Friday, June 22, 2018

A Word from Charles Krauthammer

A word from Charles Krauthammer (via American Digest):

Gender Deformity and the LSATs

If you were wondering why half of the country seems to have lost its mind, take a gander at this. It's from the form you have to fill out to take the LSATs. It makes the new madness about gender identity settled law. Aspiring lawyers must buy into the nation's gender deformity-- it's part of the price of admissions.

The Decline and Fall of Merkel

Given its importance for geopolitics, we have been covering the decline and fall of Angela Merkel for some time now. After all, Merkel is a remnant of what is called the liberal world order. But she was also a practitioner of the Obama-led univeralist open borders policy. I have mentioned it before, but will repeat now, those who are whining about Donald Trump’s failure to maintain good relations with the weak sisters of Western Europe and Canada do not  see that these nations have largely abrogated their claims to world leadership. With them, it's more about nostalgia than Realpolitik.

When Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, Germany, France and England objected. They did not care about whether Iran went nuclear or was supporting terrorism. They wanted to do business with Iran. As a result, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia told Germany that it had to choose, trade with Saudi Arabia or trade with Iran. The Crown Prince proceeded to cancel contracts with Germany.

Today we read Josef Joffe, an editor at Die Zeit, in the Washington Post:

But even if Merkel makes it through this precarious summer and endures to the end of her fourth term, in 2021, she is damaged goods. Her existential problem goes far beyond the intramural political warfare. The European stage she has dominated for so long is collapsing beneath her.

The liberal world order is an Enlightenment ideal, derived, one supposes, from Immanuel Kant. It promised world government based on warm humane feelings. It stood in defiance of balance-of-powers government. It has failed over and over again and is now on life support.

Nations that seek to lead the world are not following the example set by Angela Merkel.

Nor is it just the migrants who are battering the European construction. Merkel, this benign monarch, is being shouldered aside by a new cast of leaders: Donald Trump, Russia’s Vladi­mir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and, farther afield, China’s Xi Jinping. These characters prefer national advantage to world-order politics.

As for the European Union, it is collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions:

Closer to home, Britain is on the way out. In Italy, the anti-European populists of the left and right have grabbed power in a free election. Strongmen are running Poland and Hungary. In Austria, the far-right Freedom Party has muscled its way into the government. In much of the E.U., populist parties are scoring double-digit percentages of the vote.

One reason is that the Union has been coasting under the American defense umbrella. Now that Trump has called the bluff, alliances are starting to shift:

Europe’s cozy life under America’s strategic umbrella is turning nasty as Trump keeps growling: Pay up, or we ship out.

Of course, Merkel is doomed by her own absurd error, opening her nation to migrants, in a type of moral promiscuity:

Still, the deadliest threat to Merkel’s tenure preceded the advent of Trump. It began to close in on her in the early fall of 2015 when she opened her heart and her country to almost 1 million Muslim migrants. Determined to show Germany’s friendly face to the world, she refused to set limits. Her fans sported “Refugees Welcome” buttons.

It was virtue signaling, but it failed:

The welcome waned as the flow continued. Merkel’s fabled “Wir schaffen das” — “we can do it” — turned into the greatest miscalculation of her career. 

Nations across Europe are rejecting the Merkel model. And they are unwilling to bail her out by taking the refugee overflows:

Never has so much goodness spawned so much misfortune. Normally, embattled leaders seek refuge in foreign policy. But Merkel is running out of partners. Paris and Rome, Warsaw, Vienna and Budapest have opposed her “European solution” for three years. Sweden and Denmark reinstated border controls in 2016. In a new tripolar world, Trump would rather play with the big boys in Moscow and Beijing.

Joffe’s concludes, on a note that I have been sounding:

As the United States, Russia and China are recasting global politics, Europe, with an economy as large as America’s, has been demoted to a two-bit player. “Defensive nationalism” — keep them out — is sweeping the E.U. and the rest of the West. Merkel is frantically trying to stem the tide. Europe should hope that she can do better than King Canute.

"Obama Administration Handed Child Migrants Over to Human Traffickers"

The information did not cause every deadhead celebrity to lose his mind, but it is certainly worth noting. And, consider the source, Eric Levitz of New York Magazine, hardly a member of the vast right wing conspiracy. The story was published in January, 2016.

How quickly we forget, especially when remembering gets in the way of our most fanatical beliefs.

Levitz reported on the result of a Senate investigation of Obama administration policy toward child migrants. Apparently, it was handing some of them over to human traffickers:

The United States government placed an unknown number of Central American migrant children into the custody of human traffickers after neglecting to run the most basic checks on these so-called “caregivers,” according to a Senate report released on Thursday.

In the fall of 2013, tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors traveled to the U.S. southern border, in flight from poverty and gang violence in Central America. At least six of those children were eventually resettled on an egg farm in Marion, Ohio, where their sponsors forced them to work 12 hours a day under threats of death. Local law enforcement uncovered the operation last year, prompting the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to open an inquiry into the federal government’s handling of migrants.

As it happened, the images of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors crossing the border with impunity, reinforced by similar images from Germany less than two years later, gave is the Trump presidency.
Is this anecdotal or indicative?

