Saturday, September 26, 2015

People Who Won't Be President

I won't become president in January, 2017. And neither will any of you, my readers.

We're in good company, joining this list of distinguished others who will also never be president: Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, and Donald Trump. Let's consider them in alphabetical order.

Ben Carson is a very nice man. I like him, and I'd enjoy having him as a house guest. He's gotten himself in trouble recently by suggesting that he'd never vote for a Muslim. Actually, I agree with him on that. The statement is analogous to what many on the Left say when they object to voting for a Mormon or a Catholic. Such preferences are the right of every voter, including Ben Carson. Note Mr. Carson did not say that Muslims are prohibited from being president.

But Mr. Carson is clearly out of his league. He has no experience relevant to being president, and it shows in the debates. He has maxed out on his poll numbers. He'll fade in the stretch.

Hillary Clinton is a crook. She can't tell the truth, neither about Benghazi nor her e-mail server. Worse, she's got Richard Nixon's trait of looking like a liar even when she is truthful.

If she wins the nomination she will lose the general election by a landslide. But I predict she will drop out of the race before the Democratic Convention. I think her candidacy is increasingly untenable.

Ted Cruz is a crank. I have suggested that he represents the stupid wing of the Republican Party. I don't agree with his position on immigration. His foreign policy suggestions are not serious. He takes the most radical possible position, winning the enthusiastic support of the most extreme Republican base. But he'll never win over the majority of Republicans, much less the general electorate. He's unelectable outside of Texas. (And after this campaign he may not even win re-election there, either.)

Carly Fiorina is a naif. She reminds me of Sarah Palin--an attractive candidate on the surface, but completely unprepared for the attack ads. Like Ms. Palin, Ms. Fiorina has no clue what's coming at her. It will start with her Republican opponents if, by some fluke, she actually wins a primary. And if she survives that the Democrat smear machine will take her apart limb from limb. Like Ms. Palin, there won't be a stitch left on her reputation when they're done.

But she won't get that far. Though it's great having her on the debate stage.

Rand Paul is an ideologue. He has tried very hard to leave his father behind and become a more mainstream, electable Republican. But he can't do it. He just doesn't believe in any credible foreign policy, often sounding to the Left of President Obama. He is very smart and articulate--great fun to listen to. I agree with 90% of what he says, but the remaining 10% is a deal-breaker. Judging from the polls, my Republican comrades agree with me.

Bernie Sanders is a clown. He's the Democrat analog to Ted Cruz--a charlatan appealing to the Progressive faithful. His promises are so outlandish that there is no way he could keep them if he tried. For example, he thinks we'll get richer if we restrict trade: in his world Americans won't be allowed to buy products from Canada, China, Mexico, or Central America. That's bad for American consumers, no doubt. Of course then we won't be able to sell products to those countries, either. That's bad for American workers.

People earn money by selling stuff to other people. How can you earn money when it becomes illegal to buy and sell?

Jill Stein is a fool. I don't understand why she is running. Her program is mostly indistinguishable from Mr. Sanders, except that she is completely oblivious to even the most obvious economics. Indeed, her demand to equalize incomes in America reduces to Poverty now for everybody--even the 1%.

For example: "Create millions of jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture, and conservation."

Note to Jill & Bernie: it is easy to create jobs. You can just hire folks to dig holes in the ground and then fill them in again. That's what they did during the New Deal. That's what they've been doing in China. But jobs like that don't make anybody any richer. Them's prison jobs.

Why invest in public transit when nobody wants to ride public transit? Most of the trains and buses in this country move around empty. But Jill wants us to dig more holes.

Some of my Trotskyist friends support her over Mr. Sanders solely because she doesn't have a (D) after her name. This is like their support for the Syriza opposition that just got 3% of the vote in Greece. That's what they call a "realistic" path to socialism.

Donald Trump is a fraud. So he's gonna kick out 11 million illegal aliens in two years, and then let most of them back in via an "expedited" process. Why? How? Who is paying for all that?

The man's a great entertainer and skilled TV personality. But he's already wearing thin. By the time real Republicans have to cast real votes, he won't get 10% of them, if that many.

Mr. Trump, far from being a Republican, represents the stupid wing of the Democrat party. We're being trolled, and eventually we'll wise up and push him aside.

The viable Republican candidates are Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. The only viable "candidate" for the Democrats is Joe Biden, if he wants to run.

I think it's going to be a Republican year.

Further Reading:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Refugees in Hungary

Louis Proyect writes a complex (perhaps even incoherent) post comparing 1956 Hungary with Syria today. I won't presume to summarize it here, but one theme is a polemic against the stupid Left (my term). These are Leftists who support Assad today, or who supported the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. I call them stupid (perhaps violating my rules for this blog) because they let Barack Obama do all their thinking for them--whatever the US government supports they must oppose, and vice versa, regardless of any other considerations.

Mr. Proyect's opinion (which I share) is that the rebels in 1956 were on the side of angels, and that the murderous Assad regime is a major cause of the refugee crisis emanating from Syria. Where he and I disagree is on the responsibility of European nations to accept large or even unlimited numbers of these refugees. Specifically, he condemns Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban for coddling fascists and mistreating Syrians.

Mr. Proyect puts the rap sheet this way:
But it is Hungary that takes the cake apparently. 
  • It put a razor-wire fence on the border with Serbia to keep refugees out. 
  • It put up billboards (in Hungarian no less) warning anybody who made it through the razor-wire fence that “If you come to Hungary, don’t take the jobs of Hungarians!” 
  • A TV news photographer kicked and tripped refugees running away from the police. The station she worked for was connected to the far-right Jobbik party that lines up with the “axis of resistance” on Syria, opposing “the systematic attempts of the West to find a casus belli for an armed intervention against the Assad government.” 
  • At an internment camp for refugees in Hungary, cops threw bags of food to them as if they were hungry animals. 
Since the refugees are only interested in making their way to Germany or Britain, the xenophobia is likely a strategy to mollify Hungary’s burgeoning ultraright groups like Jobbik and their voters.
Of course even as Mr. Proyect penned those words Germany closed its border with Austria, forcing Austria to secure its Hungarian border. Anticipating this, the Hungarians built the razor-wire fence.

Mr. Proyect is correct in saying that "Hungary takes the cake." The country really is more xenophobic than most in Europe, and accordingly its fascist movement, Jobbik, is stronger. But he's wrong to condemn Mr. Orban. I think he should read an article by George Friedman that describes the tightrope that Mr. Orban has to walk. The Hungarian body politic will simply not tolerate a large refugee influx, and were Mr. Orban to allow that it would quickly lead to Jobbik taking power.

I do not speak Hungarian, but over the years I have probably spent cumulatively several months in the country. I think two observations clarify why Hungary is more refugee-averse than most countries.

Mr. Proyect--ace historian--probably knows about the Treaty of Trianon, though I'll hazard most of my readers do not. But I will guarantee that every Hungarian schoolchild is intimately familiar with it. When I visited Szeged, a city a few kilometers from the Serbian border, the first thing my host told me about the place is that it was historically at the very center of Hungary. For prior to the Trianon agreement in 1920, Hungary included most of Vojvodina (Vajdasag in Hungarian), a bit of the Croatian coast, and all of Transylvania (Erdely). Today's Slovak capital, Bratislava (Pozsony), was once the seat of an Hungarian empire.

Hungarians feel, almost to a person, that the Treaty of Trianon was a grave injustice. Sober people, undoubtedly including Mr. Orban, have come to terms with it. But much of the population--especially those whose families came from the former lands--remain very bitter. This is the root of Jobbik. Their principle concern is to retrieve lost lands, especially Transylvania, for Hungary. The Trianon Accord is a big reason why "Hungary takes the cake."

One result of the Treaty is that the Hungarian rump state--modern Hungary--is practically monoethnic. Of people declaring their ethnicity to the census bureau, 98% claim to be Hungarian. The largest minority are Roma, and they are certainly not integrated into the society.

This leads to the second reason why Hungary is different. Hungarian is not an Indo-European language, and is radically different from all other languages in Europe, apart from Finnish. It is very distantly related to Turkish. Even an international word such as police in Hungarian becomes an unrecognizable rendorseg. Hungarian is a famously difficult language to learn, and likewise, for Hungarians learning English is a real challenge.

So don't let those talented, multi-lingual Hungarian expats fool you--very few people in Hungary speak any language besides Hungarian. In the northwest corner of the country, near the Austrian border, German is widely spoken. In Budapest, German and tourist English are often understood. But outside of that it's pretty exclusively magyar.

Mr. Proyect's account of the billboard in Hungarian doesn't surprise me at all.

The result is the country is isolated. Hungarians' understanding of the outside world is limited. They don't travel much. I believe that the level of political discourse is correspondingly very shallow. It's an atmosphere that breeds paranoia and xenophobia. Yet again, "Hungary takes the cake."

Under these circumstances it is truly impossible for any Hungarian government to accept even a small number of refugees. One doesn't have to be a fascist to turn them away. I think Mr. Proyect is too hard on Mr. Orban. He is not a fascist, but he is Hungarian, and he knows the country he lives in.

Note: My daughter got married over the Labor Day weekend. That, along with the house guests that have only recently departed, accounts for the sparse blogging.

Further Reading: