Quotulatiousness

February 9, 2017

QotD: The president has a persecution complex

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

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our president has a persecution complex. He thinks any inconvenient but truthful coverage of him is an unfair criticism and any unfair criticism is a lie. What makes this complicated is that sometimes Trump is right. Some of the coverage has been ridiculous and desperate nonsense, as Mollie Hemingway ably chronicles. And some of the coverage has been merely accurate-but-hypocritical. Howard Kurtz ran through a list last night on Special Report. When Bill Clinton lied, it was called “misleading” or “less than candid” but when Trump lies, it’s a “Lie!” in the headline. (One can make the argument — as I have — that many of Trump’s lies are less offensive because he just glandularly blurts them out, while Bill Clinton lied like an artisan whittling a ballerina out of a block of wood, with loving, expert attention to every detail.)

But you know what? When I say Trump is lying about something, I’m not guilty of any double standard. I called Bill Clinton and Barack Obama liars all the time. You know why? Because they lied all the time. And yet every day, if I criticize Trump about anything, the cultists scream at me some version of “Oh yeah! Why weren’t you this critical of Obama?” or “What about Bill Clinton!?” It’s like they don’t know who they’re talking to. If Trump plays Baron-and-the-Milkmaid with an intern, I will make a big deal out of it and so will the New York Times. Their hypocrisy will not apply to me.

When conservatives — I’m not referring to Republican political hacks, that’s their job; I’m referring to actual conservative writers — go out and respond to the negative coverage solely by attacking the MSM messengers, they are in effect condoning — or at least providing cover for — Trump’s behavior and feeding the idea that he’s a victim whenever anyone does anything other than applaud. Steve Bannon wants to demonize and delegitimize the mainstream media. Given his record at Breitbart, that’s some odd casting for Champion of Journalistic Integrity, but whatever. That’s his fight, and shame on the mainstream media for making his job so easy.

Jonah Goldberg, “Week One”, National Review, 2017-01-27.

February 8, 2017

Seeing the elephant (economic edition)

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

Stephen Gordon says it’s a dangerous fantasy to think that the Canadian economy could cope with a Prime Minister who tries to “get tough” over Il Donalduce‘s trade concerns:

Pierre Trudeau once described the Canadian relationship with the United States as “like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered the beast … one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” It is now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bad luck – and ours – to be bunking down with a surly and irascible elephant.

It’s worth dwelling on just how asymmetric the economic relationship is between Canada and the United States. It’s sometimes pointed out that Canada is the largest market for U.S. exports, and that’s true as far as it goes. But U.S. dependence on the Canadian export market is an order of magnitude smaller than Canadian dependence on exports to the U.S. Exports of goods and services to the U.S. accounted for 22.8 per cent of Canadian GDP in 2015; U.S. exports to Canada were only 1.9 per cent of U.S. GDP.

There’s not much that could or should have been done to reduce this dependence on the U.S. market. All the factors that determine the volume of trade flows — physical proximity, market size, linguistic and cultural ties, similar legal systems and so forth — all point to the U.S. It’s always been a good idea to promote trade links with other countries, but the U.S. would still be our dominant export market even in a world in which the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership were already in place.

So it really doesn’t make sense to think that a Canadian Prime Minister can “stand up” and “fight back” against U.S. sanctions, or that Canada’s bargaining position would be somehow strengthened if another person were running the government. The trade numbers would still be the same.

Australia’s PM facing blowback from “secret” refugee deal

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

Other than seeing headlines in the US and Canadian media about Il Donalduce being mean to poor Prime Minister “Trumble”, I hadn’t followed this story. John Ringo linked to this rather interesting explanation:

What “it” and “this” are no one needed to tell me. But truly how stupid do you have to be to have made an arrangement with Obama after the election to send boat people from Nauru and Manus to the US? If Malcolm believed he was going to get points for having stood up to the US against Trump, as clueless as I have always thought him, he has plumbed levels of stupidity and political incompetence until now unimaginable. From The Australian:

    Australia’s alliance with the US has hit its lowest point in decades, in a clash over a divisive refugee deal that led Donald Trump to ­berate Malcolm Turnbull in priv­ate before staging a public retreat from the agreement.

