FedEx Declines To Shoot Own Foot

Federal Express has made a decision in the case of a driver who stopped a flag-burning. They claim that the driver in question "remains a FedEx employee" and that this will not change.

Now, among the many jobs I have held in my long life was one contract gig pressure-washing FedEx trucks, which are required to be clean and presentable in order to maintain the corporate image. As at that time, and I have not heard that this has changed, FedEx drivers were also contractors rather than employees. My guess is that the 'employee' in question probably owns his own truck, and is properly speaking a small businessman in his own right. Yeoman farmers, more or less.

"Does 'Armed' Equal Dangerous?"

Of course it does, in answer to Hot Air's question. The whole point of carrying arms is to be more dangerous.
’Dangerous?,’ cried Gandalf. ‘And so am I, very dangerous: more dangerous than anything you will ever meet. . .And Aragon is dangerous, and Legolas is dangerous. You are beset with dangers. . .for you are dangerous yourself, in your own fashion.’
Anyone carrying a weapon is dangerous. Some of us are dangerous even if you should happen to catch us without a weapon. The police cannot be chided for handling them as such. There is a reasonable question about how, in a free society that respects the right to bear arms, police should handle a dangerous but not aggressive or anti-social interaction. But of course "armed" means "dangerous." Specifically, it is a subset of the category "dangerous."

California Leavin'

A bit from a Wall Street Journal article raises a couple of rude questions in my pea brain, and a rude notice.  California is beginning a more-or-less serious effort to secede from the union. The bit is this: the US would have to approve a constitutional amendment to allow a secession.

The questions are these: what would Californians think if the required amendment passed unanimously--or perhaps only with New York, Illinois, Washington demurring?  What would Californians think if those States approving the amendment did so with enormous majorities?

The rude notice is this: California secession dreamers can begin collecting signatures to place a  nationhood proposal on the November 2018 ballot, after language for the measure was approved this week by the state’s attorney general.  Notice that: in California, the citizens are allowed to have only those referendum ballots whose political speech is approved by the California government; they don't get to vote on the things they think are important without Government oversight.  What must California citizens think of that?  Oh, wait....

Eric Hines


If I'm reading this New Yorker article correctly, the same shadowy forces that once undermined a scientific consensus for nuclear winter then turned their attention to undermining a scientific consensus for global warming.  They were equally nefarious both times, either because they're very bad people or because their money comes from very bad people, or both.  The conclusion seems to acknowledge grudgingly that science is corrupted when it's in service of the nation-state's political objectives, but the lesson we're to draw is that we're not entitled to be skeptical of global warming unless we're also skeptical of claims that nuclear war would be just peachy keen for the  environment.  Well, okay then.

Honestly, I remember when The New Yorker had smarter authors and lots better editors.

DB: Grief-stricken Navy mourns the departure of beloved Secretary Ray Mabus

"In news that has every sailor and Marine in the Department of the Navy literally wailing with inconsolable grief..."

SNL ... Enters the Twilight Zone?

I don't know if I can handle SNL being funny again, and making non-progressive points. That shakes my worldview.

Anyway, the skit I'm referring to now is on Hulu, which I'm not sure how to embed here, so here's the link to SNL's Susan B. Anthony skit.

And after that, if you want more, Acculturated has an article about SNL doing a skit pointing out that our feminist foremothers did not support abortion.

Should Have Opened Fire Earlier

NSFRPOW (Not Safe for Rational People ... or Work)

Country Heroes, More or Less ...

I swear, if I ever make it to a Corb Lund concert, I'm going to wear a "Free Lester Cousins" t-shirt.

Sounds Like a Good BASIS for Education

From Naomi Schaefer Riley at the New York Post:


While America is falling behind globally — we were ranked 24th in the world on the most recent Program for International Student Assessment scores — BASIS is soaring. In math, reading and science three BASIS schools ranked above Shanghai, Korea, Finland and Singapore. If BASIS schools formed a country it would be ranked top in the world. Even compared to students whose families are in the same income brackets, BASIS is still performing 18 percent better on average.
But there’s a catch. If you’re looking for a place that will coddle your kids, you’ve come to the wrong school. As headmaster Hadley Ruggles tells me, “Brooklyn is a progressive place, and it looks like we have rolled back the clock.”

The students are taught grammar. Math in the early grades involves drilling. Students are required to take three years of Latin. Writing is focused on analytical work, not “journaling.”

... Students as young as eighth grade are taking APs and scoring well. Plus, middle-schoolers take biology, chemistry and physics classes three days a week each.

The teachers have come from top college and graduate programs, and many have left their own fields to teach.


The fearless regulation killer

I had vaguely heard of the Congressional Review Act, which permits Congress to nix a regulation within 60 legislative days.  A bright young feller showed up at this week's Republican retreat and pointed out that the deadline isn't 60 days after the regulation is issued, it's 60 days after the later of the date it's issued or the date the agency issues a report on it.  In most cases during the recently concluded administration, the agencies didn't bother.  That means Congress can vote down a whole slew of regulations with a majority vote--no filibuster.
“If they haven’t reported it to Congress, it can now be challenged,” says Paul Larkin, a senior legal research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Mr. Larkin, also at Wednesday’s meeting, told me challenges could be leveled against any rule or guidance back to 1996, when the CRA was passed.
The best part? Once Congress overrides a rule, agencies cannot reissue it in “substantially the same form” unless specifically authorized by future legislation. The CRA can keep bad regs and guidance off the books even in future Democratic administrations—a far safer approach than if the Mr. Trump simply rescinded them.
Republicans in both chambers—particularly in the Senate—worry that a great use of the CRA could eat up valuable floor time, as Democrats drag out the review process. But Mr. Gaziano points out another hidden gem: The law allows a simple majority to limit debate time. Republicans could easily whip through a regulation an hour.

March for Life

Here is a healthier take on a recent political slogan.

A Renaissance for Truth

In all sorts of information operations or psychological warfare, credibility is the currency and truth is a force multiplier. The common theory is that powerful regimes want to disrupt our ability to know the truth so they can create their own reality. In fact, this is what weak regimes do. Powerful regimes tell the truth, and then make the things they want to be true happen.

