Avoiding the End of Days

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How easily we ignore this stuff

Two quotes, one old, one new, from smart experienced people. In fact, the very opposite of the mob of weekend warrior moral relativists currently besieging Twitter and various airports.

First up:

No party or ideological faction has The Solution because The Solution doesn’t exist. Much of the world beyond our shores is a wreck, and the best you can pull off right now is damage control.

Michael J Totten, The Tower, November 2016

Totten has been out there in the Middle East, at the sharp end. So have lots of people I realise, but whilst well travelled, I wouldn’t necessarily include various presidents, prime ministers, secretaries of state etc in that category. The article is terrific.

Second up is an oldie. A very oldie, from Frederick William, The Great Elector of Brandenburg-Prussia, in his fairly famous Political Testament, 19/05/1667. It is very relevant:

“One thing is sure. If you stand still and think that the fire is still far from your borders, then your lands will become the stage upon which the tragedy is performed”

They didn’t have airports or ISIS back then, but the Thirty Years War was about as bad as it gets. We seem to have tried complacency on the domestic front in the last 10 years or so, and I don’t think it’s working out too well.

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Frederick William. Tougher than he looks

Collateral damage is just fine?

It would be entirely reasonable to extrapolate from the Twitter and media hysteria of the last 24 hours, that the deaths of numerous civilians in Boston, Florida, California and elsewhere recently, notwithstanding the lineage that stretches back more than 15 years to 9/11, are only so much collateral damage.

That is to say that in some way, they are painful and regrettable, yes, but also acceptable. Acceptable if the alternative is taking some steps – which by necessity will have to be through a process of partially informed trial and error – which may curtail in varying degrees things that people have been taking for granted. In this case that means getting rid of a managed free-for-all in entering the United States, which is what we’ve had until yesterday, by and large.

It’s not an original observation, but everyone remembers and brandishes the names of Anders Breivik (massacre more than 5 years ago) and Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma bombing 22 years ago), yet who can name the Nice lorry mass murderer only 6 months ago? Who is sure about the names of the Berlin lorry attacker, or the murderers of Jacques Hamel? The truth is that as a society – in the US, Europe and the UK- we happily obsess about the evil people ‘like us’ perpetrate, and weirdly almost accept the regular violence of the ‘other’. We have become inured to the reality of Islamic fundamental terrorism – until it hits someone that we know.

As renowned sage Kevin D Williamson of National Review Online put it yesterday:

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Particularly when there are all the usual clues – migrant background (often the parents), minor criminal record, affinity with violence, dubious web browsing etc etc. Well Trump is ‘doing something’. In fact, he’s doing slightly less than he said he’d do, but no-one could say they weren’t warned. That fact in itself might explain the suspiciously large and well organised mob that descended on JFK in a very short space of time. It’s not that easy to get to in a hurry.

Whether it will help I don’t know. It is after all trial and error , and might take a long time before any benefits – if there are any – will emerge. But to quote @KevinNR again:

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People have occasionally lost sight of what an elected government’s primary duty is – the safety of its citizens. After that, other people’s citizens, if one can. They usually go together, but not always. Supranational bodies and the whole globalsim thing have blurred this essential definition.

That said, I can sympathise with people who argue their corner in disagreeing with this immigration policy, but I didn’t come across any such rationalists in the last 24 hours. In fact if you want rational (I do), then it’s back over to NRO, for two superb pieces dissecting the policy, the background and the government actions (1,2). Remember, NRO famously didn’t support Trump, and they still don’t, by and large.

The cynic in me says that this is just another bonanza for the Secretly Pleased Voters, for whom Trump remains the gift that keeps on giving. After all, talk is cheap.

