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Thursday, 23 March 2017
The Great War: Opening Round in the East (Five)
Topic: Military History

(For clarity, Austro-Hungarian units are rendered in italics.) 

Though Germany had scored a notable victory in East Prussia, it was severely tempered if not negated by the disaster that engulfed the armies of the Habsburg Monarchy in Galicia. 

It will be remembered that a prewar agreement between the German and Austro-Hungarian general staffs had provided for an Austrian offensive—this to relieve the pressure on the scanty German forces defending East Prussia. Such an offensive would necessitate the deployment of the bulk of the Austro-Hungarian Army in Galicia, leaving minimal forces to screen Serbia. But the Austrian Chief of Staff, General Count Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, was ill content with this arrangement. Though Russia posed a serious military threat, he and most leading figures of the Habsburg Monarchy viewed Serbia’s pan-Slavic aspirations as an even greater menace. The Serbs’ desire to unite the south Slavs in a single kingdom under their leadership implied the demise of the Monarchy. Thus Conrad was determined to “strike down Serbia with rapid blows” at the beginning of the war, notwithstanding his agreement with the Germans. 

How Conrad’s duplicity made a muddle of Austrian mobilization has already been related. The fate of his Serbian offensive can be sketched in a few words. Attacking on 12 August, the Fifth and Sixth Armies made good initial progress. The Austrian commander, Feldzeugmeister (General of Artillery) Oskar Potiorek imagined that his troops would easily rout the primitive and ill-equipped Serbs. His confidence was badly misplaced. It was true that the Serbian Army was short of weapons and even boots for its soldiers, but it was a battle-hardened force under a skilled and redoubtable commander, General Radomir Putnik. In the face of the advancing Austrians he withdrew and concentrated his army in anticipation of a counterattack. This was launched on 15 August against Fifth Army and after fierce fighting with heavy casualties on both sides the Austrians were compelled to withdraw. By 20 August Fifth Army had been chased entirely out of Serbia—a painful setback for a country that still counted itself a great power. Further fighting in August and into September produced no better results, even witnessing a Serbian advance into Austrian Bosnia. The debacle being complete, Potiorek was relieved of command. 

This humiliating defeat, bad enough in and of itself, was parlous in its effect on Austrian fortunes in Galicia. Conrad, it will be recalled, had initially thought to stand on the defensive there, well inside the frontier, while Serbia was dealt with. To that end his strategic reserve, B-Staffel (Second Army), was directed against Serbia. But when Conrad changed his mind and ordered an offensive in Galicia, it was too late to modify Second Army’s orders: It would have to go to the Serbian front anyway, there to await the clearance of the rail lines. In the event the army was partly drawn into the Serbian invasion and, thanks to the ill success of the Austrian offensive, when the time came to move north one-third of it (IV Corps with three divisions) had to be left behind. Thus Second Army arrived in Galicia both late and under strength. 

While Conrad’s operations in Serbia were proceeding on their lamentable course, the main body of the Austro-Hungarian Army, A-Staffel with some 30 infantry divisions and 8 cavalry divisions, were being deployed in Galicia. From left to right, these forces were allotted to the First, Fourth and Third Armies. By late August they had completed their march to the frontier (necessitated by Conrad’s earlier decision to stand on the defensive inside Galicia) and were ready to attack. Conrad’s plan, sound enough in principle, was to advance north-east into Russian Poland with the two armies of his left wing. But thanks to Second Army’s non-appearance, the forces at his disposal were insufficient. As First and Fourth Armies advanced, the right flank of the latter would be increasingly bared. Third Army on the right was given the mission—it proved to be a mission impossible—of screening this flank. As Conrad was all too well aware, Russian mobilization would inevitably bring more and more divisions into the line against the Austrian armies. And thanks to Second Army’s late arrival, the resultant pressure on the Austrian right flank would soon bring about a crisis. 

Nevertheless Conrad persisted and the general Austro-Hungarian offensive in Galicia commenced on 1 September 1914.

