What Damon Linker Leaves Out About the Immigration Debate

August 28th, 2015

So Damon Linker has penned a one-eyed-liberal-in-the-land-of-the-blind piece on how cultural elites have brought opposition to immigration (and Donald Trump) upon themselves by their failure to enforce border controls.

These institutions have been sluggish to respond to this discontent because two (sometimes overlapping) factions of our political and economic elite strongly support high levels of immigration — or at least oppose doing very much to stop it.

One of the factions — the business class and its neoliberal champions in government, think tanks, and NGOs — believes in a free-flowing international labor market that treats borders as superfluous.

The other faction — liberal lawyers, activists, intellectuals, journalists, academics, members of the clergy, and (once again) NGO staffers — has a deep-seated moral suspicion of nations and political boundaries in general. Why should an American count for more than a Mexican who crosses the border into the United States? Shouldn’t a refugee fleeing violence in North Africa enjoy full political rights upon setting foot in the European Union? Don’t all human beings deserve to be treated equally under the law? Isn’t opposition to such equality an example of bald-faced racism?

He’s not entirely mistaken, as these things go, but he’s leaving out one important factor: crass self interest.

Univeralism is all well and good as an explanation, but it’s crass self-interest that underlies most of the opposition to enforcement of existing immigration laws. Yes, crass self interest from business lobbies who want cheaper labor, but also crass self interest from left wing parties to construct a new electorate more to their liking. Tony Blair’s Labour Party did precisely this in the UK.

The Democrats believe (probably correctly) that a legalizing a massive influx of illegal aliens from Mexico and points south can help make them a permanent majority party, which is why they continue to support Obama’s unconstitutional and deeply unpopular illegal alien amnesty. It is this crass self interest that is why the Obama Administration refuses to deport illegal aliens who are taking entry level unskilled and manual labor jobs from the poor black and white Americans that used to make up their base. Indeed, for the Democratic Party it’s a twofer: they get a new voter from Mexico and they make an American more dependent on the big government welfare statism that is the bread and butter of their business model.

Illegal aliens may be bad for America, but they’re good for the Democratic Party. And that’s why Democrats in general, and the Obama Administration in specific, refuse to enforce border controls.

Wallace Hall/Joe Straus Update

August 27th, 2015

Got a bunch of links building up concerning Wallace Hall, Joe Straus and related topics that I’m just going to shotgun out here:

  • UT reforms admissions process so it can only admit unqualified, well-connected students if it really, really wants to.
  • Wallace Hall was not impressed with the reform. “This memorializes bad acts from a hidden admissions policy.”
  • Hall says that Joe Straus came after him to make an example of him.
  • Hall sues University of Texas chancellor McRaven for access to all of the Kroll report, not just the expurgated version.
  • Meanwhile, the UT system is sueing Attorney General Ken Paxton in turn, to keep their dirty laundry secret.
  • Former Texas Public Policy Foundation President Jeff Judson is running against Joe Straus for his state house seat. Here’s his website.
  • Let the Texas Racing Commission Die

    August 26th, 2015

    The Texas Racing Commission is tasked with overseeing and regulating horse and greyhound racing in Texas. In 2014, the commission decided to legalize “historical racing”.

    What’s historical racing, you ask? That’s where bettors use a machine to wager on already-run races whose distinguishing characteristics have been stripped out. In other words, betting real money on imaginary digitized horses, the horses on which they have are theoretically based being, in most likelihood, long dead.

    So what law passed by the legislature enabled them to legalize this entirely new form of gambling in Texas?

    None. They just made it up after the gambling lobby asked them to. Race tracks say that without historical racing they’ll have to close up shop.

    One tiny little problem: Not only has the legislature not approved historical racing machines, they say that the machines violate Texas laws against gambling machines. “‘These rules appear to be an attempt by the Racing Commission to circumvent the Legislature’s authority to decide what types of gambling are and are not legal,’ stated a letter sent at the time by [Texas Sen. Jane] Nelson, [Texas Sen. Craig] Estes and others in the Senate GOP Caucus. ‘This is not an appropriate decision for the Racing Commission.'”

    Indeed, they stripped funding from the Texas Racing Commission until such time as they were willing to obey the law.

    And the Legislative Budget Board is enforcing that decision.

    So how did the Texas Racing Commission respond to being told to obey the law? “Screw you, we’re legalizing historical racing anyway.”

