Freedom ain’t free

Freedom ain't free

The great GOP hostage crisis of 2016

June 5, 2016

We are not ready to endorse a presidential candidate — the year is yet young! — but we have no regard for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, and expect to spend the better part of the next five months hammering on both of them. Since we vote in Texas, our influence on the Electoral College is non-existent, so we will in all likelihood take the opportunity to cop out and #FeelTheJohnson at the end of it all.

This will not be easy for us, because we cannot abide Hillary Clinton, of whom we expect to write much more in the coming months (we commend you to Christopher Hitchens’ 1999 classic “No One Left To Lie To” if you would prefer your indictment of the Clintons from the left). But voting for Donald Trump is more than we can bear, and not for all the usual sanctimonious virtue-signalling reasons. Trump is a bad guy, but Hillary is a bad gal, and weighing the moral deficiencies in their respective characters requires precision instruments not yet invented. For us it comes down to this: All evidence and our own instincts suggest that Trump is impulsive to an almost incalculable extent, and we cannot have an impulsive person at the top during a national security crisis. Or catalyzing one with a midnight tweet.

Hillary Clinton’s recent and otherwise silly speech on foreign policy actually framed the issue well:

Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different — they are dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas — just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies.

He is not just unprepared — he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.

This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes — because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.

We can agree with that notwithstanding our view that Hillary Clinton will probably extend the endless war of the Bush/Obama years, further weaken the geopolitical advantage of the United States, and remorselessly lie about anything that either does not go well or that does not perfectly reflect the transnational progressive party line. We do believe, however, that Clinton will be deliberative and calculating in a crisis, and is highly unlikely to bring us into armed conflict with a great power. We have no such confidence in Donald Trump, and since impulsiveness is a trait that we believe is disqualifying in a president of the United States, we cannot hope that Trump wins.

This is also true for the vast majority of Republican leaders who actually understand the demands of the presidency, or at least have an inkling. But they are in a difficult spot, because they are partisans in the literal meaning of the word. If they do not support the party’s nominee, however dangerous that nominee may be, their careers are over. And since politicians are not fit to do much else — well, other than lobbying other politicians on behalf of rent-seeking clients — most of the GOP brass are cracking under the pressure and issuing tepid endorsements of Trump. This article neatly captures the “hostage video” endorsements from the Republican elite and is worth reading in its entirety, but here are a few choice nuggets:

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry

July 22, 2015: “Let no one be mistaken – Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.”

May 5, 2016: “He’s not a perfect man, but what I do believe is that he loves this country and that he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and that he will listen to them.” …

Florida Senator Marco Rubio

March 4, 2016: “Donald Trump has been perhaps the most vulgar — no I don’t think perhaps — the most vulgar person to ever aspire to the presidency in terms of how he’s carried out his candidacy.”

May 10, 2016: “”I signed a pledge, put my name on it, and said I would support the Republican nominee and that’s what I intend to do.”

Paul Ryan’s precisely tuned announcement that he would “vote for” Trump was the most painful to watch. He might have preferred a long night in the prison showers.

This much is clear. We are watching the destruction of the Republican Party. Whether it survives in name remains to be seen — the legal entrenchment of the party duopoly will be very tough to dislodge — but a realignment is unfolding that will completely remake not only the GOP, but ineluctably also the Democrats. Because one cannot change the yin without also changing the yang.

Freedom ain't free

Clinton stands up for the loan sharks

June 3, 2016

Payday loans are in the news. The editors of the New York Times and Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff are occasionally regularly in lockstep, and yesterday was no different:

Yesterday, Elizabeth Warren’s pet agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, proposed new regulations that would essentially put out of business most storefront “payday” lenders. So naturally the editors of the Times and Hillary Clinton would be all excited and stuff (although the former does not believe that the proposed regs go far enough).

Now, we can hear you saying, “Blueberry Town isn’t going to defend payday lenders, is he?” Well, no, but we are going to attack the people attacking them!

Our first questions for the anti-payday loan crowd are these: Do they believe that the borrowers they seek to protect are too stupid to understand the very high interest rates that they pay? Or, alternatively, do they believe that these borrowers have no other lawful alternative? What would be a third possibility?

If Hillary Clinton believes that these borrowers are too stupid to be given the choice of borrowing money at these rates, can she suggest a public agency charged with educating people that might provide a solution? You know, public schools, maybe. Or do we have to impose these regulations because the government has utterly failed at teaching the most basic requirements of modern life?

If Hillary Clinton believes that there are alternative lenders for these loans who are not the Mafia, who are these generous lenders and can she please connect them with the people who she thinks are too stupid to make their own decisions?

Anyway, icky as the payday loan business is — and it is icky — what will happen to the customers if we regulate it out of business? One doubts they will be getting loans from JP Morgan — even if Jamie Dimon were so inclined to do, federal bank examiners would lose their minds. My guess is that a lot more poor people will get evicted or have their cars repossessed (and lose the jobs they can not longer commute to) because they cannot get a bridge loan to their next pay check.

Unless, of course, they go to their local loan shark.

If Elizabeth Warren’s favorite agency had a sense of humor — that alone is a hilarious idea, come to think of it — it would call its proposed regs the “Tony Soprano Full Employment Act.” Of course, that would not be truthful, because no legislator will ever have a chance to vote on the proposal so it can’t be an Act, but you get our point. The CFPB will act, as it were, entirely on its own, and when violent loansharking makes a big comeback the “progressives” will claim that this obvious consequence is “unintended.”

Austin controversies Austin politics Freedom ain't free

Austin “exports poverty”. Thank God.

June 2, 2016

Austin’s mayor, Stephen Adler, who had the best undergraduate education obtainable by man, is alleged to have said this:

We are not sure what it means to “export” poverty, but we are certain of this: It is better for a city to export poverty than to import it, all the more so if the city’s government spends money as if rapid growth will continue forever.

We rather like Mayor Adler notwithstanding our frequent policy disagreements, so we’re going to hope that he was taken out of context. Regardless, we will vote for politicians who vow to export poverty rather than import it, and you are nuts if you do otherwise.

Freedom ain't free

Robert Morrow and the Travis County GOP

June 2, 2016

Travis County Republicans are, in the words of your Editor’s beloved father, “a couple of nice cats.” The actual voters, however, have elected one Robert Morrow to the chairmanship of the Travis County GOP. This is not helping the party’s cause locally — or wouldn’t if it had one — as this rather hilarious and decidedly NSFW round up of “the 18 craziest tweets of Robert Morrow” will confirm for all but the most decompensated of the anti-PC crowd.

All of this is apropos of nothing important, other than it led to this little gem of an opening paragraph on the front page of the morning’s Statesman:

With the exquisite care of a bomb squad, the Travis County Republican Party is seeking to defuse its Robert Morrow problem by crafting rules that will enable the party to function as normally as possible under a duly elected chairman who has described himself, with considerable understatement, as “Donald Trump on steroids.”

Bomb squad indeed. And, it must be said, a micro version of the drama slow-motion train wreck unfolding in front of the national Republican Party.

Freedom ain't free

The least believable thing Hillary Clinton has ever said

May 31, 2016

Back in 1994, Hillary Clinton attributed her success in trading cattle futures — she turned $1000 in to $100,000 in less than 10 months during the late 1970s — to “reading the Wall Street Journal.” Her supporters believed her, even though (1) Clinton unaccountably stopped trading even though she was apparently brilliant at it because she couldn’t handle the stress, (2) it was the single most profitable investment the Clintons had ever made up to that point, and (3) the WSJ had not actually published any articles on cattle futures during the relevant period. Her story was both mathematically and actually unbelievable (one in 31 trillion according to one academic paper).

Nevertheless, Clinton’s claim that her cattle profits were the result of her own brilliance pales in comparison to this morning’s claim:

The sexism is less virulent now than it was in 2008, she said, but still she encounters people on rope lines who tell her, “ ‘I really admire you, I really like you, I just don’t know if I can vote for a woman to be president.’ I mean, they come to my events and then they say that to me.”

Sorry, with the greatest imagination we still cannot believe that in 2016 anybody has the balls — and the implication is that balls are involved here — to go to a Clinton campaign event, get close enough to make a comment, and use that moment to say that their big hangup is that Hillary is a woman. A fortiori we do not believe that this has happened more than once. And if you do not share our hard-won skepticism, consider that nobody has ever captured one of these outrages on video, which fact we know because if somebody had done, it would have been social media gold for the Clinton campaign and its social justice warrior camp followers. Liar, liar, pants on fire, not that you will ever hear that from the putative “editors” of New York Magazine.

