Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...

Author: Owen

China Erupts

I don’t have a lot of hope for the protestors, but I’m praying for them and their success. The Chinese autocrats have a history of being willing to spill oceans of blood to maintain power. I don’t see that changing.

BEIJING — Rare protests broke out across China over the weekend as groups of people vented their frustration over the zero-Covid policy.

 

The unrest came as infections surged, prompting more local Covid controls, while a central government policy change earlier this month had raised hopes of a gradual easing. Nearly three years of controls have dragged down the economy. Youth unemployment has neared 20%.

People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, ran a front page op-ed Monday on the need to make Covid controls more targeted and effective, while removing those that should be removed.

 

In Beijing, many apartment communities successfully convinced local management they had no legal basis for a lockdown. That came after more and more compounds in the capital city on Friday had abruptly forbade residents from leaving.

 

On Sunday, municipal authorities said temporary controls on movement should not last more than 24 hours.

On another note, witness the people who criticized Americans when they protested about COVID lockdowns and now praise the Chinese for doing the same thing. We see you.

Millions for education. Not one penny for failure.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I sure did. As I settle in to watch the Packers and write my column for this week, here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week.

A few weeks ago, in a regrettable spurt of optimistic exuberance at the prospect of Tim Michels defeating Governor Tony Evers and ushering in an opportunity to make great strides in advancing progressive conservative policies, this column advocated that education reform should be at the top of the priority list. With Evers’ electoral victory and Wisconsin deciding on divided government for at least another two years, reforming Wisconsin’s education remains the absolute top priority, but the tactics and realistic goals must, necessarily, change.

 

By every meaningful measure, Wisconsin’s government education system is failing kids. There are, of course, individual success stories, but the overall performance is systemic failure at all levels. According to ACT Aspire, Forward, and ACT testing data from Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin’s kids are failing to learn basic reading, writing, and math in our schools. Roughly two-thirds of Wisconsin’s kids at every grade level are not proficient in language or math. It is utterly intolerable.

 

Bear in mind that those testing results are statewide averages. A large number of individual districts and schools are even worse. Again, according to DPI data, there are some Wisconsin schools where not a single child is proficient in language or math. President George Bush once lamented the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” There is nothing soft about the bigotry that abandons kids to ignorance.

 

Tony Evers and the Democrats like to sell themselves as the party of education. If that is the case, then they are terrible at it. The Democrats have had a stranglehold on the state DPI and most government education districts for decades. The result has been a steady decline in performance punctuated by catastrophic failures. They have abandoned at least two generations of kids as they continue to fund failing systems.

 

To be frank, watching someone brag about our government education system when less than half of our kids can read at grade level makes me angry. They should be angry at such failure. It makes a lot of parents angry. It should make you angry. Republicans should be angry about it. Not only is fixing education a moral imperative, but it is also good politics. Whichever party actually fixes education and gets more than 96% of our kids reading at grade level will stay in power for decades.

 

I am firmly convinced that the best and fastest path to quality education for everyone is to privatize our education system. Getting the government out of the business of delivering education and unleashing the power of competition is the proven path to performance. Unfortunately, with a governor who is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state teachers union, such needed reform is unrealistic. Governor Evers has shown that there is no length to which he will not go, and no bill he will not veto, in order to protect the monied interests of the government-education-industrial complex.

 

In light of the political realities, the Republican leadership will not be able to make the substantial changes necessary to radically improve educational outcomes. What they will be able to do, and what they must do, is become the party of accountability. Over the last five years, state taxpayers have increased spending on education by 19% to over $16,000 per student. This was during a period when people were losing their jobs, paychecks were shrinking, and inflation was just beginning to bite.

 

What did taxpayers get for their generosity and willingness to invest in education? Dumber kids. Over that same five-year period, the slow decline that was happening before the pandemic accelerated into collapse after many government educators abandoned kids to their illiteracy while continuing to collect their paychecks.

 

Legislative Republicans must tie funding to performance and force the closure of failing schools. Speaker Robin Vos has floated the idea of passing a bill that couples universal school choice with more spending on government schools. This idea is flawed because Evers has the most powerful veto pen in the nation and could simply veto school choice while accepting the spending increase.

 

Instead, Republicans should freeze education spending at its already inflated level and impose performance goals for continued funding. There is no reason that taxpayers should pay for a school where less than 20% of kids can read. Funding failure is explicit support for failure. Republicans must stop supporting failure like the Democrats and become the real party of education.

 

If Republicans play the same old Democrat game of pretending that the system is great and only needs more money, they will fail to capture the powerful electoral support of parents. Worse, they will doom yet another generation of kids to ignorance and exploitation. Our nation will be worse for their complacency.

Senator Daring Ends Storied Career

While not without flaws (what politician is?), Darling’s positive impact on Wisconsin will reverberate for decades to come and legions of kids have a better future thanks to the School Choice she advanced. Thanks for the service, Senator.

Jay Weber
@JayWeber3
Early Exclusive: State Sen. Alberta Darling will announce her retirement later this morning. She’s 78, and has served in Madison 32 years (New Class of ’92). Alberta has been influential in School Choice and tax relief over the years.

Millions for education. Not one penny for failure.

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a taste before Thanksgiving:

To be frank, watching someone brag about our government education system when less than half of our kids can read at grade level makes me angry. They should be angry at such failure. It makes a lot of parents angry. It should make you angry. Republicans should be angry about it. Not only is fixing education a moral imperative, but it is also good politics. Whichever party actually fixes education and gets more than 96% of our kids reading at grade level will stay in power for decades.

 

I am firmly convinced that the best and fastest path to quality education for everyone is to privatize our education system. Getting the government out of the business of delivering education and unleashing the power of competition is the proven path to performance. Unfortunately, with a governor who is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state teachers union, such needed reform is unrealistic. Governor Evers has shown that there is no length to which he will not go, and no bill he will not veto, in order to protect the monied interests of the government-education-industrial complex.

 

In light of the political realities, the Republican leadership will not be able to make the substantial changes necessary to radically improve educational outcomes. What they will be able to do, and what they must do, is become the party of accountability. Over the last five years, state taxpayers have increased spending on education by 19% to over $16,000 per student. This was during a period when people were losing their jobs, paychecks were shrinking, and inflation was just beginning to bite.

 

What did taxpayers get for their generosity and willingness to invest in education? Dumber kids. Over that same five-year period, the slow decline that was happening before the pandemic accelerated into collapse after many government educators abandoned kids to their illiteracy while continuing to collect their paychecks.

 

Legislative Republicans must tie funding to performance and force the closure of failing schools. Speaker Robin Vos has floated the idea of passing a bill that couples universal school choice with more spending on government schools. This idea is flawed because Evers has the most powerful veto pen in the nation and could simply veto school choice while accepting the spending increase.

 

Instead, Republicans should freeze education spending at its already inflated level and impose performance goals for continued funding. There is no reason that taxpayers should pay for a school where less than 20% of kids can read. Funding failure is explicit support for failure. Republicans must stop supporting failure like the Democrats and become the real party of education.

Turkey Pardon Tradition is Stupid

I remain adamant that this is one of our nation’s stupidest traditions. Be American… slaughter that turkey and enjoy the blessings of tryptophan while watching football.

Fresh off several weeks of celebrations for his family and political party, a jovial President Joe Biden expressed thanks on Monday as he took part in the annual White House tradition of pardoning turkeys from becoming Thanksgiving dinner.

No Good Cholesterol

Heh. It’s a good reminder that real science never considers itself “settled.” Keep learning. Keep exploring. Keep questioning.

There may be no such thing as ‘good’ cholesterol after all, a federally-funded study suggests.

 

Researchers found that high levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) were not associated with a lower risk of developing heart disease.

NATO Warns About China

Yup.

“Chinese rare earth minerals are present everywhere, including in our phones, our cars, and our military equipment,” he said. “We cannot give authoritarian regimes any chance to exploit our vulnerabilities and undermine us.”

In its new strategic concept agreed in June, NATO described China as a challenge to the alliance’s “interests, security and values”, as an economic and military power that remains “opaque about its strategy, intentions and military build-up”.

Second SCOTUS Leak?

Nobody seems to be looking very hard for the first leak.

Following the monumental leak of the draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade in May, a former anti-abortion leader claims he was told the outcome of a 2014 case weeks before it was announced publicly, according to a report published on Saturday in The New York Times.

 

Rev. Rob Schenck, who led an evangelical nonprofit in Washington, said he was informed ahead of time about the ruling of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a landmark case involving contraception and religious rights, according to a letter he wrote to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Roberts did not respond to the letter.

 

Schenck used his knowledge of the verdict to prepare public relations materials, the report said, and to inform the president of the Christain evangelical-owned craft store Hobby Lobby, the winning party of the case. Schenck said the ruling was also shared with a handful of advocates, according to the report.

I do think that there is a distinction between the two leaks. Leaking the full draft opinion was an egregious breach. Giving a heads up at a dinner party was not appropriate, but a far cry from the first leak. I expect that the latter has been happening for eons while the former was unheard of in modern times. Also, the latter was allegedly done with the intent to be a private heads up while the former was a public attempt to intimidate justices.

But both leaks are wrong, and they need to stop. Also, the court needs to operate more swiftly so that there isn’t the gigantic lag between when decisions are made and when they are released.

Make government small again

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News this week.

As I sit writing this column, it has been five days since the election, and we still do not know the outcome of several critical races. It is unacceptable that our elections have become so sloppy and rife with opportunities for fraud that we can no longer trust that the outcomes reflect the true will of the people. Irrespective of who ends up winning, the losing side will rightfully question the results and the steady erosion of our civic society will continue apace.

 

In the aftermath of another contentious election, I once again find myself lamenting the emotional investment that so many of us have in the outcome. Why does the outcome of this election matter so much to so many people? Why does it matter at such a personal, emotional level? Why do we think that the outcome will have an impact on our daily lives? Why is it so easy to appreciate why people would be willing to risk ruin and cheat in order to bend elections their way?

 

We care so much because it does matter so much, but it shouldn’t. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were not supposed to live our lives so much under the boot of government that every election feels like we are making irrevocable life-altering decisions. If, as Henry David Thoreau said, “that government is best which governs least,” then our government is very far from being the best.

 

Over the decades we have allowed our government at all levels to increasingly encroach on our lives. It is the natural progression of government to grow, and it has often been done with good intentions. When there is a problem in our society, whether it be poverty, pollution, or poultry, our political leaders look to try to solve them. Solving problems, or pretending to solve problems, is how politicians garner support to further their political careers and the only tool at their disposal to solve problems is government.

 

From this impetus we get government programs to “solve” poverty. We get regulations, programs, and subsidies designed to reduce pollution. We get more regulations, programs, and subsidies to ensure that our Thanksgiving turkeys are safe to eat. While each regulation, program, tax, subsidy, prohibition, and mandate might be argued on its relative merits, the cumulative effect is a government that has its beak in everything we do.

 

The last few years revealed the raw power and brute force that we have allowed our government to accumulate. With the wave of a hand, our government locked us out of our jobs, forced unproven medicines into our veins at penalty of being excluded from society, crippled our kids’ education and development for years, and looted the next generation’s wealth. It happened while we were told that it was for our benefit and that the government was looking out for our best interests.

 

Underneath all of that altruism, entities used the same levers of government for ill intent. We saw regulations applied unevenly based on political favoritism. For example, leftist protests were allowed to continue unabated while churches were closed. We witnessed Governor Evers and other governors doling out COVID relief money for personal political impact instead of actual need. We will be tracking for decades the incredible amount of fraud and corruption that is taking place as the federal government prints and spends money with little or no oversight.

 

We have allowed our governments at all levels to be too big, too intrusive, too powerful, too coercive, and too corrosive. As long as this is the case, our elections will continue to be battles in a passionate ideological warfare where the combatants are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to win because the consequences of losing are too dire. Such warfare will continue to rend our civic society along the many seams of our polycultural society.

 

If we want a return to normalcy, or, at least, if we want to avoid the inevitable slide into further despotism, we must drastically push our government back to the fringes of our lives. The purpose of our government is to protect individual liberty. That’s it. Nothing more. It is not the purpose of government to manage the economy, dictate our culture, or regulate our personal lives. The longer we allow our government to stray from its purpose, the more our society will devolve into irreconcilable factions that lurch for power.

 

I find myself rereading General Washington’s prophetic farewell address in 1796 and anticipating our future with dread:

 

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

Election Denier Likely to Lead House Democrats

Heh

The leading candidate to replace Nancy Pelosi as the next House Democratic leader is a 2016 election denier who openly argued that former President Donald Trump was an “illegitimate” president.

 

House Democratic Conference Chair Hakeem Jeffries announced Friday he’s running to lead Democrats in the next Congress. He appears to have a clear path to the job since no other challenger has emerged so far, and he has won praise from several Democrats.

 

But Jeffries was one of many Democrats who questioned whether Trump legitimately won the 2016 election due to alleged Russian interference and collusion. He often made statements about Trump’s 2016 victory that are similar to claims Trump made about the 2020 race being stolen.

 

“The more we learn about 2016 the more ILLEGITIMATE it becomes,” Jeffries tweeted from his congressional account in 2018. “America deserves to know whether we have a FAKE President in the Oval Office.”

Qatar Bans Alcohol in Indoor Stadiums for World Cup

It’s certainly their prerogative, but what a jerk move to decide this at the last minute.

Soccer fans reacted with a mix of anger and resignation to Qatar’s ban on alcohol inside World Cup stadiums.

 

Alcohol is prohibited inside stadiums during the 2022 World CupFIFA announced Friday. The last-minute U-turn came just two days before the tournament is set to begin.

 

The World Cup is the first to be held in a conservative Muslim country with strict controls on alcohol, the consumption of which is banned in public, and the reversal has raised questions among some supporters about the host country’s ability to deliver on promises to fans.

Greene Pushes for Accounting of Ukraine Aid

I go back and forth on whether or not we should support Ukraine. I get the geopolitical argument that we should because it saps Russia’s strength and builds support with allies. I get the humanitarian reasons for doing so. I also get the argument that Ukraine is a corrupt kleptocracy teetering on totalitarianism and we shouldn’t support it. I also get the argument that we have very little national interest in the conflict and should stay out.

I get all of it. And I remain somewhat on the fence leaning toward NOT supporting sending more weapons to Ukraine.

BUT… shouldn’t we at least be debating this? Shouldn’t we have a real accounting of where all of the money is going? Especially in light of the FTX debacle, shouldn’t we follow the money? It isn’t asking too much to know what’s happening with our money and why.

In a preview of the intra-party battle ahead, far-right House Republicans, led by MAGA firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, vowed Thursday to fight against Ukraine aid.

 

She said, at a news conference with other members, that she’d introduced an effort to force a vote on a resolution requiring the Biden administration to provide all documents related to the security assistance that has already been appropriated to Ukraine.

Xi Mad About Leaks

Xi is not wrong. It is impossible to conduct good foreign policy if leaders can’t speak frankly to each other behind closed doors.

In the video, Xi can be heard criticizing Trudeau for behaving “inappropriately” by leaking their meeting details to the media.

 

“The Cdn Pool cam captured a tough talk between Chinese President Xi & PM Trudeau at the G20 today. In it, Xi expressed his displeasure that everything discussed yesterday ‘has been leaked to the paper(s), that’s not appropriate… and that’s not the way the conversation was conducted,’” Oliver wrote in her post.

 

“Everything we decided has been leaked to the papers that’s not appropriate… and that’s not the way the conversation was conducted,” Xi said through an interpreter. “If you are sincere, we should communicate with each other in a respectful manner, otherwise it will be hard to say what the result will be like.”

Darrell Brooks Sentenced to Millenium

I watched way more of this trial than I care to admit, but it was truly a view into an evil criminal mind. May we never hear his voice again.

“This community can only be safe if you are behind bars for the rest of your life,” Judge Jennifer Dorow said in announcing her sentencing for the six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, which she said will be served consecutively.

 

On 60 counts of recklessly endangering safety, Brooks was sentenced to 17.5 years for each count — amounting to 762.5 years of initial confinement, plus 305 years of extended supervision, on top of the six life sentences, Dorow said.

 

The judge acknowledged that the sentencing was “largely symbolic,” but that “it needs to hold you accountable in a very real and tangible way.”

Trump Announces Presidential Run

Meh. I think I’ll pass this time.

Donald Trump has officially announced he is running for president for the third time in 2024 in a speech attacking President Biden, the ‘radical left’ Democrats and their record on the economy and the world stage in the two years since he left office.

