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Saturday, September 30, 2017

A take on the recent German Election...

...from Christopher Caldwell in THE WEEKLY STANDARD.  

Some excerpts:
Refugees began pouring into the country months later. On New Year’s Eve 2015-16, groups of North African immigrants isolated, surrounded, and groped hundreds of women on the square in front of Cologne’s cathedral. The details were not known to the public until weeks later, thanks to the obstinacy of local police in covering it up and of politicians in minimizing it. Soon the AfD was racking up seats in state parliaments, and lots of them​—​getting a quarter of the vote in the eastern region of Sachsen-Anhalt and even 15 percent in yuppie Baden-Württemberg. (In this fall’s national election, the AfD was the number-one party in Saxony, taking a third of the vote in Petry’s Saxon stronghold.) 
Much of the media discussion faulted Merkel for one policy misstep or another. The migrants ought to have been better vetted. More should have been done to make the passage across the Mediterranean less hazardous for migrants, to create job opportunities in the Middle East, to explain the chancellor’s position. That is nonsense. The fears motivating Germans are matters of demography. Africa is going to add 493 million people between 2015 and 2030, according to U.N. statistics. Add, not have. There are few jobs for them. Many will head north. 
The economist Thilo Sarrazin, an old-school Social Democrat, published a book in 2010 called The Abolition of Germany that became the country’s biggest nonfiction success since World War II. One of his bolder claims was that within three generations, Germany would have an ethnically non-German majority. Last year he published a sequel, Wishful Thinking, in which he admitted that the process was moving much faster than that. The migrants Merkel accepted in 2015 include about a million young men. That may not sound like a lot, but it is about 15 percent of the German men of their age. And the bureaucratic process of bringing their families from Syria and Afghanistan is already under way. Certain neighborhoods in Berlin​—​Wedding, stretches of the old East Berlin avenue Sonnenallee​—​have lately become heavily Middle Eastern. 
It is common to snicker that voters for the AfD must not know what they are doing, since the party had its best scores in the parts of the former East Germany where immigration is lowest. Only 27 of the AfD’s 93 members come from the East. But a lot of the economically stagnant rural zones there will indeed be changed by migrants, because they have become spontaneously generated assisted-living communities. Houses are empty and kids are gone. They are tempting places to lodge the newcomers, and Germany lacks the demographic resources—the young volunteers—to teach them German and otherwise assimilate them.

What to read? Check out this review of Douglas Murray's THE STRANGE DEATH OF EUROPE... Michael Rosen in THE FEDERALIST.  A preview:

According to the European Commission’s official compendium of migration statistics, as of January 1, 2016, more than 35 million residents of the two-dozen-plus countries constituting the European Union were born outside of the EU. These foreign-born residents composed more than 8 percent of the populations of Germany, Britain, Spain, France, and the Netherlands, and nearly 12 percent of the populations of Northern European countries like Sweden, Latvia, and Estonia. 
As Douglas Murray demonstrates in his startling, well-argued polemic, The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, those numbers continue to swell. The explosion of humanitarian crises in the Levant and Central Asia, along with the already disproportionate migration to the continent from Islamic countries, threatens to disfigure European states and the Western values to which they’re ostensibly devoted. 
Murray begins on a bold enough note: “Europe is committing suicide. Or at least its leaders have decided to commit suicide. Whether the European people choose to go along with this is, naturally, another matter.” Well, then. To clear the underbrush for this trenchant thesis, Murray takes a hatchet to the flawed justifications Europeans have posited for indulging immigration, such as goosing the economic engine, enhancing cultural diversity, and revitalizing an aging population.
In fact, he argues, “the economic benefits of immigration accrue almost solely to the migrant,” the problems presented by incomplete integration dwarf the benefits of diversity, and, far from importing young people, European governments should first “work out whether there are policies that could encourage more procreation among their existing populations.”

What's the alumnus to do when his alma mater goes off the rails, academically and politically?

Michael Rubin has some sage advice, with respect to Yale, in AEI Ideas:

So, as Yale President Peter Salovey and leaders of other universities put their hands out for cash, what should alumni upset with the descent of beloved universities into a political swamp do? If balance is the goal, they might give money instead to institutions that encourage ideological diversity on campus.  
The Buckley Program provides some balance at Yale University, and the Alexander Hamilton Society brings mainstream policy practitioners and right-of-center academics to university campuses to debate university professors on issues of the day. Stanford’s Hoover Institution probably contributes more to public policy debate than the rest of Stanford combined. Or, those wishing to support universities’ core missions can donate instead to institutions such as the University of Chicago, whose president has stood firm against the social and political trends buffeting so many other elite campuses. There are also worthy nonprofits, such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which stand firm on free speech and academic freedom irrespective of politics. Indeed, in many ways, FIRE has been truer to its objective mission than even the American Civil Liberties Union in recent years. 
Simply put, it’s time for alumni to recognize their annual checks, capital campaign commitments, and end-of-life behests do more harm than good and are killing the educational institutions which they hold so dear or to which they might feel obliged to give back.

What to make--and not to make--of the Kurds' Independence Vote?

In the American Enterprise Institute's IDEAS blog, Michael Rubin concludes as follows:
Both Iraq and Kurdistan will always be incredibly diverse, complex places. In such circumstances, it behooves the US and other Western, liberal states to eschew the authoritarian model and insist on real, substantive democracy not only in terms of elections but also with regard to the rule of law. While both Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan may fall short with regard to rule of law, Iraq has advanced ahead of its northern constituent when it comes to a willingness to have peaceful, political transition. Rectifying that in Kurdistan will be necessary in order to negotiate with Baghdad and to see any serious solution to the current impasse.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Will 'Cash on the Sidelines' propel stocks skyward?

In a recent SEEKING ALPHA post, Eric Parnell says 'No'.

His conclusions:
Yes, households have record amounts of cash, but this statement in and of itself is utterly meaningless.
Instead, the household cash as a percentage of total financial assets is near all-time lows. In short, there is no cash on the sidelines waiting to get into the stock market. It is already all in and then some at this point.
The same can be said of the supposed “Great Rotation” narrative. No “Great Rotation” is going to happen, because investors are already as “Rotated” as they’ve ever been into stocks over bonds. It’s hard to get even more rotated when the assets in stocks versus bonds is already beyond any previous historical peak.
From a contrarian standpoint, if anything presents an upside opportunity in this regard is the bond market, which is historically as underallocated from a household percentage of total financial assets basis as it has ever been. But don’t hold your breath waiting to hear this narrative in the mainstream financial media anytime soon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fans of the American Western, Check out...

Best Silver Screen Cowboys, submitted by screenwriter Henry C. Parke in TRUE WEST magazine.  Henry also authors a great blog, Henry's Western Roundup.

Ironically, THE WILD BUNCH, one of my faves, doesn't make the above list...

Click here to view the LA GOLONDRIA scene from THE WILD BUNCH

Friday, January 13, 2017

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tonight's Blogger DJ Song is a pearl from 1966

...from the group 13th Floor Elevators, entitled You're Gonna Miss Me.

Fans of the 2000 John Cusack film HIGH FIDELITY will instantly recognize this cut. Or not.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How the Whigs self-destructed and what lesson the GOP should draw from their demise...

is the subject of Gil Troy's fascinating and insightful POLITICO piece from June 2016, How an Outsider President Killed a Party. 

An excerpt:

Many have called Donald Trump’s unexpected takeover of a major political party unprecedented; but it’s not. A similar scenario unfolded in 1848, when General Zachary Taylor, a roughhewn career soldier who had never even voted in a presidential election, conquered the Whig Party.
A look back at what happened that year is eye-opening—and offers warnings for those on both sides of the aisle. Democrats quick to dismiss Trump should beware: Taylor parlayed his outsider appeal to defeat Lewis Cass, an experienced former Cabinet secretary and senator. But Republicans should beware, too: Taylor is often ranked as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history—and, more seriously, the Whig Party never recovered from his victory. In fact, just a few years after Taylor was elected under the Whig banner, the party dissolved—undermined by the divisions that caused Taylor’s nomination in the first place, and also by the loss of faith that followed it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Two Interesting Reads : (1) The Refugee Crisis (2) Charter Schools at 25

An excerpt from DER SPIEGEL, EU-Turkey Refugee Deal Dying in the Greek Islands:

The hunt for supporters of the coup has partly paralyzed Turkey's state apparatus. Erdogan has suspended several thousand police and military officials. At the same time, the war against the PKK, the Kurdish terror group, and the military operation in Syria are tying up troops. "At the moment we have more pressing concerns than policing our borders," an official says.

And so a storm is brewing. The neglected inspections, the economic pressure on the refugees in Turkey, the powerlessness of the Greek authorities and the overfilled refugee camps -- this all together is increasing the pressure on the refugee deal. President Erdogan is also threatening to scuttle the deal over the issue of visa-requirements for Turks.

Political advisor Knaus, whom many people describe as the creator of the refugee deal, warns that if the deal fails, chaos could result. Hundreds of thousands of refugees, he says, would arrive in Greece and try to break through the fences to the north. The Balkans would turn into a battleground for migrants, smugglers, border guards and soldiers, Knaus says. "That would be the end of European asylum policy."


An excerpt from THE WEEKLY STANDARD, A Quiet Revolution:

Behind this incremental revolution—the charter school movement, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this fall—was a collection of principles that will be familiar to conservatives especially. Charter schools explicitly shifted power from the government to individuals and neighborhood organizations. They prioritized local needs and local decision-making. They trusted families and practitioners to have better information and more wisdom than technocrats. They made room for entrepreneurialism and innovation. They cultivated a diversity of school options to suit a pluralistic society. They focused governments on outcomes instead of inputs. They emerged from piecemeal reform of a longstanding institution, which proceeded slowly from modest community initiatives, not all at once in accord­ance with grand plans devised by experts."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Life goes on...

THE TELEGRAPH provides a respite from the horrors of current events with this article by the Royal Horticultural Society, THE BEST TREES FOR SMALL GARDENS.

DER SPIEGEL on Syria : A Developing World War ?

Excerpts from the DER SPIEGEL staff article,  HOW SYRIA BECAME A GLOBAL WAR.

"Since the collapse of the cease-fire, the regime once again seems to believe that it can emerge as the winner of this war. Russian jets and Syrian helicopters have pounded besieged eastern Aleppo, transforming it into an apocalyptic wasteland. According to the United Nations, more than 300 civilians have been killed in the city in the last two weeks and five hospitals have been either partially or completely destroyed. Some 250,000 people are thought to be still living in eastern Aleppo, which is completely surrounded by forces loyal to the Assad regime.

Russian bunker busters and incendiary bombs are being dropped on eastern Aleppo without any consideration for the civilians living there. That, says UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura, constitutes a war crime. Complete annihilation is a strategy that Russia has successfully pursued before -- in the 1990s assault on the Chechen capital of Grozny. But even as the West accuses Syria and Russia of committing war crimes, Moscow and Damascus have issued blanket denials.

Even if the Syrians are the ones being forced to suffer, for many of those involved, the conflict is no longer about Aleppo or even Syria. Of this, the Babylonian mixture of languages spoken on the frontlines and in the air above is just one of many indications. "I have the feeling that we have become laboratory rats for Russian, Iranian and Syrian weapons -- and for the West's political experiments," says Sharif Mohammed, a civilian who is holding out in eastern Aleppo.

In its sixth year, the conflagration has become a kind of world war in three respects. Firstly, for the last four years, large numbers of foreigners have been flowing into the country to join the fight. More than 20,000 radical Sunnis have joined Islamic State (IS) and about three times that many Shiites from a half-dozen countries are thought to be fighting on behalf of the Assad regime."


"It has been a year since Putin began his intervention in Syria -- on the pretext that he intended to fight Islamic State. For a year, the Americans and Russians tried to convince themselves that they shared common interests in Syria and could agree to fight terrorism together. But in reality, Russia is playing a role similar to the one it adopted in Ukraine: It is providing massive amounts of military support to one side, thus becoming a de facto party to the war, while posing on the international stage as a mediator and part of a possible diplomatic solution.

Many Western politicians had hoped that Russia would play a more constructive role this time around. That, though, has proven to be an illusion. And that helps explain why the diplomacy that many Western politicians had hoped would bring about a solution has repeatedly failed. Because Russia is taking part in Assad's air strikes on civilians, the US last week withdrew from all peace talks. In response, Russia pulled out of a deal for the disposal of surplus weapons-grade plutonium -- which can be seen as an indirect threat to use atomic weapons.

For the first time in a long time, officials in the US government are once again considering military intervention in Syria and bombing Assad's military. Former General David Petraeus said last Wednesday that it would be "very, very straightforward" to destroy Assad's air force using cruise missiles and other weapons launched from a distance.

Is it time for the US to finally take action? How dangerous would an American intervention be in Russia's backyard? Could Syria trigger a global conflagration?

Presumably to underline the plausibility of such fears, Russia is now sending two additional warships and a missile corvette with anti-aircraft capabilities to the Mediterranean. The Russian Defense Ministry has openly threatened to shoot down US warplanes over Syria and said that the Syrian military is in possession of Buk surface-to-air missile systems. That is the same weapons system used to shoot down Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. Putin is hoping that Barack Obama will not want to launch a military engagement in the final months of his presidential tenure.

And what are the Europeans doing? Not much. German Chancellor Angela Merkel doesn't believe sufficient support can be found for new sanctions against Russia, particularly since the Social Democrats, her center-left junior coalition partner, are pursuing reconciliation with Moscow."

Brain Explosion Time for BoSox Fans

Click to hear new Dead Sox anthem

...when Sox GM Dombrowski announced he will bring back John Farrell and his entire staff for next season.

To what purpose, other than to torture New England's lifelong Sox fans, one might sensibly ask ? 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Wait Until Next Year ?

Former Bosox Lou Merloni went ape, if not thermonuclear, on Manager John Farrell--and the Red Sox in general--this morning on WEEI.

The COMCAST radio crew was as critical, though not quite as caustic or entertaining, as Lou.

Fortunately I watched exactly five innings of Sox-Indians series, on the assumption that Boston's lackluster play the last two weeks of the regular season would carry over into the playoffs.

If John Farrell survives this debacle, I expect hordes of disgusted fans to descend on Yawkey Way with the traditional pitchforks and torches.