“It is intolerable that human trafficking — modern-day slavery — could occur in our own backyard,” Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio and the chairman of the subcommittee, told the New York Times. “But what makes the Marion cases even more alarming is that a U.S. government agency was responsible for delivering some of the victims into the hands of their abusers.”

It need not have been intentional. It could merely have been an example of basic, fundamental government incompetence:

As detention centers became incapable of housing the massive influx of migrants, the Department of Health and Human Services started placing children into the care of sponsors who would oversee the minors until their bids for refugee status could be reviewed. But in many cases, officials failed to confirm whether the adults volunteering for this task were actually relatives or good Samaritans — and not unscrupulous egg farmers or child molesters. The department performed check-in visits at caretakers’ homes in only 5 percent of cases between 2013 and 2015, according to the report.

And finally,

The agency placed 90,000 migrant children into sponsor care between 2013 and 2015. Exactly how many of those fell prey to traffickers is unknown, because the agency does not keep track.

Have We Reached Peak Insanity?

Over at the Powerline blog John Hinderaker writes that we have reached peak political insanity. One would be hard put to disagree:

Over the last few days we have reached peak insanity, especially on Twitter. I can’t begin to recount all of the outrages. Apart from the whole nonsense at the Southern border that dominated the news, we had Peter Fonda, a former actor who was washed up decades ago, threatening Barron Trump to the extent that Melania Trump referred him to the Secret Service. We had a gang of socialists accosting Homeland Security Security Kirstjen Nielsen while she was eating dinner in a restaurant, and much more.

One member of the gang of socialists works at the Justice Department. Why does she still have her job? As long as these new Brown Shirts and Red Guards go unpunished, they will believe that their cause is righteous. Be clear that theirs are the tactics perfected by the Nazi Storm Troopers and Mao’s Red Guards.

These demonstrators and defamers are not liberals. They are radical zealots, the sort that are perfectly well described as fascists. They are running a domestic insurgency, like the French Resistance. As you know, the French Resistance was essentially a disloyal opposition.

Why are they fighting against Trump? They are continuing the Obama legacy of turning America's power against Americans, of refusing to fight Islamist terrorism but to tear the country apart over thought crimes. The Obama policy agenda might have turned to dust, but the Obama cultural legacy is alive and well.

They defy the most basic democratic norm, that being, respecting the winner of a fair election. And they will do everything in their power who supports the Incarnate Devil that is Donald Trump.

Liberals try to rule any support for President Trump out of bounds. Anyone who expresses even the mildest support for Trump is read out of polite society. He is shunned; he should be fired from his job; if he writes anything, it shouldn’t be printed; he is publicly denounced and inundated with hate; his home, in some instances, is besieged and his children terrorized. If he ventures out into public, he is harassed by bullies.

They do not care that Perhaps Trump won the election. These new fascists will do everything in their power—beginning by destroying the lives of those who work for him—to ensure that he cannot govern. As always, the press does not care.

And it is evil. It is incompatible with democracy or any kind of civil society. And, above all, it is completely crazy. After all, Donald Trump won the election. Donald Trump is the President of the United States. Liberals are trying to dictate, through mob rule and control over the press, that any support for the President of the United States is unacceptable and, if at all possible, career ending.

Hinderaker suggests that conservatives employ the same tactics on these radical zealots. It is not very kind of suggest it, but, in truth, it is inevitable that people on the political adopt the same tactics. After all, the leftist attack on conservatives does not date to yesterday. Many conservatives voted for Donald Trump precisely because they believed that he could match the left's bullying tactics.

Is Caffeine a Wonder Drug?

Time and experience have taught us to be skeptical over the latest news from the world of healthy eating. Remember when eggs and butter were going to kill you? Remember when a diet of grass and twigs was going to save your life.

So, the following news, deriving from a study of mouse circulatory systems, should be taken with a grain of skepticism. I post if for the amusement value.

It’s good news for coffee drinkers. It turns out that drinking four cups of coffee a day will protect and repair heart muscles, especially for retirees.

Naturally, we find this news in The Daily Mail.

Pensioners should drink four cups of coffee a day to protect and repair their heart muscle, research suggests.

Levels of caffeine, equivalent to drinking four cups of coffee, could help to protect healthy blood vessels and repair the heart after a heart attack, a study claims.

The stimulant boosts a protein known to be important in regenerating heart cells, and which could also protect them from damage.

Caffeine is thought to lower the risk for diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke, but the reasons for this are not well understood.

German researchers now think caffeine may make cells which line the arteries and veins healthier, improving their ability to resist or recover from damage.

The scientists say their findings 'should lead to better strategies for protecting heart muscle', and another expert called the results 'very interesting'.

They suggest caffeine could particularly benefit elderly people, whose hearts may be naturally weaker and more at risk of damage.

It turns out that caffeine is a wonder drug:

Research by Heinrich-Heine-University and the IUF-Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine in Dusseldorf, Germany, discovered the health-boosting effects of caffeine on heart cells.

They found the drug – which is also found in tea and soft drinks like Coca Cola – improves the function of cells lining the heart and blood vessels.

It does this by encouraging the movement of a vital protein – called p27 – into the cells. 

Caffeine also strengthens mitochondria, which give cells their energy, so they are more able to keep cells healthy and protect them, the study says.

Caffeine protects the hearts of ageing, pre-diabetic and obese mice.

The research, done on mice, showed caffeine protected the hearts of pre-diabetic, obese and old mice.

The researchers suggest it could offer the same benefits to elderly people, whose hearts are more at risk of damage and may have weaker cells. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

How Are Things at Starbucks?

Now that it has touted itself as a leader in the social justice wars against white supremacy, Starbucks is having problems. We will refrain from defining cause and effect, but Starbucks stock tanked yesterday when it announced that it was closing 150 stores next year. Retrenchment must be the correct word.

The other correct term is: the price of virtue signaling. The Washington Times has the story:

Starbucks may have appeased progressives with its social-justice workshops and open-bathroom policy, but such moves have failed to caffeinate the company’s bottom line.

The coffee giant’s stock took a tumble Wednesday after CEO Kevin Johnson announced that Starbucks would close 150 company-owned stores next year instead of the expected 50, with an emphasis on underperforming shops in densely populated urban areas, and lowered growth projections.

Did the company’s open embrace of social justice lead to the shutdowns? Apparently, it did.

The Wash Times explains:

Mr. Johnson acknowledged that the decision to shut down 8,000 U.S. stores on May 29 for anti-bias training, driven by the high-profile arrests of two black men in Philadelphia, played a role in the company’s sluggish second-quarter performance.

“In this current quarter, certainly we had an unplanned initiative driven out of the Philadelphia incident, we closed all our stores for training, we had to delay some marketing, but none of that is an excuse,” Mr. Johnson told CNBC. “The fact is the way I think about a growth company at scale is we’ve got to deliver consistent growth, month after month, quarter after quarter, and year after year. And we have not done that.”

In response, Starbucks announced steps to streamline the company and increase its agility by “accelerating product innovation,” “leveraging the growing tea and refreshment category,” and responding to trends toward “health and wellness.”

Now the company is adding a tea business to its coffee business. Surely, that will do the trick. After all, tea is made from leaves. Thus it is greener that coffee. Frankly, I recommend that people cease doing business with a company that thinks its goal in life is to promote social justice. As for shareholders, forewarned is forearmed.

Should Revenge Porn Be Outlawed?

You would think that the issue is not controversial. After all, who among us can possibly favor revenge porn? Who among us would not like to see those who share compromising photos of former loves be punished?

In truth, the major opponent of New York State’s revenge porn bill was none other than Google? Perhaps it wanted to strike a blow for gender equity. Perhaps it does not care about the young women who are public humiliated by these photos?

When the NY state legislature readied itself to consider an anti-revenge porn bill, Google stepped in and lobbied against it. On the grounds that such laws would restrict its ability to monitor content. Of course, revenge porn constitutes an assault, so we can only wonder how Google made it a corporate freedom issue.

The Daily Beast explained:

New York state’s revenge-porn bill—which would have made nonconsensual sharing of sexual images punishable by jail time—died early Thursday morning following a last-ditch campaign by Google. The state senate adjourned for the year and took no action on the proposal, which was introduced in 2013 and recently taken up again after a campaign by the New York Post. The bill would have made it possible to give those found guilty of the crime as much as a year in prison and would have helped victims force internet hosts into removing the images. Google staged a late effort against the bill, saying it was opposed to government oversight on how it regulates content. 

Winners and Losers in the Singapore Summit

Apparently, the Trump-Kim Singapore summit was a success. Otherwise, why would the media be filled with horrifying images of refugee children. The derangement and the hysteria are palpable. For those simpletons who cannot think past the argumentum ad Hitlerum, the Trump policy of dividing families that entered the country illegally smacks of concentration camps and crematoria. 

Naturally, Trump’s detractors do not accept that the president accomplished anything significant in Singapore. Over 80% of the people of South Korea think that he did. Since they have skin in the game, we should take their view seriously. On this side of the world, the hatred of Trump is so completely over the top that the vast majority of comments, whether from legislators, political leaders, columnists and even corporate chieftains has been decidedly negative.

Thus, for your edification, I draw attention to an article in the highly esteemed journal Foreign Affairs. Chung-in Moon explains that the Singapore summit was a success for all involved. For the record he is a South Korean foreign policy expert who works with president Moon Jae-in. I will not detail all the arguments, but will limit myself to a salient quotation:

In a war there are losers and winners but in diplomacy there are rarely black-and-white outcomes. Rather than keeping score, the goal is to find acceptable compromises for both sides. Although there might be differences in relative gains, diplomatic negotiation usually entails an imperfect win-win outcome. That was the case with the Singapore summit. The United States was assured that North Korea is committed to complete denuclearization, while the North was assured of a new relationship with the United States and a security guarantee. South Korea was also a beneficiary of the summit, because the Singapore declaration explicitly reaffirmed the April 2018 Panmunjom Declaration between Seoul and Pyongyang regarding denuclearization and the building of a peace regime. So, too, was China a winner, because its proposal for a “double suspension” of both North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities and U.S. military exercises with South Korea, and the dual-track approach to denuclearization and a peace regime, were all reflected in the signed statement and post-summit announcements. In short, there were no losers in Singapore, which is quite an accomplishment.

Quite an accomplishment….

