On Making Predictions

Watching the breaking news of the terrible terrorist attack in Nice, during Bastille Day celebrations, I felt a morbid interest as the casualty count marched upward.  After the initial shock on hearing of the news of the attacks however, I skipped over the part about mourning a senseless tragedy, or whatever the current buzzwords are.  As I described last November after the Paris Attacks, I’m over it.  Europe would rather have regular terrorist attacks than recognize why they have regular terrorist attacks.  No, my interest was in the causality numbers, 30, 40. 70, and then finally it went over 80.

“I win.”  And I say that with no satisfaction.

On January 1st I listed these following predictions for 2016 on a forum:

The Syrian government will be in a better position than today against the IS and the other rebels, thanks to Russian help. Also Assad will still be in power.

There will be another terrorist attack in the US resulting in the deaths of at least 10 people.

Oil will be back over $40 bucks a barrel.

Trump gets the Republican nomination.

Hillary will NOT be indicted.

And finally…

There will be another terrorist attack in France resulting in the deaths of at least 80 people.

So with the Bastille Day attack, the last open prediction I had came true, and we’re only half way through the year.  Of course you could argue that the year is still not over and something could still happen to Assad’s government, or there could be a convention coup next week to put Jeb! Back on the Iron Throne, but if I had to call it now, I would say every prediction I made almost 7 months ago was right.

I don’t think this makes me a super forecaster, like the ones being sought for the Good Judgment Project, a crowd sourcing website for predictions.  But amateurs often beat the experts on these kinds of things.  My accurate prediction that the Supreme Court would uphold Obamacare had nothing to do with my (limited) legal knowledge, or the disastrous oral arguments, even though multiple “experts” declared Obamacare dead after the Solicitor General stumbled and fumbled his way through them.  My view was more holistic, and simpler: The left leaning judges will always vote left, regardless of the law or the Constitution.  With the right leaning judges, it’s more of a crapshoot.  They actually peek at the Constitution and case history.  And as Judge Roberts demonstrated, they can be intimidated by media pressure.  That’s why the Burwell case on the Obamacare State Exchanges was easy to predict.  No knowledge of the law was required, only the knowledge that the right leaning judges could crumble under media pressure.

And as for gay marriage, that was about the easiest prediction I’ve ever made.  Who didn’t know that as soon as it hit the Supreme Court, they would find a way to make sure love is love?

I applied the same holistic thinking to Presidential elections.  I called the 2012 election for Obama by the end of summer, and after the 2014 midterms, which was a huge Republican success; I went head and predicted that Republicans would lose both the Senate and the Presidency in 2016.  Again, I took a holistic approach.  I didn’t think I needed to know each county’s voting history, aka Michael Barone.  I just knew that overall demographic trends, media bias, and the increased tribalism of American politics favored the Democrats.

But I couldn’t anticipate Black Swan Events, and that very much describes Donald Trump’s impact on the 2016 election.  Minus Trump, this election would have gone pretty much as I had predicted it would in 2014, one of the other 16 primary candidates would have won the nomination, they would have run an honorable campaign, and would give what everyone would later acknowledge as one of their best speeches when they conceded on election night. But Trump was a wildcard not only in showing how Republicans could beat the media’s political correctness game, but he pushed the Overton Window on Immigration and single handedly threw out one of the Republican Party’s golden platform planks on trade.  By doing so, he changed the calculus on which votes he might attract.

So when it comes to predicting this year’s race…I’m out.  I think Trump could win if his campaign confiscates his twitter account, keeps him on a steady diet of prepared speeches, and Muslims continue to be Muslim.  However all of the default conditions that make me think the Democrats have a natural advantage in Presidential years are still in play.  If nothing else, this particular black swan has made this the most interesting Presidential race in my lifetime, and who could have predicted that?

 

Making Trumpism Coherent

As far as #NeverTrump institutions on the right go, the most powerful would have to be The Wall Street Journal. Few people outside of right leaning political wonkiness read the National Review or The Weekly Standard. But the venerable WSJ is read by all sorts of business and other establishment types, giving that paper real heft to make their views known.  And they’ve been engaged in full blown warfare against Trump all year.  The hatred and bile towards Trump that drips from the Wall Street Journal editorial page is unprecedented. I’ve read their site online for years and just cannot recall this sort of attack against anyone on the left ever.  Maybe someone can correct me, but like with so many other things this Presidential year, we’re on new ground.

But there is one person on the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board that is not simply interested in bombing Trump rallies then machine gunning any survivors.  This person wants to really understand what’s going on with the people who support Trump, and that person is former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan.  Unlike her WSJ compatriots, Noonan has approached the rise of Trump with humility.  What did we miss?  How did things get this bad?  What we can do to fix it?  All good questions that the Republican establishment should have been asking for the past year instead of plotting various Jeb!/Cruz/Romney/French (David) coup d’etat’s.

Noonan asks again in this piece, A Party Divided, and None Too Soon.

The Beltway intelligentsia of the conservative movement continues to be upset about Mr. Trump’s coming nomination and claim they’d support him but they have to be able to sleep at night. They slept well enough through two unwon wars, the great recession, and the refusal of Republican and Democratic administrations to stop illegal immigration. In a typically evenhanded piece in National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru writes of conservative infighting. Most back Mr. Trump, but others, “especially among conservative writers, activists, and think-tankers,” vow they’ll never vote for him. “This debate splits people who have heretofore been friends with similar views on almost all issues, and who on each side have reasonable arguments to hand. It is therefore being conducted in a spirit of mutual rage, bitterness, and contempt.”

This tracks with my observations as well.  It’s less the political positions that separate the Trump/anti-Trump forces so much as where each person sits on the Red Pill/Blue Pill Conservative divide.  But make no mistake, there are political positions involved as well.  I’ve discussed the economic nationalism agenda that Trump brings before, but there hasn’t been much discussion of it as a movement other than in Alt Right circles.  That’s a territory that a Peggy Noonan would never venture into, but as an important member of the establishment, she knows people.

So she introduces the blog, Journal of American Greatness.  As Noonan gives their own description for themselves from their website:

Where they stand: “We support Trumpism, defined as secure borders, economic nationalism, interests-based foreign policy, and above all judging every government action through a single lens: does this help or harm Americans? For now, the principal vehicle of Trumpism is Trump.”

That is a description describes Trumpism as both conservative, and not conservative in the Bush/Ryan worldview. My suspicion is that these mystery bloggers are known writers and think tankers in the conservative intelligentsia, but obviously they can’t go public because, that’s a career death sentence.  Can you imagine a researcher at the Cato Institute or at The Weekly Standard coming out for Trump?  Maybe that’s why the Wall Street Journal didn’t allow a link to its site in Noonan’s original column in the WSJ.  They are certainly not going to encourage these kind of shenanigans.

But these are serious people, since they are capturing the eyes of Noonan, and some of them are probably names we would recognize.  Even noted anti-Trumper Jonah Goldberg referenced in a column an online discussion he had with one of the bloggers at the Journal of American Greatness.  Could there be a rapprochement between the two different sides of the Republican Civil War?

And then, the Journal of American Greatness shut down and deleted all of their posts.

Why did they do it?  It’s not hard to guess.   They were afraid of being doxxed and having their livelihoods destroyed.

And now, suddenly, they’re back; as JAG Recovered; returned with all of the previously deleted posts.  With the new website, they make clear how seriously they take their anonymity.

No, literally—who are you guys?

None of your damned business.

Why won’t you tell us?

Because the times are so corrupt that simply stating certain truths is enough to make one unemployable for life.

That’s a bit dramatic, isn’t it?

Ask Brendan Eich.

 

So they do have a point. But the long and short of Trumpism is that it’s simply Paleoconservatism, which got the boot from establishment conservatism when Pat Buchanan dissented on the Iraq War.  Turns, out, that’s what the Republican voter wanted all along, or else the Republican voter needed to see how bad things could really get before they would consider Paleoconservatism.

Well apparently we’re at that point.

But is it too late?  Probably so.  When people who want to write about such things are frightened of losing their jobs and livelihood merely for discussing issues like trade and immigration, then you’ve gone pretty far down the well.  There won’t be any big donors or institutions funding this, its people who are afraid of being outed and losing everything, and they will be attacked by forces of both the right and left.  Still, I’m glad that at least some people are trying.  Keep your heads low guys!

 

 

Liberal Myths: Proposition 187

There are some things that just are not at all true, but are still part of the conventional wisdom, and are repeated with frequency in magazine articles and talking head shows.  Lies often have a useful function and the longevity of the Prop 187 myth is due primarily to just how useful it is, to both sections of the left and right.

And so this story is trotted out once again, in Peter Beinart’s piece in The Atlantic, The Republican Party’s White Strategy.  This time, the purpose is to attempt to discredit Trump’s anti-illegal immigration strategy by arguing that it’s been tried before, to utter failure, and Trump is offering a redo of the same failed strategy that will lead to the same result as it allegedly led to in California, unending Democratic rule as far as the eye can see.

Well there certainly is unending Democratic rule for as far as the eye can see in California.  The gist of Prop 187 myth is as follows:  The 1994 proposition forbade illegal aliens from accessing non emergency medical care, public education, and other California services.  Republican Governor Pete Wilson latched on the proposition to win re-election, but by doing so, he destroyed the Republican Party in California by forever alienating Hispanic voters because of hate, bigotry, or whatever.  Except for celebrity candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republicans have been shut out from power ever since.

That general thesis has been more or less debunked on the right. Anne Coulter broke down the issue here, arguing that supporting Prop 187 won Pete Wilson a 20 point victory in the election. The actual vote totals on the Prop 187 referendum break down this way:

Support for Prop. 187 was strongest among white non Hispanic voters (+28 points), and especially white males (+38 points). Latinos, on the other hand, voted No by a 73% to 27% margin. Blacks and Asians divided about evenly, with 52% voting in favor and 48% opposed.

So in terms of an ethnic breakdown, Prop 187 was popular and won among all ethnic groups except for Hispanics.  Even then, as Coulter points out, Proposition 187 was still more popular among Hispanics than President Bush was in running for re-election just 2 years earlier (14% in California).

So Prop 187 passed and the voters never had contact with it again.  Naturally this proposition went to the courts immediately and was finally struck down in the California courts in 1997.  So how did a wildly popular voter’s referendum that helped a flailing Republican gubernatorial candidate achieve a massive re-electoral victory doom the Republican Party in California?

Beats me.  But that’s the myth.

But the media and conventional wisdom have stuck with that, but actually there is a simpler answer and since it comes from the left in theory it should resonate at least with those more left leaning.  Reliable Lefty writer Kevin Drum of Mother Jones takes another look at the proposition 187 myth and finds it lacking.  Welding the mighty tool of Occam’s razor, a tool that’s useful only as long as you are not trying to confabulate a Rube Goldberg method to get a preferred answer, Drum makes a simple observation:

The greater the share of the non white vote; the greater the share of the Democratic vote.  It’s the demographics…again.  Prop 187 wasn’t even a bump on the road to Republican decline; that marched in lockstep with the share of the nonwhite electorate.  This is now and will be soon replicating itself across the United States.  Of course as I’ve noted, there could be stop sticks along the way, but the general trend, in our tribalistic era, is that the Republican electorate shrinks as the white population shrinks, and it’s shrinking everywhere.

So even though the Prop 187 myth isn’t true doesn’t mean it’s not pointed out real problems.  But the purpose of the myth is to force Republicans into open borders/amnesty types of positions; in other words, to accelerate the shrinking of their own electorate.  It’s clearly obvious why the Democrats would support that, but why do so many Republicans fall for that too?

It’s not called the stupid party for nothing.

The Dumbed Down Gun Debate

I hadn’t intended to write anything about the flared up gun debate simply because as an issue, it’s been done to death, and no one’s mind is ever changed.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever written about it, in spite of the frequency in which it comes up as an issue. On the other hand, anytime there is a shooting the issue flares up as if we’ve never discussed it before, and we get treated to the same old arguments…

Of course, as I noted earlier in the week, if we’re going to debate anything, it should be terrorism, but the media has guided the issue away from that to guns because, that’s what they feel comfortable talking about.  They don’t feel comfortable talking about terrorism, so guns make a nice distraction from the real issues. To that end, one of my guilty pleasures, the Monsters of the Morning radio show, had an oh so serious gun control discussion.  Although I was slightly irritated at having my morning dose of fart jokes cut off, it’s a local Orlando station and Central Florida needed the catharsis of talking about the tragedy.

Monsters of the Morning

 

Listening to the show on podcast, it more or less fulfilled my expectations.  In other words, I was in a constant state of facepalm.  Of course listening on podcast meant the show was in the can and I couldn’t call in for any corrections.  On the other hand, what’s the point?  I’ve seen other gun debates in which the pro gun person would have to correct all of the typical mistakes that anti gun people make because in general, the anti gun people, not having any interest in firearms other than as a hate totem, don’t know anything about them. In this debate the primary anti gunner was producer Carlos Navarro, who, as a superlib Obama supporter, was the natural default antigun proponent.

But there is a way to argue with liberals on guns and a way that is totally ineffective. Like most leftists, he didn’t care about the 2nd Amendment, and was pretty clear that he didn’t think much of the constitution; or care about the rights of people they hate (you know, “bitter clingers”) having access to weapons for recreation or self defense.  In fact, from his perspective, the onus on justifying why you need an AR-15 was on the gun owner, which was the question he asked every single caller.  From his perspective, they had to justify to him why they had to have an AR-15.  As you can imagine, every reason fell short. So trying to argue from those points is worthless.  When the constitution only means what the next liberal judge on the court says it does, constitutional arguments are moot.

But there is a line of argument that they are vulnerable on, because it’s already part of their suitcase of issues. They totally don’t accept the logic of prohibition.  They know that the war on drugs is a failure, and they know making drugs illegal; particularly weed, doesn’t keep anyone from getting some.

But when it comes to guns, prohibition seems totally plausible. But that is the crux of the current gun control argument: the logic of prohibition.  Liberals do care that the war on drugs is a failure since the government has totally failed to restrict the sale or import of drugs.  Prohibition can’t work with drugs they will say, so why do they think it will work with guns?  Take a typical leftist or libertarian argument against drug prohibition and replace the word ‘drugs’ with ‘guns’ and you have the same argument. It’s just a matter of whose pot is being gored.  In fact, I credit host “Dirty” Jim Colbert for making that point regarding cigarettes.

After all, if you are really concerned about saving lives, wouldn’t you be in favor of banning alcohol? Annually, 88,000 people a year die from alcohol related causes. However in 2015, there were 12,942 gun deaths in the US.  A large number, but if you were interested in saving the most lives, you would ban alcohol.  But….most people like to drink.  So if you like to drink but don’t own weapons, then you want the government to go after the other guy, and that’s the case here.

Interestingly the most eye opening thing about the show is that most of the callers still supported keeping AR-15’s legal, and that’s in Orlando, three days after the city suffered the worst terrorist attack in the US since 9/11.  That’s reassuring when everything in the media wants them banned.  So while I expect Morning Joe to go off on another 6 month crying jag on gun control, there still seem to be people who are immune to it.

 

When Every Tragedy needs its own Talking Points

First of all, just like on Facebook, I should note that I’m safe.  I was not in a downtown Orlando gay club at 2:00 am this weekend.  Shocking I know but I was actually in bed asleep, so it was jarring to wake up on Sunday and discover that that my local Central Florida news was the center of a national, actually international; story.

And it’s a particularly horrific one.  Depending on how you count it, the Pulse Nightclub shooting was either the 3rd deadliest terrorist event on US soil or the worst mass shooting.  Apparently how you count it very much depends on your political leanings.  As a divided country, I suppose it’s only natural that events like these get pulled out of their factual moorings to be used as an ideological talking point.

Having gotten so used to that exact thing in the now routine terrorist attacks that plague the West, I was curious how the quickly the talking points would be developed, and what they would be.  But first, the media reaction:

South Park Muslims

As I’ve noted previously, the media has to go through it’s own version of the 5 stages of grief so they can first deny, then soften the blow that terrorism is actually terrorism;  particularly if they can attempt to pin the crime on someone else.  In fact I was joking yesterday that the headlines on American papers will say something like, “White Homophobic Gun Owner Slaughters Innocents.”  I came pretty close with this Florida Today headline, “Co-worker: Omar Mateen homophobic, ‘unhinged.’”  Some days the jokes just write themselves, and some days they’re written by newspaper editors.

But back to the talking points; based on following the political forums and cable news, the real issue is not of course, radical Islam, it’s guns and religion.  I should say, by religion, they are not talking about Islam, they are talking about religion in general.  After all, a Christian is a Muslim is a Buddhist is a Mormon…only wait, they are talking about a specific religion!  Good old Christianity!  The real root of Islamic terrorism!  As this ACLU attorney tweeted:

Besides Christians, let’s not forget guns.  Listening to Morning Joe this morning, they actually took a break from calling Trump a racist to mention that some guns were involved in a nightclub slaughter.  Yes, just the guns.  The gun argument is so overplayed that it’s hard for even gun control advocates to try to make it the solution to this crisis.  But still they try…

It’s too bad that the battle is over talking points rather than the real root of the problem; Islamic terror.  I honestly thought that 9/11 was a big enough tragedy to wake the country up, but it looks like we’re a few dirty bombs short of paying attention to our real terror problem, and I’m not sure even that would be enough, which dooms us to more and more of these incidents in the future.