    This morning the President has said he loves Australia and will “respect” the deal, but that nations are taking advantage of the US. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said his boss was “unbelievably disappointed” about the “horrible deal” and that refugees will only be allowed in the US if they pass extreme vetting. But Mr Trump’s top officials have tried to smooth over the rift, holding a meeting with ambassador Joe Hockey.

For Malcolm apparently to have tried to push Trump, by telling him that as a fellow businessman that a deal is a deal, must rank as politically incompetent as anything I have ever seen. That Trump now thinks of Malcolm as a flea-weight no-account fool only means he has the same assessment of the PM as the rest of us.

UPDATE WITH COMMENTS ON THE ARTICLE FROM THE OZ: There are now 830 comments on the linked article, and these are the top 22 in order from the list ordered according to “Top Comments” and there was no need to have stopped there.

1) Chronology is important here.

1. 10 months out from US presidential election, Turnbull visits US. He meets Hillary and snubs Trump.
2. In the weeks leading up to US presidential election, Turnbull does a deal with a dead duck President.
3. Turnbull and Obama agree to not announce it (hide the deal) until the US presedential election is over. They both want Hillary to get up, and the deal would be excellent ammunition for Trump in a campaign dominated by illegal immigration.
4. Trump wins. Turnbull panics.
5. Turnbull has to call Greg Norman to find out how to get in touch with Trump.
6. Turnbull announces deal publicly 5 days later, and before he has spoken to Trump about it.
7. Trump understandably gives him a smack down on the phone.
8. Turnbull spins the phone call, and in desperation to announce something good in his otherwise failing Prime Ministership, announces the deal as done.
9. Trump is annoyed that Turnbull couldn’t keep quiet. Trump has been placed in a contradictory position that could damage him politically.
10. Trump gives Turnbull a smack down on Twitter, and leaks the phone call to return the favour.

The problem exists because of Turnbull, and Turnbull alone.
– At no point has Turnbull invested in a personal relationship with Trump. Mostly because he exists in the same elitist bubble as people who predicted a thumping Hillary win.
– He did a sneaky deal with left wingers and helped hide it from voters in the US.
– He then tried to pump his own political fortunes up and didn’t care about the damage it might do to Trump.

Turnbull has to go. He is damaging the Liberal party and the nation.

2) I feel sympathy for Trump. Why should he in the American interest accept these illegal boat people who came to this country largely for economic opportunism, they have rampaged, trashed Manus island, we won’t take them, so why should Trump call on the American taxpayer to live in America?

3) Greg Sheridan in his column today notes, Trump’s reluctance to commit to actual numbers to be resettled in the US from Manus Island or Nauru is no different from Obama’s. The Obama administration gave Turnbull an “announceable”, a media event, a virtual solution to the resettlement issue which itself did not guarantee that the US would take a single person unless it was satisfied through its own vetting procedures.

Trump is right to ask “why”? What’s in it for America? He should take all the time he needs to scrutinise this “virtual solution”.

QotD: Camille Paglia on who should have run for president

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

reason: So what is it about Hillary that bothers you?

Paglia: She’s a fraud!

reason: Explain how.

Paglia: She can’t have an opinion without poll-testing it. She’s a liar. This is not a strong candidate for our first woman president. To me, Dianne Feinstein should have presented herself.

reason: Ah! Are you kidding?

Paglia: No. I don’t care what her views are. What I’m saying is, for the post of president — that’s commander in chief of the military. It’s got to be a woman with a familiarity with military matters and [who] also has gravitas. And Dianne Feinstein, I first became aware of her after those murders [of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk] that occurred in City Hall…

reason: She certainly never lets you forget that she was there.

Paglia: No. But I have never forgotten because it was one of the great moments where a woman took charge in absolute chaos after a barbarous murder. The whole government was falling apart, and she came to the media and gave the news and was steady. And I said, “That’s it. That’s the formula for the first woman president.”

