Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Red and Dead: An Originalist Approach to the Twenty-Third Amendment

Now that  the Democrats have revived the originalist, "dead constitution" understanding of the electoral college, I think it is time to animate the "dead constitution" understanding of the Twenty-third Amendment.

That amendment, you will recall, is what gives DC electors -- three, as it happens.  But note the first few words of section 1:  "The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct..."  As with the other electors, nothing in the amendment requires that those electors be selected on the basis of popular vote.  To quote Bush v. Gore, "the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States."

By Article I, Section 8, clause 17, Congress is "to exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever" over the District.   Just as state legislatures have the power to enact or abolish the popular vote for the electors, Congress is perfectly within its rights to abolish the popular vote for electors in DC.  Congress could choose some other method for the District to select its electors, or could choose the electors by name and order the District to appoint them.

A sufficient Republican majority in both houses of Congress, and those three votes go red.  Drain that swamp!

{Alexander Hamilton wanted John Jay to do something similar with regard to the New York electoral college for 1800, so the DC 3 chosen by Congress would have a better right than anybody to call themselves "Hamilton Electors."}

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Most Great to Them that Know

In my latest at American Greatness, I use a celebrated English hymn, "I Vow to Thee My Country," to examine the questions surrounding the "dual citizenship" of Christians (between the City of God and the City of Man), from my peculiar situation as a Jew who has triple citizenship—in Canada, America, and Israel.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Life imitating Art, or at least Tom Clancy.

One guide to understanding the Trump Presidency, Tom Clancy's novel of a non-politician president, Executive Orders (1996).
What happens if we actually have a president who rejects the shibboleths of the Beltway in favor of median-voter positions on abortion, Taiwan, etc.?
And see how he copes with an Iran empowered by Iraq's destruction after the death of Saddam Hussein.
In the sequel, The Bear and the Dragon (2000), the non-Politician President, newly returned to office, has to deal with a China that resorts to war to cope with a rapid decline in exports.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ten things Jews don't get about Gentiles

10.   Kabbalah Center:  you want to stay a goy, great.  You want to convert to Judaism, well…  But the Kabbalah Center?  Really?  Mormonism at least has magic underwear.
9.  Bacon, ok.  But Canadian bacon?
8.  What do you do with all the time you don’t use for reading?
7.  What is that thing with your car?  What, are they going to bury you in it?
6.  People who retire, have money, and still stay in the Midwest.
5.  Why would a non-Palestinian gentile be passionate about Israel, for or against?  I haven’t met a Jew who is passionate about Tonga.
4.  Our sons have their first alcoholic beverage at age 8 days.  And you expect yours to wait until he is 21?
3.  Hunting:  you wander around in the cold and wet from morning to night, and if, you are very skilled and lucky, you wind up with an animal that you have to butcher that is full of metal.  Easier to stand in line at Zabar’s.
2.  If you have something to say, interrupt, dammit!
1.  You actually want to convert to Judaism?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Great "Racism" Circle Dance

You told us Ronald Reagan was a racist, because he appointed racists like Jeff Sessions (who sent a Klansman to death row and desegregated the schools in Alabama).

Then you told us that George H. W. Bush was a racist.
Then you told us that Bob Dole was a racist.
Then you told us that George W. Bush was a racist.
Then you told us that John McCain was a racist.
Then you told us that Mitt Romney was a racist.

Then you told us that Donald Trump was REALLY a racist, that this time you really meant it, unlike all those other times when you were just crying wolf.  And this time you could prove it, because he appointed racists like Jeff Sessions (re-elected in 2014 with 97% of the vote, in a state that is 27% African American).

Then you wonder why we have tuned you out.

Making Josephus Great Again!

I make the Jewish historian, priest, rebel, and traitor Josephus great again, in this interview with Nehemiah Gordon.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Civil Rights Amendment XXVIII (proposed)

Civil Rights Amendment XXVIII (proposed)
Section 1.  The first section of the fourteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2.  All persons born in the United States, and having at least one parent who is a citizen of the United States or a lawful permanent resident, as well as all persons naturalized in the United States, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
Section 3.  No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.  
Section 4.  Each State shall have the power to examine the qualification to citizenship of any person, provided it does so in conformity with the laws of the United States and this Constitution.
Section 5.  Only a citizen of the United States shall have the right to vote in any election or vote on legally binding measures held under the authority of the United States or any State, territory, or federal District.
Section 6. Congress shall have the power to determine by law a form of identification to be required of each voter in any election, or vote on legally binding measures, held under the authority of the United States or any State, territory, or federal District. Section 7. The United States shall guarantee to each state, on the petition of the executive thereof, the exclusion of such persons as are not lawfully present in the United States.
Section 8. A naturalized citizen, who has been resident in the United States or held civil or military office under the United States for a total of seventeen years, shall have all the rights of a natural born citizen including the right to be elected and to serve as President or Vice President.
Section 9.  Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

{Thoughts, critiques, and drafting suggestions welcomed in the comments below. --MSK}

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sharing the World

Since 1941, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt dictated the principles of the Atlantic Charter to Winston Churchill, American elites have thought in terms of “running the world.” Practical discussions of foreign policy today, begin with the recognition that the present task is not to run the world but to share it...
My latest article at American Greatness.

