Saturday, January 25, 2014

Odds and ends 1/25/2014

When Mitt Romney was preparing his concession speech on November 6, 2012, he released some pent-up frustration. Byron York of the Washington Examiner reports:

“I don’t think it is a time for soothing and everything’s fine,” said Romney. “I think this is a time for [saying], ‘This is really serious, guys. This is really serious.’”

“To get up and soothe is not my inclination,” an obviously anguished Romney continued. “I cannot believe that [Obama] is an aberration in the country. I believe we’re following the same path of every other great nation, which is we’re following greater government, tax rich people, promise more stuff to everybody, borrow until you go over a cliff. And I think we have a very high risk of reaching the tipping point sometime in the next five years. And the idea of saying ‘it’s just fine, don’t worry about it’—no, it’s really not.”

Too bad he didn’t say that during the campaign. That might have made the difference. People like it when you talk to them like adults.


Ramesh Ponnurru waxes on the paradigm’s Enlightenment roots:

[Thomas] Paine’s progressive version of liberalism championed the Enlightenment as a set of newly discovered principles for political life that needed only to be followed. [Edmund] Burke’s conservative version, on the other hand, thought liberty and equality were cultural achievements “built up over countless generations of social trial and error.”

For Paine, the discovery that all people by nature have equal rights meant that we no longer needed to learn from the political practices of the past. To defer to the alleged wisdom of our forebears would amount to letting the dead govern us as they had themselves. Each generation should make its own choices.

So should each individual. Paine’s thought often seems to evince a desire to free the individual from history, community and traditional religion. That desire eventually led him to advocate a mini welfare state that he thought would let liberated individuals flourish. He wanted to tax inheritances – the unequal past – to pay for it. Paine also vehemently denied that the basic political questions were complicated. So he thought there would be no need for political parties once enlightened principles had triumphed, or for checks and balances.

Burke agreed with none of this. It made no sense to him to think of the individual in isolation from his community and its history, as in a hypothetical “state of nature.” Each of us is defined not only by choices but also by obligations, many of them unchosen – notably our obligations to children, parents and siblings. Balancing liberty and order was an extremely precarious achievement. Trying to fix a society’s defects could threaten its stability, and abstract principles wouldn’t go very far in identifying a way forward. Hence party politics would never be transcended. There would always be disagreement about how to pursue the common good.


At Powerline, Scott Johnson delves into the technocracy/administrative state. First he quotes William Howard Taft’s eulogy of Chief Justice Edward White (d. 1921):

“The Interstate Commerce Commission was authorized to exercise powers the conferring of which by Congress would have been, perhaps, thought in the earlier years of the Republic to violate the rule that no legislative powers can be delegated. But the inevitable profess in exigencies of government and the utter inability of Congress to give the time and attention indispensable to the exercise of powers in detail forced the modification of the rule.”

...

The CFPB brings us the reductio ad absurdum of the administrative state. The legal structure around the CFPP is designed precisely to insulate it from political accountability. It is a design better suited for a government of unlimited tyrannical power than one of limited powers. One wonders if the Supreme Court will ever return to first principles or set some limits on how far removed the agencies can be from political accountability. That would be a beginning.

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The theory of the administrative state, as one can deduce from Taft’s eulogy, is that the complexity of modern life called for (and legitimated) governance by experts. It is a theory fundamentally inconsistent with the theory of the Constitution.


“In terms of social values, libertarians are almost identical to liberals. Smoking pot and same-sex marriage both meet with big approval.” –Edward Luce

“Ultimately the affinity libertarians may share with progressives about gay marriage or drug and prostitution legalization is temporary because freedom and other core values are not important in and of themselves. They are a means to achieve something else.” –Marta H. Mossburg

Emily Miller of the Washington Times, known for gun rights advocacy in Washington, D.C., is on point on marijuana. The subheading says it all: “Stoned citizens will further burden the dependency society.” I agree completely.

Watch her explode libertarian heads at Fox Business:

Notice how the host introduces the segment: “You are so right on the gun issue, you’re book is fascinating, I love your writing on it, I love your documentation, but are you just protecting freedoms that apply to you? Why are you so against marijuana?”

I suppose this reflects the thinking on same-sex marriage, too. Five years ago, I could foresee belonging to a vocal minority on the definition of marriage. I didn’t think I’d belong to a vocal minority against drugs, which we discourage children from doing. Don’t we?


At Taki’s Magazine, Fred Reed tears into the Washington media-political-industrial complex:

The problem, sez me, or at any rate one problem, is that democracy doesn’t scale well. When the proprietor of a hardware store in Farmville or Barstow or East Bronchitis or wherever gets elected mayor, he may inadvertently do a good job since he actually knows his town and the people in it. But then he runs for national office and gets to be, say, a Congressman or, God help us, he moves into the Great Double-Wide on Pennsylvania Avenue. (It occasionally happens: We don’t always get rich twerps with private jets and twelve toes being in bed with each other.)

We then have a negligible attorney who will stay in Congress forever and who has never been in the military presiding over an aggressive, nuclear-armed military that couldn’t win a bar fight against an octogenarian in a wheelchair. He is a mere over-promoted ward heeler, he and hundreds like him in the legislature, but he makes industrial policy.


Fallujah falls to the enemy, the New York Times reports:

Adam Banotai was a 21-year-old sergeant and squad leader in the Marine Corps during the 2004 invasion of Falluja, a restive insurgent-held city in Iraq. His unit — which had seven of 17 men wounded by shrapnel or bullets in the first days of the invasion — seized control of the government center early in the campaign.

So when Sunni insurgents, some with allegiances to Al Qaeda, retook the city this month and raised their black insurgent flag over buildings where he and his men fought, he was transfixed, disbelieving and appalled.

...

“I don’t think anyone had the grand illusion that Falluja or Ramadi was going to turn into Disneyland, but none of us thought it was going to fall back to a jihadist insurgency,” he said. “It made me sick to my stomach to have that thrown in our face, everything we fought for so blatantly taken away.”

Senseless, you might say.


Women in combat? Thomas Sowell doesn’t think so:

Too much of the discussion of issues involving the role of women in the military is based on questions about whether women can do the same tasks as men with equal efficiency. The real question is whether either sex functions as well with the other sex around. If you don’t think either sex finds the other sex distracting, you are ignoring thousands of years of experience around the world.

Nobody needs to be distracted in life and death situations, where the difference between victory and defeat can be “a near run thing,” as the Duke of Wellington said after the battle of Waterloo, which settled the fate of Europe for generations to come.

Even consensual sex among members of the same military unit opens a whole Pandora’s box of complications that can undermine the morale of the unit as a whole — and morale can be the difference between victory and defeat, between life and death.

A more insidious consequence of having ignorant civilians micro-managing the military is that the caliber of a nation’s military leaders can be affected when generals have to pass through filters for political correctness to reach the top.

That means losing people whose only abilities are in winning wars with minimum casualties, or preventing wars by knowing the right deployment of the right forces. Top military talent is no more common than any other kind of top talent — and the stakes are too high to filter out that talent with requirements that generals be able to pretend to do the impossible on sexual issues.

Sowell served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, so his judgment on this issue is informed by his experience in a traditional combat role (i.e., fighting and beating the bad guys).


A profile in courage: Nigel Farage:

In many cases women make different choices in life to the ones men make, simply for biological reasons.

A woman who has a client base, has a child and takes two or three years off – she is worth far less to her employer when she comes back than when she went away because that client base won’t be stuck as rigidly to her portfolio.

I don’t believe that in the big banks and brokerage houses and Lloyds of London and everyone else in the City, I do not believe there is any discrimination against women at all.

I think young, able women that are prepared to sacrifice the family life and stick with their career will do as well if not better than men.

James Delingpole joins rank:

Clearly if you’re trying to run a business it is a massive pain if one of your star employees bunks off at your expense to enjoy her statutory maternity leave. It leaves a gap in your operation which is hard to fill. You need not only to find a suitable temporary replacement but also you have to waste company time bringing them up to speed with your absent employee’s work operations. What’s more you have no idea – actually you probably do: the answer is almost certainly “yes” – whether this absence will be followed in about a year’s time by yet another absence, as the new mummy (not unreasonably) makes a baby brother or sister for the child she’s got already. After that, of course, you have the added uncertainty of not knowing whether your employee is going to enjoy motherhood so much that she decides to give up work altogether. So you have in total a period of perhaps three or four years in limbo during which you could have recruited a more reliable full-time person for the job but are unable to do so because of the way employment law works.

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I said at the beginning that Nigel Farage was brave. And so he is. As Orwell once said: “In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” There are certain things in our cultural climate that politicians (and businessmen, and, unfortunately, most journalists) simply aren’t allowed to be honest about. One is immigration. Another is pretty much anything to do with you gender and equal pay issues. Wimmin like Harriet Harman use their gender in their way that agitators from various ethnic groups use their race (or in the case of Islamists, their religion): they have long striven to create a climate where, unless you’re a paid up member of the appropriate minority, you shouldn’t be allowed even to discuss the issue.


