Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Short: Who rigged the economy?

I was really hoping that I would get some good insights into how the economy was rigged from this article. After all, it's published on Vox, one of the better site for political analysis.

Alas, the article is a big disappointment. When I wonder which people are using the rules or gaming the system to enrich themselves, I think about politicians, developers, Wall Street types, etc. I was hoping to find out more about how they do it. Instead, this article points at these enemies of fair economics:

  • Dentists
  • Owners of beauty schools
  • Massage therapists
  • Arkansas and its laws on nurse practitioners
WTF? These are the people who have rigged the system so that there aren't many good jobs anymore? The author can't seriously expect me to believe this, can he?

Instead of this being a tell-all article, this reads like a low-rent libertarian rant against licensing. Such rants have their place, but licensure isn't what has rigged the economy. Come on!

Then I did a google check of the author, Will Wilkinson. Yep, he used to work for the Cato Institute. The article is exactly a low-rent libertarian rant. And I wasted my time reading it.

Short: Disenfranchised Texas voters

Finally I saw a number on how many voters had trouble getting acceptable IDs under the Texas voter ID laws. The number is 600K, or 4.5% of voters in Texas.

Then I read more closely, and that is an estimate by plaintiffs in the suit against the state law. They would probably want to overcount  rather than undercount the number affected.

Nonetheless, it's an interesting article on voter ID and remedies for those voters impeded by the voter ID requirements.

Image: soapblox.com

Friday, July 22, 2016

Apologizing for the US

This concept is so clear and easy in retrospect, that it's strange that I didn't realize it before.

It's traitorous, unpatriotic, or evil for US citizens to apologize for or acknowledge:

  • Unsavory business practices of some US companies, past or present.
  • Gingoistic claims by Americans.
  • Covert operations by Americans that have resulting in coups  and/or deaths in other countries.
  • Military actions by American troops that have resulted in civilian casualties and/or coups in other countries.
  • Torture that had been called 'enhanced interrogation.'
On the other hand, it's reasonable to apologize or express shame or remorse for:
  • Civil unrest by US minorities.
  • Shootings of police by US civilians.
  • Previous administrations asking other countries to recognize and honor human rights.
  • Any actions by those evil anti-American presidents, Democrats, liberals, pinkos, and (what the hell) fags. 
What prompted this observation? Donald Trump said this:
"I think right now when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it’s very hard for us to get involved in other countries when we don’t know what we are doing and we can’t see straight in our own country. We have tremendous problems when you have policemen being shot in the streets, when you have riots, when you have Ferguson. When you have Baltimore... When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger."

Edit, then cut and paste.
Image: 56packardman.wordpress.com

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cruz's splash at the GOP convention

In a nutshell, Ted Cruz, the runner-up in the GOP primary, was slated to speak at the convention. The big question was would he or wouldn't he endorse Trump. Or maybe that wasn't the big question. Maybe no one knew what he was going to do. Cruz has been overshadowed by other events lately: many ghastly shootings of and by police, the countdown to Trump's VP pick announcement, and plagiarism and clumsy denial by the Trump campaign.

So perhaps Cruz was flying under the radar, and people weren't thinking that he might do something dramatic. However, Cruz is Cruz, and he is a drama queen. His speech (per reports--I won't risk vomiting by watching it) was long and full of this usual appeals to righteous conservatism. The delegates, expecting an endorsement, were getting restless. Some started shouting for the endorsement. When Cruz finished the speech without giving an endorsement, he was widely and loudly booed.

It was interesting to me to read various speculations about this incident. Megan McArdle (whom I don't like) thinks that both Cruz and Trump will be hurt by this. Allahpundit at HotAir has a detailed analysis. Key people in Trump's campaign are going to wreak vengeance on Cruz, and it started with the show of him being vociferously booed. Today there are stories that Ted Cruz will be primaried for his senate seat.

I've read a bunch of opinions, and I can't remember them all. I certainly don't agree with those who think it was a masterful turn by Cruz, showing how he's brave and principled. It's certainly believable that Cruz was still angry over Trump's accusations against his wife and his father (the ludicrous story that Cruz's father was involved with Lee Harvey Oswald). I wouldn't forgive insults like that, but then I'm not an opportunist politician.

However, Cruz will suffer because he has again been aggressive and insufferable. He spit in the eye of the GOP delegates, and smiled as he walked away. He's done that before. (At a conference of Arab Christians, he ordered them to support Israel, and then ran out to thunderous booing.) With that kind of character flaw, Cruz will probably never round up enough support to win the presidency. Thank God for that!

Image: kwwl.com

Extras. All the links above are well worth reading. Here are a few others. The Federalist luvs Ted Cruz. Bernstein writes mostly about the chaos at the convention, but this is a great observation:
"Trump doesn't want to unite his party. He wants to bully it into submission. As Ted Cruz's performance showed, the Texas senator yields to no one in the bullying department."

Monday, July 18, 2016

Rant on our horrific choices

How crappy are the political conditions in the US that our choices are Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?

In one corner, we have battered Hillary Clinton. She and Bill wanted both money and political power, and they've cut lots of corners to get the money. While there are innumerable false complaints about them, there is plenty slime that they created and sticks to them. Here are some: Vince Foster (FALSE), cattle futures (LIKELY), monetarily motivated pardons (LIKELY), rapes by Bill (HYPED by GOP operatives), State Department favors in exchange for Clinton charity donations (SERIOUS AND PLAUSIBLE).

In the other corner, we have Donald Trump, a modern-day ringmaster with a circus of his own follies. One of his follies is starting to believe his own hype. He's said he's the only one who can fix the problems in the US, the Mideast, and probably the world. Who actually believes that kind of talk? Too many Americans, for one. Maybe half of Trump's supporters believe he has something special. Maybe the other half hope and pray that he'll bring some change to the constipated, blocked, inefficient government we now have. Yes, they hope Trump is the enema that the US needs.

What's especially sad is that these two were picked in competitive primaries. That means the other choices were too weak, too unpopular, or too weird to be chosen. Or perhaps our parties and our politics are frightening away the better candidates, or suppressing them, muzzling them, or turning them into cookie cutter clones.

I hope sometime in the next 10 years to have a candidate I really respect. At the rate we're going, that isn't going to happen, and the US will continue its slow slide down the tubes into mediocrity.

Complete Trump enema kit, backed by Trump University
Image: enemakit.com

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Four stories on the Dallas shootings

I'm deeply saddened by the shooting of police in Dallas during a friendly, non-violent protest against police shootings elsewhere.

We've seen this before--people taking out their hatred by mass killings. This time it was a black man who was angry with whites, particularly police. But daily it's someone angry with this group or other, or just angry at the world. This country isn't a land where everyone has to fear going outdoors because of the high level of violence (countries like Somalia, parts of Mexico, Honduras among others). But this is a glimpse of what it could be like.

The thread of civilization that prevents the general outbreak of such violence has become thinner, and there are more such violent incidents reported even as the overall murder declines. Can you imagine if half a dozen people in every medium-to-large city decided to do what this man did, and murder as many police as possible? What if two days later another person was doing the same thing in the same city?

Actually, now that I write this, I feel confident that our police forces could handle such a situation--that the number of violent people would run out long before our police were swamped. For that I'm very grateful.

After this long prologue, here are the stories:

So will this tragedy spur other angry people to act out, or will it make them rethink? I can't predict. However, I remember the Oklahoma City bombing, and how it was so horrific that it quieted the violence for a while. We can hope for that, but it would be so much better if five police officers didn't need to die for us to learn.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown
Image: fox4newscom

Update 7/11/16. A report of the radical black organizations that the shooter tried to join. None are as radical in tactics as the Black Panthers of 40 years ago, but Lakesia Washington of the Black Riders supports the shooter and the shooting.Update 

The way of a charlatan

This is from the book I'm currently reading on my kindle. It's about growing up in Nazi Germany:

"Smart question, my boy. Our beloved Fuehrer employs the technique of all charlatans who never produce anything. He could not produce a simple salami... So, he does what?"

... Karl ventured a guess, "He promises something?"

"Correct...When you are unable to deliver, you start promising."

For those who haven't gotten the meaning yet, I'm thinking about a presidential candidate who promises to build a border wall, make Mexico pay for it, bring back good jobs to the US, and we will win, WIN, WIN.