So what I’m interested in is what is very important in this modern era: How do you use the media to communicate? If you’re going to be a woman president, she must communicate strength, reserve, and yet compassion. That formula — I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for it. The only person in America who’s had it as far as I’m concerned was Dianne Feinstein, and she didn’t put herself forward for whatever reason as president.

But Hillary does not have it. Hillary is a mess. And we’re going to award the presidency to a woman who’s enabled the depredations and exploitation of women by that cornpone husband of hers? The way feminists have spoken makes us blind to Hillary’s record of trashing [women]. They were going to try to destroy Monica Lewinsky. It’s a scandal! Anyone who believes in sexual harassment guidelines should have seen that the disparity of power between [Bill] Clinton and Monica Lewinsky was one of the most grotesque ever in the history of sex crime. He’s a sex criminal! We’re going to put that guy back in the White House? Hillary’s ridden on his coattails. This is not a woman who has made her own career. The woman failed the bar exam in Washington! The only reason she went to Arkansas and got a job in the Rose Law Firm was because her husband was a politician.

Camille Paglia, “Everything’s Awesome and Camille Paglia Is Unhappy!”, Reason, 2015-05-30.

February 6, 2017

Social media, big data, and (lots of) profanity

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

Scott Adams linked to this video (which is very NSFW), discussing how social media platforms can use their analytic tools to “shape” communications among their users:

“Compulsive believers … should terrify you”

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

In the Guardian, Nick Cohen says you shouldn’t be concerned about compulsive liars: it’s the compulsive believers you should worry about:

Compulsive liars shouldn’t frighten you. They can harm no one, if no one listens to them. Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should terrify you. Believers are the liars’ enablers. Their votes give the demagogue his power. Their trust turns the charlatan into the president. Their credulity ensures that the propaganda of half-calculating and half-mad fanatics has the power to change the world.

How you see the believers determines how you fight them and seek to protect liberal society from its enemies. And I don’t just mean how you fight that object of liberal despair and conservative fantasies, the alternately despised and patronised white working class. Compulsive believers are not just rednecks. They include figures as elevated as the British prime minister and her cabinet. Before the EU referendum, a May administration would have responded to the hitherto unthinkable arrival of a US president who threatened Nato and indulged Putin by hugging Britain’s European allies close. But Brexit has thrown Britain’s European alliance into crisis. So English Conservative politicians must crush their doubts and believe with a desperate compulsion that the alleged “pragmatism” of Donald Trump will triumph over his undoubted extremism, a belief that to date has as much basis in fact as creationism.

Mainstream journalists are almost as credulous. After decades of imitating Jeremy Paxman and seizing on the trivial gaffes and small lies of largely harmless politicians, they are unable to cope with the fantastic lies of the new authoritarian movements. When confronted with men who lie so instinctively they believe their lies as they tell them, they can only insist on a fair hearing for the sake of “balance”. Their acceptance signals to the audience the unbelievable is worthy of belief.

[…]

As their old world is engulfed now, the sluggish reflexes and limited minds of too many conservatives compel them to cry out against liberal hypocrisy, as if it were all that mattered. There is more than enough hypocrisy to go round. I must confess to wondering about the sincerity of those who protest against the collective punishment of Trump’s ban on visitors from Muslim countries but remain silent when Arab countries deny all Israeli Jews admission. I too would like to know why there was so little protest when Obama gave Iran funds to spend on the devastation of Syria. But the greatest hypocrisy is always to divert attention from what is staring you in the face today and may be kicking you in the teeth tomorrow.

The temptation to think it a new totalitarianism is too strong for many to resist. Despite readers reaching for Hannah Arendt and George Orwell, strictly speaking, the comparison with fascism and communism isn’t true. When I floated it with the great historian of Nazism, Sir Richard Evans, he almost sighed. It’s not just that there aren’t the death camps and torture chambers, he said. The street violence that brought fascists to power in Italy and Germany and the communists to power in Russia is absent today.

The 21st-century’s model for a strongman is a leader who makes opposition as hard as possible, as Orbán is trying to do in Hungary, but does not actually declare a dictatorship, for not even Putin has done that.

H/T to Guy Herbert for the link.

