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Words Matter


In 1941 Senator Harry Truman made a comment in The New York Times, “if we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible.”

It may have been reasonable to dismiss that comment as a flippant remark at the time, but Truman ended up four years later as the VP to Roosevelt. When Roosevelt died, the reluctant VP became president. One of his first tasks was to negotiate with Churchill and Stalin on how the post war world would be divided and administered.  This momentous meeting was held at Potsdam, Germany  just outside of Berlin.

The story is this transformative meeting is the subject of Potsdam- The End of WWII and the Remaking of Europe, by noted historian (and my nephew)  Michael Neiberg.

In the west our weak understanding of history has understated the outsized roll the Russians played in defeating Germany.  According to Neiberg the British suffered 383,800 battle deaths and the Americans lost 416,800. Devastating as these numbers are they paled in comparison to the Russian losses of  8.8 to 10.7 million.

The civilian death rate showed an even wider variance.  The British lost 67,100 civilians, the Americans 1,700,  and the Soviets lost an estimated 14.6 million civilians.   “Stalingrad, which had a prewar population of 850,000, had just nine children with both parents still alive at the end of the war.”

When Truman sat down to negotiate the fate of nations with the Russian foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, Truman’s comment from 1941 was not deemed flippant. Molotov was aware of the comment and this made him less tolerant and trusting of the new president.  It made Truman’s demeaning tone difficult to tolerate. That comment stood to affect the state of the world, in some way.

Leaders are a slave to their words, and know to choose them carefully. By this measurement Trump is no leader. Threatening to nuke enemies, and billing Mexico $100,000 per illegal immigrant may seem like flippant, ‘tell-it-like-is’ comments to his populist sycophants, and it may gin a crowd motivated by frustration, but if in our worst nightmare such a man became president these words would have consequences.

A man who is fast and loose with his words is not presidential material.  If he constantly has to explain what he really meant, if he is constantly complaining that he was quoted out of context, then he is not ready to play in the arena he is seeking.

Trump is to this campaign like the loose women a man dates in college before he settles down.  Have your fun, but sooner rather than later you need to get serious. This is not a hotel chain or a casino he is attempting to run.

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Commerce Between Consenting Adults

Uber A

from Uber Crashes the Democratic Party by William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal (gated):

 Marco Rubio, who last year sided with Uber over regulators in Miami, accused Mrs. Clinton of trying to “regulate 21st-century industries with 20th-century ideas.” Jeb Bush pointedly traveled by Uber for his visit to Thumbtack, a Silicon Valley startup. Meanwhile, Rand Paul says he would like our government to adopt the Uber model—more information and customer ratings—while Ted Cruz says his campaign will be as disruptive of politics-as-usual as Uber is of old business models.

Perhaps even more important, innovation by its nature challenges the inner-Elizabeth Warren in so much of today’s Democratic Party. However open Democrats may be to revolutionary new definitions of marriage, the thought that there might be some nonsexual for-profit contracts between consenting adults keeps progressives up at night. So when a business like Uber’s prospers because its model doesn’t quite fit the established regulatory categories, the Democratic response is almost always to try to pound these new square pegs into the government’s old round holes.

But is Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick any different? Even as he struggles with regulators taking aim at his business model, Mr. Kalanick has spoken up in favor of ObamaCare. During a visit to New York last November, he enthused that ObamaCare was “huge” for companies like his, on the grounds that the individual market has democratized benefits such as health care.

That’s true insofar as it means he doesn’t have to provide it for his drivers. But the reality is that ObamaCare is to health what taxi commissions are to transportation. And if Uber’s co-founder can’t see the difference, maybe he deserves the Bill de Blasios and Hillary Clintons coming after him.

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Dumb Regulation isn’t the same as Deregulation


from Jeb Hensarling at The Wall Street Journal, After Five Years, Dodd-Frank Is a Failure:

Dodd-Frank was based on the premise that the financial crisis was the result of deregulation. Yet George Mason University’s Mercatus Center reports that regulatory restrictions on financial services grew every year between 1999-2008. It wasn’t deregulation that caused the crisis, it was dumb regulation.

Before Dodd-Frank, 75% of banks offered free checking. Two years after it passed, only 39% did so—a trend various scholars have attributed to Dodd-Frank’s “Durbin amendment,” which imposed price controls on the fee paid by retailers when consumers use a debit card. Bank fees have also increased due to Dodd-Frank, leading to a rise of the unbanked and underbanked among low- and moderate-income Americans.

Has Dodd-Frank nevertheless made the financial system more secure? Many of the threats to financial stability identified in the latest report of Dodd-Frank’s Financial Stability Oversight Council are primarily the result of the law itself, along with other government policies.

Dodd-Frank’s Volcker rule banning proprietary trading by banks, and other postcrisis regulatory mandates, has drastically reduced liquidity for making markets in fixed-income assets. The corporate bond market is one of the primary channels for capital formation in the economy. Reduced liquidity in this market amplifies volatility. Because of Dodd-Frank, financial markets will have less capacity to deal with shocks and are more likely to seize up in a panic. Many economists believe this could be the source of the next financial crisis.


read the whole article.  This regulation was based on political narratives and expediency, rather than the thoughtful and non partisan analysis such a significant piece of regulation requires.  It seems that our next crisis is the result of the bad solutions legislated for the last crisis.

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Donald Trump

from the editors of the Wall Street Journal Trump and His Apologists:


But America has rarely lacked for demagogues willing to exploit public discontents.William Jennings Bryan won three Democratic presidential nominations running against eastern elites. In 1948 Henry Wallace ran as a Soviet sympathizer while Strom Thurmondwon 39 electoral votes running as a segregationist. Either one would have been a disaster as President.

As a standard-bearer for conservative ideas, Mr. Trump would likewise be a catastrophe. His only discernible principle is the promotion of his personal brand. His main message seems to be that because he’s rich and doesn’t care what anyone thinks, he can afford to tell everyone to go to hell. Some Americans may find it satisfying 16 months from Election Day to tell pollsters they’d vote for him, but that doesn’t mean conservative elites should validate this nonsense.

So full credit to Rick Perry, the former Texas Governor, who led the pack in saying even before the weekend that Mr. Trump lacks the temperament to be Commander in Chief. Several other candidates have now said the same.

But note the silence of Ted Cruz, who declined to criticize Mr. Trump because he said the media enjoy such intra-Republican fights. Mr. Cruz has recently released a book whose main theme is an attack on other Republicans. It’s central to his campaign strategy. The Texas Senator must be hoping to inherit Trump voters once the casino magnate flames out, but he’s revealing his own lack of political character.

As for conservative media elites, too many have adopted the view that there can be no adversary to their right. This was mainly a left-wing affliction in the last century as many liberals refused to condemn Communists. But today many on the right seem willing to indulge any populist outburst no matter how divorced from reality or insulting to most Americans. If Donald Trump becomes the voice of conservatives, conservatism will implode along with him.


I think it is rare that the WSJ would come out this strong against a GOP candidate.  I am glad that they did.

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The Myth of Northern Innocence


Guess what, racism is not limited to the South.  This incredible discovery is noted by Thomas J. Sugrue in The Washington Post in It’s not Dixie’s fault:


These crude regional stereotypes ignore the deep roots such social ills have in our shared national history and culture. If, somehow, the South became its own country, the Northeast would still be a hub of racially segregated housing and schooling, the West would still be a bastion of prejudicial laws that put immigrants and black residents behind bars at higher rates than their white neighbors and the Midwest would still be full of urban neighborhoods devastated by unemployment, poverty and crime. How our social problems manifest regionally is a matter of degree, not kind — they infect every region of the country.

In fact, many of the racial injustices we associate with the South are actually worse in the North. Housing segregation between black and white residents, for instance, is most pervasive above the Mason-Dixon line. Of America’s 25 most racially segregated metropolitan areas, just five are in the South; Northern cities — Detroit, Milwaukee and New York — top the list. Segregation in Northern metro areas has declined a bit since 1990, but an analysis of 2010 census data found that Detroit’s level of segregation, for instance, is nearly twice as high as Charleston’s.

By the 1990s, Southern black men earned as much as their counterparts in other regions. Now, Northern blacks are migrating South in search of better economic opportunities, reversing historic trends.

It’s reassuring for Northerners to think that the country’s problems are rooted down South. But pointing our fingers at Dixie — and, by implication, reinforcing the myth of Northern innocence — comes at a cost. As federal troops and Supreme Court decisions forced social change in the states of the old Confederacy during the 20th century, injustices in the North were allowed to fester. That trend continues, as Northerners seek to absolve themselves of responsibility for their own sins by holding aloft an outdated and inaccurate caricature of a socially stunted South.