Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cruising the Web

Rich Lowry reminds us of how many supposedly smart people have expressed their envy of China's leaders and government. It's time to stop that idiocy.
China long ago replaced Japan as the Asian boogeyman whose superior economic model is going to sweep all before it. This is such a readily accepted article of faith that it is held, in its various forms, across the spectrum from self-consciously cosmopolitan elites like Thomas Friedman to bombastic populists like Donald Trump.

Friedman, the New York Times columnist, has written, “I cannot help but feel a tinge of jealousy at China’s ability to be serious about its problems and actually do things that are tough and require taking things away from people” (including, it must be said, their freedom).

Such is his regard for China’s governance that he confessed in one column to impure thoughts: “Forgive me, Heavenly Father, for I have cast an envious eye on the authoritarian Chinese political system, where leaders can, and do, just order that problems be solved.”

Trump routinely rues how much smarter China’s leaders are than ours, and in his announcement speech noted, with regret, how China “has bridges that make the George Washington Bridge look like small potatoes.”

It is manifestly true that a closed, low-income economy that adopts some market reforms can grow quickly; that a dictatorial government can manipulate the economy to serve its ends and that government-directed investment can build lots of bridges.

None of this, though, makes for a sustainable, First World economy, let alone a juggernaut that should be feared and envied by the United States.

China might have bright, shiny airports and gauzy GDP numbers, but that is window dressing on a badly distorted economic system that is being managed about as well as you’d expect by a group of corrupt, self-interested statists, which is to say not well at all.

Some perspective is in order with regard to China’s economic position vis-à-vis the United States. As Derek Scissors of the American Enterprise Institute points out, “American national wealth is almost twice that of China and Japan combined,” and “the average American makes 12 times as much annually as the average Chinese.”

China’s double-digit growth numbers might be impressive, but even assuming that they can be believed, they aren’t as telling as they seem.

“Remember,” Paul Dibb and John Lee write in a report for the Australian-based Kokoda Foundation think tank, “that the Soviet Union officially tripled in size from 1950 to 1973, yet its economic model was fundamentally flawed as we realized in hindsight. GDP is essentially an accountant’s tool used to document final economic activity within a country in any given year. But GDP does not measure whether economic activity is productive, profitable or even commercially irrational.”
There are lessons to learn from China's economic earthquake.
Do not blame President Obama for poor decisions by the Chinese government. But remember that America might be in the same boat today if, instead of wasting a mere $1 trillion on a stimulus package, he had taken the advice of his party's progressive wing and pursued a stimulus package several times as great.

The first U.S. casualty of China's implosion is Obama supporters' argument that a boom in the U.S. stock market signals that five years of stagnation will soon come to an end. Obama was recently quoted crediting himself with restoring people's 401(k)s, a claim he might live to regret.

The second casualty, one can at least hope, will be the ignorant rhetoric on trade that comes from Sanders, Donald Trump, and the other blowhard politicians who constantly abuse China as the source of America's economic ills. To whatever extent America suffers, it will be because trading partners tend to flourish together rather than at each other's expense. As China's stature in the world economy declines, these demagogues will finally get the "victory" they wanted, and Americans might discover it is not so sweet.

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This is what happens when everything is politicized.
The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating allegations that military officials have skewed intelligence assessments about the United States-led campaign in Iraq against the Islamic State to provide a more optimistic account of progress, according to several officials familiar with the inquiry.

The investigation began after at least one civilian Defense Intelligence Agency analyst told the authorities that he had evidence that officials at United States Central Command — the military headquarters overseeing the American bombing campaign and other efforts against the Islamic State — were improperly reworking the conclusions of intelligence assessments prepared for policy makers, including President Obama, the government officials said.

Ah, the irony.
In the jubilation of the Obama election victories of 2008 and 2012, the Left warned Republicans that the party of McCain and Romney was now “too old, too white, too male — and too few.” Columnists between 2008 and 2012 ad nauseam berated Republicans on the grounds that their national candidates “no longer looked like America.” The New York Times stable crowed that the Republicans of 2008 were “all white and nearly all male” — not too long before McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running-mate. In reaction to the defeats of McCain and Romney, Salon and Harper’s ran stories on the “Grand Old White Party” and “Angry White Men.”

For Democratic progressives, Hawaiian Barack Obama could not be of mixed ancestry and decidedly middle class, but simply “black” or “African American” — as if he had shared the Jim Crow experience of Clarence Thomas. Nor was there any allowance that race itself had become hard to sort into neat categories in a nation of immigration, intermarriage, and assimilation, in which millions of Americans were one-half this and one-quarter that. Rachel Dolezal and Shaun King proved that well enough by successfully constructing themselves as white for quite a long time.

Liberals had reversed the vision of Martin Luther King Jr.: The color of our skin, not the content of our character, is what matters. Superficial appearance, the ossified politics of the tribe — the curse of the world outside the United States, where corpses have piled up in the Balkans, Rwanda, and Iraq — alone mattered. Identity politics dictated that a shrinking white insular conservative party lacked the Democrats’ “inclusiveness” and “commitment to diversity.” Icons like Barack Obama were what mattered.

So we come to 2016, and the Democrats, of all people, are suddenly in danger of being the washer calling the dryer white. Who exactly are the serious and not so serious presidential candidates of each party?

On the Republican side, there is plenty of diversity as defined by liberals — Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio.

And on the Democratic side? The only representative of “diversity” is Hillary Clinton, who counts by virtue of being female, but who is white and soon to be 68, a fixture on the national political scene for more than a quarter of a century. Her claim on the nomination seems to be that it’s “her turn,” as if Democrats in the post-Obama era nominate their candidates on the basis of seniority and waiting patiently in line. Her status and connections are apparently seen as exempting her from the consequences of violating federal laws that apply to other public servants.

Her opponent is, in traditional liberal parlance, an old white guy and equally a political fixture, the 73-year-old socialist Bernie Sanders, independent senator from Vermont, who has been running for or holding some office for the last 40 years.

What happens if the Democrats cannot choose between an avowed socialist who is not registered in the party whose nomination he seeks, and Hillary Clinton, who has a felony-indictment sword of Damocles over her head?

It is said that perhaps Secretary of State John Kerry might run, a 71-year-old white guy who has done nothing but politics for the last 30-plus years. He followed Clinton as secretary of state, so why not also as presidential candidate? But if Kerry’s loss in the 2004 presidential race, or his ponderous and pontificating style, still grate on Democrats, there are plenty of other old white guys who could step up.

Al Gore is sometimes mentioned, a 67-year-old white male and former Washington insider. But if Gore’s propensity for occasional hysterics and his multimillion-dollar green hypocrisies are a problem, the Democrats can turn to 72-year-old white guy Vice President Joe Biden. Biden has been a Washington fixer who has done nothing outside of politics for the last 40 years.
That's why it's so funny to see liberal writer, Michael Tomasky, fret about how ugly a Biden-Clinton race would quickly become.
Why? Three reasons. The first has to do with race and gender and history. When Clinton announced in 2007, she was going to be the first woman president. Then Obama got in, and he was going to be the first black president. He totally trumped her on the history-maker scale. I realize not everyone saw it that way, but in general terms, given the, ah, special racial history of this country, and given the role the Democratic Party played in changing that history for the better, Obama had the larger and more morally urgent historical claim to make in the minds of most Democrats and liberals. The woman would have to wait, as women so often do.

Well, she’s waited. Not that she had any choice in the matter, but she did. And now, to a lot of Democrats, it’s her turn. The party can make history twice in a row. Imagine!

So now, an old white guy is going to saunter in and step on that? And if he’s going to do it, he’s not going to be able to do it politely, which brings us to reason number two why this would get ugly. Biden is not going to get anywhere with a campaign that says: “I have better ideas than Hillary Clinton does,” because he probably doesn’t, and she has perfectly fine and laudable ideas, even if a lot of liberals don’t want to admit that yet.

No. He’s going to have to run a campaign that says, sub rosa: “I’m a stronger and safer nominee because she’s corrupt.” Because that’s the only argument, is it not? He can’t out-populist her, really, even with Warren promoting him—he’s been in politics for 40 years and he’s always been a pretty conventional establishment liberal on economics. He can maybe say he has more experience, but she’s got plenty of that, and it’s not a deficiency; it would be like Tim Duncan saying “I have more experience than LeBron James.” Yeah, you do. So what?

Biden would have no choice but to build a run around the idea that she’s too risky. He or his surrogates will need to press the idea that the party could nominate Clinton and then next fall, Trey Gowdy finds that Holy Grail email that brings the whole thing crashing down. In other words, his candidacy is going to have to be built around what is in essence a Republican Party talking point.

And if he goes for the jugular, the Clinton team will surely respond in kind. They’re not wallflowers, those folks. They know how to fight. And they’d be fighting on behalf of the millions of Democratic women out there for whom it’s Clinton’s time. That’s her emotional rationale. But Biden has an emotional rationale, too: Beau. Where women will be protective of Hillary, Biden’s backers will be protective of him, too, because of his war hero son’s death.
I heard Tomasky being interviewed on the satellite radio POTUS channel as I drove home yesterday and he seemed really put out that Biden would think of challenging Hillary. And he was pretty contemptuous of the idea that Warren would jump in as Biden's suggested running mate. Maybe that is just how one liberal Hillary supporter sees thing, but I imagine that there are also a whole lot of Democrats who are terrified that Hillary's woes will bring down the party just when the Republicans seem to be flummoxed by the whole Trump phenomenon.

Meanwhile, a Boston Herald reporter explains why Warren should be very wary by hooking her wagon up to the Biden freight train.
Unless Elizabeth Warren wants to brand herself a Class A phony on consumer protection and gender equality, she shouldn’t hitch her wagon to Joe Biden’s runaway train.....

Then there’s the glaring political conflict over Biden’s cozy relationship with credit card companies and financial services institutions.

When he was the senator from Delaware, Biden made deals benefiting MBNA — which is now a subsidiary of Bank of America — at the expense of consumers. His support of the “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005” made it harder for consumers to get bankruptcy protection.

Given Warren’s claim to fame as the sheriff of Wall Street and the protector of the consumer, a political marriage to Joe Biden would tarnish her credibility.

It’s also important to note that for the past 20 years Biden was the single-largest recipient of campaign donations and PAC money from MBNA, according to multiple reports. Please, somebody tell Elizabeth Warren.

Then there’s Biden’s embarrassing racial and ethnic slips and occasional four-letter words. To say he’s committed gaffes over the years is an understatement.

For all the reporters and talking heads in the media who criticize Donald Trump for being politically incorrect, they’ve been hypocritically silent when it comes to President Obama’s veep, who has been one of the worst PC offenders of his generation.

If Biden pulls this off, prepare to hail the serial-groper-in-chief.

Reading through the released Hillary emails, Brendan Bordelon identifies the tone of sycophancy from her top aides. There was also a clear effort to insulate her so that she was hearing mostly praise from her underlings.
E-mails between Clinton and her personal advisers, meanwhile, were brimming with fawning praise for the secretary. Dozens of times, Mills forwarded messages from State Department observers and lower-level staffers congratulating Clinton on a successful speech or media appearance. “A little positive reinforcement to pass on to the S,” read the subject line of one March 28, 2009 e-mail, in which a University of Southern California lecturer called her trip to Mexico a “stunning success” and “jaw-dropping.” Mills also forwarded an April 30, 2009 message from Paul Begala, a former Clinton adviser. “I gave Sec. Clinton an A+ in our dopey CNN report card last night,” he wrote. “So did Donna Brazile. The only two A+’s all night.” Clinton would sometimes ask her staff to print the more effusive commendations.

Many other e-mails contain news reports or editorials complimentary of Clinton’s tenure. “Andrew Sullivan with the Hillary love,” read one e-mail from September 16, 2012, which included a positive op-ed from the Boston Herald. “Higher ground is where all great solutions and triumphs are found and scaled,” wrote Roy Pence, a Clinton-family friend included on the e-mail chain. “HRC, once again, is taking people there.” A perusal of the documents revealed no e-mails highlighting negative media coverage of the secretary.

Some of the e-mails show an apparent desire to bolster Clinton’s confidence in the shadow of President Obama. In one especially effusive e-mail, Reines praised Clinton’s July 26, 2009 appearance on Meet the Press. “You threw a perfect game — or at least a no hitter,” he wrote, saying her performance proved “you’re in a class all your own (including the President who became enmeshed in the Gates incident.)” While not officially a State Department employee, Clinton shadow adviser Sidney Blumenthal attacked President Obama while simultaneously congratulating Clinton. “I don’t know about details of Obama’s plan, but you looked terrific at the speech,” he wrote on September 11, 2009. In an August 22, 2011 missive lauding Clinton for presiding over the fall of Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi, Blumenthal struck out at the “flamingly stupid ‘leading from behind’ phrase,” which the Obama White House was using to describe the intervention.

At times, Clinton’s inner circle seemed aware of the lengths they’d go to buck up their boss. “Your arrival in Kabul landed the front page picture in the NYT and sparked an on-line poll in Huff Post about your coat. At last check, its favorability rating is 77 percent,” wrote Crowley in a rare direct message to Clinton on November 19, 2009. Reines, CCed on the message, quickly wrote back. “Now I know why Huma has been at a computer all day clicking the mouse incessantly,” he quipped.
This gives an insight into her style of leadership: surround herself with yes-men and insulate herself as much as possible from everyone else.

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Amidst the debates on the Republican side on immigration, Byron York takes a look on what Clinton has said on the subject.
In a Cinco de Mayo appearance in Nevada a few months ago, Clinton staked out a policy wherein she pledged would go beyond President Obama's already-expansive (and arguably unconstitutional) approach.

First, Clinton pledged to uphold Obama's unilateral executive edict giving legal protection to immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children.

Second, Clinton pledged to uphold Obama's court-challenged unilateral executive edict giving legal protection to the parents of many of those children.

"I will fight to stop partisan attacks on the executive actions that would put Dreamers ... at risk of deportation," Clinton said. "And if Congress continues to refuse to act, as president I would do everything possible under the law to go even further ... and deal with some of these other issues, like the re-unification of families that were here and that have been split up."

Third, Clinton promised citizenship to the roughly 12 million immigrants in the country illegally. "We can't wait any longer," she said. "We can't wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship."

And fourth, just as important as what Clinton said was what she did not say. The key to making any immigration changes, for many voters, is to increase security at the border and institute real interior enforcement; it seems likely voters would accept some combination of security and legalization. But did Clinton talk about that in her Cinco de Mayo presentation? No.

There's no doubt Clinton has moved far to the left on immigration in the last decade. Asked about the subject during a 2003 radio interview, she said, "We've got to do several things and I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants. ... We've got to do more at our borders, and people have to stop employing illegal immigrants."

During her campaign for the White House in 2007, Clinton pledged, "I will not support driver's licenses for undocumented people."

And even more recently, in 2014, when there was a flood of unaccompanied minor children crossing the border into the United States illegally, Clinton said, "They should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who the responsible adults in their families are ..."

All that is out the window now as Clinton, desperate to keep the Obama coalition intact for 2016, adopts many of the positions of the immigration activist groups that set the agenda on the left.

Frank Luntz is amazed that people in his focus group are ticked off at the Establishment. Ace is shocked that he's shocked and hasn't, apparently, read anything about the appeal of Donald Trump. Luntz represents the cluelessness of the political consultant class who just don't know what people are thinking.
I have previously said -- and I've said this a dozen times before, especially in the 2007 amnesty fight -- that the Establishment in DC, paid millions and feted as gurus of the political pulse of the nation -- knows far, far less than the base than the average low-level blogger who bothers to read his comments and talk with them.

By the way, of course: That's expressly the reason Andrew Breitbart read the comments, especially here. Well, one reason was that he simply enjoyed them. But the other reason, he told me, was to figure out where people, as a mass, were on issues, where their passion was, where they were going.

You would think that these well-paid consultants, claiming the ability to channel the sentiments of the party, would do this very most basic sort of research into the national mood.

It's all open source, assholes. You don't have to pay a dime to do what Breitbart used to, which is to use some program to suck up all comments into a file so he could read them when he didn't have the internet (on a plane, etc.)

But no -- High Guru Frank Luntz is shocked to the point of his legs shaking as the world reels beneath his feet to discover the grassroots really, really despises the Establishment, and no longer trusts them, and in fact considers them political enemies in the same way they consider the Democrats to be political enemies.

This is news to them.
Meanwhile, Ace is disgusted at Trump's gratuitous slamming of Megyn Kelly on Monday.
What is Trump's plan? Or, rather: What would be Trump's plan, if he were capable of planning?

Well, he'd take his starting base of support -- a not-inconsiderable base, given that he's at 35% in New Hampshire -- and use that to win the nomination, over the protestations of the Establishment.

Then, having beaten the Establishment, he would leave them with little other choice but to accept that he has won, and begin supporting him, and saying nice things about him for once.

The Establishment wouldn't like that, but they would probably have to go along with it.

Part of the reason Trump still lags in head-to-heads with Hillary or Biden or Sanders, despite pulling some support, I'm guessing, from blue-collar voters who typically vote Democrat, is that many white-collar Republicans will not support him, at least not yet.

So, Trump's plan should be to win the nomination over their heads, just bull right over them, but then, later, co-opt most of those recalcitrant I'll-never-vote-for-a-low-class-guy-like-Trump Comfortable Class Respectable Republicans and get their support too.

That should be the plan -- that's how he could, conceivably, win.

Which makes it all the more strange that he just can't seem to stop attacking a major, major Establishment avatar, Megyn Kelly, who has a huge microphone and, PS, is one of the most respected anchors on the right, oh, and also, by the way, pissing off the most important Republican institution, which isn't the RNC, of course, but rather FoxNews.

What could he possibly be thinking?

Answer: He's not thinking, he's emoting, Megyn Kelly made him feel bad with her pointed questions and Insolent Journalism and now he's going to obsess about that hurt forever and ever, as he did with Rosie O'Donnell.

It's one thing to burn your bridges behind you. It's quite another thing to burn the bridges which are absolutely required for your passage before you've crossed them at all.

This is, as they say, worse than a crime; this is a mistake. And a very troubling one, coming, as it does, from a place of pure uncontrollable emotionality and id.

It does not presage well for a Trump presidency -- he'll have plenty of people talking smack about him as president, and, as president, do I trust that he will limit his zest for payback to Twitter?

Or do I start to fear he'll be a Lois Lerner type?

This worries me. He does not seem capable of just shaking it off and moving on. He seems to be frozen forever at his point of psychological pain.
It just seems so unnecessary which means that Ace is onto something. Trump can't get beyond someone who, according to him, has dissed him by asking a tough question quoting his own words back to him. Is that what a Trump presidency would presage - petty obsessions with imagined insults if he doesn't get suitably obsequious questions and commentary. We have an extremely thin-skinned president right now and it's not attractive. Now Obama is calling opponents of the Iran deal "crazies." I guess the majority of the American people are also crazies. I guess that's Obama's equivalence of Trump calling people he doesn't like "losers." Obama is often eager to return insults that he's received. Trump is even worse. Trump's skin is stretched so thin that we can almost see that magnificent brain that he's always bragging about.

Above I linked to a story about how the aides writing Hillary on her private server were such obsequious yes-men. Is there any indication that Trump likes to have people around him who criticize him or his ideas?

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Peggy Hubbard is a heckuva woman. It's almost shocking that someone could so passionately say what is so obvious.
Peggy Hubbard, the woman who posted a #BlackLivesMatter rant that went viral, appeared on CNN tonight to tell Don Lemon why she thinks the movement has misplaced priorities.

Her main frustration is that a nine-year-old black girl was killed in a drive-by shooting, but no one cared, and at the same time, protesters rioted after someone who reportedly pointed a gun at cops was shot by the police.

Hubbard told Lemon that police officers across the country are worried either about being killed or being “the next Darren Wilson” because of the strong anti-police sentiment.

Lemon read some of the nasty responses she’s gotten for her outspokenness (including at least one invocation of the n-word) and asked for her response. Hubbard replied, “Bite me.”

Alum Bokhari writes at Breitbart on the "Rise of the Cultural Libertarians." Now that's a movement I could really get behind!

Free expression. No idea is too dangerous for cultural libertarians, who want total artistic and intellectual freedom. They often indulge in deliberately outrageous jokes and wacky opinions to test the boundaries of acceptability. Little wonder that the movement’s leaders often attract large followings from the the chaotic, politically incorrect world of anonymous imageboards like 4chan.

Resisting identity politics and public shaming. The movement can also be seen criticising modern methods of cultural control and the neo-puritanism they say has infected modern cultural criticism. The newest of these is a rash of social justice-inspired online vigilantism where professional offence-takers use the power of social media to destroy the reputations and careers of their targets. Justine Sacco, who faced global outrage and the loss of her job over a single politically-incorrect joke, is one well-known victim. Astrophysicist Dr. Matt Taylor and biochemist Sir Tim Hunt were also victims of this modern form of thuggery.

A sense of humour. Cultural libertarians combat anger with ridicule. There is a certain preposterousness to bloggers and social media addicts setting themselves up as a new priesthood, which makes them easy targets for comedy. As MIT Technology Review editor Jason Pontin puts it: “Tyrants, authoritarians and activists all hate the sound of laughter.” Cultural libertarians understand this instinctively.

An end to nannying and “safe space” culture. Arrayed against the cultural libertarians is the control freakery of the establishment, left and right, and the second coming of political correctness as embodied in campus safe space movements. This latter movement claims that students are too fragile to be exposed to dangerous ideas, and that even mildly offensive speech can cause permanent emotional damage. On the internet, these activists enjoy the support of outlets like Vox and Buzzfeed.

Defending personal freedom. Cultural libertarians may have their own opinions about how people should live their lives, or have low tolerance for offensive speech. But what distinguishes them from their opponents is their rejection of attempts to impose personal standards on others.

Defending spaces for uncomfortable opinions. Reason columnist Cathy Young is a critic of the “misogynistic rhetoric” of masculinist bloggers like Daryush Valizadeh, but nonetheless defended Valizadeh’s right to speak after activists launched a campaign to ban him from Canada. Cultural libertarians are serious about protecting the the freedoms of people they despise.

Fact over feelings. Hand in hand with their commitment to free speech goes a loathing for narrative-led journalism. Cultural libertarians are highly critical of “feelings over facts” in general, but particularly where it gives rise to failures in reporting such as the Duke Lacrosse case, the Rolling Stone debacle, “Mattress Girl” Emma Sulkowicz and GamerGate.
Read the rest. I agree with every word.