Posted by tmg110 at 12:15 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 24 March 2017 7:53 AM EDT
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Thursday, 2 February 2017
Dereliction of Duty: The Pro-Life Enablers of Kermit Gosnell
Topic: Decline of the West

In its advertisements the pro-choice movement likes to portray itself as the champion and defender of women’s rights—principally, the right of women to abort their unborn children at any time and for any reason. Only thus, we are told, by securing women’s control over their bodies, can female equality be assured. 

Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States, was handed down forty-four years ago, in 1973. It represents, as the saying goes, settled law. Yet abortion remains controversial. The anti-abortion or pro-life movement has not withered away but gained in strength and voice. And though a majority of Americans support abortion rights, many of them do so with qualifications and misgivings. It’s not hard to see—literally—why this is so. In 1973 we knew relatively little about what went on in a pregnant woman’s uterus. But with the passage of years advances in medical imaging technology revolutionized our understanding and it has become impossible for the pro-choice movement to go on describing the fetus as an “undifferentiated tissue mass.” The movement’s unease received expression recently: Atlantic magazine published an article, “The Politics of Ultrasound,” arguing in effect that the technology was being used in a deceptive manner to depict life where there is none. The article turned out to be an essay in junk science and was roundly debunked but its appearance was significant, showing that the pro-choice movement recognizes the power of the argument that abortion is the taking of a human life. 

And the insecurity thus aroused has bred extremism: the pro-life movement’s adamantine resistance to any restrictions on abortion, including the barbaric practice that goes by the name of partial-birth abortion. On paper, indeed, the movement has failed to hold the line. Under Roe v. Wade the states retain the power to place reasonable restrictions on abortion and many have done so. In Pennsylvania, for example, abortions are permitted up to twenty-three weeks and six days; after that they’re prohibited except when the pregnancy endangers the life or health of the mother. But a law unenforced is a law emasculated and that, broadly speaking, is the approach now taken by the pro-choice movement. 

Last year the US Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that tightened regulation of abortion clinics in the state. The pro-choice movement argued that that the law would force many clinics to close, effectively restricting access to abortion, and the high court agreed. The law’s most controversial provisions were that (1) doctors working in abortion clinics had to have local admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and (2) that abortion clinics must meet hospital standards. 

One can only imagine what Kermit Gosnell, a former physician and abortionist now serving multiple life sentences for murder and a laundry list of other crimes, made of this Supreme Court decision. 

Gosnell’s Philadelphia abortion clinic, the Women’s Medical Society, was raided by police on February 18, 2010. Philadelphia narcotics detectives had learned that the doctor was operating a pill mill under cover of his practice and indeed, he was found to be one of the largest providers of illegal prescription drugs in Pennsylvania. But in the course of their investigation other troubling information had come to light. Informants spoke to the detectives of the substandard, unsanitary, even filthy conditions obtaining at the Women’s Medical Society. They spoke of medications being administered to patients by wholly unqualified assistants. They spoke of botched abortions and of illegal late-term abortions. They spoke of one woman in particular, a recent immigrant from India barely conversant in English, who had died in the hospital after receiving an abortion from Dr. Gosnell. But even so, they were unprepared for the horrors they found. 

In Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, the hideous crimes perpetrated by Kermit Gosnell are dragged under the spotlight. It’s a difficult, even upsetting, book to read. At one point I was moved to exclaim aloud—Oh, Jesus Christ!—at its account of a botched abortion that put one of Gosnell’s patients in the hospital. Investigating detectives found in his clinic the frozen bodies of more than forty aborted babies, all of whom had been born alive and killed by Gosnell, his preferred method being to snip the spinal cord just below the neck with a pair of scissors. And like many other serial killers this mad doctor kept trophies: the amputated feet of aborted babies, preserved in glass jars. 

I’m sad to say—sad in the most literal meaning of the word—that the items mentioned above merely scratch the surface of Gosnell’s crimes. But Gosnell recounts another story too, one as horrible in its way as the account of his bloody deeds: the social, political and ideological environment that made them possible. 

