Monday, February 27, 2017

Cruising the Web

Victor Davis Hanson contrasts
the way we used to regard the importance of assimilation to the celebration of diversity that we see today. When I was a kid, I can remember lessons about how wonderful the American melting pot was. I remember an illustration in a fifth-grade textbook that showed all sorts of ethnically dressed people, in stereotypical clothes from Ireland, Russia, Africa, Mexico, China, etc., dancing into a big pot out of which they came dressed in red, white, and blue. When I told my colleagues in the history department about that picture they all laughed at how ridiculous such an idea was. But I always felt that there was something healthy about that concept. Maybe I was inspired by Martin Luther King's vision that Hanson reminds us of. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
A “hyphenated American,” Roosevelt scoffed, “is not an American at all.” And 30 years ago, another progressive stalwart and American historian Arthur Schlesinger argued in his book The Disuniting of America that identity politics were tearing apart the cohesion of the United States.

What alarmed these liberals was the long and unhappy history of racial, religious, and ethnic chauvinism, and how such tribal ties could prove far stronger than shared class affinities. Most important, they were aware that identity politics had never proved to be a stabilizing influence on any past multiracial society. Indeed, most wars of the 20th century and associated genocides had originated over racial and ethnic triumphalism, often by breakaway movements that asserted tribal separateness. Examples include the Serbian and Slavic nationalist movements in 1914 against Austria-Hungary, Hitler’s rise to power on the promise of German ethno-superiority, the tribal bloodletting in Rwanda, and the Shiite/Sunni/Kurdish conflicts in Iraq.
These days, society seems to celebrate what separates groups of people rather than what united them. And now one political party is built on keeping those divisions alive.
This shift from the ideal of the melting pot to the triumph of salad-bowl separatism occurred, in part, because the Democratic Party found electoral resonance in big government’s generous entitlements and social programs tailored to particular groups. By then, immigration into the United States had radically shifted and become less diverse. Rather than including states in Europe and the former British Commonwealth, most immigrants were poorer and almost exclusively hailed from the nations of Latin America, Asia, and Africa, resulting in poorer immigrants who, upon arrival, needed more government help. Another reason for the shift was the general protest culture of the Vietnam era, which led to radical changes in everything from environmental policy to sexual identity, and thus saw identity politics as another grievance against the status quo.

A half-century later, affirmative action and identity politics have created a huge diversity industry, in which millions in government, universities, and the private sector are entrusted with teaching the values of the Other and administering de facto quotas in hiring and admissions. In 2016, Hillary Clinton ran a campaign on identity politics, banking on the notion that she could reassemble various slices of the American electorate, in the fashion that Barack Obama had in 2008 and 2012, to win a majority of voters. She succeeded, as did Obama, in winning the popular vote by appealing directly to the unique identities of gays, Muslims, feminists, blacks, Latinos, and an array of other groups, but misjudged the Electoral College and so learned that a numerical majority of disparate groups does not always translate into winning key swing states.
So identity politics is the core of the Democratic Party today. And then they were shocked, shocked that a segment of white voters voted their identity when they chose Trump. So are we doomed to ever-divisive politics based on race and ethnicity? Hanson thinks the future of such diversity politics is limited.
What is the future of diversity politics after the 2016 election? Uncertain at best—and for a variety of reasons.

One, intermarriage and integration are still common. Overall, about 15 percent of all marriages each year are interracial, and the rates are highest for Asians and Latinos. Forty percent of Asian women marry men of another race—one quarter of African-American males do, as well—and over a quarter of all Latinos marry someone non-Latino.

Identity politics hinges on perceptible racial or ethnic solidarity, but citizens are increasingly a mixture of various races and do not always categorize themselves as “non-white.” Without DNA badges, it will be increasingly problematic to keep racial pedigrees straight. And sometimes the efforts to do so reach the point of caricature and inauthenticity, through exaggerated accent marks, verbal trills, voice modulations, and nomenclature hyphenation. One reason why diversity activists sound shrill is their fear that homogenization is unrelenting.

