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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: Our Neurtron Bomb Election
on: October 18, 2016, 12:30:34 PM
THIS is what a rant and/or interesting thought piece looks like:
Outstanding rant from VDH!
Our Neutron Bomb Election
The shells of our institutions maybe survive the 2016 campaign, but they will be mere husks.
By Victor Davis Hanson — October 18, 2016
The infamous neutron bomb was designed to melt human flesh without damaging infrastructure. Something like it has blown up lots of people in the 2016 election and left behind empty institutions.
After the current campaign — the maverick Trump candidacy, the Access Hollywood Trump tape, the FBI scandal, the Freedom of Information Act revelations, the WikiLeaks insider scoops on the Clinton campaign, the hacked e-mails, the fraudulent pay-for-play culture of the Clinton Foundation — the nuked political infrastructure may look the same. But almost everyone involved in the election has been neutroned.
In theory, there are nominally still such things as a D.C. establishment, the Republican party, still abstractions known as “fact-checking,” still something in theory called “debate moderators,” still ex-presidents’ “foundations.” But, in fact, after this campaign, these are now mere radiated shells.
Who are the big losers of 2016, besides the two candidates themselves?
The D.C. ‘establishment’ and its ‘elites’
Collate the Podesta e-mails. Read Colin Powell’s hacked communications. Review Hillary’s Wall Street speeches and the electronic exchanges between the media, the administration, and the Clinton campaign. The conclusion is an incestuous world of hypocrisy, tsk-tsking condescension, sanitized shake-downs, inside profiteering, snobby high entertainment — and often crimes that would put anyone else in jail.
The players are also quite boring and predictable.
They live in a confined coastal cocoon. They went largely to the same schools, intermarried, traveled back and forth between big government, big banks, big military, big Wall Street, and big media — and sound quite clever without being especially bright, attuned to social justice but without character. Their religion is not so much progressivism, as appearing cool and hip and “right” on the issues. In this private world, off the record, Latinos are laughed off as “needy”; Catholics are derided as near medieval and in need of progressive tutoring on gay issues. Hillary is deemed a grifter — but only for greedily draining the cash pools of the elite speaker circuit to the detriment of her emulators. Money — Podesta’s Putin oil stocks, Russian autocrats’ huge donations in exchange for deference from the Department of State, Gulf-oil-state-supplied free jet travel, Hillary’s speaking fees — is the lubricant that makes the joints of these rusted people move. A good Ph.D. thesis could chart the number of Washington, D.C., insider flunkies who ended up working for Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac or Goldman Sachs — the dumping grounds of the well-connected and mediocre.
In this world, there are Bill and Hillary, the Podesta brothers, Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner, Christiane Amanpour and Jamie Rubin, Samantha Power and Cass Sunstein, Andrea Mitchell and Alan Greenspan, and on and on. Jorge Ramos goes after Trump; his daughter works for Hillary; and his boss at Univision badgers the Clinton campaign to stay lax on open borders — the lifeblood that nourishes his non-English-speaking money machine.
George Stephanopoulos, who helped run the Clinton campaign and White House, and who as a debate moderator obsessed over Mitt Romney’s answers to abortion hypotheticals, is the disinterested ABC News chief anchor.
CNN vice president Virginia Moseley is married to Hillary Clinton’s former deputy secretary at the State Department Tom Nides (now of Morgan Stanley) — suggesting “The Clinton News Network” is not really a right-wing joke.
Former ABC News executive producer Ian Cameron is married to Susan Rice, a — pre-Benghazi — regular on the Sunday talk shows.
CBS president David Rhodes is the sibling of aspiring novelist Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for “strategic communications and Speechwriting,” whatever that fictive title means.
ABC News correspondent Claire Shipman married former White House press secretary Jay Carney (now senior vice president for “worldwide corporate affairs” at Amazon: not just “corporate affairs” or “worldwide affairs” but “worldwide corporate affairs”). And on and on.
These nice people report on each other. They praise each other, award each other, make money together, and bristle with each other when they are collectively and pejoratively dubbed the “elites.” They write and sound off about the buffoon Trump and preen in sanctimonious moral outrage, as the rest of the country sees this supposedly lavishly robed imperial class as embarrassingly naked. If our version of El Escorial continues, something like the prognathic Habsburg jaw may begin to appear as an elite D.C. marker.
As administration officials go in and out of lucrative banking, foundations, academia, and Wall Street posts, the idea of a permanent New York or Washington “power couple” or “power family” becomes more banal.
Is there a rule somewhere that requires a media kingpin to be married to a political operative or government official or like kind? Can an opinion journalist not be actively involved, whether overtly or stealthily, in an ongoing campaign or married to a consultant who is? Is there a retiring high official who just goes home and calls it quits after his public service? Is Nebraska, Carson City, or Mississippi such an awful place after Chevy Chase, Georgetown, or Dupont Circle?
The Republican Party
What exactly is the Republican party? Has it any coherence or unity or shared ideas?
Is it for legally enforced borders or “let the market adjudicate” free passage of inexpensive labor between countries? Fair or free trade? Assimilation and integration, or identity-politics lite? Cashing in on government service or against emeriti lobbying?
Does it embrace traditional values or a slight slowing of the descent of popular culture? Does it want to reverse big government or ratchet it down somewhat? Is it against $1 trillion deficits, but okay with $500 million ones? Does it believe losing the presidential election nobly is preferable to winning it ugly? Does Obamacare need a tweak or two?
Is it for a Jacksonian, don’t tread-on-me foreign policy, or isolationism, or neocon nation building — all, some, or none?
Are Trump’s private boorishness and crudity worse for Republicans than Clinton’s now quite public corruption and dishonesty?
Atheist free-market conservatives seem to despise Trump’s vulgarity more than do Christian Evangelicals — not necessarily on the grounds that they are less likely to say such Trumpian things in their own private lives than are fundamentalists, but because they find him so very gauche.
No one quite knows what the party will become after Donald Trump sprinted away with the Republican nomination and then discovered that most of the Republican establishment, implicitly and explicitly, would rather lose to Hillary Clinton than win with him.
Many said they quit the Republican party when Trump was nominated, as many perhaps will quietly quit when it returns to normalcy.
After the election, don’t expect a rapid reconciliation. The Trump base, often in nihilistic fashion, does not wish to be part of Paul Ryan’s pragmatic world; and those who identify with the culture of the Wall Street Journaland the Chamber of Commerce have no desire to be seen with the NASCAR and tea-party crowd. For fleeting moments in the primaries a Marco Rubio or Scott Walker posed as a Reaganesque uniter, only to implode under national scrutiny and candidate infighting.
The Presidential ‘Foundation’
The presidential foundation is now a parody of itself.
The Clinton Foundation Syndicate served largely as a sinecure for Clinton hangers-on between elections who were apparently otherwise unemployable. It offered free jet travel for the Clinton family. It oiled pay-for-play donations that would spin off into private speaking and consulting gigs for the insatiable Bill and Hillary. Oil profits — from Russia, the Persian Gulf, and the autocracies of the former Soviet Union — fueled the Clinton cash nexus. (How odd to oppose domestic fracking but to welcome carbon cash from medieval foreign petro-nations.)
Many Republicans damn conservatives who would hold their nose and vote Trump in hopes of saving the Supreme Court or stopping the socialization of the federal government. They should spend a quarter of their time writing about the Clinton Foundation. In the past 50 years, have we ever seen anything quite like the listing of VIP foundation donors by name so they could cash in on Haitian relief contracts to pick over the carcass of a ravaged, impoverished nation — or blatant requests to medieval sheikdoms to send million-dollar presents or free jet service to the ex-president, the message routed by way of his secretary of state spouse? Dick Nixon would not have found a way to enrich himself on the backs of the Haitian refugees or think out loud about assassinating a troublesome political opponent.
There are three models for ex-presidents and their foundations. One is Jimmy Carter’s sanctimonious progressivism — of setting up a quite legitimate “center,” staying active in politics, and assuming a (sometimes tiring) role as senior citizen of the world who globetrots and editorializes on how humanity has disappointed him.
A second is more or less genuine retirement in the fashion of George H. W. and George W. Bush; their respective foundations and libraries are largely apolitical. Neither comments much on contemporary politics, nor do they trash their successors. Painting or sky-diving is preferable to returning to the campaign trail or slicing Obama.
The third is the Bill/Hillary Clinton paradigm of non-stop electioneering, tawdry enrichment, and massaging the office of president emeritus and a presidential foundation to feather one’s nest.
Barack Obama will choose one of these three models, but it is likely that the most lucrative Clinton paradigm is now utterly discredited.
Few any longer believe in fact-checking, largely because it was exposed as an arm of progressive campaigns.
The embarrassing recent statements of Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, were a frightening synopsis of rank bias defined up as disinterested audit. So were the obsequious check-ins by toady journalists with the Clinton campaign to remind Podesta, Inc. of their own lack of ethics.
Fact-checkers inordinately go after conservatives. Or they make up rules about what constitute “facts” as they go along, providing context and supposed noble intent to water down progressive inaccuracies. Or they use adverbs like “mostly” to suggest that false liberal assertions are “mostly” true and other accurate statements of non-liberals are “mostly” false. Fact-checking is postmodern truth that depends on who says something and for what purpose.
When Hillary Clinton in the second debate directed the audience to her own website to “fact-check” Trump, we came full circle from naiveté to farce.
Fact-checking might have been a neutral concept, not inherently better or worse than the original “facts” themselves — given that it is entirely predicated on the character and ability of those who fact-check (who, as we see from WikiLeaks, can be just as sanctimonious and deceitful as the politicians they audit). Fact-checking in the age of the Internet arena will go the way of America Online or Myspace.
There are no such persons any longer as “debate moderators.” The enterprise has devolved into artifice, in which the moderator is supposed to argue with the conservative candidate, “fact-check” him or her in mediis rebus, while being deferential to the like-minded progressive candidate.
Debate moderators follow assumed premises: an Anderson Cooper, Candy Crawley, Lester Holt, or Martha Raddatz envision themselves as crusaders hammering away at selfish and dangerous conservatives, in behalf of an ignorant audience that needs their enlightened help to avoid being duped. In a few of the worst cases, a scheduled debate question is leaked to the liberal candidate to ensure she is not embarrassed.
If a conservative candidate seems to have tied his opponent, the liberal moderator — witness a Matt Lauer — is considered a sell-out, soon to be shunned by the right people. Most are thus deterred from moderating “incorrectly.”
After 2016, we should either let the candidates go at it, or, better yet, let robot time keepers run things.
The 2016 campaign is not quite over, and there are a few neutron bombs left to go off — but for many of our accustomed fixtures it is too late. They are nuked, and nothing remains but their shells.
— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential
on: October 18, 2016, 12:10:05 PM
Even for those who disagree with Trump on rigged elections
Trump’s ‘Rigged’ Election—and Bernie’s
Donald is wrong, but where do you think he got the idea?
0:00 / 0:00
Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot on Donald Trump’s warnings about voter fraud and media bias. Photo credit: Reuters.
Oct. 17, 2016 7:01 p.m. ET
Donald Trump recently declared himself “unshackled,” and now we know what he meant: The businessman is in full Steve Bannon-Breitbart mode, invoking an international conspiracy to steal the election and maybe fluoridate the water. As demagogic as this rhetoric is, his critics sure are selective in their outrage.
“The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary - but also at many polling places - SAD,” Mr. Trump posted on Twitter Sunday night. He followed up Monday morning that “of course” there is “large scale voter fraud,” and the plot against him is now a regular line at his rallies. This is Mr. Trump’s response to the oppo-research hits about his personal misconduct and sexual ethics, though he tends to conflate his two “rigging” claims about electoral fraud and media bias.
No presidential candidate should portray U.S. elections as illegitimate, and Mike Pence was right to say Sunday that the GOP will “absolutely” abide by November’s results. Hillary Clinton is not going to steal the White House like Lyndon Johnson stole a Texas Senate seat in 1948. Voting irregularities are real, and cheating sometimes happens, especially in machine cities, but voters should have confidence in the electoral system. There’s zero evidence that the process is compromised across multiple states and precincts.
But the liberal freak-out over Mr. Trump’s allegedly “unprecedented” and “dangerous” remarks could use some perspective. Where would Mr. Trump possibly get the idea that the system is rigged?
Well, maybe he listened to Bernie Sanders, who in January described his “message, which says that the economy today is rigged, that it benefits the wealthy and the powerful at the expense of everybody else, that the campaign finance system that exists today is corrupt and undermining American democracy.” Or maybe Mr. Trump caught Elizabeth Warren at the Democratic convention saying “the system is rigged” or “the rigged system” five times in one speech.
President Obama and Eric Holder also regularly push the canard that voter-identification laws are attempts at racially motivated disenfranchisement. As recently as 2014, Democrats attempting to keep the Senate tried to motivate minority turnout with ads that explicitly played on black fears of intimidation.
African-American registration and voting increased, and at a faster rate than white participation, after allegedly racist North Carolina and Georgia recently passed voter ID laws, but that’s not the point. Democrats can’t sauce this goose and then complain when Mr. Trump adopts their tactics for his purposes.
As it happens, David Remnick reported in the New Yorker last year that John Kerry is convinced that the George W. Bush campaign manipulated the voting machines in 2004 to carry Ohio. The Secretary of State even used this “very personal experience” to reassure Afghans that free and fair elections are hard, even in advanced countries. We can’t recall the media assault on the top U.S. diplomat for subverting U.S. democracy with such baseless speculation, and where Mr. Trump does have a point is when he says the press corps is nearly unanimous against him.
This is usually the case with Republicans, though the difference this year is that journalists say openly that Mr. Trump is a unique threat to democracy. The First Amendment stalwarts would have more credibility if they hadn’t portrayed Mitt Romney as a plundering executive with retrograde family values, or tried to take down John McCain in 2008 with innuendo about philandering. GOP voters understand that it doesn’t matter how admirable their nominee is, the press will still trash him.
The question for the media this year is that if Mr. Trump poses a threat to the American way, where were they during the GOP primaries? Back then, progresssive partisans who now say Mr. Trump will end civilization turned out columns like “Why Liberals Should Support a Trump Republican Nomination” or “Why I’m more worried about Marco Rubio than Donald Trump.”
Many in the media cheered on Mr. Trump when it appeared that he might oppose the GOP’s traditional free-market agenda. NBC’s “Access Hollywood” tape with Mr. Trump and Billy Bush is 11 years old, and weren’t Howard Stern’s greatest hits as relevant last autumn as they are said to be now? It’s not a conspiracy theory to think that the stories coming out in late October are no accident.
Disqualifying Mr. Trump with a dump of sleazy passes at women was sure to enrage his supporters who know the history of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump always overreacts and thus he’s on a path to lose—and if he keeps raving about “the illusion of democracy,” as he did last week in West Palm Beach, he’ll deserve to. But in winning ugly, Mrs. Clinton and the left will pay a steep price in even more polarized and divisive politics.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Australia gives up
on: October 18, 2016, 12:06:50 PM
Australia Cedes the Seas
The ruling Liberals won’t conduct patrols of the South China Sea.
Oct. 17, 2016 6:54 p.m. ET
Canberra confirmed last week that the Australian Navy won’t conduct freedom-of-navigation patrols in the international waters of the South China Sea, giving China’s bid to dominate the strategic area a boost. Such patrols are a basic requirement for the rules-based global order that Australia says it is committed to upholding.
An international tribunal ruled in July that China’s bid to claim most of the sea violates international law. But the verdict will be rendered moot unless law-abiding states are willing to push back. That would give Beijing effective control over the 60% of Australian trade that transits the sea.
Some Aussies understand the importance of defending maritime law, including current leaders of the opposition Labor Party. “In our view, there should be full authorization to engage in freedom-of-navigation operations, which are entirely consistent with international law and entirely consistent with the Court of Arbitration’s ruling,” said Labor’s Shadow Defense Minister Richard Marles this month. “It’s important that in supporting the rule of law internationally and the rules-based order that we do everything we can to assert that.”
The ruling Liberals rejected this. Naval patrols within 12 miles of Chinese-claimed features would “escalate tensions,” said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, echoing language often used by Chinese officials. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull condemned Labor’s position as a “highly political” sign of “immaturity and unreadiness to take responsibility for these issues.”
These political battle lines are a surprise. The right-of-center Liberals are usually tougher on defense, and their former leader Tony Abbott, who was Prime Minister until last year, backs stepped-up sea patrols. “We should be prepared to exercise our rights to freedom of navigation wherever international law permits,” he said in February.
Labor has lately been caught up in scandals over Chinese influence-peddling, with rising star Senator Sam Dastyari resigning from the leadership last month after he accepted gifts from Chinese interests and endorsed Beijing’s position on the South China Sea. Several retired Labor grandees, including former Prime Minister Paul Keating and former Foreign Minister Bob Carr, have called for accommodating China and moving away from the U.S. So kudos to current Labor leaders for getting this one right, but they’re not in charge.
