Quick Takes

I don’t exactly agree with the majority of the American people. I think that Robert Mueller should complete his investigation not just end it. I think he should start at the beginning, go to the end, and then stop. I recognize that “running out the clock” is the ideal outcome for a lot of anti-Trumpers. Mueller shouldn’t do that.

At this point, just three months from the mid-term elections, I think it’s likely that the Democrats will take control of the House but fail to capture the Senate as well. Not a sure thing but likely. I also think that House Democrats will find it impossible to resist making impeaching Trump their equivalent to repealing the PPACA.

Although a fact widely ignored tariffs are more likely to change American behavior than Chinese behavior and that would be a step in the right direction.

I think that polls have jumped the shark, at least in the U. S.


Somebody Else’s Kids

At City Journal Rafael Mangual points out the uncomfortable fact that in Chicago last weekend six mass shooting took place and they didn’t get the sort of attention that has been devoted to mass shootings in schools. There are all sorts of reasons for it. Homicide on the South Side of Chicago has become a “dog bits man” story. The victims aren’t highly photogenic and sympathetic white middle class kids.

But I think he’s right in suggesting that one of the reasons is that the shootings don’t fit comfortably into the story that journalists want to tell. Chicago’s problems won’t be solved by tighter gun control:

Calls for stricter gun-control laws follow every high-profile mass shooting; the weekend’s carnage in Chicago prompted similar demands from civic leaders and pundits. Yet the city has strict gun laws, and even when police enforce those laws diligently, the city’s liberal anti-gun caucus doesn’t always back them up. Consider the case of Harith Augustus, whom Chicago police approached on suspicion that he was unlawfully armed. Augustus resisted detainment and, as can be seen in the body cam video released by the city, grabbed for what turned out to be an illegally concealed firearm, prompting officers to fire their weapons, killing him. Though Augustus did not have a conceal-carry permit, and clearly reached for his weapon before officers opened fire, his death resulted in violent protests and articles characterizing Chicago as an “abusive police state.”

Another inconvenient fact that Chicago’s liberal critics of guns and police don’t talk about much is the rampant crime committed by repeat offenders. In all likelihood, the perpetrators of this weekend’s violence have extensive criminal records. It’s hard not to sympathize with the city’s top cop, Eddie Johnson, who last year told the Tribune, “it’s the repeat offenders that consistently come back in our neighborhoods and shoot and kill, and if we don’t send a message that we are serious about holding them accountable, then what are we doing?” Incarceration critics argue that lengthy sentences don’t deter crime or rehabilitate prisoners, but because so much violent crime is committed by recidivists, keeping dangerous felons off the street for as long as possible is a public-safety imperative.

His solution is tougher law enforcement and longer sentences for repeat violators. I don’t think that will address the underlying pathologies which include poor job prospects, hopelessness, and lack of stable families. The unemployment rate in the areas where the homicides are taking place is a multiple of the national average and among the demographic perpetrating the crimes two to three times that.

As long as journalists are afraid or otherwise unwilling to tell the truth about the problems in Chicago, it’s unclear to me how or why they will be addressed.


What To Do About Chicago?

There are contrasting views on how to dig Chicago out of its hole. Here’s the first from Tom Rogan at DC Examiner:

First off, Chicago needs to increase its rewards for justice and witness protection programs. Unless residents feel they can submit evidence with confidence of their own security, most will avoid doing so.

Second, federal prosecutors need to bring more Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, prosecutions against identified gang leaders. That course of action would deter violence at the margin by introducing far more significant costs on gang leaders for their underlings criminal conduct.

Third, Chicago should dramatically ramp up its already significant use of remote video cameras to monitor crime hot spots. As an extension, the mayoral candidate should run on a pledge to have the police increase their stop-and-search activity against young men in violent neighborhoods. Community tensions are now the secondary concern to imminent risk of violence.

Fourth, recognizing the need to do more in an exceptionally stretched budgetary environment, as in Camden, N.J., in 2012, the Chicago Police Department should face a choice. A choice, that is, between disbandment and a new deal that reduces their per-officer operating costs and allows the city to hire hundreds of new officers at present budget levels. It is ludicrous that as the shootings continue, the Chicago Police Department remains notoriously inefficient.

Ultimately though, Chicago needs a mayor who is willing to rip up the playbook. Ramhbo has failed and his blood-drenched streets are the proof of it.

An alternative view comes from Kim Bellware at the New York Times:

Giving the police more of anything — more numbers, more money, more liberties — to quell violence is still a reactionary, and thus limited, posture. And yes, so is simply calling for tougher gun laws (regulations the city of Chicago has, but its immediate surrounding area does not). To the communities affected, policing and gun laws are only parts of the puzzle.