Can you believe that this is the person we have to vote for to avoid president Trump?

Freedom ain't free

Gender gap is as gender gap does

May 10, 2016

There is a new Quinnipiac Swing State poll out, and Hillary and The Donald are in an apparent dead heat where it matters. The people in the important swing states of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania have tasted and measured their bile in the contemplation of their vote in November, and responded accordingly.

The talking head buffoonerators on the TV above the bar in the United Club in Austin, whence your Editor scribbles, are going on about Hillary’s huge advantage among women as supposedly revealed in that poll, side by side with this graphic:


Anybody see anything wrong with MSNBC’s logic?* “Gender gap” may not mean what they think it means.


*Because the milk of intellectual honesty flows through your Editor’s veins, we might not have given MSNBC the full benefit of actually listening. Our impressions are based on a few seconds looking at the subtitles scrolling across the screen, so our assessment of MSNBC might be unfair. Then again, MSNBC is not known for putting things in context, so there is a limit to our reticence about leaping to a conclusion.

Freedom ain't free

Donald Trump cannot become the president

May 8, 2016

Joe Straus, the speaker of the Texas House, has “pulled a Paul Ryan,” and refused to say that he will support Donald Trump. Good for Straus. His motives may be a tad impure, but that impurity implies a respect for the voters of Texas that one rarely sees on the pages of coastal newspapers. His instincts are right: Thoughtful people ought not vote for Donald Trump for president of the United States.

If by now it isn’t obvious, your Editor is a national greatness libertarian, and has historically voted Republican far more often than not. Notwithstanding the “national greatness” and “historically voted” parts, we will not be voting for Donald Trump for president of the United States in this November’s general election. Painful as it would be to do, if you were to put a gun to the puppy’s head and insist that we vote for one of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, we would vomit up a vote for Hillary.

Recent readers, and those who do not know our secret identity, may not appreciate how difficult this would be for us. There is almost no reason to like Hillary Clinton. She is as authoritarian as Americans get, has a constant wish to involve the state in “improving” our fellow citizens, and will say or do anything to achieve her political objectives. In this regard, she is not very different from Donald Trump, who at least talks in authoritarian words and in the style of a “great” leader, has a constant wish to involve the state in “making America great again,” and will at least say anything to achieve his political objectives.

If the United States were the only country in the world and had no foreign policy, we would not be so firm in our conviction. Part of us wants to see what Trump will do to the established order, which is obviously FUBAR to some huge exponent. And then there is the entertainment in any demolition derby.

Sadly for Trump, the first and by far most important requirement of any president is apparent competence in national security matters. We say “apparent” because it is almost impossible to know in advance whether a candidate will in actual fact be competent. Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and George H.W. Bush might have been exceptions, but we had no way of knowing in advance whether (for example) JFK, LBJ, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Dubya, or Barack Obama would have Clue One. Some would say, in each case, that they did not. But in all those cases reasonable people could conclude that they would respond to a security crisis soberly, with deliberation, and due respect for the seriousness of the moment. That is, with apparent competence.

The same can be said of Hillary Clinton. While we can be certain that she will lie about what she did and conjure no end of tall tales to obfuscate her role in any crisis that goes pear-shaped (not sure why that metaphor occurred to us, but there you have it), there is no question that she will react to a crisis seriously and with deliberation.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has given us no reason to believe that he would react soberly in a national security crisis. Indeed, his impulsiveness and capacity for chin-thrusting offense is so manifest that we worry he would actually catalyze a crisis that would not have occurred otherwise. Since he fails the basic requirement of a candidate for president, if forced to choose between Trump and Hillary we will have no choice but to go all in for the harridan.

All of this reminds us of a great passage from one of H.L. Mencken’s columns in the run-up to the sorry election of 1920, pertinent part below:


The precious boon of the suffrage, indeed.

Freedom ain't free

Donald Trump and the destruction of the Republican Party

May 7, 2016

Whether you regard this as a feature or a benefit, there is no question that this is true for many of the ingenuous and all of the disingenuous voters who have pulled the lever for Donald Trump:

And, yes, we know that “ingenuous” and “disingenuous” are not precise antonyms. We meant to do that.