    Personally, wearing my libertarian hat, I think more forms of gambling should be legal, regulated and taxed in Texas. However, at this point it’s become clear that the Texas Racing Commission has been captured by the very industry it was created to regulate. At this point it’s better for the LBB to let funding for the Texas Racing Commission lapse entirely. A short special session would be called creating a new agency to regulate horse racing and letting Governor Abbott choose commissioners who serve the interests of Texas citizens rather than the gambling lobby.

    And if Texas race tracks close (either temporarily or permanently), that’s acceptable collateral damage for a marginal industry that captured its own regulatory agency and pushed it into promulgating illegal regulations not authorized by the legislature.

    So focused has the Texas Racing Commission been on imposing historical racing, if I were Attorney General Ken Paxton, I’d take a serious look at investigating the possibility that current commissioners received payoffs from the gambling lobby to do so.

    But you know who would probably profit the most from letting historical racing and slots machines appear at Texas race tracks? Texas speaker Joe Straus, who stands to rake in millions due to his and his family’s connections to gambling interests.

    Edited to Add: Cahnman’s Musings notes that two of the commission members who voted for historical racing are holdovers that Gov. Abbott can replace at moment’s notice. Sounds like that should be the strategy going forward…

    Texas vs. California: Cali Goes Batshit Insane Edition

    August 25th, 2015

    California has long had a tenuous grasp of what the rest of us regard as consensus reality. But two new pieces of legislation suggest they’ve gone off the deep end into full Victimhood Identity Politics land:

  • First, they decided that police shootings wouldn’t be subject to the grand jury process, because what’s a little things like two centuries of due process and the fifth amendment to the Constitution when there are policemen to be railroaded to satisfy black protesters?
  • They also decided to purge the words “illegal alien” from state statutes, because what’s mere law when there’s political correctness to be pandered to?
  • Of course, that’s not all that’s new on the Texas vs. California front:

  • “California taxpayers paid out big bucks to state workers in 2014. How much? More than the Gross Domestic Product of 100 countries, according to new data published by the State Controller’s office. In 2014, more than 650,000 state employees earned a total of $32 billion in wages and benefits.” It gets better: “Nine hundred sixty-nine state employees earned more than the President of the United States.” Added irony:

    The lowest paid average workers represented agencies focused on the environment, women and people with disabilities. According to the state’s 2014 payroll data, the average salary for the 11 state employees at the California Commission on Disability Access was just $15,213 per year, slightly more than the $14,494 average salary paid to the four employees at the Commission on the Status of Women.

  • There is no California. Only Zuul…
  • Texas unemployment rate: 4.2%. California unemployment rate: 6.2%. (Hat tip: WILLism’s Twitter feed.)
  • Los Angeles’ new minimum wage has wrecked hotel employment. Or maybe just non-illegal alien employment… (Hat tip: Moe Lane.)
  • Why Public Services in California Decline Even As Revenues Rise. “Until California’s leaders address the three elephants – retirement, healthcare and corrections costs — that are crowding out public services and causing unproductive tax and fee increases, citizens will continue to suffer and inequality will continue to grow.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Chuck Devore on what makes Texas friendly to business: less red tape and lower taxes.
  • Voters to San Jose City Council: We want pension reform! San Jose City Council to voters: Get stuffed! (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • TV’s CHiPS never seemed to be involved in ethics scandals the way the current administration is, including no-bid contracts to European companies. (Bonus: it’s also suitable for Dwight’s Art Acevedo watch.)
  • California’s “Green Jobs Initiative” spent $297 million to create 1,700 jobs.
  • More on the same theme, and Tom Steyer wasting $29.6 million of his own money pushing it, from City Journal.
  • California’s SFX: from billion dollar company to bankruptcy.
  • VP Joe Biden Meeting With Top Democratic Fundraisers

    August 24th, 2015

    Hmmm, I wonder what that could possibly be about…

    Also, according to Ace, Biden has reportedly offered Elizabeth Warren the VP spot and promise to run a one-and-done Presidency.

    That would make things very interesting indeed.

    Welcome to Black Monday

    August 24th, 2015

    If you haven’t been checking your 401K recently, now may not be the day to do it, as markets are plunging around the globe.

    China’s Shanghai composite index had the largest one-day selloff since 2007.

    Japan’s Nikkei average fell 4.6%, the largest drop in two years.

    India’s Sensex dropped over 1,200 points, the biggest drop in seven years.

    And now everyone is nervously waiting for the NYSE to open…

    LinkSwarm for August 21, 2015

    August 21st, 2015

    Small LinkSwarm this time.

