It’s your choice

January 18th, 2018

You can choose to live in a country with the DJIA at 26,000 or the horrible world of PC and silence that Andrew Klavan describes. A couple of years ago, it really wasn’t a choice, but it became one in the last fifteen months or so. Gee, what happened? (VDH has a similar analysis.) In the end, of course, we still don’t know which side will ultimately win.

And, in closing, a little ha-ha.

Grad school deferments shaped news in 2005 and 1968

January 17th, 2018

Original from 2005 is here, with certain changes. One message in this update: the media now have a power they did not have 50 years ago, namely to create the long-term DJT mass hysteria that they can do now (at least for Hollywood, the universities et al). Sad days, or maybe not (if we’re in a good mood).

Where was the anti-war movement 13 years ago? Could you locate it, other than Congress’s rhetoric that they refuse to stand behind and serves to demoralize the troops? There were no mass 2005 demonstrations anywhere, no threats to cut off funding; there’s outrage, but it was about Bush much more than the war. It’s like a hot air balloon without the balloon. The last time Congress voted in late 2005, the House vote was nearly unanimous against withdrawal now. The Senate is no braver in leading the charge to cut and run. Camp Cindy (photo via AP, Powerline) is an idea whose time never was, despite the MSM’s efforts and a big and top-notch public relations effort: a dozen people managed to get themselves arrested the other day in Crawford — yawn. Moreover, the biggest unreported story is that, of those dissatisfied with the war, huge numbers have wanted the US to use more force, not tuck its tail between its legs.

We want to suggest the following: the anti-war movement is in important part a staged event by the MSM, featuring some committed anti-American Leftists, rag-tag 60’s die-hards and Democratic legislators without the courage to take the position they fund-raise on. The current MSM “anti-war movement” is a cheap re-make of the Vietnam phenomenon. However, other than the name, there are few similarities between the two.

The Vietnam context

Vietnam was a decade long war in which over 2.5 million Americans served, many by conscription, and 58,000 Americans died; by comparison to that scale, Iraq barely registers as a war (as we have noted, annual military deaths now are around the average of the 1980’s, when the US was not at war). Zero Americans have been drafted for Iraq; Vietnam era draftees numbered 1.7 million (and they accounted for 30% of deaths in Vietnam).

From the early days of the Vietnam War, there was a real, if small, anti-war movement. It included people sincerely troubled by the war, but as David Horowitz said, was led by “Marxists and radicals who supported a communist victory.”

Until 1967, the Vietnam anti-war movement was something of a sideshow — in that year it began to grow significantly in numbers and organization.

The growth of the Vietnam anti-war movement was in large measure grounded in self-interest. It became intense only after conscription expanded substantially in the young adult population (first to 29,000 a month and then to 42,000 a month by spring 1968), and after the passage of the Selective Service Act of 1967. That Act made it more difficult to get a draft deferment, and in fact created the violent and intense war protests at elite institutions, since it cancelled graduate school deferments, beginning with the fall 1968 student year.

As contemporaneous reporting in the Harvard Crimson demonstrates, the end of the deferments threw elite university students and professors into the frenzy of sit-ins, takeovers, and demostrations that began in 1968.

We don’t much care for the MSM or its role in Vietnam, particularly the Cronkite moment below, but they arguably had the wind at their backs by early 1968. In January the 10,000th US airplane was lost in Vietnam, the USS Pueblo was captured, and the Tet Offensive began. LBJ looked beleaguered as he prepared to give the State of the Union address. On February 27, 1968 Walter Cronkite gave his famous verdict on Vietnam because of the Tet Offensive, which as we now know, was something of a North Vietnamese Battle of the Bulge and an American victory:

To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy’s intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.

President Johnson said in response: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.” Ronald Reagan said that Cronkite or CBS should have been indicted for what he said. But at least Cronkite offered it openly as only an opinion: “an analysis that must be speculative, personal, subjective.” Today the MSM often no longer separate their editorials from reporting, offering their opinions in the form of facts: they call them polling results.

Finally, from an electoral standpoint, the anti-war movement was usually a loser. Despite the negativity of the MSM, LBJ bested Gene McCarthy in the New Hampshire primary in March, which many forget. Richard Nixon won in 1968 and trounced his anti-war opponent in 1972. It was only Watergate and its aftermath, the Congress elected in1974, that finally consigned the citizens of south Vietnam to unspeakable horrors.

Comment

It is impossible to know what would have happened in Vietnam without the complicity of the MSM, the radicalization of anti-war cadres deprived of their student deferments, or Watergate. Today’s situation is far better: the MSM have the New Media as a foil; however Leftist students and faculties are, they are on the sidelines; and Scootergate, whatever its merits, is not Watergate.

We wish the President had a different communications strategy. Perhaps he could give the speech of James Q. Wilson in the WSJ the other day. But that is still too mild for our tastes. We wish he would take some advice from David Horowitz, and help the MSM awaken from its dream of an American defeat:

If I have one regret from my radical years, it is that this country was too tolerant toward the treason of its enemies within. If patriotic Americans had been more vigilant in the defense of their country, if they had called things by their right names, if they had confronted us with the seriousness of our attacks, they might have caught the attention of those of us who were well-meaning but utterly misguided. And they might have stopped us in our tracks. I appeal to those of you who are attacking your country, full of self-righteousness, who, like me, may live to regret what you have done.

BTW: final point re both Vietnam and Iraq, don’t get into a war that you won’t fight to victory. Also, we note that the MSM of today are far worse than at the time of Rathergate.

From 11 years ago

January 15th, 2018

Within the lifetime and personal memories of many Americans still living, most everyone knew farmers and soldiers. As late as America’s entry into World War I, over 42% of Americans still lived on farms. It’s hard not to know a farmer or have spent time on a farm when 4 out of 10 of your countrymen lived their lives in agriculture.

Similarly, everyone knew soldiers not so long ago. WWI drafted 2.8 million Americans, when America only had 50 million men in total. WWII took 10 million draftees, and there were 3.4 million between Korea and Vietnam. One way of looking at Vietnam, for example, is that the draftees were as many as all boys in the United States who turned 18 in 1970 — a pretty large group of Baby Boomers. And none of these figures include the men who enlisted — surprisingly, perhaps, the total number of Vietnam veterans is over 2,500,000. So for a long time in America it has been true that most Americans knew something of farming and the military in a direct personal way.

No longer. As a statistical matter today, there are almost no new soldiers or farmers in America. Annual military recruits amount to 175,000 or so a year in a country of 300,000,000. And it’s even worse in agriculture. There are lilterally almost no new farmers in America today. At the time of WWII, farming still occupied 18% of the labor force — it’s less than 2% today. Every single year America loses more farmers than it creates. Many (perhaps most?) young Americans probably have not one single friend who becomes a farmer or soldier today.

Mark Steyn asks from time to time why there are no war songs today, as opposed to WWII. Part of the reason is leftist Hollywood, of course, but another aspect of the phenomenon is this: all Americans were involved in WWII (see the PBS Soundies program, for example); very few are involved in America’s fight today. In WWII, war songs were about us; today war songs would be about them.

We sometimes hear from the worthies on talk radio that this is the same America that won WWII, and just you wait, fella, til that power is unleashed. Well, this is pretty clearly not the America of WWII. The millions of farmers and soldiers of yesteryear are the Halo-players and web designers and J-Lo wannabes of today. And there is not much memory of that older America to boot. There are justifiable reasons to be very concerned about these collective losses of experience, memory and toughness in our very dangerous world.

This is not a piece about decline and pessimism, however. Research (see eg, Harvard Professor Dan Gilbert’s interesting lecture and book) shows time and again that the resiliency and adaptability of men and women to crisis, hardship and cruel misfortune is far above what they themselves anticipate. For the most part, the most recent generations of Americans have not been tested in the way some earlier generations have. When such tests come, it remains to be see whether these generations will perform in the manner of farmers and soldiers past, and what manner of patriotic songs will be sung.

It is, however, a serious error to judge the fruits of affluence as irreversible symptoms of decline. We cannot know the outcome at this time.

Then and now

January 14th, 2018

We wonder what percentage of high school seniors (or geniuses like this) could get all three of these correct today: (a) the date of D-Day; (b) the square root of 100; and (c) the first seven words of the Declaration of Independence. Maybe 5%? Hey, no prob, we’ve got the cool new things. Requiescat in pace.

Flush with good reads

January 13th, 2018

Where to begin? How about this nasty but fun piece from AT? Then we’ll swirl into another nasty but fun piece at PL. Then we’ll pause to consider our surprise at learning that Thomas Aquinas wrote a bunch of famous hymns. Finally, Klavan at CJ. Please wash your hands before dinner.

More big numbers

January 12th, 2018

Forbes:

China’s trade surplus with the United States rose by 13% in 2017 to a record $288 billion, according to Chinese official data. The actual figure reported on the Chinese side was 1.87 trillion yuan, which most Western news outlets converted to $276 billion. What’s $12 billion between friends? Take your pick; both numbers are big.

But not big enough. The U.S. reports trade figures monthly, and U.S. data showed that the trade deficit was already $342 billion by the end of November. Consolidating the $30 billion U.S. surplus with Hong Kong (most of which goes to China) puts the all-China deficit at $312 billion for the first 11 months of 2017. Add in another $30 billion or so for December, and the full-year 2017 U.S. trade deficit with China and Hong Kong is likely to come in at around $340 billion.

That means that the final 2017 U.S. deficit with China/HKG may be up 17%-18% from the $280 billion consolidated China/HKG deficit recorded for 2016.

So the stock market is up to $25 trillion or some such, and the media focus on nonsense.

Bitcoin sanity

January 11th, 2018

Someone:

In 2017, we saw the consolidation of China’s power and influence globally, and of Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s power nationally. This year, the party will try to use this to tackle some of its biggest economic hurdles such as financial risk, environmental pollution and maintaining social cohesion.

A first and overriding priority will be managing and preventing major financial risks within the Chinese economy. China will continue to clean up and tighten controls over its financial sector.

Beijing has already banned risk-laden Bitcoin from its financial system, and the government says it will maintain a “proactive fiscal policy and prudent monetary policy” for 2018.

This is in line with moves earlier in 2017 to curb credit growth and consolidate the country’s 100 trillion yuan (US$15 trillion) financial services asset-management industry under a single regulatory umbrella.

Regulators have also issued a 36-point code of conduct for the country’s private enterprises to follow when investing overseas. This is part of a move to clip the wings of China’s most aggressive global deal makers, firms like HNA Group and Fosun International. These businesses responded enthusiastically to the government’s “going out” policy to link China to the rest of the global economy, launched at the beginning of the century.

On the one hand, China has banned investments in gambling and “sensitive” industries and restricted investments in property, hotel, film and sports. But projects linked to China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative are actively encouraged. So 2018 should see a continuation of China’s expanding economic influence globally through infrastructure and other major projects.

Jamie Dimon got off the train, but we still don’t get it re Bitcoin……..at all.

Stupidity 101

January 10th, 2018

Laziness good, civility bad. How much lower can the universities sink? No doubt much lower. Stay tuned. Bonus: the cities are as dumb as the colleges. And speaking of dumb…..

Economic Growth 101

January 9th, 2018

Forbes:

China will soon release full-year economic growth figures for 2017. Don’t be surprised if the headline number is 6.7%. After all, that is the target. Economic output tracked 6.9% above last year’s level throughout Q1 and Q2 of 2017, falling to 6.8% in Q3. With China’s leaders talking up the “quality” rather than the quantity of economic growth, it’s a safe bet that growth will be allowed to glide down toward the 6.7% target for the final quarter.

One of the reasons China’s quarterly growth figures are so eerily smooth is that China reports headline quarterly growth as a comparison to the same quarter in the previous year. Most other countries annualize each individual quarter’s rate of growth, producing the appearance of much greater quarterly variability.

Annualizing China’s quarterly growth numbers for the first three quarters of 2017 produces a much more reasonable quarterly track record. On an annualized basis, China’s real GDP growth rates for the first three quarters of 2017 were 5.7% for Q1, 7.4% for Q2, and 7.0% for Q3. Put those figures together, and China needs an annualized growth rate of 6.5% in Q3 to hit its overall target of 6.7% for the year.

And it just so happens that China’s full-year growth target for 2018 is also 6.5%. So expect China’s 2017 Q4 growth to come in at 1.6% for the quarter (equivalent to an annualized rate of 6.5%), down from 1.7% in Q3, putting China right on target to grow 6.7% for the full year 2017 and setting the pace for 6.5% in 2018. Simple.

China wasn’t always so good at hitting its growth targets. Just two years ago, in early 2016, China’s economy was going haywire. Exports were falling, business indictors were down, and consumer confidence was at an all-time low. The economy was reportedly still growing at 6.9%, but no one seemed to believe it. China seemed headed for its first recession in decades.

