Sunday, March 18, 2018

Hillary's Excuses

While in India, Hillary Clinton explained her 2016 loss to Donald Trump as coming from the backward, sexist, racist part of the country.

If you look at the map of the United States, there is all that red in the middle, places where Trump won. What that map doesn't show you is that I won the places that own two thirds of America's Gross Domestic product. I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward. And his whole campaign, Make America Great Again, was looking backwards. You don't like black people getting rights, you don't like women getting jobs, you don't want to see that Indian American succeeding more than you are, whatever that problem is, I am going to solve it.

She also said that she lost white women because of men.

We do not do well with white men and we don't do well with married, white women. And part of that is an identification with the Republican Party, and a sort of ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should.

What to make of this, besides too much chardonnay?

First, it's likely that Hillary has been saying this in private for some time and it became so natural to her that she slipped and said it in public. It's happened before. When she made her Basked of Deplorables speech in 2016, sources admitted that she'd been saying that for some time but only in private fund-raisers, not in public.

Does Hillary actually believe that the majority of white women in this country are so cowed that they vote, in private, as they've been instructed by bosses and sons? This seems a little delusional but, yes, she probably believes this.

This is really part of a trend among the Democrats that goes back to the 2004 book, What's the Matter With Kansas? This book held that the Democrats' policies were best for the people of Kansas but, because of Republican distractions, they were enticed to vote against their own best interests. In other words, Democrats didn't need to change their policies, they just needed to package them better.

Hillary's take of that in 2016 was that half (or more) of Trump's supporters were never going to vote for her because they were terrible, terrible people. Now she's refined that. She was obviously the best candidate and it was the duty of women to vote for her but all of those men wouldn't let them. This lets Hillary off the hook. She doesn't have to face that she was a bad candidate who ran a bad campaign with no real message. It wasn't her fault, it was those deplorables.

The only real question is how much of the Democratic party shares that viewpoint?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Blue Wave?

The president's party nearly always loses seats in Congress on mid-term elections so the Democrats can count on picking up some seats this year. In addition, they've won a number of special elections. In addition, Democrats are counting on President Trump dragging down the Republican party and turning a the election into a wave one where the Democrats take both houses with a commanding majority.

I've written about this before but it's time for an update.

First, the idea that Trump will drag down the Republican Party isn't new. Two years ago Trump was the Democrats preferred candidate because they expected him to drag down his party then. Granted the Republicans saw some small losses but there was no wave. Trump is unlikely to deliver Congress a wave election this time, either.

 Early polling looked promising. Trump was at a historic low and generic Democrats were way ahead of generic Republicans. That lead has collapsed. Trump is doing much better (or was before a pair of post-shooting polls came out). Worse, the generic Democrat is barely ahead of the generic Republican. Democrats usually poll better than they do in elections so that might put generic Republicans in the lead.

I've pointed out before that the Senate is going to be very difficult for the Democrats. They are defending a lot of seats, ten of them in states that Trump carried and they last ran with Obama at the top of the ticket so they will be running without his coattails to help them.

The biggest problem that the Democrats have is one of their own making: they hate Trump and everything he stands for and can't understand anyone thinking otherwise. They are still in their bubble so they have no idea of the national mood. They have convinced themselves that there is no need to appeal to moderate voters. They are sure that the key to victory is to move even further left.

The Democrats opposed the tax cuts, lying about who would be affected. As people found that they are benefiting from the tax cuts, they have become more popular. That will hurt Democrats who plan on running against the tax cuts.

The Democrats were also running to defend the "Dreamers". This is risky. They forced a government shutdown then caved on it after only one weekday. Most likely they realized that this was not a major issue for voters. President Obama's DACA program is being fought over in the courts with there being some question about the current president being able to rescind his predecessor's executive order. This will probably end up being heard by the Supreme Court and that drains the issue of all urgency.

The Russian probe has failed to produce anything and will probably continue to disappoint.

After the Valentines Day shootings, Democrats are hoping to ride a wave of outrage over "common sense gun control". They let loose the first volley, tweeting that "blood is on the Republicans' hands" as soon as the massacre happened. This may or may not help them. The election is a long ways away and it's hard to keep up the level of outrage needed to motivate voters that long. This is even more true of the #MeToo movement.

The #MeToo movement has other problems. It assumes that most women have been harassed and is trying to harness their outrage but, outside of the bubble, this may not be a big issue. That's a problem with the bubble, it makes it hard to know what resonates with people outside of it.

The gun control issue may end up hurting them in the long-run. There are lots of single-issue gun rights voters and they are most common in the red states that the Democrats can't afford to lose. They also have long memories.

The last time the Democrats took Congress they made a point of recruiting moderate candidates, the Blue Dog Democrats. That's not happening this time. The party has adopted a rigid set of litmus tests and no one is immune from them. To most of the country, Dianne Feinstein is far-left but the party refused to endorse her because she's not far enough left. The democrats run a real risk of moving so far to the left that they lose seats instead of gaining them.