Second, the notion of even an identifiable and politically monolithic group of non-white minorities is also increasingly suspect. Cubans do not have enough in common with Mexicans to advance a united Latino front. African-Americans are suspicious of open borders that undercut entry-level job wages. Asians resent university quotas that often discount superb grades and test scores to ensure racial diversity. It is not clear that Hmong-Americans have much in common with Japanese-Americans, or that Punjabi immigrants see themselves politically akin to Chinese newcomers as fellow Asians.

Third, ethnic solidarity can cut both ways. In the 2016 elections, Trump won an overwhelming and nearly unprecedented number of working class whites in critical swing states. Many either had not voted in prior elections or had voted Democratic. The culture’s obsession with tribalism and special ethnic interests—often couched in terms of opposing “white privilege”—had alienated millions of less well-off white voters. Quietly, many thought that if ethnic activists were right that the white majority was shrinking into irrelevance, and if it was acceptable for everyone to seek solidarity through their tribal affiliations, then poor whites could also rally under the banner of their own identity politics. If such trends were to continue in a nation that is still 70 percent white, it would prove disastrous for the Democratic Party in a way never envisioned during the era of Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton discovered that Obama’s identity politics constituencies were not transferable to herself in the same exceptional numbers, and the effort to ensure that they were often created new tribal opponents.
Add in that immigration is not going to grow at the rates anticipated. And future generations may assimilate more than expected.
Were immigration to slow down and become more diverse, the formidable powers of integration and intermarriage would perhaps do to the La Raza community what it once did to the Italian-American minority after the cessation of mass immigration from Italy. There are currently no Italian-American quotas, no Italian university departments, and no predictable voting blocs.
And, as Hanson points out, we're becoming more divided by class than by race.
Fifth, class is finally reemerging as a better barometer of privilege than is race—a point that Republican populists are starting to hammer home. The children of Barack Obama, for example, have far more privilege than do the sons of Appalachian coal miners—and many Asian groups already exceed American per capita income averages. When activist Michael Eric Dyson calls for blanket reparations for slavery, his argument does not resonate with an unemployed working-class youth from Kentucky, who was born more than 30 years after the emergence of affirmative action—and enjoys a fraction of Dyson’s own income, net worth, and cultural opportunities.
And what happens when members of minority groups don't follow the party line on ideology?
Finally, ideology is eroding the diversity industry. Conservative minorities and women are not considered genuine voices of the Other, given their incorrect politics. For all its emphasis on appearance, diversity is really an intolerant ideological movement that subordinates race and gender to progressive politics. It is not biology that gives authenticity to feminism, but leftwing assertions; African-American conservatives are often derided as inauthentic, not because of purported mixed racial pedigrees, but due to their unorthodox beliefs.
It's become clear that the diversity industry is only about liberals, not ethnicity.
Finally, ideology is eroding the diversity industry. Conservative minorities and women are not considered genuine voices of the Other, given their incorrect politics. For all its emphasis on appearance, diversity is really an intolerant ideological movement that subordinates race and gender to progressive politics. It is not biology that gives authenticity to feminism, but leftwing assertions; African-American conservatives are often derided as inauthentic, not because of purported mixed racial pedigrees, but due to their unorthodox beliefs.
This has long been true of how liberals regarded those of the approved ethnicity or sex who strayed from the liberal party line. Gloria Steinem, feminist icon, would call women who didn't support abortion 'female impersonators,' as she did Kay Bailey Hutchison during the Senate race back in the early 1990s. We've seen those attacks on Clarence Thomas once it became clear that he dared to be a conservative and vote that way on the Supreme Court. Remember the depiction of Thomas as a lawn jockey on the cover of Emerge Magazine in 1996. The sharpest attacks from the left have always been for those who had the courage to follow their own beliefs and not be intimidated into a straitjacket of ideology. And perhaps Hanson is right that we're seeing the first cracks in the diversity machine.
The 2016 election marked an earthquake in the diversity industry. It is increasingly difficult to judge who we are merely by our appearances, which means that identity politics may lose its influence. These fissures probably explain some of the ferocity of the protests we’ve seen in recent weeks. A dying lobby is fighting to hold on to its power.
It took decades to arrive at where we are today; we won't see the end of identity politics after just one election, but we can hope that one day politicians will be judged by the "content of their character," and not the color of their skin or which boxes they tick off on a diversity survey.