Missing from Mr. Giuliani’s playacting concern for Chicago — and too often absent from the familiar pattern of reactions in our media — is an exploration of what the communities whose residents are being disproportionately shot and killed say they want.

On the city’s predominantly black and Latino South and West Sides, there are some who may want more police officers and stricter gun laws, and some who may not. But surely none wants only those things.

There’s been talk, fanned by President Trump, of sending in the National Guard. And the city is actively pursuing plans to spend $95 million on a new police training center.

But the activist and community groups already on the ground like The Black Youth Project 100 and Assatta’s Daughters have long been arguing for a more holistic plan of action that unifies increased resources with organized mentorship of the most at-risk young people and more investment in educational programming, along with more democratic police accountability.

A frequent and inaccurate response to Chicago’s gun violence is that the people most affected by it aren’t doing anything to change it. Many are doing whatever they can.

Most recently, community groups like CureViolence and The Faith Community of St. Sabina Church helped organized peaceful protests that took over the Dan Ryan Expressway and Lake Shore Drive — the city’s most famous thoroughfare — to try to bring the attention and political urgency necessary to shake local institutions into seeing them as equal partners in identifying remedies.

For all the years Chicago has struggled with gun violence, there’s never been a fully energized effort by the city’s Democratic machine to create that sort of Marshall Plan. Yet there has never been a Republican proposal for such a holistic approach, either.

Much of her attention is focused on criticizing Rudy Giuliani’s remarks. In fairness the last time a Republican was Chicago mayor was 1931. Said another way it makes not an iota of difference what proposals Republicans do or do not put forward. Chicago’s problems must be solved by Democrats.

What is clear is that Rahm Emanuel’s program of gentrifying Chicago leaves out the people of the South and West Sides of Chicago, where the carnage is occurring.


The Vision Thing

In his Wall Street Journal column William Galston wonders if President Trump isn’t a lot better at tearing things down than building replacements up:

The late House Speaker Sam Rayburn, a connoisseur of the art of the possible, often said “Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one.”

In foreign affairs thus far, President Trump’s deconstructive prowess has been much in evidence. Mr. Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Iran nuclear agreement while challenging the basis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He sidelined negotiations for a trade deal with the European Union, withdrew from the Paris climate accord, threatened to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and began a trade war with China. His decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem ended, perhaps permanently, America’s longstanding role as broker between Israel and the Palestinians. Two astonishing summits—with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin —upended decades of American diplomacy.

For 70 years, America’s role in the world was clear: We would use treaties and multilateral institutions to defend our friends, deter our foes and promote peace, prosperity and democracy around the world. We believed that the strength of our allies strengthened us as well. We made many mistakes and a handful of grave errors, but at least we knew what we stood for, and so did everyone else. No longer.

If President Trump were to offer a calm and coherent defense of what he is doing, it might go something like this: “Yes, I’m breaking up the status quo. But I have no choice. The arrangements that strengthened our country after World War II no longer work. Complex treaties and institutions force us to pursue our interests with one hand tied behind our back. We must be free to use our military, economic and financial superiority to advance our purposes. If we encounter other countries directly, one on one, we are bound to prevail. If we allow our adversaries—and even our friends—to gang up on us, we will lose out.

“And besides,” Mr. Trump might add, “as time went on, we lost sight of what really matters. To maintain our position as leader of the free world, we sacrificed our core economic interests on the altar of diplomatic status. We encouraged our friends and allies to take us for granted and even to take advantage of us. As democracies in Europe and Asia prospered, they could have done far more to defend themselves. Instead, our security umbrella allowed them to be free riders. Our insistence on promoting democracy poisoned relations with autocratic leaders and blocked advantageous deals. In our economic treaties and military alliances, we were willing to accept economic disadvantages in the name of security gains. America’s elites did fine, but our working men and women lost out.

“Look at China. The so-called experts in both parties said that once China entered the World Trade Organization, its economy would become more like ours, as would its politics. Build China’s middle class today, they said, and free markets and representative institutions would follow tomorrow. What did we get? State-subsidized overproduction, increasing autocracy—and millions of stolen U.S. manufacturing jobs. Why should we listen to the carping from the people who got us into this mess?”

In effect, President Trump has issued a huge promissory note to the American people: After I bust up existing arrangements, I’ll replace them with something better.