 

A Dictatorship of the Punditariat

I honestly thought the #NeverTrump guys had already hit rock bottom.  I didn’t see how much further down they had to go in making themselves look foolish and idiotic. I figured this post was the last I would ever write on the die hard #NeverTrumps.

I was wrong.David French

The editor of The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, whose record of inaccuracy on political predictions over the past year is probably unmatched in modern punditry, revealed this week that his long search for a Great Write Hope is fellow pundit David French, a writer at National Review.  If there is a better example of how insular the pundit class has become I couldn’t imagine what it would be.  The pundits, gazing around at the political field, decide to dispense with the actual voters and select one of their own.

The genesis of an Acela Corridor campaign is the utter failure of the chattering classes to understand the rise of Donald Trump or…well anything that’s happened in the past year. And yet they continue to insist that they’re the best and brightest and know what they’re doing.  Of course their Acela Putsch is doomed to failure.  The world will never be ready for Punditocracy.  The few hundred votes that they represent are insignificant, but the fact that they can command TV news time brings attention to them way out of their importance.

Meanwhile, they’ve had years, generations even, of being taken seriously.  But who is going to take them seriously now; ever?

#NeverTrumpers and the Drive for Irrelevancy

As crazy as National Review has gotten over the past few months, I’ll still occasionally follow a link to it to see the current grim state of Acela Corridor conservatism. This week, Jonah Goldberg doesn’t disappoint, staking out a position as the last Japanese soldier hold out on a remote island in the DC suburbs, living out his version of never give up, never surrender.

I honestly believe that a President Trump would do enormous, perhaps fatal, damage to the conservative movement as we know it. I also believe that without the conservative movement, this country is toast. But I further believe that Hillary Clinton would do obvious and enormous damage to the country. That’s why I’m not voting for either of them. That’s why this election sucks. But I don’t write in the voting booth. I don’t get paid to offer my opinions at the ballot box. And I don’t work for the G-d damn GOP.

It’s a snooty drawing room politics.  If Goldberg believes that the country is toast without the conservative movement (an arguable point I concede) then prepare the toast.  Why Romney, McCain, Dole or Bush(s) didn’t do fatal damage to the conservative movement is never explained, although I could argue that each of those Republican Presidents and candidate wannabes collectively did enough damage to the conservative movement that by the time you get to Trump, the collective knife wounds were already enough to put the patient into a medically induced coma.  Trump didn’t do anything.  He just grabbed the mic while no one was using it.

The idea that a President Trump would kill the conservative movement is, as I’ve argued elsewhere; ludicrous.  Political position-wise, Trump is a moderate Republican in the Romney mode.  How Trump kills conservatism, while Romney, the author of Romneycare, who wouldn’t criticize Obamacare, didn’t; is left unexplained.  And it will always be left unexplained since it upends the argument that Trump poses some particular danger to conservatism that the Republican Party didn’t already inflict on it.

What Goldberg and the other #NeverTrumpers don’t get is that William F. Buckley’s dictum, to support the most electable conservative candidate, is a sliding scale, not a scientific constant.  Demographics, the media, and academia have all worked their magic each and every election cycle to make conservatism in general more and more irrelevant.  Sadly the reaction of Goldberg and the #NeverTrump movement is to double down on that irrelevancy.

Goldberg and the other #NeverTrump survivors are perfectly happy to lose elections as long as the ideology remains intact.  But the ideology never remains intact.  What is conservatism now, which apparently means unlimited trade and unlimited borders, has no relation to the conservatism of most of the 20th Century.  When did mass immigration of Muslims become a conservative issue? But that appears to be Paul Ryan’s major sticking point with Trump.  We are heading towards a vanishing point where “Conservatism,” as Goldberg and others define it, becomes a rarified ideology like Libertarianism, which has no mass support, and no hope of changing actual real politics.  It’s like politics as Fantasy Football; fun to play maybe, but no relation to actual football and totally irrelevant to what’s happening on the field.