Tag Archives: Culture

George Clooney could be a formidable presidential candidate

George Clooney just sold his tequila business for a headline-grabbing $1B.  It seems plausible that he is building his image for a presidential campaign, and, if so, Republicans should take it seriously.

Although he has spewed the standard Hollywood liberal talking points, he hasn’t come across in the deranged Ashley Judd/Madonna mold.  He seems like a serious guy, not an arrogant idiot, who has taken a lower political profile than many of his contemporaries.  He’s not even on Twitter, has done interviews with Fox News and Business Insider, and thereby has created space for an image of gravitas that most celebrities have squandered.

His UN “humanitarian” work seems more legitimate, low-key, and serious, than that of most Hollywood grandstanders.

He took another step toward political respectability by marrying not some starlet, but a quintessential liberal pin-up girl:  exotic, brown, man-jawed, not too young, with a prestigious-sounding job as a “human rights lawyer” and now having children.

Plenty of people have speculated about a potential run for California or federal office, and he has denied interest.  And of course we don’t know how his views would stand up to scrutiny or how he’d do in a debate, but he could be strong candidate. Now that President Trump has broken the glass ceiling of celebrity-type candidates, this could be a trend.

The biggest barrier to his candidacy might be a refusal by the Democratic party to accept a white male nominee.

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Top 10 side effects of Trump’s victory

The great news just keeps on rolling in after Tuesday.  Here are some great (and some not so great) side effects that we can look forward to:

10.  The Clinton Foundation will close up shop, since with no influence to peddle no one will donate to it.

9.  The media will try to build momentum to elect Hillary Clinton Speaker of the House for the sake of national unity (and since she won the popular vote, dontcha know).  President Trump and Vice President Pence will then have to avoid being in the same place for four years.

8.  We will never hear the name Alicia Machado again.  Or Sidney Blumenthal, Robbie Mook, or Jennifer Palmieri.  Or Huma Abedin (unless she ends up in the dock or in the pages of the Federal Register as having been granted a pardon).

7.  Ivanka Trump will be America’s first woman president, maybe around 2028 (while the left decries the Trumps for trying to create a dynasty).

6.  Democrats will move to abolish the electoral college.  Democrats will rediscover the majesty of the filibuster, the perniciousness of the presidential executive order, and the importance of checks and balances.

5.  Merrick Garland will resign his judgeship, join the Harvard Law School faculty, and become a bitter old man writing op-eds and appearing on MSNBC panels relentlessly attacking President Trump.  He may run for Senate and prove to be just as leftist as Elizabeth Warren.

4.  The bubble for firearm and ammunition company stocks will end (though the Soros-funded rioters may keep up demand under they peter out).

3.  Chelsea Clinton will run for office (the only way to prevent #10).  Kirsten Gillibrand will lose her status as liberal icon and be pressured to make way for Chelsea to take her seat.  Ditto for Richard Durbin once Michelle Obama decides that she’s entitled to a senate seat too.

2.  James Taranto will grudgingly have to retire his “we blame George W. Bush meme.”  Glenn Reynolds will happily have to retire his “TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day XXX” meme.  CBS will finally be able to cancel Madam Secretary, which was presumably created as an in-kind donation/hagiography to the Clinton campaign (every time you saw a promo for the show, you were supposed to think of Hillary Clinton).

1.  The Trump Organization will have to change its name back to the original German Trumpf to avoid any conflict of interest.

 

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Be very suspicious of the left’s motives to allow “lateral entry” for military officers

Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently unveiled a proposal to allow people to enter the military directly from outside at levels up to O-6 (colonel, or captain in the Navy) in potentially any job.  The plan, which is being considered by Congress, would expand this option from its current narrow parameters, which allow lateral entry up to the O-4 level (major, or lieutenant commander in the Navy) only for chaplains, lawyers, doctors, and dentists.

Secretary Carter uses the example of cyber specialists as a case where such a program would be most useful, as it’s difficult to develop officers with the level of expertise needed in-house.

This seems like a reasonable concept in principle, if applied selectively, and if it were intended solely to increase the effectiveness of the military (i.e., if conceived by Republicans).  It is an idea with merit and with major implications for both the military and civilian sectors.  It is worth careful consideration.

Color us skeptical, however, at the motives behind this under people like President Obama or Secretary Carter.  The author in the linked article says that the plan “suggests eroding the military’s tradition of growing its own leaders and cultivating a force with a distinct culture and tight social fabric.”

We have no doubt that “eroding” the armed forces’ “distinct culture and tight social fabric” is the whole point.  The left despises the military culture.  When Democrats are in power they enjoy conducting their transformative gambits on the military, be it redesigning training materials to be more politically correct, placing women in combat roles, forcing the forces to accept homosexuals, and next, naturally, removing the ban on “transgendered” warriors.  The left loves being able to play such games with the military, both because it is a perfect laboratory for their insane social engineering experiments—as a large population that has to follow orders and which collects lots of data—and because they see the military as a bastion of such abhorrent retrograde values as patriotism, meritocracy, and masculinity.

We assume that the left’s real motives in making such a sweeping change to the way that America grooms its military leaders are—in addition to making its culture more susceptible to their social-justice ideology—opening up a spigot by which they can corruptly appoint cronies to plum positions; installing moles who are loyal to them instead of to the chain of command (as is the norm in the federal civilian bureaucracy, in which an invisible, unaccountable band of dedicated leftists can always be counted on to drag their feet and stymie the attempted governance of any Republican administration); and, of course, fast-tracking affirmative-action hires to counter the perceived “diversity” problem in the upper officer ranks.

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Debates about guns and Muslim immigration don’t explicitly discuss trade-offs

I am willing to tolerate higher levels of gun violence in America in exchange for having a Second Amendment.  We don’t often hear our fellow rightists state the case so explicitly, but most probably have arrived at this cognitive consonance.

(It is true that more guns means less crime in general.  It is also true that America has the highest rate of mass shootings and other gun violence of any industrialized country, and this is due at least in part to the wide availability of firearms.  America’s unique history, culture, legal environment, and demographics all contribute to these seemingly contradictory realities.  The quote above is the position of this blog, and we also believe that the best way to counter the threat of Islamist terrorist attacks like the Orlando night club shooting is to facilitate more people being armed.)

The alternate universe in which the U.S. never had a Second Amendment, in which there were not hundreds of millions of guns in circulation, in which the police have all the firepower, and in which mass shootings and other instances of gun violence were extremely rare, is easy to envision.  That’s the situation in the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and most other industrialized countries (as well as in most police states).  Count ours as one vote in favor of the American status quo.

The left doesn’t really possess the vocabulary to present its own arguments about the trade-offs associated with gun rights (or most other issues).  We rarely hear progressives espousing the values of individual liberty anymore—except in a few specific scenarios that turn the Bill of Rights on its head—and they are even less sympathetic to the concept of individual self-defense.  The left apparently isn’t able to comprehend the main reason why the founders included the Second Amendment to begin with:  protection from government tyranny.  We will have a social contract in which only the benevolent government will have guns, and in exchange the citizenry will trust the government to use them to protect citizens’ liberty and well-being is also not a scenario that liberals articulate very often, even if this is what they believe.

It is a legitimate political stance to try to persuade the American electorate to move our country in that direction, although we don’t see the left doing so very often:  as opposed to openly arguing for repeal of the Second Amendment, they usually use stealthy Federal and local legislative, regulatory, and judicial actions to end-run around it.  Fortunately democratic means couldn’t succeed nationally at this point.

The debate about Muslim immigration, or immigration in general, similarly seems devoid of a discussion about trade-offs.  We would like to hear Donald Trump state, Of course in principle I don’t like the idea of banning an entire group [Muslims] from visiting or immigrating to the U.S.  Such a ban would certainly affect some innocent people who don’t intend to harm the country.  However, we are in a time of war, so we need to accept this trade-off in order to reduce the number of Muslim terrorists we admit.  We presume that Trump feels this way—and he has implied an understanding of the trade-off in his call to pause Muslim immigration until we “can figure out what’s going on”—but it would be nice for him to make it explicit.

Similarly, it would be nice if President Obama, Hillary Clinton, or other liberals made explicit their own views of a trade-off.  The U.S. is the most multicultural, open country in the world.  I want to accept more Muslim immigrants, and in fact all types of immigrants, because they make America better.  I acknowledge that, in so doing, we might inadvertently admit some people who will go on to commit terrorist attacks, but a few hundred or a few thousand dead Americans is a reasonable price to pay for the vibrancy that immigrants contribute to our society.  We have little doubt that Obama, Clinton, and most of the cosmopolitan left, including the mainstream media, feel this way.  (Though even this may be a charitable portrayal of their views:  the hard left, like President Obama, has demonstrated that it thinks that traditional American culture is an anachronism that should be replaced by a culture that is more collectivist, authoritarian, and brown.)