At some point, the parties that be are going to remember that. Somebody is going to decide to stop the hyperventilating, stop the shutting-off of debate, stop with the name-calling and social bullying, and just tell the truth. Whoever does it first, and builds the reputation for speaking the truth no matter what, is going to win this political exercise. Then they'll have the power to make true many of the things that they wish were true.

UPDATE: Via Anarchyball.

Ceaușescu's America

I'm reading this collection of interviews with women who voted for Trump. At least one of them has something quite interesting to say.
I defected from Ceaușescu's Romania. You don’t grow up in a regime like that and not think about state control over human lives. Today I’m a libertarian. I believe in small government. I’m pro-choice. What I find most threatening in a democracy is extremism. She’s an ideologist and would’ve appointed Supreme Court justices with extreme positions. My vote was more an anti-Hillary vote.

I’ve lived here since 1993 but I’m still a European at heart and read the European papers. Let me tell you, Benghazi was covered with graphic detail. Reading the news in Europe I understood how censored the news in the U.S. has become, giving me flashbacks of a Commie regime. I also resented that when I opened the October issues of my fashion magazines, the editors all endorsed Clinton for president.
I've read lots of people talking about Trump in totalitarian terms, but here's the voice of a woman who really lived under a totalitarian system. Hillary Clinton was the one she recognized as reflective of it. Of course, the uniformity of expressed opinion -- and the media censorship -- is consensual here, where it was enforced by secret police there. How much does that matter? At least some, and perhaps a lot.

Billions down the drain

There was some freaking out dressed up as fact-checking over President Trump's inaugural reference to billions of dollars dumped into failing schools for no benefit to students.  No need to take his word for it; here's the outgoing administration's analysis of the very expensive "School Improvement Grant" program.  A direct quote from the Executive Summary:
Overall, across all grades, we found that implementing any SIG-funded model had no significant impacts on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment.
* * *
The SIG program aimed to support the implementation of school intervention models in low-performing schools. Although SIG was first authorized in 2001, this evaluation focused on SIG awards granted in 2010, when roughly $3.5 billion in SIG awards were made to 50 states and the District of Columbia, $3 billion of which came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. States identified the low-performing schools eligible for SIG based on criteria specified by ED and then held competitions for local education agencies seeking funding to help turn around eligible schools.
No doubt the Keynesian spending stimulus was crackerjack, but funneling resources to the schools that are failing the most egregiously, while merciful to the struggling schools, doesn't seem to be very merciful to the kids trapped there. Maybe rewarding failure gets you more failure.  It's interesting that the money ostensibly was spent on a variety of techniques associated with change and reform.  Something tells me they were reforming the wrong things.

There's a lot of gobbledegook about "comprehensive instructional reform strategies, teacher and principal effectiveness, and operational flexibility and support," but it's not obvious to me what really changed in the schools that got the money.
One goal of SIG is to promote the use of instructional practices that have the potential to increase academic rigor and student achievement. The SIG application criteria focused on practices to reform instruction in seven subtopics: (1) Using Data to Identify and Implement an Instructional Program; (2) Promoting the Continuous Use of Data to Identify and Address the Needs of Individual Students; (3) Conducting Periodic Reviews of the Curriculum; (4) Implementing a New School Model; (5) Providing Supports and Professional Development (PD) to Staff to Assist Both English language learners (ELLs) and Students with Disabilities; (6) Using and Integrating Technology-Based Supports; and (7) Tailoring Strategies for Secondary Schools. We collected data on five of these subtopics through school survey questions that asked about eight practices aligned with SIG objectives in these areas (Table IV.1). Because none of the questions from the school surveys aligned with the third or fourth subtopic, we excluded these subtopics from the analysis.
What I'd love to see is a study of contrasting schools with differing percentages of graduates of teaching colleges versus practically any other background, and taking into account the school's freedom to remove incurably disruptive students from the classroom or even from the school. I'm afraid many of these radical "turnaround" and "transformation" models were only pushing the food around on the plate.

Let's Halt the Eclipse

A proposal from our Brexit friends. It's not the worst idea ever, if it can be done.

Ace of Spades

Actually it's a shovel, not a spade.

Batting Near a Thousand

Trump's made some friends, anyway.

UPDATE: How's 11 million sound to you?

The guts of an insurrection

The AEI article in my immigration post below contained a link to a fascinating piece by Dominic Cummings describing the nuts and bolts of the Brexit campaign, including his deep frustration over the inability of the ostensibly friendly Brit leaders to comprehend what was motivating the voters:
[The 2008 financial crisis] undermined confidence in Government, politicians, big business, banks, and almost any entity thought to be speaking for those with power and money. Contra many pundits, Miliband was right that the centre of gravity has swung against free markets. Even among the world of Thatcherite small businesses and entrepreneurs opinion is deeply hostile to the way in which banks and public company executive pay work. Over and over again outside London people would rant about how they had not/barely recovered from this recession ‘while the politicians and bankers and businessmen in London all keep raking in the money and us mugs on PAYE are paying for the bailouts, now they’re saying we’ve just got to put up with the EU being crap or else we’ll be unemployed, I don’t buy it, they’ve been wrong about everything else…’ All those amazed at why so little attention was paid to ‘the experts’ did not, and still do not, appreciate that these ‘experts’ are seen by most people of all political views as having botched financial regulation, made a load of rubbish predictions, then forced everybody else outside London to pay for the mess while they got richer and dodged responsibility. They are right. This is exactly what happened.

Who needs data?

It's been frustrating trying to discuss either voter fraud or sane voter i.d. laws for the last 5-10 years.  I'll never understand the impulse to lump them in with racist poll taxes.  Jazz Shaw makes a reasonable suggestion that, just possibly, it might help to have some data, so we ouldn't quit screaming "There's fraud."  "No there isn't."

Ray Mabus Out

One of the best pieces of news I've heard in a long time is the end of the longest-serving Secretary of the Navy since World War I.

His replacement comes well recommended.
"All three of these nominees have my utmost confidence," Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement following the announcement. "They will provide strong civilian leadership to strengthen military readiness, gain full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, and support our service members, civilians, and their families. I appreciate the willingness of these three proven leaders to serve our country. They had my full support during the selection process, and they will have my full support during the Senate confirmation process."

Bilden is a business leader, former military intelligence officer and Naval War College cybersecurity leader who served on the board of directors for the United States Naval Academy Foundation and the board of trustees of the Naval War College Foundation.

Cleaning House

The new Secretary of State will have a very free hand, as the entire senior leadership team of the State Department just resigned -- or, possibly, were required to resign.

Of course, after the Obama era -- and the Kerry State Department following on the Clinton State Department -- that is exactly what is needed. The Post describes this as the new Secretary's job getting harder, but I frankly think his job would have been impossible without replacing at least the entire top level of personnel.

Weird Times

As Trump's moves are matched by rising approval ratings, I notice that strange things are going on in San Francisco.

Frisco is always at least a little weird, though.

Who's with us?

My views on immigration are a mess, all over the place.  In my heart of hearts I'd like an open-border policy, but for years now I'd concluded sadly that it doesn't work unless it's combined with a sink-or-swim official policy, softened as necessary by voluntary aid.  The ascendancy of identity politics in the last decade or so has just about finished off my convictions.  At the same time, I'm afraid I'll never quite give my heart to fierce immigration control, either; I've always thought that if people make it here somehow or other and insinuate themselves into their communities with jobs and families such that no one around them is willing to cooperate with immigration authorities to get them deported, then immigration enforcement moves right to the bottom of my priority list, somewhere below enforcement of laws against littering.  (But bear in mind that I'd like to see people drawn and quartered for littering.)

This article from AEI mentions an Australian system I'm not familiar with, which applies a point system taking into account things like high skills.  That sounds practical.  It's contrasted with a much-reviled system of giving preference to low-skilled extended family members, but I find myself hesitating here.  Surely it's a good idea to bring in immigrants who can plug into a healthy institution like an extended family.  One good thing about awarding points for high skills is that the skilled workers would arrive with the freedom to change jobs rather than be shackled to their employers by H1B visa restrictions.  My niece's Irish engineer husband is in that boat--or at least he was, I guess, until he married her.  Now he has an anchor baby, yay!  And an adorable one he is, too.

The main point of the AEI article is that there are immigration arguments that were effective in the Brexit campaign, which we should consider using here:
“Vote Leave to take back control of immigration policy. If we stay there will be more new countries like Turkey joining and you won’t get a vote. Cameron says he wants to ‘pave the road’ from Turkey to here. That’s dangerous. If we leave we can have democratic control and a system like Australia’s. It’s safer to take back control.”

The Working Class

You can tell that the winds have shifted significantly when you see an article on the American white working class published prominently in the Harvard Business Review.

Did He Seriously?

Headline: "Trump hangs portrait of Andrew Jackson in Oval Office."

Is it more amazing given that Jackson is basically the founder of the Democratic Party, or because of the Trail of Tears legacy given the fight Trump just picked with the Standing Rock Sioux?

Andrew Jackson stands at the head of a muscular tradition of American politics, one that the Democrats have completely abandoned in recent years. So repentant are they of his legacy, which included both full-throated embrace of slavery and the unabashed ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, they can hardly bear to remember that he's on the $20 bill because they put him there.

All the same, if you want a model for Making America Great -- the first time -- Jackson's hard to beat. He was ruthless, but he never once hesitated to put America first. I wonder what this portends.

UPDATE: Note Joel's objections to this characterization, and defense of Jackson, in the comments.

An Odd Thing

I can't find him in my copy of the venerable Drinking with the Saints. Must be a misprint.

And Adam Baldwin tweeted this:

There are several more 'Chain of Command' pics with interesting shots of Trump and Mattis in them where that came from.

Burns Night

Tonight is celebrated the famed Scots poet Robert Burns. Let's hear one of his poems as set to music.

This poem, titled "Cock up your Beaver," is about a young man and his new hat, and how it leads to pummeling Englishmen. What's with that face? It's a Scots song -- what did you think it would be about?

It Probably Seems More Trivial from Brooklyn

The reference is to this bit from Sarsour. If you listened to her speech at the march, she declares herself "unapologetically" to be several things, including "Muslim" and "from Brooklyn." My guess is that this kind of thinking arises from the intersection of those things.

In any case I don't mind people being unapologetic, but I would warn them against being unreflective.

Dude, Where's My Car?

Donna B., writing at AVI's place, notes the transgender discomfort with the Women's March. Tracking that back to the original story, I find this:
For 20-year-old Sam Forrey, a nonbinary student in Ohio, and their girlfriend Lilian McDaniel, who is trans, there had been other warning signs that the Women's March might be a dangerous space for them.
You're a 'nonbinary' individual who wants to be referred to in the plural? Are there three of you?

"The Return of the Dreadnought"

Wretchard is on fire today.

What party is he?

Myron Magnet at City Journal:
As Amity Shlaes shows in her 2008 book The Forgotten Man, that term, which Franklin Roosevelt applied to the man on the breadline in the Great Depression, “the man at the bottom of the economic pyramid,” more properly applies to those unhappy-if-silent taxpayers who funded the New Deal’s social-welfare schemes. And these are the forerunners of the Tea Partiers, another key class of Trump voter: the widow on a fixed income whose property-tax payment helps house a public-sector retiree comfortably but whose inexorable rise is making her own paid-off home unaffordable; the retiree whose IRA savings the Great Recession eroded or who can no longer get an adequate income from safe bond investments, thanks to  the Federal Reserve’s policies; the small businessman or farmer ruined by undemocratic government regulation lacking even the pretense of due process; the ex-soldier abandoned by a dysfunctional Veterans Administration; the parent disgusted with public schools that impose ideologies she abhors on her children, while leaving them inadequately educated; and all those sincere believers in God or traditional values whom Obama dismissed as clinging desperately to outmoded pieties, as the arc of history, which the elite professor-president claimed to understand and direct according to his politically correct enlightenment, swirled them down the drain.
The Tea Partiers wanted a second American Revolution that would sweep away the Administrative State that the Progressive Era, the New Deal, and the War on Poverty set loose to devour and fatten on the carcass of the Founders’ republic, replacing a government of limited and enumerated powers with an unlimited government that rules by administrative decree and redistributes wealth as if it belonged to the governors and not the governed. No wonder Obama’s Internal Revenue Service worked to squash that movement as tyrannically as George III’s tax collectors. Let’s see if the new revolutionaries picked a leader who knows what they want and how to get it.