Regardless, the original Grand Old Party was the coalition of anti-immigrant, anti-alcohol, anti-slavery, pro-Union and, within a few years, anti-inflation and pro-business forces. In today’s terms, the first two groups follow Trump and social cons, respectively. The middle two groups are a dead letter — although we suspect the current election season will see some resurgence in fringe secessionists — and the last two groups most reflect the now vilified “establishment.” The question is, where do the all the pieces go?

In any case, we do predict this: the fragmentation of the GOP will have some very surprising effects on the Democratic Party, and will accelerate its own radical transformation. Why? Because once the first major party shatters, the first time it will have happened since before the Civil War, the example will have been made.

Freedom ain't free

Did voters choose candidates they dislike on purpose?

May 6, 2016

Politically engaged Americans with more than the usual education — you know, readers — are in despair, for Republicans of that group who will admit to supporting Donald Trump are rare, and only a few more Democrats genuinely respect Hillary Clinton’s character, even if in each case at least some of them will support their partisan as the least bad alternative. Americans dislike the presumptive nominees of both parties by record margins.

And yet, they, or somebody, voted for them, in each case over candidates who were far more ideologically appealing to the alleged “base.”

The chattering classes propose various explanations for this. The thoughtful right most often attributes Trump’s success to the complicit media, which has covered him almost without limit. Other explanations include the supposed perfidy of the GOP “establishment,” which could not unite behind a single non-Trump candidate early on, and secretly and not so secretly preferred Trump to Ted Cruz when the latter emerged as the only credible alternative. And then there are those “too democratic” Republican primary rules.

On the left, bitter Sandersnistas blame Clinton trickiness and her lock on the Democratic “super delegates,” which are designed to make the Democratic Party’s nominating process less democratic.

No doubt these and other nastier explanations — from lefty partisans that the GOP base is irredeemably racist, and from righty partisans that Sanders voters are the beating heart of the freeloader class — are all to some degree true. Nothing in American politics is ever cut and dried, no matter how much meme-producers and other such addled thinkers prefer tweetable explanations, which are so much more useful for demonizing the opposition.

There is another explanation. In both parties, voters overwhelmingly preferred transactional candidates over ideologues. Trump is overtly non-ideological, selling a vision of the presidency that is centered around “winning” negotiations. Astonishingly, he has escaped the need for any consistency, repositioning each flip-flop as pragmatism. Clinton feigns ideology when the circumstances appear to require her to do, but only a child’s mind can believe that she is anything other than transactional. And she has “evolved” the preferred euphemism on the left for “flip-flopped” — during her 30 years in public life at least as much as Trump has done in, well, the last five years.

So Americans of both parties are about to nominate extremely practical candidates they despise over far more ideological — and manifestly more sincere — candidates that in theory were more attractive to the activist “base.”

Maybe we meant to do that. Maybe the voters have chosen candidates that they do not like on purpose.

Stay with me here.

There is a national agreement that our governments do not perform basic services effectively any more, especially the federal government. Yes, there are profoundly different explanations for the dysfunction, but very little disagreement that the effectiveness of government has declined tremendously since its heyday between the 1940s to the 1970s.

At the same time, the public has rather famously become more ideological, and the ideological divisions have become more partisan. There are no longer very many liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats, and the few the remain keep a very low profile. (The Big Sort, by a couple of Austinites, is the book to beat on this subject.)

In other words, we prefer ideological consistency, but we quite dislike the government that ideological partisanship produces.

Maybe the voters understand that paradox better than the chattering classes. Maybe the frustrated primary voters of both parties knowingly chose the most transactional candidates even though they don’t like them very much, because they have seen what ideological purity hath wrought.

Of course, this explanation will not be popular among the ideologues, who by their nature put a high value on consistency. But do we not hear it reverberating in the focus groups of frustrated Trump voters who acknowledge his plasticity but revert to “nothing works any more”? Do you not know Democrats who want to feel the Bern, but who do not believe all his sincerity and consistency can actually change a damned thing?

Trump and Clinton are the candidates for people who want government to function again regardless of ideology, the true silent majority in our politics today. But that does not mean Americans don’t feel icky about voting for such people. That sound you hear, perhaps, is the sigh national resignation.