They have also become anti-religion and anti-free speech along with anti-gun. Evangelicals and Catholics voted for Trump out of self-preservation. The Democrats are making no moves whatsoever to reach out to these voters.

A booming economy will hurt the Democrats in general although it does allow them to use wedge issues that seem irrelevant during economic troubles. Korea is the only real foreign issue right now. As long as it continues to simmer it will not effect the election but actual hostilities might be an issue.

The Democrats' biggest problem is themselves. They are assuming that Trump will do all of the hard work for them and that all they have to do is sit back and be elected, no matter the candidate. They still have a good chance at some gains but they are taking them for granted.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Blood Libels and the Attack on Guns

Immediately after the shooting in Florida on Valentine's Day, the left began flooding social media with the message that the Republicans had blood on their hands for not passing "common sense gun control" that would have stopped the shooting. This was before any details had come out about the shooting.

Even now that some details have been released, there is no real examination of the various proposals to see if they would have made a difference. The Washington Post's fact checker looked into a dozen shootings since Sandy Hook and agreed that none of the "common sense proposals" would have stopped them.

One proposal that I keep hearing is raising the age for buying AR-15-style guns to 21 or higher. This is based on the fact that Cruz, the Florida shooter, is 19 and, reportedly, bought several AR-15s in the last year. There have even been several false claims that it's easier to buy a gun than cough syrup. But no one seems to be really looking at the facts. They are pushing an anti-gun narrative and hoping that no one stops to examine the facts.

Here's an inconvenient fact: Cruz is 19 but he was showing people an AR-15 and pistols that he owned in 2016. So he owned guns before he was 18. Most likely his parents bought them for him. So much for raising the age for buying these rifles.

People keep focusing on the AR-15 as if keeping Cruz from owning would have prevented the tragedy. But he also owned pistols. The Virginia Tech shooter only used pistols and he killed 32 (plus himself) and shot another 17. In close quarters, a pistol is as deadly as a rifle and easier to aim. Pistols are also much lighter. Depending on configurations, Cruz could have carried 2-5 pistols for the same weight as an AR-15. The point is that we have no idea if the body count would have been lower or higher if Cruz had been denied the use of an AR-15.

What is not being discussed is how to close the loopholes that Cruz fell through. He was well known to the police. Neighbors said that the police visited him around every other week. He exhibited numerous classic signs of a sociopath including violent behavior and abusing animals. It's possible that he was given a pass because of a Florida program to avoid incarcerating minorities (his adopted name, "Cruz" is enough to qualify him for that).

But the Democrats don't want to talk about real solutions that might have stopped this shooting. They want outrage that will lead to anti-gun legislation and give them an issue in November.

Note: Yes, the term "blood libel" usually refers to the claim that Jews killed Christian children and used their blood in Passover rites but the term also means a false claim that someone's blood is on someone's hands.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Best and Worst Presidents of My Lifetime

It's President's Day which originally was Washington's Birthday but then they combined Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays into a single holiday and moved it to Monday. Anyway, it's an excuse to name the best and worst presidents of my lifetime. I'm only including them because I don't have personal experience with any others and it still covers a 60+ year spread.

I'm not going to include Trump. He's only 13 months into his presidency. I'm going to skip Ford for the same reason. He wasn't in long and didn't have much impact. I'm including JFK because he completed most of his term and did have an impact.

First off, the best president is Reagan. There were problems during his administration, mainly Iran/Contra, where he openly defied Congress. There were some other mistakes but he changed the course of politics. It shows how influential he was that Barack Obama was openly musing about being a similarly transformative president in 2008. When Reagan came to office in 1981 the country was a mess. We were in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression (in some ways it was worse than the Great Recession). The Soviet Union was expanding and the military contracting. People didn't feel very good about America. Reagan kicked off the longest peacetime economic expansion in history, put in place policies that ended the Soviet Union and left America feeling good about itself again.

So, onto the worst.

Eisenhower was competent. JFK is a mixed bag. He gave us the space program. He didn't advance civil rights as far as he could have and he got us into Viet Nam, although in a limited way.

LBJ's administration is even more mixed. Where JFK dipped his toe into Viet Nam, LBJ jumped in with both feet. He gave us Medicare and Medicaid and expanded Social Security. All of those programs are popular but none of them are sustainable in the long-term. The most important civil rights advances came during his administration and he was more supportive of them than he is given credit for.

Nixon's a very special case. He continued LBJ's expansion of government with such things as the National Endowment for the Arts and for the Humanities. He expanded Viet Nam before getting us out. He opened relations with China. He was reelected in a landslide, winning 49 states. But he managed to get himself impeached and he always was hated by a significant portion of the population. He also oversaw the beginnings of the economic problems that dominated the 1970s.

