Quotulatiousness

June 22, 2016

The art of the “dog whistle”

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

Scott Alexander on the horribly anti-semitic dog whistle that cost Ted Cruz the Republican presidential nomination (or something):

Back during the primary, Ted Cruz said he was against “New York values”.

A chump might figure that, being a Texan whose base is in the South and Midwest, he was making the usual condemnation of coastal elites and arugula-eating liberals that every other Republican has made before him, maybe with a special nod to the fact that his two most relevant opponents, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, were both from New York.

But sophisticated people immediately detected this as an “anti-Semitic dog whistle”, eg Cruz’s secret way of saying he hated Jews. Because, you see, there are many Jews in New York. By the clever strategem of using words that had nothing to do with Jews or hatred, he was able to effectively communicate his Jew-hatred to other anti-Semites without anyone else picking up on it.

Except of course the entire media, which seized upon it as a single mass. New York values is coded anti-Semitism. New York values is a classic anti-Semitic slur. New York values is an anti-Semitic comment. New York values is an anti-Semitic code word. New York values gets called out as anti-Semitism. My favorite is this article whose headline claims that Ted Cruz “confirmed” that he meant his New York values comment to refer to Jews; the “confirmation” turned out to be that he referred to Donald Trump as having “chutzpah”. It takes a lot of word-I-am-apparently-not-allowed-to-say to frame that as a “confirmation”.

Meanwhile, back in Realityville (population: 6), Ted Cruz was attending synagogue services at his campaign tour, talking about his deep love and respect for Judaism, and getting described as “a hero” in many parts of the Orthodox Jewish community” for his stance that “if you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.”

But he once said “New York values”, so clearly all of this was just really really deep cover for his anti-Semitism.

June 21, 2016

Brexit versus Bremain – The scoldening

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At Samizdata, Johnathan Pearce points out that there can be a powerful, irrational reaction to the person making the case rather than the case itself:

I cannot help but think that the very fact of Remainers often being the likes of the IMF, or Very Grand Economists, etc, is like the sensation for many of chalk scratching down a blackboard (I am giving my age away). When a EU Commissioner like Juncker attacks Brexiters, you can imagine how well, or badly, this goes down. And on the some of the interactions I have had on Facebook, much the same effect applies. I have been told, for instance, that the UK electorate has no excuse for whining about the undemocratic nature of the EU because British voters, by and large, don’t vote for MEPs and that the EU Parliament is chosen via proportional representation and therefore a fine and worthy body, and stop whining. The fact that MEPs cannot initiate, or repeal, legislation of any serious nature is ignored (MEPs do have blocking powers). And there have been a few outpourings of rage from a few of my acquaintances that a referendum is happening at all. What such folk don’t seem to realise is that such attitudes only make those of a EUsceptic strain even more annoyed, and more likely to vote Leave out of a “that’ll show you arrogant bastards” tone. In much the same that however logical a position of Mrs Thatcher in her heyday might have been, people, given the cussedness of human nature, disagreed.

The tone does matter, in other words. And although some of the vibe coming out of the Leave side is unsavory and foolish, the Remain side’s collective impersonation of 18th Century French aristocrats (just before the Bastille fell) is, in my view, even worse. It should not always matter, but it does.

The funny thing about Italy’s recent municipal elections

Filed under: Europe, Government, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

David Warren finds the Italian municipal election scene to be suddenly fascinating:

Curiosity kilted the cat, or however that saying goes: I have been reading too much news again, and must cut back. This morning’s excuse was curiosity over the results of municipal elections in Italy.

It seems they went well. The progressive types were turned out of office all over, and the country’s Five Star Party, founded by the comedian Beppe Grillo a few years ago, has won 19 of the 20 cities in which its candidate stood for mayor. Starting with Virginia Raggi in Rome, many of these mayors-elect could pass for fashion models. She, for instance, will try to improve upon a record that has “Left” the city indebted to more than twice its annual revenues, and its officials enthralled to organized gangsters.

Naples was the only exception, where a mayor already deeply loathed by the Left (a tireless public prosecutor) won re-election by a landslide.

The idea of electing comedians and comedy teams to office seems very attractive to the Italian national character. I have praised them for this before. It shows a maturity of understanding rare in the annals of modern democracy. Given the omnipresence today of po-faced progressive parties, the alternative cannot be po-faced “conservatives,” whom the po-faced Leftist media will methodically smear and slander, as for instance in Canada and USA. They accept that verdict, and agree to lose. Rather one needs people with a sense of humour and no political past. I suppose this is the argument for Trump; though I would argue that he takes himself quite seriously, and doesn’t see the joke at all.

June 18, 2016

QotD: The origin of the push for a minimum wage

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

Few policies have origins as ugly as that of the minimum wage. “Progressive” intellectuals in the early 20th century supported the minimum wage because they believed it to be an effective policy detergent to help cleanse the gene pool of ‘undesirables.’ By pricing low-skilled, ‘undesirable’ workers out of jobs, ‘undesirables’ are less likely to successfully pro-create and to immigrate. The fact that the minimum wage, by pricing ‘undesirables’ out of work, thereby artificially raises the incomes of white workers was considered to be an added benefit of this social-engineering device.

Business owners and labor unions in higher-wage regions of the United States supported the minimum wage because it would dampen the competition they were under from businesses and workers in lower-wage regions of the United States.

The ethics of these early supporters of the minimum wage were despicable. But say this much for these racist, protectionist creeps: they understood economics better than do many people today (including some economists) who believe either that the law of demand is uniquely inoperative in the market for low-skilled workers or that the American market for low-skilled workers is monopsonized.* Each belief is as inexplicable as it is unsupportable.

* And monopsonization of the labor market is only a necessary condition for a minimum wage to not destroy employment opportunities for some workers; it is not a sufficient condition.

Don Boudreaux, “Quotation of the Day…”, Café Hayek, 2016-06-01.

June 15, 2016

QotD: American secular puritanism

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

If there is one mental vice, indeed, which sets off the American people from all other folks who walk the earth … it is that of assuming that every human act must be either right or wrong, and that ninety-nine percent of them are wrong.

H.L. Mencken, “The American: His New Puritanism”, The Smart Set, 1914-02.

June 13, 2016

Coming soon – “the most serious constitutional crisis since the Abdication of King Edward VIII”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Daily Mail, Peter Hitchins rubs his hands in glee at the implications of the surge in popularity of the Brexiteers:

I think we are about to have the most serious constitutional crisis since the Abdication of King Edward VIII. I suppose we had better try to enjoy it.

If – as I think we will – we vote to leave the EU on June 23, a democratically elected Parliament, which wants to stay, will confront a force as great as itself – a national vote, equally democratic, which wants to quit. Are we about to find out what actually happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?

I am genuinely unsure how this will work out. I hope it will only destroy our two dead political parties, stiffened corpses that have long propped each other up with the aid of BBC endorsement and ill-gotten money.

I was wrong to think that the EU referendum would be so hopelessly rigged that the campaign for independence was doomed to lose. I overestimated the Prime Minister – a difficult thing for me to do since my opinion of him was so low. I did not think he could possibly have promised this vote with so little thought, preparation or skill.

I underestimated the BBC, which has, perhaps thanks to years of justified and correct criticism from people such as me, taken its duty of impartiality seriously.

Everything I hear now suggests that the votes for Leave are piling up, while the Remain cause is faltering and floundering. The betrayed supporters of both major parties now feel free to take revenge on their smug and arrogant leaders.

June 11, 2016

The fear of Il Donalduce

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

Lots of Americans are suddenly discovering that over the years, they’ve granted a heck of a lot of power to the executive branch that constitutionally were not supposed to be granted to the president. That probably seemed okay when the president was someone they supported, but every four to eight years there’s a gasp of realization that the powers that you thought would only be used “for good” might now fall into the hands of the Anti-Christ/Hitler/Stalin/[insert-favourite-boogeyman]. At Status 451, Simon Penner explains why, when you strike at the King you dare not miss:

As a Canadian, seeing the 2016 election from the outside, people’s reactions to Trump confuse me. Especially as someone who appreciates well-designed systems, I can’t believe people’s gross ignorance of their own nation. People are so afraid of the terrible things Trump will do that protests like this happen. And yet, the vast majority of things people are afraid of are things he can’t do. Was I the only person who paid attention in civics class?

The US was founded as a nation as a response to an uprising against an autocrat. Its founders were horrified at the potential for another such autocrat to arise, and they designed their government accordingly. There was to be a strict separation of powers, with mutually opposed groups keeping each other in check. Most importantly, the office of the executive was intentionally crippled. The president was supposed to have very little power. The founders thought that mitigating potential bad leaders was more important than empowering potential good leaders.

So if Trump can’t do these bad things, what’s the problem? Well, the theory that the country was based on is solid. But you know what they say: In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is. Perfect, beautiful ideas never survive implementation. In this case, there are no backwards arcs in the state machine.

On paper, Trump can’t do anything too bad. In practice, he can, because previous presidents have set the precedent. People like to make fun of small-c conservatives who want government out of their lives. Libertarians are a favourite scapegoat online, for similar reasons. Every time a president said “we need the power to do X”, a libertarian said “no, we can’t let you do that; your powers are restricted for a reason.” In the case of, say, Obamacare, we looked at the libertarians and said “why do you hate poor people? Why do you want them to die? Can you be so heartless? Can’t you make an exception this one time?” You should have listened to them, in detail. Once a proof of concept is committed to master, it is the new feature. “One” time never is.

Over time, various factions have engaged in special pleading. “We need this superweapon, just this one time. Can’t you see the challenge we’re facing? Are you really going to demand principles when people are suffering?” The same argument turned Rome into a dictatorship, millennia ago. When you shoot your superweapon at the king, you’d best not miss. He can pick it up from your fallen comrades.

“Like the inappropriate application of an antibiotic, the incessant misuse of these terms has created a superbug”

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

ESR linked to this post, saying “Trump is riding a wave of loathing of the sort of people who use accusations of racism and sexism as thought-stoppers. Overuse of that rhetorical weapon was bound to have a cost, and Trump’s seeming invulnerability is part of the cost.”:

Liberals and Leftists, if you don’t want Donald Trump to become the next president of the United States, stop calling him a racist.

Furthermore, stop calling him a sexist and a misogynist, especially if you’re a woman (or anything remotely like a “beta-male”); do not even use words like ableist or transphobic; and, lastly, most definitely do not call him Hitler or even make the comparison. Those phrases, when directed against Trump or the angry conservative machine that is feeding his success as a candidate, are helping – not hurting – his chances in November.

People left, right, and center – but especially on the right – are justifiably sick and tired of being called bigots and having almost everything in social politics reduced to smear campaigns about bigotry. This overbearing assault is the well-intended and ill-conceived product of a fashionable strain of progressivism that has taken it as a holy mission to stamp out bigotry in all its forms in every corner of our society.

The over-application of terms of bigotry as a means of silencing disagreement with a left-bending social orthodoxy has become, shall we say, “problematic.” As a result, words like racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobe, and the rest, have become conservative dog-whistles that mean “honest and brave,” and “willing to speak his mind (without fear).” Like the inappropriate application of an antibiotic, the incessant misuse of these terms has created a superbug.

June 9, 2016

“Let people do what they want with their own bodies and property”: Q&A with Todd Seavey

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

Published on 7 Jun 2016

“The experience of having everybody around me on campus say the left is the way to go and then…seeing communism collapse made me think maybe the libertarians have a better handle on how these things work,” says Todd Seavey, author of the new book Libertarianism for Beginners. “While the Soviet Union existed, the Marxists on campus were rooting for the Soviet Union.”

A New York-baseed comic-book writer, one-time producer for TV’s own John Stossel, and a contributor to Splice Today, Seavey found his way toward libertarianism while attending Brown University in the late 1980s.

His new graphic book, Libertarianism for Beginners, argues that the core message of libertarians is to “keep the government small and let people do what they want with their own bodies and property.”

QotD: Teaching Canada a lesson

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

Speaking of Canada and plans, and looking north at the egregious hereditary idiot running the place, the one with the penchant for physical assault of legislators, and his over-privileged and -entitled wife, plus the lunatics who put him in office, it is not impossible that Canada would someday permit easy access to Latins and then ease their way to crossing our northern border. We need to make it absolutely clear that if they ever start doing this their existence as a sovereign nation will end and they will become just another province of a not especially friendly empire, us. We’ve long been Canada’s last line of defense, but they’re our first. They’d better goddamned realize what that means before letting Prince Justin engage his more humanitarian delusions.

Tom Kratman, El Imperio Contraataque Part 5: Or Maybe More Than A Single Ounce of Prevention…”, EveryJoe, 2016-05-30.

June 6, 2016

Scott Adams declines the “Goebbels” role and makes an endorsement to secure his personal safety

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

Scott Adams has decided that it’s too dangerous to be seen as someone who supports Il Donalduce and scurries for the safety of an endorsement that won’t endanger him personally:

If Clinton successfully pairs Trump with Hitler in your mind – as she is doing – and loses anyway, about a quarter of the country will think it is morally justified to assassinate their own leader. I too would feel that way if an actual Hitler came to power in this country. I would join the resistance and try to take out the Hitler-like leader. You should do the same. No one wants an actual President Hitler.

