Sunday, May 28, 2017

Manchester Attack Tightens British Election

Corbyn in 2015 - Getty Images
Theresa May attended her first NATO and G7 summits last week. They could be her last depending on the next few weeks. Originally, I thought that her path to a victory would be easy, but the gods of electoral politics don't seem to be on the side of the Conservatives. The terrorist attack in Manchester is a disaster for her government, which she touts as "strong and stable" compared to what the country would look like if Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party return to office.

This isn't to say that Corbyn would be a better choice than May. Personally I do think she will be a stronger leader and terrorist attacks are difficult to prevent even with a large surveillance apparatus. Despite this, one cannot ignore that the bombing has weakened her party.

The worst sign came from a YouGov poll for The Times. It showed that the Conservative Party's lead narrowed to a margin of only 5 percent. May's party has 43 percent and Corbyn's has 38 percent. It's worth acknowledging that this is the worst poll from the perspective of the Conservatives. A poll by SurveyMonkey shows them leading Labour by 8 percent (44-36) and ICM's poll shows them leading by 14 percent (46-32). YouGov was also notoriously inaccurate during the 2015 election. Their last poll before voting indicated a 34-34 tie. The Conservatives won the election by a margin of  6.5 percent.

Nevertheless, I think Labour has some momentum. In addition to Manchester, their rise in the polls is a result of the Conservative Party's election promises, some of which are ridiculous and have been criticized by party members. Some call May a "red Tory" because she departs from Margaret Thatcher's ideology in several ways. Her party has had to backtrack on a manifesto pledge to have the elderly contribute more to their social care. It is being called a "dementia tax" by her opponents.

Then there's a bunch of odd topics that she keeps getting herself into. Animal killings were once tradition in the United Kingdom. The aristocrats of British society loved to hunt foxes, but today the sport is very unpopular. For whatever reason, May thought it would be a good idea to bring the topic back again in support of the hunts.

Right now May has been damaging herself while Corbyn has pushed national security attacks on her. In addition to his promise for 10,000 new police, the Labour leader now says that he will hire 1,000 spies to help combat terrorism. However, May can fight back just as strongly. The Labour leader blamed British military intervention for the Manchester attack. To say there's some kind of parallel between Britain and ISIS shows why he should not be prime minister. Whereas British foreign policy is conducted in the national interest, Islamist extremists are motivated by Islamic scripture. An isolationist foreign policy, presumably including nuclear disarmament and a withdrawal from NATO, wouldn't change anything for terrorists who want to see the end of western civilization.

As of now the Conservatives still lead in the polls, some still by double-digits. As with 2015, it is likely that there are "shy Tories" who will rally behind their party at the last minute and give the prime minister a comfortable victory, but there's still reason to be cautious. May can count on a lead at the moment, but these last two weeks won't be smooth sailing for her campaign.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Rise of Leftist Authoritarianism

In a republic like the United States, you will encounter someone who disagrees with you over politics. This doesn't mean you should ignore people with different political views. In fact, it helps to understand both sides of an argument. I've always thought that debates between liberals and conservatives should be promoted, especially at places like universities. When people understand one another, the political environment becomes less toxic, angry, and divisive.

Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly clear that many on the left, especially those who are younger, are embracing their own version of authoritarianism in the name of social justice. This usually involves shutting down viewpoints they disagree with, but it can be expanded to anything they smear as a symbol of "white privilege" or being "racist," "sexist," and "fascist."

A burrito shop opened in Portland, Oregon was bashed by the left because the two owners were white. They were criticized for "stealing" the tortilla cooking techniques of Mexican women after they went on a vacation. Their business, Kooks Burritos, was inspired by what they learned and saw in the country. Not only was this a great way for two millennial women to get ahead in life, but it also exposed customers to a culture and a style of cooking. Left-wing social justice warriors didn't see it that way. The business was forced to shut down because of "cultural appropriation" and "exploiting already marginalized identities."

If there's one good side to this story, at least the two owners didn't get violently assaulted, which is now being used more often by leftist groups like Antifa (a term created for those who are "anti-fascist"). It's obvious that the members of Antifa have no idea what fascism really is, but that doesn't matter to them. What matters is that the people they're against are branded with the term to strike anger. Fascism is synonymous with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, so anyone who is called a fascist must represent their views. Therefore Antifa's "fascists" have to be stopped.

At the University of California-Berkeley, threats and violence are used on a regular basis to stop any speaker who is opposed by the left. It's sad because the free speech movement on campuses started at UC-Berkeley. Now events put on by conservative groups are prevented from occurring. The worst case at Berkeley was the fall semester event for Milo Yiannopoulos, where rioters damaged property and started fires. In the spring semester, Ann Coulter's event was cancelled out of safety for students.

The cover article of the latest issue of National Review highlights the roots of left-wing violence and successful attempts by Antifa to stop Heather Mac Donald, a scholar at the Manhattan Institute who's research I've cited before in previous posts. The author of The War on Cops (a book I highly recommend) was blocked from speaking at Claremont McKenna College and the campus administration yielded to the demands of the protestors, who called her "a notorious white supremacist fascist." The university's president later said it would create "unsafe conditions" but no good comes out of a lack of enforcement of the rules. She eventually spoke via livestream.

In Wisconsin, UW-Green Bay student Jessica Murphy, who's interning at the MacIver Institute, posted an article about the top five wasteful classes in the UW system. Many of them were classes featuring topics adored by the social justice warriors (the number one course being taught at my campus) and none of them actually helping students prepare for their lives after college. Her article was noticed by some leftists, one saying she "could punch her in the face."

Ideally, I would want the era of social justice warriors and the war on free speech to come to an end. Part of me thinks this will happen. Shutting down conservative voices and beating up people they disagree with does not help the cause. Another part of me, however, is worried that this movement will continue and grow. I think it's a generational thing. Most millennials don't consider democracy as important as previous generations. Add to it that liberals are more likely to remove friends from their lives who have conservative views and one can see where leftist authoritarianism in the United States is coming from.

I think there's many variables that can contribute to this new authoritarian thought. The first is that millennials are more leftist than their parents and I think it is fair to say there are a growing number of socialists within my generation rather than liberals. This was the great appeal of Bernie Sanders. The second is the willingness of the left to defeat the right with violence and censorship. The most effective way to win is to have no opponent, which is why it is essential for the left to make sure that opposing views are not heard. Power is craved in politics and many social justice warriors want to obtain power even if it means trampling on basic liberties.

A third and final factor is the complacency of others to let this happen. I think there's a large group of people on the left who don't like to see authoritarianism, but that does not mean they're willing to confront it because it's on their side. Most people with strong political views tend to ignore their own side's faults and attack the other side as being worse, but this will only allow an authoritarian ideology within the left to grow. I think leftist authoritarianism can be best challenged by those who are on the left. A perfect example is Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad), a YouTube commentator. I'll link one of his videos here:



His videos are excellent and can help stop the rise of authoritarianism in western nations, but there has to be more voices who are willing to call out socialist justice warriors and the members of Antifa for what they really are. Those who claim to be anti-fascists are the fascists and if their rise isn't checked then there will be damaging ramifications across the United States and the world for decades to come.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Two Paths for Illinois

Governor Bruce Rauner of Illinois - Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register
While the Wisconsin gubernatorial race has been uneventful due to the lack of Democrats who want to challenge Scott Walker (who is obviously running for a third term). The battle for governor south of Wisconsin is heating up fast.

In 2014, Chicago millionaire Bruce Rauner won the Republican nomination and became the governor in a close race. Like other Republicans, Rauner wanted to initiate reforms that his state badly needed. The only problem was that his victory had no coattails. The Democrats continued to control the state legislature. This meant that the new governor couldn't do anything that involved a rightward policy direction.

As a result of the political deadlock, Illinois operates without any major changes to the budget. This makes the economic outlook in the state very bleak. The editorial board of The State Journal-Register explains some of the divisions over lacking a budget:
One key question is whether Illinois needs to tighten its standards for “causation,” which deals with whether a worker’s injury was caused by, or aggravated by, their job. Other topics to examine include Illinois’ benefits structures — a 2015 report by the independent journalism website ProPublica concluded that Illinois consistently paid more than the national average for permanent partial disabilities. 
It’s clear that the state needs to take a meaningful look at how to improve the system. Both sides need to embrace the premise that it’s possible to strike a balance that would make Illinois more competitive on employers’ workers comp costs, while preserving protections for workers who suffer a legitimate on-the-job injury
Attorney Gerald Skoney wrote about the state's fiscal problems in The Wall Street Journal and he attacked the legislature for focusing on foolish initiatives that deal with a zombie apocalypse while Illinois owes $11 billion. That number is expected to climb. He concludes "instead of worrying about the Zombie Apocalypse, maybe lawmakers in Springfield should focus on the fiscal disaster that is entirely of their own making."

Easier said than done. The Democrats don't want to give Rauner an inch of reform, but continuing down the current path drives the Land of Lincoln down the edge of a cliff. No businessman would seriously invest in a state that ranks 47 out of 50 in fiscal solvency, a rank that comes from the Mercatus Center's 2016 fiscal condition report.

Democrats in the state have proposed tax increases to solve the state government's financial problems. The problem for Illinois is that it already has a large tax burden and a declining population. More people left Illinois in 2016 (37,508 to be exact) than any other state, many of them sighting problems like higher taxes, crime rates, and the budget. It would be wrong to raise taxes when the economy is so weak.

Raising revenue isn't the problem for Illinois. A report by Illinois Policy, a nonpartisan think tank, concluded that the real issue is spending. The state receives more than enough taxes, with per capita revenues growing 70 percent greater than inflation over the last 33 years. Funding for core public goods like education and law enforcement are down because state employee benefits have exploded. Worker pay, health care coverage, and pensions increased by almost 600 percent from 2000 to 2015.

Illinois needs to take the path of reducing spending and also easing the tax burden in order to foster a more pro-market environment. The problem is that Rauner can't get anything done and Democrats are determined to win back the governorship in 2018. The current frontrunner is Chris Kennedy, a former chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. If you're wondering, he is a member of that Kennedy family (a son of Robert F. Kennedy to be exact).

Even so, his support among Illinois Democrats is not set in stone. Big names in the state's Democratic Party are steering labor unions and other key liberal groups away from Kennedy and to billionaire J.B. Pritzker, a man who has more than enough cash to take on Rauner (the incumbent has given his own re-election campaign $50 million). Kennedy is leaving early in the Democratic race, but if Pritzker gets enough support then it might be close. As for Rauner, he has more time to prepare himself for a predictably rough campaign. It might just be the most expensive campaign in American history.

Finally, I want to briefly focus on campaign strategy. If you look at a political map of Illinois, it looks like the rest of the state is held hostage by Cook county (where Chicago is located). Rauner only won by a margin of 3.9 percent. Here's the 2014 gubernatorial election:


Democrats are probably looking for something like the gubernatorial race in 2002, when Rod Blagojevich became governor (though they don't want another governor like Blagojevich). This means a necessary appeal to downstate voters, who tend to be from rural communities. As proven by 2016, Democrats have serious problems with persuading these voters to get behind them, but they can't just rely on a large basket of support from Chicago to win. They need voters from elsewhere in the state. Here's the map:

Monday, May 22, 2017

Trump needs to be careful

Trump and Comey - NBC News
Charles Krauthammer, one of my favorite columnists, posted a good article recently on the mess President Trump has gotten himself into. Krauthammer points to three main problems the president has had, all of them arising within ten days. I wanted to bring these controversies up and add what I think on top of them.

First, there was the firing of James Comey. Comey should have been gone earlier, but Trump kept him until now. Firing the FBI director while he was in the midst of a probe that links Russian officials and members of the Trump administration made the Democrats look like a bunch of hypocrites, but it also hurt the president and made him increasingly defensive. At first his staff (including Vice President Mike Pence) said the Justice Department recommended the dismissal, but then Trump said he was going to fire Comey "regardless of the recommendation."

Okay, so this is one problem. Trump says what he wants, but this means ignoring (or perhaps forgetting) what his staff is trying to do. It wouldn't be too much to handle if he made two more mistakes after it.

The second was a meeting with Russian officials. Never mind the bad timing of it coinciding with the firing of a man involved in a Russo-American investigation, but the media had a new target when it was discovered that Trump may have disclosed confidential information on ISIS with the Russians. His aides rushed to his defense, saying that simply did not happen. Then Trump added confusion by tweeting that he had the right to share information "pertaining" to terrorism. He did not say he shared classified information, but it did put White House officials on the defensive. Meanwhile, national security adviser H.R. McMaster pointed out the very real problem of people in the White House leaking out information to the press, making the business of governing highly difficult.

Two problems means less time to do the things Trump should be focusing on. The White House is waiting time on scandal rather than on policy. It isn't easy for Paul Ryan to implement while the president is under fire. However, I don't think Trump contradicted his staff on this topic and McMaster has settled the issue at the moment. This is nothing compared to what comes next, which returns to Comey.

Only days after he was fired, it was discovered that Trump asked him to end the investigation into national security adviser Mike Flynn. This is according to a memo by Comey. Of all three controversies, this one is the most damaging. It led to the creation of an independent investigation and Comey will now testify before the Senate intelligence committee. The White House has received some good news. Flynn was cleared in the probe linking him to Russia.

Whatever the results of the investigation, none of it helps Trump and all of it will help the Democrats. Investigations are very good at eating up the political capital of whoever is being investigated. It slows tax reform, health care reform, and deregulation.

Part of this is a matter of communication. Trump manages to contradict statements from the White House and various departments all the time. The president doesn't seem to understand that a media strategy does matter, so he foolishly continues to generate his own dilemmas.

Another big issue is character, something the presidential considerably lacks. I think many Republicans who weren't thrilled about Trump, but still voted for him did so thinking that character wasn't important in the election. They focused on his proposals, which included a conservative Supreme Court choice (which he gave), Obamacare repeal and replace, border security, and tax cuts. These are good things, but his character flaws still matter. Trump rarely acknowledges when he makes mistakes and could be digging his own political coffin (and that of the Republican Party's).

When a president is doing terrible domestically, it makes sense for the White House to draw focus to international politics. Trump's first foreign visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Vatican City could deflect some media attention elsewhere, but there's no way the media is going to abandon the investigation any time soon.

Trump will be occupied with fixing the three controversies before him, but he has to address the two flaws of White House communication and character. The former can be easily fixed, but the latter is going to be difficult and does play a role in Trump's statements that contradict his staff. Either way, Trump might want to start building some character now because he needs more than ever.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Colossal Hypocrisy of the Democrats on Comey

Outgoing FBI Director James Comey - Francis Rivera
President Trump's decision to fire James Comey, the FBI director who became very controversial during the 2016 election, has led to a media frenzy and outrage from the Democrats. Many of them are saying that he shouldn't have been fired. The only problem is that of these Democrats opposed Comey during and just after the election. Here's a list.

Chuck Schumer

On November 2, 2016, the New York senator and current minority leader said he "lost confidence" in Comey over the email probe into Hillary Clinton. Now he opposes Comey's removal from the FBI, so that confidence must have miraculously returned. It's a clear case of politics over consistency, but we have more examples on the way.

Bernie Sanders

The presidential candidate who took second place in the Democratic race wanted Comey to resign on January 15, 2017. Now his tune has changed. Here's the official statement:
“Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey raises serious questions about what his administration is hiding. Why did President Trump fire the person leading the investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian government? I find it deeply troubling that this decision comes a day after damning testimony by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign and just days before Comey was scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee. 
“President Trump has repeatedly taken steps to kill inquiries into Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election. It is clear that whomever President Trump handpicks to lead the FBI will not be able to objectively carry out this investigation. We need an independent investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.”
Elizabeth Warren

The Massachusetts senator is an early favorite for the Democrats in 2020 and she knows it. This means being at the front of all the new political battles. She has accused Trump of firing Comey because of the FBI's probe into Russia in order to save members of his campaign. She was never pleased with the way the FBI handled investigations into Clinton and was also disappointed when it failed to charge bankers. Apparently, this did not justify Comey's firing in her eyes.

Maxine Waters

Representative Waters has been known for making some of the most ludicrous statements of any politician in recent history. In this case, Waters would have no problem if Clinton was president and fired Comey. She only has a problem if Trump does it because he might be implicated in the investigation. Waters previously said she believed the FBI director had "no credibility." First off, I'm not sure she's aware that the director of the FBI is not the only person involved in an investigation. Secondly, if he has "no credibility" then why is she not jumping for joy upon his removal?

Steve Cohen

A representative from Tennessee, Cohen actually wrote an op-ed on November 3 arguing that Comey should have resigned. Now he released a statement declaring that Trump's decision to fire him is "reminiscent of the Saturday Night Massacre." I'm not going to go into too much detail about what this is, but it occurred during the Watergate scandal when President Richard Nixon fired three members of the Justice Department who were investigating his administration's involvement. That should be enough to inform of the circumstances, which are very different from now.

For all the talk of Trump firing Comey over the investigation to see if they're any links between his campaign and the Russian government, I think it's worth noting Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who said there is no evidence of collusion between his campaign aides and the Russians.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Local Elections point to Conservative Landslide

May campaigning in Leeds on April 27 - Anthony Devil/Pool/Reuters
If anyone doubted the United Kingdom's polls for the general election, then those doubts should have evaporated with the local election results on May 4. The Conservatives won a landslide over Labour, building momentum for June 8. It just goes to show that there's little chance of the Labour Party being able to stop the onslaught they will suffer.

I've brought up British local elections before, but I think I need to repeat what they are since there's so little attention on them. Local elections are held every year in the UK, with some being more significant than others. Think of them as like midterms in the United States. British voters elect councils like American voters elect state legislatures. In 2017, there were 34 councils in England, all 32 councils in Scotland, and all 22 councils in Wales that had their terms up. There were also eight mayors who would be directly elected.

I think the local elections matter because of their proximity to the general election. It's now less than a month away. I cannot foresee Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister unless some catastrophe were to happen. Here's the results:

Councils

Conservative Party (Theresa May) - 28 (+11)
Labour Party (Jeremy Corbyn) - 9 (-7)
Party of Wales (Leanne Wood) - 1 (+/-)
Liberal Democrats (Tim Farron) - 0 (+/-)
Scottish Nationalists (Nicola Sturgeon) - 0 (-1)

Councilors

Conservatives - 1,899 (+563)
Labour - 1,152 (-382)
Liberal Democrats  - 441 (-42)
Scottish Nationalists - 431 (+6)
Party of Wales - 202 (+33)

In more bad news for Corbyn, the Labour Party's election manifesto has been leaked. It includes everything you'd expect from an old British socialist. It includes renationalizing sectors in the economy like rail and energy, large tax increases, and more government spending fueled by extra borrowing. Corbyn is nostalgic for the years of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, a time when Britain was declining until Margaret Thatcher arrived to save the nation through market reforms.

The members of his shadow cabinet aren't helping either. The man to be chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell, is someone who has no problem taking part in a May Day event at Trafalgar Square in London with flags from different communist regimes, including that of Bashar al-Assad's. McDonnell and Corbyn have no problem showering praise on Karl Marx, the former saying people "could learn a lot" from him and the latter declaring the socialist founder a "great economic thinker."

Maybe the problem for Labour is the problem most socialists have: they don't know how to count. Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, gave super rosy estimates on how much it would cost to hire 10,000 additional police officers. She had a another train wreck of an interview with not knowing what Labour's losses were in the local elections.

Theresa May can campaign easy right now.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

On Call of Duty: WWII and the SJWs who hate it

Worldwide Reveal ad
The announcement of Call of Duty: WWII is, in my opinion, a great move by Activison. Some of you might remember almost the same time last year, when I criticized the makers of the franchise for taking a futuristic direction rather than historic one. Now the publishers have heard from the consumers and are going to return to their roots. They have the opportunity to win back many people who have left the franchise (I haven't bought a game in the series since 2014).

Sales for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare underperformed compared to previous games. By going back to the Second World War, many people no longer view Activision negatively like they used to. The game, of course, is not out yet and there is possibility that the makers of the new edition to franchise could get it wrong, but as of now the reveal has been widely successful. Not only is the video the fastest in the franchise to get over 10 million views in a day, but if you look at likes and dislikes it is far different from Infinite Warfare:


Unlike the last game, this one is popular. It also shows something I've said for a while: history is winning! The decision to go with World War II came down to vote for either a game that focused on the past or to go with another unnecessary game that takes place in a futuristic setting. Remember that the last Call of Duty game on World War II was World at War, which came out in 2008. Activision has another advantage in that EA, their main competition for this year, will continue the Star Wars franchise with Battlefront II.

While most of the characters in the game will be white men, one of the most interesting things about the new game is that it will include playable female characters in multiplayer and it sounds like the campaign will also have a character who is an African-American and another character who is a child. This offers players more experiences from people of different backgrounds during the war. I think this is a good idea and at first I thought most people who love video games would support Activision's decision. That is until I read an article from Polygon:
It reads like a marketer’s checklist for suitable diversity, a roster of token characters that doesn’t acknowledge their experiences more than it pats the publisher on the back. Sledgehammer staffers’ repeated references to “brotherhood” also speak clearly to the fact this game will be told from a very traditional perspective.
From what we saw and heard about this game today, that tradition doesn’t genuinely include brothers of other races, or brothers who don’t identify as male. It’s important to note that segregation was still very much enforced during the time period, including within the American military. And judging by the attention Sledgehammer is paying to period firearms and the sounds they make, Call of Duty: WWII is all about preserving historical authenticity.
Rather than consider that the makers of the game wanted to genuinely show players what it was like to be a woman or a black man during the war and also tell a story of the Second World War that they were passionate about, all these writers prefer to believe that the female and black characters are being used as "tokens" merely to promote diversity. I could spend the next several paragraphs refuting this, but I think this video on YouTube by Skill Up does it perfectly: