Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween, from your friends at the Daily Mail:

Glitter-painted pumpkins, aptly named 'bumpkins', and other spooky creations painted onto women's derrieres are the new trend taking over Instagram in time for Halloween. The Nightmare Before Christmas' Her Jack is seen painted onto a model's derriere on British beauty account Siren Spa

Picked up on ITV's Lorraine on Tuesday, many designs come in the form of pumpkins painted on party goer's derriere's- named 'bumpkins' (seen on British beauty account Siren Spa)

Her Boyfriend Ghosted Her

This letter is going to feel like playing three-dimensional chess. A woman writes to Ask Polly-- already a big mistake-- to figure out why her ex-boyfriend ghosted her. She names herself Fully, Entirely, Utterly Crushed (FEUC) and explains a situation that will leave your head spinning. Fortunately, Polly, as is her wont, has nothing very useful to say-- except for the obvious: FEUC should just write him off. Of course, it’s easier said than done, especially when the two have undergone a three-year relationship.

As we will see, the problem is not really the problem. FEUC mentions the real problem, almost in passing, but surely she should understand that losing a baby is more traumatic than losing a faithless, cheating boyfriend. Polly does not quite pick up on the point, so, take a look at the letter:

My three-year relationship with my boyfriend just ended over a few text messages. Just days before he was sending me videos of our cat and pictures of apartments he said we might someday live in together. In the last month, we’ve been long distance since his unpredictable boss decided without any notice to move the entire team to Miami. We hadn’t come up with a plan yet, but there was lots of love and support between us through it all. Then he stopped replying to my texts. Finally, he responds and tells me that he found out about messages I sent to someone he knows. He said he was upset and my messages were inappropriate. I’m frantically trying to figure out what he’s talking about and told him I had no idea. A sign of guilt, he suggested. I should just come clean. He could tell that I wrote the messages, they sounded like me. And, the kicker: “We done. I’m done.” My brain spinning out of control, I responded “What The Actual Fuck” and then all my subsequent messages failed to send, appearing as green bubbles without any sign of a delivered receipt. The rain that followed thereafter is still pooling.

FEUC thinks that it began when a few years back when she had to travel out of town on business. During that time, her boyfriend had an affair. He cheated. She confronted him. He lied. She accepted his lie. They stayed together and moved in. Then, she got pregnant. He responded by explaining that he really had had an affair.

For the record, FEUC calls her ex-boyfriend’s hookup a mistress. As best as I understand it, you need to be married to have a mistress. They were not married. The point seems not to concern anyone. Getting pregnant before making a public commitment and swearing vows is commonplace today. This seems not to be such a good idea.

FEUC continues:

In fact, we moved into a new house together and spent a lot of money on furniture and laid down roots for a future. But when I got pregnant accidentally, he came clean and admitted that my suspicions weren’t “crazy” as he’d suggested at the time, and that yes, he had cheated on me repeatedly with the same person and almost left me for her. He wanted me to know the truth if we were going to raise a child together. I was livid. I was broken and pregnant. I can’t really put it into words. I had thought we were on our way to a healthy partnership, living in a house and at the right age to start a family. But this information came down on me like a mallet. I spiraled emotionally. I also started a new full-time job, one of those around-the-clock jobs that women who are pregnant don’t take because they don’t really allow sleep, water, food intake, etc.

One likes to emphasize the point, that the boyfriend ought never to have confessed. God only knows where he got the idea that openness and honesty are more important than hurting a woman you are supposed to love. I suspect that it came straight from the therapy culture. Obviously, he hurt her. He hurt her deeply. And yet, consider her dilemma. She discovers that the father of her child is scum… not just because he cheated, but because he chose precisely the wrong moment to announce it.

She nearly fell apart, but she took the wrong kind of job, the kind of job you do not take if you are pregnant. Knowing full well that this would be dangerous for her baby, she took it anyway.

As they say, you can’t make this stuff up.

I ended up losing the baby. I went through immense emotional pain over it. Family members were aware of the pregnancy, so that made it worse. I plowed through work, saw a therapist and a psychologist and tried to work through the pain and forgive my boyfriend.

Clearly, she holds her boyfriend somewhat responsible for his behavior. And yet, she continues to want to forgive him. Note that she seems to have felt like she was going through this alone.

Given that this unfortunate couple has bought into the ethic of openness and honesty, FEUC, while being pregnant and while having a job that is bad for her baby and herself, chooses to write to her boyfriend’s “mistress” and confront her. She leaned in and told the other woman what a bad person she was… for sleeping with a man whose girlfriend was away on work.

