Quotulatiousness

May 24, 2016

Trump is probably thinking “how hard can it be?” to run a government

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

In Monday’s Morning Jolt newsletter, National Review‘s Jim Geraghty overheard Donald Trump Jr.’s breakfast conversation and wrote about what he heard:

We live in a world where congressional Democrats voted to pass Obamacare without reading the full text of the legislation, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee thinks the U.S. has already landed astronauts on Mars, Congressman Hank Johnson fears the island of Guam will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize, Maxine Waters warns that because of spending cuts, “over 170 million jobs could be lost”; Nancy Pelosi asserts that “every month that we don’t have an economic recovery package, 500 million Americans lose their jobs,” Harry Reid contended, “Everybody else [besides GOP members of Congress], including rich people, are willing to pay more [in taxes]. They want to pay more,” Republican senator Thad Cochran declared in 2014 that “the Tea Party is something I don’t know a lot about,” and of course, Representative Todd Akin proclaimed, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

There’s no shortage of lawmakers who seek to make sweeping changes to laws, without understanding the basics of the topic at hand. Take Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado:

    To your last question: ‘What’s the efficacy of banning these magazine clips?’ I will tell you, these are ammunition, they’re bullets, so the people who have those now, they’re going to shoot them. So if you ban, if you ban them in the future, the number of these high capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will be shot and there won’t be any more available.

(DeGette is mixing up clips and ammunition. The magazine is what holds the bullets and is almost always re-used.)

In other words, we’ve had no shortage of high-ranking government officials who have no clue about what they’re talking about, are spectacularly misinformed, dumber than a bag of hammers, are simply crazy, or all of the above.

In light of all this, Trump probably thinks, How hard can it be?  Simply by virtue of not being a moron, Trump feels he is destined to govern better than they do. Indeed, it’s a low bar to clear.

Idiot lawmakers are part of our problem in this country, but our circumstances wouldn’t be significantly improved if we replaced dumb, misinformed progressives with smarter, better-informed progressives. Barack Obama gets the presidential daily briefing every morning, which is presumably chock full of the best information our government can gather about what’s going on in the world, focusing on the most dangerous places and menacing threats. If he doesn’t want to see ISIS rising, no amount of briefings can get him to see ISIS rising.

But the problem with DeGette, and Cuomo, and most of our worst elected officials is that they mix a refusal to learn, acknowledge, or accept new information and a philosophy based upon some shaky-at-best assumptions: that government officials know best, that they will put the public or national interest ahead of their own interests, that the impact of basic forces like supply and demand can be mitigated by regulation, that disarming law-abiding citizens will lead to less crime, not more, and so on.

QotD: The battle of the crony capitalists

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

I am not sure that many politicians are good on this score, but Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are likely as bad as it gets on crony capitalism. Forget their policy positions, which are steeped in government interventionism in the economy, but just look at their personal careers. Each have a long history of taking advantage of political power to enrich themselves and their business associates. I am not sure what Cruz meant when he said “New York values”, but both Trump and Clinton are steeped in the New York political economy, where one builds a fortune through political connections rather than entrepreneurial vigor. Want to build a new parking lot next to your casino or start up a new energy firm — you don’t bother with private investors or arms length transactions, you go to the government.

Warren Meyer, “2016 Presidential Election: Battle of the Crony Capitalists”, Coyote Blog, 2016-05-13.

May 16, 2016

Maxime Bernier and the race to succeed Harper

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

In the Toronto Sun, David Akin looks at Bernier’s campaign to be the next federal Conservative leader:

“I want a freer and more prosperous country,” Bernier said. “And the way to do that is to have a limited government. I’m a real Conservative. I believe in freedom, responsibility, fairness and respect. That’s the four themes of my campaign. Every public policy will be based on these four themes.”

He is convinced that a campaign of ideas will win both his party’s leadership and the prime minister’s office.

But some of those ideas may be a tough sell in some regions.

No more corporate handouts for the likes of Bombardier or General Motors, for example.

And even though his riding has a huge number of dairy, egg and poultry farmers, he vows to end the high tariffs that protect them from foreign competition and force consumers to pay higher food costs.

He will offer to caucus colleagues and to the party’s grassroots a more inclusive style of leadership than Stephen Harper’s.

Riding associations should be free to pick their own candidates, Bernier said, without interference from the leader. And if MPs want to debate issues or introduce legislation that is at odds with the leader, Bernier would be OK with that.

Bernier, like Harper, has no intention, for example, of going anywhere near abortion but if any of the 10 Conservative MPs at the annual anti-abortion rally last week wanted to introduce a private members’ bill on the subject, they would be free to do so and his caucus would be allowed a free vote.

Bernier would personally focus on smaller government.

“Be a strong government, but in your own jurisdiction. When you have a smaller government, you have more freedom; when you have more more freedom, you have more prosperity,” said Bernier.

“I believe in free markets and I think we must speak about what we believe to Canadians with passion and with conviction.”

I’ve been on record as being a fan of Bernier’s since at least 2010, so I have to admit being quite partial to him winning the Tory leadership.

May 13, 2016

Trump’s policies

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

Megan McArdle on the pointlessness of trying to analyze any given policy of Donald Trump:

Critiquing Donald Trump’s policy pronouncements for being implausible feels a bit like belittling bathroom graffiti for its weak use of metaphor and inappropriate deployment of the conditional rather than the subjunctive. Sure, you may be technically correct, but you’ve failed to grapple with the essentials of the form. And neither the author nor his audience is likely to take your criticisms to heart.

But what can we pundits do? The man is now the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party. For the next six months, he will be saying things. Much of what he says will be unbearably silly, if not horrifying. These periodic eruptions must be either dealt with or ignored, and neither option seems very appealing.

May 4, 2016

Scott Adams on Clinton’s literal “Woman Card”

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

Scott Adams has been much more right than wrong in his analysis of Trump’s election campaign so far, and he says that Hillary Clinton’s advisors have badly messed up their latest anti-Trump attack:

Now let’s look at the “woman card” issue. Trump took the risky (but strategically solid) approach of taking the fight to Clinton’s strength – her appeal among women voters and among men who think it is time for a woman to be president. Trump branded her as a sexist who is hiding behind political correctness. It was a strong persuasion play and it put Clinton on the defensive.

Clinton responded by embracing and magnifying the accusation. She said that if fighting to make the world better for women is playing the “woman card” then you can “Deal me in!” The response was quick, clever, and catnip for her base.

You might remember Trump using a similar persuasion trick. Months ago, when Chris Cuomo asked Trump about the criticisms that he was a whiner, Trump embraced the whiner label, then amplified it by saying he was indeed the strongest voice for change. That’s exactly the right response. Clinton made the same play with “Deal me in!” So far, so good.

Then came the image of an actual “woman card” designed to capitalize on Clinton’s successful counterpunch. When something is working, you do more of it. But…maybe you should not do it…this way.

Clinton's Woman Card

Let’s start with the fact that the design features a symbol from a restroom door. Just as the Clinton slogan unintentionally linked LOVE and TRUMP, the restroom symbol literally makes your brain associate Clinton with…a toilet.

You can’t make this up. When you saw that symbol, you thought of a restroom. it is automatic.

But the biggest mistake was putting a magnetic strip on the Woman Card. That makes you think of a credit card. And that makes you think of debt. Or perhaps it makes you think of a transit card that Clinton had trouble using at the subway in New York. All bad.

You might ask yourself why the campaign did not go with a playing card model instead of a credit card. After all, “deal me in” is not typically associated with a magnetic strip.

April 23, 2016

Politics, your social bubble, and you

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

Last week, Megan McArdle looked at the Hindenburg-crashing-into-the-Titanic-during-a-volcanic-eruption how so many people’s assessment of the US general election is so at variance with reality:

Call it “the big sort” or “demographic clusters” or whatever you like, it all comes down to the same thing: Even as Americans talk more and more about diversity, they are increasingly dividing themselves into like-minded bubbles where other people, with other experiences and viewpoints, almost never penetrate. This is the message of books by Charles Murray and Robert Frank, and indeed of our own social media feeds.

All of those articles on “how to talk to your family about politics this Thanksgiving” might as well be called “how to discuss politics on the one day a year when you find yourself in a group that has not been hand-curated to remove dissenting viewpoints.”

I don’t exclude myself from this. I live in one of the most rarefied bubbles on the planet, a community of policy-focused knowledge workers in which I practically qualify as a proletarian because I have spent years in jobs that did not involve writing about what other people have done or ought to do.

Even the socialists here in Washington are often notable for their lack of personal familiarity with their side in the class war. Outside of family circles, I almost never meet anyone who does not have a college degree and a 401(k), unless I’m buying something from them, or giving a talk at a university to people who are on their way to having a college degree and a 401(k).

Social media, of course, makes this problem worse. Even if we are not deliberately blocking people who disagree with us, Facebook curates our feeds so that we get more of the stuff we “like.” What do we “like”? People and posts that agree with us. Given that Facebook seems to be the top news source for millennials, and an increasingly important one even for folks who grew up skimming dead trees for information, that matters quite a lot.