More Good Samaritan action

This story has South Texas a little stirred up:  several days ago, two armed guys robbed a jewelry store in a San Antonio mall.  One unarmed customer tried to intervene somehow when they were confronting another customer, and was shot and killed for his trouble.  Another customer, who was armed and licensed for concealed-carry, shot one of the robbers and chased the other out of the store with gunfire; the second robber later was arrested.  The first robber is in the hospital in serious condition.

Now it develops that the mall had previously posted signs prohibiting the carrying of weapons.  The police don't seem unduly upset; their statements focus on the reasonable response of the armed citizen and the need for others to exercise good judgment in these dangerous situations.  The mall manager is busy making statements about how his first priority is the safety of his customers, which may mean trusting and waiting for the police, who knows.  I suppose he's trying to figure out whether he's likely to lose more customers by emphasizing his gun-free policy or by congratulating the citizen who ignored it.

Personally I like the effect of knowing that, even in a purportedly gun-free mall, the chances of an armed customer in the store you're trying to rob are pretty decent.

The Texas legislature, by the way, is again considering measures to permit open carry without a license, treating the 2d Amendment as our license.  It's just the Wild West out here, ain't it?  Y'all come on down.  We have our own electrical grid, too.

Hiding the ball

Congressional testimony from AEI's Thomas Miller about why the individual mandate isn't achieving the hoped-for painless political results:
One of the strongest driving forces behind officeholders resorting to the individual mandate is the desire to substitute “off-budget” mandated private funds in place of more visible taxes that they would otherwise find hard to impose to meet their insurance coverage goals and finance additional health care spending. Making the full costs of mandatory coverage more transparent reduces popular support for the latter. The hope instead is that an individual mandate can obscure the full sticker-price shock to taxpayers because mandated private spending is not officially treated as part of the federal budget. Instead, employers and insurers are enlisted as surrogate “tax collectors” through less transparent and politically accountable means.
* * *
[A]n individual mandate often promises, but never manages, to pay for itself. In order to get lower-income individuals to comply with a mandate to purchase more insurance than they can afford, or want, to purchase, substantial taxpayer subsidies are used to fill some of the affordability gap. Insurance mandates create a perpetual conflict between their escalating costs, limited public and private resources to pay for them, and the false guarantees of richer coverage ahead. The imbalances may be financed through various combinations of higher taxes, reduced benefits, higher premiums, lower take-home pay, fewer economic opportunities, and less insurance coverage for everyone else. Doing so also reduces portions of any projected increases in new premium “revenue” expected by insurers and health care providers from expanded coverage. Eventually, some of those less-visible costs are reimposed on the initially more “fortunate” newly insured.
* * *
The penalties for failing to comply with the mandate also are rather modest in proportion to the likely average premium cost of required coverage. The predictable result was that millions of individuals calculated that it is much less expensive to pay the penalty than to purchase mandatory insurance. The law’s guaranteed-issue incentives for potential purchasers, coupled with loose enforcement of eligibility for special enrollment periods between annual open season windows, encouraged individuals to enroll “just in time” when sick and “go bare” when healthy (and pay less in penalties than in total premiums), further ensuring limited and erratic mandate compliance.
An argument I often encounter is that we've got to have the individual mandate because we have EMTALA, so uninsured people will get free (to them) but expensive (to us) emergency room care when we might have treated them more cheaply with preventive care at clinics. Setting aside whether preventive care really is cheaper, I remain skeptical whether you really can force people to pay in advance for their uncertain future health benefits when (1) they don't or can't afford to plan ahead effectively otherwise, and (2) it's fairly clear they'll have acceptable options if they roll the dice instead. This is why I say that solving the healthcare cost problem for some people is always going to be an issue of charity, whether we face it or not. If we're going to do it, let's do it, not pretend we can make them pay for their own charity.

And so we're left with people like me, who are absolutely by-golly going to be insured one way or another--but in a delusory quest to force it on people who resist it, we have to take my own insurance away and make it inhumanly difficult to replace.  But if I refuse to vote for Clinton I'm a racist misogynist who doesn't care about the poor.  

Does Nobody Remember Project Exile?

If President Trump wants to "send the Feds to Chicago," he doesn't need any new tools. All he needs to do is instruct his Justice Department to prosecute felons taken with guns, or drug dealers taken with guns, according to the standards of Project Exile. Those laws are still on the books, and this Clinton-era program had the support of the NRA, so there ought to be no political cost for doing it.

The number of shootings in Chicago would fall rapidly once the gangsters realize that the probable penalty for getting caught with a gun under these circumstances has risen from ~30 days in the local jail to 5-10 years in Federal prison. My guess is it won't even take very long, or require very many convictions, to change these people's attitudes about whether or not it's worth carrying a gun as a disqualified person.

They might still knife each other, but the shooting epidemic ought to be readily solvable with existing authorities and not much additional effort.

So I Guess We're Doing This Wall Thing

Immigration orders on deck, including a construction order for 'the Wall.' Over/under on Mexico finally paying for it?

"A gilded despair"

Funny how now that some of the right people are thinking about TEOTWAWKI prep, it's time to think mournfully about the breakdown of civility.  And clearly the breakdown isn't the sort of thing we saw in Ferguson or the Pink Hat March, but the behavior of those awful people who elected Trump, not realizing the danger that he was going to become a fascist dictator.

I worry about Trump in a lot of ways, but honestly not that he'll be a fascist dictator.  I worry that he'll be ineffectual or wobbly, not that he'll be wildly successful in becoming Kim Jong Il.  It's already pretty clear he won't wobble on a number of conservative issues, so perhaps I'll have to grit my teeth only over trade protectionism and Keynesian stimulus spending.  I don't see any support for my initial fear that he would be ineffectual, either, but we haven't yet gotten into the nitty-gritty of any legislation.  I will cheer if he slaps the Republicans around and keeps their eye on the ball.

"If it's a no, we'll give them a quick no."

A prompt up or down: that alone would be a solid basis for any regulatory reform.  But reviving the Dakota and Keystone projects is enough to make me cheer the new administration even more loudly.  Their treatment under the prior administration was a travesty.

Where Were You Eight Years Ago?

Chuck Schumer intended to make a reasonable point that Obama didn't receive a courtesy that Tom Cotton was asking for on behalf of a Trump nominee. He ended up opening himself up for a hard-hitting comeback.


I wondered about that remark in the inaugural address about Islamic terrorism.

It's the waiting list that kills ya

Prospective VA head Shulkin encounters difficulty.

Accept 90% allies

And say "Yes" to success, advises Kurt Schlichter to his fellow disappointed movement conservatives:
Again, don’t be the guy staring into the mirror saying “Well, I’m perfect. I guess those people who voted for Trump because I was failing to meet their needs are just stupid for prioritizing their interests over my preferred ideology.”
You don’t have to love that Trump is the Republican president, but you should at least put aside your wounded pride long enough to seize the opportunity he presents. Don’t let your hurt feelings consign you to a chair in the corner where you pout, arms crossed, as Trump accomplishes a bunch of the things you’ve been promising for the last couple decades but never delivered.

OK by me

Even though he's a Harvard puke, I'll be happy with Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.

How many people would lose insurance, again?

My Facebook feed is clogged with hysterical warnings that tens of Americans will lose their health insurance if the Republicans repeal Obamacare. I don't like to dismiss this warning, as I know to my cost just how awful that threat feels. Part of me says, "You can't very well threaten me with whatever you've already done to me," but if there really are a lot of people who finally managed to get insured under the ACA when they never could pull it off before, I want to know how many of them there are, what's in store for them, and what it might cost to figure out a way to protect them. The Daily Signal reports:
The Obama administration estimated that the average monthly effectuated enrollment in the exchanges was 10.4 million people in 2016. This is significantly below original projections from the Congressional Budget Office, which estimated that 21 million people would be getting their coverage through the law’s government-run exchanges in 2016.
According to the IRS, in 2015, 12.7 million taxpayers claimed one or more exemptions from Obamacare’s mandate to purchase coverage and another 6.5 million taxpayers paid the penalty rather than sign up for coverage.
So 11.4 million signed up, but 19.2 million were eligible and declined. I've also read that a previous Heritage Foundation estimate of 14 million new insureds included 11.8 million who were shunted into Medicaid, leaving only 2.2 million who'd signed up in the post-ACA private individual insurance market. This article quotes an AP estimate that 4.7 million pre-ACA insurance policies (in the individual market?) were cancelled upon implementation of the ACA. Again, I'm not feeling the vibe that the repeal will be worse than the implementation.

Still, there are definitely people out there, like myself, who bought Obamacare policies and are wondering how they'll replace them, now that they've lost the protection from pre-existing conditions that they previously enjoyed under their longstanding pre-ACA guaranteed-reissue plans. I've been hearing that the Republicans had some kind of protection in mind for people with pre-existing conditions, and of course Trump says he does without explaining how it would work. It appears that all four Republican plans currently circulating include proposals for some kind of one-time opt-in for people who have maintained their coverage, much as was the case under the late-1990s HIPAA law.

We've Got Next!

Never mind

Honestly, I never guessed that President Trump would turn out to be a true-blue climate skeptic, blessings on the man. Evidently some federal bureaucrats can read the tea leaves better than they can read a model. I'm sure they'll all go work in the private sector now.

That explains it

I've been wondering how I could feel so out of synch with a feminist movement:
Today, feminism is not so much a movement as a grab bag for the usual assortment of progressive causes. “Free birth control and Palestine,” one popular sign said, which about sums it up. If you believe in one, then you’re assumed to automatically believe in the other one. Feminism used to be a big tent. Today, admission is restricted to those who are willing to beg forgiveness for their intersectional privilege and deplore Israel.
There's that word "intersectional" again. I guess I should go look it up; has it really got a recognizable meaning now? Is it a Venn diagram thing?

Having a very good crisis

“The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States,” says George Soros. It's not easy to fathom what he means by "just." During the Nazi reign, Soros's Jewish father arranged to give him a new identity as the adopted Christian godson of a Hungarian government official. In that new life, at the age of 14, he accompanied his adopted father in the bureaucratic task of preparing to confiscate Jewish property by going door to door taking inventories. An interviewed quizzed him about any leftover guilt from those days:
KROFT: For example that, “I’m Jewish and here I am, watching these people go. I could just as easily be there. I should be there.” None of that?
SOROS: Well, of course I c— I could be on the other side or I could be the one from whom the thing is being taken away. But there was no sense that I shouldn’t be there, because that was—well, actually, in a funny way, it’s just like in markets—that if I weren’t there—of course, I wasn’t doing it, but somebody else would—would—would be taking it away anyhow. And it was the—whether I was there or not, I was only a spectator, the property was being taken away. So the—I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt.
After the war, he escaped Soviet retaliation for his youthful Nazi collaboration and somehow made his way through the London School of Economics. Becoming rich while concluding that society was corrupt and must be torn apart to be remade, he ultimately put his fortune at the service of a variety of causes whose common link appears to be agitprop and disruption. So clearly "just" means "different from this," but I'm still unclear.

But you know where all the dark money is coming from?  Those awful Koch brothers.


This Quartz article about a billionaire's club called Sineidesis ("conscience") comes at the question of "what in the world is happening" from an unusual variety of perspectives.  Is this part of a 16-year cycle of Rep/Dep shifts?  If you look at that cycle more carefully, do you have to make up pre-Galilean epicycles to make it fit?  Is this 476 A.D. Rome, or the French Revolution?  Are we in the middle of a vast shift in the tides of globalism?  Can a consortium of civic-minded billionaires force private capital to take over where the U.S. government leaves off in battling hotcoldwetdry and making the world safe for Big Bird?  More to the point from my perspective, can they find a way to get ordinary citizens and workers invested in their aims out of enlightened self-interest?  Are we lurching between authoritarianism and populism, and if so which one are we leaving, and which are we heading for?

The author fails to light on any particular convincing explanation, but I did appreciate the acknowledgement that institutions with an appearance of solid eternity have often been known to melt away almost overnight, if their foundations become brittle, narrow, and unpopular.  It's as though the consent of one's fellow human beings persistently mattered, no matter how certain one may be that he is acting in their own best interests, which they're too ignorant to understand.

I was sorry to find the article ending with a snooty little dig at fake news.  The author assumes that anyone not taking the establishment press at face value must have lost its allegiance to Truth, as backwards an assessment as I can easily imagine.  Does no one realize that if you lie long enough, people who care about truth will find other ways to satisfy that thirst?  I struggle with the idea that the press does not know it is stuffed with liars, and yet they clearly do lack this self-awareness.  It's the only way they could conclude that "people don't care about facts any more."

Maybe That's Not What They Thought They Were Doing

The Intercept:
FOURTEEN SENATE DEMOCRATS joined all but one Senate Republican in confirming Rep. Mike Pompeo as the new CIA director on Monday evening, failing a crucial first test of whether Democrats would present a united front to defend human rights and civil liberties in the Trump era.
Possibly they didn't think this was a big test on human rights and civil liberties. Maybe they thought they were voting to confirm a guy they've all known for years, thus shifting him from one place of power and responsibility in the government to another.

Fascists Everywhere!

The wave of paranoia comes to a campus near Bowling Green, Ohio.

'They Made It Easy'

Former Marine and current Ranger Upper Jack Mandaville writes on why he has become an enthusiastic supporter of Trump. It wasn't an obvious choice for him:
I’m pro-choice. I believe in the legalization of marijuana. I don’t believe in God.

I think the Global War on Terrorism was not only mishandled over two presidential administrations, but I also think the invasion of Iraq was one of the worst foreign policy disasters in American history—an invasion I was there for in one of the first American units to cross the border under James Mattis’s 1st Marine Division.

I don’t know what technically makes you an “ally,” but if simply supporting the rights of gay-Americans to love each other and marry qualifies then I’m an ally too. I think building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico is ridiculous. I loathe things which I refer to as Wal-Mart Patriotism. I roll my eyes at Lee Greenwood’s song, “I’m Proud To Be An American.” I refuse to stand at sporting events when announcers ask “All veterans in the crowd to stand up and be recognized for your service.” I don’t think it should be mandatory or expected of politicians or public figures to wear American flag lapel pins. I despise the Tea Party and how they hijacked the Don’t Tread On Me flag. I wasn’t a fan of former President Barack Obama’s administration, but I wholeheartedly believe that he was often the target of unfair treatment and paranoia by the right.
So why Trump? Read on.

It would be good if more on the left read what he has to say, really. I don't think they understand themselves as having this effect: they think they're the ones being provoked, and all this excusing of violence from their side is just being understanding about an understandable reaction. They don't see themselves as provocative in return.

This is an integral part of the Marxian 'critical studies' error that divides the world into oppressor and oppressed, and paints all history as a struggle between the designated oppressor and the designated victim. The designated victim can never be wrong, as Cass was pointing out yesterday. Though they speak constantly about "equality," they cannot imagine having it. They cannot see themselves as equal partners in a struggle, with equal responsibilities to go with their equal entitlements -- and an equal capacity to provoke righteous anger when they cross a line.

I reckon I got to light out for the Territory

Maggie's Farm recommended this article asserting that all American fiction is a re-working of "The Pilgrim's Progress."
Whether and in what way Trump is a Christian, though, is far less important than the fact that he is instantly recognizable as the protagonist in a Christian drama: the lone avenger who stands up to the depraved powers of the world and calls them out for combat.
He draws a contrast with Ted Cruz, who was a preacher rather than a pilgrim.  The article closes with some of the usual damning-by-faint-praise, which I recognize in my own attitude toward the guy:
Donald Trump could be a character in a Frank Capra film or a Sinclair Lewis novel. He is our generation’s incarnation of Bunyan’s pilgrim. I do not mean that as praise (I never liked Bunyan, as it happens). That simply is the kind of people we Americans are, or rather the sort of people we have become at two and a half centuries’ distance from our Revolution. We never have succeeded in training an elite. Whenever an American elite finds itself in power it chokes on its own arrogance. I cheered Mr. Trump to victory in the last election out of disgust for the do-gooders and world-fixers of both the Republican and Democratic mainstreams. Now I wish him good luck. He’ll need all the luck he can get.

A Tale of Two TPPs

And on the subject of the TPP, the reporting on Trump's announcement of our withdrawal amused me highly.  There are a series of sniffy, chilly reports stating the bare fact of withdrawal, putting them in the most hostile context possible (even supplying more pictures of this weekend's thrilling pink-hat marches), barely mentioning the reaction of the union leaders at the occasion, and explaining carefully that lots and lots of labor leaders weren't present.  If they'd been able to find any labor leaders willing to issue thundering denunciations, I'm sure they'd have been glad too.  Apparently Bernie Sanders approves, anyway.

Zero Hedge, in contrast, quotes at length from the Teamsters' Jimmy Hoffa:
The following is a statement from Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa on President Donald Trump signing an executive order to formally withdraw the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership.
“Today, President Trump made good on his campaign promise to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. With this decision, the president has taken the first step toward fixing 30 years of bad trade policies that have cost working Americans millions of good-paying jobs.
“The Teamsters Union has been on the frontline of the fight to stop destructive trade deals like the TPP, China PNTR, CAFTA and NAFTA for decades. Millions of working men and women saw their jobs leave the country as free trade policies undermined our manufacturing industry. We hope that President Trump’s meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Jan. 31 opens a real dialogue about fixing the flawed NAFTA.
“We take this development as a positive sign that President Trump will continue to fulfill his campaign promises in regard to trade policy reform and instruct the USTR to negotiate future agreements that protect American workers and industry.”


HotAir points out that the Washington Post seems to have learned who Kate Steinle is, though it's still unwilling to mention her name. Here is the editorial board urging a bit of caution about D.C.'s anti-Trump pro-sanctuary-city public defender program to protect violent illegal aliens from unfair deportation by the Man:
In drafting the program’s fine print, however, D.C. officials should take care: It’s not just most undocumented immigrants facing legal travails who merit protections. So do ordinary Washingtonians . . . .
Nonetheless, it is worth bearing in mind the unhappy experience of some other so-called sanctuary cities, whose zeal to defy federal immigration authorities has at times defeated common sense. In the prime example, San Francisco officials in 2015 ignored a detainer, an official request from federal immigration officials seeking custody of an undocumented immigrant with a long record of drug offenses. The man should have been turned over to federal officials; instead, he was released. A few weeks later, he shot and killed a young woman strolling with her father on the waterfront.
"So do ordinary Washingtonians."  That sounds . . . that sounds almost like "America First." Next, we'll see union leaders praising Trump for deep-sixing the TPP, and after that a rain of frogs.

By the way, how is it that people hear "America First" and think it means "America Best, you're scum"?  When I'm bargaining with someone, I expect to put my interests first as I expect him to put his interests first.  If we're both happy with a compromise, great.  If he says he's not interested in a deal because, much as it may suit me, it doesn't do anything for him, I don't think, "Why, that boor.  He thinks he's better than me."  Unless, I suppose, he owed me reparations or something.

Vikings are the new Highlanders

Some folks in Scotland have what they apparently take to be a brilliant way of boosting tourism and trade: rebrand as a Nordic country.
The document points out that the north of Scotland is geographically closer to the Arctic than London and argues that taking on a Nordic identity would allow the country to “embed” itself more effectively within the Arctic community than presenting itself as a “near-Arctic” state.
As it happens, I have recently been re-reading Egil's Saga. Probably several of you have read it; for those who haven't, here's a quick summary.

Important parts of it take place in Scotland, as well as in Northumbria on the border regions, while Eric Bloodaxe is king out of Jorvik (or York, as it is now known, in a tributary relationship to the English king, having previously been king in Norway, but having had to flee). Egil fights against "the Scots," only they are led by a king named Olaf the Red, or Olaf Sigtryggsson, who also bears a Gaelic name, Amlaib Cuaran.

Lots of Scottish clans have explicit Viking links, too, such as the Clan Gunn.

So is Scotland Nordic, or is it Celtic? Well, it's both -- as is Ireland, where Brian Boru married a woman named Gormflaith, whose earlier husband was also named Olaf, and whose son was the same Sigtrygg Silkbeard that would later be forced to submit to Brian Boru after the battle of Clontarf.

In a way, I'm glad to see the interest in heritage. It's certainly an interesting heritage, as interesting as the Highlander heritage that would presumably be downplayed in order to advance the Viking heritage.

In another way, I wonder at this 'branding' exercise. It seems as if people take great care to choose their ancestors these days.

Reducing Regulations by 75%

In terms of numbers, or cost of compliance, or what? Anything would be good, really, but I think the best way to do it is to:

1) Issue an EO repealing all regulations and EOs since the election. Then,

2) Order all regulatory agencies that they can keep 1 regulation for every 3 they discard (and no new ones).

By the end of the year, that second order should say, any agency that hasn't met the target will be forced to meet it by having the first 3 of every 4 remaining regulations repealed. If you want a more orderly process than that, better get on it.

UPDATE: Following that, issue an order that the remaining 1 in 4 regulations go before Congress for an up-or-down vote, after which they too will be repealed. The ones Congress likes will become laws, and so won't need to be regulations. The ones they don't, well, we'll just have to do without them.

In a few easy steps, you'd recapture the legislative authority for the Legislative branch, and make the environment for new business in America better than it's been in a century.

A Piece for Cass

A philosopher writing in the New York Times writes on the dangers of contempt -- particularly for those out of power.
Trump and his supporters are responsible for much of our current glut of contempt, but they are hardly the only perpetrators of it. Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment qualifies as contempt, although her subsequent expression of regret undid some of its effects. Opponents of Trump have also directed plenty of contempt at both Trump himself — as we saw in some of the signs brandished at Saturday’s marches across the country — and at the people who voted for him, particularly rural voters without much education. Contempt has been injected into our public space from all sides.

Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to conclude that all expressions of contempt are equally bad. Contempt occurs in the context of social relationships that are themselves characterized by power differences.... It may seem as though the best response to Trump’s contempt is to return it in kind, treating him the same way he treats others. The trouble, though, is that contempt toward Trump does not function in the same way that his contempt toward others functions. Even if we grant that Trump deserves contempt for his attitudes and behaviors, his powerful social position insulates him from the worst of contempt’s effects. It is simply not possible to disregard or diminish the agency of the president of the United States. This means that contempt is not a particularly useful weapon in the battle against bigotry or misogyny. The socially vulnerable cannot wield it effectively precisely because of their social vulnerability.

The better strategy for those who are already disempowered is to reject contempt on its face. Returning contempt for contempt legitimizes its presence in the public sphere. The only ones who benefit from this legitimacy are the people powerful enough to use contempt to draw the boundaries of the political community as they see fit.
We'll see if people are prepared to listen to her. It's an instrumental argument -- the reason not to engage in contempt is not that it's morally wrong, but because it works to the opponent's advantage. That kind of argument might be more persuasive than a genuinely moral one, in a diverse nation with little remaining agreement on what (if anything) rightly grounds morality.

Of course, the problem with an instrumental argument like this is that it doesn't cut both ways. If the reason to avoid contempt is that it empowers Trump at the expense of others, then that's also a reason for Trump and his supporters to actively choose to use contempt. By the same token, it suggests that those who privately hold us in contempt should insist on universal respect only until they manage to come to power -- after which point, expressing their contempt for us becomes a useful tool for them.

UPDATE: An allied piece in the NYT: "Is It OK to Punch a Nazi?"

Women's March as Woodstock

Last night I spoke with a friend who went to the DC Women's March, and her description reminded me of that touchstone event from the 1960s. Organization was totally inadequate. Cell phone comms went down due to overstress. The march was canceled because, given the security barriers up for the Inauguration, there were too many people to physically do it in a safe manner. The mobs did it anyway, at great personal risk of stampede (fortunately avoided, but only by fortune). There wasn't adequate food, water, sanitation, transportation, or anything else.