February 5, 2017

Being critical of Quebec can be a career-threatening move…

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

…which is why this Washington Post piece by J.J. McCullough is so unexpected:

As Canadian politicians and journalists scramble for tidy, ideologically pleasing narratives in the wake of this week’s senseless slaughter at a Quebec City mosque, one disturbing fact has gone conspicuously unmentioned: A disproportionate share of the country’s massacres occur in the province of Quebec.

I was born in 1984. Since then, Quebec has experienced at least six high-profile episodes of attempted public mass murder.

[…]

Criticism of Quebec, meanwhile, is deeply taboo. In a 2006 essay, Globe and Mail columnist Jan Wong posited a theory that Quebec’s various lone nuts, many of whom were not of pure French-Canadian stock, were predictably alienated from a province that places such a high premium on cultural conformity. She was denounced by a unanimous vote in the Canadian Parliament and sank into a career-ruining depression. The current events magazine Maclean’s ran a cover story in 2010 arguing that Quebec, where old-fashioned mafia collusion between government contractors, unions and politicians is still common, was easily “the most corrupt province in Canada.” That, too, was denounced by a unanimous vote of Parliament.

Privately, English Canadians are far less defensive. They grumble about Quebec’s dark history of anti-Semitism, religious bigotry and pro-fascist sentiment, facts which are rarely included in otherwise self-flagellating official narratives of Canadian history. They complain about the exaggerated deference the province gets from Ottawa as a “distinct society” and “nation-within-a-nation,” and its various French-supremacist language and assimilation laws, which they blame for creating a place that’s inhospitable, arrogant and, yes, noticeably more racist than the Canadian norm. And now, they have good reason to observe that the province seems to produce an awful lot of lunatics prone to public massacres, who often explicitly justify their violence with arguments of dissatisfaction towards Quebec’s unique culture.

The mosque shooting has been quickly politicized by the Canadian left who have seized upon its useful victims to say the sort of things they were going to say anyway: Canada is both a wicked Islamophobic place that must check its various privileges and a multicultural utopia whose pride and empathy for its Muslim community knows no bounds. Rather than drag the entire country along for this tendentious ride, it might be more useful to narrow the focus.

H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.

What a finely crafted Super Bowl ad can convey to different audiences

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

ESR linked to this Audi ad analysis saying, “The author may not have intended it this way, but this brilliant analysis could be part of the continuing “Why Trump won” series. Because eventually people get fed up with the contempt, and they push back.”

The Internet is in the proverbial tizzy about Audi’s “feminist” Super Bowl advertisement, in which the automaker comes out in favor of equal pay for women.

At first blush, the spot seems to be nothing but the usual corporate slacktivism, a feel-good fluff-vertorial making a “brave stand” in support of an issue that was decided long ago. I’m reminded of Joaquin Phoenix’s brilliant portrayal of Commodus in Gladiator, arriving in full armor as soon as he can do so without any risk. “Father, have I missed the battle?” Well, Audi, you’ve missed the war; if there’s a place in the United States where women are actually paid significantly less for doing the same job as men, it’s not evident from what I’m reading.

After watching the one-minute advertisement carefully, however, I understood feminism, or equal pay, is the last thing Audi wants you to take away from it. The message is far subtler, and more powerful, than the dull recitation of the pseudo-progressive catechism droning on in the background. This spot is visual — and as you’ll see below, you can’t understand it until you watch it and see what it’s really telling you.

Let me tell you up front: chances are you won’t like what Audi has to say.

“The left sought to reprimand the right. What they did was alienate it.”

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

It’s been interesting watching the conservatives begin to adapt to (and in some cases surpass) the “everything is political” message that US progressives had embraced a decade earlier:

Which leads me to social media, Facebook specifically.

As this dramatic shift occurred, we began to see another shift within social media, one that reached its apex during the 2016 presidential election. That was the politicization of everything, not just by the institutional left, but by the soft left as well.

Where before the voters on the left were mostly passive receivers of Cultural Marxism, they had now become active participants via propaganda, slander, social shaming, and otherizing. This meant that conservatives were now being assaulted on two fronts, both from the institutional left and the soft left.

