Happy Friday, folks!
I’d like to apologize in advance for all the politics this week, but I don’t think there’s any way around it. The week’s events have made our main event matchup pretty clear in the presidential race, and for better or worse, this leaves us with a lot to talk about.
For what it’s worth, I have an obvious rooting interest that I’m not trying particularly hard to hide. I doubt I could hide it, regardless. Still, I realize that I’m not changing any minds here. Articles below are presented because I think they are interesting or relevant, not because they prove my point.
Whatever my point is, it’s either self-evident or it’s not. We’ve learned over the course of this cycle that trying to argue on the basis of rationality is simply not worth the effort. Folks believe what they believe, and if this sometimes infuriates me, it’s also true that we all still need to find a way to live together. I’m not always particularly good at that, but I’m hoping to change the tone a little this week and be a little more dispassionate. Whether that effort will be successful or not is an open question.
1. Donald Trump thinks it’s time to label him the ‘presumptive nominee.’ Nope. (Washington Post)
Trump had a very good night, but — mathematically speaking — he's pretty much right where we expected him to be. He still needs to win a majority of the remaining delegates to reach the magic number of 1,237. He can't get there before California votes on June 7, meaning he'll still have to sweat it out until the final day of the primary season. A contested convention remains a realistic possibility.
Now, setting the math aside for a moment, there might be intangible benefits to Trump's wide margins of victory on Tuesday. In Pennsylvania, for instance, where 54 delegates are unbound by the results, the billionaire's overwhelming popularity could put pressure on those free agents to honor the will of the electorate.
This is crazy. I don’t support Trump and have no plans to vote for him, but it is beyond question that he has the support of a majority of Republican voters. He is the presumptive nominee. At this point, even if he falls short of 1,237 delegates, he’ll fall short by such a small margin that it surpasses belief to think that he won’t pick up the nomination. How would that even work? He falls ten delegates short, and then Cruz stages a coup-d’état?
The Donald is right; there would be riots.
The Republican Party needs to split formally in order to keep people like me in some vestige of the party, but for the current coalition, Trump is the man. I don’t have to like this to acknowledge it as truth.
Hands down the best thing I've read on Trump: a roundtable of authors of #DonaldTrump biographies. https://t.co/r64pOx6mRN @POLITICOMag— Neil McMahon (@NeilMcMahon) April 28, 2016
2. Our first-ever college rankings (The Economist)
The Economist’s first-ever college rankings are based on a simple, if debatable, premise: the economic value of a university is equal to the gap between how much money its students subsequently earn, and how much they might have made had they studied elsewhere. Thanks to the scorecard, the first number is easily accessible. The second, however, can only be estimated. To calculate this figure, we ran the scorecard’s earnings data through a multiple regression analysis, a common method of measuring the relationships between variables.
This analysis has some interesting stuff and some stuff that’s more-or-less obvious.
It turns out that your SAT score is a pretty good indicator of your post-graduate salary. I’d never have believed that, but perhaps the test measures your personal willingness to prepare for a known quantity event in your immediate future, which in turn correlates to success in the Real World. That I could believe.
You make a lot more money if you go to a school with a STEM focus and take a specific course of study that focuses on technical skills that are in short supply. Pharmacists, for example, make a shitload of money because we need a lot of them, and there aren’t a lot of young folks going through the rigorous academics that the discipline requires. Ditto for engineers with specific specialties like bulk container ship maintenance. Meanwhile, it’s hard to make money with a Liberal Arts degree regardless of all other factors, though this may be because liberal arts folks don’t self-select for higher paying jobs. That doesn’t make them bad people, but it does indicate where the rewards are in our current society.
People get paid according to how difficult they are to replace. Therefore, making money is about doing something that not a lot of other folks can or will do, and doing it in such a way as to maximize your value to your employer and/or your market niche. That sounds both simple and obvious, and yet people are really struggling with it, and Higher Education in general seems befuddled by the entire concept.
3. White Elephants (Martin van Creveld)
[The] F-35 fighter. Originally it was supposed to be a cheap alternative to the F-22, itself an expensive failure (which is why, out of 750 originally envisaged, only 187 were built). By now, however, each F-35 is expected to cost as much as an F-22. The program has been marked by numerous delays and developmental uncertainties. Only to result in an aircraft that can carry less ordnance than some older ones could. In terms of the critically important thrust to weight ratio it is actually inferior to no fewer than ten different American, Russian, and European fighters. One sometimes feels that the Air Force has forgotten all about the late John Boyd, his concept of energy maneuverability, and the F-16 whose mastermind he was. Instead it has returned to the days when Soviet-built Mig-17s, flown by North Vietnamese pilots, had little difficulty shooting heavier, less maneuverable, American F-105s out of the sky. And the contribution of all this to effectively fighting the kind of organization that has mounted 9/11? Zero. Zip.
|The F-35 will soon go head-to-head against the A-10 in a test of Close Air Support |
capability. However, since the F-35 costs 10x as much, a better test would pit
a single F-35 against ten A-10s working as a squadron.
Total cost of F-35 program, $1.45 trillion, could provide free college to every student in the U.S. for 20 years https://t.co/apa8jZ9Uc2— Christopher Mims (@mims) April 26, 2016
So here's where I say something nice about Donald Trump: he's the most likely candidate in a generation to burn this procurement system to the ground wholesale, fire everyone, and start again. That would be worth quite a lot, I bet.
4. Are women headed for the draft? One House committee says yes (Washington Post)
“We have a standards-based force now, and we don’t have a standards-based Selective Service,” Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) argued, joining Democrats, all but one of whom also supported the measure.
“We should be willing to support universal conscription,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said. “There’s great merit in recognizing that each of us have an obligation to be willing to serve our country in a time of war.”
Good. I totally support this. Now we need to bring the draft back as a matter of day-to-day policy, forcibly reintegrating the American People with their responsibilities to their communities, and we’ll be well on our way to fixing society’s ills. To put it another way, we need to force people to put skin in the game, or they’re never going to make responsible choices.
5. Donald Trump and the GOP Tradition of Foreign-Policy Incoherence (The Atlantic)
The standard, post-9/11 Republican foreign policy speech—delivered by men like Rubio, Bush, Graham, Mitt Romney, and Paul Ryan—goes something like this:
America is a force for good. But the world contains evil regimes and movements: Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, Syria, Cuba, radical Islam. These evildoers are on the march because America has pulled back from its global commitments. It has pulled back because Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton don’t believe America is a force for good. But when I’m president, America will believe in itself again. We’ll rebuild our military and confront our evil enemies and America will once again win great victories for freedom, as we did under Ronald Reagan.
Gah! This makes me want to scream. I mean, I agree that it explains why American voters are cynical and complacent in their thinking. However, that by itself makes neither this nor the Trumpian worldview even marginally excusable. Neither makes any sense whatsoever.
That’s the whole fucking point. It’s why we have Trump in the first place.
Regardless, the article finishes with a very good summation:
The conventional Republican vision is of an America that, by threatening war, can expand its hegemony on all fronts. Trump’s is of an America that, by threatening isolation, can enjoy globalization’s benefits without its costs. Both wildly overestimate American power. Both deny that foreign policy involves painful tradeoffs in a world that America cannot bend to its will.
The idea that we have to find a way to intelligently engage the world in order to protect our own, narrowly-defined international interests has somehow disappeared from the modern frame. Liberals keep worrying about what’s right while conservatives either want to fight a crusade or, more recently, extort our allies for short-term cash payments. As the article points out, neither of these policies is grounded in actual capability, which has been a basic problem for this country since at least 2003.
In other news, realpolitik is a thing that most Americans cannot spell.
That’s all I’ve got, folks. Have a good weekend!