Study reaches opposite conclusions. First graf: “Childless couples have happier marriages, says a new study.”

Fourth graf: “Researchers also found that women without children were the least happy with life overall, however they did find that mothers were happier than any other group.”


“The overarching trend is that the spread of readily accessible information increasingly converts the prestige press into Gatekeepers who see their job as preventing the public from engaging in acts of pattern recognition.” –Steve Sailer

Mark Barrett of First Things reflects on a Greg Weiner article about how big government, Great Society programs effectively redistributed wealth to middle-class bureaucrats, not to the truly needy. Excerpt:

Instead of alleviating the material deprivation of the poor, a new class of professions was created to provide services to the poor. This approach would lead to the entrenchment of an entire class of bureaucrats acting as middle men between the poor and the resources the state was distributing, the course of which was to further inflate the power of the state and creating a lobby for the preservation of those interests, making any reform difficult. Where proper resources were directly distributed, Weiner suggests elderly poverty as an example, there was greater success in alleviating poverty.

So, helicopters dropping cash on poor neighborhoods really is preferable to quantitative easing.


Peter Laufer of the Los Angeles Times mischaracterizes California’s secessionists:

The Jefferson statehood tale appeals to a fantasy Westerners embrace: We’re rugged individualists who like to go it alone.

Or, maybe, as the Declaration of Independence says, “it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.”

I support intrastate secession. There’s no good reason the fates of people with such opposite views of governing themselves should be tied together.


Fay Voshell channels Karl Popper, C. S. Lewis, and her son:

Popper wrote that an important tenet in the philosophy of science was that a theory is not really scientific if it doesn’t admit that there is always the possibility the theory may be false. Any scientific theory that does not allow the possibility it may be false is no longer science, but is ideology, a belief system taken entirely on faith.

I’m remembering a discussion with my eldest son, who says the theory of global warming is non-falsifiable and therefore an ideology rather than true science. He said the problem with global warmists is that no matter how climate actually behaves, all data ostensibly proves the overall temperature of the earth is continually rising. It follows that the recent deep freeze temperatures crippling large parts of our nation are proof of global warming just as the inevitable heat waves coming this summer will also be proof of global warming. Popper would call such a line of reasoning a “closed circle.”

Sounds like a religious cult to me. C.S. Lewis would agree, as he was one of the first to name such cults branches of “scientism,” a belief system that sees scientific theory as infallible and therefore a handy substitute for traditional religious beliefs that see only the almighty and all wise God as infallible.


It’s not witchcraft, it’s sexual enticement. The UK Telegraph reports:

Joanna Dennehy, 31, has admitted stabbing [three] men through the heart and dumping their bodies in ditches, but the trial of two alleged accomplices has unearthed details of the intimidating “man woman”.

Jurors heard how Dennehy lured men to their deaths offering sex before “casting a spell” over Gary Stretch and Leslie Layton, who are accused of helping her cover up the “terrible truth”.

Her first victim was Lukasz Slaboszewski, 31, a heroin addict, Peter Wright, prosecuting, told Cambridge Crown Court.

She coaxed him to a house with a series of text messages on March 19, last year, and he was never seen again.

It helps when your victims are enfeebled by drugs.


Surprise! Military infantilizer, marriage redefinitionist Ilean Ros-Lehtinen has a son, LGBT “rights” activist Rodrigo Lehtinen. Ros-Lehtinen herself came out in favor of same-sex marriage last year. She also sat on the House LGBT caucus. Her husband was a Democrat politician and “converted” to Republican when they were married.


Big money hollows out communities, which is why I look upon the rapid change in the South Texas economy with a wary eye. USA Today, at the end of a long puff piece, concludes:

Once the shale is tapped, there won’t be other reservoirs to siphon — the end of the line for fossil fuels in Texas, says Berman, the geologist and shale skeptic. “We’re drilling shale not because it’s a good idea but because we’ve exhausted all other good opportunities,” he says. “It’s all we got left. When this is done, we’re done.”

Unlike some of his fellow residents, Dockery says he realizes this boom will end someday and South Texas will return to the quiet life of ranching and hunting.

Or people will up and leave, as they have done at the end of every boom and bust cycle, leaving behind dead shells of towns.


Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner gives the straight dope on New York’s new dope mayor:

As New York City’s crusading liberal Mayor Bill de Blasio takes up his pitch fork, don’t worry too much about the wealthy bankers he plans to tax – they can fend for themselves. The potential victims of de Blasio’s “march toward a fairer, more just, more progressive place” are the small businesses and voluntary associations that make up civil society.