A sympathetic article, “What Obama Actually Thinks about Radical Islam,” by Jeffrey Goldberg (h/t James Taranto) seems to serve as a rare reveal of Obama’s view:

Obama believes that the clash is taking place within a single civilization, and that Americans are sometimes collateral damage in this fight between Muslim modernizers and Muslim fundamentalists.

Taranto rightly expresses puzzlement at the phrase “collateral damage” as it relates to Americans being killed in a “fight between Muslim modernizers and Muslim fundamentalists.”  One way to reconcile this apparent misreading of the current state of the world—there doesn’t seem to be much of a “fight” pitting Muslim modernizers against Muslim fundamentalists, especially on American soil—is to speculate that Goldberg misinterpreted Obama’s statement.

Obama possibly seems himself as the “Muslim modernizer”; inasmuch as he is not actually a Muslim, he could be fairly called a “‘Muslimist‘ modernizer,” to use Steve Sailer’s term.  Obama may not identify precisely as a Muslim, but he was raised in a Muslim environment and considers himself an enlightened exponent of the Muslim faith (as does Hillary Clinton).

Goldberg posits that “Obama sees the problems affecting parts of the Muslim world as largely outside American control,” though he cites the president asserting that the way we address Muslims around the world talking about the problem of radical Islam—including his infamous refusal to label the motivations of terrorism as such—plays an important role in addressing it.  And Obama has strongly condemned Trump’s call for a moratorium on Muslim immigration to the U.S. while increasing admission of people who claim to be Syrian refugees.  Obama probably sees himself as playing a righteous, central role as a “Muslim modernizer,” by importing more Muslims to the U.S., by his imposition of political correctness on all government discussions of terrorism, and by the virtue-signaling language he insists on using to assert solidarity with Islam.  If these accommodations carry some costs, then it’s worth it.

So, if Goldberg is accurately portraying What Obama Actually Thinks about Radical Islam, then it appears that what Obama is really saying is, The United States can play a role in the clash between Muslim modernizers and Muslim fundamentalists, by, among other things, welcoming Muslim immigrants to the U.S.  A few dead Americans as collateral damage is a price that I am willing to pay to promote Muslim modernization.   Such a viewpoint would fall within the bounds of legitimate debate within our political system—as taking sides in any war involves the conscious sacrifice of American lives—though we assume that vast majority of Americans would vehemently disagree with it and would redeem their disagreement through all democratic mechanisms available.  Let’s have the debate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trump chooses not to play the liberals’ grovelling game

The latest phony outrage surrounding Donald Trump’s campaign is his refusal to “disavow” statements of support from some group or other.  Good for him.

The left loves to play the game of denounce, apologize, and grovel.  The MSM attempts to define the bounds of legitimate debate, and never passes up an opportunity to manufacture outrage to serve its own ends.  It is unbecoming of the right to fall into this trap.

Donald Trump plays the no-apology game well.  Even if he believes that the Ku Klux Klan, or David Duke, or whoever, does not bring to the table a point of view that is legitimate in our political discourse, it does not necessarily follow that he must jump on the bandwagon to condemn them.  He gains nothing from it.  He understands that to apologize for something that he didn’t do only weakens him.  He never avowed the KKK in the first place, so he has nothing to disavow.

His honesty is also refreshing.  He “doesn’t want to tick off anybody that might vote for him.”  People will vote for him based on all kinds of motivations, which are irrelevant to Trump.  No obligation is created by accepting someone’s vote.

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The five habits of the highly ineffectual Indian people

The Indian government just held its “Make in India” extravaganza, an effort from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to encourage foreigners to invest in its manufacturing sector.  If you’re considering doing so, despite the country’s notorious business climate, abysmal human capital, horrendous infrastructure, and fetid corruption, then you should beware another drawback:  India’s culture.  It’s ancient spirituality without the inspiration, Asian conformity without the discipline, Arab dishonesty without the guile, and British systematism without the order.

These attributes inflict the national character from individual to institutional.  Beware some of the worst:

 

5.  Calling you repeatedly

If an Indian wants to reach you on the phone—be it a business contact by mobile or the hotel front desk calling you for no real reason—he will let it ring over and over and over and over, until the phone system cuts him off or you roll over half asleep and yank the phone cord out of the wall in exasperation.

Then, he will call back immediately and repeat the process.  And continue to do so over and over and over and over.  I can’t tell you how many times I have retrieved my phone after being away and seen 14 missed calls in a row from the same number.  I call back and say, “I assume that this is a life-or-death matter?  Has my mother been kidnapped?”  The response is always something like,”I just sent e-mail with quotation.”

 

4.  Worshipping cows

The cow is not only the sacred symbol in India’s dominant religion, it is a political cudgel for Hindu nationalists.  Modi is trying to spread the ban on slaughtering cows nationwide, largely to whip up support among the peasant mobs.  (Perhaps he has matured as a politician:  as a state-level chief, his preferred method of rallying the base was to facilitate murderous pogroms against Muslims.)

Watching the cows wandering the streets—battling it out with the goats and sheep and dogs to dine on the trash heaps, sauntering down the sidewalk, or simply laying down in the middle of the road—is certainly one of the most fun aspects of traveling in the country.

That the cow is Indians’ earthly representation of the sublime says something about their national spirit.  (Ironically, India is the world’s leading exporter of beef, as well as indentured labor to the Middle East.)  Usually when a group of people chooses an animal as a symbol, it’s because of the animal’s majesty, cunning, or at least exoticism.  Think of the bald eagle, tiger, or elephant.  Cows, however, are a curious choice for reverence.  They are stupid, plodding, and ubiquitous.  (Perhaps that that is an apt metaphor for the Indian state.)

 

3.  Creating unnecessarily complex processes

Everything in India is needlessly complicated and laughably inefficient, from trivial consumer processes— typing your PIN and signing when using a credit card; having to swipe the key card and then press a button to enter my hotel room in Calcutta—to the indecipherable bureaucratic requirements to operate a business.  State borders in India come with customs control, checkpoints, and protectionist measures imposed on products.

It’s impossible for any visitor not to get caught up in the gauntlet.  Try signing up for a SIM card.  Or buying an Indian Railways ticket.  Or exchanging money; woe to you if you want to change rupees back to your home currency.  Or proceeding through the airport with carry-on luggage.

Many highway toll booths have two attendants, one sitting inside the booth, and another standing outside who takes the money from the driver and hands it to the guy in the booth.  Some elevators have two attendants, one for each bank of buttons.

At one luxury hotel in Hyderabad, there is a metal detector at the gate facing the street, which beeps when you pass through it, though it is not manned.  Then you go through one of those turnstiles like in the subway, with the horizontal slats at one point in the circle to prevent you from going the other direction.  Except that it is not locked:  you must go through the same process in reverse upon exiting.  You then go through another metal detector and hand wand at the door to the building.  I asked what the purpose of the first check was, and was met with only a quizzical look.

At a shop in Cochin, it took four employees to sell me a bottle of hair spray.  I requested the item behind the counter from one individual, paid a cashier and received a receipt, presented the receipt to a different person to receive the item, and had to pass a checker who stamped it on the way out.

Every time I see a woman hunched over sweeping the ground with an eighteen-inch-long “broom” made of twigs thatched together, I am tempted to ask why she doesn’t affix a stick to it so that she can stand up straight while sweeping, thereby increasing productivity and reducing strain considerably.  But I am sure that she wouldn’t understand the question.

At a casino in Goa, they let you use the free-play chips at the roulette table, but only to bet on red or even, not black or odd.  (The odds for these bets are all the same.)  I found this hilarious, and asked what the rationale was, but of course no one could answer.

 

2.  Dealing poorly with ambiguity

Customer service is generally hapless in India, a symptom of an educational system that focuses on rote learning as opposed to problem solving and, perhaps, endemic low productivity due to the size and quality of the labor pool.  If you get in a taxi in India and tell the driver your destination, he will start driving.  He may or may not have any idea of your destination, but he won’t say that.  Often you can tell by his facial expression (or the fact that he is going completely the wrong way) that he doesn’t know.  You may say, “I think you have to turn left here,” and he may or may not comply.  You may ask, “Are you sure you know the way?” and he won’t reply.

He will keep driving aimlessly, until the car runs out of gas, unless you force a solution to the problem.  “Call the place we’re going and ask them for directions.”  “Pull over and ask this other taxi driver.”  “Refer to the map I gave you.”