Monday, September 26, 2016

She blinded me with science

Hillary Clinton says "I believe in science."  Well, I don't, and you shouldn't either.  I explain why at American Greatness.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Political Correctness and the Post-Growth Economy

Daniel Henninger writes that progressives “have chopped American society into so many offendable identities that only a Yale freshman can name them all.”

Regulation is a burden.  Let us be charitable and assume that there is no regulation out there that does not provide some benefit to somebody, and be more charitable and assume that that benefit is somehow related to the intended or ostensible purpose of that regulation.   Still, all regulations impose costs, and keeping people from engaging in what would otherwise be lawful activities mean that we get less of these activities and fewer people engaging with them.  As the governments of developed countries promulgate more and more regulations, say, to regulate a factory to reduce the degree to which it pollutes the environment or to regulate the factory floor to ensure that there are no pinups that make it a “hostile environment,” otherwise profitable economic activities are regulated out of existence.  Government grows, the economy slows.  Often in ways that cannot be spotted by the most eagle-eyed deficit hawk because the salaries of the regulators are only a tiny portion of the burden of regulation that falls on producers and consumers.

Political correctness is regulation, not always government regulation, of speech and writing aiming at regulation of thought and action.  In particular, regulation, as Henninger hints, favors the articulate over the inarticulate, the talkers over the makers.  Or rather, it forces the makers to lawyer up with Yale graduates or eliminates from the ranks of the makers those, like Brendan Eich, who themselves are not so articulate or who articulate wrongthought.  The result is less production, less wealth, fewer jobs, and greater inequality, because opportunities are available only to those who add to inspiration and perspiration well-tuned instincts for what can and cannot be thought or said.

Corporations are increasingly asked to police their employees.  One Harvard Law professor has demanded that a company fire or discipline anyone who expresses an allegedly sexist criticism of Hillary Clinton, and that companies that fail to do so are liable for creating a “hostile environment” that promotes harassment and discrimination against their female employees.  I am sure that for most Harvard Law professors and students virtually any criticism of Hillary Clinton is sexist.   Forget that for the moment, and put aside the danger such attitudes, whether enshrined in law or acted on by regulators in the absence of any colorable legal authority, pose to fundamental constitutional rights or basic aspects of republican government such as the accountability of government officials, even female or minority ones.  Such regulations burdens the economy.

Now some of that regulation, sensible people would agree, is worth the cost.  Nobody would want to legalize the casting couch, or let employers treat their female coworkers as perks of the job.   Mad Men is self-congratulatory progressive ideological porn, but Bill Wilder made this same point in The Apartment, in 1960 America, when JFK’s sexual adventures, like Hillary Clinton’s health today, were regarded by the respectable media as not fit to print.
But in 2016 America, and not only in America, people are starting to ask if all of this policing is justified or desirable.  Do we need the FDA to ensure that people cannot enjoy raw-milk cheeses?  Do we need the EEOC and the Justice Department to ensure that companies do not use standardized tests to screen potential employees for intelligence and relevant knowledge?  

We certainly need a President who knows that to ask these questions is not to answer them.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Election Day in Dreamland

In my first post for the American Greatness webzine, I discuss the American opiate crisis and its connection to government policies--particularly immigration.

Trigger warning: we don't give trigger warnings.

The University of Chicago pats itself on the back for fostering open debate on campus.  They warned the Class of 2000, "we do not support trigger warnings."  But wait....

