Let’s start off with the obvious—the blog’s been kind of dead lately. That hasn’t affected readership, readerships is actually up, but the number of posts per week is down, so if you’re a daily reader, there hasn’t been much to see. However, it turns out that blogging follows the 80/20 rule just like every other thing in American business, which is to say that 80% of my readers come here to read at most 20% of my posts, and really, if I’m being honest, it’s probably more accurate to say that 95% of my readers come here to read 5% of my posts, but whatever. You get the idea. To the extent that this blog has readers at all, it has them because people want to read the various Dungeons and Dragons posts. Meanwhile, I’ve finally started the re-writing Sneakatara Boatman and the Crown of Pluto for the third and last time, and since nobody much is missing the filler that comprises most of the blog’s mid-week articles, I’ve let them slide.
You don’t mind, do you?
1. Welcome to the race, Jeb—now drop out. (Slate)
[H]ere’s the thing—Bush can absolutely win the nomination. Despite the fact that he is in the same ballpark as Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson in poll after poll, he is in a much stronger position to win the nomination than any of them. So what does it mean if Bush has a very good chance to win the GOP nomination but very little chance of winning a general election? It means that a scorched-Earth Bush campaign will make it impossible for any Republican to win in 2016.
[I]t’s Bush who has the inside track with the RINO vote, who see his support for Common Core and immigration reform as proof of his seriousness and integrity. If the Christie and Kasich campaigns fizzle out for lack of money—not an entirely implausible outcome, given the Bush family’s talent for hoovering up donor dollars—Bush will be able to consolidate GOP moderates under his banner by painting Paul as an extremist and Rubio as a naif…
[T]he biggest and most influential [blocks of Republicans are] the “somewhat conservative” voters, who represent 35-40 percent of the primary vote. Somewhat conservatives “like even-keeled men with substantial governing experience,” yet they’re also resistant to candidates who call for radical change or who seem eager to wage culture wars. This is Bush’s sweet spot… Bush’s most realistic rivals for the affections of somewhat conservatives are Rubio and Walker. That is why Bush intends to destroy Rubio and Walker…
With Rubio and Walker out of the way, the race would be Bush against various intemperate wackos who will terrify that key bloc of always-sober somewhat conservatives.
|Wired Magazine hated this logo, but that's only because they're not fans of Army Sports. |
Any Army fan can tell you that a logo that is both simple and emblematic of the brand is a
raging success compared to most alternatives. Among other things, Wired complained that
Jeb! has been using this same logo since 1994. Again, Army fans will know that this by itself
is no reason to get rid of what works.
Sorry for the long quote to open this week, but I really liked this analysis of the Republican Party. Bottom line: it’s not one party, it’s four. And though Bush is a harder sell to some blocks than others (i.e. hardcore evangelicals), he’s the least objectionable candidate overall.
For what it’s worth, I disagree that Bush is necessarily going to set out to destroy Rubio, who has been a longtime ally and protégé. If the GOP is smart, it will instead set Rubio up as Vice-President, with the goal of owning the White House for sixteen years. That’s totally achievable from where we are right now, but it relies on Rubio and Bush or Rubio and Walker not totally destroying each other in the coming months. Considering the animosity that Reagan and Bush the Elder held for each other coming out of the 1980 primary cycle, I think it’s reasonable. In fact, I actually think it’s likely.
With this in mind, I expect to see Bush and Walker start tearing into each other for real any day now. The winner of that fight is your nominee.
I should note that Slate’s author doesn’t think Bush stands a chance against Clinton in the general. I myself think that the reverse is true, that Clinton is a deeply divisive figure whom many Americans just don’t like. This is why there are twenty people running for the Republican nomination. They all think that whomever the Republicans nominate, that person is going to win the next Presidency.
2. As Rachel Dolezal resigns, a renewed US debate on what it means to be black (Christian Science Monitor)
“We understand that identity is not something that is intrinsic or essential, but it is something that is constructed,” says Clarence Lang, professor of African and African-American studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. “This doesn't mean that identity or race is arbitrary,” he says, “but race certainly isn’t about biology, because we know that if you try to define race that way, it ultimately falls apart.”
If Dolezal wants to bronze her skin, tease her hair, and live a different lifestyle, I think most folks agree that it’s a valid, if unusual, life choice. We all change our appearances because we understand that first impressions matter, that most folks just take what they see at face value. The problem isn’t that Dolezal pretended to be black. It’s that she pretended to come from different parents and from a wholly different socioeconomic background. She claimed discrimination, and that’s an at-best questionable claim.
With that said, can we all agree that this is an unfortunate young woman who has a stunningly bad relationship with her parents, that her own parents sabotaged her publicly in the most humiliating way possible? Dolezal wasn’t famous until her own folks made her famous, and even then, the NAACP went quite a long way towards trying to handle the situation quietly in-house. But they lost control because the parents don’t seem to want to let the issue die. If anything, Dolezal’s folks seem to be enjoying their daughter’s humiliation.
This may not excuse her conduct, I don’t know, but I think it goes a long way towards explaining it. If nothing else, I think it’s fair to surmise that she grew up surrounded by assholes.
3. Friday Hair Metal: Shout!
This one’s for my friend Jeff. I only just learned that he is a hardcore Motley Crue fan.
What are the arguments in favor of the free-trade bill?
The arguments for free trade predate NAFTA but picked up speed in the 1990s. In general, proponents say free trade stimulates the economies of all of the countries by allowing goods and money to more easily cross borders, creating new businesses, jobs and wealth for everyone.
What are the arguments against free trade?
The major argument is that free trade doesn't fulfill its promise in creating new jobs or wealth. Even if new jobs are created, they are far less desirable and do not pay as well as the jobs that are lost. Further, cheaper foreign goods will mean that U.S. wages will be forced down so American companies can compete. Over time, environmental or safety rules that protect U.S. workers will also tend to be ignored as companies struggle to keep labor costs down.
The salient point, to me, is the argument about environmental and safety regulations. In signing up for unrestricted free trade with less well-regulated countries, the U.S. has essentially exported its worst bad habits. We buy from places where they don’t pay their workers, ignore basic safety concerns, and pollute freely. This has little to recommend it as a long-term policy.
The presidential candidate will… announce a plan that would use tax credits to incentivize businesses to hire apprentices.
The plan would offer business a $1,500 credit for every apprentice they hire, aides said, and that the program would hold business accountable for their apprenticeship program. The apprenticeships would be registered with either a federal or state program that would ensure standards were met.
While the national unemployment rate has fallen from 10% to 5.5% since the country entered recession in 2008, youth unemployment has remained stubbornly high at around 8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And while Clinton aides argue that Wednesday's speech is good policy, they acknowledged that it is also good politics. Millennials -- people between the ages of 18 and 34 -- will become the nation's largest living generation this year… a fact that makes targeting them with policy proposals in a presidential election critical.
This is the German system, and it is light-years ahead of the current system at work in the U.S. Fact is, not everyone needs to go to college. But we push tons of folks through the university system even so, making a four-year degree a basic requirement regardless of the needs of our actual workforce. This has made college a decided seller’s market, with the entirely predictable result that the price of an education has gone through the roof. What else should we expect? Demand is inelastic and growing in an unregulated market. Of course prices have exploded. That’s just basic economics.
I’m betting that this proposal never gets off the ground. The university system itself has too much invested to change the game, and they have a lot of clout with government. Still, I would personally support a widespread apprenticeship program if such a thing had a chance of actually working. Not only would it put downward pressure on college tuitions, it would also give companies a chance to mold the kinds of workers that they want at far younger ages. That is not a negative. It’s a cost, though, and if there’s one thing today’s voters have shown, it’s that they’re not willing to pay for anything themselves when they can somehow force the costs onto the younger generation. And if the younger generation borrows to pay, that makes it seem like a victimless crime.