Prediction and Postdictions.

I have no doubt that women of color, newly-tolerated gay people, and the coastal “intelligentsia” lean left in the same way that military personnel lean right.  Still, Sahil Chinoy has a fascinating piece in the Sunday NYT.[1]  A lot of what is announced as truth is…puzzling.

One, “the Republican Party has tended toward homogeneity” because it recruits conservative, white, “pro-life” Christians.  In contrast, the Democratic Party is “diverse” because it recruits liberal, non-white, a-religious or anti-religious, pro-choice people.[2]  So, why is one party “diverse” and the other party is “homogenous”?  Is skin color and gender alone what define “diversity”?  In fact, both parties are ideologically homogenous.

Two, Chinoy rolls out the common belief that the Civil Rights Act (1964) cost Democrats control of the South.  While this may be psychologically comforting to progressive people, there doesn’t seem to be much historical truth to it.  Southern whites did what Northern whites did: the moved to the suburbs and, when necessary, put their kids in religious schools not subject to the demands of “Brown v. Board of Education.”  Thus, school and housing segregation remained largely intact.  Southern whites only began to become Republicans when Democrats embraced the nationalization[3] of divisive social beliefs.  These include abortion, gun control, marriage equality, the secular sharia that seek to exclude religion from public life, and opposition to the “right to work” laws that under-pinned recent “Sun Belt” industrialization.

Three, the Democrats used to be the party of the white working class (see above), but now—purportedly–these voters are moving toward the Republicans.  Conversely, the Republicans used to be the party of the better-educated, but now these voters are moving toward the Democrats.[4]  Except that all low-income voters now lean only slightly (+3 percent) toward the Democrats, while both high-income and middle-income voters lean toward the Republicans (+14 percent for both groups).  Also, the “working class” and everyone else aren’t far apart.  In

Four, and most fascinating, human relationships matter for party identification.  The “never married” lean +28 percent Democrat,[5] and 57 percent of un-married women lean Democratic.  Meanwhile “Everyone Else” (i.e. men, married women) leans only +2 percent Democrat.  In contrast, white evangelical Christians[6] lean +41 percent Republican.

Arguably, people who have trouble maintaining personal relationships favor an active state, while people who have strong personal relationships feel less need.

[1] Sahil Chinoy, “”Predicting Your Party,” NYT, 11 August 2019.  My remarks touch on only a segment of Chinoy’s observations.  The whole article will reward a close reading.

[2] In short, the NYT defines “diversity” in racial and gender terms, rather than in ideological terms.

[3] That is, “Every knee must bend.”  I agree with most of these policies, but then I’ve lived in Seattle, Boston, Paris, and—now—Philadelphia.  I wouldn’t have accepted that a bunch of dumb crackers could impose their views on me and my wife and children.  Maybe they don’t think that someone should impose their views on their community?

[4] Are the opinions of better-educated people more worthy of respect than the opinions of less-educated people?  If so, then the Republican Party must have been right and the Democrats wrong for most of the 20th Century.  If not, then what difference does it make how different groups vote?

[5] Marriage ended tragically, or just ugly.  I done this.  Eventually tried “Match.com.”  Bunch of Stepford wives or self-absorbed jerks.  Shook out much better for me than for many people.  The NYT is all bent out of shape about Twitter, but what if “Match” or “eHarmony” tells us more about the state of the union?

[6] Go to church on Sunday, turn around in the pews to shake hands with people, go for silver dollar pancakes with the kids afterward, do Bible study some other day.  Not for me.  Still, you form a community.

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The Sentimental Imperialists 1 15 August 2019.

There’s this interesting book by Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (2008).  Weisman asks how long would our massive physical creations—buildings, dams, roads, tunnels—survive if humans were not constantly maintaining them?  He answers Not long at all.  Flooding, erosion, deer, those weeds that sprout through cracks in the sidewalk, would need only decades to begin erasing the human scar on the Earth.  Things that seem unimaginably durable and solid can quickly disappear.

What if we apply the same approach to political institutions?  What if we stopped maintaining them?  It wouldn’t matter much with domestic political traditions and institutions.  Those tend to be the product of long periods of development and bargaining.  They survive both triumph and disaster.  Trying to graft foreign or theoretical arrangements onto a long-existing political tradition isn’t likely to work.[1]  So, “tribes” (local identities) would survive.

But what if you apply the same approach to the cob-web of links between countries in what political scientists like to call an “international system” or “cosmopolitanism”?  There the approach seems more valid, at least at first glance.  Take Asia as an example.

China has grown into the second largest economy in the world.  Its wealth has allowed a massive military build-up and an aggressive posture in the Western Pacific.  Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has challenged the West in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East, and in the conduct of democratic elections.  North Korea’s acquisition of advanced missile technology—from whatever source—poses a grave security threat to American forces and American allies in Asia.  Meanwhile a combination of refugee problems with a revolt against the “Eurocrats” of the European Union’s “administrative state” have disabled Europe as a force in international affairs.

That’s why the “Nervous Nigels” and “sissies in striped pants”[2] who populate the diplomatic corps of many nations and of international agencies have been bleating so hard.  Where will many millions of people be without the World Health Organization, the World Agriculture Organization, or the United Nations High Commission on Refugees?  Malaria, malnutrition, and massacres, that’s where.

Normally, many people would grudgingly look to the United States for leadership in crises.  The Trump Administration’s “America First” strategy challenges this reflex.  However, there are real limits on what the United States could accomplish under any administration.  Hong Kong has been a part of China since 1997.  China claims Taiwan.  If it buckles on Hong Kong, then its future with Taiwan may be in doubt.  The Uighurs are Chinese subjects.  Kashmir is a part of India.  North Korea already has been plastered with sanctions for decades without abandoning its pursuit of nuclear weapons.  The Philippines resents the United States and forced the closure of American bases decades ago.  Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton either opposed or backed away from the Obama administration’s “Trans-Pacific Partnership.”  Loathsome person though he may be, Donald Trump isn’t far off the mark in Asia.

[1] This was the position of early 19th Century Conservatives.  You couldn’t make Britain into Prussia and you couldn’t make the Austrian empire into the United States just by writing some documents.  However, the experience of the Third Reich and its adventures proved sufficient to make Germans open to new approaches.  Which proves my point.

[2] The Economist and Franklin D. Roosevelt respectively.

The Court Martial of Jesus of Nazareth 13 August 2019.

The charge:

Jesus of Nazareth has incited discord among the citizens of the Empire in Palestine; he has encouraged the work of “terrorists,” and he has assaulted businessmen.

The case for the Prosecution:

The Roman Empire is a vast collection of different peoples with different beliefs.  The Empire has established peace among once-warring peoples by accepting all their gods as legitimate expressions of one true collection of gods.  The Empire requires that all people under Roman rule acknowledge the legitimacy of the gods of others.  The Empire requires that the Emperor himself be acknowledged as Divine (God).  The Empire suppresses local rebellion in order to preserve the safety of persons and property.

Jesus of Nazareth challenges every part of this Roman Peace.  He denies that belief-systems other than his own are legitimate.  He insists that only one belief is correct.  He refuses to accept that that the Emperor is Divine.

He has questioned the legitimacy of the Hebrew leaders (the Pharisees) with whom the Empire has bargained to establish a tolerant government.  He gives hope to the radical elements (Zealots) who use violence (terrorism) against Roman government.

The Empire is built upon the rock of trade.  Trade creates prosperity.  Jesus of Nazareth has violently attacked the money-changers in the Temple who make such trade possible.

The case for the Defense:

The Accused is a missionary come to us from a Reality the court does not acknowledge.  His message is that there is NOT a multiplicity of gods, nor are there multiple Truths.  There is only ONE God and ONE Truth.  He says that all who fail to recognize this Reality are condemned by that one God to burn in a fiery pit for all eternity.

Prosaically, the Accused is charged with disrupting the work of the money-changers in the Temple of Solomon, in Jerusalem.  They buy at the lowest price and sell at the highest price, regardless of circumstances.  Thus, His actions amount to “restorative justice.”

Finally, does the prosecution say that no one may dissent from common opinion as it presently exists?  Does it say that no truths are yet to be revealed by further inquiry?  That WE and OUT society are the final draft of the gods?

The Judgement of the Court:

There is a difference between provable Facts and unprovable Belief.  Believing that something is true is not the same as proving that thing is true.  Individuals may act on what they believe to be true.  However, if they transgress the law, their beliefs do not excuse them.

Jesus of Nazareth is found guilty of assault on persons and treason against the Empire.

The Sentence:

The condemned shall be transported by the usual means to the usual place of execution and there be  executed by the usual means.

Hong Kong 2 9 August 2019.

Revolutionary movements begin as coalitions of conservatives, moderates, and radicals.[1]  As they accomplish early goals, many of the conservatives drop-out and the radicals raise their sights.  The moderates then becoming the trailing group, while the early radicals fragment into moderate and more radical groups.  Rinse and repeat.  Eventually, power passes to the radical minority.  More and more people shift to the ranks of the already-satisfied and the alarmed-by-radicalism.  Eventually the forces of order decide that the balance of power is now on their side.  Disaster then follows for everyone as repression hammers radicals, moderates, and conservatives alike.  We may be seeing the same process in Hong Kong.

In July 2019, groups of young protestors, wearing hard-hats and black T-shirts,[2] began to confront the police.  They broke into the Legislative Council building, surrounded police stations, and pelted the police with bricks.  Generally, cops don’t like this.  On 5 August 2019, demonstrators disrupted transportation and issued a call for workers to stay home.

The government finds itself in a dilemma—for the moment.  On the one hand, it cannot respond too aggressively against a protest movement that claims that Beijing is intruding into Hong Kong affairs.  That would prove their point.  It has to continue the charade.

On the other hand, it has begun to exert counter-pressure.[3]  For one thing, support for Carrie Lam is unyielding.  For another, it keeps issuing verbal warnings that the protests are going too far.  On 6 August 2019, a senior Chinese official said “I want to warn all the criminals to not wrongly judge the situation and take restraint for weakness.  A blow from the sword of law is waiting for them in the future.”  A blow from a piece of rebar is more at hand.  There is a long tradition of Chinese governments co-operating with organized crime.[4]  Sluggers for one or more of the Hong Kong “triads,” armed with sections of rebar, attacked a bunch of demonstrators in July 2019.  For some reason, the police were slow to respond.  Then, the past Spring has seen the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests.  Do people in Hong Kong believe that the Chinese government will not, cannot repeat the experience?

Veering off in a different direction, what if one underlying source of the protests is the growing inequality within Hong Kong?[5]  In particular, housing prices have sky-rocketed without any government response.  As on the mainland, powerful economic interests dominate the government.  However, it is claimed that the Hong Kong interests are property development moguls, rather than the Communist Party.

What if Beijing announced that it would allow the development of housing in “brownfield” and farm areas, subsidize rents, and extend mass transit?  How many protestors would peel off?  It seems like a better approach than shooting people.  Almost anything is.

[1] Crane Brinton, The Anatomy of Revolution (1938).  Sure, it’s old.  So is Thucydides, so is Adam Smith, so am I.

[2] In Chinese culture, “Black corresponds to water and … is the color of heaven, symbolizing the northern and western sky. This color represents immortality, knowledge, stability and power.”  NB: My underlining.  The youthful demonstrators have adopted the cry “Be water.”  But black is also associated with “darkness and secrecy. The word ‘mafia’ translates to ‘black society’ in Chinese.”  https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/culture/lucky-numbers-and-colors-in-chinese-culture.htm

[3] Daniel Victor and Alan Yuhas, “How the Demonstrations in Hong Kong Have Evolved,” NYT, 9 August 2019.

[4] For one example, see Brian Martin, The Shanghai Green Gang: Politics and Organized Crime, 1919-1937 (1996).

[5] Nathaniel Taplin, “Hong Kong Needs Urgent Action,” WSJ, 9 August 2019.

Hong Kong 1 9 August 2019.

Between 1839 and 1842, Britain fought China over the opium trade.  China lost that war and the island of Hong Kong to boot.  Under British rule, Hong Kong became a major port and later a financial center.  Sometime between 1914 and 1945, Britain lost the “Mandate of Heaven.”  In 1997, Britain returned Hong Kong to the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC).  However, the agreement hedged about Hong Kong’s status to safeguard its Western-type freedoms and its economic dynamism.   The freedoms included free speech, the right to assemble, and free access to the internet.  None of these rights exist anywhere in the rest of the PRC.  Hong Kong is, in many ways, self-governing.  The return agreement pledged China to respect these terms until 2047.  The common term for this is “One country, two systems.”

Despite the promise to respect the agreement until 2047, many people in Hong Kong believe that the PRC has been slicing the salami for a while now.[1]  Both the legislature and the committee that appoints the chief executive have been slowly packed with local agents of the PRC.  The chief executive, Carrie Lam, is seen as a puppet of Beijing.  The PRC’s organs of state security have begun to operate against dissidents living in Hong Kong.  So, things are starting to look like “One country, one system.”

In February 2019, Carrie Lam, the chief executive, introduced a bill into the legislature.  It would allow the extradition of people accused of crimes to places with which Hong Kong has no extradition treaty.  One of those places, oddly, is the PRC.  Since the PRC’s security services have already kidnapped a number of people from Hong Kong, this bill looked like an attempt to neaten-up that process.

Beginning on 9 June 2019, huge numbers of Hong Kong residents took to the streets to protest against the bill.  On 12 June 2019, a few of the demonstrators threw rocks at the police; the police responded with tear gas, pepper spray, and beatings.  Nothing deterred, the demonstrations continued.  On 15 June 2019, Lam said that the extradition bill had been suspended.  She didn’t say that it had been withdrawn entirely.  That didn’t cut it with the demonstrators.  On 16 June 2019, two million of them filled the streets of Hong Kong.  They demand that the bill be formally withdrawn and that Lam resign.

More than just digging-in on the extradition bill, the demonstrators have begun to surface deeper concerns and make more sweeping demands.  It may be that the China-watchers in Hong Kong–whose own futures are on the line (unless they can get a Canadian visa)–have concluded that the PRC is not headed toward any meaningful liberalization under Xi Jinping.[2]  Increasingly, people are demanding what might be seen as a re-negotiation of the 1997 agreement.  They seem to want Hong Kong’s special status to be both perpetual and real.

This shift in the goals of the movement may have alarmed the government in Beijing.  Well it should.  Beijing’s failure to make timely concessions has allowed the movement to grow.  Well, Xi Jinping’s failure to understand the situation has allowed a crisis to occur.

[1] Daniel Victor and Alan Yuhas, “How the Demonstrations in Hong Kong Have Evolved,” NYT, 9 August 2019.

[2] Making deals with authoritarian states in the professed belief that they will move along some pre-ordained path of political development is sometimes wishful thinking.  “Nothing is written.”  This isn’t meant as a swipe at the Obama administration’s deal with Iran, which I still support.  However, John Bolton, not John Hill, is the National Security Advisor.  He has a different take on this issue.  Apparently, so do the people in Hong Kong.

Taking It to the Streets 6 August 2019.

When I’m in Easton, Pennsylvania on weekends, I take the dog for a walk.  He’s intrepid, so sometimes we go down to “The Circle.” From there up Northampton Avenue, there’s a lot of public assistance housing.  Nice—if unhealthy-looking—people to talk to on a Sunday morning.[1]

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 550,000 people are “homeless” in America.[2]  Geographically, the homeless are not evenly distributed.  About 25 percent (137,000) live in California, which has about 12 percent of the nation’s  population.  Another 65,000 people (or about 6 percent) live in New York City.  Even within California, the homeless are not evenly distributed.  About 45 percent (59,000 out of 137,000) live in the Los Angeles area, while 8,000 live in San Francisco.  However, the homeless population in Los Angeles has grown by 12 percent since 2018 and the homeless population in San Francisco has grown by 17 percent since 2017.

Economists point to a steep rise in prices for a limited housing stock in California.  Since 2013, the median rent in Los Angeles rose almost three times faster than did median income.[3]  Now, one-third of renters pay at least half their monthly income for housing.[4]  What is implied is that the “marginal” people get forced out of whatever ramshackle accommodations (called “flop-houses” in a less-enlightened time) they have found by rising property values/rents.

Substance abuse is a major contributor to homelessness and other things.  Among the Seattle’s homeless, for example, an estimated 80 percent have drug or alcohol problems.

Apparently, the “homeless” don’t want to be in city-provided “homes.”  New York City—with the abominable winter and summer climates (and delightful springs and falls) of the Mid-Atlantic states–provides shelter accommodation for 61,000 people, about 95 percent of its approximately 65,000 homeless population.  In contrast, Los Angeles—which has a temperate climate—has only 25 percent of its homeless population in shelters.  Building shelters or low-income housing may not appeal to the homeless.  Freeway underpasses are good enough for them.  Perhaps, what they’re after—other than getting high—isn’t offered by America?

Do cities entice homeless people to move there?  In 2007, Los Angeles announced that the city would no longer enforce a law against sleeping on the sidewalk in the 50-block “Skid Row” area.   Perhaps 10,000 people now live there.  So, IDK.

[1] Kris Kristofferson, “Sunday Morning Sidewalk.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbqGWTxwZEA

[2] “Living on the Streets,” The Week, 9 August 2019, p. 11.  How many of them are illegal immigrants or “asylum-seekers” from Central America?  My money would be on none.  If I am correct, that might—or might not—say something about the nature of the problem.

[3] 67 percent v. 23 percent.

[4] In areas around Boston in the 1980s, rents were high.  Low-income graduate students had to scramble.  I shared a one-bedroom apartment with a South Korean couple; I shared a two bedroom house in Somerville  with another graduate student; and then I shared a three bedroom apartment above Oak Square with two other friends.  My then-future wife shared an apartment with a couple of friends, then moved to a big group house.  So, being “poor” doesn’t have to mean being “homeless.”  None of this has anything to do with the actual homeless.  “Homeless” people aren’t grad students.  My question is what “life-style” do the poor have a right to expect?  This is a poorly-articulated political dispute between Democrats and Republicans.  Part of the problem seems to be that Republicans admit that society isn’t fair, but believe that human ability can overcome those problems, while Democrats claim that society is so unfair that no amount of human ability can overcome these barriers.  IDK where I stand on this exactly.  Just being a jerk here, I realize.

The News 6 August 2019.

Pro-Trump News.

The Supreme Court (5-4) allowed the administration to—temporarily–shift $2.5 million from the defense budget to building border walls.[1]

Anti-Trump News.

During the first segment of the second round of the Democratic debates, rivals–of most of whom no one has ever heard–heaped abuse on Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders for their “radical” proposals—like “VA for All.”[2]  According to the critics, their plans are too extreme for many Democratic voters and for all “swing” voters.  So, in sports terms, “Go Big AND Go Home.”  “Mayor Pete”—what were the Immigration clerks on Ellis Island thinking that day?—tried to sell a more middle-of-the-road plan: “Medicare for all who want it.”[3]

There was a strong backlash against President Trump’s criticism of Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD).[4]  Congressman Cummings had criticized the treatment of the large numbers of people being held in border detention facilities.  As with his criticism of “The Squad,” the president basically said “Go back where you came from [Baltimore] and fix that before you criticize me!”  The president described Baltimore as a “disgusting rat and rodent infested mess.”

As with his criticism of “The Squad,” Democrats denounced Trump’s attack as “racist.”[5]  So, what is “racism” in the liberal understanding?  Slavery was racist.  Jim Crow was racist.  “Red-lining” was racist.  Racial and religious real-estate “covenants” are racist.  Employment discrimination is racist.  Is “white flight” racist?  Are “bourgeois values” racist?  Is affirmative action racist?  Is criticism of individual persons of color, on whatever grounds, racist?

Still, is Donald Trump a “racist”?  Very likely.[6]  Michael Cohen, once his attorney, recalled riding through Chicago with Trump.  Not-yet-President Trump remarked that “only blacks could live like this.”  For how many American voters does Donald Trump speak?

[1] “Supreme Court accepts wall construction,” The Week, 9 August 2019, p. 6.

[2] Petty self-interest prompts a question.  If you wipe out all private health insurance, what will happen to the stock value of the companies that provide health insurance?  About half of American workers have 401k retirement plans.  Most of these include health insurance company stocks in their portfolios in various mixes.

[3] “Moderates vs. progressives in Democratic debates,” The Week, 9 August 2019, p. 5.

[4] “Baltimore: Why Trump called it ‘disgusting’ and ‘infested’,” The Week, 9 August 2019, p.6.  My guess would be that he took a break from “Fox and Friends” to binge-watch “The Wire.”  I can’t imagine him in a limo going north on I-95, then suddenly telling his Secret Service driver to “Get off here, go west on Pulaski Highway, and then look for a sign for “The Gold Club.”  Wait.  What am I saying?  Yes, I can.  See: https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-gold-club-baltimore?osq=Full+Nude+Strip+Club

[5] Prominent denouncifiers included Charles Blow, a columnist for the New York Times.  Apparently, Blow does not read the Times.  Back in March 2019, the NYT Magazine ran a scalding piece on the collapse of city government and public order in Baltimore after Freddy Grey got arrested-to-death by the BPD.  Meanwhile, the Baltimore Sun confessed that Baltimore does have a problem with rodents.

[6] At least he is anti-African-American, anti-African, and anti-mestizo.  It isn’t clear what are his views on East Asian and South Asian people.  Trump pretty clearly isn’t an anti-Semite.  But is Philo-Semitism “racist”?  If so, a bunch of Americans are in trouble.  Does one have to think all races are inferior to one’s own race to be a racist, or is it enough to think that one race is inferior to all other races to be a racist?  On the other hand, the attack by both Mayor Bill DiBlasio and the Editorial Board of the New York Times on Asian students attending the elite high schools in New York City might strike some people as racist.