Mr. Galston may be on to something. Trump’s foreign policy may be an “Underpants Gnome” scheme, from a famous episode of South Park. The gnomes have a plan for getting rich. It goes like this:

Phase 1: Collect underpants
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit

If President Trump has a vision for Phase 2, he has not elaborated on it. In fairness the world order that Mr. Galston is implicitly defending was such a scheme, too. It assumed a more robust American economy than presently exists. It assumed a more benign ruling elite than we actually have. It assumed less selfish and more prudent allies.

What we have gotten for our trillions in spending and hundreds of thousands of American lives is a Germany that sold the makings of a nuclear weapons program to Iran and factories to China, a hollowed out economy, a China that threatens its neighbors, a plutocracy, and 73 years of nearly continuous war. Only the nature of the enemy has changed. It’s fine for the plutocracy, of course.



The editors of the Washington Post laud the Canadian government for picking a fight with the Saudis over women’s rights:

SAUDI ARABIA has offered a telling response to Canada’s complaint about the arrest of two prominent female activists, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah. The Saudi Foreign Ministry protested that Canada was engaging in “blatant interference in the Kingdom’s domestic affairs” and an “unacceptable affront to the Kingdom’s laws and judicial process.” The call by Canada to release the women was “reprehensible,” the ministry said. In other words, Saudi Arabia would like the rest of the world to look the other way.

Fortunately, Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, refused. On Aug. 2, she wrote on Twitter that Canada was “very alarmed” about the detention of the two women. Ms. Badawi is the sister of Raif Badawi, a blogger serving a 10-year jail sentence for running a website that was critical of Saudi’s strict religious authorities. Saudi Arabia’s young ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been intolerant of dissent and jailed dozens of critics, including intellectuals, journalists and advocates of women’s right to drive . Most have been thrown in jail for long periods without any semblance of due process. When Ms. Freeland called for the Badawis to be freed, the crown prince answered by expelling Canada’s ambassador and severing trade, travel and student exchange links. The intended message: Other countries should mind their own business, or else.

What Ms. Freeland and Canada correctly understand is that human rights and basic liberty are universal values, not the property of kings and dictators to arbitrarily grant and remove on a whim. Saudi Arabia’s long-standing practice of denying basic rights to citizens, especially women — and its particularly cruel treatment of some dissidents, such as the public lashes meted out to Mr. Badawi — are matters of legitimate concern to all democracies and free societies. The crown prince has been impressively active in seeking to modernize the kingdom economically, pushing to diversify away from oil and to satisfy a burgeoning youthful population’s thirst for Western culture and entertainment. Doesn’t he see how this futuristic vision is undermined when he throws critics into dungeons and behaves like a police-state despot?

There is another way of looking at it, of course, that the values the Canadians want to impose on the Saudis are not universal ones but Western values. I find it gratifying that at least some in the West are coming to the overdue realization that Mohammed bin Salman is no liberal as they had breathlessly proclaimed he was.

Meanwhile, if you’re standing up for universal human rights, doesn’t simple proportion cause it to make sense to direct your fire at the world’s greatest abuser and violator of human rights, China? The Saudis are small potatoes by comparison. Or maybe the Canadians just don’t think they need the Saudis any more.


Different Cultures Are …Different

This may be a shock to some, particularly those who have never lived anywhere but the United States, but different cultures are different. There are very, very few universal standards. Freedoms that we take for granted are rare, unheard of, or even objectionable to others. Manners and morals we find odd or even objectionable are commonplace elsewhere.

It’s difficult enough making true generalizations but true generalizations that cross cultures are even harder.

I can’t believe that most wouldn’t agree with that. From there it becomes fuzzier. I think there’s also a “deep culture” and that culture is closely related to language. So, for example, that Russian lacks a verb “to have”, affects how Russian speakers think. They can express a concept something like our “to have” but it’s different, more like “by me/near me”. I think we would be prudent to require fluency in English of new immigrants.

So when I see people drawing conclusions about the behavior of 21st century Ghanaians based on the behavior of 19th century Germans, to cite one example, I just have to laugh. Not that there’s something wrong with 21st century Ghanians, something right about 19th century Germans, or vice versa.

They’re just different.

I also think that we’re going to have immigration into the United States for the foreseeable future, just as we have all through our past, and a lot of it. I think we need to go into it with open eyes.

Despite the similarities between the 19th century Irish and the 19th century Americans of the time, Irish immigration into the United States from 1840-1860 produced considerable friction. There was even more friction when the Southern and Eastern Europeans began coming to the United States in numbers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so much friction that we slammed the door for a couple of generations.

For the last 30 years we have had considerable immigration from Mexico and Central America. We have very nearly reached the point at which we slammed the door last time. Now immigration from Mexico is slowing for reasons I have pointed out many times and immigration from Pakistan, India, and China are increasing. The tensions and outright frictions, as we should have expected, from the number of new immigrants from cultures so different from ours are increasing, as we should have expected, while assimilation into American culture may well be more of a stretch than for previous cohorts even as the pressures to assimilate decrease.

I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride but, as I say, I think we should go into it with open eyes.



There is a very “Inside Baseball” post at Pat Lang’s place outlining what we’ve learned from the most recent revelations in the FOIA-based document drop last Friday. Love Trump or hate him I think that we should all agree that what has been happening at the FBI is extremely irregular and is a source of concern. There should be very serious repercussions but I’m under no illusion that there will be.

How do you maintain the rule of law when law enforcement simply refuses to follow the rules?

I don’t know how common this loosy-goosy behavior is at the FBI but it’s like no government bureaucracy I’ve even seen and I’ve seen them at all levels of government.


The Debate on Immigration

There is what strikes me as a good, reasonable article articulating the opposing positions on immigration by historian Yuval Noah Harari at the Economist. Here’s a snippet:

Term 1: The host country allows the immigrants in.

Term 2: In return, the immigrants must embrace at least the core norms and values of the host country, even if that means giving up some of their traditional norms and values.

Term 3: If the immigrants assimilate to a sufficient degree, over time they become equal and full members of the host country. ‘They’ become ‘us’.

These three terms give rise to three distinct debates about the exact meaning of each term:

He goes on to frame three different debates—on the obligations of host countries, assimilation, and full participation.

I wouldn’t say I was anti-immigration but an immigration skeptic. I think the burden of proof is on those who favor immigration. I don’t think that those who favor immigration are doing a good job of persuasion. More like browbeating.

I think there are underappreciated risks related to immigration. Take language, for example. I think that language has a close relationship with a country’s deep culture. You can’t really assimilate unless you speak a country’s language and, unlike some, I think that assimilation is an obligation that immigrants undertake. Do you know which immigrant group are the least likely to speak English at home? According to the Census Bureau, it’s South Asians. I think that says something about recent immigration and immigrants.

However, the gravest challenges posed by immigration aren’t to the United States. We’ve had substantial immigration for all of our history and will weather the present storm. The gravest challenge is to the ethnic states of Europe. I do not know what they will do. Right now they’re not handling the situation well.


Stop Supporting the Chicago Machine

At RealClearPolitics Steve Cortes elaborates on the ongoing carnage in Chicago:

A six-year Yale University study determined that blacks are an astounding 128 times as likely as whites to get shot in Chicago. Many factors feed into this carnage, but perhaps the most damning statistic, from a University of Illinois study, detailed that for young (age 20-24) men of color in Chicago, 47 percent of blacks and 20 percent of Hispanics are neither employed nor in school. The failures of the city’s public school system monopoly have produced thousands of listless young men, unprepared for productive lives, roaming Chicago streets.

What is the response of city leadership to this frightening crisis? The all-Democratic City Council seems largely unfazed, content to raise taxes, adding to the already-unsustainable debt, in order to cater to public sector unions. For Mayor Rahm Emanuel, deflection serves better than solutions. He was feted by an adoring New York studio audience as he proudly declared to Stephen Colbert that Chicago is a “Trump-free zone.”

He goes on to beg President Trump to send the National Guard in to protect the streets of Chicago.

Pointing out this revelation from Chicago Magazine in 2012 seems timely:

Street gangs have been a part of Chicago politics at least since the days of the notorious First Ward bosses “Bathhouse John” Coughlin and Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna, who a century ago ran their vice-ridden Levee district using gangs of toughs armed with bats and pistols to bully voters and stuff ballot boxes. “Gangs and politics have always gone together in this city,” says John Hagedorn, a gang expert and professor of criminal justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. It’s a shadowy alliance, he adds, that is deeply ingrained in Chicago’s political culture: “You take care of them; they’ll take care of us.”

To what extent do street gangs influence—and corrupt—Chicago politics today? And what are the consequences for ordinary citizens? To find out, Chicago conducted more than 100 interviews with current and former elected officials and candidates, gang leaders, senior police officials, rank-and-file cops, investigators, and prosecutors. We also talked to community activists, campaign operatives, and criminologists. We limited our scope to the city (though alliances certainly exist in some gang-infested suburbs) and focused exclusively on Democrats, since they are the dominant governing party in Chicago and in the statehouse. Moreover, we looked at the political influence of street gangs only, not of traditional organized crime—a worthy subject for another day.

Our findings:

  • While they typically deny it, many public officials—mostly, but not limited to, aldermen, state legislators, and elected judges—routinely seek political support from influential street gangs. Meetings like the ones Baskin organized, for instance, are hardly an anomaly. Gangs can provide a decisive advantage at election time by performing the kinds of chores patronage armies once did.
  • In some cases, the partnerships extend beyond the elections in troubling—and possibly criminal—ways, greased by the steady and largely secret flow of money from gang leaders to certain politicians and vice versa. The gangs funnel their largess through opaque businesses, or front companies, and through under-the-table payments. In turn, grateful politicians use their payrolls or campaign funds to hire gang members, pull strings for them to get jobs or contracts, or offer other favors (see “Gangs and Politicians: Prisoner Shuffle”).
  • Most alarming, both law enforcement and gang sources say, is that some politicians ignore the gangs’ criminal activities. Some go so far as to protect gangs from the police, tipping them off to impending raids or to surveillance activities—in effect, creating safe havens in their political districts. And often they chafe at backing tough measures to stem gang activities, advocating instead for superficial solutions that may garner good press but have little impact.

Get that? Chicago’s political leaders are in cahoots with the gangs and, indeed, have sponsored them. Chicago’s politicians depend on the reliably regular Democratic black vote to hold on to their jobs. Election after election after election. There is something decidedly wrong with this picture.

I don’t think that anyone, friend or foe of Trump’s would deny that he is a disruptor and nowhere in the United States is riper for disruption than Chicago. I don’t support sending the National Guard to the South Side of Chicago but don’t be surprised when Trump capitalizes on the chaos.


Our National Pastime

Do the sports countries play and which they admire say something about their essential character? I hope not. In an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal I am afraid that Canadian columnist Michael Taube has lurched uncontrollably into an observation that is sadly true:

Glenn Jacobs, the WWE pro wrestler known as “Kane,” was just elected mayor of Knox County, Tenn. A Republican with libertarian leanings, he received 66% of the vote, easily defeating Democrat Linda Haney.

For anyone who follows pro wrestling (disclosure: that includes me), the result isn’t surprising. Mr. Jacobs is educated, intelligent and well-spoken. He’s supported libertarian ideas for years, spoken at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the Free State Project’s New Hampshire Liberty Forum, and endorsed Ron Paul for president in 2008. In a Republican-leaning state like Tennessee, he was an entirely plausible political candidate.

Interestingly, media organizations are focusing more on Mr. Jacobs’s status as the second WWE wrestler to hold elected office. The first was Jesse Ventura, who shocked the political world when he was elected governor of Minnesota in 1998.

More interesting is the longstanding connection between pro wrestling and the GOP. Although Mr. Ventura ran as the nominee of Ross Perot’s Reform Party (and later joined the Independence Party of Minnesota), and there are wrestlers/managers who generally favor the Democrats (Mick Foley, Jim Cornette, Dave Bautista), the majority of people associated with WWE either are or have been Republicans.

The best-known is Donald Trump, inducted in 2013 into the WWE Hall of Fame. Linda McMahon, wife of WWE chief executive Vince McMahon, ran twice as a Republican Senate candidate in Connecticut, losing in 2010 to Richard Blumenthal and 2012 to Chris Murphy. Last year President Trump appointed her head of the Small Business Administration.

There’s also former world champion Ric Flair, a longtime Republican donor who campaigned for Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential run and supported Ted Cruz in 2016. Bob Backlund, another former world champion, unsuccessfully sought a congressional seat in Connecticut as a Republican in 2000. WWE star Terry “Rhyno” Gerin ran unsuccessfully in 2016 for the Michigan House in a heavily Democratic district. Former WWE wrestler William “Big Cass” Morrissey has been a vocal Trump supporter.

Several other former world champions are on this list.

Jerry Lawler and Kevin Nash publicly supported Mr. Trump in 2016. Jim “The Ultimate Warrior” Hellwig, who died in 2014, espoused libertarian and conservative positions. John “Bradshaw” Layfield, who served as a commentator on CNBC and Fox News, has long been associated with conservative politics. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is currently an independent, but was an active Republican until recently. Hulk Hogan, who supported Barack Obama in 2008 but switched to Mitt Romney in 2012, praised Mr. Trump in 2015 and was reportedly courted by political consultant Roger Stone as a possible GOP candidate in this year’s Florida Senate race.

Although, clearly, as Mr. Taube documents, the Republican Party and professional wrestlers have an affinity for one another, I don’t think it stops there. I think our politics more generally resemble nothing so much as professional wrestling. There’s the same highly staged, script quality; the agonistic affect; the same lack of sincerity. The same essential meaninglessness of all of the posturing.

Lord help us. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? I think we were better off when baseball players with all of their failings and weaknesses were our national heroes rather than professional wrestlers.

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