When said “mistress” did not respond, FEUC took  the bad advice offered by a friend and wrote directly to the mistress’s boyfriend. You see, said mistress was also cheating on her own boyfriend. Naturally, her friend suggested that the mistress's boyfriend would want to know. Another idiot offering bad advice.

As they say, you can’t make this stuff up.

One evening in the midst of my pain and confusion and lack of sleep from working 18 hours straight (that sounds like an excuse, but I am being 100 percent honest), I DMed the woman he cheated on me with, asking her why and how, and expressing my pain. I told her I thought she was a bad person and she was hurting other working women by sleeping with their boyfriends while they’re traveling for work. She didn’t respond right away, and my best friend at the time suggested I message her boyfriend. Wouldn’t you want to know? My best friend asked me. I wrote him a message, and deleted it, wrote another one, deleted it, sent one, deleted it after sending … I was a mess. It was late at night, and I don’t remember how much I sent or deleted, honestly. I couldn’t see straight. The woman ended up messaging me back apologizing and explaining her side of the story and I honestly just forgot about the dude. I walked away from the exchange with the mistress feeling okay about reaching out to her, for both her sake and my own.

Feeling okay means nothing. Because the issue was about to come back to haunt her. Which issue, you ask? Why the issue that is weighing on her sometime boyfriend-- that she told his mistress’s boyfriend what had happened. Thus, that she betrayed her boyfriend’s confidence. Losing the child seems not to have been overly concerning for him. Unless he was simply hiding how much he cared, given that he made a mistake that set in motion a chain of events that caused her to lose the child.

FEUC has now discovered that her ex-boyfriend cares more about how other people see him, especially about how the mistress’s boyfriend sees him. We do not know, from the information provided, how this played out in their circle, but once the information enters a social network, nothing good is going to come out of it.

I know this means he cares more about how he’s seen by his mistress’s ex-boyfriend, who he’s wronged more than I ever did, than he does about me, a woman who gave him mostly unconditional love and understanding. And that alone is enough of a reason to leave him. I do recognize that all of this must’ve gone down publicly and really injured his ego and I have empathy for that. But how do I work through this when I feel a mix of emotions that include humiliation, guilt, fear of getting a restraining order filed against me, worry about reputation repercussions with my work, and just utter and complete sadness over losing my best friend so suddenly and so painfully?

As noted, we do not know what the mistress’s boyfriend did or did not do. We do not know what happened to his relations to his mistress or anyone else. We do know that the information circulated and made him look very bad indeed. We do not feel very badly for him.

And besides, which best friend is she talking about? Is she talking about the woman who recommended that she write to the mistress’s boyfriend? If so, she notes that said good friend has now also ghosted her… for staying in an abusive relationships.

The BFF said that she herself, having had her share of abusive relationships, cannot process them while at the same time supporting FEUC. Did it strike you that these people have no feelings for each other, no care for each other, coupled with extraordinarily bad judgment? Welcome to the millennial generation.

If it went down publicly, it probably did not just injure her ex-boyfriend’s ego. Duh. And FEUC’s empathy is precisely worthless. If that is what she learned from her therapist she should fire her therapist.

If she considered her boyfriend to be her best friend, this tells us that their commitment was not exactly firm. She ought not to have “utter and complete sadness” about losing the boyfriend, but is probably still working through her sadness about losing a baby.

At the least, she should have learned the value of discretion. She should forget the lost relationship and move on. It's lost beyond repair.

Bringing Rape Culture to Germany

Another day, another gang rape in Germany. As Angela Merkel prepares to sail off into the sunset, her policies are still harming the German people, especially German women. Naturally, Merkel did not think about the problems that a million Muslim refugees would bring to her country and how these inveterate misogynists might behave… or else, if she did, she didn’t care.

The Daily Mail reports from the city of Freiburg where an 18-year-old college student was drugged and then raped by up to a dozen Muslim men for around four hours. The local police, ever alert to these dangers, took nearly two weeks to arrest the leader of the rape gang.

Protesters from the AfD, Alliance for Germany, a rightist group, held a protest march. Allies of the rapists held a countermarch against racism.

The gang rape was not an isolated incident. The Daily Mail reports:

Freiburg was already reeling from the rape and murder of 19-year-old Maria Ladenburger, the daughter of an EU official.

Afghan asylum seeker Hussein Khavari was jailed for life earlier this year after he raped the student who worked as a refugee helper.

In June this year, local daily 'Schwarzwalder Bode' reported that a series of migrant sex attacks have brought fear to the local population of 226,000.