April 19, 2016

QotD: An appropriate epitaph

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

When the epitaph for America’s political class is written, it may read something like this:

“Real unemployment was above 10%, barbarians were reintroducing slavery and public beheadings in the Middle East, the national infrastructure was crumbling, the Presidential elections were convulsed by large-scale populist revolts in both parties, and what was the elite cause du jour? Unisex restrooms.”

Eric S. Raymond, posting to Google+, 2016-04-10.

April 5, 2016

Scott Adams on Il Donalduce’s recent mistakes

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

Scott Adams has been pushing his “master persuader” theory of the rise of Donald Trump for quite some time now. In recent weeks, Trump has made a series of unforced errors that have clearly stalled his momentum toward the Republican nomination. Adams sums up the biggest ones here:

Donald Trump has made some big mistakes lately. On top of that, his opponents improved their game. As a result, he finds himself in an enormous hole of disapproval, especially with women. If you have been reading my Master Persuader series, you might be interested in why Trump’s persuasion suddenly stopped working.

It’s more interesting than you think.

I’ll ignore politics and policies as usual and focus on Trump’s persuasion game. I think we all agree that Trump says plenty of untrue things about reality. Even his supporters agree on that. (They just don’t care.)

So here are Trump’s big persuasion errors so far:

1. The Nazi salute.

2. The David Duke disavowal that wasn’t fast enough.

3. Saying women who break future abortion laws should be punished.

You might want me to include on his list of errors his unflattering tweet of Cruz’ wife compared to his wife. But that ploy was more of a mixed result than a complete fail. As obnoxious as it was, it was strong persuasion technique to showcase his mating prowess. You don’t want to believe that works, but it does.

Trump’s aggressive – and personal – attack also sent a signal to stay away from his family, which could pay dividends later. And more generally, he showed a willingness to strike back harder than he is struck, as has been his pattern. That gives pause to the enemy. And of course he sucked all the energy out of the room for another two weeks, consistent with his strategy. I bet most of his supporters found the tweet funny, which is a bonding emotion.

The downside to the wife tweet is that it was one more drip in what was starting to look like a rainstorm of sexist behavior. So on that level, it was a bad idea. Viewed in isolation, the wife tweet was more persuasion than mistake. But viewed in the context of Trump’s problem with women voters, it was a net mistake. But not a big one.

Let’s talk about the big ones.

March 27, 2016

QotD: Down with Godwin

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

If I could eliminate one thing about the Internet, it would be Godwin’s law. Why? It’s made it next to impossible to make actual comparisons about what is probably the best documented instance of the rise of a populist dictator. The instant the magic words come out, any semblance of rational discussion gets defenestrated and the next thing you know people are shouting past each other and the whole thing dies.

Consider: a nation whose people were known for hard work, for pride in their achievements, who — not without justification — saw themselves as having been betrayed by wealthy elites. Their savings were wiped out by what appeared to them to be a combination of malice on the part of the same wealthy elites who claimed they were shameful warmongers and financial mismanagement. Despite what they were being told, they could see themselves losing ground and becoming less well-off than their parents and grandparents had been.

Simply put, these people were immensely vulnerable to a charismatic populist willing to tell them that they had every right to feel betrayed; that they had been betrayed; and that he was going to change all this and make them a great people and a great nation again.

Sound familiar? It should: there are two populist demagogues spinning their separate flavors of this particular scenario through the USA right now. One of them has deployed rioters against the other, although it’s not impossible that the whole thing was staged the way the early NSDAP supporters would pretend to be opponents of the party to set off violence that made the NSDAP look like the victim. It made for good copy, and gave their leader some really good material for those crowd-pleasing speeches he became famous for… before he became a synonym for evil.

Kate Paulk, “Down with Godwin”, According to Hoyt, 2016-03-16.

March 22, 2016

Il Donalduce and the empty Republican suits

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

L. Neil Smith on the Republican race:

Consider the Republicans whom we’ve watched and listened to over the past six months (it hasn’t seemed like a moment less than six years). They are, as demagogues of various stripes and flavors loudly declaim, almost uniformly White and male, reflecting nothing more than the politics associated with the demographics in America at the moment. (There aren’t very many black libertarians, either, nor black members of the John Birch Society or the Foundation for Economic Education.) That’s certainly not the fault of anyone at all except the missing candidates, with perhaps an assist from the public education system that teaches neither rational economics nor ideologically untainted history.

That being the case, all the Republicans seem to have rented the same crappy blue suit and boring tie. They are a tone-deaf, faceless gaggle without a shred of personality among them. I probably couldn’t pick Mitt Romney or John Kasich out of a Vice-Squad lineup. The only recognizable quality Marco Rubio possesses is that he’s short. Ted Cruz looks like Dorothy’s Scarecrow pal, impaled above the cornfield on his stick. I’m a political junkie, but policywise, I can’t tell these stiffs apart. It’s difficult to express how disappointed I was with Rand Paul’s campaign. I kind of liked Ben Carson, but he turned out to be an idiot. I liked Carly Fiorina, and I’m sorry she dropped out.

All in all, Republicans are a posse of indistinguishable store dummies, soldier-clones shoulder to shoulder for the collectivist state.

[…]

Donald Trump stands as the exception to all of this. Neither a libertarian nor a conservative, I don’t think ideas mean very much to the Donald. He is, first-and-foremost, a salesman, a wheeler-dealer, a mercantilist who makes the vile Romneys and the evil Bushes (I wonder what ever happened to the Cabots and Lodges) look like amateurish pikers. There is nothing he wouldn’t build — a giant red brick Statue of Liberty with tassles on her golden pasties — if somebody gave him enough money. I do believe he’d dress up in a Bozo the Clown suit and walk a slack wire to get whatever he wants. Make of that whatever you will; it’s certainly no worse than those running against him for President.

Whatever happens next, America is in for another wild and woolly roller-coaster ride. It’s hardly for the first time. For those with long enough memories, it has survived vastly worse. Remember that the first President known to use the IRS as a political weapon wasn’t Barack Hussein Obama, but Lyndon Baines Johnson. In any given election year, none of us ever gets what we really want. That’s in the basic nature of democracy; we all get what the worst of those among us deserves.

March 17, 2016

Trump’s possible tactics against Clinton

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

The November general election is looking more and more like it will be Mussotrumpi against Hitllary. Scott Adams thinks he has an idea how Il Donalduce will attack Adolfillary:

The last time Trump and Clinton mixed it up hard, Clinton called Trump sexist and Trump responded that she was an enabler for her husband’s womanizing. In summary:

  • Clinton accused Trump of being anti-woman
  • Trump accused Clinton of being anti-woman

I wonder if we have seen all of the permutations of gender politics. I doubt we will see Clinton accuse Trump of being anti-male. That wouldn’t stick.

But we haven’t seen Trump accuse Clinton of being anti-male. And that would stick like tar. He might be saving that one for later.

Remember that Linguistic Kill Shots such as low-energy, little Marco, and robotic generally have two characteristics that make them work:

1. The label must be a fresh one you have not seen in politics.

2. Voters must be reminded of the label every time they see or hear the subject.

I’ve never heard a politician call another one anti-male. So this approach qualifies on the freshness dimension. And any time you hear Clinton talk about making the world better for women – which is obviously a legitimate goal – it would remind you she cares less about men, even if that isn’t true. (We don’t know what is in her head.)

Trump could frame Clinton as anti-male without ever saying “anti-male.” The exact words matter less than the concept. But the words do need to be catchy in some way, so everyone wants to repeat them.

My gut feeling is that men will abandon Clinton every day from now until November unless Trump murders a baby on live television. Otherwise, I think Trump wins easily with men.

QotD: Trump’s populism

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

It is too late to challenge Trump when he talks about the wall. It does not matter how stupid the idea, taken literally, may be. American politicians spoke Parseltongue to the working class, the people who contend with and live beside immigrant labour, for too long. They are ready to vote for the only guy who will think about a wall.

Of course a bad collective conscience is the key to any populist movement like Trump’s. He really is like Hitler in this: he sells absolution to those too inarticulate to explain or defend their prejudices. It is universally acknowledged that less-skilled American workers are in a bad state. Millions are on federal or other disability schemes and food stamps, millions are at least half-zombified on prescription drugs and the overlap between these groups is obviously great. Mortality statistics among the middle-aged show the results. What they don’t show is the shame that dropouts from honest labour and bourgeois aspiration must suffer — how unlike their fathers and mothers they feel. If I were a worse writer I’d drop the word “alienation” here.

[…]

And so Trump materializes with a garbled, but not totally unfounded, account of what went wrong: globalization destroyed traditional jobs, illegal immigration took more, Mexican heroin salesmen swooped in. Idealistic America has been hornswoggled by tricky foreigners who know their own interests. Trump won’t stop saying how “smart” they are. This isn’t white supremacism: it’s American inferiorism.

If Trump is a charlatan who saw the conditions for populist agitation and crafted an opportunistic message, all I can say is: well played. What I ask of Americans who deplore him is, what did you do about these conditions when something might have been done? Did you not think your civilization was particularly vulnerable to hucksters and loudmouths?

America is the land of, and I’ll put these in alphabetical order, Frank Abagnale, Jim Bakker, P.T. Barnum, Scott Boras, Dale Carnegie, Bill Clinton, Enron, Chris Kyle, Bernie Madoff, Charles Manson, Billy Mays, Dr. Phil McGraw, Joe McCarthy, Norman Vincent Peale, Charles Ponzi, Al Sharpton, Charlie Sheen and Orson Welles. It is the dynamo of cultivated marketing crazes: flagpole sitting, Cabbage Patch Kids, hula hoops, the Lambada. It is mother and nurse of kooky sci-fi religions: Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, chiropractic, Scientology, Erhard seminars. The glories and powers of America are inseparable from this trait, and it has never been a secret to outsiders, not since Tocqueville.

So how can any self-aware American look at Donald Trump — who, again, even before his candidacy, might have been the first person a Chinese peasant thought of when someone said “name an American” — and imagine him as novel and unfamiliar? You don’t think his architectural sensibility is characteristically American? You don’t think his habit of overstating his fortune is American? You don’t think his hair and his tan are American? Where on Earth, dear friends, do you think you live? Do you never look in the mirror?

Colby Cosh, “Dear America: We need to talk about Donald”, National Post, 2016-03-03.

March 12, 2016

Would anything good come of a Trump presidency?

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

Don Boudreaux thinks there might be a slight advantage to the republic if Trump beats Clinton in the election:

The November election will almost surely feature an unprecedentedly bad choice: Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump. A calculating, power-mad machine politician with a history of duplicity and rule-breaking versus an economically ignorant and boorish rabble-rousing American version of Mussolini and Peron. This “choice” is akin to one between being killed by garroting or by being burned at the stake.

The only “benefit” of a Clinton victory is that it means a Trump defeat. Ditto for a Trump victory.

At this moment — my assessment might change tomorrow — I have a slight preference for a Trump victory. The reason is that the same mainstream media that would fawn idiotically over a Clinton administration would be appropriately merciless on a Trump administration. President Trump would not receive, because he does not deserve, any benefit of the doubt. President Clinton would receive, even though she does not deserve, every benefit of the doubt. This almost-certain difference in press treatment would tightly check the policies of President Trump while they would fuel those of President Clinton.

Also, President Trump might inadvertently scrub off of the presidency the aura of faux majesty that now encrusts it. The president is a human being — a naked and imperfect ape, like the rest of us. Yet he’s treated, because of his high office, as if he is uniquely wonderful and valuable to Americans. He’s not. Finally, unlike Trump, Clinton has a political track record. It’s ugly. Of course, like the typical politician, Clinton changes her stated opinions to win votes, so we know that she’s unprincipled. But to the extent that we can infer from her record any of her “beliefs,” it’s clear that she has no understanding of economics. And her instincts are those of a central planner — a harsh nanny, a pitiless schoolmarm, an officious elite with no trust in ordinary people to live their lives as they choose rather than as she and her fellow intellectual elites suppose ordinary people should live their lives.

March 3, 2016

QotD: The American presidency

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

When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost… All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

H.L. Mencken, Baltimore Sun, 1920-07-26.

February 23, 2016

QotD: How Bernie will pay for his campaign trail promises

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

Over on his campaign website Bernie Sanders has a page telling us all how his delightful bribes to the voters will get paid for. The usual populist politician’s trick of just shouting that it will be someone else, not you, no absolutely not you the special little voting snowflake, who will pay for all that you, that special little voting snowflake, are being promised. In Bernie’s case it will be “the rich” who pay for everything. And that’s what means that his taxation plans don’t add up. Simply because there’s not all that many rich people and collectively they don’t have all that much money.

Sure, it’s possible to get a bit more money from them. But at some point in the face of ever rising marginal tax rates, peoples’ behavior will change. There really is some tax rate at which point higher rates don’t produce more revenue, they produce less. And sadly Bernie’s sums don’t take account of this fact. Thus under the current taxation plans all these goodies will not be paid for at all. And this brings us to the essential truth that the European states have all worked out. If you want to bring Big Government to the middle classes then you’ve got to tax the middle classes to pay for Big Government. There just is no other way of raising that sort of amount of revenue.

Tim Worstall, “How Bernie Sanders Won’t Pay For His Proposals”, Forbes, 2016-02-12.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: