Quotulatiousness

January 24, 2017

“In fact, Trump’s basically gaslighting [the press]”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds on the relationship between Trump and the media:

First, the thing to understand is that, as I’ve said before, one of the changes going on with Trump generally is the renegotiation of various post-World War II institutional arrangements. One of those is the institutional arrangement involving the press and the White House. For decades, the press got special status because it was seen as both powerful, and institutionally responsible. (And, of course, allied with the Democrats who were mostly in charge of setting up those postwar institutional arrangements). Now those things have changed. If the press were powerful, it would have beaten Trump. If it were responsible, it wouldn’t be running away with fake news whenever it sees a chance to run something damaging to Trump. And, of course, there’s no alliance between Trump and the media, as there was with Obama.

So things will change. The press’s “insider” status — which it cherishes — is going to fade. (This is producing waves of status anxiety, as are many other Trump-induced institutional changes). And, having abandoned, quite openly, any pretense of objectivity and neutrality in the election, the press is going to be treated as an enemy by the Trump Administration until further notice.

In fact, Trump’s basically gaslighting them. Knowing how much they hate him, he’s constantly provoking them to go over the top. Sean Spicer’s crowd-size remarks are all about making them seem petty and negative. (And, possibly, teeing up crowd-size comparisons at next week’s March For Life, which the press normally ignores but which Trump will probably force them to cover).

A nation divided against itself

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Bretigne Shaffer on the intensely partisan American political scene:

It’s been a weird couple of months. I’ve seen more people unfriend each other on FaceBook than in the past few years combined; There have been several reports of both Trump supporters and minorities being physically attacked; I’ve been asked to wear a safety pin to proclaim to the world that I am not a racist, because the presumption now is that everyone is a racist and you have to (secretly – only not so secretly) announce to everyone if you’re not; and the senior editor of ThinkProgress is afraid of his plumber. (This, based solely on whatever profiling techniques they use over at ThinkProgress – “…a middle-aged white man with a southern accent who seemed unperturbed by this week’s news.” – rather than anything resembling a conversation with the man.)

Here’s the thing: I’m a libertarian. I’ve been surrounded by people who don’t agree with me for as long as I can remember and it has never occurred to me to isolate myself from everyone because of our political differences. Certainly not to assault them. Nor am I filled with anxiety by the thought that people who work in my home might have different political views than mine. To me, you’re all a bunch of fascists. But I’ve somehow learned to live with you.

For me, watching people unravel over this election has been instructive. The – yes, I’m going to say it – bigotry of many on the left, in their caricaturing of Trump supporters, has never before been so blatant. Nor has the jaw-dropping, mass-hypnosis level of selective partisan-driven outrage. I understand that a lot of people are worried, upset, even frightened over the prospect of a Trump presidency. Good. They should be. But they should have been worried eight years ago, or at the very least, four years ago.

January 22, 2017

The media’s Great Depression nostalgia

Filed under: History, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ed Driscoll on the recurring media nostalgia for a long-ago, much-worse-than-today time:

The month after Obama won the election in 2008, Virginia Postrel noted that a lot of journalists (read: Democrat operatives with bylines) had heavily invested in the notion that it was the 1930s all over again, and had a major case of what Virginia dubbed “Depression Lust,” and were busy cranking out “Depression Porn” in service to the Office of the President-Elect. Not least of which was Time magazine’s infamous cover of Obama Photoshopped into the second coming of FDR and the headline “The New, New Deal,” thinking it was a compliment, and not an ominous prediction of an economy as similarly atrophied as Roosevelt’s. Pretending that Trump is Hitler allows you, oh brave foot-soldier in the DNC-MSM, to pose as the new Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It’s simply the funhouse mirror image version of the same sclerotic meme.

For the modern left, if the economy is relatively good*, and the incoming president has a (D) after his name, he’s the second coming of JFK (see: Clinton, Bill); if the economy is bad, and he has a (D) after his name, he’s FDR — and no matter what the shape of the economy, if the president has an (R) after his name, he’s Hitler (QED: Nixon, Reagan, Bush #43, and Trump).

* And it was, despite Clinton’s rhetoric. Would Time magazine lie to you? Well yes, of course. But look what they admitted in December of 1992.

January 21, 2017

Inauguration day

Filed under: Government, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Warren Meyer on the downside of Inauguration Day for small government fans, regardless of which “team” won this time around:

Inauguration day is probably one of my 2 or 3 least favorite days in every decade. My feelings on the whole exercise are probably best encompassed by a conversation I had the other day at a social function.

A couple of my many liberal friends were complaining vociferously about the upcoming Trump Presidency. After a while, one observed that I seemed to be insufficiently upset about Trump. Was I a secret supporter?

I said to them something roughly as follows: You know that bad feeling you have now? That feeling of anger and fear and exasperation that some total yahoo who you absolutely disagree with has been selected to exercise power over you, power that offends you but you have to accept? Yeah, well I feel that after every Presidential election. Every. Single. One. At some point we need to stop treating these politicians as royalty and instead treat them as dangerous threats whose power needs to be circumscribed in every way we can find.

January 20, 2017

The White House press corps anomaly – “Journalists aren’t treated as housepets anywhere else”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh on the rumours that Trump was going to physically evict the press from the White House:

What struck me was that American journalists seemed to agree unanimously that this was a dangerous and alarming signal — as if they really could not do their jobs effectively without office space in the residence of the chief magistrate. No Canadian or other foreigner needs to have it explained how anomalous, downright freaky, this is. Journalists aren’t treated as housepets anywhere else. Even our royal family, which exists explicitly as a public spectacle, regards reporters more as a pack of wild animals to be chastised and fended off.

We are hearing a lot right now about the American press consciously transforming into a political opposition, rediscovering its appropriate, adversarial relationship with the American presidency. How wonderful, if true! But if it is, why did no American reporter say “Please, throw us out immediately: we dare you”? Imagine the opportunity to make a memorable scene: dozens of journalists turning in their White House security credentials simultaneously — maybe burning them! — then marching across the street in ranks to the Old Executive Office Building, carrying their heartbreaking little boxes full of notebooks, laptops, and desk totems. Why, it would be the most inspiring thing you ever saw.

Or maybe it would not serve to make journalists a little more popular for a moment. But, believe me, we have tried everything else. One might even ask why the White House press would wait to be kicked out. If it arranged a sort of pre-emptive general strike, of course, it would have to admit to being a tad hagiographical in the past. Specifically, over the past eight years.

There was a suggestion to defenestrate the media jackals after the election, but it came from outside Trump’s circle of advisors. While I liked the idea at the time, I think Cosh is right in his analysis:

It ought to be obvious why Priebus disavowed talk of evicting the press from the White House. A president who intends to operate by means of whispers, grumbles, threats, and hints needs to have the ears of the press close by. That is the entire historical reason it is close by. Reporters do not have to love Trump to serve his purposes. The glamour of going to work in the White House will do the work of seduction, as it has done down through the decades. I feel certain Trump would no more throw the press out of the West Wing than he will consider leaving Twitter.

Senate confirmation hearings are the American political version of Kabuki theatre

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Megan McArdle on the ongoing senate confirmation hearings for Trump nominees:

We might have hoped to get some sense of where things are headed from Wednesday’s Senate hearing on Price’s confirmation. We might also have hoped to get a bow-wrapped Lexus in the driveway this Christmas, but most of us probably didn’t.

Senate confirmation hearings are always more ritual than substance. The party of the nominee asks penetrating questions such as “Isn’t it true, Madam, that you once rescued an entire family of orphans from a burning building?”, with frequent pauses to thank the nominee for being there, and perhaps compliment them on their taste in confirmation hearing attire (confident, but understated, you understand). The opposition ranges from feigning outrage about things they have done themselves, to petulant whines about how much time they are being given to probe the vital matter of the parking ticket the nominee received in 1984 for depositing their car in a snowplow zone.

But the ritual is necessary. It allows us to maintain the polite fiction that our legislators actually care what the nominee thinks, rather than the partisan impact of confirming them. It can inform the public about issues with the nominee’s record that they should care about, even if they don’t. And occasionally, mostly by accident, actual new information does get tossed out.

QotD: Freedom versus equality

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.

Milton Friedman

January 19, 2017

Trump “is vulgar and offensive. That is my best argument for him”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

David Warren responds to insinuations that he’s changed his opinion of Il Donalduce since the election:

Several correspondents who berated me (in fairly colourful language) for opposing Trump through the Republican primaries now congratulate me for “warming to him.” I find this odd, since most had said they wouldn’t be reading me any more. Too, I’m not aware of warming to Trump. Nor has my pleasure in the defeat of Hillary Clinton waned. (I did say from the start that Trump would win.) One of the two had to win the election, and while I was willing to concede Hillary’s particular merit — for corruption is a humanizing force, that works against leftish ideology — I could find no other. Perhaps the thought of having to look at her for another four years was another paradoxical plus. She might cure me of any remaining Internet addiction. There might also be peace and quiet, or at least quiescence from the progressive media, who only report on the scandals they invent.

Whereas, I have come to enjoy Trump’s turbulence: fat man waddling on the high wire. He may not represent anything resembling the sort of policies I could sincerely endorse, but he is hated by all the right people. Their gasps of horror suspend him aloft. And while he gives no promise of turning the clock back, in the manner I should wish it turned, his approach to the management of the Nanny State cannot be ham-fisted enough for me.

He is vulgar and offensive. That is my best argument for him. And while I am opposed to the existence of Twitter, I do enjoy his tweets. A surprisingly high proportion of them are true, which is what makes them so outrageous. He has found a way to get entirely around the “mainstream” newsmongers, thus hastening their extinction; and as a bonus he scares the bejeezus out of America’s enemies around the world. This is a happy change from Obama, who scared only America’s friends. As I once had the honour of explaining to one of George Dubya’s senior aides, I have nothing against appeasement: so long as your enemies are appeasing you.

January 18, 2017

The bilingual “rule” for prospective Canadian Prime Ministers

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh explains why unilingual Conservative party leadership hopefuls should just plunge right into those French lessons already:

There is clamour in the press right now about the “rule” that a federal Conservative party leader ought to be able to speak in both official languages. I could probably stop this column after the following statement: It’s not a rule. It’s just a very strong precondition for electoral success. Calling it a rule implies that there is some sense in arguing about the ethicality or the practicality of the principle — that it is an idea someone has the power to revoke after discussion of its philosophical merits. It invites verbal volleying over whether Canada is essentially a bilingual country, whether it is proper to exclude qualified unilingual leaders from the Prime Minister’s Office, etc., etc.

You get the normative questions mixed up with the factual ones awfully quickly. You start discussing whether a bilingualism requirement is right or wrong, just or unjust; and political reality stands off to the side, remaining intractable, utterly insensitive to the feelings of ambitious monoglots and their media advocates.

The various Conservative parties have proven that they can, very occasionally, win elections without Quebec. But francophone Canada is just a little bigger than Quebec, and a unilingual leader would now be compromised in campaigning and sidelined in television debate. If he had promised to learn French, which seems to be the hope of Conservative leadership candidates who don’t speak it well, he would be challenged on his skills every week for the remainder of his career. Every speech would be a tiny test, its contents overlooked.

And he would be excruciatingly vulnerable to the good faith and sense of his francophone MPs. When you take all the added challenges for a unilingual party leader into account, it might be easier to go ahead and just learn the damned language already. (One thing worth remembering is that Quebec’s representation in this Conservative leadership race, and probably in future ones, is proportional to its House of Commons delegation. It may be strategically possible to win a general election as a leader without Quebec, but you do have to win the leadership first.)

It was still feasible for unilingual candidates to win the Conservative leadership (back when they were the “Progressive Conservative” party) into the 1970s, but in practical terms it was nearly impossible to win a general election without substantial support from Quebec (which would not be given to a monolingual leader). At this late stage, I read any Conservative leadership hopeful who does not speak both official languages to be angling for a “Kingmaker” or power broker role rather than expecting to actually win.

January 17, 2017

QotD: The role of free markets

Filed under: Economics, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Bernie Sanders, the Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, generated a great deal of mirth on Tuesday when he wondered aloud how it is that a society with 23 kinds of deodorant and 18 kinds of sneakers has hungry children. Setting aside the fact that we must have hundreds of kinds of deodorant and thousands of choices of sneakers, Senator Sanders here communicates a double falsehood: The first falsehood is that the proliferation of choices in consumer goods is correlated with poverty, among children or anybody else, which is flatly at odds with practically all modern human experience. The reality is precisely the opposite: Poverty is worst where consumers have the fewest choices, e.g., in North Korea, the old Soviet Union, the socialist paradise that is modern Venezuela, etc. The second falsehood is that choice in consumer goods represents the loss of resources that might have gone to some other end — that if we had only one kind of sneaker, then there would be more food available for hungry children.

Lest you suspect that I am distorting the senator’s words, here they are:

    You can’t just continue growth for the sake of growth in a world in which we are struggling with climate change and all kinds of environmental problems. All right? You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country. I don’t think the media appreciates the kind of stress that ordinary Americans are working on.

This is a very old and thoroughly discredited idea, one that dates back to Karl Marx and to the anti-capitalists who preceded him. It is a facet of the belief that free markets are irrational, and that if reason could be imposed on markets — which is to say, if reason could be imposed on free human beings — then enlightened planners could ensure that resources are directed toward their best use. This line of thinking historically has led to concentration camps, gulags, firing squads, purges, and the like, for a few reasons: The first is that free markets are not irrational; they are a reflection of what people actually value at a particular time relative to the other things that they might also value. Real people simply want things that are different from what the planners want them to want, a predicament that can be solved only through violence and the threat of violence. That is the first reason that this sort of planning leads to gulags. The second is that there are no enlightened planners; men such as Senator Sanders imagine themselves to be candidates for enlightened leadership, but put a whip in his hand and the gentleman from Vermont will turn out to be another thug in the long line of thugs who have cleaved to his faith. The third reason that this sort of planning always works out poorly is that nobody knows what the best use of resources actually is; all that the would-be masters know is that they do not approve of the current deployment of resources.

Kevin D. Williamson, “Bernie Sanders’s Dark Age Economics”, National Review, 2015-05-27.

January 15, 2017

How not to be politically persuasive, Hollywood edition

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Megan McArdle on the how the actual effect of Meryl Streep’s anti-Trump speech contrasts with her intent, and why:

Well, yes, celebrities are stupid about policy, often breathtakingly so. On the other hand, so is everyone else. You want to hear some really stupid ideas about policy? Grab a group of whip-smart financial wizards, or neurosurgeons, or nuclear physicists, and sit them down for a nice dinner to debate some policy outside their profession. You will find that they are pretty much just as stupid as anyone else, because policy is not about smart. I mean, smart helps. But policy is fundamentally about domain knowledge, and that knowledge is acquired only by spending a great deal of time thinking about a pretty small set of problems. Funnily enough, this is also how one gets good at finance, or neurosurgery, or nuclear physics.

The problem with Hollywood people making political speeches is not that their political ideas are worse than anyone else’s, or that they enjoy sharing their half-baked ideas. This is a minor and forgivable social sin, like arriving five minutes early for a party. No, the problem with Hollywood people making political speeches is that the speeches themselves are bad, at least at their presumed goal of producing political change.

Take Streep. She’s right that Trump should not have made fun of a disabled reporter. However, she surrounded that point with an extended discussion of how mean everyone was being to actors and journalists.

This was a double mistake. First, it accepted Trump’s frame: it’s a handful of liberal elites against the rest of the country. That’s an argument he just won, so it’s unwise to try for an immediate rematch. And second, there is in this whole world no sight less rhetorically compelling than that of successful people with fun and rewarding jobs, and a decent income, complaining that they’re victims of the unglamorous folks who labor at all the strenuously boring work required to make their lives nice. Even I, who have one of those jobs, am rolling my eyes and saying “Good heavens, suck it up.” The only people who don’t recoil from this sort of vacuous self-pity are those similarly situated in elite liberal institutions — but since those folks already hate Trump, you haven’t actually changed anything.

QotD: Like the Bourbons, the Guardian learns nothing and forgets nothing

Filed under: Europe, Law, Liberty, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Bourbons, said Talleyrand, learned nothing and forgot nothing. Sometimes it seems as if our modern liberals are just like the Bourbons. Here, for example, is a headline from the U.K.’s hard-line liberal newspaper, the Guardian:

FAR-RIGHT PARTY STILL LEADING IN DUTCH POLLS, DESPITE LEADER’S CRIMINAL GUILT.

What was the crime of which the far-right leader — Geert Wilders — was guilty? It was incitement to discrimination; in other words, not even discrimination itself. He had discriminated against no one, but made a speech in which he called for “fewer Moroccans.” Significantly, the Guardian gave no further details of what Wilders meant by this — whether, for example, he proposed that fewer Moroccan immigrants should be allowed into the Netherlands, that the illegal Moroccan immigrants should be deported, or that Dutch citizens of Moroccan descent should be deprived of their citizenship and forcibly repatriated. For the Guardian, it hardly seemed to matter.

More significant still was the Guardian’s inability, even after the victory of Donald Trump in the United States—which must, in part, have been attributable to a revolt against political correctness — to see that the conviction of Wilders on a charge so patently designed to silence the fears of a considerable part of the population couldn’t possibly reduce his popularity. By illustrating the moral arrogance of the political class against which Wilders’s movement is a reaction, the charge might actually make him more popular.

Theodore Dalrymple, “Incitement to Hypocrisy: The Netherlands unevenly applies a law forbidding provocation”, City Journal, 2016-12-28.

January 14, 2017

Mad Max for PM!

Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier gets an unusually even-handed profile from the CBC:

Bernier’s life is a moveable banquet of rubber chicken, and shaking grimy, anonymous hands, and pretending great interest in everyone, trying all the while to turn the discussion to Maxime Bernier. And perhaps asking for some money while he’s at it.

Actually, that’s unfair. What Bernier mostly turns the discussion to is his ideas.

He’s libertarian, to the extent that it’s possible to be a libertarian and seek high office in a country that was built on protectionism and entitlement and government being the answer to everything.

He advocates the end of quotas and supply management for dairy, poultry and eggs. Oh, and maple syrup. Most Canadian politicians — let alone MPs representing rural Canada like Bernier — prefer to leave such topics undiscussed.

He wants to abolish interprovincial trade barriers. Stopping companies from growing into other Canadian jurisdictions, or stopping workers from travelling between provinces, he characterizes as “foolish,” “doubly foolish” and “ridiculous.”

Go ahead and argue with that.

Bernier wants an end to what he calls “corporate welfare,” his term for governments using tax money to pick winners, such as Bombardier and General Motors, and letting losers struggle with market forces.

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, it’ll come as no surprise that Bernier is far and away my preferred choice for Tory leader.

QotD: The intellectual monoculture of universities

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Among the great ironies surrounding the state of academia is the continued insistence on hearing more and more “marginalized voices” and increasing “diversity” on campus, as if there is some kind of archaic conservative establishment making that difficult to do.

One would likely be hard-pressed to find a more left-leaning group than college professors and admissions officers, who prioritize pulling marginalized groups out of their marginalization and adding people of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds to campus conversations.

Yet in their efforts to achieve a more egalitarian conversation, left-wing academics and their students completely ignore (at best) and marginalize (at worst) students and the rare colleague who disagree with them politically.

And therein lies the ultimate irony: The very voices that decry inequality in all its manifestations either accept or turn a blind eye to the stunning dearth of conservative academics and the de facto censorship of right-wing students on overwhelmingly left-wing campuses.

Were it some other group suffering such a marginalization, there is no doubt that the left would be up in arms, crying discrimination and demanding rectification.

Some might even call such a monopoly on prevailing campus orthodoxy a type of “privilege,” defined as an asset “of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to,” to quote Peggy McIntosh, the matriarch of privilege’s modern construction.

While the marginalization of right-wing thinkers on campus in no way compares to the experience of black Americans throughout history, it might behoove left-wingers on college campuses to think about the various privileges from which they benefit simply by being members of the overwhelmingly dominant group in their academic communities.

Tal Fortgang, “38 ways college students enjoy ‘Left-wing Privilege’ on campus”, The College Fix, 2015-06-24.

January 13, 2017

Jonathan Haidt on the rise of the “microaggression” concept

Filed under: Health, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

He is commenting on an article in Perspectives on Psychological Science (PDF):

The microaggression program teaches students the exact opposite of ancient wisdom. Microaggression training is — by definition — instruction in how to detect ever-smaller specks in your neighbor’s eye. Microaggression training tells students that “life itself is exactly what you think it is — you have a direct pipeline to reality, and the person who offended you does not, so go with your feelings.” Of course, the ancients could be wrong on these points, but the empirical evidence for the importance of appraisal and the ubiquity of bias and hypocrisy is overwhelming (I review it in chapters 2 and 4 of The Happiness Hypothesis). As Lilienfeld shows, the empirical evidence supporting the utility and validity of the microaggression concept is minimal at best.

I think the section of Lilienfeld’s article that should most make us recoil from the microaggression program is the section on personality traits, particularly negative emotionality and the tendency to perceive oneself as a victim. These are traits — correlated with depression and anxiety disorders — that some students bring with them from high school to college. Students who score high on these traits perceive more microaggressions in ambiguous circumstances. These traits therefore bring misery and anger to the students themselves, and these negative emotions and the conflicts they engender are likely to radiate outward through the students’ social networks (Christakis & Fowler, 2009). How should colleges (and other institutions) respond to the presence of high scorers in their midst? Should they offer them cognitive behavioral therapy or moral validation? Should they hand them a copy of The Dhammapada or a microaggression training manual?

It’s bad enough to make the most fragile and anxious students quicker to take offense and more self-certain and self-righteous. But what would happen if you took a whole campus of diverse students, who arrive from all over the world with very different values and habits, and you train all of them to react with pain and anger to ever-smaller specks that they learn to see in each other’s eyes?

And what would happen if the rise of the microaggression concept coincided with the rise of social media, so that students can file charges against each other — and against their professors — within minutes of any perceived offense? The predictable result of welcoming the microaggression program to campus is turmoil, distrust, and anger. It is the end of the open environment we prize in the academy, where students feel free to speak up and challenge each other, their professors, and orthodox ideas. On a campus that polices microaggressions, everyone walks on eggshells.

H/T to David Thompson for the link.

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