I assume the people who went will be as proud of it as those who attended Woodstock were to have been there. Like Bilbo at the Battle of Five Armies -- his favorite experience to recount, Tolkien tells us, 'though he played little part in it' -- having endured and survived such a mass event will become not just a point of pride, but a permanent part of one's identity.

What will be interesting to see is how the anarchistic spirit of the event plays out in what is not an anarchist movement. Apparently women were violating all sorts of laws governing trespass, climbing monuments to decorate them (or 'deface' them, as opponents might say), and pushing security personnel into a defensive -- or defenseless -- stance by sheer numbers. Police couldn't use tear gas to control them without risking killing them by stampede, and the crowd was too full of women, children, and the elderly for that to be a conscionable risk. There was not enough jail space for so many protesters anyway. They did whatever they wanted, and though there were many men with guns, there was no one who would stop them.

That would be exhilarating for anyone, but especially for someone whose movement was directed at defiance of overweening government. What this movement will come to represent is unclear, but early inclinations are that at its heart are big-government aims. It wants a government that will guarantee that women are treated with courtesy and deference in the public space (as indeed these women really were, it should be noted, by the agents of the state). It wants a government that will enter into their relationships with employers to judge whether or not they are being paid fairly. Being built around Clinton's loss, it presumably wants the things she ran on: publicly-funded day care, family leave, health care.

In other words, it seems to want to be provided with a sense of safety and security. How sharply that contrasts with the pleasant and joyous anarchy it provoked for a few hours on Saturday afternoon.


I see from my morning email feed that Jim Geraghty has put into words just what I was fumbling towards:
Critics argued that the Tea Party movement was driven by a panoply of issues: opposition to Obamacare, outrage over the TARP bailouts, the threat of tax increases, the growth of government, concern about the national debt, among others. It was a fair criticism, but it was ultimately moot. Most members of the Tea Party unified around the idea of staunchly opposing what that guy in the Oval Office is doing.
The Women’s March on Washington Saturday certainly had its own smorgasbord of concerns: abortion rights, racial profiling, gay rights, opposition to deporting illegal immigrants, opposition to Islamophobia, workers’ right to organize, concern over global warming…
But as much as we on the right might chuckle at the contradictions – a lot of labor unions work in the industries that environmentalists would like to see shut down, and a lot of Muslims have views on gay rights that this movement would oppose – the people involved in Saturday’s marches will unify around the idea of staunchly opposing what that guy in the Oval Office is doing.
Fear is a powerful motivator; fear gets people’s butts up off their couches. When you have more people caring about what’s going on in Washington, you have more people who become interested in running for office. In 2010, Republicans suddenly had bushels of candidates – usually good ones – in places they rarely had one before: “After surpassing a goal to recruit 80 candidates in key races, Leader Boehner set a more ambitious objective of 100. At the end of the day, McCarthy and the team at the NRCC were able to help get a Republican on the ballot in 431 of the 435 House congressional districts.”
The Tea Party movement gift-wrapped a message for Republican candidates: Democrats in Congress had grown arrogant and out of touch, and were completely oblivious to the growing anger and dissatisfaction in their districts:
The townhall protests that erupted in August 2009 provided the first visible signs of the anger and frustration that Americans of all political parties were feeling. While Speaker Pelosi and other Democrat leaders criticized these citizens as “un-American,” the NRCC embraced the movement and highlighted the rude awakening that vulnerable Democrats were receiving with daily emails entitled “Recess Roastings.” Events held by Reps. Baron Hill (IN-09), Steve Driehaus (OH-01) and others became instant YouTube sensations and were proof that Democrats had a much bigger problem on their hands than they originally expected.
Throughout the Obama presidency, the Democrats desperately yearned for their own version of the Tea Party. They envied the crowds, the passion, the visible signs of grassroots opposition, cropping up across the country. You only demonize something if it matters.
It now appears that as the Trump presidency dawns, angry liberals are building something akin to the Tea Party movement. It will look different, it will be geographically concentrated in different areas, and of course, it will get much more sympathetic media coverage. But it will be there, and it could be a big factor in 2018 midterms. It’s also worth remembering that the Tea Party was ultimately a mixed bag for the Republican party. Yes, it brought them Mike Lee, Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio, Paul LePage, Trey Gowdy, Ron Johnson, etc., but it also brought Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Carl Paladino, and Richard Mourdock. An impassioned grassroots movement giveth, and an impassioned grassroots movement taketh away.
Geraghty's banner now reads: "Day Four of the Trump Presidency. Sky Status: Intact."

Death to the TPP

Something I've been advocating in this space for quite a while may actually happen. Don't forget that there is an exactly similar problem on the other side of the country with the T-TIP treaty.

I Have Wasted My Life

Only now, too late to begin to catch up, do I see the truth.

Heads Up, Sonny

Ways K12 Education Is Not a Free Market

Many times I have heard conservatives talk about K12 education as if it were a market, especially when the topic of school choice comes up.

I am completely in favor of school choice, but there are some important ways in which the market idea fails. If we want to talk about how to improve the situation, it might be useful to explore those ways.

First, education is mandated. In that way, it is like Obamacare. Parents cannot just opt out. If you want education to work like the free market, you have to let parents opt out, and you have to accept that some parents won't be able to afford to send their kids to school. Some kids won't get an education, just like not everyone can or wants to buy a Cadillac.

Second, public funding plays an essential role. As soon as you introduce public funding, including school choice vouchers, you are again not really dealing with a free market situation. However, if funding were attached to students, and students / families could choose which schools to attend, wouldn't that be analogous to a free market situation? Not as things stand now, because ...

Third, public and private schools do not follow the same regulations. If you really want to see how they stack up against each other, they need to follow the same rules. If we want improvement, we would let public schools act like private schools, meaning they don't have to take any given student, nor keep problem students, nor keep problem teachers. Here again, if you let every school decide not to take some students, you will end up with some students not getting any education.

How much we really want K12 education to be a free market depends in part on how determined we are to offer every child an education. The more like a free market we want it, the less we can insist that every child have the chance at an education.

So why am I in favor of school choice? Because we are stuck with a system that doesn't work for a lot of students. Until we pretty thoroughly overhaul our system, school choice is the best we can do.