Category: American Politics

Jerusalem CrossWhen I started this blog, I was in the midst of an ideological transition from the American liberalism of my childhood and adolescence to a more traditionalist outlook. Many of my core political assumptions had been revealed as half-truths or outright lies, though I still had some residual emotional attachment to the politics of my youth, making me a reluctant apostate from American liberalism. At the same time, I had been apostate from Christianity for over a decade, though I had a renewed appreciation of some of the truths it taught, making my reluctance in apostasy twofold.  However, time has past and there is no longer any reluctance in my apostasy from American liberalism and I have come home to the Christian faith as a confirmed Anglican worshipping in the Anglican Church in North America and am thus no longer an apostate from Christianity.

As such, I have renamed the blog, “A Wandering Learner” to reflect my continual desire to better my understanding spiritually, politically, and otherwise, as well as to conform to my Twitter handle. I will be keeping “reluctantapostate” in the blog’s url so as not to break any links from the past.

Last Tuesday’s contests moved the Republican Party closer to deciding on its nominee, with Donald Trump winning four of five states, including the winner-take-all state of Florida and its 99 delegates. It also shows some interesting trends when mapped out against previous contests:
Trump, Cruz, and Rubio after March 15
One of the most noticeable elements of these maps is that Trumps support stays relatively steady between state contests on different dates, with the exception of Illinois and Missouri, where he shows a higher level of support than in previous contests as evidenced by the noticeability of those two states’ boundaries with previous contests.

Another is that the trend of Rubio’s support dissolving after his poor showing on March 1 continued on March 15 in all but his home state of Florida, with Ted Cruz being the main beneficiary in North Carolina, as he was in Maine and Mississippi.

Continue reading

2016 Republican presidential primary results on the eve of March 15

This is a map of the 2016 Republican presidential primary results by county as they currently stand between the 3 biggest contenders.  I’ll offer some analysis this weekend, including results from today’s states: Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri.

Recently, Matt Parrot wrote a couple of articles at Counter-Currents on two of the Republican candidates for President of the United States and I would highly recommend the latter of those two articles, which concerns Mitt Romney.  It covers, in a way that won’t be seen in a mainstream outlet, Romney’s Mormon roots and gives speculation as to how those roots affect Romney’s demeanor and sense of purpose.  I cannot say that I fully endorse the article as my knowledge of Mormonism is incomplete and the article is a bit speculative.

Mr. Parrot’s earlier article about Herman Cain is also worth a look.  It’s a bit more polemic in nature and I disagree with the fundamental assessment that Herman Cain has a significant chance of winning the Republican nomination for the Presidency, which he then translates into an argument against the functioning of American democracy.  I do think that there are flaws with our political system, but it would take an actual Herman Cain nomination for me to see as dire a situation as appears to Mr. Parrot.

That said, I do find myself more in agreement with Mr. Parrot than I am with John Derbyshire concerning the seriousness of Herman Cain’s candidacy.  While Mr. Derbyshire seems quite a bit overoptimistic about Herman Cain’s chances in a general election against President Barack Obama, he does offer some interesting speculation concerning the aptitude of black politicians, pivoting off of the admittedly limited sample of the executives in the levels of government over Harvard University at the time of the media furor over the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates.

All three articles go beyond the bounds of what is considered polite or acceptable in modern American political discussion and all three articles leave the reader with material to think over as the first contests leading to the Republican nomination get underway this coming January.

A Warmer World

I haven’t posted anything regarding the topic of climate change, but I did want to highlight what I thought was a very good article by John Derbyshire in Taki’s Magazine under the title “Al Gore’s Dream of Power”, which touches on some recent comments by former Vice President Al Gore comparing global warming skeptics with racists during the civil rights era.  While many liberals upon hearing the title of the article and that the author is a conservative would assume that this was another piece aimed at discrediting scientific consensus by attacking Al Gore, Derbyshire states that science tells us that:

The Earth’s climate is variable. It is currently varying on an overall (several-year moving average) warming trend. Some part of this current trend is due to human activity.