The solution? Fire the statistician.

He was sentenced to life in prison. Maybe something to try out here on some scoundrels.

BTW

January 9th, 2018

We think we know what’s going on with this, which has made some conservative commentators very upset. It’s a couple of moves ahead of pawn to king 4. Stay tuned. Funny stuff, if we’re right. Explanation later.

Apparently on target

January 8th, 2018

CNBC:

One of the benefits of China shifting its economy away from traditional manufacturing is that the country’s economic growth will be less reliant on borrowing, an economist said on Monday. “It’s trying to boost growth of the new economy, as the new economy is less credit intensive. That’s also helping deleveraging efforts in China,” said Robin Xing, Morgan Stanley’s chief China economist. Speaking to CNBC on the sidelines of the Morgan Stanley China Technology, Media and Telecoms Conference in Beijing, Xing spoke against the backdrop of longstanding concerns about the sustainability of three decades of breakneck debt-fueled growth in the world’s second-largest economy. Morgan Stanley’s GDP forecast for China is 6.5 percent this year. China’s official 2017 growth target had been around 6.5 percent, and that’s likely to remain unchanged this year, Reuters reported last Thursday

We were on the ground in Shanghai for fewer hours than it took to fly there and back. We’ll see about the above.

Briefly

January 7th, 2018

We’ve often seen Chinese carriers fuller in general and in particular fuller of Chinese passengers, but today was a doozy, It seemed as though every row in coach on American Airlines had at least one tyke riding on his parent’s lap. It was so bad that they had to move kids to avoid problems with oxygen masks not being available. In other news, some Chinese propaganda news show is saying the US President is nuts — oh wait, that’s CNN. Scott Adams has a different take. You choose.

Some different numbers

January 6th, 2018

WS:

By 1991, that number had climbed to 514,000; by 2014, the number was 4,367,901. The Islamic Republic is pushing into the job market roughly 1 to 1.5 million college graduates per year. As with the capital, provincial cities are flooded with these graduates, many of whom cannot find jobs or are doing jobs that make them indistinguishable from the non-college-educated unemployed and working poor. In 2011, 22 percent of the graduates in engineering were unemployed; for the biological sciences, the figure is 26 percent, and for computer sciences, 30 percent.

Off to Shanghai in the am. Catch you later.

Bummer et al, including good things

January 5th, 2018

Spengler has a negative piece on Iran’s future; it’s a bummer. We’ll see what happens. Final point for today: does no one see the similarity of tweets to orange hair? You get what you get, that’s all, from the greatest enemy of PC on the planet.

For fun, listen to the kooky but great A Very Cellular Song. After that, All Hail Marx and Lennon, and you will see that a sense of humor and much else have vanished from our country in a few decades.

After that, listen to Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert (at the 6 minute mark) and the incredible Bill Evans Never Let Me Go, which we asked to him perform in the East Village a long while ago, to which he answered that he had not done publicly since his 14:35 recording in 1968.

The latter things should make a good day.

Fun and sigh

January 4th, 2018

Fun. Sigh. No comment on the just plain weird. Little or not so little point: if you follow Thomas Sowell’s or Larry Elder’s tweets, you see that they have a nice sense of humor, but their opponents have no sense of humor at all. Which side would you rather be on?

Freak out!

January 3rd, 2018

A rambling post by The Excitable Lad is all we’ve got for today. However, we are going to ask our leftish opinion columnist friends if they’ve ever read anything by Victor Davis Hanson, Roger Kimball, or Dennis Prager (and maybe Spengler, Wretchard, Clarice, Roger Simon, and Bruce Bawer if we’re in a particular mood). We’ll let you know what we find out. BTW, we’re now a decade away from oil reaching $100 a barrel for the first time.

Also, we’re super scared about global warming. That 1 part of CO2 in the atmosphere out of every 2500 is super scary. Yikes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Some observations on Iran 2009

January 1st, 2018

Book review by a knowledgeable person:

In Democracy in Iran, Misagh Parsa examines why the forces of repression have always gained the upper hand over Iran’s democratic impulses and how democracy might eventually emerge in Iran. He touches briefly on the Constitutional Revolution and the oil nationalization movement. But his main focus is on what he regards as the failed democratic promise of the 1978–79 Islamic Revolution. He concludes that, given the character of the Islamic Republic, if democracy does come to Iran, it will do so through revolution, not gradual reform.

it was under Ahmadinejad that Iran saw its most serious challenge to the conservative establishment since 1979. In 2009, Ahmadinejad, implicitly supported by the ruling establishment, including the supreme leader and many commanders of the Revolutionary Guards, ran for a second term as president. He was challenged by two prominent politicians: Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister, and Mehdi Karroubi, a leading cleric and former speaker of parliament. Both were establishment figures, but both campaigned on platforms of reform and an end to Iran’s international isolation. Such was the hunger for change that both attracted widespread support. Mousavi’s campaign rallies were especially large and enthusiastic. Encouraged by the crowds, Mousavi and Karroubi grew bolder in their criticism of the government and their calls for reform.

On the eve of the vote, all the signs—the size of the opposition rallies, the enthusiasm of Mousavi’s supporters, and the large turnout on voting day itself—pointed to a Mousavi victory. But when the results were announced, suspiciously early, Ahmadinejad was declared the winner by an improbably wide margin. Protests broke out the next day. Huge crowds poured out into the streets of Tehran, shouting, “Where is my vote?” Over the following days, much to the consternation of the regime, the Green Movement (named for the color adopted by Mousavi’s supporters during the campaign) kept growing and began calling for radical change, well beyond the moderate reforms espoused by the two opposition leaders.

The regime responded harshly. Parsa describes the crackdown in vivid detail. Large numbers of riot police and paramilitaries were sent into the streets, where they arrested protesters and rounded up leaders sympathetic to the reform movement. The government shut down opposition political organizations, banned demonstrations (they took place anyway), and directed a barrage of propaganda against the protesters. Several demonstrators were killed in battles with security forces in the streets or by sharpshooters on rooftops. Once the protests were quelled, the reprisals began. In one instance, several prominent former officials and members of parliament were put on trial together, revealing deep splits within the ruling elite.

“The Green Movement,” Parsa writes, “shook the foundation of the Islamic Republic like no other event in the thirty years since the revolution. The movement unfolded so rapidly that it quickly resembled the last phase of the 1979 revolution.” Yet it failed in part because, according to Parsa, its leaders, Mousavi and Karroubi, were gradualist reformers, not the agents of radical change sought by the crowds. On several occasions, Mousavi even tried to rein in the demonstrators. This gap between the leaders and the protesters weakened the campaign. Moreover, Mousavi and Karroubi had no plans for dealing with the regime crackdown when it came. Nor were the protesters themselves sufficiently organized to sustain the movement in the face of government pressure.

The leaders also failed to mobilize social groups beyond the opposition’s base of students, women, and middle-class professionals. As a result, unlike during the 1978–79 revolution, the vast majority of clerics, Friday prayer leaders, merchants, shopkeepers, and industrial workers stayed away. Factory employees did not stage strikes, merchants and shopkeepers did not disrupt distribution networks, and workers did not block the production and export of oil. Parsa attributes these shortcomings to a failure in leadership, weak or absent support structures such as labor unions and professional associations, and, of course, severe repression.

The piece above appears to have been written before the onset of the current strife in Iran. Wretchard’s take also is very interesting. Stay tuned.

Taking the day off

December 31st, 2017

This is kind of fun. Happy New Year’s Eve.

Iran 2009 and today

December 30th, 2017

Here is Iran in 2009 (slides 39-41 are particularly appalling). Here and here are Iran today. What is different? Well, one difference is that the government isn’t kissing up to the boss of these thugs and calling him Supreme Leader. Roger Simon has more, as does Elliott Abrams. Also some mealy-mouthed coverage from AP. Reality versus non-reality continues non-stop. Re non-reality, maybe it’s those darn UFO’s.

Which 2017 world did you live in?

December 29th, 2017

According to CNN: you-know-who “has demonized the free press, world leaders, Muslims, immigrants, women and the NFL. He has bullied, barked and insulted his way through the year. There are too many affronts to list here. But every tweet has pushed us one inch closer to his alternate view of the world — to normalizing this un-American behavior. The fact is, his dying world view can rally for a little while, but his alternate reality can’t win.”

On 11/8/16 the DJIA closed at 18,333 and yesterday at 24,837, a 35% increase in a little over a year, the opposite of some economics Nobel Prize punditry opinion. Feel free to choose which world you’d like to inhabit. Fun bonuses: another Roger Kimball piece, and one from Spengler.