You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd

English: Number of self-identified Democrats v...

With politics this year, all seems in flux, doesn’t it? The GOP is in Public disarray, and the Democrats aren’t all that far behind. Why is that so? I suspect we are seeing a major realignment in the parties, neither of the Washington establishments seem to have much in common with their voters anymore, and like Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.” True then, true now.

So what’s going to happen? Nobody knows, but some people have enough guts to tell us what they see, although it is truly through a glass darkly. Here’s what Michael Lind sees.

For political observers, 2016 feels like an earthquake — a once-in-a-generation event that will remake American politics. The Republican party is fracturing around support for Donald Trump. An avowed socialist has made an insurgent challenge for the Democratic Party’s nomination. On left and right, it feels as though a new era is beginning.

And a new era is beginning, but not in the way most people think. Though this election feels like the beginning of a partisan realignment, it’s actually the end of one. The partisan coalitions that defined the Democratic and Republican parties for decades in the middle of the twentieth century broke apart long ago; over the past half century, their component voting blocs — ideological, demographic, economic, geographic, cultural — have reshuffled. The reassembling of new Democratic and Republican coalitions is nearly finished.

What we’re seeing this year is the beginning of a policy realignment, when those new partisan coalitions decide which ideas and beliefs they stand for — when, in essence, the party platforms catch up to the shift in party voters that has already happened. The type of conservatism long championed by the Republican Party was destined to fall as soon as a candidate came along who could rally its voters without being beholden to its donors, experts and pundits. The future is being built before our eyes, with far-reaching consequences for every facet of American politics.

The 2016 race is a sign that American politics is changing in profound and lasting ways; by the 2020s and 2030s, partisan platforms will have changed drastically. You may find yourself voting for a party you could never imagine supporting right now. What will that political future look like?

***

Today’s Republican Party is predominantly a Midwestern, white, working-class party with its geographic epicenter in the South and interior West. Today’s Democratic Party is a coalition of relatively upscale whites with racial and ethnic minorities, concentrated in an archipelago of densely populated blue cities.

In both parties, there’s a gap between the inherited orthodoxy of a decade or two ago and the real interests of today’s electoral coalition. And in both parties, that gap between voters and policies is being closed in favor of the voters — a slight transition in the case of Hillary Clinton, but a dramatic one in the case of Donald Trump.

During the Democratic primary, pundits who focused on the clash between Clinton and Sanders missed a story that illuminated this shift: The failure of Jim Webb’s brief campaign for the presidential nomination. Webb was the only candidate who represented the old-style Democratic Party of the mid-20th century — the party whose central appeal was among white Southerners and Northern white “ethnics.” Even during the “New Democrat” era of Bill Clinton, white working-class remnants of that coalition were still important in the party. But by 2016, Webb lacked a constituency, and he was out of place among the politicians seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, which included one lifelong socialist (Bernie Sanders) and two candidates who had been raised as Republicans (Hillary Clinton and, briefly, Lincoln Chafee).

On the Republican side, the exemplary living fossil was Jeb Bush. Like his brother, Jeb pushed a neo-Reaganite synthesis of support for a hawkish foreign policy, social conservatism, and cuts in middle-class entitlements to finance further tax cuts for the rich. From the Reagan era until recently, the GOP’s economic policies have been formulated by libertarians, whose views are at odds with those of most Republican voters. In March of this year, a Pew Research Center poll showed that 68 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters opposed future reductions in Social Security benefits — almost the same amount of support found among Democrats and Dem-leaning voters (73 percent). Republicans who supported Trump were even more opposed to Social Security benefit cuts, at 73 percent. And even among those who supported Kasich, 62 percent opposed cuts in Social Security benefits — even though Kasich, himself, is in favor of cutting entitlements.

As country-and-western Republicans have gradually replaced country-club Republicans, the gap between the party’s economic orthodoxy and the economic interests of white working-class voters in the GOP base has increased. House Republicans repeatedly have passed versions of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which is based on cutting Social Security and replacing Medicare with vouchers.

via This Is What the Future of American Politics Looks Like – POLITICO Magazine

I don’t agree, or maybe I just don’t want to, with all he says, but I do think he’s on to something here. The gaps between base and party, on both sides, have simply become too big to bridge. Will it happen as he says? Probably not, bet he may well be at least partially right,and if we care about the future, we need to be thinking about this.

The title? Here you go!

Then and now

Directors_of_the_Union_Pacific_Railroad_on_the_100th_meridian_approximately_250_miles_west_of_Omaha,_Nebr._Terr._The_tra_-_NARA_-_530892Well, we’ve all seen the movies and TV shows about building railroads in the nineteenth century, the armies of men, the towns, usually called “Hell on Wheels’ for good reason. and all the rest. The picture above is from my neighborhood, and without that railroad, there wasn’t any purpose for anybody to live out here, except maybe to hunt buffalo.

But we don’t build railroads like that anymore, Here’s how it’s done now

But if you were paying attention, you noticed those rails weren’t drilled to bolt together. That’s because there is a better way.

And, by the way, those armies of men, and the women who followed them, had to find other ways to make a living over the years, just like is happening now to many of our low skilled laborers, a few highly skilled and paid men, with the proper machinery, can do a better job, and do it cheaper than a horde of unskilled employees. And that means lower prices for us all.

How (Real) Capitalism Works

English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple of interesting things here, relating to capitalism, and just how very far we’ve come in the last few hundred years.

First off Deidre McClosky is in the process of explaining how we got so rich. From the Spectator, UK.

Deirdre McCloskey has been at work for many years on a huge project: to explain why the world has become so much richer in the past two centuries, and at an accelerating rate since 1945. This is the third and final volume in the series. In it she argues that ‘our riches were not made by piling brick on brick, bank balance on bank balance, but by piling idea on idea’. The Great Enrichment, which she dates from 1800 to the present, depends on the spread of ideas of liberty, seeded in a series of ‘egalitarian accidents’ in European politics between 1517 and 1789.

The liberalism she describes operates in a very narrow free zone, hemmed in by what she calls the ‘clerisy’ — critics on left and right alike who do not accept a full version of liberalism — and roughly a third of the text sees McCloskey, vorpal sword in hand, slaying the dragons of the state. But she’s fighting enemies from the past: her side has won the battle. Globalisation, neo-liberalism, the expansion of monetary assets and instant internet communication have spawned a new world order without any state powerful enough to contain it.

A couple of notes here, unless I’m mistaken, she’s referring here to classical liberalism, not the socialistic nonsense we hear now on both sides of the Atlantic. And she has much right, although I find the adjective European, misleading at best because it has little to do with Europe, it is the classical form of the British and American ‘rule of law’ that has made it so. There’s a reason why the industrial revolution happened first in that ‘nation of shopkeepers’ and then why they financed it here. More later on that.

[…] The world today produces 70 times more goods and services worldwide than in 1800. McCloskey gives imaginative examples of the improved standard of living by looking at the products in one’s room, starting with ‘the 20 ballpoint pens stuffed into a mass-produced coffee cup, pens and cups greatly cheapened after the second world war’. I have just that on my desk. Citizens of the most prosperous half of the world are hundreds of times better off than they were even in 1900 or 1945, and that standard of living is spreading quickly to the poorer places on the planet. A small refrigerator at Home Depot today costs 15 hours of work: at Sears in 1956 it cost 116 hours.

The history of western capitalism does owe a great deal to the onward march of ideas of liberty. But it’s not the whole story. The greatest expansion of capitalism, the Chinese economic miracle, has taken place under a very restrictive communist regime.

Except the Chinese form of capitalism bears about as much resemblance to real capitalism as does that of Mussolini. I wonder what the Chinese could do if the government got out of their way. And finally:

Unbridled liberalism on a global scale today has little in common with its portrait in this book. It has exploded its limiting conditions to make the whole world economy a giant speculative game. It looks, to this member of the clerisy, to be a threat to the society that spawned it.

All from: How capitalism really works

And that’s one problem with the British, and increasingly, with us as well. We’ve forgotten how we got rich, and now we’re getting poorer because we aren’t doing those things anymore. Instead, we’re copying the Chinese, God help us!