Indeed, while many elements of the political Right have hewn to a line that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax, the fact is that the great majority of climate scientists accept some form of anthropogenic global warming and the evidence against it is currently pretty weak.  What really is at issue is the normative aspect of this fact and the politics surrounding it.  Conservatives have done themselves some damage by choosing to dispute the science itself, though open dispute is healthy for science, rather than asking whether the effects of an average temperature rise were truly dire events and discussing the power, or lack thereof, that political actors have in shaping our climatic future.

Those two issues are ones of great uncertainty, but in both cases, the evidence is stacked against those seeking radical political approaches to climatic issues.  Contrary to the claims of Bill Nye, there is nothing that suggests that Irene was “caused” by climate change.  It was, in fact, a rather mundane hurricane whose most noteworthy feature was that its path led to America’s largest city and media center, New York.  The repeated conflation of periodic weather events with rising global temperatures is an area with regard to climate that those on the political Left are frequently grasping at straws with regard to evidence.

Further, while higher average temperatures may be detrimental to some regions, it is hard to argue that expanded temperate zones and longer growing seasons in higher latitudes as well as the opening of new sea lanes during summer months, all of which are likely consequences of an upward creep in average global temperature, are bad events.  The extent to which this would be a dominant trend relative to predictions of sea level rise that threatens low-lying populations such as Bangladesh is outside the scope of reliable climate modeling.

Finally, the constellation of interests around the globe make it unlikely that any major global political action will succeed at preventing a significant amount of fossil fuel usage, which is suspected of being man’s largest contribution to the current climate trend.  Furthermore, given fossil fuels’ status as the most commons sources of energy, stemming from their reliability, versatility, and prices, combined with their finite availability, any cuts in short term usage are likely to be nearly balanced out by greater future usage as easily accessed deposits would simply be depleted more slowly, barring civilizational collapse, an outcome far worse than what all but the most dire predictions regarding Earth’s climate countenance.

In any event, I would recommend John Derbyshire’s piece, as I think it is an accurate assessment of the landscape we face in terms of the science, the politics, and the uncertainty, and advocates a sound approach to thinking about the topic, one that has been eschewed both by most on the Left and the Right.

On NPR’s Scandal

Yesterday, NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller resigned as did VP Ron Schiller over a video released by conservative activist James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas showing a collection of embarrassing statements made by the latter Schiller:


As can be seen in the video, two men acted as members of a fake organization claiming to be an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood looking to make a donation to NPR and met with Ron Schiller and Betsy Liley to discuss the topic.  While conservative sites and libertarian ones paraded the video around, some liberal commentators showed surprising tone-deafness to its contents.

Overall, I have to agree with Heather Mac Donald that this is a dog bites man story in that NPR’s liberal bias is well-known and NPR is not responsible for the opinions of its individual employees.  However, I do think that the O’Keefe video provides a more concrete view of the issue.  What Ron Schiller’s comments (as well as Xeni Jardin’s reaction to the story) show is the extent to which ideologies affect a person’s view of reality and the blind spots incurred as a result and ultimately, that is the cause of NPR’s bias issues.

The issue is not that Ron Schiller has the views that he has, but rather that his views are likely not far from the norm for NPR employees, regardless of whether the journalists and editors there admit them aloud.  Heather discusses how this plays into some of her pet issues of urban crime and poverty, but more generally, even if a reporter seeks to be fair and neutral as possible in reporting a story, often ideology helps determine what is an important focus and helps fram the issues involved in the reporters mind, which leads to a liberal worldview presented in neutral wrapping.

Ultimately, O’Keefe’s video is a political gimmick aimed at forwarding what is a generally laudable goal of stripping the public broadcasting companies of their federal funding.  The stations will survive, as there is certainly a market for them to exist, but the federal government doesn’t need to be subsidizing the tastes of urban liberals.

Last night Republicans in the Wisconsin State Senate passed a bill that enacted the most contentious element of their proposed budget, the stripping of many of the state’s public unions’ collective bargaining rights through a procedural measure by stripping the element from the budget and ensuring that it contained no language of direct fiscal effect, allowing them to pass the bill without the three-fifths quorum necessary to pass any bill with fiscal impact.

While it does seem that this standoff will be politically costly for the GOP in the near term, I don’t think that it’s been particularly edifying for the unions or Democrats who are now complaining of the unfairness of passing the measure through a procedural technicality which they blocked using a procedural technicality.  While in the short term, the public sector unions have garnered some public sympathy, the erosion of their power means that less state money will be funneled into liberal activist outlets, which will curtail some of the Democratic Party’s power, as James Kirkpatrick points out at Alternative Right.

In the long run, however, it’s hard to see where this will lead.  If Democrats manage to win back both houses and the governorship at some point, which is a likelihood, given Wisconsin’s recent role as a Democratic-leaning swing state, they will be sure to restore the powers that this year’s Republicans are managing to curtail.  While I don’t think that public sector unions are justified entities, it seems that my view is a minority one for now and I doubt that we’ll see Republicans flee across the border when the tables are turned.

For now, Wisconsin has won a respite from the rent-seeking powers of public employee cartels.

In a follow-up to the discussion of American inequality, here’s an interesting pair of charts produced by the Economic Policy Institute and found by hbd chick that show a measure of income mobility for men and women in the United States and a collection of northern European countries:

While this runs against the common narrative that women are an oppressed social class as evidenced by pay levels that are, on average, lower than those of men, it shouldn’t be surprising.  Indeed, it seems to me that the pay inequality and the difference in social mobility are two sides of the same coin: men tend to be the primary income earners of a household, whereas women have the option to either work, stay at home, or compromise between the two.

Continue reading

Recently, the liberal magazine Mother Jones published a collection of infographics under the headline It’s the Inequality, Stupid, which was connected to Kevin Drum’s article on the standoff in Wisconsin, which had the subtitle “How screwing unions screws the entire middle class.”.  Here are two of the infographics and their associated captions:


The superrich have grabbed the bulk of the past three decades’ gains.


A Harvard business prof and a behavioral economist recently asked more than 5,000 Americans how they thought wealth is distributed in the United States. Most thought that it’s more balanced than it actually is. Asked to choose their ideal distribution of wealth, 92% picked one that was even more equitable.

As a further supplement here’s a pie chart by Alex Knapp showing financial wealth distribution:

Continue reading

Protests in Wisconsin

One of the first topics I want to broach is the ongoing protests in Madison, Wisconsin by public sector unions objecting to a portion of the budget favored by Governor Scott Walker which strips them of the right to collectively bargain on issues of benefits and hiring practices. In the meantime, the state’s Democratic senators have absconded across the border to Rockford, Illinois to avoid apprehension by state troopers in order to break quorum and block the bill.

It is worth describing the background to this crisis before I give my opinion on the matter.  Wisconsin is in bad shape fiscally and economically.  It’s budget deficit rivals that of California on a per capita basis.  In last November’s election, the state went from Democratic control of the governorship, the assembly, and the senate to Republican control of all three institutions.

Wisconsin was a state that pioneered the establishment of public sector unions in 1959.  Part of the reason that this budget fight has gotten national attention is because of the possible political effects outside the state of Wisconsin.  Wisconsin was the first state to allow collective bargaining among public employees as referenced above.  Since then, many states have followed Wisconsin’s example leading to a map of public sector collective bargaining laws that cuts along regional and cultural lines:

As Wisconsin lies at the core of public sector collective bargaining rights, both historically and culturally, a Republican victory on this issue would send shock waves through the nation and would encourage other states to use similar measures to balance their ailing budgets and prevent municipal default.

Continue reading