The 2020 Dems

The two Democratic presidential debates were performed against a broad background of consecrated untruths and the debates gave them new life. Mostly, I don’t use the word “lies” because pseudo-facts eventually become facts in the mind of those who hear them repeated many times. And, to lie, you have to know that what you are saying isn’t true. Also, it seems to me that most of the candidates are more like my B- undergraduates than like A students. They lack the criticality to separate the superficially plausible from the true. Or, they don’t care.

So, it’s hard to tell who really believes the untruths below and who just let’s them pass for a variety of reasons, none of which speaks well of their intellectual integrity. There are also some down-and-out lies that none of the candidates has denounced, even ever so softly. Here is a medley of untruths.

Untruths and lies

I begin with a theme that’s not obviously an untruth, just very questionable. Economic inequality is rising in America or, (alt.) it has reached a new high point. I could easily use official data to demonstrate either. I could also – I am confident – use official figures to show that it’s shrinking or at a new low. Why do we care anyway? There may be good reasons. The Dems should give them. Otherwise, it’s the same old politics of envy. Boring!

Women need equal pay for equal work finally. But it’s been the law of the land for about forty years. Any company that does not obey that particular law is asking for a vast class action suit. Where are the class action suits?

What do you call a “half-truth” that’s only 10% true? Continue reading

Political Science survey (take it!)

I received the following email from a graduate student at SUNY-Stony Brook:

A team of researchers from Stony Brook University have asked us to help them study the role that emotion plays in politics. I have completed the survey myself, and it only took me a few minutes to finish. The survey is completely anonymous.

Click the link below to begin the survey:

https://stonybrookuniversity.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bDvaFRlp0rmqYBf* * *

If you choose to post it, please let me know, and please discourage your readers from discussing the content of the survey by disabling the comment section on the post.  It could bias my results if people go into it with specific expectations about the study.
Thanks so much for your consideration!

Best Regards,
Brandon Marshall
Stony Brook University
Department of Political Science

Note: This study has been approved by Stony Brook University’s Institutional Review Board protecting research involving human subjects.


The link is legit, though it took me about 10 minutes to complete it. On top of that, it wasn’t as cool as the ideology quizzes I link to, or the surveys Michelangelo occasionally conducts. The political scientists are trying to find out why Democrats and Republicans don’t like each other, so don’t expect any nuance or to learn anything new.

All the same, take the survey. Because science!

The US elections: good, bad, and ugly

Good

Media will finally start doing its job after 8 years of hanging all over Obama’s nuts.

Bad

The GOP has control of the executive branch and both houses of Congress.

Ugly

The ugly part is over. Trump won’t be as bad as the Left wants him to be (the Left might even like his protectionism), but he’ll still be plenty bad by libertarian standards. We’ve got a lot of work to do, if we’re to make his job as president as hard as possible.

Have a good day!

The News: Fair and Unbiased

Reminder: Favorite Democratic presidential candidate Clinton (H.) must be considered innocent until she is found guilty by a court of law. Be patient!

The Obama Air Force bombed a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Afghanistan, killing about twenty people including doctors and underage patients. White House spokesperson: “We are still the best!” (Learning how to write headlines liberal style.)

I looked at a picture of the Oregon mass killer. He looked African-American to me. I am not an expert on race but I am pretty sure he would not have been seated at a Sears lunch counter in Mississippi in 1956. I wonder if he too was a white supremacist.

The police found thirteen of his firearms, all perfectly gun controlled (legal, in other words).

It seems to me that the statistics that matters the most with respect to homicides is type of homicide for 100,000 people. For the period 2000-2014 the US stands high in the ranking of deaths per hundred thousand within the context of a mass killings. It ranks number four, behind Norway, Finland, and….Switzerland. N. S.! (From the Wall Street Journal of 10.3 4 2015 reporting on an academic study.) I think a fourteen year period is significant. It does not look like cherry picking to me but I am open minded.

This all makes me muse about how raw figures are presented to the public. We all know the US homicide rate is high. (I don’t have the numbers at hand but there is no disagreement about the general statement.) I wonder what the US ranking would be if we deducted from the US homicide total count all homicides committed by African-Americans in areas administered by Democrats for a long time, say, more than ten years. I am thinking Chicago and Baltimore, for example. Just imagining.

Trade: Is Obama Right This Time?

I was hoping to sit this one out. I mean the multiple discords about the new Pacific trade treaty proposed by President Obama. I feel I need to lend a hand because there are good reasons to be confused. Plus, I taught international business for twenty-five years. My voice just might be useful this time. Here is my brief but adequate road map to the problem. I am deliberately staying away from nouns and initials because they do more harm than good.

Pres. Obama has an early draft of an international trade agreement with a large number of Pacific countries. Such agreements eliminate or lower trade barriers. So, first, they make it easier for economic actors from one country to buy a and sell things to economic actors from another country. That’s because all trade barriers are hidden taxes on consumers. They all raise prices above where they should be. Get rid of them, have more real income.

Second, the lowering or the elimination of trade barriers ultimately result in something almost magical: Economic actors stop doing what they are doing badly and start focusing on what they do well. Most items become less expensive and of better quality. Everyone benefits from this. I mean everyone in the world.*

International trade agreements do cause some to lose their jobs. They create many more jobs than they cause to disappear, however. But the loss is certain: After all, as soon as central American bananas are allowed into Canada, Canadian banana growers must lose their jobs, by and large. Incidentally, there have not been Canadian banana growers, as far as I know but you see what I mean: Canadians ought to concentrate on producing lumber, or refrigerators, or iron ore, almost anything but bananas.

The current trade project presented by Obama contains a $500 million clause to retrain at public expense those Americans who might lose their job as a result of the new agreement. This is nothing new. Previous trade agreements contained similar arrangements.

President Obama wants what is known as “fast track authority.” That’s the privilege to have the Senate vote a simple “Yes” or “No” on the final draft of the agreement with those many other countries. This is pretty necessary because if each government of each signing country has to go home and gather amendments and often, amendments to amendments, in the end, no agreement sees the light of day. It’s a practical thing, not a sinister ploy.

On the one hand, practically all previous presidents who signed international trade agreements had fast track authority. On the other hand there is a sturdy reason to deny Mr Obama fast track authority: He is a proven, extremely bad negotiator. On the third hand, the negotiations of such agreements are almost completely done by technical personnel who know their business. And, how likely is Mr Obama actually to get involved?

As I write, elected Democrats are all against everything involved because the unions think that every international trade agreement makes them lose ground. I think their perception is correct. Republicans are torn between their understanding of the world (which is more or less like mine) and their wish to give the president a black eye.

This is a small digest of a complex and interesting issue. I deal with it at leisure and extensively in nine installments on this blog. Each had the words “protectionism” or “protectionist” in the title. Again, those are installments; you may want to look at them in order. No test!

* Paradoxically, one of the best, clearest scholarly explanations of this magic – called comparative advantage – is by Paul Krugman. It’s from the days when he was not yet crazy. Bret Stephens in the WSJ 6/16/15 jogged my memory on this strange fact. It’s worth looking up Krugman, for once.

“A foreign policy with a price”

Re: “Obama’s empty West Point speech,” May 30 Charles Krauthammer.

So Charles Krauthammer thinks we should be providing military assistance to Libya, Syria and the Ukraine. Who’s going to pay for it? Or are we just going to whip out the plastic like usual? Krauthammer says our allies are complaining, fearing their own security. What are they doing about it? Not much. Of course they are complaining; they are used to having the U.S. protect them without paying for it. I thought the Republicans were big on personal responsibility. Get your nanny-state big government out of other people’s business.

Joe GregoryCastle Pines

This is a letter to the editors of the Denver Post (I’m hanging out with my grandparents in Denver right now) and I thought I’d pass it along. Is libertarianism truly entering the mainstream or or is this guy just a hardcore, longtime libertarian? He might just be a Democrat with above-average intelligence and knows when to point out logical discrepancies in the Republican message.

I’ll never know, but I can only hope he’s new and that writes more letters to the editors that point out the irrational nature of US foreign policy.

The Federal Shutdown, the Debt Ceiling and an Extremist’s Morning After

The fake government “shutdown” is already over. I hardly had time to enjoy it. I was just beginning to make a list of federal services that are “non-essential” according to the federal government itself. I was kind of hoping that the EPA, for example, would bite the dust. I does not seem fair.

The debt ceiling problem is also dealt with for the time being. It’s another expression of the same underlying problem that led to the “shutdown.” (See below.)

OK, after the crisis that just ended temporarily, it feels to conservatives like Great Britain in August 1944. The Luftwaffe rules the skies. Our few remaining pilots keep getting shot down. Our central city is bombed nightly. Everyone else who is civilized has already folded. Nightly, they are opening the Champagne in Berlin. We stand alone. It does not mean that we are wrong to stand.

Still, it also feels like the morning after. Time to look into it.

The so-called crisis is suspended for about four months. Nothing is solved. The Republicans collectively took a public opinion drubbing, it’s true. Speaking for myself, I will repeat what I said earlier: I am not attached to the Republican Party. I care only about limited government conservatism. Until now, the Republican Party was a not-so-bad vehicle for that view of the world. If it does not have the backbone to carry it further, so be it. Yes, I think that even if there is no other likely large vehicle in sight. I want to avoid pointless imaginings about my meaning by saying it clearly: What I fear most is not just another electoral defeat but a meaningless and useless electoral defeat such as the Republican Party suffered in the last presidentials. What hurts the most is the large number of nominal Republicans who just stayed home. Gov. Romney’s program was not the hill you want to die for. Gov. Romney was not the kind of commander who could induce you to die for that hill.

Here is the central conservative issue in a capsule. The phony government shutdown and the reappearing debt ceiling issue are parts of the same dark cloud:

A federal government that is deeply and routinely corrupt as well as shockingly incompetent keeps borrowing mindlessly to sustain the ordinary business of government.

It’s despotic; its’ a waste of resources; most of all, it’s immoral.

The mindless, nearly automatic borrowing is the worst part.

Myself, I think that I, my children and the federal government should only borrow under two circumstances:

  1. When the loan is to be applied directly to the acquisition of a tool that will contribute to greater earnings in the proximate future. I use the word “tool” liberally. Better freeways, for example, could easily qualify.
  2. When there is a strong presumption that we will earn more tomorrow . That’s with or without the condition in 1 above. This is separate. In the case of a country, for example demographic growth may by itself create such a presumption.

The present federal government’s borrowing fulfills neither condition. It’s borrowing to meet everyday expense. It’s as if I borrowed to buy bread for my lunch sandwich. There is also no reason so far to believe that the United States economy will grow a great deal tomorrow. (This could change the day after tomorrow if we had, for example, sudden access to new cheap energy. The Obama administration is doing its best to prevent precisely this from happening – Makes you think along dark lines, doesn ‘t it?)

Routine even legal, systemic federal government corruption: The widow of (wealthy) Senator Lautenberg received $174,000 from Congress because her husband took the trouble to die while in office. (WSJ 10/18/13, p. A12)

Federal Government incompetence: See the health insurance exchanges, in preparation for four years! Enough said! Note: I am not sure whether I am more afraid that its implementation will succeed or that it will continue to fail in exemplary fashion.

Mindless federal borrowing: It has become an integral part of the culture that the government must borrow to live. I said “integral part of the culture.” Below, an illustration I could not invent if I wanted to.

Larry Fink is the CEO of BlackRock, by some defensible measure, the largest investment firm in the world. Mr Fink said 10/16/13 or 10/17/13 (WSJ):

I have been in this business for 37 years. For 34 years I did not know there was such a thing as a debt ceiling.

Our point exactly! One of the highest placed business executives in the land takes government borrowing so much for granted that he does not know it’s subject to Congress-imposed limitations. He even sounds incensed when he learns the truth.

That’s what makes us conservatives, “extremists.”

Why do I care? I care because, unless there is another wave of fast economic growth lasting for several years, we are guaranteeing that our children and grand children will live in poverty. It’s wrong; it’s immoral.

And then, there is the growing phoniness of the public discourse including discourse by the mainstream privately owned press.

During the two days following the cessation of the pretend-government “shutdown,” the main media are eager to pretend that the multitudes feel great relief. They talk as if the average folks out there had experienced tremendous suffering because federal non-essentials were furloughed. I, for one, feel no relief at all. I don’t know anyone who does. (Agree, it’s an unsystematic sample but it’s a sample.) This is all the media’s deliberate exaggeration or a misplaced identification with federal public servants. It’s becoming more and more obvious that such public servants are overpaid and that they enjoy too many unearned privileges. (State public servants also, in some states, such as mine, California.) I don’t identify. It pisses me off. The more I know, the more pissed off I am.

They, the mainstream media, echo dumbly the noises coming from the administration about the alleged “costs” of the “shutdown” to the national economy. No one takes the trouble to do a net calculus, even to raise the issue of a net calculus. Isn’t it true that for each day certain federal bureaucracies are unable to do their job, some of the main producers in the nation are better able to produce? Again, the EPA comes to mind. And the IRS, of course. And a number of federal agencies whose names I don’t even know.

Besides, it’s an empty formula, a truism that (theoretical) wealth that fails to be produced usually is not regained, as the administration says gravely.

N. S. ! That’s what happens with Columbus Day and with Presidents’ Day, for example. (When only public servants and bank employees don’t work. When nearly the whole private sector keeps on producing wealth.) Why not cancel both holidays if non-production is a cause for worry? Why not make federal public servants come to work on both days if the president is worried? He only need issue an executive order. Bet you, he won’t even mention the possibility. And why do I have to state the obvious? Why aren’t the media doing their job? Have they been hypnotized? And, I almost forgot: if the president loses sleep over the missed production of federal employees, he could imitate the French in reverse and institute the federal forty-four hours work week. Would anyone notice?

Something else does not add up in the media’s discourse. For days, during the so-called “shutdown,” both administration officials and supposedly independent pundits threatened us with a world economic abyss because of number of non-essential federal employees were prevented from going to work. (I am not making this up; I am not exaggerating that we were told this ad nauseum; go back to those recent days, you will be amazed.) Yet, the day he current agreement is announced, the day we jumped form the edge of the supposed abyss, the markets reacted limply. The Dow Jones Industrial gained a lackluster 175 points that day. Now, that’s nice; it’s a gain for sure. However it’s no more of a gain than happens, for example, when the international price of the oil barrel comes down by ten dollars. The next day, the Dow Jones was flat. Trouble over; no big deal after all. Forget what we said yesterday. Forget the alarm. We were just kidding!

The Republican cave-in saves us from falling into the Grand Canyon and the market gives us a small hot dogs party by way of celebration! Does it make sense?

President Obama’s deftness never ceases to amaze me. No mistake seems to stick to him. On the day of the agreement, he declared that the new debt ceiling is not really debt. No one in the mainstream press questioned this absurd statement. Let me repeat, by the way, that I don’t think he is lying. He really does not know better. Academia is overflowing with his type of intelligent ignorance.

Perhaps, I am not grasping what’s going on, culturally. Perhaps, the reservoir of white American guilt concerning the long atrocity that was slavery, concerning racial segregation and discrimination also, is far from exhausted. Perhaps, the president can write checks on this for a long time to come. Or maybe, as Rush Limbaugh suggested, he struck a giant chord with the millions by giving them a chance to see themselves as victims. If you are a victim, almost any grotesque behavior is permissible. Soon only my wife, our grown children and I will be the only non-victims left in America. It will be a lonely existence. And, I wonder how long we will be able to support the victims because two of us are long retired (thus mirroring American demographics to come).

At one point one of Mr Obama’s servants referred gravely to the global reputational damage the shutdown has caused to the United States. (I don’t remember exactly who or when but I heard it with my own ears.) The “red line” in Syria about using chemical weapons does not in any way affect the credibility of the US, I suppose. The hundreds of civilians who died from chemical weapons died and all is forgiven. In the words of Pres. Obama’s former Secretary of State, “What difference does it make now?”

The day after the agreement the president gave another speech in which he advised those who don’t like something to just win elections in order to be able to change the something. I don’t think it was mistake. It was Freudian slip. President Obama does not believe that tea party Senators and Representatives who oppose him so tenaciously were just as elected as he was. It sounds familiar to me because I know history rather well and French history very well. The weakling tyrant, Louis-Napoleon, the Emperor Napoleon the Third (there was no Second) was initially elected. His supporters really thought that if you were elected by a sizable majority, you were morally allowed to do anything. They thought that was democracy. (There is a very nice readable piece by my old buddy Karl Marx on this topic for your reading pleasure where and when it rains: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, Abstract of Chapter I.)

Thus do we drift fast toward a one-party state. I warned about this a long time ago, before Mr Obama was even elected. (See also on this blog: “Fascism Explained“)

The unspeakable Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said after the agreement was reached: “This is a time for reconciliation.” I don’t think so. I hope not.