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hillary Clinton Lies about British Immigration Law and Equates Our Greatest Ally with ISIS

New Google game.  Pick any topic.  I mean, any topic.  Google that topic and Hillary Clinton.  Find readily demonstrable, "Four Pinocchio" lie.  I will show you how it is played.
In her speech Thursday linking Trump and the "alt-right," Hillary Clinton said that "Under Donald Trump, America would distinguish itself as the only country in the world to impose a religious test at the border. Come to think of it, there actually may be one other place that does that. The so-called Islamic State. The territory that ISIS controls. What a would be a cruel irony that someone running for president would equate us with them."
Well, I am not an immigration lawyer, but I do know a country besides ISIS that imposes a religious test for some people seeing to enter.  That would be...  the United Kingdom.  You see, back in 1705 the British Parliament passed the Sophia Naturalization Act, which naturalized all Protestant descendants of the Electress Sophia.  They did this because Sophia was heiress apparent to the throne, and they didn't want any whining about how she or any of kids or grandkids who might inherit the crown were foreigners and not true-born Britishers.  Why only Protestant descendants?  You see, the Brits had gone through a bit of unpleasantness (in Ireland it was a vicious, bloody civil war) to get rid of their Catholic King, James II, and they didn't want any more Catholics ruling them.
Now of course one of the bright kids in the front row will shout out:  "The Sophia Naturalization Act was repealed by the British Nationality Act of 1948."
Indeed, Chucky, it was.  But the British Nationality Act explicitly left intact any claim to British citizenship that was valid prior to the act.  So if you were alive when the act was passed in 1948, can prove your descent from the Electress Sophia, and have never gotten around to claiming your British Citizenship -- because, say, you were too busy fighting for Hitler on the Russian Front -- you can still get British citizenship.  BUT ONLY IF YOU ARE NOT AND HAVE NEVER BEEN A CATHOLIC.
Not only did Mrs. Clinton tell a lie, she insulted our staunch ally, Britain, by equating them with ISIS. "Ma'am, Boris Johnson on the phone.  He would like an apology."
{Oh right, another ally, Israel, kind of does it too.}

Friday, August 19, 2016

An Independent Empire -- the pitch

Michael Taylor and I are polishing up An Independent Empire: Diplomacy & War in the Making of the United States 1776-1826.  If you are a trade publisher, contact our agent Peter Riva, at priva@intltrans.com.

You are alone. You are exhausted, bruised and battered. You have no real friends and you are surrounded by enemies. You have no money to pay your bills, and you have scarcely the means to defend yourself. You have no sure way put your house in order, but you have built this house in a vast wilderness of mountains, rivers, forests, jungle, and desert.
In 1781, at the moment of the British surrender at Yorktown, this was the position of the United States of America. Victory in the Revolutionary War did not guarantee lasting glory; freedom did not mean safety. One false step and this ambitious experiment in republican government would fail forever. So just how, not even fifty years later, had the United States become the undisputed master of North American and the self-proclaimed guardian of the western hemisphere? An Independent Empire tells that tale.
The transformation of a string of rebellious colonies along the eastern seaboard into a military superpower is the most remarkable story of modern political history. Yet this rapid ascension was not the manifest destiny of the United States.  there was nothing naturally ‘great’ about the new republic.
Time and time again, the early United States came close to disaster. What if Benjamin Franklin hadn’t brought the French into the Revolutionary War? What if the Federalists hadn’t forced through a constitution that could bind thirteen states – none of which especially liked each other – into a functioning union? What if ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne had started a war with the British in Ohio in 1794? Or if the British had re-taken New Orleans in 1815?
The Founding Fathers and the generation after – Monroe, Adams, Clay, and Jackson – had no safety net. This was a time when Washington, Adams, Hamilton, and Jefferson played on the global stage. At every turn, they were faced with problems that spelled life-or-death for the United States.
Somehow, the Americans got it right. How did they do it? They asked the right questions about foreign affairs, the military, taxes, and trade. With skill, wisdom, experience, and no little luck, they found the right answers too. This is the story of what made American great, the first time round.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Q&A on Trump and the issues

Q&A on Trump and the issues with Richard Schultz
[Richard Schultz weighs in]
Okay, let's discuss the issues.
1. Every economist that I have seen has indicated that Trump's proposed economic plan will do nothing except make the rich richer, and that it will not aid the economy in general. How precisely do you think that his economic plan will aid the average American?
2. Trump has stated outright that he would have no problem giving orders to the armed forces that violate U.S. and international law. Do you think that this is a desirable quality in a commander-in-chief? Why or why not?
3. Given the precedents of Korea and Kuwait, do you think that a U.S. President's having announced in advance that he will not guarantee that he will honor defense treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory is more likely or less likely to keep the peace? What about his indication that he has no problem with nuclear arms races in the far and middle east?
4. Trump has indicated that he believes that there should not be a federal minimum wage. What effect do you think abolishing the federal minimum wage would have on the economy?
5. Trump has stated that he would renegotiate or refinance the U.S. National debt. His statements indicated that he either did not understand the nature of renegotiating or refinancing a debt or that he did not understand the nature of the U.S. national debt (or maybe both). What effect do you think an attempt to renegotiate the national debt would have on the U.S. economy, and what leads you to that conclusion?
6. Trump has no experience of government and apparently has at best a limited understanding of how the U.S. government functions. I have seen from some of his supporters the claim that his experience in business is sufficient preparation for the presidency. Given that Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, and Jimmy Carter were successful businessmen before they went into politics, what *specific* aspects of Trump's business experience in your opinion have prepared him for the presidency?
[I respond]
1. Taxes matter little. Regulation matters a great deal. Trump wants to repeal or reform much economically crippling regulation. Hillary Clinton has never met a rule she doesn't like.
2. Under the Constitution the Federal government guarantees the security of the states. That guarantee contains no proviso exonerating the Federal Government from responsibility where to execute it requires violating US law, much less international law. And in fact every President has issued illegal orders.
3. The nuclear arms race in the Far East was a lost cause when Clinton failed to block North Korea. The nuclear arms race in the Middle East was a lost cause when Obama failed to block Iran, or maybe when LBJ failed to block Israel.
And yes, it is past time to rethink the commitments made to win the Cold War, which ended a generation ago.
4. The New York Times explains why minimum wages are bad:
Abolishing minimum wages would do wonders for youth and minority unemployment.
5. Trump was unaware that the US can impose a haircut on debtors at any time by inflating the dollar. Now that this was explained to him, he has dropped the issue. Trump knows little, but learns fast. His principal rival has learned nothing and forgotten nothing since 1992.
6. Harding was a fine President, generally admired at his death, and only his sudden demise prevented him from dealing with the scandals that tarnished his posthumous reputation. See the account in Paul Johnson's _History of the American People_. Trump has extensive experience working with government as a developer, though I agree he is no Herbert Hoover, who, let us recall, was prior to his Presidency probably the most admired living American for his relief work during and after World War I. I agree that a Jeff Sessions or a Bobby Jindal, say, would likely be a better President than Trump. But Sessions didn't run, and nobody seems to have wanted Jindal except me and him.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Secretary Clinton's Fingerprints

"Nearly every foreign policy victory of President Obama’s second term has Secretary Clinton’s fingerprints on it"  -- Harry Reid.

Let us list some of those "victories":
1. The Iran deal, including the $400,000,000 ransom payment.
2. Syrian Civil War
3. The Rise of ISIS
4. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea
5. The continued unrest in Libya, and its spread to Mali, etc.
6. Chinese expansion in the South China Sea.
Harry Reid is right about Secretary Clinton's fingerprints.
And that is why I support Donald Trump.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Seven Stages of Muslim Brotherhood Denial

In the past day on on Facebook I have seen various old friends go through the stages of what I am going to call "Muslim Brotherhood Denial", the refusal to acknowledge the truth that there is a worldwide conspiratorial fraternal organization, active, wealthy, and well-organized in the United States, devoted to bringing the world (including the United States) to Islamic rule.

So, diagnose your friends and relatives with this handy MBD chart

Stage 1:  It is paranoid to think that such an organization exists.

Stage 2:  It is paranoid to think that such an organization is active in the United States.

Stage 3:  With 1% of the US population, it is paranoid to think that Islam will take over in the United States.

Stage 4:  Anyone who opposes large-scale immigration of Muslims supremacists is paranoid.

Stage 5:  If the Muslims take over I will be long dead,

Stage 6:  "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam."

Stage 7:  Ash-hadu anla ilaha illal-Lahu Wahdahu la Sharika Lahu wa-ash-hadu anna Muhammadan abduhu wa rasuluhu.

In 24 hours some people have gone from Stage 1 to Stage 5.  Insufficient data yet on how long it takes to go all the way to stage 7, but research grants for a long-term study are gratefully accepted.

{I should add:  The Muslim Brotherhood is a complex organization, and my views of it are complex.  At one time I shared the general neocon view that the Brotherhood and its affiliates were progressive democratic forces that should be encouraged in the Middle East.  But the Brotherhood in Egypt, and its Palestinian affiliate Hamas, turned out to be weaker and perhaps less democratic than we had believed.

As regards the United States, I believe with George Washington that "reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle"; and with John Adams that "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."   Which religion?  As recently as 2008, I was a cheerleader for the old time Americanism of, say, Bill Clinton.  But while that political religion is not quite dead, it much weaker than it was a decade ago, and younger people are mostly unaware of it or disaffected from it.  There are certainly worse possible futures for most Americans than political Islam.}

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Brexit Blues, or Why, oh Why, must I have my vanilla ice cream with syrup of ipecac on top?