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Ian Tuttle links to this amazing story out of Denmark.
The Danish government has been inadvertently paying benefits to citizens fighting for the Islamic State in Syria, Danish officials said Tuesday, as outrage grows that militants are manipulating the country’s generous welfare system.

About 145 Danes have traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight for militant groups since 2012, according to the Danish security and intelligence services.

Officials said this week that they had identified a number of Danish citizens who, while receiving government disability pensions, had traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

“It is a huge scandal that we are paying out money from the welfare funds in Denmark to people who are going to Syria and elsewhere in the world to undermine democracy that we have been fighting for for hundreds of years,” the country’s minister of labor, Troels Lund Poulsen, said.

Last year, the news media reported that more than two dozen Danish citizens receiving unemployment benefits had traveled to Syria to fight for ISIS, even though the law requires recipients to live in Denmark....

Until now, national regulations have made it difficult for the authorities to stop benefit payments to a suspected militant, even if the person had been identified by the intelligence services as an ISIS fighter. Officials said investigating the circumstances of individuals in Syria or Iraq was logistically challenging.
So they have had such militants traveling to the Middle East to fight for ISIS and then return to Denmark and keep picking up welfare checks. Unbelievable. Tuttle concludes,
In case you didn’t catch that: Even if Danish intelligence spots you jihad-ing your way across the Levant, RPG-launcher on your shoulder, sex slaves in tow, the Danish government will still have a hard time cutting off your government check.

The thing about managerial liberalism is that it only works when the managers are competent. When news like this emerges, you start to see how voters could start looking around for something — maybe anything — else.

Joseph Bottum writes of a horrific court decision out of Germany which ruled that an attempt by a group of Muslim men to bomb a synagogue was not anti-Semitic because the men were supposedly protesting against Israel.
The failed firebombing attack had occurred in 2014, during the Israeli conflict with Hamas in Gaza. In 2015 the lower court found that the men had intended their actions as a protest against Israel—with the result that the adults in the group deserved to have their sentences suspended, freeing them from jail time. And now, after review by a superior court, the German legal system has affirmed that German synagogues are legitimate targets of protest against Israel.

Remember this moment, for the German courts have exposed the mechanism by which opposition to Israel proves indistinguishable from opposition to Jews.

Perhaps at one point, a distinc­tion between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism was notionally possible. But those days have been gone for many years, lost in the mists. And now, even the attempt to make the distinction becomes a way of insisting on a Jewish difference. "Anti-Zionism is the new dressing for the old passion of anti-Semitism," as the French writer Bernard-Henri Lévy tried to tell a New York audience on January 11—and it is perhaps worth noting that the synagogue in Wuppertal was built on the site of a previous synagogue, destroyed by the Nazis on Kristallnacht in 1938.

To see the logic at play, suppose that three white men had attacked a traditionally black church in Birmingham, Alabama, scrawling graffiti and trying to set the church on fire. Caught and convicted, they were sentenced to a year in jail—with the jail time suspended. Yes, the judge explained, they had been unlawfully violent and thus deserved to be convicted. But he suspended their sentences because their purpose in attacking the African-American church had not been to harm Americans but to protest the failure of the Nigerian government to halt the kidnapping of schoolgirls by the radical African militia Boko Haram.

