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Because Everything is Awful

In the last election cycle, I ran a five-part series on the Presidential campaign detailing my feelings of the case for and against each candidate. I’m contemplating doing that again, if there’s interest. But it’s really hard to write something positive about these two jokers. Here’s a summary of what our Presidential candidates have been up to for the last few days:

Donald Trump attacked a fire marshall for enforcing fire code, responded angrily to the gold star father who criticized him at the DNC rally (saying, among other things, that’s he’s sacrificed for our country) and said he would support a $10 minimum wage. Oh, and he’s ready to sell out the Ukraine.

Clinton, meanwhile, gave an acceptance speech that went over like a lead balloon and was filled with trillions of dollar in promises. And this morning, she claimed that the e-mail investigation vindicated her:

This is the complete opposite of what Comey said. In his announcement to not indict, he specifically called out multiple Clinton falsehoods (e.g., no classified e-mails were compromised). Wikileaks is also hinting at more leaks from both the DNC and the Clinton campaign itself. Apparently the Democrats think cyber-security is locking the door to your server room.

Sometime in the future, we’re going to find a document signed in blood on which a drunk Clinton and a blazed Trump wrote down their pact to make the 2016 election the worst ever. It’s almost like they’re trying to outdo each other, to see just how awful a candidate they can be and still get elected. Right now, Trump has the lead on pure insanity. But Clinton is highly competitive in the sleazy socialist category.

By the time November rolls around, there won’t be enough alcohol out there to keep the nation sane.

The DNC’s National Grabfest

So far, the DNC has been … interesting. There’s been some drama with die hard Bernie supporters walking out and protests outside (more protests and more violent protests than we saw at the supposedly fascist RNC). DWS was booed out of the city. On the other hand, Bernie endorse Hillary. Michelle Obama’s speech was well-received. And Bill Clinton gave a nice rambling folksy speech last night. Support is slowly solidifying behind Clinton.

It’s almost enough to make you forget that the Democrats have rolled out one of the most radically Leftists agendas in modern political history.

Either through the platform or through speeches, the Democrats have called for trillions in new spending: free college, more healthcare, a public option, a $15 minimum wage, public funding for abortions, expanded Social Security, free pre-K, more money for schools, more money for “infrastructure”, more money for “alternative energy”, trade restrictions. They’ve had several speakers tonight talk about gun control — not the “expanded background checks” stuff they’ve talking about, but real gun-grabbing radicalism. They’ve blasted Citizen’s United (which involved a movie that had the temerity to criticize their candidate) and billionaires buying elections (even though the Koch Brothers are sitting this out while Soros has given $25 million to Clinton). Everything they’ve said so far — every single thing — has been about expanding government power. You have heard almost no advocacy for less government or more freedom.

Really, you could see it all in Michelle Obama’s speech. It was well-delivered. It was passionate. It was the right combination of fire and ice. And it was scary as hell. Because all she talked about was how we need to select a President who will “shape our children” over the next 4-8 years. Shaping our children is not the job of the damned President. That’s what we have a society for. The job of the President is to enforce the laws and keep the Canadian hordes from sweeping down through our cities. The President should be a role model. But asking him to “shape our children” is like asking the electric company to fold your laundry: it’s not their damned job.

Ordinarily, this would be a death-knell for the Democrats. And maybe it still will be — Trump is currently ahead in the polls. But I fear we are about to cement into American politics the idea of government as mother, government as father, government as savior, government as protector, government as provider. After two decades of pushing the country toward freer markets and greater prosperity, we are poised to plunge into a socialist abyss.

(I’m very curious to see where Trump goes on these issues. He has already conceded on Medicare. He has, in the past, expressed support for taxes on wealth and socialized medicine. He’s been kind of all over the map on abortion and gun control. One harbinger to watch for: what he says about the minimum wage in the debates. If he concedes that, he’s giving up the whole agenda.)

The most important, as I keep saying, is that the Republicans hold onto Congress. With Congress, they can stop most of Clinton’s agenda and perhaps set up a 2016 resurgence. But if they lose both houses and the White House, Clinton could do irreparable damage.

Trump the Traitor? Nah

Ugh, again? Here I was, preparing to dump all over the Democrat’s convention, the convention of Upworthy as Jesse Walker has dubbed it. And then the Trump-meister says this:

The New York business magnate and GOP presidential nominee held a news conference at which he criticized his Democratic rival and promised better of US-Russian relations under a Trump administration.

“I have nothing to do with Russia,” said the candidate, who frequently asserts he will get Putin’s respect. Trump said he had never met or spoken to the Russian leader, but he cast doubt over accusations that Moscow was behind a hack of Democratic Party e-mails that embarrassed the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“If it is Russia, which it probably isn’t, but if it is Russia, it’s bad for a different reason, it shows how little respect they have for our country,” said Trump in reference to the e-mail hack.

He then referenced Clinton’s scandal involving her use of a personal e-mail server during her time as secretary of state, and the more than 30,000 messages that she deleted on grounds they were personal and not related to her government job function.

“I will tell you this, Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” Trump said.

The Democrats and much of the media are jumping all over this, criticizing Trump for inviting a foreign power to hack a political rival. And I have to agree. Even if you argue that this was more of an off-the-cuff remark and Trump was merely saying the Russians should release e-mails — an assessment I think is probably accurate — he was still making light of a foreign power influencing our politics. It’s not “treason” but it’s the sort of thing you shouldn’t be doing when dealing with someone as dangerous as Putin.

However … I wish we could get some consistency on this kind of thing. Because whatever you think of Trump’s remark, it’s kind of small potatoes compared to this:

Picking his way through the Soviet archives that Boris Yeltsin had just thrown open, in 1991 Tim Sebastian, a reporter for the London Times, came across an arresting memorandum. Composed in 1983 by Victor Chebrikov, the top man at the KGB, the memorandum was addressed to Yuri Andropov, the top man in the entire USSR. The subject: Sen. Edward Kennedy.

“On 9-10 May of this year,” the May 14 memorandum explained, “Sen. Edward Kennedy’s close friend and trusted confidant [John] Tunney was in Moscow.” (Tunney was Kennedy’s law school roommate and a former Democratic senator from California.) “The senator charged Tunney to convey the following message, through confidential contacts, to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Y. Andropov.”

Kennedy’s message was simple. He proposed an unabashed quid pro quo. Kennedy would lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet leader would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. “The only real potential threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations,” the memorandum stated. “These issues, according to the senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign.”

Kennedy did not just challenge the Soviets to embarrass his political rival. He offered a list of specific things he would do to advance their agenda. He would visit Moscow and give them information about our politics. He would arrange for Andropov to have interviews with American media. And Kennedy would lever this “thawing” to lead opposition to Reagan and, hopefully, put himself in the White House in 1988. He essentially wanted to conduct his own foreign policy of detente.

This was far more serious than Trump’s gaffe today but the media ignored it and have continued to ignore it for years. Just as they pretended Hillary Clinton’s deleted e-mails were a big bowl of nothing and are now OUTRAGED that Trump would suggest the Russians release them. It’s political opportunism at its rankest.

So, yeah, I’ll be happy to blast Trump for suggesting, even jokingly, that a foreign power hack his political rival and influence American politics. But I will also blast Ted Kennedy and the fifth column within the Democratic Party that he represented. Because I don’t see this as yet another tool to bash the other party with.

DWS Out

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, known in these parts as Ms. Verbal Diarrhea, has apparently resigned from heading the DNC. This is a fallout of the hacked e-mails which shows the DNC trying very hard to favor Clinton and run down Sanders in the primaries. I suspect it was the condition of keeping Sanders in the tent.

I’m not surprised. But I am somewhat disappointed. Schultz was one of the best things that ever happened to the Republicans. Under her leadership, the Republicans retained control of both Houses of Congress, the majority of State Houses, many key Governorships and were poised to take the White House before they nominated a hamster.

Trumps’ NATO Comments

So before I hose the RNC slime out of my brain in preparation for bashing the Democrats this week, I want to focus on what must be on the dumbest and most dangerous things Trump has said so far.

He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back.

For example, asked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

Hot Air has the full transcript of the interview and this is not a misquote. Trump says he doesn’t want Putin to know what he’d do and then waffles on defending NATO nations that haven’t “paid their bills” (which is rich, coming from a man who has routinely stiffed contractors). The issue of NATO nations contributing more to their defense is legitimate; waffling on whether we would defend them if attacked is … not.

Trump defenders are saying he would defend the Baltics since they are up to date. But Gingrich said the Baltics weren’t worth a war. And the Trump defenders are ignoring the biggest problem with Trump’s remarks: it’s not about whether he would defend the Baltic or not; it’s about the uncertainty he is creating in a volatile region.

Trump has done this repeatedly on foreign policy, refusing to give straight answers to straight questions because, he says, he wants to be “unpredictable”.

“Unpredictability” is a good thing if you’re the Offensive Coordinator for Ohio State. It’s a bad thing in foreign policy. It’s a very bad thing. Because uncertainty about the US’s intentions and actions encourages bad actors to act badly. It encourages aggressors to test our resolve. Many of the bloodiest conflicts of the Cold War erupted because the Communists didn’t know if we’d support our allies.

Morrissey again, from the link above:

This kind of talk from prospective Commanders-in-Chief is no mere academic or political exercise; it’s actively dangerous. In fact, one needs no better example than the fumbled diplomacy of the George H. W. Bush administration in regard to Kuwait and Iraq, and that didn’t even involve Bush directly. As Hussein built up forces along the Kuwait border in the summer of 1990, the Bush administration seemed to go out of its way to express its indifference.

All of the incentives for Putin are set up for another “liberating” action, except for the fact that the US has pledged to act to defend the Baltic states militarily. One can argue that Putin’s expansionism has been set in motion in part through the vacillation and incompetence of the Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton “reset” policies with Russia and doubts about Obama’s intestinal fortitude after the Syrian “red line” retreat. But at least Obama has never publicly suggested that we would fail to honor Article V in Europe itself.

Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia have already done quite a bit for us lately. Anyone aspiring to lead the US shouldn’t have to have that, or the ramifications of a retreat from Article V, explained to them on the campaign trail.

We want the world to know what we will do. We want them to know we will defend our allies. We want them to know we will respond when attacked. We want them to know that we will not tolerate bald aggression. We want the response of the world’s most powerful nation to be as predictable as the sun rising in the East. Because that keeps bad actors at bay. If aggressive leaders know that our response will be quick, decisive and overwhelming, that makes them far less likely to challenge us.

We know this. Republicans know this. If Hillary Clinton or John Kerry or Barack Obama had said anything like this, the Right would be going apeshit (and, to be fair, many conservatives like Morrissey are).

This is what I mean when I say that Trump could start a war by accident. It’s not just that he’s inexperienced and ignorant; it’s that he’s shown absolutely no interest in becoming unignorant. Trump has been running for President for a year and been the presumptive nominee for months. He should know more about these issues than … well … than I do.

This problem is only going to propagate. This week, we are going to see the DNC roll out one of the most breathtakingly socialistic platforms we have ever seen from a major candidate: public option, expanded Medicare, expanded Medicaid, “free” college, $15 minimum wage, “free” daycare, “free” pre-K, expanded Social Security. It is possible to turn the public against a candidate offering them a boatload of free stuff. But it takes skill and knowledge. I have seen little evidence that Trump has either. It would not surprise me at all if, in the debate, he went ahead and ceded major portions of the DNC’s agenda.

So … as I keep saying, here we are. Two leftists vying to see whether they can bankrupt us before the next great war. Charming.

Post Scriptum: Trump’s comments, in combination with a possible Russian role in the hacking of the DNC’s e-mails, has lead to conspiracy theories that Trump is a Russian stooge. I find these theories … far-fetched to say the least. Trump is many things but he’s not a traitor.

A Few Days in The Capital of the World

My blogging was light this week because I was visiting New York City with my extended family. I’ll be back up over the weekend with my thoughts on the RNC and so on. If you need some political meat to chew on, here’s the leak of the DNC’s internal e-mails which reveal an establishment — an a DNC chair specifically — who heavily favored Hillary Clinton, to the point of pushing garbage stories deleterious to Bernie Sanders. I expected as much. I’m still waiting for the big wikileaks bomb to drop in November when they reveal that Clinton put Trump up to running.

In the meantime, here’s a few thoughts from NYC:

Read more… »

Not Caring

Trump has named a Vice President: Mike Pence of Indiana. Ordinarily, this would be something I’d blog about. He’s an OK choice, if a bit to the Culture War side of things.

The convention has started with an apparent attempted rebellion. Ordinarily, this would be something I’d blog about. It’s a squeal of protest against Trump but it won’t go anywhere.

The thing I’m finding is that I just don’t care. I don’t care what the GOP does right now. I don’t care to blog about Trump’s circus act, at least for a while. This is a freak show that can match anything the Democrats have ever put up. This is Kanye and Taylor and Kim with trillion dollar budgets and nuclear weapons. If something interesting happens, I’ll talk about it. But I’m going to be blogging very little about the RNC this week because I just don’t care for the circus act.

Update: I will, however, be throwing rocks from my alternate ego:

Attack on Nice

My God:

At least 77 people were killed Thursday night when a large truck plowed through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, President Francois Hollande said.

The driver first shot a gun into the crowd before driving 2 kilometers along the Boulevard des Anglais, the main street in Nice, mowing down people who’d gathered to watch fireworks, regional President Christian Estrosi told CNN affiliate BFM-TV.
Police shot and killed the driver, said Pierre-Henry Brandet, a spokesman for the French Interior Ministry. Police found firearms, explosives and grenades in the truck, Estrosi said.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility. Anti-terror prosecutors have taken over the investigation, according to BFMTV, citing the prosecutor’s office.

Given the recent spate of Islamist attacks on Baghdad, Dhaka, Istanbul and Miami, I think it likely this will turn out to be another ISIS supporter or sympathizer.

JAMA Jumps In Bed With Obama

Wut:

An author named “Barack Obama, JD” published an article on Monday in a scholarly journal. No prizes for guessing the topic: It’s an assessment of the Affordable Care Act as well as policy recommendations for the next president to improve the U.S. health care system.

The article, titled “United States Health Care Reform: Progress to Date and Next Steps,” was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The piece, which contains 68 footnotes to academic journals and government publications, claims to present evidence showing that the number of Americans without health insurance has dropped dramatically, and resulted in lower hospital readmission rates. Obama also used the article to recommend the introduction of a “public option” plan in parts of the U.S. and for the federal government to push down drug prices.

Seriously, JAMA? You guys decided to publish an unrefereed buffed-up propaganda piece?

I blogged about the public option earlier this week. Almost everyone — including the advocates of the public option — recognizes that it is a Trojan Horse for socialized medicine, a program that will finish the job of bankrupting private insurance companies so that the public option quickly becomes the only option (except for the elites, who will be allowed to keep their boutique private plans). And the result will be a system that somehow manages to be just as expensive but less efficient than the system we have now.

“But, wait, Hal!” you say. “Government insurance if more efficient because they don’t turn obscene profits!” Well, first of all the profit-margin in the insurance industry is not obscene, but fairly normal at a few percent. Second, as I noted earlier, Medicare’s “efficiency” mainly consists of hiding costs and allowing gigantic amounts of fraud.

But the real proof is in the pudding. One of the things Obamacare did was create insurance co-ops, non-profit insurance companies that were supposed to show what we could have without those evil evil profits. We even gave them government loans to prop them up. Well, 16 of the 23 co-cops have failed, sucking up $1.7 billion in taxpayer funds. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Every insurer is struggling to make Obamacare work because … get this … it turns out that when you just hand out insurance policies, sick people are the most likely to take them. Just imagine what would be happening to insurance markets if “sell-out” Republicans hadn’t stood firm and gotten the public option jettisoned.

Obamacare is turning into a slow-rolling disaster whose end-game is shoving all of us plebs into a socialized system. Again … this is why the GOP holding onto Congress is so important. Even if we can’t repeal Obamacare, we can pass an overhaul that moves it more toward a real market system (e.g., allowing insurance to be sold across state lines). Clinton and a Democratic Congress will only complete the job they’ve started.

It Takes a Village to Waste Money

For a time, it looked like Hillary Clinton might actually end up being the more conservative candidate in the race. Trump has been talking about restricting trade, blowing holes in the debt, opposing entitlement reform and expanding executive power.

Well, no longer. Apparently afraid that Bernie Sanders will bolt the Democratic Party for the Green (this tends to happen when you let people run who aren’t technically members of your party), she has now basically adopted Bernie Sander’s agenda in full.

  • She’s supporting the push for universal Pre-K, proposing a new bunch of subsidies and tax credits, doubling the size of the failed Head Start program and pushing for 12 weeks of mandatory paid leave. I’ve argued before the universal pre-K is a solution stumbling around in search of a problem and documented the complete failure of universal pre-K efforts. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • Clinton has now abandoned education reform in favor of more spending and more spending. There’s no evidence that this approach does anything but employ more union members. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • She’s now supporting a $15 minimum wage, a plank taken straight from Bernie Sanders. I’ve pointed out before that the push for $15 is a kind of mass insanity that has gripped the Left, only slightly more scientific than if the Republicans had responded to the Ebola epidemic with prayer. The cruelty of this is that it if the Democrats are wrong, it will not destroy their jobs, but the jobs for the people they purport to care for: the poor, the workings class, minorities, dropouts and convicted criminals trying to straighten out their lives. Clint doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • She’s now embraced Bernie’s plan to massively inflate college tuition … uh … “make college more affordable“. As has been pointed out innumerable times, shoveling money at colleges will simply raises costs, increase debt and persuade more people to waste their time in college when they could be working or training. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • She’s now supporting creating a public option for Obamacare. Obama is now calling for this too, claiming the markets are not competitive enough. You have to admire the gall. First, the crush the insurance market with Obamacare. Then, they refuse to let insurance be sold across state lines. Then they propose a “public option” to bankrupt the insurance companies that remain. Every day, Obamacare looks more and more like a deliberate plan to destroy the private insurance market to create the “need” for socialized medicine. In this case, Clinton does care; there’s vote to bought!
  • She’s now turned not just against TPP but against free trade in general. Never mind that trade has made our country wealthy while almost eliminating poverty in other countries. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • All of this will be paid for with big tax hikes on “the rich”, who are close to maxed out. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!

The $15 minimum wage is the issue for me with Democrats. It is so mindless, so stupid, so at variance with economics and so destructive to the future of the people it supposedly helps. If you wanted to create unemployment, make poverty more intractable and condemn a generation of people to lifelong unemployment and poverty, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a better plan than the $15 minimum wage.

I realize that a lot of liberal organizations don’t pay their interns or, in the case of groups like Ralph Nader’s, pay them sub-minimum wage through legal loopholes. But the University of California already fired 500 people to account for the minimum wage. Even the dumbest Democrat can do math. And Hillary Clinton is many things, but she’s not dumb. They must know, on some level, that this is going to be bad. They just Don’t. Fucking. Care.