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Not quite 4 years – memories are short

Thank Harambe for the alt right

The Knife is a subscriber to the excellent Standpoint magazine, which as Guido details, is in considerable financial trouble. The only problem I have with it is getting the time to read it. The magazine is edited by the genuinely cerebral Daniel Johnson (as opposed to the casually applied ‘cerebral’ epithet to the likes of Barack), and could at a stretch be described as containing the thinking man’s version of the new bogeyman, the alt right. That is not the loose melange of far right cranks, but rather a ‘right of centre’ group of people who are prepared to confront the shibboleths of the formerly ascendant mad lefties, exemplified by Ed Miliband, Hillary (and Barack much of the time), who continually  strafe the political landscape with infantile Hitler accusations and similar, in order to stifle dissent.

Taking another publication with intellectual pretensions, the Guardian, it schizophrenically publishes trite editorials on the alt right theme, whilst at the same time encourages the superb journalism of people like John Harris, whose far more nuanced interpretation of the reasons for Trump and Brexit have been among the journalistic highlights of 2016.

Back to Guido. Here is one of his regular commenters, Kevin T, on the Standpoint situation, and their version of the alt right:

Why all the sniping at the alt right? The alt right actually get shit done. Brexit won, Trump elected. Traditional conservatives have given us sod all since Reagan and Thatcher left office. They mostly just sit there looking timid on Question Time, giving in to the left on everything except taxes. Thank Harambe something else has come along.

He has a point.

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Who knew The Donald was musical too?

American Caesar, sort of

What Trump managed was, unquestionably, the greatest upset in American political history, and arguably, the greatest electoral upset in the history of the modern world.

…thus wrote Scott McKay in today’s American Spectator. He goes on to add:

Hillary Clinton lost this race more than Trump won it. Which is not a disparagement of Trump’s upset; if nothing else, his late surge came from an excellent display of political discipline in largely refraining from any controversial words or deeds once Clinton’s legal troubles began multiplying 10 days out from Election Day — that restraint allowed her to lose the race and made him President of the United States.

Because what happened on Election Night was that the national gag reflex manifested itself. And the Democrats’ attempts at forcing down a charmless Alinskyite grifter under multiple FBI investigations ran afoul of that reflex. She found herself the victim of a massive laryngeal spasm on the part of the electorate.

Well, maybe Scott. Certainly the ‘anyone-but-Hillary’ force was strong, but….was it really  that great an upset, really so unpredictable? To quote black talk show host Larry Elder: I Hate to Say I Told You So – Actually, I Really Don’t Mind. Back in March I wrote this blog post, before Trump even got the nomination. I should add that then and now I don’t see Trump as a good or great man, though he now has a huge chance to show such qualities, but rather, I thought I was being realistic. All this amazement from pollsters and the media getting it wrong really does show how little they live in the real world. The one British hack who completely gets this is a lefty – the estimable John Harris of the Guardian.

I revisited it 5 months later, by which point Trump had the nomination, but very little true support from within the Republican party. At that time I quoted a member of my own family: I’m stunned to think that anyone can consider a racist dishonest misogynistic hateful, despicable human as Trump as suitable over any other candidate. I agree Hillary leaves a lot to be desired but for sheer evil Trump outstrips her every step of the way.

You would think that after Brexit people might start to question the received wisdom of the media/Establishment, if only to save a little face. Impeccably liberal Maureen Dowd of the humiliated New York Times gives an interesting and fair minded take of her own family’s split on the topic here.

Anyway, in the spirit of closing the loop (as those of us involved in clinical audit like to say), here are the specific predictions in the 8 month old blog revisited:

  1. Trump will be the Republican candidate, without a brokered convention

Yup, that was actually very straightforward

2. The party will rally round him with a few unimportant exceptions

A grudging pass, he eventually got the basically sound Paul Ryan onside. Party chief Reince Priebus got on the Trump bus fairly early – a wise move

3.  He will rapidly and overtly assemble a team of big hitters — few people will turn him down

Well, Pence was an inspired VP choice for folk who found Trump a bit too wild. Giuliani was solid. Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway were brilliant choices for the big run in. Trump is either very lucky or a good judge of people.

4. He will win the election

Ahem!

5. That will primarily be because he’ll gain votes from former Democrats who can’t stand Hillary and actually like what Trump says, but they won’t tell pollsters that

Tick! Look at the electoral map – even California gets in on the change. As for the neglected rustbelt, disdained by Obama and his toadies…

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6. A negligible number of Republican voters will defect, or abstain

Tick! Well the turnout was around 56%, and the lowish figure is thought to be mainly disaffected Democrats (according to Vox)

7.  He will gain more of the black and Hispanic  votes than anyone is predicting at the moment (read the original post for some interesting detail on this)

Tick! The numbers aren’t huge, but he didn’t need a huge swing. It was a genuine shift to Trump. Ask NBC:

Most surprisingly, official exit polls show Trump won 29 percent of the Latino vote; Romney had won 27 percent in 2012…As with Latinos, black men voted for Trump in higher numbers than their female counterparts, at 13 percent compared to 4 percent of black women.

8. He will be far more cautious and pragmatic in office than current rhetoric suggests – he will listen to advisers

Well he certainly listened during the campaign, especially latterly – the relaxed, discursive confident Trump in the late rallies

9. Sadly,there will not be a mass exodus of pathetic celebrities from the US – the Paul O’Grady rule will apply

I’m still hoping on this, but there’s at least 23 to choose from, albeit I’ve not heard of lots of them, so ‘celebrity’ might be pushing it. It should be easy enough to spot if Barbra Steisand has actually upped sticks. Apparently Canada don’t want most of them

10. Economically he will avoid the threatened trade war, but send out a few protectionist messages

He’s a pragmatic businessman who will have to do something to support the US worker. It might be bumpy, but US power – and the ubiquitous dollar – is great enough for him to manage it. The UK will do well with Trump.

11. Foreign policy will be left to a smart Secretary of State and the military

Well, war is sometimes necessary, and I take the view that difficult though it may be, the West will have to play a significant part in destroying ISIS. Heraclitus would concur, I think. Trump may not be squeaky clean on Iraq – like many people who suspected it was a bad idea, he vacillated a bit. There is no evidence at all that he would be a gung-ho neocon or Hillary style Libyan interventionist. As for this weird Dem obsession with hating Putin/Russia above everyone else, I know he’s a bad guy, but he is against some of the worst people. Try Rod Liddle on this.

12. I’ve no idea what he’ll do in reality re immigration

Though Ann Coulter has

I think I did alright with the predictions so far. Even if it goes a bit pear-shaped (but nowhere near as bad as Barack has managed), at least we have the late John von Kannon‘s wise advice:

“If you can’t have good government, at least have entertaining government.”

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Hmm, maybe not after all

Celebrity deathmatch: The Donald v Hillary

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Mating blue crabs: an easier binary choice (thanks to J Exp Biol)

Sometimes you get wisdom and truth from the unlikeliest places. Dodgy narcissist Julian Assange has been doing the world a service by revealing Hillary Clinton’s duplicity, with hard facts. He claims also to be ‘working on’ Trump’s tax returns, and not as an accountant. Here he is on the two of them:  you have really, two very bad presidential candidates, albeit he qualified this with the rider it was ‘from the perspective of Wikileaks trying to protect its sources’, whatever that means. Give Assange his due, though, this is the opposite of endangering national security, which is the kind of thing that he and Edward Snowden usually get accused of.

The Dems are very upset that from their point of view Assange seems to be favouring Trump. They might be right: “the natural instincts of Hillary Clinton and the people around her, that when confronted with a serious domestic political scandal, that she tries to blame the Russians, blame the Chinese, etc. If she does that when she’s in government, that’s a political, managerial style that can lead to conflict.”

Which leads me to wonder how to resolve the ‘two bad candidates’ issue, not that I have a vote, but the entire world retains a legitimate personal interest. Back in March (long before he got the nomination) I predicted Trump would do it, and I stick with that. The other predictions in that post seem about right just now.

Here’s a fairly typical comment to ponder: I’m stunned to think that anyone can consider a racist dishonest misogynistic hateful, despicable human as Trump as suitable over any other candidate. I agree Hillary leaves a lot to be desired but for sheer evil Trump outstrips her every step of the way

That was taken from an email from one of my family. I don’t see any evidence that Trump is a racist, he tells far fewer lies than Hillary, and on less important topics, his relationships with women are at times sexist rather than misogynist if you want to be critical (which is not say that’s acceptable, but I don’t think he hates women, far from it). In fact, on this I will respectfully defer to a zinging piece by my all-time favourite lesbian feminist, Camille Paglia.

‘Hateful and despicable’ really depend on the viewer rather than the subject. ‘Sheer evil’ is a tricky one, though if I had to make a judgement between them over public, rather than personal morality and behaviour, Trump is a clear winner. Benghazi, abortion, quite amazingly lucrative financial jiggery pokery, Huma’s dodgy links,  aiding and abetting sexual molestation – it’s a long and well documented list that Hillary has racked up, before you even get to the mysteries like Vince Foster.

However, Trump is hard to like, respect or warm to, most of the time. He has quite a few very smart admirers, like Conrad Black and Bob Tyrrell, despite his many detractors, and he doesn’t hide from criticism. The UK opinion formers tend to hate him, but a straw poll of the punters – such as in my operating theatre – will tell a slightly different story.

One of the very best, and wittiest, American journalists is Kevin D Williamson at National Review. He loathes both candidates, and despite his own claims to the contrary, has tied himself up in knots deciding which is worse and what an honourable position would be. If I understand him rightly, he’s abstaining. Here is a recent summary of his take on it:

If your argument is, “Regardless, I prefer him to Hillary Rodham Clinton,” okey-dokey. But let’s be honest about what exactly it is you prefer to Mrs. Clinton, what manner of man you would see entrusted with the most powerful political portfolio on Earth. If you are going to do that, then you should have the intellectual honesty and the moral courage to be straight and plain about what it is you are doing.  

Well, if I did have the vote, that would be my position: vote for the anti-Hillary, who happens to be Trump. I suppose that it’s conceivable that someone worse than Hillary might be out there, but they’re not the Republican or Libertarian or Green candidate (so feel free to vote for the last two).

What about abstaining? Is it effective or ‘honourable’? If you genuinely cannot pick then I guess it is the honest approach. I knew a few EU Referendum voters who did exactly that, and fair enough. However, while this blogger at Ace of Spades HQ is, on the face of it, agreeing with KDW:

I am not hoping for Trump to get into some serious international snafu by supporting him. Yet I know that is a very real possibility if he’s president. Should this happen, I can’t just say “But I didn’t want Trump to screw up so badly.” People would say — no, but you knew the risks in supporting him, and you supported him anyway; you are therefore morally responsible for this.

…he takes issue with the abstension-get-out-of-jail-free approach:

…the #NeverTrumpers claim that the obvious, inescapable outcome of their position — that Hillary Clinton will be the president — is not their responsibility, just because they didn’t intend that as a primary matter.

He has a point. It’s a great piece, which while it’s stating the obvious – that this is a binary choice in reality – skilfully unpicks the fantasy world of an allegedly principled abstension. The main and somewhat selfish benefit of the latter is to be able to sit around a few years hence saying “it’s not my fault, I abstained on principle”. Abstension also has consequences. Oddly enough, if you Google ‘binary choice’, you’re already seeing quite a few Clinton and Trump images. Final quotations (I apologise for  lifting someone else’s work so thoroughly):

All choices have consequences. By supporting Trump, I am responsible for the consequences of a Trump victory — and those consequences could indeed be dire.

But a childish morally-unserious fantasy has infected the #NeverTrump not-so-intelligentsia, that they can agitate for Hillary Clinton — by relentlessly disparaging Trump — and somehow, they are not responsible for the consequences of the Hillary presidency they are bucking for**.

They’ve dreamed up this self-pleasing, responsibility-evading dreamscape in which those who plump for Trump are responsible for the outcomes of a Trump presidency, but, for no explanation thus far discoverable, they are not responsible for the outcomes of the Hillary presidency they’re agitating for.….  If you think Hillary would be a better president — or if Trump is so repulsive to you, you cannot support him even if you think Hillary would be worse — fine. I respect your opinion.

We all have different brains. We all have different priorities.

But what I must insist you cannot do — what I will not permit you to do — is fantasize that while a Trump supporter is responsible for the gaffes and disasters of a President Trump, you are somehow innocent of the purges and witchhunts of a President Hillary.

Trump supporters will own the consequences of a Trump presidency — and Hillary supporters, both those who declare it proudly and those who wish it secretly — own the consequences of a Hillary presidency.

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The Donald has more fans than I realised

**For the record, I entirely agree with Kevin Williamson’s employers on Hillary, in their editorial a week ago:

If you need a reintroduction to Mrs. Clinton, we will oblige: She is an opportunist without anything resembling a conviction with the exception of her unwavering commitment to abortion, a “public servant” who along with her husband grew vastly wealthy exploiting her political connections and renting access to everybody from Goldman Sachs to Vladimir Putin, a petty, grasping, vindictive, meretricious time-server whose incompetence and dishonesty have been proved everywhere from Little Rock to Benghazi.

$$$ I now have to add a summary from the fiery and hilarious Ann Coulter:

Everything Hillary has ever touched has failed, been engulfed in scandal, resulted in massive investigations, litigation, financial ruin, prison or death. The final stage of any Hillary enterprise is a grand announcement that Hillary did not technically break the law. Or no one can prove she did. Or, even if she did, no one ever gets prosecuted for it.

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At the time of writing, the result of the New Hampshire primary is unknown, but the event begs the question: why do intelligent Brits ostensibly fail to get Trump’s popularity? Why are British hacks so full of spite to him? What is it they don’t understand about the USA, where Trump is undoubtedly very very popular?

I can’t answer all those questions, but I did ponder it a while ago. Plenty of smart Americans don’t take to him – witness the National Review Online hatefest to the man, involving numerous great writers. Personally, I’m agnostic on the issue to a large extent, but as a Brit who loves the US, for me it’s anyone but the Dems.

Helpfully, CapX, which is British based, and run by the terrific Iain Martin (who loathes Trump), has published a superb reader’s letter, by a William Davis of Wisconsin. He makes his points well:

I am one of those mysterious Trump voters, who the neocons can’t seem to find (Trump supporters are new and unknown – 25th January 2016) I am a Libertarian minded person, I make $35K per year as a self-employed individual, and I have observed for awhile now that the US federal government is a runaway train. They have accumulated $200 trillion of debt liabilities, and the jokers in Washington just keep chugging along as usual, colluding as they see fit to take home the pork to their respective states.

I disagree with Trump’s economic protectionism, his over-the-top nationalism, and find his personality grating and boorish. But he is the only candidate that I feel certain can unseat the far worse presidential alternatives in the Democratic party, who are strong race baiting, class hating socialists, and who would escalate our financial ruin far more dramatically than I perceive Trump as doing. We are already losing our incentives to work hard, with overall taxes approaching 50% on the average American. Push us much further, and that 90 million figure of people in the U.S. already choosing not to work will rise exponentially. Then, when production grinds to a halt, GDP plummets, and the burden on already broke social programs escalates, the meltdown of what was once the greatest bastion of freedom and prosperity the world has ever seen will be realized. The economic reverberations throughout the world will be devastating.

Trump may not be the answer to getting the U.S. back on track. But the alternatives offer far worse odds than Trump.

I thought Obama’s prolonged egotistical antics were pushing people to Trump. The prospect of the appalling Hillary is sealing that deal. And as Rod Liddle rightly says, one advantage of there being a President Trump would be the unalloyed delight of seeing the kind of people who’d be most upset.

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Seriously, there’s a lot worse than Trump out there