegals, by beginning the process of rounding up and deporting same, and by taking some immediate steps to reinforce border security. 

And finally there’s Obamacare, that comically dysfunctional Rube Goldberg contraption by which the Left sought pave the way to socialized medicine. Admittedly its repeal and replacement will not be the work of a day. But the claims of Democrats and their media chorus to the contrary notwithstanding, congressional Republicans do have proposals for real, sensible healthcare reform. A start could be made by repealing the stupid prohibition against selling health insurance plans across state lines and by eliminating Obamacare’s coverage mandates. 

Given the mess that has been made by our Community Organizer-in-Chief and his Bright Young Things, the incoming Trump Administration faces no easy task. That Trump himself is a political neophyte provides food for thought and reason to be concerned. Will he be up the challenge? Only time will tell. But the opportunities are there to start things off on an action-oriented high note—if only Trump and his people have the wit to seize upon them.


Posted by tmg110 at 9:17 AM EST
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Wednesday, 16 November 2016
Andrew Behaving Badly
Topic: Liberal Fascism

“We are witnessing the power of a massive populist movement that has now upended the two most stable democracies in the world—and thrown both countries into a completely unknown future.” Andrew Sullivan (hadn’t he retired?) cries in New York magazine. The end times are upon us, apparently, and the former Beagle Blogger seems determined to spare us nothing, not even the details of his own post-election nervous breakdown. The title of his piece—“The Republic Repeals Itself”—tells you everything you need to know regarding his take on the ascent of Donald J. Trump. 

The “two most stable democracies in the world” to which Sullivan refers are, of course, the United States and the United Kingdom, both of which have betrayed his trust. America has handed the nuclear codes to Trump; Britain has voted to bolt the European Union. Thus the descent into an “unknown future”—as if we knew all about the future until Trump and Nigel Farage came along and spoiled everything. 

Well, Sullivan and people like him did believe that they had a clear vision of the future. They saw it embodied in transnational institutions like the EU and the UN, in the consequent withering away of national sovereignty, in open borders, unrestricted immigration and the global economy. They knew that there were others—bitter clingers, deplorables, reactionaries, NASCAR fans, gun nuts, racists & etc.—lurking in the small towns and the backwoods, who failed to share the progressive faith in a Radiant Future. But such dubious characters represented a world and a way of life that was already passing into history. In so far as they regarded them at all, progressives regarded such people with condescension bordering on contempt. 

Michael Moore is, to put it mildly, a disreputable character but let us give credit where credit is due. At a moment when his ideological brethren were confidently awaiting the electoral rubber-stamping of Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions, he was pointing to the threat, as he saw it, of Donald Trump. Moore sensed what most of the Left was working overtime to ignore: that the blue-collar billionaire had tapped into a deep reservoir of fear, anger and resentment. Fear of a future that would inevitably exclude them, anger over the failure of government to address their concerns, resentment of the cultural elite’s negative stereotyping. Trump spoke to all that, sometimes using words that wounded, but his appeal to those he called forgotten Americans was not entirely negative. He also offered them hope: a fact that his critics preferred to overlook. Yes, Trump said, the government can be made to work on your behalf, it can be made to address the issues that matter to you, it can be made to serve the common good, not merely the interests of the elites. 

Try to imagine Hillary Clinton campaigning in a similar vein. Impossible, right? Irrevocably wedded to interest-group politics, hedged all around by the fringe issues that obsess this or that fragment of the Democratic Party base, plugged into the mighty engine of institutional corruption that hones the skids of politics as usual, the Democratic Party’s standard bearer became the symbol of all that is wrong with America. Thus a vote for Stronger Together came to be seen as a vote for more of the same. 

Now of course Donald Trump was in some ways a problematical candidate, a Twitter-enabled gaffe machine who often behaved badly. The stubborn disbelief in the possibility of his victory (full disclosure: shared by me) seemed reasonable enough. According to the well-understood rules of the game, when a candidate is accused of sexual assault by multiple women, he’s toast. But recall what happened in Trump’s case. The grenade exploded, sparking a media firestorm and a social media outcry. But after a few days the whole thing simply…went away. That one had to have sent Hillary hunting for the vodka bottle. It was surreal, like watching a hippopotamus defy gravity. 

That episode, I believe, helps to explain what happened in Election Day. Though Trump had a large cohort of diehard loyalists, they were not numerous enough to push him over the top. But seventy or seventy-five percent of the American people believe that the country’s on the wrong track, which is another way of saying that they want change. A great deal of energy and money went into the Clinton campaign’s effort to convince those voters that Trump wasn’t the answer, that he was unqualified, unfit, unacceptable. The message was reinforced by the relentless negative coverage of a virulently anti-Trump media. It was all to no avail: just sufficient numbers of these people, dubious of Trump though they may have been, listened to the arguments against him and replied in effect, “Well, maybe. But we’ll see.” They decided to take a chance. 

And how does Andrew Sullivan characterize this? “A country designed to resist tyranny has now embraced it. A constitution designed to prevent democracy taking over everything has now succumbed to it. A country once defined by self-government has openly, clearly, enthusiastically delivered its fate into the hands of one man to do as he sees fit.” And we thought Naomi Wolf was the arch-moonbat of the Left! 

You’d have to read the whole piece to appreciate the full extent of Sullivan’s hysteria. It’s the dead cat bounce of a guy whom I used to read regularly, back before he became obsessed with Sarah Palin’s gynecological profile. Now he seems totally disconnected from reality—though in that he differs from his fellow progressives only in degree. None of these people, so sure until last Tuesday that they had the future in view, seem to realize that they paved the way for Donald J. Trump. The forgotten Americans that Sullivan & Co. so despised and disregarded have previewed the brave new world on offer and they said, “No thanks.”


Posted by tmg110 at 8:16 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 16 November 2016 8:18 AM EST
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Saturday, 12 November 2016
Postmodern Progressivism Strikes Out
Topic: Politics & Elections

As they struggle to process the election of Donald J. Trump progressives are strongly tempted, of course, to blame (a) Hillary Clinton, who was a terrible candidate and (b) those deplorable bitter clingers, everyday Americans. I see it a bit differently: progressives have no one to blame but themselves. 

First, they sold their souls to Barack H. Obama, who as president presided over the hollowing-out of the Democratic Party. Though he was always personally popular his polices were not, as the results of the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections showed. This year he went all out for Hillary, reminding voters that a vote for her was a vote for four more years of Barack. We saw how well that worked out. And not only did Hillary lose. Despite a Senate electoral map thought highly favorable to the Democrats, they only managed to knock off two vulnerable GOP senators—leaving the Senate in Republican hands. And though of course the Democrats never had a prayer of taking back the House, their six-seat gain was far short of earlier, optimistic forecasts. So now the GOP, supposedly the party on the ropes, effectively controls all three branches of government. In short, the Obama years have been catastrophic for the Democratic Party. 

But it wasn’t all Obama’s fault. In the hours and days after the election, many progressives succumbed to a fit of pique, denouncing white voters & etc. as racists, xenophobes, homophobes, etc. That was nothing new; they’d been saying it all along. And that type of rhetoric, so smug, smarmy and condescending, exemplifies the attitude that drove the white working class into the Trump camp. Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” sneer—the gaffe of the campaign—merely reflected a widespread attitude in progressive circles. Postmodern progressives have wrecked the Democratic Party—once the party that owned the white working class vote—via their obsession with identity politics, political correctness and fringe issues like gender-neutral restrooms. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was chortling over the prospect of putting coal miners out of work. Is it really so surprising that white working-class guys living in Michigan or western Pennsylvania looked at that freak show, saw nothing in it for them and their families, and said to themselves, "Uh-uh"? 

Bill Clinton, no less, tried to explain some of this to the Bright Young Things running his wife's campaign—and they blew him off. Who needed all those blue-collar Archie Bunker types, anyway? The Obama coalition was so much cooler! Well, it wasn’t quite cool enough to overcome Trump’s Election Day performance in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania coal country, where he ran up huge margins in county after county. (Incidentally, West Virginia’s flip to the GOP, which happened earlier, was a warning sign that the Democrats blithely ignored.) Obsessed as they are with identity politics, Democrats and progressives forgot that others, too, could play that game. Thus they were shocked, indignant and at a loss for an answer when the white working class asked, “What about our identity?” 

I didn’t support Donald Trump and I didn’t expect him to win. But though his victory surprised me, I wasn’t shocked. Trump’s appeal to those millions of Americans once designated as Reagan Democrats had long been obvious. I underrated it. Democrats and progressives disregarded it entirely.


Posted by tmg110 at 2:26 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 12 November 2016 2:59 PM EST
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Thursday, 10 November 2016
Sandbagged by Hope
Topic: Politics & Elections

Let me deal with a couple of things right up front. First, in judging him to be unelectable I was wrong about Donald J. Trump. Only in the last couple of weeks of the campaign did I sense the momentum and promote him from goner to longshot. But I still thought he’d lose. On Election Day I told my wife, a Trump supporter, that Hillary Clinton was likely to win, though a Trump victory was not impossible. Well, that turned out to be my understatement of the year!

Second, I was a harsh critic of Candidate Trump and of his most shady and obnoxious supporters. But he’s now President-Elect Trump and as such deserves the forbearance if not (yet) the support of Republicans and conservatives who opposed him as a matter of principle. Trump won and he has earned the chance to show America what he can do.

So how did this happen? It takes nothing away from Donald Trump’s achievement to observe that one of the most prominent authors and movers of his rise was…President Barack H. Obama.

In the waning days of the campaign progressive pundits were wont to point at the President’s personal popularity as evidence that Hillary Clinton had a lock on victory. Obama and his wife—also a popular figure—were out there campaigning hard for Hillary, and surely that would seal the deal. But when the votes were tallied it was found that Clinton’s raw vote total was roughly 14 million below Obama’s 2008 and 2012 totals—this despite the fact that she all but openly campaigned as the proxy for a third Obama term.

You can put down this epic fail to Clinton’s deep unpopularity and her tin-ear, two-left-feet political instincts. True enough, but Trump was unpopular as well and he committed some truly epic gaffes. There was something else, though, that was less popular than either of them: Obamaism, if I may so label it. Sure, the President was (still is) personally popular but the liking people feel for him never transferred to his policies. Since the day of its passage Obamacare has been about as popular as leftovers five days after Thanksgiving. If the right track/wrong track poll numbers are to be believed, the American people are profoundly dissatisfied with the state of the nation, i.e. with the policies pursued by the Obama Administration since 2009. In short, the President’s personal popularity is of no particular political significance.

Donald Trump is often accused of crafting a cult of personality but Barack Obama was there before him. His 2008 campaign was just that: the marketing of a personality. Obama was presented (and embraced) as the uniter, the healer, the hope of the nation—the veritable Lightbringer. Actual policy received short shrift. And in truth Obama has never shown much wonkish interest in the nuts and bolts of governance. The Affordable Care Act was cobbled together for him by Democratic congressional staffers and he signed it more or less sight unseen. Yeah, sure, the thing was based on dubious assumptions, wishful thinking, doublethink and plain dishonesty but none of that mattered. It had a catchy title; that was enough.

Then the Democrats really screwed up. They entrusted the defense of an unpopular presidency (its policies as opposed to its leading personality) to an inept, mendacious, rather paranoid candidate whose staff was condemned to labor long and fruitlessly to make their girl seem, well, human. Relying on the conventional wisdom of American presidential politics, they reassured themselves that the Obama coalition, demographics, metrics, a formidable ground game, etc. and so forth, would deliver a win for Hillary. And besides, just look at the racist, xenophobic, homophobic misogynist who glowered at the top of the GOP ticket! Thus did the Democrats deceive themselves.

That Donald Trump had his finger on the nation’s pulse, that he knew something they didn’t know, was a thought that Democrats and progressives successfully evaded even with the evidence of the Sanders boomlet before them. Obama was popular! Therefore Hillary, who was pledged to defend and extend the Obama legacy, must inevitably prevail! And through the opening thus created strode Trump, now the president-elect.

I don’t claim that Barack Obama’s narcissism and hubris were solely to blame for the drubbing that the Democratic Party received on November 8. But I do believe that the party’s disastrous embrace of Hillary Clinton was predicated on an earlier, less obvious but more profound error: its embrace of personality over substance in 2008. Hope. It can be deadly…


Posted by tmg110 at 9:29 AM EST
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Monday, 7 November 2016
Peering into the Future...
Topic: Politics & Elections

 

So okay, here are my 2016 election predictions:

 

President: Clinton prevails over over Trump by a 3-4% popular vote margin and a relatively narrow (less than 20) electoral vote margin.

 

House of Representatives: GOP loses 10-15 seats, retaining control with a 15- to 20-seat majority.

 

Senate: GOP loses 3 seats, retaining control with a 51-49 majority.

 

Game Changers: Trump wins Colorado or Pennsylvania. That doesn't look likely but if he wins either one Clinton is toast. Also in Nevada there's a chance for a Republican Senate pickup, which would offset one loss and yield a 52-48 GOP majority.

 

On the other hand, I could be completely wrong about everything….


Posted by tmg110 at 2:08 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 7 November 2016 2:11 PM EST
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Wednesday, 2 November 2016
My Choice for President
Topic: Politics & Elections

After thinking the matter over, I've decide that next Tuesday, I'll be voting for Johnson/Weld, the Libertarian Party presidential ticket. (Down ballot, I'll be voting Republican).

My earlier intention was to pass on a presidential vote: Hillary Clinton is horrific, Donald Trump equally so, and Gary Johnson has not particularly impressed me. But on second thought I've come to see some value in a vote for the latter. Not voting at all for president this year would a passive-aggressive form of protest. A vote for Johnson/Weld, bypassing the major party tickets, is an affirmative method of expressing my displeasure with the Dems and the GOP.

Now there are aspects of the Libertarian Party platform that I like, particularly on the economic side. (When it comes to foreign policy and national security, not so much.) But it must be admitted, I think, that many Libertarian positions—on immigration, on trade, on entitlements—are non-starters with the broad electorate. Still, the Libertarian ticket's on the ballot in all 50 states and it gives a disaffected conservative like me a means of registering my protest against the low, detestable state to which the major-party presidential candidates have reduced American politics.

If you're planning to vote for either Trump or Clinton, please remember that they aspire to the office once held by Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, Eisenhower and Reagan. If that doesn't give you pause, it should.


Posted by tmg110 at 5:08 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 2 November 2016 5:22 PM EDT
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Monday, 19 September 2016
Tolerance in Jackboots
Topic: Liberal Fascism

For decades—since the Sixties, in fact—American progressivism has been moving away from classical liberal doctrines regarding freedom of speech and thought, liberty of conscience, and intellectual diversity. The results are seen in their most extreme form on college campuses with their safe spaces, lists of banned words, shouting down of unpopular opinions and a more or less explicit rejection of the First Amendment.

Progressives painted themselves into this ideological corner by embracing a concept of group rights that supposedly trump individual rights. And they have come to believe (if I may adapt a line of George Orwell’s) that “All groups are equal, but some groups are more equal than others.” That is, certain groups are deemed to be oppressed, with an unlimited claim on society’s approval and indulgence, while others are reviled as oppressors, bigots, etc. and so forth. Thanks to the color of his skin a white coal miner is a member of that arch-oppressor class, white males. But a black physician, attorney, member of congress, football player or actress is oppressed. Even if the white coal miner loses his job due to the energy policies of a black president, the former remains an oppressor and the latter remains oppressed.

Such perversions of thought being in the strict sense of the word indefensible, progressives have grown fearful of free intellectual discourse. Open debate and critical analysis would inevitably expose the contradictions that abound in progressive dogma. How can a white coal miner oppress a black president? Well, you’re not permitted to ask that question. Or take homosexuality and “gender identity.” It is claimed that the former is an inherent trait, probably genetic. If you’re gay you were, as Lady Gaga put it, born that way. But on the other hand it is claimed that there exists something called gender identity: a pure social construct. In principle, therefore, people can change their gender (“identify” as this, that or the other) as easily as they change their clothes. Progressives really can’t justify such absurdities but they can and do strive to shut up the people who point out that they are absurd.

As noted above this ideology—I call it postmodern progressivism—flourishes most malignantly on college campuses. So it might be objected that what happens on campus is anomalous, not reflective of mainstream progressivism. But consider. Just recently Hillary Clinton reviled half of Donald Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables”: racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, etc.—the usual progressive chant in response to opposition. But Clinton went further, declaring that the deplorables—numbering roughly 35 million people—are “irredeemable,” not genuine Americans. This was a remarkably awful thing for a presidential candidate to say— worse even than Mitt Romney’s 47% gaffe, for which he was viciously reviled by progressives. They had no problem with Clinton’s slur, though, and many have even defended it, e.g. Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, who argued that Clinton was absolutely right.

Postmodern progressivism corrupts everything it touches. Though progressives congratulate themselves for being the reality-based party, in practice they respect science precisely to the extent that it appears to validate progressive pieties, and not an inch farther. Very often, indeed, they embrace junk science; vide the anti-vaccination movement and the jihad against genetically modified food crops. Here again opposition is shouted down. And progressives have a bad habit of enlisting the prestige of science in causes of which science has nothing to say. Take global warming or, if you prefer, climate change. Whatever the scientific merits of the climate change postulate, it cannot tell us how human beings can possibly reverse the process that is claimed to be underway. The remedies proposed, e.g. the complete decarbonization of energy production in the short space of ten or twenty years, are a study in impossibility. Yet we are told in effect that since climate change is “settled science,” the impossible must be done. Step one, presumably, would be the arrest, trial and imprisonment of “climate deniers.”

On the other hand, progressives are prepared to be tolerant of such things as arranged marriages, honor killings and female gentile mutilation. A good case could be made that the number-one human rights issue in the world today is the oppression of women. So shouldn’t progressives with their concept of group rights be in there fighting for the rights of this very large group. Well, no. It so happens that the oppression of women around the world is being perpetrated by other oppressed groups, e.g. Muslims. This is problematical for progressives, who routinely smear conservatives as Islamophobic. How, therefore, can they themselves condemn the oppression of women in the Islamic world? So a courageous women like Hirsi Ali who bears witness to this evil—carries its scars on her body, in fact— is shouted down, prevented from speaking on college campuses, even reviled as a bigot and hater. To “blame the victim” is, supposedly, a heinous ideological transgression. But when it comes to Islam this rule is suspended. Such things as arranged marriages, honor killings, female genital mutilation, are simply not to be discussed in student unions, faculty lounges or at the Democratic National Convention.

Inescapable conclusion: The main currents of progressive thought now bend toward authoritarianism. Progressives champion the administrative/bureaucratic state precisely because it is authoritarian, promulgating and enforcing its rules with no democratic oversight. They champion the concept of group rights precisely because it undermines classical liberal principles of individual liberty. They embrace the pernicious doctrines of postmodernism precisely because they undermine traditional institutions. The result is a kind of social fascism—ironically promoted in the name of equality, tolerance, social justice and all that good stuff. And having pretty much destroyed American higher education, it’ll soon be coming for the rest of us.


Posted by tmg110 at 11:10 AM EDT
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Thursday, 1 September 2016
Obamacare: The Anatomy of an Epic Fail
Topic: Decline of the West

The failure of Obamacare: It’s a story that should figure prominently in media retrospectives of the soon-to-be-history Obama administration. But the media are too solicitous of the President’s legacy to shine the spotlight on this debacle. Anyhow, after her inevitable election Hillary Clinton will fix the Affordable Care Act. So that’s all right. 

Except that she can’t fix it—no one can fix it. The assumptions, fiscal, political and sociological, that underpin the ACA consist of wishful thinking leavened by bad judgment. Let us count the ways in which Obamacare defies logic and reality. 

There was, first, the assumption that the key component of Obamacare, the Web-based federal and state healthcare exchanges, would revolutionize the individual insurance market. Health insurance plans could be compared and purchased with a few mouse clicks. If Amazon can do it, the thinking went, then surely government can! But the federal exchange website’s launch was a costly fiasco that laid bare the utter incompetence of the federal bureaucracy. Many state exchanges, such as Maryland’s, crashed and burned as well, and for much the same reason. Thus early on we learned that the self-nominated smartest people in the room—Obama, his senior aides and advisors, bureaucrats and regulators, healthcare experts in and out of government—didn’t actually know what they were doing. And the blundering debut of the ACA was merely a harbinger of many more bad things to come. 

Then there was the assumption that via law and regulation, the government could reconfigure the health insurance market, taking power out of the hands of greedy insurance companies and turning them into a kind of regulated public utility. Banished were such nefarious practices as denial of coverage due to preexisting conditions. In return the insurance companies were promised a captive market, for the individual mandate would force everybody to carry health insurance. Young, healthy people would purchase insurance on the exchanges, balancing the risk pool by paying premiums but not making heavy demands on service. It was believed that after two or three years the Obamacare exchanges would become profitable for insurance companies. In the meantime, the federal government proposed to cover their losses. 

But all the components of this assumption proved false as well. Once denial of coverage due to preexisting conditions was eliminated, people discovered that they could game the system, buying insurance only when they got sick and dropping it again when they no longer needed healthcare. True, the individual mandate was supposed to prevent this from happening. But there is no less popular feature of Obamacare than the individual mandate and in practice the Obama Administration has not enforced it with vigor for fear of a public backlash. The fine that people are supposed to pay if they don’t get covered is easy to evade and only a fraction of the money that the government expected to rake in by this means is actually being collected. Thus the exchange risk pools consist of fewer and sicker people than the creators of Obamacare so blithely forecast. The premiums being collected do not even begin to cover the benefits being paid out and no turnaround is in sight. And Congress nixed the proposed insurance company bailout. 

Insurance companies are coping with Obamacare’s faulty financial design in two ways: (1) increase premiums, deductibles and copays; (2) exit the exchanges. Aetna, having lost $400 million last year, recently chose the latter option. As for exchange customers, they face the prospect of escalating costs, less choice and declining quality. Yes, lower-income customers are subsidized by the government. But that merely puts taxpayers on the hook for the inevitable subsidy increases that will be necessary to keep pace with rising premiums. With Obamacare, everybody loses. 

Of the rosy scenarios that bloomed in the early days of the ACA, none has proved more fanciful than the expectation that young people would get covered in droves. Pajama Boy would put down his cocoa and rush to his laptop for a visit to the exchange. The young love Obama, after all, so why wouldn’t they love Obamacare? Well, it turns out that the young’s adoration of Obama and their starry-eyed idealism stop well short of their wallets. Of the many dumb claims made on behalf of the ACA none seemed to me more fanciful than one pundit’s prediction that for young people, health insurance would become a kind of fashion accessory, something you had to have to be to be cool. Yes, that’s right, the sheer force of peer pressure would drive young people into the arms of Obamacare. But in reality—not so much. Paying a substantial amount of money for something they think they don’t really need looks to young people, as it would to anyone, like a bad deal. So no, they’re not signing up in droves. And the Obama Administration fears to use the big stick of the individual mandate to force them onto the exchanges. 

Oh, and by the way: Six years after the ACA began operating, 11% of Americans still have no health insurance coverage. 

How Hillary Clinton—or anyone—can possibly fix this mess is an excellent question with a simple answer: Obamacare is unfixable. And I haven’t even mentioned all its problems, e.g. the collapse of the nonprofit healthcare co-ops that were supposed to enhance choice and competition in the exchange markets. Clinton’s probable solution will be the public option, i.e. the federal government as a health insurance company. And from there it would be just a short step to that much-beloved nostrum of the Left, single-payer. To put it another way, Clinton’s probable solution would be a tacit admission that Obamacare’s a bust. Heck of a job, there, Barry… 

Nor am I anticipating blue skies ahead. Given the demonstrated incompetence of our political/bureaucratic lords and masters, it’s very likely that any Obamacare replacement would be just as bad if not worse. The idea that Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and the rest of them have some magic solution at their fingertips is simply too ludicrous for words. They haven’t got a clue, and their tinkering will simply make things worse. So take my advice, America: Don’t get sick. It’s your only defense against that ravening beast, healthcare reform.


Posted by tmg110 at 1:21 PM EDT
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