Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Trump breakthrough?

Many skeptical of Donald Trump's ability to secure the nomination point to his inability to get more than 30 or so percent in polls. But that might be changing. As Politico reports:

    "Donald Trump just got a little more vault in his ceiling. Nationwide, the polling-obsessed Manhattan multi-billionaire and leading Republican presidential candidate broke into the 40s on Monday.

    According to the results of the latest Monmouth University poll surveying voters identifying as Republican or independents leaning toward the GOP, Trump earned 41 percent, nearly tripling the support of his closest rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who took 14 percent.

    The poll underscores Trump's success at keeping voters fixated on his unprecedented presidential campaign. The latest national survey was taken after Trump landed another whopper, proposing in an emailed statement last Monday to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. The statement gave Trump another boost of media attention, and some speculated it was designed to shift the conversation away from a Monmouth poll from Iowa released earlier that day that showed Cruz with a 5-point edge in the state."

It will be interesting to see if this poll holds up- these things tend to be unreliable, but it's a reminder that Trump won't be going anywhere for quite some time.



Cruz Compares Obama's Nuke Deal to Neville Chamberlain's Munich Pact

President Obama’s handling of the Iranian nuclear deal is akin to former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Nazi Germany in the 1938 Munich Pact, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told an audience at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on Thursday.

“I believe today we are at a moment like Munich in 1938,” Cruz said. “That President Obama has returned from Geneva, returned from agreeing to give over $100 billion to the Ayatollah Khamenei, promising like Neville Chamberlain peace in our time.

“If history teaches anything, giving hundreds of billions of dollars, strengthening homicidal maniacs who intend to murder you, has never, ever, ever worked out well,” Cruz said.

The Republican presidential candidate went on to decry Obama’s current handling of foreign policy, which he said has made the administration of former President Jimmy Carter look like a success in comparison.

“After two terms of an Obama-Clinton foreign policy so disastrous it makes the Carter administration look good, we are in a desperate need once again for clarity,” Cruz said.

Cruz slammed the president for refusing to acknowledge America’s enemy, accusing Obama of acting as an “apologist” for radical Islamic terrorism.

“He’s chosen not to confront the actual enemy. He’s chosen not to call the attacks in Fort Hood or Little Rock or Boston or Chattanooga concerted acts of radical Islamic terrorism,” Cruz said.

“He spent a significant portion of his Sunday address as an apologist for radical Islamic terrorism,” Cruz said in reference to the president’s speech on the administration’s counterterrorism strategy following the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

“In this context, it raises the specter that Americans will be labeled as bigots if they dare utter the world ‘Islam’ in connection with a terrorist attack.”

However, the Texas senator also criticized both parties for wanting to restrict Americans’ liberties to combat terrorism, pointing out that many Republicans want the government to collect a reckless amount of Americans’ personal records, while many Democrats want to restrict their use of firearms through gun control.

“In addition to those voices on the right who are suggesting sweeping aside citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights, there are voices on the left who are taking the same approach and want us to voluntarily surrender our Second Amendment rights,” Cruz said.

“Both of these approaches are misguided,” he declared.

“When the focus of law enforcement and national security is on law-abiding citizens rather than targeting the bad guys, we miss the bad guys while violating the constitutional rights of American citizens.”

Cruz advocated securing the border, engaging in limited records collection, and restricting refugee access to those coming from “terror-ridden” countries.

“We should not shy away from smarter policies that enhance our ability to target the bad guys while protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens,” he said.



California Knife Attack Still Not Called Terrorism

San Bernardino recently fell victim to another onslaught of Islamic terrorism right here in America, but recall just over a month ago another tragedy that struck the Golden State. In November, Faisal Mohammad, a student enrolled at the University of California, Merced, attacked four of his peers before being fatally shot by police. But because the weapon used by Mohammad was a knife, the story was mostly ignored and escaped mainstream scrutiny. It also took a while for the man’s name to be made public, for obvious reasons. The grievance industry claims the attack was motivated by Mohammad’s getting kicked out of a study group, but the ensuing investigation debunked that theory and raises questions of why investigators have yet to call it terrorism.

According to Fox News, “Mohammad, whose victims all survived, left behind a rambling, two-page manifesto in which he instructed himself to ‘praise Allah’ as he worked his way through his hit list, a photocopied ISIS flag and at least one shaken roommate who remembers him as a menacing loner.” That roommate, Ali Tarek Elshekh, added, “He was … an extreme Muslim.” He also testified that Mohammad threatened to kill a friend if he touched his prayer mat. None of that sounds like a domestic dispute.

These revelations have one of the victims' fathers, John Price, asking an obvious question: “Why don’t we just call it what it is — domestic terrorism? Everyone is afraid to be politically incorrect. I do believe in law enforcement and believe they will do their job, but it seems like to me we aren’t getting the whole story. I just wonder how much of this is driven from way higher up and is politically driven — I just don’t know.”

He’s right. Last July, an Islamic jihadist attacked two military recruiting facilities in Chattanooga, murdering five. But five months later, despite the assailant’s clear intention to commit jihad, the FBI still hasn’t classified it terrorism. In some ways, we’ve seen a similar story unfold in San Bernardino. And make no mistake: Terrorists know it’s not just guns and pipe bombs that will further their agenda, but political correctness as well.



Trump exposes elitism

In “The Myth of Sisyphus,” Albert Camus’s exploration of the role of suicide in the modern world, the philosopher of the Absurd states, “That universal reason, practical or ethical, that determinism, those categories that explain everything are enough to make a decent man laugh.” Camus was making reference to philosophical giants of western civilization whose task was to justify a universe seemingly indifferent to humanity’s yearning for meaning. All of which Camus dismissed with a rhetorical flip of his hand and a whiff of disdain; he believed magisterial cathedrals of thought were irrelevant to enlightening individuals' souls about the most important thing in their lives. Quite the contrary, their hubris induces mirth, as his cold analysis in “Sisyphus” made clear.

So what relevance do Camus’s words have for American politics in the wake of the terrorist attack in San Bernardino? Delving into Donald Trump’s recommendations about prohibiting additional Muslim immigration provides an answer. Indeed, everybody, Republicans and Democrats alike, wanted to strut their stuff, beginning with President Obama’s address about treating Muslims with respect, followed by Trump’s speech. Certainly, Trump’s address ignited volleys of censure from New Jersey to Nevada.

Lindsey Graham said Trump “has gone from making absurd comments to being downright dangerous with his bombastic rhetoric,” while Jeb Bush commented that Trump is unhinged and his proposals cannot be taken seriously. Marco Rubio declared, “I disagree with Donald Trump’s latest proposal. His habit of making offensive and outlandish statements will not bring Americans together.” John Kasich declared Trump “entirely unsuited to lead,” and Carly Fiorina concluded that Trump’s prescription was an “overreaction.” Hillary Clinton said, “This is reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive.” And Brent Bozell’s Media Research Center Alert is stuffed with a cornucopia of media’s denunciations of Trump.

Of course Trump has his defenders, none more able than National Review’s David French, who provided a trenchant analysis of America’s (and the world’s) Muslim terrorism problem in an essay with a title that says it all: “Dispelling the Few Extremists Myth — the Muslim World Is Overcome with Hate.” Consulting polls displaying data that are devastating to politically correct views about Muslims, French maintains that, “To understand the Muslim edifice of hate, imagine it as a pyramid — with broadly-shared bigotry at the bottom, followed by stair steps of escalating radicalism — culminating in jihadist armies that in some instances represent a greater share of their respective populations than does the active-duty military in the United States.” Further, Jeffrey Lord of The American Spectator reviewed Franklin Roosevelt’s wartime actions involving Germans, Italians, and Japanese, concluding that FDR made Donald Trump look like a “nerdy weakling.” These are just two examples, of course; an abundance of commentaries continue to pour forth from Trump’s detractors and allies as this is being written.

The question is what one is supposed to make of all this? Two main points stand out. First, Trump’s critics and supporters are talking about different things, actually, with the former concerned about America’s inclusiveness, “that’s not who we are,” while his supporters probe into the characteristics of radical Islam. Second, the debate over Muslim immigration demonstrates the chasm between many of America’s opinion leaders, pundits, and intelligentsia, on the one hand, and a huge hunk of the country’s rank and file, on the other.

This is where a Camus analogy comes in. Like the West’s philosophical luminaries Camus had in mind, America’s self-appointed opinion overseers — Republicans and Democrats alike — have constructed rhetorical edifices celebrating their own righteousness and moral superiority, which in their minds bestow on them the right to tell citizens what to think and what to do. Indeed, our avatars of civic virtue preach to the peasants below about threats none of the avatars will personally ever have to confront themselves. All of which, as Camus points out, would be downright amusing, if the subject matter weren’t so serious.

Except this time the peasants are having none of it. Although Americans certainly don’t want to wage war against Islam, they are also smart enough to know that the San Bernardino massacre wasn’t committed by a bevy of disgruntled Baptists, and that a culture based on Sharia is antithetical to American constitutionalism. So, they’re clinging to their guns, and religion, and many of them, to the only person who has demonstrated the guts to excoriate the elite’s view of America. This is not an argument for or against Donald Trump, about whom we all have our own opinions. It is to say, however, that his supporters are enraged about America’s elite endlessly spouting their irrelevant and scolding pieties, which are enough to make many American citizens deeply unsettled.



The Midas Paradox: How Government Caused and Prolonged the Great Depression

The Great Depression was the most disastrous economic calamity of the past century, but no one had offered a convincing explanation for every twist and turn the economy took from 1929 to 1940-until now. Independent Institute research fellow and Bentley University economics professor Scott Sumner solves the mystery of the economy's multiple ups and downs, and other puzzles that have befuddled economic historians and analysts, in The Midas Paradox: Financial Markets, Government Policy Shocks, and the Great Depression, a path-breaking book destined to shape all future research on the topic.

Drawing on financial market data and contemporaneous news stories, Sumner (ranked 15th in Foreign Policy's Top Global Thinkers of 2012) shows that the Depression is ultimately a story of horrendous policymaking-especially decisions related to monetary policy and wage rates. Gold hoarding by the world's central banks brought on the Great Contraction (1929-33), and widespread fears of currency devaluation spooked the private sector into hoarding gold; the resulting drop in total spending helped drive thousands of firms out of business and raise unemployment to historic highs. Making matters worse, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt prevented the American economy from recovering quickly with his attempt to artificially raise hourly wage rates on five separate occasions. Sumner's insightful narrative of these and related events-and his refutation of enduring historical and economic myths-makes The Midas Paradox must-reading for anyone who wants to understand how badly policymakers failed and how we can avoid repeating their mistakes.

More than a fresh contribution to the literature on the Great Depression, The Midas Paradox offers a powerful critique of modern monetary analysis-and identifies its harmful role in policymaking during the recent Great Recession. "We think we have advanced far beyond the [economic] prejudices of the 1930s," Sumner writes, "but when a crisis hits we reflexively exhibit the same atavistic impulses as our ancestors. Even worse, we congratulate the Fed for avoiding the mistakes of the 1930s, even as it repeats many of those mistakes."



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