John Lanchester's Brexit Blues is thoughtful... for a Bremainder...
But the money quote is this:
"The [Brexit] campaign’s second big lie was that the UK would be able to have access to the single market without accepting the free movement of people from the EU. No country has this arrangement, and there is no reason to think it is possible. If Britain were to secure a deal whereby it had access to the single market and control over EU immigration, it would be the end of the EU – because other countries would leave the EU and demand the same."
So since everybody wants access to the single market, and nobody wants open borders, they have to be forced to take them as a package.
But who is forcing them? And why do they have to buy the package at all?
Comcast makes you take the yuck! with the yes! because it makes them money.
Who wants to retain free movement within the EU after Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray and Munich and Ansbach and Nice and Balacan and Charlie Hebdo? Cui bono?

Monday, July 25, 2016

How Trump can rebuild Nato

Putin is not Hitler. He is not even Brezhnev.

But everything depends on whether you believe that a Russian invasion of the Baltics can be stopped or reversed without NATO using nuclear weapons. I don't think it can. And I don't think the US should engage in thermonuclear war to keep the Russians out of Riga.

So if I were Trump's National Security Advisor I would set before President Trump the following Trump-style proposal for the Baltics:

1. Order a big exercise wargaming the defense of the Baltics using only conventional arms.

2. If Blue Force loses, then demand that everybody in NATO pony up their fair share the conventional forces necessary for blue force to win, or the US is leaving the alliance.

3. What counts as one's fair share? Well, for one thing the Baltic states themselves are go to have to go from 1.1% of GDP on defense, (Latvia and Lithuania -- below their NATO commitment!), to something like Israel's 5.4% or Kuwait's 8.2%.

"Go for broke", or Trumpoid thoughts on Muslim terror

A former Tel Aviv colleague writes: "You do know that terrorism in the name of Islam kills far more Muslims than non-M westerners, right? And that the portion of Muslims who participate in terror is tiny, right? Just wondering, b/c so much that Trump says is factually absurd. I suppose it's easy to get confused."

But I say:

1.The portion of Muslims who actively participate in terror by silence, financial, or moral support is not so tiny. Western countries need to persuade their existing Muslim populations that unless they actively give every effort to defeating Islamist terror, they have no future in those countries. Not a pretty thought, but a thought the grandparents of some of the people I grew up with in Seattle were able to act on.

2. Islamists kill who they can reach. The best way to keep them out of reach, as your boy Sharon proved, is to build walls and keep them on the other side.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Why I prefer President Donald J. Trump to President Hillary Clinton

Somebody near and dear emailed me to ask "why would you prefer a Trump to a Clinton presidency?"
Here is why:

Positive reasons (things on which I agree with Trump):

1.  I am a trade protectionist and an immigration restrictionist.  As an American I think trade and immigration policies should be for the benefit of current US citizens and their descendants, "ourselves and our posterity."

2.  I think the right economic policy is one that offers men the opportunity to earn dignity as providers for their families. Cheap goods mean cheap men, as Calvin Coolidge used to say.

3.  The US needs to control the border with Mexico.  A wall is a good start, as Israel has shown along its Egyptian border.

4.  The US needs to rethink its international role.  Certainly it should 1) no longer open the US market  in the unconsidered hope of gaining brownie points with exporters; 2) extricate itself from its obligations to South Korea and possibly Japan, which make it subject to NK blackmail.  
I do think, however, that after Crimea the US needs to continue its nuclear umbrella over NATO, which is the only thing keeping the Rooskies out of Riga (and possibly out of Scotland).  Trump has come around to supporting NATO; but he thought about it first, which I don't see as a bad thing. 

5.  Trump has promised to appoint originalist, "dead constitution," judges on the Scalia model.  As a conservative, I know he is buying us off on an issue on which he cares little.  But I say, let's take the deal! 

6.  Political correctness is literally killing people:  it has crippled the fight against domestic terror, and has greatly exacerbated the current strife over race and policing.  Its effects on education and education policy in the United States are as severe as its Marxist version ever had in the Communist block.   

Negative reasons (why Hillary  Clinton is a bad choice in ways that say, Bernie Sanders, would not have been):

1.  Mrs. Clinton is personally corrupt (she has been taking bribes for nearly forty years). and with LBJ (whose corruption was Bush league and consisted mainly of having a television broadcast license assigned to his wife) she is the only major party nominee ever who is personally corrupt -- unless you count bribes to her as bribes to Bill -- which I suppose you should,

2.  In case you think that private vices are outweighed by public virtues, as some might claim in the case of her husband (who has been an active party in her bribe-taking since the beginning, of course):  In her years as Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has no accomplishments of significance.  She also has made some big mistakes:  she supported Bush's invasion of Iraq, opposed the surge, and supported Obama's withdrawal:  I don't know anybody else in US public life who shares this trifecta of failure.  She has supported the failed American efforts in Afghanistan.  She urged the Obama's administration failed intervention in the Libyan civil war.  She has also supported Obama's Iran deal, which was a far worse policy for the US than if they had done nothing at all.

3.  The email scandal is a big deal.  Mrs. Clinton committed serious crimes, both from the security and public records point of view, by channeling her official email through an unsecured private server, and than ordering her lawyers to wipe allegedly personal emails rather than preserving them.  She refused to collaborate with the State Department internal investigation, unlike every other SecState of the email era.  These crimes and derelictions would be sufficient, in the case of any other government employee, to ensure that the person would never work for the Federal government again.  Her conduct on this matter does not admit of any honest or even plausible defense.

4.  She is in thrall to the Black Lives Matter crowd and the Al Sharptons, who have spread the lie that police racism rather than black criminality is responsible for the disproportionate number of black men killed by police.

5.  She is a globalist on trade and immigration.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

2+2=5 Director Comey loves Big Sister

In his prepared statement concluding the FBI criminal investigation, FBI Director James B. Comey states that "All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice." Director Comey explains exactly how Secretary of State Clinton engaged in "clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information" by using multiple unsecured devices: "Secretary Clinton used several different servers and administrators of those servers during her four years at the State Department, and used numerous mobile devices to view and send e-mail on that personal domain."
He also states the "vast quantities of material exposed" (over 2000 classified emails), and the efforts to obstruct justice by wiping out emails.
Director Comey sums up that "we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts."
2+2=5 Director Comey loves Big Sister.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The future of the parties, after Trump

If Trump wins, there will be the neo-Jacksonian Republicans and the corporatist Democrats.
If Hillary wins: there will be the Hillary party, and the more "progressive than Hillary party." Both will be fully devoted to the interests of the very rich, especially open borders, and will compete in Democratic primaries by seeing how many illegal immigrants than can bring to the polls. Any potentially effective conservative, Republican, or neo-Jacksonian opposition, will be destroyed by a weaponized IRS, Justice Department, EPA, OSHA, etc. Only government licensed media will be permitted, once Citizens United is reversed, Big data techniques will enable the government and their Silicon Valley allies to thought police the nation, as working stiffs will have a choice: be progressive or starve. Any facts that might embarrass those in power will scrubbed from the internet and all media.
But #NeverTrump Republicans will love Big Sister.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Prediction markets and understanding politics

A post in a closed group on Facebook suggested that we look to prediction markets for information on politics, and try to use the information they offer in the manner that business journalists use financial markets. 
     The trouble is that business journalists know as much about business as sportswriters know about sports and political journalists know about politics. Fortunately, students of politics have it easier than students of sports or business because politicians have to explain themselves to get what they want. If you want to understand Trump, the first step is to look to his own words, the second step to look to words of the politicians who are his allies, and the third to look to the words of the politicians who are his rivals and enemies.
     As for prediction markets, the efficient markets hypothesis says they integrate publicly available knowledge. That does not mean that they are accurate, just that anything more accurate is going to cost you.

     The odds on a Republican winning the Presidential election (getting a majority of the two-party vote) are about 1 in 3 at the Iowa Electronic Market .  If I know better, if I know that Trump is a virtual lock because he is the more centrist of the two candidates and because the country is generally perceived to be on the wrong track, it may be that that is because I have been studying politics for 30 years.
     Should you trust me? I have not, so far, put any money down on Trump at Iowa. But the people who bought Trump in the Republican convention market at IEM are doing well so far, as today's graph shows.

Are the prediction market odds a good guide to Trump's actual chances?  Were they a good guide to his chances the day after the Iowa caucuses?  All we can say with any degree of assurance is that they are a better guide than any other you can get for free.  
    Trusting me isn't free.

Friday, May 13, 2016

No, Trump is not a menace to the Constitution

Josh Blackman, a con law professor who supported Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, claims in the National Review that "Trump has already promised that he will knowingly break the law and violate the Constitution," because his views on constitutional matters are not exactly the same as Blackman's.  But one can be a perfectly good constitutionalist and hold the Times v. Sullivan is bad law (it is certainly inconsistent with the Founders' understanding of the relation between state libel laws and the First Amendment.) Likewise with Kelo, which simply means that judges should defer to the judgment of elected officials on what constitutes public use, And, finally on Japanese internment, to quote Judge Posner, "Korematsu was rightly decided."
      As for the rest of Blackman's complaints, no doubt President Trump will exercise his constitutional powers to try to move things his way, whether that is by executive action, speechifying, proposing legislation, or having the Trump Administration's lawyers make the appropriate arguments in the courts. Trump's promises on constitutional matters are best understood as statements of direction and principle rather than marching orders. That is how candidates in the US always talk, as if they are going to be able to by themselves what they have to move the whole apparatus of government and public opinion to accomplish.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wide-Awakes for Trump?

Back in the days of Lincoln when the Republican party was the party of freedom and devoted to a better life for ordinary Americans, Republicans organized a paramilitary organization called the Wide-Awakes. The mission statement of the Chicago branch of the Wide-Awakes:
1. To act as a political police.
2. To do escort duty to all prominent Republican speakers who visit our place to address our citizens.
3. To attend all public meetings in a body and see that order is kept and that the speaker and meeting is not disturbed.
4. To attend the polls and see that justice is done to every legal voter.
5. To conduct themselves in such a manner as to induce all Republicans to join them.
6. To be a body joined together in large numbers to work for the good of the Republican Ticket.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Is the American ideal "done"?

Kira Sirote asks: Is the American ideal of progress through liberty "done"? I feel like parts of American society are indeed more just and more righteous than they were 50 years ago, can that be clarified and then extended beyond its own borders?

In my view the ideal of progress is not "done" but it is in tatters.

In medicine Americans are no longer willing to pay for progress.

In race there has been steady regress since 1965.

The war on poverty made things for poor people worse.

The Universities are markedly worse at educating or encouraging freedom of research than they were in our day.

The internet mostly brings distraction.

Television (!) is the dominant medium not just of communication but of art, and for all the strengths of The Wire it is not Dostoevsky.

The US has too many rules which persuade too many people that nothing worth doing can be done anymore. The (pre-Trump) GOP was too focused on taxes, which matter little, and not focused enough on regulation, which is crushing. The Democrats think that the response to the failure of rules (i.e., the subprime crisis), is to add rules.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Trump, #NeverTrump, and 2014 might-have-beens

If the Republican House had impeached Obama over his refusal to enforce immigration law, and a majority of the Senate had voted to convict, we would at least know that the Republican establishment is on the the side of the law and the Constitution. Now what we know is they are committed to open borders and really hate Trump.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why I am an immigration restrictionist and a trade protectionist

In a Facebook back and forth, Ashland University History Professor John Moser pointed me to this April 2015 NYTimes piece by Greg Mankiw arguing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

My father, Levis Kochin, is a Chicago School economist and so I grew up hearing this kind of argument.  I do not believe anymore that these arguments should persuade people who care about the well-being of their country.  Here is why:

The classical free trade/open borders arguments ignore
1) Distributional consequences, who gets what
2) People's risk preferences. I offered a room full of academic economists each a dollar to give up their tenure while retaining all the other parts of their contract. No takers.
3) fiscal consequences: classical mercantilism was intended to maximize net state revenue by routing trade through ports where customs could be conveniently levied. Nowhere in The Wealth of Nations does Smith mention this.
4) One argument Smith does mention and endorse:  "defense is more important than opulence" -- presumably this applies not just to defense of territory but defense of culture or our way of life.
5) classical economics treats labor as a cost and leisure as an unalloyed benefit. And yet I know academic economists who forfeit income in order to teach when they could collect more if they retired. In other words, this is bad psychology.

The most compelling case I know for a protectionist and restrictionist political economy is made by the German philosopher J. G. Fichte, in his short book The Closed Commercial State (originally published 1800).    Read it and decide for yourself.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Future of the American Party System

Michigan State political scientist Ben Kleinerman wrote last night on his Facebook wall: "The parties are essential to the rational functioning of American government. Van Buren recognized a failure in the founders' system that he sought to correct through the party system. It elected Jackson while also controlling him. The two are not mutually exclusive."

But I say:

1. If parties like the ones we have now are essential (though Monroe, the most successful wielder of executive power between Washington and Lincoln governed without them) how is it that Congress and the executive branch have become more partisan and more dysfunctional?
2. Even if we need parties like the ones we have now that does not mean we need the party cleavage we have now. It has been Democrats and Republicans uninterrupted since 1868. But the Republican brand (and maybe the Democratic one as well, with the rise of Sanders) no longer recruit among the young. If the Republicans win as the Trump party, perhaps a new elite-cored anti-Trump party on the Whig model will arise? And what would be so bad about that?

Monday, February 22, 2016

A few facts to increase your anxieties

Michael Gillespie writes "For all of you interested in politics, don't be taken in by the dire scenarios presented by candidates from both parties and by our sensationalist, anxiety obsessed media. The world is not going to hell in an hand basket but in fact has become a much better place. Don't believe the doom and gloom. Just a few facts to ease your anxieties."

Read his post if you want to see his claims.  Her are my rebuttals.

1. We are still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are also fighting in San Bernardino.
2. Mexican immigration to the US has waned because demand for labor is weak, because the economy is still in bad shape.
3. US unemployment statistics are down because those numbers don't include those who have given up looking for work, or those in jobs well below what there experience and education would suit them for and that pay below what is needed to sustain a decent lifestyle.
4. Yes, more Americans have health insurance. But to call that "coverage" implies that they have access to the care they need without outrageous copays and deductibles. Efforts to "bend the cost curve" will help insure that medical progress is largely a thing of the past.
5. Teen pregnancy is down for the same reason birth rates and marriage rates are down, because the future is clouded for everybody below the peak of the peak in skills and income.
6. Violent crime is lower both because of demographic changes (see 5. above) and because of "racial profiling," "mass incarceration" and wider gun ownership. If the Democrats win the White House and get to pack the Supreme Court, the policies that have helped keep crime down will be reversed.
7. American universities have become "islands of suppression in an ocean of freedom."
8. The refusal of the Obama administration to enforce immigration law or prosecute powerful allies and subordinates for egregious offenses have broken the faith of politically aware Americans in the rule of law.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wisdom and the University

My friend Lee Trepanier has just published a review of Sean Steel's The Pursuit of Wisdom and Happiness in Education: Historical Sources and Contemplative Practices
I haven't read Steel's book. But I have been thinking about the relation between universities and wisdom.
Greek philosophy, historically, comes after the first Greek "wise men" and disputes their claims.
Universities were created to check philosophy institutionally by subordinating it to theology, the faculty where divine wisdom was transmitted. It was only in the twentieth century that most universities stopped seeing as their ruling purpose the transmission of Christian knowledge.
Philosophy calls itself "love of wisdom," which means on their own admission they lack it.  Philosophers, when they are true to their vocation, devote themselves to crafting disparaging wise-cracks about those who pretend to wisdom.  Philosophy has a place in the university, but since philosophers are not wise, they cannot rule there.
Universities can only be led by the wise, those who know how to educate because they know how to live.  But Christian wisdom no longer has the social power to rule universities.  Today's academic administrators are virtually without exception not leaders but managers and fundraisers, who substitute flattery for wisdom.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Reply to Tom Palmer on Bush, Reagan, and Immigration

Tom Palmer, who I have known for not quite thirty years, posted on his Facebook page this video of George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan in their 1980 debate addressing the issue of illegal Mexican immigration. Tom added this caption: "America could use more common sense like this today."
     What was common sense in 1980 is vanished today. In 1980 Americans were still largely religious, patriotic, committed to the defense and promotion of freedom both at home and abroad. A strong proud society that knew what it stood for, and, despite its serious challenges, could take "the huddled masses yearning to breathe free" and educate them and their children to citizenship.
     Today faith in God and love of country are banished from polite company. America is just another post-imperial, post-Christian, post-industrial society, defeated in three of its last three wars. California's Central Valley is a man-made dust bowl, the skilled working class is in China, middle management in Bangalore, and the cohorts that were supposed to replace them have, at best, stocking jobs at an Amazon warehouse and at worst, reality TV, Prozac, and early disability. 
     The US has no advantage any more in making unskilled peasants from traditional societies into modern productive citizens. The US, today, is an immigration magnet only for those disrupters who aim to profit from or violently exploit the absence of social solidarity made possible by a society that has abandoned its political and religious common ground. Some of those disrupters are app gurus, and some of them are jihadis, and the US government is so incompetent it can't tell the difference.
     Thirty years ago when I entered college, I too had the views on immigration displayed here by 1980's future Presidents. But just as we can't (thanks to the Supreme Court and ruling elites) have 1980's modus vivendi on gay rights, but all must celebrate LBGQT identities or face ostracism, unemployment, and penal sanctions, we can't have 1980's immigration policy either.
     I am not sure to what extent the Reagan/Bush years of nonenforcement and amnesty are responsible for America's predicament. But America is a country of immigrants, shaped by immigration, and in the last generation a society that was in 1980, the freest, most pious, and most prosperous the world has ever seen, has been, to quote President Obama, "fundamentally transformed." Sorry, Tom, the DeLorean is on blocks in the garage, and on Amazon, flux capacitors are "out of stock."