Monday, November 14, 2016

Blogging Was Invented for Posts Exactly Like This

What's the deal with guys who let their pants drop to their ankles when they're in a public restroom stall? When I sit on a toilet, at home or abroad, my pants never descend below my knees. I keep them pulled up as high as possible. Aside from the side of my hip, I have no more skin exposed than before I entered the restroom. In fact, once my wife came to talk to me because she thought I was just sitting on the toilet lid fully clothed.

But these guys. Jeez. I shouldn't see you underwear, guys. Why do you want the pants you're going to wear for the rest of the day to pile up on the floor immediately in front of a public toilet? And besides, isn't it drafty letting everything drop to the floor?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

There Was an Election Yesterday

If I was a good writer, I'd put these thoughts together in a polished piece. But instead I'm a blogger. You're lucky I'm using standard spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

  • It is shocking to reflect on how weak of a candidate Hillary Clinton turned out to be. For nearly 20 years, now, Republicans have been living in fear of Hillary. The conventional wisdom has been that any Republican who ran against Hillary would lose. Part of this was gender politics ("Half the electorate starts off supporting her because they have similar genitals!"), part of it was Clinton political machine ("They know how to run and win national campaigns!"), and part of it was personality (which some might describe as low-grade sexism--"She's ruthless!").

    I think this fear of Hillary was why many never-Trumpers stayed out of the race. They criticized Trump, but they didn't run against him, because if they won, they'd have to go up against Hillary.

    And now we find out that the worst Republican of them all could beat her.

  • The turnout story is frustrating. It is that the "evangelical Christians" (read: Jesus-themed bigots) who stayed home in 2012 so they didn't have to vote for a--GASP!--Mormon, these voters came back for Trump.

    So their morality tells them to oppose the charitable man of faith who makes and keeps sacred vows, while supporting the contentious areligious serial adulterer who denigrates and belittles (and assaults?) women. That's one hell of a moral code you got there, evangelicals. And you call that Christianity, huh?

    The returning bigots theory is deeply frustrating. As a Christian, I am very upset when someone turns the gospel of Jesus Christ into a cover for whatever un-Christlike behavior they wish to justify. I have written before of my anger at people who use Christianity as marketing or signals to bystanding bigots. To the millions of "Christian" voters who were uncomfortable voting for Romney but had no problem voting for Trump, I would suggest to them that their understanding of the words and deeds of Jesus Christ is seriously suspect. They are now not only responsible for Obama's second term, but also for Trump's first term.

  • Rush Limbaugh today is saying that Trump's victory shows that Obama could have been defeated in 2008 and 2012. I disagree for two reasons.

    Firstly, Obama is a different race from Hillary. Hillary dramatically underperformed among racial minorities.

    Secondly, and this is just my theory, but I suspect that racism is more hated among the majority (whites) than sexism is hated among men. So a white voter was more likely to vote for Obama because "it's a vote against racism" than a male voter was likely to vote for Hillary because "it's a vote against sexism."

    Thirdly, Hillary struggled even with voters who were "like her," while Obama didn't have the same problem with voters who were "like him." Blacks went for Obama 93-6 in 2012, but college educated white women only went for Clinton 51-45. Hillary's weaknesses are idiosyncratic and we can't read them back to 2012 and say, "If only Trump had gotten at Obama back then!" If Obama were on the ballot yesterday, I strongly suspect he would have won.

  • Two white people running against each other seems like an impossible time to make a racism argument, but if there's one thing you should know about modern America, it's that there's never an impossible time to make a racism argument. So Van Jones on CNN last night called this a "whitelash." Hillary did worse among minorities than Obama did--how is that the fault of white people? This is just another example of how some Americans see every disappointment as the result of nefariousness.

    "Oh, but what you don't see is that they are voting for Trump because they want him to stick it to racial minorities! That's how it's racist!" And what of that monolithic 93-percent black vote for Obama? You live by identity politics, you have to be prepared to die by identity politics. To tell me that only some people are allowed to vote their racial identity, and it depends on their race if it's okay or not, is racist.

  • Obama's entire eight-year presidency will be a giant waste of time if Trump repeals and replaces Obamacare. That's his only achievement. And not because of race-based obstructionism, but because of the partisan, heavy-handed way he brought it about. In response to the largest recession of the past 60 years we got a massive advance of statism that few wanted and that didn't address the fundamental economic problems that were causing actual, immediate harm. And we got "you have to pass the bill to find out what's in it" from what promised to be "the most transparent administration in history." He didn't have to govern as he did. No one made him waste eight years trying to run out the clock. Within two years, it will be as if the Obama administration never happened. (But not in regards to political rancor, the emboldening of our enemies, and the effect of eight years of doing nothing to address our actual problems).

  • This was supposed to be Libertarianism's big moment. In most ways, it failed to live up to that billing, but in one way, maybe it didn't.

    As you probably know if you're a regular reader, I supported Gary Johnson. I felt he would be a superior president to both Trump and Clinton. With so much of the electorate deeply opposed to the two major-party candidates, it is a shocking condemnation of Johnson, Weld, and the Libertarian Party that they showed so poorly. How can you run for president in this environment and NOT do at least as well as Ross Perot who, remember, QUIT THE RACE FOR A MONTH IN 1992!?!?! I like Johnson as a man, but this just seems like shocking malpractice by a politician.

    Maybe you think, "Libertarians were never going to win, A Random Stranger. They should have aimed for five percent so they get federal election funds in 2020." Okay, well, again, a failure from the party and the ticket. Right now he's running at three percent. "He more than doubled what he got last time!" He still only received four million votes in a country where half of Trump and Clinton voters were voting against someone rather than for someone. If Libertarianism can't crack five percent now, it never can.

    What's the one ray of hope? The freak-out among the Left about the unchecked power of the modern presidency. People who hated Guantanamo between 2001 and 2009 now suddenly hate it again. People who loved Obama's use of the NSA to spy on cellphones now suddenly think presidents shouldn't have that power. The other day I heard Sean Hannity speak glowingly of WikiLeaks disclosures. Does this mean he recognizes that Edward Snowden is a great patriot?

    I know most people have a convenient way of ignoring these inconsistencies in their reasoning, but the more they have to confront them, the more likely it is that the inconsistencies crumble eventually.

  • People are talking about Republicans happy to win. Are they? Trump voters are happy to win, but there was no victory for monolithic Republicanism last night. Protectionism won, nationalism won, but not Republicanism per se. The whole point of the never-Trumpers was that winning with Trump wasn't actually winning. Scott Sumner writes, "This is the most Republican national government of my lifetime. Will they shrink government, or increase spending and deficits?" This government will be Republican in name only until we see how it governs. Trump is remaking what it means to be a Republican president. If he does as Tyler Cowen thinks he will, "pursue mass popularity with a lot of government benefits, debt and free-lunch thinking," small-government fiscal conservatives will have to go somewhere else in the future.

  • Defeated Hillary supporters maybe will be slow to learn this lesson, as well. This morning on NPR I heard a guy say Trump can't undo much of the Great Social Shift because "you can't roll back marriage equality." The host said, "He can with Supreme Court nominees." The guy said, "If he does that, it will open up repercussions that the Republican Party structure can't protect him from."

    That's where I had to turn him off, proving once again my rule that you can only listen to NPR for 15 seconds before you hear something asinine that requires turning the station. Because what this guy doesn't get is that THERE IS NO MORE REPUBLICAN PARTY STRUCTURE. Trump destroyed it. Did this guy not just live through the last nine months of America? Trump isn't going to need the Republican Party to protect him from the effects of any of his decisions. Effectively there is no party right now until Donald Trump lets us know what it'll be like when (and if) he remakes it in his image.

  • I tweeted last night, "The Great Social Reset is here. Keep your head down." As I drifted off to sleep this morning I had the passing thought that I should take down the Johnson sign outside our house to avoid reprisals overnight. My last conscious thoughts were formulating a plan for helping my children escape their bedrooms should someone through a Molotov cocktail through the garage-door windows on the floor below them. (I decided to throw my kids out their windows onto the roof of the car, which would only be a four-foot drop.) Should we expect more or fewer thought exercises like this one? NO ONE KNOWS RIGHT NOW. It's up to Donald Trump and his supporters.

  • And that might be my final thought: there is no institution that can stand in Trump's way right now. The Democratic Party lost the election, the Republican Party was destroyed by Trump, and the Libertarian Party was unequal to the moment. The only nationwide institutions we have anymore are products of the culture and media and so are illegitimate in the eyes of half the nation. Maybe that will change as we move forward, but right now it's true. As I wrote in my journal this morning:

    For the past week or so, I've been more open to the idea that it could happen, although I still thought it unlikely, but I'm not as shocked by the results as most Americans are. During the day yesterday, and especially in the evening as I watched the returns, I was rooting for him. Why? Well, they're both terrible candidates, but I feel that the public perception of just HOW terrible Donald Trump is will mean that he'll be on a shorter leash, so to speak. I think a President Hillary would have continued doing the things that are ruining the country, while a President Trump will try to do some new ruinous things that Congress and courts will restrain. But who knows? It's not like Trump voters are going to turn against him easily, right? So popular opinion will be against any of these government agents that try to restrain him. When I watched this morning parts of his victory speech from last night, I was struck with how unknown the future is to us. We're relying on the restraint of a man who has shown himself incapable of exercising restraint. Oh, boy.
    Realizing we're at the mercy of Donald Trump's restraint is not a comforting thought.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Why a Border Wall Won't Matter

I was teaching about outsourcing yesterday. A student made the connection between job protectionism and economic rents, which pleased me. I mentioned that the American worker's claim to relatively high wages was disappearing due to underwhelming education and productivity, and the broadening of language skills among overseas workers.

A student said, "Some jobs can't be outsourced, like local service jobs."

I said, "The increase in robotic technology and telecommunications will allow the Mexican plumber to stay in Mexico and come 'steal' your job, anyway." We will eventually live in a world where you submit an online service request, it gets translated into the plumber's native language, a drone delivers a plumbing robot to your home, and a plumber guides the robot while watching the procedure on a video feed.

We celebrate the emergence of a global middle class and bemoan stagnating domestic wages. These are different names for the same thing.

I'm not someone with a cushy job pooping on your parade, I'm just like you: I, too, will soon be rendered unemployable through a combination of technology and foreigners. I just don't think Donald Trump will save me.