Every conservative who is active on Facebook knows what I’m talking about. After decades of Americans keeping their politics mostly to themselves, suddenly our feeds were jammed up with political invective.

It wasn’t just directed at politicians. It was personal — a relentless litany of insults and abuse, first at the Tea Party and then Trump supporters. Most of it was generalized, but the message was clear. They held our kind in contempt and didn’t care who knew it. In fact, they seemed to be in a contest to see who could broadcast it the loudest.

Most conservatives were hurt by this. We tend to keep our politics relatively private, both out of decorum and respect for our relationships with people whose politics differ from ours. The message that these public posts sent to us was that our “friends” on the left didn’t respect or value us enough to avoid giving offense.

As someone who has been following politics since high school, I tend not to trust my own instincts what the average voter thinks. I’m simply to close to the subject. My wife, however, is a fairly low-key traditionalist who doesn’t care to immerse herself in that world and so I use her as my political weather vane.

And so I knew that there was a storm brewing when she snapped down her phone over breakfast one day after reading Facebook and told me how sick and tired she was of her friends’ political posts.

“When they say those things,” she fumed, “they’re talking about our family.”

“I’m so sick and tired of being told that I’m a bad person because I disagree with someone’s position on abortion or transgender bathrooms. Who do they think they are to tell everyone what they’re required to believe?”

The hurt had turned to anger and quiet resolve.

The left sought to reprimand the right. What they did was alienate it. Their social media echo chamber only served to steel conservative misgivings about Donald Trump, if for no other reason than we simply couldn’t abide by being pushed around for another 4-8 years.

It’s one thing to know that your friends disagree with you. It’s another to realize that they think you’re stupid, uneducated, a bigot, bully, sexist, jerk and everything that’s wrong with the world.

My Facebook feed has almost completely bifurcated into two silos that don’t communicate much at all (Americans more than Canadians, but even my Canadian lefty friends are less likely to interact with folks on the right than they used to be). The libertarians are, as usual, not statistically significant (we’re used to that).

February 4, 2017

Chris Kluwe apparently believes that when the revolution comes, citizens can simply seize “captured armories or gun shops”

Filed under: Football, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:33

Since leaving the Vikings, former NFL punter Chris Kluwe has apparently developed quite the streak of paranoia about Il Donalduce and is advising fellow progressives to plan for the revolution:

In meltdown mode over the Trump administration, former NFL player Chris Kluwe is conjuring up ways to mount an armed resistance against the government—based on his knowledge of video games.

Known more for his loud opinions than for his athletic prowess, Kluwe is infamous for writing long, profanity-filled rants about gamers and their unwillingness to accept feminism into their hearts.

Since leaving the Minnesota Vikings, where he was a punter, Kluwe has established himself as a writer, penning a science fiction novel and an autobiography. He contributed posts to Deadspin and launched a crowdfund for a card game he designed.

During the election, Kluwe was outspoken in his opposition to Trump, posting innumerable tweets about it. Several of his slams went viral.

[…]

“They do not care about you. They do not care about me. They do not care about anything other than themselves,” he wrote of the government. “History is replete with examples of what happens when people like [Trump] hold the levers of a nation/state/city/village.”

After insisting that a civil war is inevitable, Kluwe offers some survival tips.

He suggests learning how to use a common service firearm, but adds that it won’t bet necessary to own a gun because when the revolution comes, citizens can simply seize “captured armories or gun shops.” Kluwe also offers useless advice on how to survive a combat situation.

On Facebook, John Ringo offers some helpful suggestions:

(Not sure who ‘Coop’ is. Took this from Chuck Bogardus’ page.)

From Coop:
Attention idiots, former linebackers, antifa(g)s, Sarah Silverman, Judd Apatow, and any other completely retarded “revolutionaries”:
1. The military is not on your side
2. You can’t “loot” a gun store or Military/National Guard armory. They’re kind of designed to be hard to loot, especially if you don’t have a couple of guns prior to attempting such.
3. The Trump supporters have most of the guns already. Better guns than the cops.
4. The Libertarian-leaning non-Trump supporters who own the rest of the guns are leaning closer and closer to Trump with every tantrum you throw and media hit job you make.
5. Your mother’s a whore
6. You have no combat experience.
7. The celebrities who are calling to arms these violent, insurgent actions have absolutely no skin in the game. They risk no arrest, they aren’t there being violent with you, they don’t even leave their gated communities, and when they do, they have an armed security detail. But they’re not going to pay your bail when you get arrested. They’re not going to pay your medical bills when someone reacts to you with superior force in self defense. You are their useful idiots.
8. You are either effeminately weak or cripplingly fat. Your enemies are in much better shape than you.

“Buy American!” is great politics, but terrible economics

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

Colin McNickle explains why protectionist policies like “Buy American” are good for politicians but bad for producers and consumers:

Lost in all the rah-rah-sis-boom-bah-ing of President Trump wanting to use American steel only in the Keystone XL, Dakota Access and other U.S. oil pipelines is this fundamental economic fact:

The price of that steel will be higher. In some cases, markedly so. And we all will be made poorer. Not in effect, but actually.

How so?

As Hoover Institution scholar David R. Henderson once explained it:

“Almost all economists say [‘Buy American’ is] nonsense. And the reason is: We should buy things where they’re the cheapest. That frees up more of our resources to buy other things, and other Americans get jobs producing those things.”

The “problem” of other countries selling goods at or below cost (in other words, making part of the value of the good a gift to the purchaser) is only a problem for uneconomic domestic producers … it’s great for consumers of that good:

… as Tori K. Whiting, a trade and economics scholar at the Heritage Foundation, reminded in September:

“In response to alleged unfair trade practices, domestic steel producers are advocating for broad import restraints and immediate action by the U.S. government to protect the domestic industry. …

“The U.S. manufacturing and construction industries rely on domestic and foreign steel to create finished products. Tariffs on steel imports limit choices and increase costs for these industries. Those costs are ultimately borne by American consumers and act as a tax on everyday goods made from steel,” she reminded.

And as fellow Heritage legal scholar Alden Abbott added, “(A)nti-dumping is in fact a form of special interest cronyism that imposes high costs on Americans and thwarts beneficial competition.”

“Buy American” makes for great political rhetoric. But the reality is that most Americans would find their pocketbooks heavily pinched if the practice became pervasive and America’s overall standard of living would fall.

Trudeau’s promise to reform the election system: “It had ‘face-melting political blowback’ written all over it”

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

My headline distorts Chris Selley‘s message a bit, but he does correctly point out that Justin Trudeau’s promise was a cynical ploy to attact NDP votes to Liberal candidates, not a genuine commitment to move away from FPTP in our federal election system:

So far as I can tell, the publicly stated evidence that senior members of the Liberal party had any interest in changing the electoral system amounted to Justin Trudeau’s single expression of interest in ranked ballots. There was no evidence at all to suggest any senior party members thought FPTP was the worst electoral system imaginable for Canada — the only interpretation of the platform promise. That being the case, the promise was far too conveniently enticing to New Democrat voters to take at face value.

As to referendums: ample Canadian precedent holds that electoral reform is contingent upon them. And a cursory glance at public opinion made plain that nothing justified breaking that precedent. An Abacus Data poll for the Broadbent Institute, published shortly after the 2015 election, asked respondents to rank their preferences among the current system, mixed-member PR (MMP), pure PR and ranked ballots. The most popular first choice by far, at 43 per cent, was the current system; it was also the second-most popular second choice. The most popular alternative, MMP, was the first choice of only 27 per cent.

No consultative process could fashion a referendum-free consensus from that. It had “face-melting political blowback” written all over it.

February 3, 2017

Here are some tax cuts that would actually hurt the wealthy

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

Last week, Kevin Williamson outlined a couple of tax reforms that really would make a difference, being both more fair to all taxpayers and appealing (in theory) to both left and right:

Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration will disagree about many things, but it is rare to find a Republican of almost any description who will turn his nose up at a tax cut of almost any description. As Robert Novak put it: “God put the Republican Party on earth to cut taxes. If they don’t do that, they have no useful function.” And tax cuts are coming. But there are two proposals in circulation that would constitute significant tax increases — tax increases that would fall most heavily on upper-income Americans in high-tax progressive states such as California and New York. The first is a proposal to reduce or eliminate the mortgage-interest deduction, a tax subsidy that makes having a big mortgage on an expensive house relatively attractive to affluent households; the second is to reduce or eliminate the deduction for state income taxes, a provision that takes some of the sting out of living in a high-tax jurisdiction such as New York City (which has both state and local income taxes) or California, home to the nation’s highest state-tax burden.

Do not hold your breath waiting for the inequality warriors to congratulate Republicans for proposing these significant tax increases on the rich. Expect lamentations and the rending of garments, instead.

Slate economics editor Jordan Weissmann, who is not exactly Grover Norquist on the question of taxes, describes the mortgage-interest deduction as “an objectively horrible piece of public policy that should be reformed,” and it is difficult to disagree with him. It distorts the housing market in favor of higher prices, which is great if you are old and rich and own a house or three like Bernie Sanders but stinks if you are young and strapped and looking to buy a house. It encourages buyers to take on more debt at higher interest rates than they probably would without the deduction, and almost all of the benefits go to well-off households in the top income quintile. It is the classic example of upper-class welfare. And it has a nasty side, too: Those sky-high housing prices in California’s most desirable communities serve roughly the same function as the walls of a gated community or the tuition at Choate: keeping the riff-raff out. Pacific Heights is famous for its diversity: They have all kinds of multimillionaires there.

February 2, 2017

The genesis of Fake News

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

Victor Davis Hanson on the modern-day phenomenon of “fake news”:

… all politicians fib and distort the truth — and they’ve been doing so since the freewheeling days of the Athenian ekklesia. Trump’s various bombastic allegations and claims fall into the same realm of truthfulness as Obama’s statement “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” — and were thus similarly cross-examined by the media.

Yet fake news is something quite different. It is not merely a public figure’s spinning of half-truths. It is largely a media-driven, and deliberate attempt to spread a false narrative to advance a political agenda that otherwise would be rejected by a common-sense public. The methodology is to manufacture a narrative attractive to a herd-like progressive media that will then devour and brand it as fact — and even lobby for government redress.

Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen has never been to Prague to negotiate quid pro quo deals with the Russians. Trump did not watch Russian strippers perform pornographic acts in the bedroom that Barack Obama once stayed in during a visit to Moscow. Yet political operatives, journalists, and even intelligence officers, in their respective shared antipathy to Trump, managed to lodge these narratives into the public consciousness and thereby establish the “truth” that a degenerate Trump was also a Russian patsy.

No one has described the methodology of fake news better than Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security advisor for Barack Obama and brother of the president of CBS News, David Rhodes. Ben Rhodes cynically bragged about how the Obama administration had sold the dubious Iran deal through misinformation picked up by an adolescent but sympathetic media (for which Rhodes had only contempt). As Rhodes put it, “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

Translated, that meant that Rhodes and his team fed false narratives about the Iran Deal to a sympathetic but ignorant media, which used its received authority to report those narratives as “truth” — at least long enough for the agreement to be passed before its multitudinous falsehoods and side-agreements collapsed under their own weight. “We created an echo chamber,” Rhodes bragged to the New York Times: “They [reporters] were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”

February 1, 2017

“The media think only the Left can get angry, and that it is their exclusive right”

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

David Warren, our 13th century correspondent, checks in with a look at the quality of frothing hysteria on display in the 21st century:

I love phrases like “frothing hysteria.” They are so frothing, so hysterical. Over the weekend I heard this one from both sides of the current American Civil War. It hasn’t got to uniforms, yet — you can’t get people to dress properly, these days — but it has become obvious that the line is drawn between the Red and the Blue. I have mixed colours in my paintbox to produce to my satisfaction what might be called a “Trumpf Red” and an “Alinsky Blue.” Blood red was incidentally the old Tory colour, before the Communists stole it; Whigs were often sky blue; Yankee colour schemes are thus stuck in the eighteenth century. (Bravo!)

The breaking news is that the Left are freaking out. But this is an old story. They’ve been doing that for decades, whenever they don’t seem to be getting their way. It is part of the power formula, not only for them but for the average three-year-old. … “What do we want?” … “Goo-goos!” … “When do want them?” … “Now!”

Rather, the curious development through the recent American election is that the Right are freaking, too. The Left may not follow this because it isn’t covered in their electronic newspapers. They have really no idea what is going on, or has been going on — what bugs these people in the broad space between the several Left Coasts. Ever gracious, I told them that Trump was going to win, even though I didn’t much like the man myself; but they didn’t believe me. (Perhaps they don’t read my Idleposts!) They couldn’t imagine such a thing: like that great genius Pauline Kael, sainted expositor of leftishness and Hollywood movies, who could not understand how Nixon had won when everyone she knew had voted for McGovern.

[…]

Too, they reason — and gentle reader may mark my words on this — that they are up against the leftist tactic of concentrating all available forces on one target at a time. This always wins, against a dispersed, purely defensive enemy. Now the Bannon Brigade are counter-attacking on nineteen fronts, and counting. Let’s see how those, who haven’t played defence for a long long time, will handle it. My guess would be through an extremely incoherent Long Hot Summer.

Risky, risky, any counter-attack strategy. Capitulation is much safer. But sometimes you get sick of always losing, and resolve to try something new, by way of experiment; or in this case something old, that hasn’t been tried for a while, against opponents who have grown smug and self-satisfied.

For decades the Left have been playing for keeps. The Right have been playing for mercy. With Trump, those Red State types — “progressively” deprived of elementary freedoms, of their dignity, and even of their livelihoods — have voted to play for keeps, too. They were used to shrugging and taking their lumps, from politicians they happened to despise. The politicians were used to administering the lumps, to their own fabulous enrichment. Suddenly the simpletons — or deplorables, as they now prefer — decide they’ve had enough. (Americans can be like that sometimes.) Elitist and anti-populist that I am, anti-nationalist and anti-tribalist, I kind of understand it.

The media think only the Left can get angry, and that it is their exclusive right. They are making a splash of how angry they can get, on the old assumption that it will intimidate the simpletons. Yet this is the very assumption they have pushed too far. For Middle America is in one of those Clint Eastwood moods. And the cameras are rolling, on frothing and hysteria; versus “make my day.”

In a kinda-sorta-related post that Megan McArdle shared on Facebook, Brink Lindsey tries to advise the anti-Trump folks that they’re not going to weaken Il Donalduce by the tactics they’ve employed so far:

To all my FB friends who are alarmed after the first week of the Trump administration: we’re all trying to think about what to do, how to contribute, how to make a difference. Here’s something all of us can do, every single one of us: expunge all anger and hatred and contempt from the way we express our political disagreement with others.

Toxic partisanship, in which the other side is not simply disagreed with but demonized and effectively non-personed, has been building for some time now. Social media has turbo-charged the process. We have to start undoing it.

You have to tell yourself: I want to do good, not just feel good. Expressions of righteous indignation and calling out the other side are political masturbation. They feel great: condemnation of others is always implicit self-glorification. But they produce nothing — just defensive anger in return. What we need to do to Trump supporters isn’t hate on them, but persuade them to become ex-Trump supporters.

Instead of criticizing the other side, talk about what you both love: this country. Express your concern and sorrow about what’s going on, not your anger. Encountering your anger brings out your opponents’ aggressive defensiveness; encountering you sadness may bring out their empathy.

Give reasons for why you’re worried. None of this: it’s un-American, it’s unthinkable, this isn’t my country. That’s trying to shame your opponent, not trying to persuade them. To persuade someone you need to start with what you’ve got in common — you’ve got to concede that they genuinely have the country’s best interests at heart. And make it clear that’s where you’re coming from as well: genuine patriotic concern based on shared American ideals.

It seems absurd to say all this when all the incentives now, for both the political operators and the political spectators, are pushing in the opposite direction. But you’ve got to start somewhere. We can start by making things a tiny bit better every time we voice our opinion instead of making things a tiny bit worse.

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