You’ve likely heard that Beyoncé’s clothing line is produced in Sri Lankan sweatshops. Well, that’s a shame, It’s also what happens in every single industrializing country, not excluding the UK and the US. When labor is plentiful and jobs are few labor gets paid less, always. And by the way, if Trump gets his tariffs, those jobs won’t be coming back, but the prices will be going up probably far more than the tariff rate, and a good many of those sweated seamstresses (who in actuality make far more than most of their neighbors) will revert to the real minimum wage, which is $0. And there is this.

In 2001, Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman Paul Krugman, whose written some of the most effective defenses of so-called sweatshops — “bad jobs at bad wages are better than no jobs at all” — explained why these efforts were insanity:

In 1993, child workers in Bangladesh were found to be producing clothing for Wal-Mart, and Senator Tom Harkin proposed legislation banning imports from countries employing underage workers. The direct result was that Bangladeshi textile factories stopped employing children. But did the children go back to school? Did they return to happy homes? Not according to Oxfam, which found that the displaced child workers ended up in even worse jobs, or on the streets — and that a significant number were forced into prostitution.

When VICE reached out to a Sri Lanka labor expert, no doubt expecting him to describe some soul-crushing hellhole, it got a pretty tepid response. “MAS [the factory] are essentially top of the range in terms of labour conditions in Sri Lanka,” Dr. Kanchana Ruwanpura of the University of Edinburgh told VICE. “They’re brilliant factories in terms of the build space and the attention they usually pay to the codes they work with. However, I would say that when it comes to wages and freedom of association, MAS don’t do a very good job.”

So, after having to grapple with two inconvenient facts — 1) that salaries at MAS are better than prevailing wages in Sri Lanka, and 2) that the factory is probably a relatively modern and safe place to work[…]

Lots more on this at: Beyonce’s ‘Sweatshops’ Do More For The Poor Than You Ever Will

And that is the pure and unvarnished truth. It’s not optimum but it’s better for these people than it ever has been. So why would we not want to help them? As Daniel Harsanyi says in the article:

In fact, if you want to help the world’s impoverished, you should probably buy her products. The more demand there is for tight-fitting, overpriced celebrity clothing lines, the more factories Sri Lankans will have to work in. As those workers have more choices, salaries will rise and so will the quality of life. This competition will impel employers to increase productivity and, if Sri Lanka doesn’t revert to its old ways, the economy will grow. The children of these workers will turn to white-collar professions. And before you know it, factories will be taken over by automatons and the Sri Lankan middle class will grumble about how the Indonesians are stealing their jobs.

This process might not sit will with the empathetic American liberal, and it might not happen as quickly as we’d like, but it’s how the world works.

 

How The New E-Cig Rules Hurt Americans

Some Kills

Some Kills (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may have noticed that the FDA recently decided that E-cig should be regulated (by themselves, natch) as tobacco products. Frankly, it doesn’t make much sense to me, maybe because I expect tobacco products to contain, well, I don’t know, tobacco, maybe.

Jared Meyer wrote about this the other day in The Federalist, here’s some of it.

Most people agree minors should not have access to products that contain substantial levels of nicotine (and “substantial” is used because many foods contain trace amounts of nicotine). But, in focusing on this move, commentators are missing how the FDA’s new regulations will destroy 99 percent of an industry that offers an option the Royal College of Physicians finds is 95 percent safer than cigarettes.

We Don’t Care About Your Health

The FDA’s regulations will force all e-cigarette products to go through the costly and time-consuming premarket tobacco product application process, a step that all but the big tobacco companies will not be able to comply with. (For more on how the FDA’s approval process will harm innovation and consumers, see my previous E21 article).

The fundamental reason FDA placed the public at greater risk of the health problems that come with smoking traditional cigarette was that it cannot pass up on a chance to expand its power. As the tortured language of the regulation shows, the FDA recognizes that e-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes, but refuses to admit their potential positive consequences. Instead, the agency twists congressional intent in its deadly power grab.

The FDA recognizes that e-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes, but refuses to admit their potential positive consequences.

Last week Nicopure Labs, an e-cigarette company, filed a lawsuit against the FDA that argued the agency’s dictates violate free speech by prohibiting e-cigarette makers from advertising that their products are smoke-free or safer than cigarettes. When addressing public comments on page 248 of the regulation, the FDA preemptively brought up this legal challenge by writing, “A few comments expressed concern that imposition of section 911 of the [Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act] will force e-cigarette manufacturers to implicitly lie by not permitting them to tell consumers that their products are safer alternatives to conventional cigarettes, to advertise that they do not contain tobacco, and to state that they are ‘smoke free.’”

The FDA replied to the objection by stating, “Section 911 is one of the provisions of the statute that applies automatically to deemed products. It was included in the FD&C Act to protect consumers from manufacturers making invalid or unsubstantiated claims, as many had done with respect to their designation of cigarettes as ‘light,’ ‘low,’ or ‘mild.’”

via How The New E-Cig Rules Hurt Americans

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that while government talks a good game about wanting us to quit smoking, they don’t really, smokers pay for a good bit of the FDA, and they provide a lot of money to both the local and federal government. Do you really think the cost of a pack of Marlboros is all that much greater now when they cost at least $5.00 than when the cost about 35¢? Nope, almost all of that difference goes to the government(s). If everybody quit smoking today, they’d be broke beyond fixing next month.

In full disclosure, I’ve been a smoker since the 60s, when all the cool kids smoked, probably averaging about 2-2½ packs a day, a good part of the time on non-filtered Pall-Malls. I always enjoyed it, and in fact, still do occasionally, although now I’m more likely to indulge in a fairly decent cigar. How did I get to that point? Easy answer, E-cigarettes. It’s very true, they allowed me to very easily quit smoking, and yes, my health has improved a lot. My stamina isn’t what it was when I was 20, but it’s a reasonable comparison to what it was at 45. I rarely cough anymore, where it was constant before, and in general, I just feel much better. And you know what else? When I was smoking, I spent around $20 a day on the habit, now I spend roughly $50 a month on its replacement. To me, that’s quite a product, that can do so much for me. And yes, I tried all the (very expensive) replacement programs too, I likely spent something like $1000 on trying (unsuccessfully) to quit smoking.

Not a good thing for either the FDA or ‘Big Tobacco’. So in true crony-capitalist fashion, it looks to me like they decided to destroy something, by taxing it out of existence, that has the usefulness to destroy one, and damage the other. And the Health of the Public, be damned, our money is much more important.

About those health benefits, the Royal College of Physicians had some things to say, these are just the ones that caught my eye, the paper is linked below.

  • Smoking is the biggest avoidable cause of death and disability, and social inequality in health, in the UK.
  • Quitting smoking is very difficult and most adults who smoke today will continue to smoke for many years.
  • NRT is most effective in helping people to stop smoking when used together with health professional input and support, but much less so when used on its own.
  • E-cigarettes appear to be effective when used by smokers as an aid to quitting smoking.
  • However, the hazard to health arising from long-term vapour inhalation from the e-cigarettes available today is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco.
  • Rather, the available evidence to date indicates that e-cigarettes are being used almost exclusively as safer alternatives to smoked tobacco, by confirmed smokers who are trying to reduce harm to themselves or others from smoking, or to quit smoking completely.
  • A regulatory strategy should, therefore, take a balanced approach in seeking to ensure product safety, enable and encourage smokers to use the product instead of tobacco, and detect and prevent effects that counter the overall goals of tobacco control policy.
  • The tobacco industry has become involved in the e-cigarette market and can be expected to try to exploit these products to market tobacco cigarettes, and to undermine wider tobacco control work.
  • However, in the interests of public health it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes, NRT and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking in the UK.

From Nicotine without smoke: Tobacco harm reduction

The FDA’s approach is very suspect because it goes against the best available evidence, which I think is brought out by the RCP paper. The FDA’s approach in collusion with the tobacco companies is, in fact, against the best interests of the taxpayers, and will cause more smokers to die of tobacco-related diseases.

The Marker is All that Remains, Until We Look Further

This showed up in my inbox yesterday as they do periodically. I’m always moved, but something about this one struck me as special, Maybe because of the linked blogs military connection, or because he’s a good writer or just something about the guy himself. I don’t know, but I want to share. From WeaponMan.

This small, but beautifully worked, marker was nailed, Christlike, to a cross that marked the end of a man’s world and the beginning of the Commonwealth War Graves Commisison’s responsibility for caring for his last remains. When his daughter, who somehow received the temporary cross, presumably when Richard de Rupe Roche’s grave was marked with a permanent stone by the Commission after the war, passed away, the marker which had been on the cross came into the white-gloved hands of the curators of the Imperial War Museum in London, who handle and preserve the century-old marker with care, perhaps even reverence.

Name plate from temporary grave marker of (409) Corporal Richard de Rupe Roche who served during the First World War on the Western Front with the Queen’s Westminster Rifles (16th Battalion, The London Regiment). Corporal de Rupe Roche died on active service on 8 January 1915 (aged 34). He was the elder son of Captain Richard Roche RN and Maria Jane Roche, and husband of Ethel Roche of Culver Cottage, Fletcher Road, Horsell, Woking. He is buried in Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension. (Information derived from the Commonwealth War Graves ‘Debt of Honour’ database). The cross belonged to his daughter Miss Barbara Roche who died in 1981; Miss Roche’s only memory of her father was waving goodbye to him as he left by train when she was only five years old.

Multiply that by several million, translate it into all the languages of the European continent, and behold the human picture of First World War.

The IWM does not say it, but Barbara, born 1913, was Richard’s and his wife Ethel’s only child. When Richard died, he left a substantial estate (for the time) of £2,365 15s 6d. (For those not old enough to recall pre-decimalization English money, those figures denote two thousand, three hundred sixty-five pounds, fifteen shillings and sixpence… people would usually say two thousand, three hundred sixty-five pounds, fifteen and six. Don’t get us started on guineas.

Says the IWM of this little artifact:

Name plate from a temporary grave marker of (409) Corporal Richard de Rupe Roche who served during the First World War on the Western Front with the Queen’s Westminster Rifles (16th Battalion, The London Regiment). Corporal de Rupe Roche died on active service on 8 January 1915 (aged 34). He was the elder son of Captain Richard Roche RN and Maria Jane Roche, and husband of Ethel Roche of Culver Cottage, Fletcher Road, Horsell, Woking. He is buried in Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension. (Information derived from the Commonwealth War Graves ‘Debt of Honour’ database). The cross belonged to his daughter Miss Barbara Roche who died in 1981 and was a close friend of the donor’s sister, to whom she left all her personal property. Miss Roche’s only memory of her father was waving goodbye to him as he left by train when she was only five years old. Several photographs and two letters of condolence were acquired with the marker (see correspondence file). One photograph shows a simple wood cross with the grave marker fixed to it at Houplines Military Cemetery and the others show Miss Barbara Roche as a young girl with her mother Ethel and a separate photograph of Corporal Roche.

For all their effort, the IWM has missed some details of Richard Roche the father and Richard de Rupe Roche. Fortunately, amateur historians memorializing Isle of Wight notables have unearthed them, and historians far away in western America have found more. These details reflect well on the men and their family. Captain Roche served in a ship in support of the British force that occupied the north end of San Juan Island in Washington (while American Marines occupied the south end, and diplomats wrangled over the border). Roche père did considerable exploration there; some terrain features are named after him to this day. He passed on in 1888 in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, so at least he did not live to see his son go to war — either time.

In World War I, Corporal Roche received a Mention in Dispatches, a significant valor award. It turns out he was already a veteran who fought and was wounded in the Boer War.

Private 4766 Richard de Rupe Roche served with 50 Company (2nd Hampshire) 17 Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry in the South African War. He was ‘Wounded Dangerously on 28 Mar 1901 at Rondal’, and awarded the Queen’s South Africa (QSA) Medal with Clasps: Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, Rhodesia, South Africa 1901.

He would have been just 20 in that war. He was well enough on his return to England for sport:

Richard de Rupe Roche is believed to have played for Wakefield Rugby Football Club in the inaugural season of 1901/2.

via The Marker is All that Remains, Until We Look Further | WeaponsMan

Keep reading, including the comments. Here is the reason, we have Memorial Day, and why it is so special, and why Britain and the Commonwealth have Remembrance Day. Hognose’s last sentence, although obvious, is one we must never forget.

“In war, the best fall; it has to have a dysgenic effect on a nation.”

The coming debt bust

20160507_LDD010_1You will, I hope, forgive me a personal note before we get down to business today. Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of my co-blogger, Jessica’s blog ‘All along the Watchtower‘ and we each had a piece or two there to celebrate. In truth of the blogs that we read when she started, or when I did ten months earlier, not all that many are left. She graciously said this, this morning:

As Neo reminds us, there have been ups and downs, and what with attempted censorship, my illness and people popping in and out, the wonder is we’re still here. I looked back at some of the earlier posts, and felt quite nostalgic at some of the bloggers who have come and gone since then, including some of our contributors. No one will, I hope, mind if I pay an especial tribute to Geoffrey Sales, who at times kept the blog going all by himself. I hope, too, no one will feel slighted if I pay a heartfelt tribute to Chalcedon451 who has kept the ship afloat despite his own heavy workload.

She’s right, If you dig back through the archive, you’ll find much that is interesting. You’ll even find a multipart story where many of us tried our hands at fiction. It could have been worse, and I’m surprised it wasn’t. Geoffrey and Chalcedon, have between them kept us going for many weeks when I was totally useless and Jess was very ill indeed. And I wanted to mention it here as well, because many of you are fond of Jess, and they are two of the best friends I, and this blog have. So do drop over and like her article, and maybe look around, it’s a lively fun place, for all that we are all serious about our Christianity.


Today we’re talking about the looming financial crisis, no not ours for once, at least not first. China has a pretty big problem staring them in the face. This is from the print edition of The Economist, and well worth taking note of.

CHINA was right to turn on the credit taps to prop up growth after the global financial crisis. It was wrong not to turn them off again. The country’s debt has increased just as quickly over the past two years as in the two years after the 2008 crunch. Its debt-to-GDP ratio has soared from 150% to nearly 260% over a decade, the kind of surge that is usually followed by a financial bust or an abrupt slowdown.

China will not be an exception to that rule. Problem loans have doubled in two years and, officially, are already 5.5% of banks’ total lending. The reality is grimmer. Roughly two-fifths of new debt is swallowed by interest on existing loans; in 2014, 16% of the 1,000 biggest Chinese firms owed more in interest than they earned before tax. China requires more and more credit to generate less and less growth: it now takes nearly four yuan of new borrowing to generate one yuan of additional GDP, up from just over one yuan of credit before the financial crisis. With the government’s connivance, debt levels can probably keep climbing for a while, perhaps even for a few more years. But not for ever.

When the debt cycle turns, both asset prices and the real economy will be in for a shock. That won’t be fun for anyone. It is true that China has been fastidious in capping its external liabilities (it is a net creditor). Its dangers are home-made. But the damage from a big Chinese credit blow-up would still be immense. China is the world’s second-biggest economy; its banking sector is the biggest, with assets equivalent to 40% of global GDP. Its stockmarkets, even after last year’s crash, are together worth $6 trillion, second only to America’s. And its bond market, at $7.5 trillion, is the world’s third-biggest and growing fast. A mere 2% devaluation of the yuan last summer sent global stockmarkets crashing; a bigger bust would do far worse. A mild economic slowdown caused trouble for commodity exporters around the world; a hard landing would be painful for all those who benefit from Chinese demand.

Brace, brace

Continue reading at The coming debt bust | The Economist

This is not my field, obviously, but I know from a whole lot of experience, if you don’t get out in front of problems, they can really ruin your day, and it doesn’t look like China is anywhere near to solving this. If it blows up, it will have major repercussions for us all.

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