So I’ve decided to endorse Hillary Clinton for President, for my personal safety. Trump supporters don’t have any bad feelings about patriotic Americans such as myself, so I’ll be safe from that crowd. But Clinton supporters have convinced me – and here I am being 100% serious – that my safety is at risk if I am seen as supportive of Trump. So I’m taking the safe way out and endorsing Hillary Clinton for president.

As I have often said, I have no psychic powers and I don’t know which candidate would be the best president. But I do know which outcome is most likely to get me killed by my fellow citizens. So for safety reason, I’m on team Clinton.

My prediction remains that Trump will win in a landslide based on his superior persuasion skills. But don’t blame me for anything President Trump does in office because I endorse Clinton.

The rest of you are on your own. Good luck.

June 4, 2016

The “zombie” Hillary campaign

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

Camille Paglia doesn’t like Hillary Clinton:

It’s zombie time at campaign Hillary. Behold the dead men walking! It was with strangely slow, narcotized numbness that the candidate and her phalanx of minions and mouthpieces responded to last week’s punishing report by the State Department’s Inspector General about her email security lapses. Do they truly believe, in the rosy alternate universe of Hillaryland, that they can lie their way out of this? Of course, they’re relying as usual on the increasingly restive mainstream media to do their dirty work for them. If it were a Republican in the crosshairs, Hillary’s shocking refusal to meet with the Inspector General (who interviewed all four of the other living Secretaries of State of the past two decades) would have been the lead item flagged in screaming headlines from coast to coast. Let’s face it—the genuinely innocent do not do pretzel twists like this to cover their asses.

On the other hand, she’s entertained by the showmanship of the Trump Experience:

Over on the GOP side, Donald Trump continues to gain strength, despite the nonstop artillery barrage of Democratic operatives and their clone army in the mainstream media. Trump just rolls on and on, despite every foot-in-mouth gaffe that would stop a normal campaign cold. He’s terrific on the radio, I must say. Even though I do like Elizabeth Warren (I even believe she has Native American ancestry, although certainly not enough to qualify her for affirmative action), I burst out laughing in my car last week when I heard Trump confidingly say (like a yenta at Zabar’s deli), “She’s a woman that has been very ineffective — except that she has a big mouth.” His New York comic timing was spot on. I laughed out loud again this week when I heard Trump interrupt his press conference to tag an ABC reporter as “a sleaze” — at which I am sure thousands of other radio listeners heartily cheered. It’s been a long time since any major politician had the chutzpah to tell the arrogant, double-dealing East Coast media what most of the country thinks about them.

There’s an absurdist, almost Dadaist quality to Trump’s candidacy, like Groucho Marx satirizing high society swells in A Night at the Opera or the radical Yippies trying to levitate the Pentagon at their 1967 antiwar protest. Trump routinely deploys all the subversive transgressiveness that campus Leftists claim to value. […]

Trump’s boisterous, uncensored id makes a riveting contrast to Hillary’s plodding, joyless superego. Listening to her leaden attempts to tell rehearsed jokes is collective torture. Hillary is not now, nor has she ever been, a member of the Comedy Party. But we’re talking about the presidency here, not an improv club. While I would love to see a Trump-style chief executive say “You’re fired!” to half the parasitic Washington bureaucracy, I have high anxiety about Trump’s shoot-em-up attitude toward international affairs. Exactly how long would it be after a Trump inauguration before the nuke-horned bull would be crashing around the Red China shop?

June 3, 2016

The rising reactionary tide

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

Self-described “libertarian sissy” Colby Cosh points out that every action has an equal and opposing reaction, especially in politics and culture:

Those signs are more obvious abroad — in central Europe, for example, where the principle of open borders and unlimited “welcoming” of refugees is colliding with the idea of nation-states as indigenous homes for distinct human collectivities. You would swear, at times, that European politicians were doing their best to revive fascism. There has been a long period of schizoid messaging from the political class, theirs and ours: when it comes to changing the makeup of neighbourhoods or transforming school curriculums, anything is possible. If you wish to preserve a small town, or save an old factory from global competition, or to raise your children in the beliefs you received in childhood, the iris of political possibility swirls shut.

Me, I like neoliberalism and globalization and diversity. It is revolutions and their mentality that I loathe. The liberal crusade, though it is essentially right and good, has a flaw in that it does not relent. It does not rest, and will not give ordinary persons a chance to take credit for what were supposed to have been heroic advancements in decency.

[…]

The “social conservative” side of these arguments gains no peace and receives no mercy when it loses, or even when it surrenders. Every new stage in the liberal jihad is a fresh opportunity for progressives to intimidate and castigate the hopelessly backward; the language and tactics used against those on the wrong side of the line grow ever more contemptuous and supercilious, not less.

Even to suggest that genuine social progress has actually taken place at an unprecedented and accelerating rate — that Western Democracy X is less sexist, less racist, less cruel to its minorities than ever — is to invite recrimination. You’d like to believe that, wouldn’t you, Hitler? Haven’t you seen what’s happening on Twitter?

At some point, inevitably, people will tire of being urged to progress while being told that none has ever happened; and the natural next step is for those people to stop accepting the tacit premises of the aggressive-progressive crusade. You see this happening in what is called the “alt-right” circles of the Internet: we’re backward? We’re blockheads? We’re racist and sexist? Very well, we won’t argue with you anymore: we’ll build our own Backward Blockhead Racist Sexist World. We’ll socialize amongst ourselves; we won’t read your newspapers or watch your television; we won’t live by your social taboos, accept your rules about what facts can be stated and in what terms.

If politics is an endless irrational power struggle between identity groups, we’ll take our own side: game on. This is dangerous, but no “progressive” ever accepts that his own obtuse sense of innate superiority has helped create the conditions for this. It’s called “reaction” for a reason.

June 1, 2016

The “Trump as scary autocrat” scenario

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

Last week, Megan McArdle responded to a “my hair is on fire” diatribe from The New Yorker about a Donald Trump presidency being the end of America as we know it. She’s not convinced:

There are two stages to becoming a scary autocrat. First, you have to get into a position to seize power. The most traditional routes are the military (a task for which Donald Trump’s bone spurs left him tragically disqualified), or winning elected office to abolish or corrupt the electoral process. The former route has its risks, but once you’ve safely arrived in the presidential palace, it’s pretty easy to dispense with democracy, since you have all the guns. The latter route means you need the rest of government, including all the folks with guns, to go along with you.

This certainly does happen, even in countries that have been practicing democracies for a while. But it’s by no means a given. Franklin D. Roosevelt took a certain amount of constitutional liberty with his wackier notions, and when the courts pushed back, he hit on the scary idea of basically throwing out some Supreme Court justices and replacing them with others who would rubber-stamp his policies. (The phrasing was nicer than that, but this was the basic idea, and just the sort of first step that dictators like to take toward cementing themselves as Autocrat for Life). FDR’s own party rebelled, but the Supreme Court began cooperating, too.

There were also civil liberties violations under FDR, notably the internment of the West Coast Japanese population. But while these were appalling abuses, and a stain on the national honor, they are within the (unfortunately) normal range of government behavior in your ordinary, middling-decent democracy of the era.

So the question is not just whether Trump wants to be a dictator, but what the other branches of government will do if he tries to actually become one. I don’t just mean Congress and the courts; I mean “will the bureaucrats of the civil service follow his orders, and will the people with guns agree to go out and arrest his enemies?”

There’s clearly a portion of the electorate that thrills to the more authoritarian and violent parts of his message, and presumably some of those folks are in the military and the civil service. But I’m still fairly confident that the FBI is not, say, going to start tapping journalists’ phones to find out if they’re making fun of President Trump’s comb-over, or disappearing the ones who do.

I worry more about Silvio Berlusconi-style corruption and abuse of regulatory agencies, an impulsive foreign policy that could lead us into open conflict with a nuclear-armed power, and executive-power overreach. I also worry about simple incompetence, given how uninterested Trump seems to be in policy. All-out dictatorship is pretty low on the list, because American institutions do not seem weak enough to allow it.

QotD: The evolutionary advantage of conformity

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

In the environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA) an individual could not survive outside the group of their birth and so conformity was a matter of life and death. Conform or be cast out. Conformity to arbitrary convention was not in fact arbitrary but signalled affiliation. Conformity banded groups together.

Today, however, conformity is often counter-productive. Trying to enforce the arbitrary conventions of one’s in-group impedes social cooperation on the scale that makes modernity possible. Conformity also slows the development of new ideas and new ways of doing things — the essence of growth and progress. Even though conformity is now counter-productive the desire to conform and to enforce conformity is buried deep–the atavism of social justice.

Individualism and liberalism are foundational ideas for modernity but these adult ideas battle the desire to conform in our childish hearts.

Alex Tabarrok, “The Developmental Roots of Conformity Bias”, Marginal Revolution, 2016-05-20.

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