My driver in Madras simply pulled over to the side of the road, clueless what to do in the course of searching in vain for an hour for my hotel, and said “We here.”  Uh, no, we’re not.  I remembered a five-star western chain hotel a few miles back, and directed him to go there and ask someone there the way.  This eventually worked.

At a bar in Hyderabad, there was a 1,500 rupee cover charge that came with a 1,000 rupee drink coupon.  When I got the bill for 1,135 rupees, I handed the bartender 200 rupees, and he stood silently for 30 seconds, looking back and forth down at the cash in his hands and then up at my face, over and over again, like a computer program hung up in an endless loop, until I reminded him about the coupon—the same coupon that I had handed to him and he had taken from me two minutes earlier when I placed my order.

 

1.  The head bob

This is the ubiquitous Indian expression of. . . something or other.  It’s sort of a quick horizontal nod of the head, a few passes in each direction, accompanied by eye contact.  Presumably it is analogous to a nod in America, i.e., an accession, either an affirmative answer to a specific question or a general signal of concurrence—and can also perhaps indicate a sarcastic pseudo-agreement, like “Yeah, sure, whatever.”  Or it can serve as a basic friendly yet amorphous acknowledgement of your presence, like a dog wagging its tail.  Or it can seem to mean “Fuck you.”

But one also frequently encounters the head bob in response to a question that is not yes-or-no.  It could be an answer to “What time does the bus arrive?” or “Why do you keep asking for my goddamn passport again and again and will you please give it back to me one more time?”

 

By all means, visit India.  Enjoy the fantastic food, gorgeous scenery, and ancient architecture.  Relish the squalor and utter mayhem that characterize everyday life.  But, for cow’s sake, do not stake your fortune on the place!

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We are all technocrats now

The U.S. is pretty much the only country in the world in which some constituency can be found asking, Is this really something that government should be doing? in response to a proposed law at the national or local level.  But our culture is changing, and such inherent skepticism of the government is rapidly moving toward extinction.

We now tolerate a nanny state, which shows up at all levels of government.  To take three recent random examples that we came across:

  • January:  A typical zoning fight about whether an e-cigarette lounge should open on a certain street in San Francisco pits various activists debating whether or not such an establishment fits with their views about whether this is an amenity that the neighborhood wants in light of the other retail available on that street.  No one has suggested that a land owner and tenant should be able to come to private agreement on what to do with their own property.
  • May:  A debate about whether to allow self-serve gas stations in Oregon features arguments about supposed safety considerations, jobs, and various lawmakers’ and bureaucrats’ opinions about the impact on customer convenience.  Again no one seems to be offering the opinion that the government has no right to meddle in a station owner’s business decision to begin with, nor mentioning that perhaps the free market would be better served to sort out issues of customer service and price.
  • May:  Opponents of a proposed ordinance in San Francisco to require warning labels on soda advertising (following the defeat of a city-wide soda tax last year) resort to insisting that sugar is soda is no different from sugar in any other product, and that “education” would be a more effective means of propaganda anyway.  No one at the table is offering the argument that government has no business interfering in consumer choices about a basic product, but rather they are arguing about what tools are most effective to implement the state’s nannying agenda.

The boundaries of these and countless similar local debates is most depressing to this libertarian, not only because we feel for the normal Americans whose livelihoods are chipped away by big government, but also because of the picture they paint about how our citizens apparently want to be governed.  The terms of the debate are so far away from Is this really something that government should be doing? that such questions seem quaint.

We could call these debates “technocratic,” that is, a presumption that a new government program is all that we need to solve some problem or close some gap in society, and we just have to debate what the government program will look like.

The “technocratic” moniker is not that common the U.S.  It’s a familiar (though ought to be derisory) term in Europe, often used to describe some government or individual minister who comes to power in a parliamentary system.  In that sense, it’s roughly a synonym for “socialist,” and simply means that apparatchiks who used to be a step or two lower, or more obscure, in the ranking of the political class assume power as sort of a compromise when the highest-ranking members can’t come to agreement on who will take the top political jobs.

“Technocratic” governments in Europe sometimes come about due to fiscal crisis, and sometimes due to elections that don’t produce clear winners.  In either case, their jobs consist essentially of keeping the big government functioning within the same narrow bounds that it did before, until voters can re-mandate the not-all-that-different status quo ante.  It may seem perplexing to an American audience, but our governments are looking more and more like this too.

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