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Case of the Bad Friend

As often happens in Ask Polly columns we do not know enough about the letter writer to offer an intelligent, well-reasoned response. This never deters Polly herself, because she prefers running off at length about herself… about which she thinks she knows a great deal.

Today’s letter writer, Bad Friend, is wondering whether she is an asshole. She has many friends and seems to be likeable and outgoing. Yet, she does not to make plans to see her friends. She wants to be alone. Apparently, she has a Greta Garbo complex and wants to be left alone.

As it happens, she is married to a woman, with whom she presumably lives. Whether her spouse, who plays the extrovert to her introvert, leaves her alone… we do not know. Extroverts are not known for leaving you alone.

The writer merely wants to do her work, but we do not know what her work is. All we know is that she does not like to make plans.

We would love to know whether she has always avoided making plans or whether she used to make plans, only to have people cancel on her. Obviously, the point is relevant. We do not know anything about it. Bad Friend seems to think that she possesses a character flaw. She ends her letter by saying that maybe she is just an asshole.

Here are some excerpts from the letter:

I love my friends. I know I’m fortunate to have people in my life whom I care about. Most of the time when we hang out, it’s fun. My secret is: I never want to see them.

Here’s how it goes: A friend texts me “Dinner Tuesday?” but Tuesday doesn’t work for me, so it turns into a spiral of scheduling that slowly sucks my lifeblood away, takes me to a dark and twisty GCal hell, and makes me wish I never met this person in the first place. I wish there were a way to say “I like you, but I do not want to make a plan with you. I don’t want to do it Tuesday, I don’t want to do it a week from Tuesday or a month from Tuesday. I want to continue to be friends and not make plans with you.”

When I get a text or an email from a friend asking me to get together my stomach drops. Not because I hate them, but because I don’t want to make a plan. Once someone suggests a Plan, you’re hooked: I can’t say “No” without suggesting another date, I can’t suggest another date without triggering a scheduling vortex, then I look ahead at my calendar and it’s all booked up with Plans with people I don’t even really want to see, and I can’t do my favorite thing, which is to be alone….

I don’t want to lose friendships. I just don’t want to have to be watering them, constantly making plans, in a state of constant social activity. I just want to exist without disappointing anybody. I want to love people but not contort myself to satisfy their arbitrary and inflated expectations of what a “social life” is.

Am I an awful person? How do I manage others’ expectations of me? Most important: How do I say no to drinks without offering an alternate date for drinks? How do I say “Can we not make this plan?” without sounding like an asshole? Or am I an asshole? Should I just accept that I’m an asshole?

Actually, she is an awful person. Or, at least, she is acting like one. We will consider her an awful person until we know more about how reliable her friends are. Conducting friendships and having a social life inevitably involves making plans and coordinating schedules. So does doing a job. Living with another human involves developing couples routines, a division of household labor, and extensive cooperation. If you are living with another person and are marching to  your own drum, you have a problem. And your relationship is in trouble.

Naturally, Polly feels oodles of empathy for Bad Friend. It beats analyzing the issue and groping toward a solution. Polly’s non solution is to be open and honest with her friends, to tell them that she hates to make plans, because they are far less important than her personal solipsistic Self. As Bad Friend knows, and as Polly does not seem to know, if she follows this course of action she will quickly find herself with fewer friends.

I have no real sympathy with someone who is likeable, who is friendly with other people, and who consistently disappoints them by refusing to make plans. 

Yet, you might have noticed that she is living in a one-directional world, where people reach out to her and she refuses to reach back. That is, she rejects their advances. One imagines that some kind of trauma is involved, because refusing to make plans is not normal.

How can she solve this problem, which is an extreme form of social anxiety? How about reaching out to some of these people, becoming the person who is initiating contact rather than the person who feels put upon by people who want to spend some time with her. It beats her current solution: serendipity and a throw of the dice. Someone who does not  want to make places to see friends is, properly speaking, a bad friend.

Today's Gender Neutral Navy

One is not sure what to make of this, so I will report it as written. An anonymous individual wrote to Robert Stacy McCain, author of a blog called The Other McCain to explain what happened when the U.S.S. Fitzgerald was hit by a Philippine container ship in June, 2017. (Via Instapundit) Seven sailors lost their lives in the accident.

The captain and two admirals were held responsible, but press reports failed to remark on the officers in charge at the time of the accident. Why do you suppose that that is?

Well, here are some excerpts from the letter:

… it was noteworthy that the captain and a couple of admirals were publically named, but not the actual officer in charge, the officer of the deck. (OOD) The other person who should have kept the Fitz out of trouble is the person in charge of the combat information center, the Tactical Action Officer. That individual is supposed to be monitoring the combat radar, which can detect a swimmer at a distance of two miles. 

Why were the OOD and the TAO not named?

The OOD was named Sarah, and the Tactical Action Officer was named Natalie, and they weren’t speaking to each other!!! The Tactical Action Officer would normally be in near constant communication with the OOD, but there is no record of any communication between them that entire shift! 

Another fun fact: In the Navy that won WWII, the damage control officers were usually some of the biggest and strongest men aboard, able to close hatches, shore up damaged areas with timbers, etc. The Fitz’s damage control officer was also a woman, and she never left the bridge. She handled the aftermath of the accident remotely, without lifting a finger herself! 