But it’s worse. As McArdle points out in the link above, Clinton is proposing to pay for all this stuff with the usual litany of Democratic tax hikes: raising rates, eliminating the Social Security cap, closing the “carried interest” loophole, etc., etc. She’a also proposing to eliminate almost all tax deductions for the rich (which will produce 100+% marginal rate in some income brackets). But:

For while it is true that these programs are paid for, that doesn’t mean that the budget math is sound. The government’s spending capacity is, in the end, limited, and every dollar that you spend on one thing is a dollar that cannot be spent on something else. Virtually all of Clinton’s “pay fors” are concentrated on a relatively small number of affluent-to-rich people, and because of that, they represent a large cut of those incomes; if she managed to enact all of her plans, her top bracket would be inching close to a marginal tax rate of 50 percent before you factor in state and local taxes that can easily add another 10 percentage points to that figure.

Even if you think that it would be politically possible to extract taxes at those levels, and that you could do so without causing any unwanted economic side effects, the question remains: What do you do for an encore? After enacting Clinton’s agenda, America will still need to fix Medicare, Social Security, state and local pensions, the disability insurance program, and so forth. And given that Democrats have proven as unwilling as Republicans to raise taxes on the middle class, where are we going to get the money?

I’ve said this many times and I will keep repeating it until it sinks in: you can’t fund a welfare state by taxing the rich. There simply isn’t enough money. European welfare states aren’t funded by the rich. They’re funded with massive taxes on the middle class.

The United States has one of the most progressive tax systems in the world, being very reliant on the wealthy for revenue. The European welfare states, by contrast, are more regressive, having flatter taxes and relying on VATs and sales taxes that are regressive. They have to be that way because you simply can’t finance a welfare state by taxing the 1%.

A welfare state financed by the rich doesn’t even work politically. When everyone is paying taxes, there is more support for a welfare state because everyone is pitching in. The perception is that you’re getting out something related to what you paid in, which is why Social Security and Medicare are popular in this country (both financed by a regressive tax that is denounced by Democrats for not soaking the rich enough). But a system that is dependent on taxing the rich isn’t a welfare state, it’s a plunder state. And as I’ve pointed out before, most people don’t want that. They don’t want to feel like they’re living on someone else’s dime or on stolen property. The Communists discovered this 70 years ago when they tried to “redistribute” estates to the commoners only to discover that the commoners didn’t want that wealth if it was stolen.

But proposing to fund this garbage through a middle-class tax hikes would be political suicide. So — in a situation where we are already half a trillion in deficit, have $19 trillion in existing debt and have trillions of dollars in future unfunded liabilities — the Democrats are proposing to burn our last few sources of revenue on a series of brand new will-o’-the-wisp social spending programs.

(Yes, yes, we once had marginal tax rates of 70%. And we also had a huge number of exemptions. No one ever paid that rate. We are very close the practical limit on marginal rates.)

I understand why Clinton is selling out wholesale like this. She’s afraid Bernie on the Green Party ticket will wreck her chances. But I think this tells you how principled Hillary Clinton is. She has either completely changed her views on several major issues or she is going to betray her campaign promises the second she gets into office. I don’t think she actually cares either way. She just wants to be President. And if she has to wreck the economy to get there, well, she’ll wreck the economy to get there. This is way more of a sell-out to the party fringe than any Republican has ever made. But you won’t see it described as such because 98% of our media are going to vote for Clinton anyway.

This is worst election ever. Two rich leftists are battling to see who gets to the screw the country over and how badly they can screw us. And people wonder why I’ve voting for Johnson:

I will not vote for Trump. And I will not for Clinton. To hell with them both. The only election I really care about is Congress. It is absolutely critical that the Republicans hold onto Congress, preferably retaining a majority in both houses. Look at the agenda. Imagine the damage Clinton could do with a Democratic Congress. And then, whatever you may think of Trump, put that Republicans roadblock in her way.