Charter schools, crisis pregnancy centers, small businesses and private charities are all in de Blasio’s crosshairs. These are government’s rivals in the business of getting people what they want and need — and a growing government doesn’t tolerate rivals.

Neither does Attorney General Eric Holder want disparate outcomes, no matter individuals’ merits or lack thereof. He believes in equality of result. John Steele Gordon writes:

Punishment for bad behavior must be meted out according to racial quotas. If the school is one-third black, one-third white, and one-third Asian, then each racial group must receive one-third of the punishments. If two-thirds of the infractions are committed by one racial group, then so what? That’s discrimination and discrimination violates federal law.

It is highly unlikely that each group is going to misbehave equally, for exactly the same reason that it is highly unlikely that the boys named John, the boys named David, and the boys named Robert will misbehave equally: the world doesn’t work that way.

Different people, different culture, different behavior, different result. It’s so transparently obvious, it pains one to say it.

Sowell says:

One of the most seductive visions of our time is the vision of “fairness” in a sense that the word never had before. At one time we all understood what was meant by a “fair fight.” It meant that both fighters fought by the same Marquis of Queensbury rules. It did not mean that both fighters had equal strength, skill, experience or other factors that would make them equally likely to win.

In today’s conception of fairness, only when all have the same prospects of winning is the fight fair. It was not in The Nation or some other left-wing magazine, but in the neoconservative quarterly The Public Interest that we find opportunity equated with “the same chance to succeed” or “an equal shot at a good outcome”—regardless of the influence of social, cultural, or family background.

This confusion between the fairness of rules and the equality of prospects is spreading across the political spectrum. Regardless of which of these two things might be considered preferable, we must first be very clear in our own minds that they are completely different, and often mutually incompatible, if we are to have any hope of a rational discussion of policy issues ranging from anti-trust to affirmative action.

To add to the confusion, when prospects are not the same for all, this is then blamed on “the system” or “the rules of the game,” as Brookings Senior Fellow Isabel V. Sawhill does in the Spring issue of The Public Interest. Rules and standards are the creation of particular human beings but circumstances need not be. Ms. Sawhill herself includes “good genes” among the circumstances which affect economic inequalities, and we might add all sorts of other geographic, demographic, cultural and historical factors that were not created by today’s “rules of the game” or by “the system” or by anyone currently on the scene.

It makes sense to blame human beings for biased rules and standards. But who is to be blamed for circumstances that are the results of a confluence of all sorts of conditions of the past and present, interacting in ways that are hard to specify and virtually impossible to disentangle? Unless we wish to start a class action suit against geography or against the cosmos or the Almighty, we need to stop the pretense that somebody is guilty whenever the world does not present a tableau that suits our desires or fits our theories.


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is more than happy to help Republican moderates abandon the conservative wing of the party:

Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

He does it out of concern for the Republican Party, you see.

Cuomo is the progressive counterpoint to Vladimir Putin. He wants to make New York into the progressive values capital of the world.

Anthony Esolen issues a devastating smackdown:

I do not know whether Andrew Cuomo is in imminent danger of losing his immortal soul. He does, it is true, champion the dismemberment and the saline dissolution of our brothers and sisters in the womb, and this is a hideous evil. He does, it is also true, champion the evacuation of any biological and natural meaning from the word “marriage,” and this is also a hideous evil, in a time when the family, especially for the poorest among us, is so frail. But we cannot judge his soul. Much that seems due to malice may be due to misguided affection or invincible ignorance. Yet, though we cannot judge his soul, it is the right of every citizen to judge the wisdom of any politician, and in that light I should like to say that Andrew Cuomo is the biggest horse’s ass ever to grace a political office since Caligula made his charger a Roman senator. I will not say that he is too wicked for heaven; but he is certainly, and this is saying a great deal, too much of a bonehead even for Albany.

How might the business lobby profit from high minimum wages? Let’s ask Momentum Machines:

Small business owners in Southern California have struggled against high taxes and a rising minimum wage for years. But a new robotics startup in San Francisco called Momentum Machines wants to sooth the burdens created by oppressive government by designing a machine that will solve these problems.

According to Momentum Machines, making burgers costs US$9 billion a year in wages in the United States alone. A machine like the burger robot could revolutionize the fast food industry. The company’s website reads: “Our alpha machine replaces all of the hamburger line cooks in a restaurant. It does everything employees can do except better.”


“The logic of nature is remorseless. The logic of nature cannot be avoided. It can be manipulated for a time through technology and human will, but it will always prevail in the end.” –Vox

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