Ford replaced Nixon and Carter replaced Ford, coming in with overwhelming approval ratings. He was not up to the job. Inflation soared, unemployment remained too high and eventually the economy crashed hard. He continued Ford's "detente" with the USSR which led to Soviet expansion. The friendly Shaw of Iran was overthrown and Carter helped place a constitutionally elected government in place only to see it overthrown and a theocracy set up in its place which is still a problem. After that, "students" with the support of the government overran the American embassy and took the staff hostage for months. The only good thing to come out of the Carter administration was the Camp David Accords which Carter facilitated between Israel and Egypt.

I've already ranked Reagan as best, so skipping on to Bush 41...

It's not unusual for a sitting vice president to run and finish in a close race. Bush won in a landslide. He was a competent president but seemed out of touch and a minor recession was enough for him to lose reelection.

We saw mild but steady growth under Clinton punctuated by the tech bubble. Near the end of his term, Clinton rated himself as a solid B president and was hoping to raise his score with a diplomatic victory like the Camp David Accords. This eluded him so he remains a B.

Bush 43 is another mixed bag. The economy did fairly well under him and he was far more moderate than he's given credit for being. 9/11 was not his fault but his response to it was questionable. There's no question that we needed to overthrow Afghanistan in order to break up al Qaeda. Similarly, we'd never actually ended hostilities with Iraq before Bush toppled the country. In both cases, his administration discovered that it's far easier to overthrow a government than it is to set up a stable replacement. If he'd taken the route that Obama did in Libya and left the two countries alone then both would probably be failed states and humanitarian disasters but Bush would be held in higher esteem. Similarly, if Bush had had a 3rd term then he might have managed to clean up his messes. He managed to turn Iraq around and stabilize it by the end of his presidency. While Obama takes credit for saving the economy, the crisis actually came during Bush's last months and he stabilized it before leaving office.

On to Obama. He took office during the worst downturn since Reagan, possibly since FDR. While he didn't mess up the recovery, he didn't help it, either. We had the slowest post recession growth since FDR, probably for the same reasons - expanding government. The stimulus package didn't stimulate. Obamacare was unpopular and had to be propped up by (unconstitutional) executive orders. Obama was handed a stable Iraq and managed to mess it up by pulling all of our troops out and not taking ISIS seriously. Obama was determined to sign a treaty with Iran and allowed the Syrian civil war to grow into a humanitarian crisis rather than offend Iran. He mocked Romney for calling Russia our most important geopolitical rival. He called his Korean policy "strategic patients" but it really amounted to kicking the can down the road. He was part of the overthrow or Libya and allowed it to sink into a failed state humanitarian crisis. The rule of law saw severe hits as his administration expanded executive and administrative reach. After saying dozens of times that he didn't have the power to allow "dreamers" to stay, he did it anyway. Title IX was similarly stretched to the breaking point. The public had been polarizing for years but this accelerated under Obama. We have the most turbulent times since the 1960s but no war and no civil rights movement to explain it. People are just polarized and angry and the Obama administration fed this. The IRS was weaponized under Obama, delaying applications for groups they disapproved of for years while approving favorable groups in a few weeks. The Justice Department may well have been politicized, too, as information is leaked out about the handling of confidential messages on Hillary Clinton's private email server.

So, who's the worst of this bunch? The finalists are Clinton and Obama. Both left the country worse off than when they took office. Carter was at a loss on how to handle the sky-high inflation. Obama never figured out why the economy was growing less than 2% when it should have been growing more than 3%. Carter was at a loss to stop the spread of communism in South America. Under Obama, we saw more than half of the youth decide that communism is better than capitalism.

For now I'll name Obama as the worst president. Carter was out of his depth but Obama was actively trying to undermine his government and country.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Mass Shootings and Magical Thinking

Like clockwork, a shooting happens and there's a demand to ban "military grade" assault weapons. If only these guns weren't available, then no one would ever be harmed again.

This is magical thinking. It assumes that inanimate objects somehow entice people to violence and that they would be peaceful without these totems at hand. Let's look at some facts.

First, all of these mass killings are really copy cat crimes stemming from Columbine. We had occasional mass murders before that but it's become increasingly common since Columbine. With each killing there is days of news coverage. This convinces unhappy individuals that they can go out in a blaze of glory.

Second, the use of guns and specifically assault weapons is accidental but feeds into the copycat nature of these acts.

The Columbine killers did not plan on shooting their way into the school then killing each other. Their plan was much, much worse. They planted a bomb based on a propane tank in the lunch room. It was timed to go off when the lunch room had the most people in it and there was a good chance that it would have also killed the people in the library above the cafeteria. The guns and pipe bombs were for killing the people who survived the bomb. When the bomb failed, they entered the school, shooting people along the way and tried to detonate the bomb by hand. When that failed, they killed each other. If they had succeeded then we'd be having school bombings instead of shootings.

The so-called assault weapon was banned for a while but the ban was allowed to expire because this class of gun is almost never used in crimes. Assault weapons are a subset of rifles and more people are killed with knives than with all rifles put together.

The assault weapon was another accident. This one came from Sandy Hook. The killer there wasn't able to buy guns but his mother was an avid shooter. He killed her then used her gun to massacre children in a school. Before that, most mass shootings were with pistols. A pistol is a better weapon for this. It is easier to conceal, you can easily carry more than one, and they are easier to aim in close quarters. But the Sandy Hook shooter used a Bushmaster AK-47 and the news reported it as the gun of choice for mass murderers.

Note - the Las Vegas shooter was an unusual one. He was shooting into a crowd from a building. The bump stock he used would be worthless in any other situation.

So, disturbed people do copy cat crimes using copycat methods. But there's any number of ways for an evil person to kill people. Bombs are fairly easy to make. Simply setting fires can be deadly. Attacks in Europe have shown that a large truck can be more deadly than a gun.

So far, the mass killers have been copying each other instead of copying terrorists but there's no guarantee that will continue. In the meantime, blaming the gun instead of the person behind it is an exercise in futility.

Friday, February 16, 2018

It Happened Again (and they reacted according to script)

On Valentine's Day, a shooter killed 17 people in a Florida school. I really wish the response from the Left didn't come across as: "Thank heavens we have a new issue! DACA wasn't working for us any more."

The initial reaction was "Republicans have blood on their hands." Why? At the point they said that they had no idea of any of the "common sense gun control" measures they want to pass would have made a difference. Yes, the shooter used an AR-15-style rifle but there's nothing magic about them. At short range, pistols might have been more deadly.

It was widely spread that this was the 28th school shooting this year. Bernie Sanders, who is trying to establish a record on gun control after Hillary painted him as pro-gun, tweeted the figure. It came from Anytown USA and is therefore suspect. While most people think that a "school shooting" means students shot or killed, Anytown counts any time a gun is discharged in a school or a school event. Most of the "shootings" on Anytown's list were harmless.

There was also a rush to assign the blame to outside influences. Social media claimed that the shooter had Antifa and ISIS messages. A news service reported that he'd tried to join a white supremacist group without verifying the person making the claim (he lied).

I've already seen charts showing a correlation between mass shootings and availability of guns. These appear to show a cause and effect but they leave out a few important details. Americans have always been heavily armed but mass shootings are a fairly recent phenomena and the murder rate has been dropping even as the number of guns expands. My guess is that the copy-cat factor is the biggest reason for all of the mass shooting.

There is also a general mockery of anyone who used the phrase "thoughts and prayers" without proposing some action, no matter how irrelevant. This is disgusting opportunism.

The Left needs to stop pointing fingers at the right and look at its own sins. Their response to a tragedy shouldn't be opportunism.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

The Problem With Fake News

A few weeks ago the Republican Party ran a list of the ten worst examples of fake news for 2017 (one of these was actually an election night tweet from 2016). The Washington Post fact checkers promptly gave this list a Pinocchio rating on the bases that 7 of the 10 had issued corrections or apologized. Sorry, WaPo but it doesn't work that way. While it's true that the news media makes mistakes all the time and issues corrections later, that is not an excuse for these. None of these represented breaking news like a fire or shooting. They were all events that happened some time before the story broke but were released before all the facts were known. There is no good reason to release stories like this (there is a bad reason: stories that embarrass President Trump sell papers/increase rating and the various media are afraid of being scooped). There are several problems with running a story then issuing a correction or retracting the story later.

The biggest problem is that the corrections are never given as much play as the original story. Sometimes they correction is tacked onto the end of the story. Other times the story is quietly withdrawn without notice. Corrections are never given the same sensational headlines. Worse, many people hear about these stories from other sources than the original. I first heard the story that candidate Trump had ordered Michael Flynn to meet with the Russians through Facebook. I never saw anyone sharing the retraction that it was president-elect Trump who ordered the meeting and it was about sanctions against Israel, not about winning the election. The Trump-haters who gleefully share anything that looks bad for the President never bother to share the retractions or corrections (assuming they even hear about them).

A second problem is that all of these stories create false memories. Even if people see the corrections later they are still likely to remember that there had been some scandal involving the President and Russia (or whatever the story was). The stead drumbeat of Trump/Russia stories gives the impression that there is something to them. A reasonable person would assume that this constant barrage of stories is a "where there's smoke there's fire" situation. To date, there are no credible stories about Russian collusion.but a recent poll indicated that half the country believes that such an event took place.

What else can you call it when the news media has convinced half of the public that something happened with no proof? It's Fake News.

And no, the President calling out the media on the false reporting they do does not make him an autocrat.