Look it up: The OOD was Sarah Coppock, Tactical Action Officer was Natalie Combs.

What did the Navy investigation conclude?

In an 11-hour hearing, prosecutors painted a picture of Lt. Irian Woodley, the ship’s surface warfare coordinator, and Lt. Natalie Combs, the tactical action officer, as failing at their jobs, not using the tools at their disposal properly and not communicating adequately. They became complacent with faulty equipment and did not seek to get it fixed, and they failed to communicate with the bridge, the prosecution argued. Had they done those things, the government contended, they would have been able to avert the collision.

Is there a deeper meaning? Does it have anything to do with diversity quotas?

That three of the officers — Coppock, Combs and Woodley — involved in this incident were all female suggests that discipline and training standards have been lowered for the sake of “gender integration,” which was a major policy push at the Pentagon during the Obama administration. It may be that senior officers, knowing their promotions may hinge on tenthusiastic support for “gender integration,” are reluctant to enforce standards for the women under their command.

Now that we know what happened and why it happened, we would also like to know whether the Navy has changed policy. Don’t count on it.

We note that the story has been carefully covered up by all media outlets.

A Blow for Human Rights

The big secret about the United Nations Human Rights Council is that it does not care about human rights. Those who are bemoaning America’s exit from the council are so simple minded that they believe America is no longer interested in promoting human rights.

What is the UN Human Rights Council? It’s a cabal containing some of the world’s worst human rights abusers. It is mostly concerned with attacking Israel and, by proxy, the United States. If you believe that American should continue to be part of the council, you are countenancing an organization that promotes worldwide anti-Semitism.

Imagining that the UN HRC promotes or advances human rights is absurd to the point of being risible.

Yesterday, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley announced America’s withdrawal at the State Department, in the company of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. For those who care about symbolism and the like, the structure of the announcement showed that Haley was not a lone ranger: she was acting in accord with State Department policy.

Pompeo had a few choice words of his own:

Mr. Pompeo said the Council had a poor record of defending human rights and criticized it for allowing some of the world’s worst offenders, including Iran and Venezuela, to remain as members.

“The Council has failed in its stated objective,” Mr. Pompeo said, calling it an “exercise in shameless hypocrisy.”

And also:

On Tuesday, Mr. Pompeo used the same terms to criticize the U.N. body. “The Council’s continued and well documented bias against Israel is unconscionable,” he said.

As for Nikki Haley, she said:

Ms. Haley called it a “hypocritical and self-serving” organization that protects rights abusers, and a “cesspool of political bias.”

She continued:

Ms. Haley has spoken out frequently against the U.N. Human Rights Council and on Tuesday denounced what she called its “chronic bias against Israel.” Ms. Haley complained that the Council has issued more resolutions condemning Israel than North Korea, Iran and Syria combined.

The New York Times offered this in a news story:

It was the first time a member has voluntarily left the United Nations Human Rights Council. The United States now joins Iran, North Korea and Eritrea as the only countries that refuse to participate in the council’s meetings and deliberations.

Thereby it is suggesting that the United States is joining tyrants and despots in rejecting the noble cause of human rights. In truth, as the Times also noticed, the Trump administration is refusing to collude with and to legitimate an organization that systematically persecutes Israel, that holds it up to opprobrium for no reason other than pure bigotry.

One might say that the United States just struck a blow against the oldest of bigotries. Naturally, those who pretend to support human rights are appalled.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The End of the ACLU

In a recent article Alan Dershowitz, former board member of the American Civil Liberties Union decries the radicalization of that organization. No longer willing to promote civil liberties, it has transformed itself into a political advocacy group, promoting leftist policies and candidates.

Dershowitz writes:

The director of the American Civil Liberties Union has now acknowledged what should have been obvious to everybody over the past several years: that the ACLU is no longer a neutral defender of everyone’s civil liberties; it has morphed into a hyper-partisan, hard-left political advocacy group. The final nail in its coffin was the announcement that for the first time in its history the ACLU would become involved in partisan electoral politics, supporting candidates, referenda and other agenda-driven political goals.

Why has it happened?

If you want to know the reason for this shift, just follow the money. ACLU contributors, including some of its most generous contributors, are strong anti-Trump zealots who believe that the end (getting rid of Trump) justifies any means (including denying Trump and his associates core civil liberties and due process).

When the Trump administration seems to deny civil liberties the ACLU ought rightly to criticize it Yet, the ACLU has become an extremist organization whose purpose is to end the Trump presidency.

Trump himself has denied fundamental civil liberties by his immigration policies, his attitude and actions regarding the press, and his calls for criminal investigations of his political enemies. The ACLU will criticize those actions as it should. But the Trump presidency has also pushed the ACLU further to the left and into partisan politics. President Trump is so despised by contributors to the ACLU that they have increased their contributions, but also demanded that the ACLU be on the forefront of ending the Trump presidency, either through impeachment, criminal prosecution or electoral defeat.

One cannot help but be amused and horrified by the notion that the ACLU wants to overturn the results of a fair election… in the name of liberty and democracy.

Who Runs American Foreign Policy?

You have read it here before, on several occasions. The Trump-Kim negotiation for North Korean denuclearization was orchestrated by Chinese president Xi Jinping. The reason was simple. Trump and Xi made a deal. In exchange for Xi’s help—which Trump praised lavishly—Trump would do Xi a favor in return. 

When Xi asked Trump to help save Chinese telecom giant, ZTE, Trump graciously acceded to the request.  It was a simple quid pro quo, the kind the forges relationships between governments and between people.

Writing in the Asia Times, Spengler explained it:

American diplomacy achieved a landmark result in Trump’s Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un, offering the repugnant North Korean leader legitimacy and the prospect of regime continuity in return for his nuclear weapons program.

The president’s “Art of the Deal” negotiating style had less to do with the constructive outcome than old-fashioned diplomacy under the skillful guidance of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: Consultation with allies, back-channel exchanges with the other side, and a proposal that both sides could live with. Asia Times published on June 10 former South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-Kwan’s guide to getting a “yes” from Pyongyang, and a Pompeo adviser told me that South Korean insights were incorporated into the American initiative.

The Korean deal also entailed some quiet trade-offs with China. Importantly, President Trump intervened personally to rescind the Commerce Department’s late-April ban on American chip sales to China’s second-largest telecom equipment company ZTE, in retaliation for ZTE’s violation of sanctions against Iran and North Korea. ZTE’s mobile handsets use Qualcomm chips, and a ban on chip sales would shut the company down.

What was the ZTE deal?

On the president’s initiative, the Commerce Department instead negotiated a $1.9-billion fine, changes in ZTE management, and the imposition of American compliance controls on the company’s operations. That was a severe penalty and an unprecedented assertion of American control over the operations of a Chinese company, but a deal that both sides could live with.

It sounded reasonable. Administration figures, like Peter Navarro, have explained the deal explicitly. Yet, key senators, led by Marco Rubio have been trying to sabotage it:

Now the US Senate has sought to sabotage Trump’s ZTE deal, by embedding a ban on US chip sales to ZTE in the national defense authorization act – despite intensive lobbying by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other administration officials.

Perhaps it made sense to call him little Marco.

Spengler explains that the Rubio foreign policy theory holds that America should promote democracy and overthrow authoritarian leaders. It is positively Wilsonian in its thrust. It was promoted by George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Rubio remains a utopian who thinks that the object of US foreign policy is to bring down authoritarian regimes and to replace them with democracies.

Worse yet, some Trump advisers, Spengler explains, believed that shutting down ZTE would destabilize the Xi Jinping regime. They are making a large mistake:

Some of Trump’s advisers believe that shutting down ZTE would destabilize the Zi Xinping regime. “I want to shut ZTE down so that 75,000 unemployed engineers demonstrate against the government in Bejing,” a former administration official told me. The usual suspects among the neo-conservative punditeska, for example the perennial predictor of China’s collapse Gordon Chang, accuse Trump of crumbling before Chinese demands.

Yes indeed, Gordon Chang has been predicting the collapse of China for at least two decades now. The fact that he has been consistently wrong has not prevented him from becoming a great authority on China and Asia.

Do we really believe, Spengler suggests, that American democracy will cure all of the world’s ills:

The complaint among the foreign policy elite that Trump is crude and unsophisticated has a perverse element of truth: It takes enormous intellectual sophistication to convince one’s self that American democracy is a universal panacea for the world’s political problems and the inevitable goal of human progress. The foreign policy establishment is not stupid, but only psychotic.

As of now, the Senate has passed the appropriation bill with the attack on ZTE. The House appropriation bill does not contain it. If it goes through, the reaction will not necessarily be in our best interest:

If the Senate passes the defense appropriation bill with the ZTE bomb, and Trump is unable to excise it by presidential veto or other means, Beijing will draw the conclusion that the president no longer is in control of US foreign policy. Instead, it will confront an adversary that does not want to achieve this or that particular policy objective, but rather wants to undermine the regime. Its first response will be to mobilize national resources to achieve independence in semiconductor production as quickly as possible, replacing its $220 billion a year in chip imports with domestic substitutes.

And also:

Rather than a tariff war, the world will face a disruption of the global supply chain, major dislocations in high-technology trade, shocks to pricing, and a return to national autarky in a number of economic policies. The result will be ugly in economic terms, and it will raise strategic tensions everywhere in the world. Hard to imagine an American policy initiative stupider than its attempt to export democracy to Iraq, this will go down as the dumbest thing America ever did.

One cannot help but agree that the Rubio rider is among the dumbest things America ever did. Its attempt to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy and to undermine his successful summit with North Korea speaks ill of little Marco.

Trump vs. the Old World Order

Among the articles of faith in the Church of the Liberal Pieties is this: Donald Trump is destroying the liberal world order by downgrading his relationship with the European Union and especially with its Western leaders: Germany, France and Great Britain. The horror if it all!

Now, Jochen Bittner, an editor of the German newspaper Die Zeit explains that Trump has a point. He argues in a New York Times op-ed that European countries have been free-riding on America for decades now. It makes sense that Trump would want to halt to the exploitation.

You have not heard this point of view very often, so it is worth noting:

Mr. Trump’s anger at America’s allies embodies, however unpleasantly, a not unreasonable point of view, and one that the rest of the world ignores at its peril: The global world order is unbalanced and inequitable. And unless something is done to correct it soon, it will collapse, with or without the president’s tweets.

While the West happily built the liberal order over the past 70 years, with Europe at its center, the Americans had the continent’s back. In turn, as it unravels, America feels this loss of balance the hardest — it has always spent the most money and manpower to keep the system working.

The Europeans have basically been free riders on the voyage, spending almost nothing on defense, and instead building vast social welfare systems at home and robust, well-protected export industries abroad. Rather than lash back at Mr. Trump, they would do better to ask how we got to this place, and how to get out.

These nations are being protected militarily by America. They have used the freed-up cash to build lavish social welfare states.

Bittner explains:

All those German politicians who oppose raising military spending from a meager 1.3 percent of gross domestic product should try to explain to American students why their European peers enjoy free universities and health care, while they leave it up to others to cover for the West’s military infrastructure.

As for the G-7, the European Union favors German manufacturers while making it impossible for American companies to compete:

At the Group of 7, for example, the constituent countries are described as all equals. But in reality, the union puts a thumb on the scales in its members’ favor: It is a highly integrated, well-protected free-trade area that gives a huge leg up to, say, German car manufacturers while essentially punishing American companies who want to trade in the region.

China too has been exploiting the good will of the West:

China’s unchecked abuse of the global free-trade regime makes a mockery of the very idea that the world can operate according to a rules-based order. Again, while many in the West have talked the talk about taking on China, only Mr. Trump has actually done something about it.

You may or may not like Trump’s approach, but he is addressing a real problem.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Case of the Amoral Neighbor

What have we become? So asks Carolyn Hax in the Washington Post when responding to a letter where a woman shows a shockingly amoral cruelty.

The letter writer, K., is facing something of a moral dilemma, one that is entirely of her own making. Her problem is: she has no moral compass. She has descended to the ranks of degenerate money grubbing souls who lack decency or dignity. It has cost her a friend. One suspects that this is not the first friend she has lost.

Hax berates her in the strongest terms. It's not about what is healthy and therapeutic; it's about what constitutes good behavior by a person with character.

K. writes this

Three of us ladies planned a trip to New York for two nights to see shows. We reserved a hotel room to share among us. Train and theater tickets were purchased ahead of time.

Several days before our planned departure, one person backed out because a relative was near death, and she needed to fly across country to be with him. When the remaining two of us asked her to pay her portion of the hotel bill, she refused. She played the "sympathy" card saying she was already out the train and theater tickets as well as the cost of flying to see her relative, and we should have empathy and not expect her to pay her part of the room. We told her we were sorry for her situation, but she had made a commitment and we expected her to honor it. Now she has severed our friendship. How do I handle this? She lives next door!

Of course, honoring your commitments counts among the most important ethical obligations. If you don’t do so, you are not long for polite society. But, treating your neighbor like trash does not make you a good person. Remember the advice: love they neighbor as thyself. Well, K. doesn’t know it or thinks that money is more important.

As Hax points out, circumstances exist where we would never consider requiring anyone to keep their word. If you are laid up in the ER, for having been hit by a truck, no sensible person will hold you to your commitment to attend the recital. No one.

When you need to go back on your word, because of circumstances beyond your control, the person to whom you made the promise, will normally and graciously relieve you of the obligation. It's a duty that correlates with the one that requires you to be good to your word.

K. did not do so. K. is a moral degenerate of the first order.

Hax goes after her:

Do you know how callous you sound?

Is this what we have become? Is it okay now to assume everyone’s working an angle and we all just grab what we can for ourselves?

Your friend was dealing with a relative’s death. Yes, she made a commitment, but a death in the family is widely considered a legitimate excuse. (Top 3! at least.)

Here is how you handle that: “I am so sorry. We’ll miss you. Don’t worry about the hotel, obviously — and let us know what else we can do.” Yes, you got stuck paying more, but you got more space, too. You also had “several days” to try to renegotiate or rebook your room.

Note the last phrase. The ladies do have the opportunity to book another room or to renegotiate the price. Duh. This makes K. an insensitive, uncaring moral basket case.

Hax continues:

You don’t feel bad for her; you feel bad only for you. In fact, feelings came up only because you were annoyed that she asked you to have them.

If you now grasp this and regret it on any level, then walk next door to apologize for letting the battery die on your humanity. I don’t see an apology working unless you mean it, and it might not even if you do, but it’s the right move regardless.

For the record, if I were this neighbor, I would have paid you your third and then severed the friendship just to tie off the ends. But that’s neither here nor there.

Is it not striking that K. feels nothing for the woman’s whose relative is dying? She pays lip service to the calamity the woman is dealing with, but only feels for herself. Perhaps she has done so much therapy that she has become completely self-absorbed and self-involved. 

Hax is correct to recommend a sincere apology, accompanied with something resembling a friendship gift.

But, if Hax were the other woman, she would have paid for the room and ended the friendship. Good advice, accompanied by moral clarity.

This Summer, in San Francisco

I know it’s a little late, but if you haven’t decided where to go for your summer vacation, here’s a tip, via the Zero Hedge blog: Whatever  you do, don’t go to San Francisco. Several Australian couples learned the lesson the hard way.

Zero Hedge reports:

San Francisco - a Democratic stronghold known for cable cars, quaint architecture and its diverse culture, has become a bastion of squalor and crime as city dwellers and visitors alike dodge aggressive, drug-addled vagrants. And it's beginning to scare the tourists...

For my part, I like the phrasing: “a bastion of squalor and crime,” where you will have to dodge “drug-addled vagrants.” It has a certain poetry to it, if you don't need to walk the streets.

Some Australian couples took to Reddit to share their experiences:

An Australian couple visiting the city were shocked by what they saw after deciding to walk back to their hotel: 

"Is this normal or am I in a 'bad part of town?' Just walked past numerous homeless off their faces, screaming and running all over the sidewalk near Twitter HQ and then a murder sceneWife is scared to leave hotel now," reads a Wednesday posting by Reddit user /u/nashtendo.

Another said this:

"We did La and Nyc on this trip too. Both felt safer," he said later in the thread, adding "Syringes were visible, people were staggering, others had wide aggressive eyes. 'Off their faces' might be an Australian thing (sorry) but I meant just visibly drug affected." 

And also:

It's pretty normal. I'm honestly hoping tourists will realize how shitty this city has become and stop coming. Maybe the loss of income will finally push the city to stop allowing the rampant drug dealing and homeless people treating the entire city like their toilet. You would think a city that deoends so heavily on tourism and conventions for the bulk of their income would put more effort into maintaining a certain standard, but there is rampant drug dealing out in the open in some of the most heavily tourist areas. The city know about it, they just don't care. -/u/SgtPeanutbutter

Some local businesspeople are beginning to notice. But, they take comfort in knowing that the syringes that are littering the city were handed out by the city itself.

"The streets are filthy. There's trash everywhere. It's disgusting," Joe D'Alessandro, president of S.F. Travel told the Chronicle's Heather Knight in April. "I've never seen any other city like this — the homelessness, dirty streets, drug use on the streets, smash-and-grabs."

The city, which hands out up to 4.8 million syringes each year, has struggled to figure out how to keep streets clean and safe for residents, while accommodating a growing homeless population and longstanding HIV and Hepatitis C epidemics. There are roughly 16,000 residents in San Francisco with HIV, and 13,000 with Hep C. 

Of the 400,000 needles distributed monthly, San Francisco receives around 246,000 back - meaning that there are roughly 150,000 discarded needles floating around each month - or nearly 2 million per year, according to Curbed

This is what a woke city looks like.

As the European Union Melts Down

Is unfettered immigration destroying the European Union? One would be hard put to draw a different conclusion after reading Niall Ferguson’s column in the Times of London yesterday.

We know that Eastern Europe has closed its borders. We know that the government of Angela Merkel is about to collapse over her insistence on keeping Germany’s borders open. We know that Italy recently turned away a ship of refugees… which was redirected toward Spain and France. As for Brexit, by all indications the government of Theresa May is incapable of negotiating it. This does not mean that it is not going to happen, but that it is going to be a messy process. And then, to top it all off, French president Macron wants to replace the English language with French in EU dealings.

The European melting pot is melting down. It is not a pretty picture.

As the EU implodes one nation after another is returning to more nationalist politics:

Their argument will be that a massive Völkerwanderung overwhelmed the project for European integration, exposing the weakness of the EU as an institution and driving voters back to national politics for solutions.

Let us begin with the scale of the influx. In 2016 alone an estimated 2.4m migrants came to the 28 EU member states from non-EU countries, taking the total foreign-born population of the union up to 36.9m, more than 7% of the total.

This may be just the beginning. According to the economists Gordon Hanson and Craig McIntosh, “the number of African-born first-generation migrants aged 15 to 64 outside sub-Saharan Africa [will] grow from 4.6m to 13.4m between 2010 and 2050”. The great majority of these will surely head to Europe.

If you look at the statistics, Ferguson continues, you can only draw one conclusion. The problem cannot be solved:

The problem is intractable. Continental Europe’s population is ageing and shrinking, but European labour markets have a poor record when it comes to integrating unskilled migrants. Moreover, a large proportion of Europe’s immigrants are Muslims. Liberals insist that is should be possible for Christians and Muslims to coexist peacefully in a secular, post-Christian Europe. In practice the combination of historically rooted suspicions and modern divergences in attitudes — notably on the status and role of women — is making assimilation difficult. (Compare the situation of Moroccans in Belgium with that of Mexicans in California if you don’t believe me.)

Meanwhile, back in America, the government will need to find a way to restrict immigration… or to follow in Europe’s footsteps:

In his upcoming book on US immigration, my brilliant friend Reihan Salam — himself the son of Bangladeshi immigrants — makes a bold argument: America must either restrict immigration or risk civil war as rising inequality and racial tension combine.

No one who has spent any time in Germany since Merkel’s great gamble of 2015-16 can honestly believe that a melting pot is in the making there. Anyone who visits Italy today can see that the policies of the past decade — austerity plus open borders — have produced a political meltdown.

Fusion may still be an option for the United States. For Europe, I fear, the future is one of fission — a process potentially so explosive that it may relegate Brexit to the footnotes of future history.

Have a nice day!