  • “Hillary Clinton is the contemporary poster child for special privileges for the rich and powerful.”
  • Latest Iran deal revelation: Iran gets to self-inspect their own nuclear site. But Kerry did get them to agree to pinky swear they’re telling the truth…
  • Obama and his party. “No president in modern times has presided over so disastrous a stretch for his party, at almost every level of politics.” Caveat the first: Although I think the phrase “there’s neither a Great Depression nor a criminal conspiracy in the White House to explain what has happened” is probably false on both counts. Caveat the second: Notice how the article carefully omits any mention of the specific Obama policies that have made his party so unpopular…
  • From back in June: Karl Rove lied about Ted Cruz. (Hat tip (tangentially): Perry vs. World, where Evan seems to have woken from his summer slumber…)
  • I really want to believe this Atlantic piece on how Russia is losing in Ukraine, but I just don’t. This one sentence has so much wrong with it I have trouble trusting the rest of the article: “Shale, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and renewables—three areas where Russia is extremely weak—are ascendant and are dramatically altering the market.” Shale’s a solid play if you’ve already tapped out more easily-extracted hydrocarbons (I doubt Russia has), LNG is a profitable byproduct if you’re already extracting oil, but at today’s market prices (which have sucked since 2009) it’s not worth pursuing on its own, and renewables? Hippie, please
  • Muslim beats wife in front of police, saying they can’t arrest him because she’s his property.
  • Slovakia to the EU: Screw you, we’re not taking any Muslim refugees. (Hat tip: Jihad Watch.)
  • Movement in Spain tries to erase Salvador Dali from history. You’ll get my Salvador Dali from me when you pry the melting clocks out of my burning hands!
  • Could Google rig the next election?
  • It’s a Goldman-Sachs world. We just live in it…
  • Three students at the “Homestead Job Corps” murder a fourth. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that program isn’t working…
  • Missed this from earlier in the year: Arkansas cops attempt to plant malware on a lawyer’s computer, fail miserably.
  • Joe Straus is backing Jeb Bush. I don’t imagine that this will come as a shock to anyone…
  • Greek Update: Tsipras Out, New Party Formed, Snap Elections Coming, Debt Payment Made

    August 21st, 2015

    “Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned on Thursday, hoping to strengthen his hold on power in snap elections after seven months in office in which he fought Greece’s creditors for a better bailout deal but had to cave in.”

    Turns out promising free ice cream, only to deliver expensive rotted cabbage, wasn’t popular with Greek voters.

    Nor were his actions popular with members of his own party, 25 of whom have broken off to form the new National Unity Party, who will evidently return to the “demand free ice cream and insist others pay for it” strategy Tsipras abandoned in the face of the sinister force know as reality.

    On the plus side, Greece just used it’s new bailout fund to make a debt payment to the European Central Bank for the last batch of money it borrowed to prop up its unsustainable welfare state.

    We’re in that happy honeymoon period after Greece gets more money and before Eurocrats are shocked, shocked that Greece’s economy is still a festering pile of fail that all those and promised economic reforms haven’t actually been implemented.

    Give it another six to nine months…

    A Look At Russia’s New T-14 Armata Tank

    August 20th, 2015

    Last week was almost Russian Tank Week on BattleSwarm, but a plethora of news intervened (like Vladimir Putin intervening in the affairs of neighboring states).

    But one interesting tidbit I didn’t get to was the fact that Russia has introduced a new generation of tanks (and mechanized fighting vehicles more generally, all based off the same base platform).

    So is the new Russian T-14 Armata main battle tank something to worry about, or does the M1A2 Abrams retain clear technological superiority?

    To my very, very outsider eyes, the answer is somewhere in-between.

    First the description from Jane’s:

    The T-14 is Russia’s first truly new tank design since the T-72, designed in the early 1970s. Based on the Armata Universal Tracked Platform, the T-14’s most attention-grabbing feature is its unmanned turret, with all of the MBT’s three crew (commander, driver, gunner) seated in a well-protected crew compartment at the front of the hull.

    Notably, the unveiled turret dispels suggestions the MBT would be armed with a coaxial 30 mm cannon, in addition to its 2A82A 125 mm main gun. Indeed the pre-production vehicles paraded by Russia feature neither a 30 mm cannon nor a coaxial machine gun (MG) armament as expected, although the production vehicles might eventually feature the dual 30 mm cannon/7.62 mm MG.

    Although the T-14’s turret features a large bustle, it remains unclear whether this features the autoloader/weapon-handling system for the MBT’s main gun or serves another purpose (meaning the T-14 would retain the vulnerable hull-mounted carousel system present in previous Russian MBTs). Some reports also indicate Russia has not entirely abandoned its ambitions to arm Armata with a 152 mm main gun. If this is the case, it could explain why the T-14’s unmanned turret has an unusually high profile relative to the position of the 125 mm main gun, with the turret possibly designed to incorporate growth potential up to the 152 mm calibre.

    T-14 is armed with a remote-controlled turret (RCT) armed with a 7.62 mm PKTM MG, with the unit also functioning as the commander’s independent sight. The gunner’s sight is mounted to the left side of the main gun and shielded by a two-piece armoured door to protect it from small arms fire. A barrel reference unit is mounted above the base of the 2A82A main gun, which notably lacks a fume bore extractor (which would be superfluous given the turret is unmanned). Metrological, satellite communications, GLONASS, datalink, and radio communications antennae are fitted on the roof of the turret.

    The MBT’s turret is literally covered in a variety of launcher and sensor systems understood to be linked to a new APS system, which some reports call ‘Afghanit’. At the base of each side of the turret are five large and fixed horizontally arrayed launch tubes covering the 120° frontal arc of the turret. These bear a strong resemblance to the launchers for the earlier Drozd and Drozd-2 APS, which fired a hard-kill 107 mm unguided projectile armed with a high-explosive-(HE) fragment warhead to defeat incoming anti-tank guided weapons (ATGWs).

    The T-14 is also fitted with four sets of smaller-calibre launchers, with each unit armed with 12 launch tubes. Two horizontally trainable launcher units are fitted on either side of the top of the turret, while two apparently fixed and vertically facing launcher units are recessed into the top of the tank’s turret.

    It is unclear whether this second system fires hard-kill (ie warheads) or soft-kill (ie anti-infrared/laser-obscuring smoke) munitions, or a combination of the two. It is also unclear if the vertically mounted units are fireable, or simply storage for reload units for the two trainable launchers. One limitation of the Drozd systems were that they provided no protection against threats emanating from above the tank, so mounting the fixed launchers vertically could be one way to provide protection against top-attack threats.

    Providing warning and guidance for the APS system are two types of sensors mounted around the T-14’s turret. Two large sensors, believed to be electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR)-based laser warning receivers, are angularly mounted on the front of the turret providing 180° coverage, while four smaller sensors (covered but believed to be radars) are mounted around the turret providing 360° coverage.

    Armata features a notably different hull design to the T-72/90. One striking difference is the road wheels, which are of a different design to the T-72/90’s, while the Armata features seven road wheels, to the six of the previous MBT designs, with the drive wheel at the rear. This is similar to the T-80 MBT family, which also has chassis with seven smaller road wheels.

    It is not known whether Armata is equipped with a gas-turbine or a diesel engine [given how the Russian chain of command swore off gas-turbine engines after the T-80’s performance in the first Chechen war, probably diesel. -LP] , but the T-14’s powerpack is mounted at the rear of the MBT, with two internal fuel tanks mounted on either side, and exhausts also mounted on either side. Day/night cameras are mounted around the T-14’s turret to provide situational awareness, while a forward-looking EO/IR (FLIR) system is mounted on the front of the hull for the driver. The driver’s hatch has no periscopes. When driving buttoned-down, the driver may be in a reclined position, using a set of periscopes mounted on a second hatch directly behind him.

    NII Stali is understood to have designed a new form of steel armour for the Armata family. Speaking to TASS, a NII Stali representative said the “steel armour alloy, named 44S-sv-Sh [44S–], is approved by the Armata’s developer. The alloy’s operational testing has been started and it can be used in prospective vehicles’ parts”. The use of the 44S-sv-Sh steel in Armata is intended to provide protection at a similar level to STANAG 4569 (first edition) Level 5. The high level of 44S-sv-Sh’s protection is ensured by the short-grained material structure, the optimised legation process and the special heat processing. The steel has also been designed to maintain its characteristics in very cold conditions.

    The Armata design is also understood to utilise explosive reactive armour (ERA) within its base design (rather than the appliqué ERA tiles seen on previous Russian MBTs), with views from above the MBT showing a distinctive tiled pattern indicative of ERA on the top of the vehicle’s chassis and turret. Although what appear to be ERA tiles are present on the turret roof, much of the sides of the turret appears to be just a thin cladding covering the various APS and sighting systems rather than armour. Appliqué armour (unclear if passive or ERA, or both) is fitted to the forward two thirds of the T-14’s sides, while the rear third is protected by bar armour to provide clearance for the T-14’s exhausts.

    Here’s a picture of the front by way of NPR:

    I’m not going to get into the electronics/sensor/packages, since it’s all devil-in-the-details stuff impossible to evaluate at this point. (The active protection system could be very interesting, but there’s no way of knowing how it stacks up to Israel’s Trophy or the still-under-development U.S. Quick Kill.)

    The big reasons I think the M1A2 retains overall superiority:

  • “NII Stali is understood to have designed a new form of steel armour for the Armata family.” Unless this new steel armor has radically improved properties, it seems unlikely to be even as effective against HEAT and/or kinetic penetrating rounds as the Chobham ceramic composite armor used by the M1 and British Challenger tanks, now into (at least) its third generation.
  • I do not like the shape of that turret. At all. Way too high profile, though up-gunning to a 152mm cannon (which I’m skeptical they can do effectively, even with this huge turret) might make it a more acceptable trade-off. (Early T-14 mocks showed a radically low profile turret that evidently turned out to be a pipe dream.) The degree to which the turret bulges out over the side and rear seems like shot traps. That flat section to the right is evidently a gunner sight, which looks like it’s just asking to be targeted. (Then again, the T-72 used this weird stacked bulging steel plate system to provide “non-ractive reactive armor”, which might alleviate the problem some.)
  • Not seeing any detailed information on the Russian fire control system for the main gun. If there were radically improvements you would expect more crowing and demonstrations to the press for the export market, which I haven’t seen. Since the M1A1 was achieving kills against Soviet armor at the extreme range of its fire control system back during Desert Storm, I’d need a lot of evidence to be convinced the Russians have caught up, and so far I don’t see any.
  • That said, there are a number of interesting features on the T-14:

  • The fully automated turret. It’s no surprise that the Russians went in this direct, since the T-72 already used an autoloader. (There were persistent rumors that the T-72’s autoloader had a nasty tendency to rip off crewmen’s arms, but the consensus out on the web seems to be that this is probably untrue.) With the constant march of progress there’s no reason you couldn’t have a reliable auto-loader, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see future American tanks take this direction.
  • The 125mm smoothbore cannon, which should theoretically outgun the 120mm on the M1A2. (Cue Nigel Tufnel: “Well, it’s 5 bigger, innit?”)
  • The top speed is reportedly higher than the Abrams, somewhere in the 50 MPH range, which seems quite likely, given that the Abrams is the heaviest modern MBT in current service. However, the T-14 engine may have some reliability concerns:

  • Integrated reactive armor: Probably a net plus. Like the TUSK package for the Abrams, I suspected this was developed in response to specific experience with asymmetrical urban warfare (in Russia’s case in Grozny, where the T-80 performed very poorly). While I have my doubts that the T-14 can defeat modern two-phase top attack anti-tank missiles like Javelin, it’s probably more than adequate for defeating the average Joey Jihad RPG. The concern is that while reactive armor certainly increase vehicle survivability, it’s very hard not to let it increase fratricidal lethality to nearby friendly infantry. Then again, Russian military doctrine has always had a callous attitude toward infantry casualties…
  • Maybe the integrated roof launcher array can defeat top attack anti-tank missiles like Javelin and RPGs. Hard to gauge effectiveness without seeing how it performs in actual combat.
  • I like the wide access door at rear, which reminds me of the rear doors Israel designed to the Merkava after the experience of running out of ammo during the Yom Kippur War war. (I’m less wild about the high, relatively exposed positions for the gas tanks at the rear of the vehicle, something the bar armor only partially alleviates. But it might be an acceptable tradeoff.)
  • All this assumes that significant numbers of the T-14 actually get built, given that Russia has cancelled at least two separate tank programs (Black Eagle and the T-95) to follow on to the T-72/T-80, and that their economy is really biting the yak in the wake of the oil price collapse and Ukraine sanctions. But the shared Armata platform probably helped reduce development and production costs, and I suspect it will get put into production, as a big new main battle tank seems like exactly the sort of thing Vladimir Putin likes seeing built.

    This is just a quick overview based on limited information. Those with more information and/or deeper subject knowledge are welcome to sound off in the comments.

    Update: Missed this Jane’s update on the T-14’s armor.

    The base armour on the new tank consists of metal-ceramic plates. Novosibirsk-based company NEVZ-Ceramics has already launched serial production of this product, according to Andrey Nikitin, the head of the company’s armoured ceramics bureau. “We finished the trials this year and the elements revealed their declared capability,” he said.

    Nikitin said the new metal/ceramic armour provides one-and-a-half times more resistance than fully metal systems.

    A Final Bit On the Seventh Planned Parenthood Video

    August 19th, 2015

    For the people who haven’t been following the Planned Parenthood videos, I boiled it down to this:

    MengelePP

    Bonus: Guess what career Josef Mengele pursued in Argentina post-Auschwitz? Go ahead. Guess.