Many serial killers hide in plain sight, behind a façade of normality: Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy. Kermit Gosnell was such a one as well, but he had the additional advantage of a safe space in which to operate, secured for him by pro-choice politicians, public health officials and bureaucrats: his clinic, the Women’s Medical Society. Some of these people knew that Gosnell’s facility was a shockingly filthy sinkhole, virtually a throwback to the seventeenth century. But they said nothing. Others knew that Gosnell was flouting state regulations—refusing, even, to respond to letters and inquiries from various regulating agencies. They did nothing. The pro-choice Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge (served 1995-2001), decreed a halt to abortion clinic regulation enforcement early in his term: a bouquet to the pro-choice movement and a boon to Kermit Gosnell. In 2009 Gosnell applied to the National Abortion Federation for certification of his clinic. A representative of the NAF visited, was appalled by the squalor she found and recommended to her superiors that certification should be denied. But neither the NAF representative nor her superiors said one single word about the Women’s Medical Society to state or local public health officials in Pennsylvania. 

On and on goes this tale of official disinterest and dereliction of duty. Some politicians and bureaucrats feared the political clout of the pro-choice movement, others agreed with its absolutist position. Whatever the motivation—pusillanimity or fanaticism—the effect was the same. Kermit Gosnell was granted a free hand to perpetrate his butchery—literally for decades. And he knew it, too. Not even the 2010 drug raid fazed him; he figured that the whole thing would just blow over. But the dedication of a handful of police detectives and prosecutors eventually pierced the wall of indifference and willful ignorance that had hitherto protected him. Kermit Gosnell was indicted on multiple counts of first-degree murder, found guilty on five of them and sentenced to life in prison. He was also convinced on multiple additional counts, including the involuntary manslaughter of the Indian immigrant woman whose abortion he botched. Later he also pled guilty to federal drug charges. 

One would have thought that such a trial with its sensationally lurid and horrifying details would bring reporters swarming to court—but no. Just like officialdom, the media preferred to look past Kermit Gosnell’s crimes. In the early stages of his trial the courtroom seats reserved for the media stood empty except for a few local reporters. Only when liberal pundit and columnist Kirsten Powers, who is pro-life, broke the story in a bombshell 2013 column for USA Today did the national media, somewhat shamefacedly, appear in court. 

This tale of woe compels a conclusion: that the pro-choice movement, for all its talk of protecting women’s rights, etc. has lost its moral compass. The movement has become imprisoned by its own extremist ideology: that the right to abortion is absolute, trumping even the most fundamental questions of life and death. Now, when groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America appeal to the dark past of dangerous illegal abortions I think of the women, mostly poor and black, whom Kermit Gosnell maimed and killed. Who was looking out for them? And I reflect on the mockery that he made of the very term, pro-choice, with his practice of performing abortions on unwilling young girls, dragged to his clinic by their relatives. 

Pro-choice activists will say that Gosnell was an aberration. But how could they possibly know this? Given the lax enforcement of laws and regulations relating to abortion, it’s very likely that similar abuses—unsanitary conditions, unqualified staff, antiquated equipment, slipshod treatment, illegal abortions—are quite widespread. Gosnell himself performed some abortions in a clinic in nearby Delaware whose conditions, if not medieval, were certainly substandard. After all, there’s a lot of money to be made in the abortion business, especially if you cut corners—which is easy to do when no one’s watching. And the Gosnell-friendly mission of the pro-choice movement is to ensure that the abortion mill grinds on, free of the most elementary supervision. 

If you’re pro-choice I dare you to read Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer. Even if it doesn’t change your mind about abortion it will at least open your eyes to the truly evil character of the extremist pro-choice movement, which never, ever met an abortionist that it didn’t like.

Posted by tmg110 at 11:12 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 2 February 2017 1:24 PM EST
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Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Oceania's Not for You
Topic: Liberal Fascism

In the aftermath of the Trump Coup, the American Left has added to its obsession with Nazi analogies a newfound interest in George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-four. Sales of the novel are, we are told, shooting through the roof and at first glance it’s easy to see why. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, progressives, in the person of President Donald J. Trump. There he is on the telescreen, whipping up orgies of hatred against foreigners, traitors, heretics, etc. WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. It’s a message and an image seemingly tailor-made for anti-Trump rallies and demonstrations. 

But I suspect that progressives who take the time to read or reread Nineteen Eighty-four will come away from the book disappointed and somewhat puzzled. They may be surprised to find that the villain of the piece is not some totalitarian bully in the mode of Mussolini, Stalin or Hitler. “Nobody has ever seen Big Brother,” Orwell tells us. “He is a face on the hoardings, a voice on the telescreen. We may be reasonably sure that he will never die, and there is already considerable uncertainty as to when he was born. Big Brother is the guise in which the Party chooses to exhibit itself to the world.” It is the Party—above all the Inner Party, numbering two percent of the population—that tyrannizes over Oceania. Who are these people? Orwell describes them as follows: “The new aristocracy was made up for the most part of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians”—hardly the fascist cabal of the contemporary progressive imagination. And he adds that Ingsoc “grew out of the earlier Socialist movement.” 

And what of the ideology—English Socialism or Ingsoc—that guides the party? Though it exhibits some superficial similarities to twentieth-century totalitarianism its underlying philosophy is not the blood-and-soil dogma of fascism or the economics-and-class dogma of socialism. As a matter of fact, Ingsoc is closest in spirit to what we call postmodernism. Orwell again: 

The mutability of the past is the central tenet of Ingsoc. Past events, it is argued, have no objective existence, but survive only in written records and in human memories. The past is whatever the records and the memories agree upon. And since the Party is in full control of all records and in equally full control of the minds of its members, it follows that the past is whatever the Party chooses to make it. It also follows that though the past is alterable, it never has been altered in any specific instance. 

To put this another way: There are no objective truths, only narratives, and which narrative prevails depends on patterns of social, political and economic power. In Oceania the Party holds all power and is free, therefore, to alter reality in any manner it chooses. In contemporary America we are nowhere near that point but in places where postmodern does progressivism rules, a sort of Ingsoc has taken shape. No one can look at the state of affairs on the humanities side of higher education without feeling that George Orwell was prescient indeed. 

One of the great projects of today’s progressivism is the policing of language and here again Orwell anticipated them. While relying on intimidation and police terror the Inner Party of Oceania was not content with negative methods. Its ultimate aim was to make heresy unthinkable, a goal embodied in Newspeak. Orwell took great pains to work out the principles of this artificial language, which was based on English but borrowed many features from Esperanto. He describes the purpose of Newspeak as follows: 

Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever. 

Rather more than a trace of this ambition is to be found in the campus Lefts obsession with “hate speech,” “trigger words,” the absurd proliferation of gender pronouns, etc. 

Indeed, though if he were alive today Orwell would no doubt excoriate Donald Trump, there’s good reason to think that he’d be scarcely less scornful of postmodern progressivism with its identity politics, enforced intellectual conformity, corruption of language, fringe crazies and rejection of the very concept of objective truth. Consider what he had to say (in The Road to Wigan Pier) of the socialism of his own day: 

The typical Socialist is not, as tremulous old ladies imagine, a ferocious-looking working man with greasy overalls and a raucous voice. He is…a youthful snob-Bolshevik who in five years’ time will quite probably have made a wealthy marriage… In addition to this there is the horrible—the really disquieting—prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words “Socialism” and “Communism” draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, “Nature Cure” quack, pacifist, and feminist in England. 

Bearing that in mind, today’s progressive admirers of George Orwell might pause to ask themselves what he’d have thought of such spectacles as last weekend’s Women’s March, with its pussy caps, goofy signs and shrieking celebrity harpies. 

So I do hope that very many progressives read Nineteen Eighty-four—not to mention Animal Farm, “Politics and the English Language,” “The Prevention of Literature,” and other gems of the Orwell canon. They’ll find much that’s painful to them—Orwell was, among other things, one of the founding fathers of anti-Communism—but such an education might, just might, do some few of them a bit of good.

Posted by tmg110 at 11:46 AM EST
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Sunday, 22 January 2017
Marching to Nowhere
Topic: Liberal Fascism


During the 2016 presidential election journalists, pundits, TV talking heads and political professionals were nearly unanimous in their denigration of those monster Trump rallies. Don’t be fooled, we were admonished, they were irrelevant. The large crowds meant nothing! It was money and strategy and the ground game that counted! Trump was a sure loser! Also sprach the Conventional Wisdom. There were dissenters from this CW but they constituted a distinct, often despised, minority.


I was reminded of all this yesterday while watching the coverage of the monster Women’s March in Washington, DC. It was amusing to note that many of those who denigrated the Trump rallies professed to see in the Woman’s March a moment of profound political significance. On the other hand, many of those who had seen something significant in the Trump rallies were dismissive of the Women’s March.


Now at first glance this seems like a classic example of that serviceable old Orwellian concept, doublethink: the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts in one’s mind at the same time, and accept them both. But upon further reflection I believe that the latter group—rallies significant, march not significant—are on to something.


When human beings gather together in a large group, the group’s message can only be its lowest common denominator. A rally or march involving tens of thousands of people is not the place for sophisticated discourse; if it won’t fit on a poster, it doesn’t get expressed. And the larger the group, the larger the number of eccentrics, vulgarians, fanatics and just plain head cases it attracts. Even normally well-behaved people, beguiled by the security and solidarity of the group, often feel free to let themselves go.


The mitigating factor, the thing that invites us to overlook the crazy people, is the group’s focal point: a person, a cause—sometimes both. Thus the significance of the Trump rallies: Their focus was Donald J. Trump and the message he embodied. The energy generated flowed, so to speak, into the candidate and he carried it forward to Election Day. Much the same thing happened with the great civil rights marches of the Sixties and even with the antiwar movement of that time. Whatever one’s opinion of the latter it cannot be denied that “Stop the War!” was a powerful, unifying theme.


This brings us to yesterday’s Women’s March and to the question: What was it all about? Well, dislike of Donald Trump, certainly, and the angst so many experienced on the occasion of his inauguration. Every march participant who voted in the election had voted against Trump, so in that sense they were telling us nothing new. You hate the guy; we get that.


But what was the Women’s March for? What was its focal point? That’s hard to say with any degree of precision. Oh, there were the usual factions and organizations pushing the standard issues of the Left, from open borders to LGBTQ—if that’s the current acronym—rights. But mostly the message of the Women’s March was the Left’s standard cry: racist/xenophobe/sexist/homophobe/fascist/Nazi/bad person. That is to say, it was nothing more than a loud and exceptionally ill-tempered expression of the Left’s default reaction to Republicans, conservatives and everyone who deviates from leftist orthodoxy. Sure where Trump is concerned they really, really mean it. Still, we’ve heard it all before and so what?


This was the problem that bedeviled the Women’s March. The lack of a resonant unifying theme meant, inevitably, that attention was focused on the bad actors, of whom two were celebrities—no surprise there. Madonna informed the world that lately she’d been thinking a lot about blowing up the White House: a line that I was sorely, sorely tempted to exploit on Facebook and Twitter. Then there was Ashley Judd—and jaded though I have become where celebrity zaniness is concerned I was disconcerted to see the elegant and comely star of De-Lovely transformed into a grimacing, screaming, foul-mouthed lunatic.


The Women’s March was certainly therapeutic, enabling a large number of disappointed progressives to discharge all that negative energy. But after the euphoria comes the hangover and as time goes by, many of those who clogged the streets of DC and other cities will awake to the realization that their big day was just that: a day, and one with no sequel.

Posted by tmg110 at 1:06 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 22 January 2017 1:09 PM EST
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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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