The newspaper wrote: 'An unprecedented series of sex offences has shaken the public's sense of security.'

The paper was backed up by Freiburg police spokesman Dirk Klose, who said: 'To my knowledge, we have never had so many offences of this kind before.'

The media and the cognoscenti are bemoaning the retirement of Angela Merkel from public life. They are afraid to lose the last European leader of the liberal democracy movement. They wold do better to note that she has again been repudiated by German voters.

So long, Angela. The German public and especially German women will be living with the consequences of her highly empathetic policies for a long time to come.

Weed Makes You Stupid

You probably knew it already, but marijuana makes people stupid. Most especially it makes adolescents stupid. Given the massive amount of pro-weed propaganda out there, it is worthwhile to pay some attention to the latest research.

The story comes from NPR:

A study published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry finds that when adolescents stop using marijuana – even for just one week – their verbal learning and memory improves. The study contributes to growing evidence that marijuana use in adolescents is associated with reduced neurocognitive functioning.

More than 14 percent of middle and high school students reported using marijuana within the last month, finds a National Institutes of Health survey conducted in 2017. And marijuana use has increased among high schoolers over the past 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

At the same time, the percentage of teens who believe that regular marijuana use poses a great risk to their health has dropped sharply since the mid-2000s. And, legalization of marijuana may play a part in shaping how young people think about the drug. One study noted that after 2012, when marijuana was legalized in Washington state, the number of eighth graders there that believed marijuana posed risks to their health dropped by 14 percent.

Legalization and the attendant propaganda barrage have told teenagers that weed does not pose any risks to their health. It was a lie.

The good news is that adolescents who stop smoking marijuana see their cognitive functioning improve.

Brazil's Very Own Donald Trump

You have probably heard that Brazil’s version of Donald Trump just won a presidential election, by some 10 percentage points. Naturally, American media organs are trying to make sense of it. They have denounced Jair Bolsonaro as an extreme right wing, reactionary populist bigot-- about what you would expect.

And yet, there is more to the story, and at times it seeps through. In The New Yorker Jon Lee Anderson explains that the rise of right wing, aka conservative leaders in Latin America follows upon the manifest failures and overt corruption of left wing leaders:

Bolsonaro’s victory, though not a surprise after his strong lead in the first round of voting, on October 7th, represents a seismic shift in a country that has been governed by the left for most of the past fifteen years—and it further underscores the dramatic rightward trend under way in Latin American politics. At the beginning of the decade, much of the hemisphere was ruled by a like-minded fraternity of left-of-center leaders that included Hugo Chávez, in Venezuela; Cristina Kirchner, in Argentina; and, in Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the head of the Workers’ Party, or PT. Today, Chávez is dead, replaced by the hapless Nicolás Maduro, and Venezuela is in a state of economic and social collapse; the former President Kirchner is facing a corruption trial; and Lula is in prison after being convicted on corruption charges.

You would think that a thoughtful electorate would turn away from the empty promises and false hope of the left. Anderson cannot refrain, however, from denouncing Bonsonaro for being a bigot:

Globally, Bolsonaro’s imminent ascension to Brazil’s Presidency has appended Brazil to the growing ranks of nations ruled by authoritarian populists who openly espouse bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, and anti-immigrant views, as well as violence as a means of problem-solving. Bolsonaro, a far-right extremist who has spent years shouting insults from the fringes of Brazil’s politics at women, blacks, gays, and leftists while lauding the use of torture and calling for a restoration of military rule, now represents the new mainstream.

What policies has Bonsonaro offered? Anderson explains:

In other echoes of Trumpish nationalism, Bolsonaro has promised to keep China at bay in Brazil’s energy and infrastructure sectors, and to retreat from Brazil’s multilateral engagements, such as the regional trade bloc known as Mercosur. He has excoriated the United Nations, calling it a “gathering place for communists,” and threatened Brazil’s withdrawal. Bolsonaro promises to align Brazil closely with Trump on foreign policy in other ways, as well. He has promised to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to close down a Palestinian office in Brasilia, and to seek regime change in neighboring Venezuela.

Note well-- this alt-right authoritarian populist bigot has promised to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and to close down the offices of Palestinian terrorists in Brasilia. In fact, he is Brazil’s first ardently pro-Israel president. We can't have that, can we?

Anderson reports that Brazilian markets have cheered the advent of their new radical right wing president:

The value of the Brazilian currency and Brazil’s stock market have both soared on Bolsonaro’s rise, spurred, at least in part, by his promises to lift environmental controls and to open up parts of the country—including the protected Amazonian wilderness areas and the indigenous reserves—to development by large-scale mining and agribusiness interests. Reflecting Big Money’s enthusiasm, Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal recently hailed Bolsonaro in an editorial entitled “Brazilian Swamp Drainer,” with an opening line that chortles at “global progressives having an anxiety attack” over his looming victory. The editorial goes on to assert that “Mr. Bolsonaro, who has spent 27 years in Congress, is best understood as a conservative populist who promises to make Brazil great for the first time.”

Get that-- since the Wall Street Journal editorialized favorably about Bolsonaro, Anderson needed to suggest that Rupert Murdoch had been giving them directions. He closes by comparing Bolsonaro to the right wing military dictators who ruled Brazil some thirty to forty years ago. One would be hard put to call that anything but bigotry:

Not since the early nineteen-eighties, when much of Latin America was in the grip of anti-Communist dictators who formed a cabal to kill and disappear the hemisphere’s leftists, has a politician emerged with such a vituperous discourse. Indeed, from 1964 to 1985, Brazil was part of that cabal, led by a military dictatorship that claimed the lives of several hundred of its citizens while inflicting torture and imprisonment on many thousands more.

As a coda, I add a remark from an editorial in the New York Times-- which is not owned by Rupert Murdoch. The Times sees some hopeful signs:

Yet in the immediate wake of the election, Mr. Bolsonaro pledged to respect democratic rules. “This government will defend the constitution, democracy and liberty,” he declared. “This is a promise not of a party, not the empty words of a man; it’s an oath before God.”

So far so good. And if he does manage to bring Brazil out of economic crisis, a task likely to be handed to the University of Chicago-trained economist Paulo Guedes, and to bring the crime rate and corruption under control without undermining the rule of law, so much the better. The initial reaction of Brazilian financial markets was a frenzy of stock-buying in the anticipation of policies like selling off inefficient state companies, deregulation and a cut in social spending.

Where have we seen that before?

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Coming Bond Market Implosion

James Grant says it’s time to worry. About what, pray tell? About the national debt, of course. Since Grant counts among those precious few who understand the workings of credit markets, we pay close attention to his views. After all, he was sounding the alarm about mortgage backed securities in 2006 and 2007. Some consider Grant to be something of an outlier, but he is a brilliant and highly respected outlier.

Thus, I pass along some of his commentary, from an essay in The Weekly Standard. I pass it along without any commentary. Call it a public service. Truth be told, I have no right to offer wise opinions on these matters, so, silence seems the best strategy.

Grant begins:

America’s deteriorating public credit is the cold-button issue of the 2018 midterms. With rare bipartisanship, Democrats and Republicans compete to pretend that the country isn’t going broke.

What produced this crisis?

The remote political cause of this predicament is the ideology of statism. In Washington, this takes the form of tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect; on Wall Street, it’s found in too-big-to-fail, a virtually socialized mortgage market, and an overreaching, manipulative central bank.

In time, Grant will argue that Richard Nixon, seriously erred when he ended the promise that you could exchange your dollars for gold or silver. It was the only way to have both guns and butter during the Vietnam War:

From Alexander Hamilton to Richard Nixon, the dollar was an IOU, a promise to pay gold or silver at a fixed rate. It subsequently became a thing unto itself, an IOU nothing. In consequence, for the past several decades, federal liabilities have grown faster than the national income with which to service them. Ultra-low interest rates have cheapened the cost of this profligacy and hidden the looming dangers.

The gold standard, Grant argues, imposes fiscal discipline. You can only spend dollars up to the amount of gold you have on hand. Without it, governments simply borrow and spend. When the government is obliged to pay back its creditors it simply borrows more money. Try doing that with your own debt.

From 1789 till 1971, with time out for the Civil War, America’s bank notes were convertible under law into precious metal at a fixed and statutory rate. By the time the sand ran out on the gold standard, only foreign governments enjoyed the right to exchange their promises to pay (a dollar being a note, or debt obligation, a promise to pay as opposed to money itself) for gold at the then-fixed rate of $35 an ounce. And when the foreigners sought to exercise their rights more vigorously than the depleted American gold store could bear, Nixon ordered the Treasury to suspend payment. Henceforth, the dollar would be just as good as paper or, subsequently, a digital representation of paper; the date was August 15, 1971.

But the 21st-century Treasury is under no pressure to take such actions. Its creditors, for now, seem perfectly happy. Though the supply of government securities on offer this fiscal year, from all sources, including the Federal Reserve, is projected to be the greatest, as a percentage of national output, since World War II, interest rates have risen only by enough to rattle President Trump and (at this writing) the stock market; the government is still easily financing its $3.9 billion or so of daily new borrowing needs. The dollar-exchange rate likewise signals complacency. In the worldwide laundromat of fiat money, the dollar is the cleanest dirty shirt….

The truth is that in the absence of monetary or market constraints, federal borrowing begets more federal borrowing.

Until it doesn’t. Until the world’s creditors decide that the risk is too great. And they move, as China seems to be doing, into gold.

... the dollar has become America’s greatest export. It costs us nothing to produce, and only we may lawfully print it. The Google or Coca-Cola of monetary brands, it passes for value the world over. Spending it, we may—and we do—consume much more than we produce, putting the balance on the tab.

Under the true-blue gold standard, nations settled up accounts in commercial bills exchangeable into gold or, less frequently, in the metal itself. To get money, you dug it out of the earth or attracted it with high interest rates or fetching investment opportunities. Some gold-standard-bound nations, of course, were more powerful than others (Britain ruled the roost until 1914), but the system inherently advantaged no one participant over the others.

The government could, Grant opines, decide not to pay off its debt, not to pay bondholders what it owes. The markets would be highly displeased, but it could still do so.

Credit, ultimately, is an opinion, and America’s creditors may wake up one morning and change their minds about either the ability or willingness of this country to meet its obligations.

Therefore, taking one thing with another, I would advise worrying now.

The real crisis is not Russian hackers violating our pristine democracy. It’s the debt bomb that threatens to blow up and to blow away our prosperity.

Better to begin with the humble hope that someone, maybe a Republican or a Grover Cleveland Democrat, says something about the scandal of the national balance sheet. It is no opinion, but an arithmetic truism, that our debts are growing faster than our means to discharge them. It strains credulity to think that our creditors are unaware of the fact. Some of us fret about foreign hackers tilting American elections with lies. We should all spare a worry about hackers causing a bond-market crisis by spreading the truth.

No one ever called James Grant an optimist. But, in time of optimism, someone needs to show us that things might not always be quite so rosy.

Migrant Caravan or Invading Army?

Does a country have borders? Or is a country merely an idea? Keep in mind, ideas do not have borders or boundaries or citizens. Believers in the dogmas of cosmopolitan multiculturalism believe that everyone should be a citizen of the world. Kant said it first, but Barack Obama made the phrase famous.

The caravan marches on. Pictures on the nightly news show either a group of disconsolate refugees fleeing chaos and anarchy or an army of invaders looking to exploit the stupidities of American immigration law.

Andrew Sullivan addresses the issue in New York Magazine. He notes that Democrats and their liberal allies in Europe have given up on policing the border. Even the more conservative Angela Merkel bought into the open borders delirium. Thus, Sullivan says, it has been left to the right to defend the nation’s borders and to keep the nation a nation.

Sullivan calls for Democrats to defend the nation’s borders. He does not mention that they have a reason for not doing so. They do not see a caravan of refugees or an army of invaders,; they see new voters who will invariably vote Democratic and will turn many red states purple, or even blue.

Of course, Democrats portray themselves as the humane, the empathetic party. It’s really just a way to appeal to female voters. Next week we will see how well it is working.

Sullivan asks this question:

What do we do when the caravan gets here? And more saliently: What do we do if many more caravans show up behind it? This is not an abstract question. It’s a pressing, practical, and in some ways existential one. It cuts to the core of whether the United States has to choose between being inhumane to the point of betraying some core moral principles and remaining a sovereign nation in control of who joins its population.

He notes a point that President Trump has been repeating over and over again. The migrants are merely exploiting loopholes that exist in American immigration law. Once they step foot in America, they can claim asylum and cannot be quickly deported:

These migrants are not seeking to enter the U.S. illegally, by subterfuge. They are seeking entry legally — by applying for asylum, as any noncitizen is entitled to do. It doesn’t matter how many resources we throw at border enforcement — because there is nothing here to enforce. The wall won’t help either, even if it were miraculously effective. In fact, the wall could hurt: As the border becomes harder to cross, it makes more sense simply to show up and turn yourself in to the border cops as an asylum seeker when you get here. It’s far cheaper than paying coyotes to get you across; and it’s much safer, especially in the numbers that the caravan has achieved. That’s why, as word about the caravan spread on social media, especially WhatsApp, so many impulsively decided to join.

And also:

For the most part, asylum seekers get a near-automatic entry into the U.S., temporarily in detention centers, eventually into the interior of the country, along with an ankle bracelet and a court date in the distant future. But nearly half of asylum seekers, especially those with weak cases, don’t show up in court. They simply melt away into the general population. And the number of asylum seekers who get physically deported is minimal. The result is not formally one of open borders. But they sure are ajar.

Sullivan will eventually hint at it, but the primary obstacle to changing immigration law is the Democratic Party. He also does not mention that Eastern European nations have effectively stopped all migrants from debarking on their soil.

Thus, Sullivan is simplifying when he says that it’s just a question of poor people seeking riches. In truth, it's a function of political action, or inaction. He does not allow for the simple fact that European politicians have allowed it to happen, as have American politicians. Most likely, the migrants do not understand immigration law. But they are being manipulated by people who do. Every time a judge overturns an administration edict, the doors open wider.

As long as the U.S. remains more peaceful, prosperous, and free than much of the Western hemisphere, it will be a magnet. And as more and more people see on social media what life in America is really like, and feel so much closer to it, and as the cost of travel continues to drop, the logic of mass migration north is close to unassailable. The same goes for mass immigration into Europe. When you look at the huge demographic surges in Africa and the Middle East, and when you factor in the impact of climate change and civil unrest in forcing people to leave their homes, all of this will intensify.

Blame it on climate change. Why not? And yet, Sullivan does not ask whether these migrants, especially in large numbers, will ever assimilate. Or will they end up occupying No-Go zones with their own customs and laws, off limits to the local constabulary, the local ambulances and the local fire fighters. Such is the case in France, and they have been at it for considerably longer than most other nations. Let’s not forget the Pakistani grooming gangs in Once-Great Britain… to say nothing about the surge in knifings in London.

Will migrants simply bring their native culture to their new home, thus undermining the resident culture. It is happening in Europe, even to the point where the European Court of Human Rights has now ordered that you can prosecute someone for blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed. If you think that the culture will not be changing, you are smoking the wrong cigarettes.

Like NeverTrumper David Frum, Sullivan warns liberals that they ought to be defending the nation’s borders and boundaries. Naturally, being slightly off-kilter, but Frum and Sullivan happily defame those who wish to defend borders as fascists:

David Frum is right: “If liberals insist that only fascists will defend borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals will not do.” And unless the Democrats get a grip on this question, and win back the trust of the voters on it, their chance of regaining the presidency is minimal. Until one Democratic candidate declares that he or she will end illegal immigration, period, shift legal immigration toward those with skills, invest in the immigration bureaucracy, and enforce the borders strongly but humanely, Trump will continue to own this defining policy issue in 2020.

In the end, liberal democracy will be undone by an influx of refugees who have no use for it, who do not care about free markets or about free speech. So says Sullivan, and on this score he is right:

This is not a passing crisis. It is the new normal, and its optics do nothing but intensify the cultural panic that is turning much of the West to authoritarianism as a response. The porousness of the West’s borders are, in other words, becoming a guarantee of the West’s liberal democratic demise. This particular caravan will take a while to make it to the U.S. border, if it ever does. It will surely lose some followers on the way. It may peter out altogether.

But the caravan as a symbol? Its days are just beginning.

Monday, October 29, 2018

When Will Socialists Ever Learn?

Why don’t bad ideas just die a peaceful death? Why do they insist on dragging people down with them? So asks Roger Kimball, and the point is well taken? (via Maggie’s Farm).

Kimball is astonished to see that socialism, an idea that has produced an extraordinary amount of misery and nothing good, is making a comeback. The idiot left, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is now promising free everything for everything. The idea appeals to brainwashed young people, but especially to people who despair at competing against their peers from other parts of the world. Socialism coddles people who are afraid to compete, or who do not know how to compete.

Someone should drive a stake through socialism’s heart, but we know that that will not happen. Kimball explains it with Nietzsche’s theory of the eternal return:

Socialism really is like Nietzsche’s eternal return: a horrible idea that is never finally destroyed, that keeps coming back to haunt the dreams and blight the lives of freedom-loving men and women. Exactly why this happens is a deep question. It involves a demonic synergy between credulousness and apathy among the mass of mankind and a different sort of credulousness combined with infernal energy among the commissariat.

On the other hand, the return of socialism shows the power of true belief. If we lived in a world where pragmatism ruled, we would all accept the verdict of reality: socialism has always failed. And yet, the wide-eyed dreamers who yearn for the coming socialist paradise are not rational thinkers. They reject reality checks. When socialism fails, they see it as a test of their faith. If you can believe in a theory that has always, when put into practice, produced calamity, you have transcended profane reality and are living on a higher spiritual plane.

Thus, socialists are really religious fanatics, unless, of course, they are simply imbeciles.

Kimball notes the absurdity of the current Democratic socialist slogan: Medicare for all. It would mean, he notes, that everyone would lose their health insurance and that a giant federal bureaucracy would take over health care. It would damage Medicare and would bankrupt the nation. But, don't let that worry you.

I don’t recall who said it, but a wise commentator once noted that there are three sides to the health care equation: we all want high quality, affordable and universal health care. Fine. The commentator noted that, by which laws I am not sure, you can have any two of the three. But you cannot have all three. You can have high quality, affordable health care, but it will not be universal. You can have affordable, universal health care, but it will not be high quality. Etc.

Of course, socialists believe that you can have all three. They are lying to you, the better to dupe you into empowering them.

Socialists want to emulate the European model, which rations health care. The Wall Street Journal editorialized this morning about the cost of medication in America and in Europe. In the midst of its comments, it described the socialist system:

Of 74 cancer drugs launched between 2011 and 2018, 70 (95%) are available in the United States. Compare that with 74% in the U.K., 49% in Japan, and 8% in Greece. This should cure anyone of the delusion that these countries will simply start to pay more for drugs. They’re willing to deny treatments if it saves money.

Drugs that are approved in foreign countries are often delayed in reaching patients—on average 17 months across 16 industrialized nations, by one analysis. Other countries have lengthy fights about how much the health system will pay, whereas in the U.S. drugs are available almost immediately after approval. Better quality care in the U.S. is why America outpaces 10 European countries on cancer survival rates—a fact the White House mentioned in a report last week on the costs of socialism. Maybe Mr. Trump should read that report.

As the old saying goes, there is no free lunch. And there is no free, high quality, universal health care. Someone is going to pay for it, either through higher taxes or with your life.

Anger Makes You Stupid

Kevin Williamson has some thoughtful comments about the power of rage. By his lights, and not just his, anger makes you stupid.

Here is a sampling:

Rage makes you stupid.

Our politics is full of performative outrage, histrionics that are designed to imbue unserious people with an air moral seriousness and to keep the rubes emotionally invested long enough to get them to a commercial break. It almost inevitably is the case that people have the strongest feelings about the things they know the least about; people who actually know about any subject of genuine interest understand that such subjects tend to be complicated, and that expressions of outrage, however cathartic, do not render them any less recondite.

Does some of this sound familiar? It will sound familiar to readers of this blog. With full awareness that correlation does not necessarily entail causation, I am happy to quote some of my own remarks about one Rebecca Traister and the trouble with outrage… from a post nearly three weeks ago:

They [Traister’s feminist sisterhood] need not collect evidence and draw rational conclusions. No, they should rage, like histrionic maniacs, because it will make them feel powerful. And, because their rage will work like Crazy Glue, connecting them all from here to eternity.

None of us would dare to say that women are too emotional. It’s a sexist trope that we have long since abandoned. And yet, what is Traister, rabid feminist that she is, proposing: if not that women need to be more emotional, less rational, less thoughtful. They need to let loose, let fly, attack men… because men are the problem. Female outrage would then be the solution to everything that ails everyone.

The problem is, too much outrage, poorly applied, makes people sound stupid. It makes them sound stupid because it makes them stupid.

As they say, great minds think alike.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting and the Political Blame Game

It should come as no surprise that anti-Semitism has returned. In Western Europe and America it has again become respectable to hate Jews. In Western Europe Jews are routinely harassed and attacked for being Jewish.

Islamic radicals and their leftist enablers bear the greatest responsibility for anti-Semitism’s return. True enough, some right wing fanatics have joined the party, but the reason why anti-Semitism, sometimes masked as anti-Israeli sentiment, has returned is that the progressive left has taken up the Palestinian cause.

As for America’s leading purveyors of anti-Semitism, we should count Rev. Louis Farrakhan and Congressman Keith Ellison. Let’s not forget Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s mentor. And Rev. Al Sharpton. And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Given the racial sensitivities of our day, no one on the left dares speak ill of the anti-Semites in their midst.

What with Farrakhan and Sharpton sitting next to Bill Clinton on the dais of the Aretha Franklin funeral, anti-Semitism has been made respectable again in America. Let’s not forget the Obama administration efforts to prop up and to fund the world’s leading promoter of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli violence… the government of Iran. The funds that Obama gave to Iran are currently being used to support the Hamas military campaign against Israel. The funds that Obama gave to Iran are being used to develop nuclear weapons... which the mullahs want to use to kill Jews.

Naturally, this must mean that Donald Trump is at fault. Because, hating Trump allows his detractors to excuse their god, Barack Obama.

Now, the horrors that were visited on a synagogue in Pittsburgh are being used to cudgel President Trump. After all, half his grandchildren are Jewish. His daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. As one brain dead reporter noted, he moved the American Embassy to Israel. And thus Trump had precipitated the attack. The man who gunned down worshippers in Pittsburgh hated Donald Trump for being pro-Israel.

You would naturally conclude that Donald Trump is at fault. Wouldn’t you? For those who hate Trump, Trump is to blame for everything bad that has happened since he was elected. If the killer hated Trump, Trump is at fault. If the killer loved Trump, Trump is to blame. If the media joins the Resistance and skews its news reporting against Trump, Trump is responsible. If Trump fights back against the bias, Trump is at fault. Groups that have been promoting violent insurrection against Trump blame Trump for their own actions. They blame Trump for their acts of violence. If it had not been for Trump they would not have become unhinged radicals. If it had not been for Trump they would have retained their veneer of civility and would have engaged in rational debate.

With an election approaching, everyone is looking for partisan political advantage. One understands the motivation. And certainly, Donald Trump has not restrained himself in his verbal attacks on the media and on Democratic politicians.

Then again, it wasn't very long ago that the Obama years saw a series of horrifying terrorist attacks, on the Boston Marathon, on community leaders in San Bernardino, on troops at Fort Hood, at a gay night club in Orlando. Did anyone believe that Barack Obama bore any responsibility for the horrors that were committed on his watch?

If they did, they didn’t say so. It was strictly forbidden to speak ill of the Messiah. And it was even more forbidden to blame radical Islamists for these terrorist attacks. Obama had shut down the war on terrorism and had declared war on bigotry, specifically on Islamphobia. The media meekly went along. Republican politicians were barely capable of uttering a disparaging word. Except perhaps against Obamacare.

America has a tradition of political violence. In modern times it dates to the Vietnam War era, when violence became an acceptable way for leftists to express dissent. Alan Dershowitz reminds us of the old days:

The entire episode brings back painful memories of the Weathermen and other radical left wing organizations that planted bombs in the 1970s. The Weathermen and other radical leftist groups targeted universities, army bases, police officers, banks, and other establishment places and people. The death toll was considerable, and the fear was palpable. At about the same time, the Black Panthers, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and other radical leftist groups terrorized the United States.

Let’s not forget, Dershowitz continues, how liberals at the time embraced these domestic terrorists:

… some liberals glorified the Weathermen, Black Panthers, and other hard left terrorists. Left wing lawyers, who would never defend an accused right wing terrorist, rushed to represent these radical groups, while prominent liberals contributed to defense funds and attended fundraising parties. Films, books, plays, and articles sought to understand the motives of these young murderers.

Among those who embraced Vietnam Era domestic terrorists was… you guessed it… Barack Obama. And it was not just Obama.

Dershowitz continues:

Years later, Barack Obama befriended Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who had been active members of the Weathermen and supporters of violent terrorism. Both Ayers and Dohrn were invited to teach at well known American universities, as was Kathy Boudin, who had served a long prison term for participating in a terrorist inspired robbery that resulted in the deaths of two police officers and one armored guard and seriously injured another guard. It is difficult to imagine any American universities appointing a right wing terrorist, even one who had served time and claimed to be rehabilitated. It is fair to say that public attitudes held by some liberals were somewhat sympathetic to left wing terrorists.

Dershowitz reminds us that no one political party has a monopoly on domestic terrorism:

The Ku Klux Klan was a violent radical group with significant support from political figures and ordinary citizens. During the first decades of the 20th century, left wing anarchists planted bombs and engaged in other forms of violence that killed many innocent people. More recently, hard left violence was targeted at Republican lawmakers as they practiced for a charity baseball game, wounding several people, including Congressman Steve Scalise. A threatening letter claiming it contained ricin was sent to Senator Susan Collins because she voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. These and other hard left threats have been directed against prominent Republican leaders.

Dershowitz continues that conservatives should be out front denouncing criminals like Cesar Sayoc. Liberals and progressives should lead the march against those among them who are promoting violence. They should begin by denouncing the Resistance, and by rejecting the Congressional leaders who have encouraged harassment-- which is an assault-- and also, by purging their party of leaders who have openly promoted anti-Semitism.