Or suppose something similar, but this time in Manila. After a court in the Philippines convicted several citizens of defacing a local mosque, the judge suspended their sentences—on the grounds that, however illegally they had behaved, they were engaged in legitimate political protest over the oppression of Christian guest workers by the Islamic government in Saudi Arabia.
Neither of those defenses for violence would be acceptable. But fire-bombing a synagogue is now more or less downgraded as an attack because the perpetrators can claim hatred of Israel as their motive and thus earn a suspended sentence. Try to imagine similar logic here in the United States if someone bombed a black church because they were angry about some action of an African government or a mosque because they were angry about Syrian or Saudi actions. And now Germany, of all countries, is turning their eyes away from clear attacks on German Jews. And sadly, that attitude has now permeated American college campuses.
If trying to set fire to a local synagogue is merely a criticism of Israel, then every Jewish house of worship is a symbolic embassy of a foreign power: a stand-in for the nation-state of Israel. And Germans prove not to be Germans when they attend a synagogue. The salient fact is instead that they are Jews.

The psychology by which anti-Zionism falls into anti-Semitism has been on display for years. We saw it in the United States in 2014 when a Temple University student punched a Jewish undergraduate and called him "kike" for arguing about Israel. And in 2015 when UCLA and Stanford student boards were caught interrogating non-Israeli applicants about Israel, just because they were Jewish.

What the German courts have revealed, however, is not so much the psychology as the logic by which anti-Semitism has returned to the West. A strong case can be made that modern anti-Zionism was always a subterfuge, born from an anti-Semitism trying to disguise itself. But now even the need to wear that mask seems gone. The German Muslims who attacked the Wuppertal synagogue in 2014 took Germany's Jews as representatives of Israel, and in 2017 the German courts agreed, simply as a matter of law.

Think about that for a moment. Once non-Israeli Jews have been legally recognized as symbols of Israel, not even a ray of daylight can slip between opposition to Israel and opposition to Jews. We needn't pretend anymore. Needn't nod sagely and agree that anti-Israeli groups—the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movements, for example—could theoretically avoid singling out American and European Jews. Needn't listen when the tattered old subterfuge is trotted out again to excuse attacks on synagogues.

Once and for all, anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism. German courts have told us so.

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Well, colored me shocked. Larry Kudlow points out how the media cognoscenti ignored the rosy forecasts of economic growth in President Obama's first budget and now are criticizing the Trump team for less rosy predictions.
Virtually the whole world is beating up on the Trump administration for daring to predict that low marginal tax rates, regulatory rollbacks, and the repeal of Obamacare will generate 3 to 3.5 percent economic growth in the years ahead.

In a CNBC interview last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held the line on this forecast. He also argued the need for dynamic budget scoring to capture the effects of faster growth. Good for him.

But what’s so interesting about all the economic-growth naysaying today is that President Obama’s first budget forecast roughly eight years ago was much rosier than Trump’s. And there was nary a peep of criticism from the mainstream-media outlets and the consensus of economists.

Strategas Research Partners policy analyst Dan Clifton printed up a chart of the Obama plan that predicted real economic growth of roughly 3 percent in 2010, near 4 percent in 2011, over 4 percent in 2012, and nearly 4 percent in 2013.

But it turned out that actual growth ran below 2 percent during this period. Was there any howling about this result among the economic consensus? Of course not. It seems they’ve saved all their grumbling for the Trump forecast today.
The contrast is even deeper because Obama's budget didn't include any measures for economic growth; it was a mixture of what became an ineffectual $850 billion stimulus and tax increases. We had eight years of low economic growth so some economists think that the days of higher growth are gone forever. Well, let's try what worked before in the early 1960s and 1980s - tax cuts and lower regulation and see if that works better than just the opposite.

Jean Sagouspe, a farmer in California's San Joaquin Valley reminds us of how farmers there are being put out of business by federal and state environmental policies.
But a scorched-earth campaign by environmentalists has created a regulatory drought that exceeds anything mother nature has produced. A 1992 federal law, the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, diverted 1.5 million acre-feet of water—roughly a fifth of the total water delivery—annually to wildlife and green hobbyhorses. That ultimately means flushing it out into the ocean. “Basically, they’ve now legislated a permanent drought in the San Joaquin Valley,” Mark Borba, a cotton farmer, told the Los Angeles Times when the law passed.