Now, in a book about Nazism, I've found the simple words to show what he is and whose footsteps he follows. I think I'll be repeating this on comment pages on the internet. For me, it was electrifying to read this.

Image: crowsnestpolitics.com

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Headline that breaks its promise

Should we hope? Here was the headline:

GOP Close To Dumping Trump As Coup Plotters Near Votes Needed To Cause Nomination Chaos

Then I read the article, and found out that it's about how many members of the rules committee were considering submitting a rule change to unlock delegates. Twenty said they were considering it, and they need 28 to get the rules committee to discuss the change.

That doesn't sound close to 'dumping Trump' to me.

 Image: thedailybeast.com

Monday, July 4, 2016

Supreme Court stubs out abortion ban via regulation

When you can't get what you want by fair play, we can always resort to other methods. So it was with the State of Texas. The majority of legislators want to ban abortion, but certain Supreme Court decisions stand in their way.

Enter a different idea: cloak your ban in the guise of health-based regulations. Since we're already drowning in regulations, it's a common method of changing practice, so why not? It's not that hard to lie about the real reasons for the regulation, like pretending that abortion is more dangerous than childbirth and causes more death than the low death toll from colonoscopies.

So Texas passed its regulations (after an unsuccessful filibuster by Wendy Davis). Lots of abortion clinics closed down, but at least one sued. The case went up to the Supreme Court, where Anthony Kennedy, typically conservative justice, called bullshit on the regulations. Well, they were bullshit, so I'm glad that he didn't play along. Kennedy has called bullshit on other issues too, including the idea that same sex marriage is dangerous to the institution of marriage and family.

Three cheers for Justice Kennedy!

How far you have to travel in Texas
Image: vocativ.com

Short: 'Fix the Debt' is fixed

A great article from Jonathan Chait about a pro-deficit reduction group that is strangely biased towards whatever the GOP offers. Chait takes apart the GOP proposal and Fix-the-Debt's incongruous support of it.

The GOP gets credit for being deficit hawks, but it doesn't deserve 95% of this credit. Sure, they propose cuts here and there, but their major actions have been 1) to stymie systemic reform of the budget and 2) enact deficit-growing tax cuts.

The article has some pointed recent history. It's a good reminder, as history usually is.

New slogan, same old.
Image: yourhoustonnews.com

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Trump finally starts running against Hillary--SPLAT!

Donald, with his usual grandiose bragging and blather,' implied that he was beating Hillary, and that he hadn't "even started yet."

As of June 22, he has now started. He gave a speech about Hillary and "the stakes in this election." It was the usual bragging from Donald. The country's a mess, but it can be fixed, but "only by [him]." Yes, he actually claimed that, but it's so typical that he thinks he is the savior. (Look here at the transcript.) Too bad he's so unclear how he'll do this without causing trade wars-- possibly even global instability on the order of our last massive recession.

What's funny about his speech is how many of his complaints about Hillary also apply to him:

  • "Hillary Clinton who, as most people know, is a world class liar..." (Trump thinks he's world class in everything, so just add 'liar' to the list, since he's deserving.)
  • "Hillary Clinton has perfected the politics of personal profit and theft." (Trump has done with with his various businesses, including casinos, real estate developments where he cashed in and others lost their investments, and, of course, Trump U.)
  • "She made $21.6 million giving speeches to Wall Street banks and other special interests – in less than 2 years – secret speeches that she does not want to reveal to the public. (How about Trump and his secret tax returns?)
  • "But she doesn't have the temperament or ... the judgement, to be president." (Trump talking about temperament and judgment? Hahahaha.)
  • "Hillary Clinton gave China millions of our best jobs, and effectively let China completely rebuild itself." (Oh my God! It wasn't the corporations who shipped jobs overseas, it was Hillary!)
  • "But Hillary Clinton learned nothing from Iraq, because when she got into power,she couldn’t wait to rush us off to war in Libya." (First, the war in Libya started as a revolt by Libyans, Second, Trump claims to have a different way to fight wars, and win oil, that's so much better--if you believe in him and fairy dust.)

I can't wait for the commercials blasting Trump. He provides so much ammunition. We'll probably get a dozen reasons not to support him each week, and still not run out of fodder.

Image: slate.com

Extra. Another author's take on the same speech. Very readable and worthwhile.