The Liberals’ climbdown is particularly damaging because it follows a long campaign of bullying from Chinese officials and state media. “Australia is not a party to the South China Sea issue” and must “carefully talk and cautiously behave,” Beijing’s Foreign Ministry warned after Aussie officials praised the tribunal verdict in July. The state-run Global Times threatened, “If Australia steps into the South China Sea waters, it will be an ideal target for China to warn and strike.”
Canberra’s decision can’t be separated from Washington’s ambivalence. As U.S. officials encouraged Australia to step up, the Obama Administration authorized a mere three U.S. freedom of navigation patrols, all under the minimalist doctrine of “innocent passage” and after months of hand-wringing that undermined the intended signal of resolve. If the next U.S. President takes a more serious approach, it might inspire Canberra to do the same.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Inflation starting to break out?
on: October 11, 2016, 10:07:05 AM
Monday Morning Outlook
Inflation Ready to Rise To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
One of the key excuses for the Federal Reserve to hold off raising rates again and again, and to raise them very slowly, is that inflation remains extremely low.
The consumer price index is up only 1.1% in the past year. The Fed's preferred measure of inflation – for personal consumption expenditures, or PCE – is up 1.0%. The US doesn't face deflation, but the overall inflation statistics are, and have remained, low.
But the money supply is accelerating, the jobs market looks very tight, and underneath the calm exterior, there are some green shoots of inflationary pressure.
The "core" measures of inflation, which exclude volatile food and energy prices, are not nearly as contained as overall measures. And before you say everyone has to eat and drive, realize that both food an energy prices are volatile and global in nature. They don't always reveal true underlying price pressures.
The 'core" CPI is up 2.3% in the past year, while the "core" PCE index is up 1.7%. In other words, a drop in food and energy prices has been masking underlying inflation that is already at or near the Fed's 2% target. Energy prices have stabilized and food prices will rise again. As a result, soon, overall inflation measures are going to be running higher than the Fed's target.
Just look at housing costs – a non-traded good – which makes up one-third of the CPI. Government statisticians measure this as "Rent of Shelter," which includes normal rents, hotel costs, and owners' equivalent rent (the rental value of owner-occupied homes). It's up a whopping 3.4% in the past year and has accelerated in each of the past six years.
Housing makes up a smaller share of the PCE price index, but medical care costs make up a larger share of that index. Government data show medical care costs up 4.9% in the past year, the fastest increase since 2007.
Although some (usually Keynesian) analysts are waiting for much higher growth in wages before they fear rising inflation, the fact is that wage growth is already accelerating. Average hourly earnings are up 2.6% in the past year versus a 2.0% gain only two years ago. Moreover, as a paper earlier this year from the San Francisco Fed pointed out, this acceleration is happening in spite of the retirement of relatively high-wage Baby Boomers and the re-entry into the labor force of workers with below-average skills.
But we don't think wages cause inflation – money does. Inflation is too much money chasing too few goods. The Fed has held short-term interest rates at artificially low levels for the past several years while it's expanded its balance sheet to unprecedented levels. Monetary policy has been loose.
But banks have held most of the Fed's Quantitative Easing (QE) as excess reserves. Banks have record loans on their books, but they also hold $2.2 trillion in excess reserves. Most people believe QE was, and is, temporary. So banks have been reluctant to lend it out. After all the Fed could withdraw the reserves, unwind QE, and banks would be forced to "call" their loans.
But as the Fed has postponed the process of reducing its balance sheet, banks have started to expand the M2 money supply. M2 grew roughly 6% annualized between January 2009 and December 2015. But, so far this year, from January to September, M2 has expanded at an 8.6% annualized rate. More money brings more inflation.
None of this means hyperinflation is finally on its way. In the past, inflation has taken time to build, leaving room for the Fed to respond by shrinking its balance sheet and getting back to a more normal monetary policy.
In the meantime, this will be the last year in a long while, where we see inflation below the Fed's 2% target. Look for both higher inflation and interest rates in the years ahead.
This information contains forward-looking statements about various economic trends and strategies. You are cautioned that such forward-looking statements are subject to significant business, economic and competitive uncertainties and actual results could be materially different. There are no guarantees associated with any forecast and the opinions stated here are subject to change at any time and are the opinion of the individual strategist. Data comes from the following sources: Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Federal Reserve Board, and Haver Analytics. Data is taken from sources generally believed to be reliable but no guarantee is given to its accuracy.