Subsequent lawsuits by environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council have tightened restrictions even more. The San Joaquin River Restoration Program, the result of a 2006 settlement in a lawsuit over fish habitat, took away another some 225,000 acre-feet of water annually. Environmentalists have repeatedly sued the government for ostensibly violating the Endangered Species Act and failing to protect the delta smelt and other fish.

This has significantly curtailed water flows at two major pumping stations that serve the valley. As a result, more than 1.4 trillion gallons of water has drained out to sea since 2008. California also has fewer places to store water than it used to. Since 2000, dozens of dams in the state have been removed, according to a tally by the conservation group American Rivers, eliminating storage that could have helped harness floodwaters for crops.

This regulatory drought has real effects on people like me. Over the past three years I have been forced to kill over half my almond trees—more than 980 acres. This has caused me to lose more than $7 million in almond revenue, and it has eliminated about $10 million of my farm’s value. I’ve been forced to lay off 25% of the people who helped grow these crops. Some of these employees had worked with me for 20 years.

My story is typical. Across the Central Valley, hundreds of thousands of acres have turned fallow, tens of thousands of jobs have been lost, and billions of dollars of economic activity has evaporated. The Great Recession may be over, but unemployment in the valley is about double the national average.
With all these efforts and the killing of farmland and jobs, the goal of preserving the tiny fish at the heart of all this regulation, the delta smelt, is still dying out. Sagouspe writes,
The kicker: Fish populations haven’t recovered and the smelt is on the verge of extinction. But the water supply may have less to do with this than the ammonia produced by Sacramento’s sewage and nonnative predators, like striped bass, which for some reason don’t make it into environmentalists’ crosshairs.

Perhaps saving the smelt is only a secondary goal. Two years ago Rep. Devin Nunes, who represents parts of the San Joaquin Valley, wrote about a meeting of environmental activists that he attended in 2002, before he was elected to Congress. “Their goal was to remove 1.3 million acres of farmland from production,” Mr. Nunes wrote. “They showed me maps that laid out their whole plan: From Merced all the way down to Bakersfield, and on the entire west side of the Valley as well as part of the east side, productive agriculture would end and the land would return to some ideal state of nature. I was stunned by the vicious audacity of their goal.”
It is so ironic that, while parts of California are flooding, a man-made drought is bankrupting a significant part of the state's economy and throwing so many people out of work. This has been an issue for years and the situation has gotten worse.
President Trump can put an end to this madness. Last year Congress passed, and President Obama signed, a water infrastructure bill that gives the interior secretary more latitude to approve new dams and storage facilities. The Trump administration should make good use of this authority to sign off on projects that have been held up for decades by regulatory hurdles.

The alternative is more of California’s status quo: drought in a time of flooding, which is something only a bureaucrat could dream up.
I can just imagine the sorts of hurdles the environmentalists will throw up to stop such common-sense projects.

The WSJ reports
on how Bernie Sanders loyalists are focused on taking over the Democratic Party from the ground up.
Last week, a group of former Sanders campaign aides launched a super PAC with the explicit goal of mounting primary challenges to Democratic incumbents. Party leaders are urging Democrats to focus on fighting Mr. Trump and his GOP allies instead of turning their fire inward.

For now, the strategy of Mr. Sanders’s followers is to infiltrate and transform the Democratic Party’s power structure, starting with the lowest-level state and county committee posts that typically draw scant attention.

“From where I come from in the Bernie movement, people believe that there are permanent obstacles to change,” said Larry Cohen, the board chairman of Our Revolution, the political organization that grew from the 2016 Sanders presidential campaign.

The broader goal is not only to pull the party to the left on policy, but also to fundamentally alter how it operates by eschewing corporate donors, shifting resources from television advertising to neighborhood organizing and stripping power from longtime party elders—including the “superdelegates” who can tip presidential primary contests—ahead of the 2020 election.
They failed at the national level when the Sanders-backed candidate Keith Ellison lost the race for Democratic Party chairman against the establishment-backed Tom Perez. The Republican Party has experienced similar internal conflicts when Tea Party-backed candidates ran against more centrist GOP incumbents. Some of those candidates such as Ted Cruz, Ben Sasse, and Marco Rubio were successful and good additions to the party. And others like Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell lose winnable elections. I suspect that the same will be true on the other side of the spectrum. We'll see what kind of backlash there will be among these Sanders-inspired activists.

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Charles Krauthammer finds method in Trump's madness. Krauthammer sees the contrast between the experienced, adult members of Trump's foreign policy and security advisers and Trump himself.
t the heart of Donald Trump's foreign policy team lies a glaring contradiction. On the one hand, it is composed of men of experience, judgment and traditionalism. Meaning, they are all very much within the parameters of mainstream American internationalism as practiced since 1945. Practically every member of the team -- the heads of State, Homeland Security, the CIA, and most especially Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster -- could fit in a Cabinet put together by, say, Hillary Clinton.

The commander in chief, on the other hand, is quite the opposite -- inexperienced, untraditional, unbounded. His pronouncements on everything from the "one China" policy to the two-state (Arab-Israeli) solution, from NATO obsolescence to the ravages of free trade, continue to confound and, as we say today, disrupt.

The obvious question is: Can this arrangement possibly work? The answer thus far, surprisingly, is: perhaps.
Krauthammer points to Germany's announcement that, as Trump had called for, it will increase the size of its military. China, in reaction to the assassination of Kim Jong Un's half brother with a banned nerve agent, has cut off its coal imports from North Korea. Perhaps the Chinese weren't motivated at all by Trump's meanderings on a "one China" policy and his demagoguery on China, but maybe something else might be happening on foreign policy.
This suggests that the peculiar and discordant makeup of the U.S. national security team -- traditionalist lieutenants, disruptive boss -- might reproduce the old Nixonian "Madman Theory." That's when adversaries tread carefully because they suspect the U.S. president of being unpredictable, occasionally reckless and potentially crazy dangerous. Henry Kissinger, with Nixon's collaboration, tried more than once to exploit this perception to pressure adversaries.

Trump's people have already shown a delicate touch in dealing with his bouts of loopiness. Trump has gone on for years about how we should have taken Iraq's oil for ourselves. In Baghdad last Sunday, Mattis wryly backed off, telling his hosts that "All of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along, and I'm sure that we will continue to do so in the future."

Yet sometimes an off-center comment can have its uses. Take Trump's casual dismissal of a U.S. commitment to a two-state solution in the Middle East. The next day, U.S. policy was brought back in line by his own U.N. ambassador. But this diversion might prove salutary. It's a message to the Palestinians that their decades of rejectionism may not continue to pay off with an inexorable march toward statehood -- that there may actually be a price to pay for making no concessions and simply waiting for the U.S. to deliver them a Palestinian state.

To be sure, a two-track, two-policy, two-reality foreign policy is risky, unsettling and has the potential to go totally off the rails. This is not how you would draw it up in advance. It's unstable and confusing. But the experience of the first month suggests that, with prudence and luck, it can yield the occasional benefit -- that the combination of radical rhetoric and conventional policy may induce better behavior both in friend and foe.

Alas, there is also a worst-case scenario. It needs no elaboration.
Well, that's the most optimistic take I've seen on Trump's spouting off on Twitter and in public with foreign policy statements that are then walked back a day or so later after someone explains the import of what he was saying to Trump. I'm not sure that the "Madman theory" is how I would want American foreign policy to be structured, but if there are some benefits to having a president who speaks his mind based on his instincts rather than any real understanding of the issues, I guess we have to be thankful.

Meanwhile, Nate Robinson going between the legs of a 7'3" defender is the best thing I've seen in basketball all year.
Ah, Hollywood. Let's put them in charge of the country. Because they never have an "oops" moment or anything. Steve Harvey must be so relieved that he's not the one to have made the biggest flub in awards history.