 

The former president ignored Republican critics and those who blamed him for the GOP‘s disappointing midterms to go full steam on stating his intent to be back in the Oval Office to ‘drain the swamp’ with the country ‘being destroyed before our very lives’.

 

‘I order to make America great and glorious again, I am today announcing my candidacy for president of the United States,’ he confirmed to huge cheers before laying into the FBI raid, the ‘fake’ dossier’, the ‘deep state’ and lobbyists.

Make government small again

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

As I sit writing this column, it has been five days since the election, and we still do not know the outcome of several critical races. It is unacceptable that our elections have become so sloppy and rife with opportunities for fraud that we can no longer trust that the outcomes reflect the true will of the people. Irrespective of who ends up winning, the losing side will rightfully question the results and the steady erosion of our civic society will continue apace.

 

In the aftermath of another contentious election, I once again find myself lamenting the emotional investment that so many of us have in the outcome. Why does the outcome of this election matter so much to so many people? Why does it matter at such a personal, emotional level? Why do we think that the outcome will have an impact on our daily lives? Why is it so easy to appreciate why people would be willing to risk ruin and cheat in order to bend elections their way?

 

We care so much because it does matter so much, but it shouldn’t. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were not supposed to live our lives so much under the boot of government that every election feels like we are making irrevocable life-altering decisions. If, as Henry David Thoreau said, “that government is best which governs least,” then our government is very far from being the best. 

 

[…]

 

We have allowed our governments at all levels to be too big, too intrusive, too powerful, too coercive, and too corrosive. As long as this is the case, our elections will continue to be battles in a passionate ideological warfare where the combatants are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to win because the consequences of losing are too dire. Such warfare will continue to rend our civic society along the many seams of our polycultural society.

 

If we want a return to normalcy, or, at least, if we want to avoid the inevitable slide into further despotism, we must drastically push our government back to the fringes of our lives. The purpose of our government is to protect individual liberty. That’s it. Nothing more. It is not the purpose of government to manage the economy, dictate our culture, or regulate our personal lives. The longer we allow our government to stray from its purpose, the more our society will devolve into irreconcilable factions that lurch for power.

Layoffs in Tech Sector Continue

It’s rather a small pullback for Amazon, but on top of a lot of other companies in this sector.

Amazon is planning to lay off approximately 10,000 employees in corporate and technology roles beginning this week, according to a report from The New York Times. Separately, The Wall Street Journal also cited a source saying the company plans to lay off thousands of employees.

 

Shares of Amazon closed down about 2% on Monday.

The cuts would be the largest in the company’s history and would primarily impact Amazon’s devices organization, retail division and human resources, according to the report. The reported layoffs would represent less than 1% of Amazon’s global workforce and 3% of its corporate employees.

U.S. Facing Diesel Shortage

This ripples across the entire supply chain.

The U.S. is facing a diesel crunch just as demand is surging ahead of winter — with only 25 days of supply left, according to the Energy Information Administration.

 

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese told Bloomberg TV that diesel inventories are “unacceptably low” and “all options are on the table” to bolster supply and reduce prices.

 

However, even as the stockpiles are being drained, the Biden administration seems to be left with very few sustainable options for long-term relief.

Economy On a Bad Path

One guy’s opinion. I’m investing in brass and cordite.

In a letter to clients, Elliott said that while investors look for further easing of financial conditions with a Fed pivot, only a severe recession can cut inflation.

 

Elliott, founded by Paul Singer, says the “world is on the path to hyperinflation, which is the direct route to global societal collapse and civil or international strife. It is not baked, but that is the path that we are treading.”

 

“Investors should not assume that they have ‘seen everything’ on account of experiencing the 1973 to 1974 bear market and oil embargo, the 1987 crash, the dot-com crash, or the 2007 to 2008 GFC,” the fund said.

Biden to Threaten Xi

Could we please not get into WWIII rn, mmmmkay?

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden will warn Chinese President Xi Jinping at a meeting on Monday that North Korea’s continued pursuit of weapons development will lead to an enhanced U.S. military presence in the region, the White House said.

 

The United States is concerned that North Korea plans to resume nuclear bomb testing for the first time since 2017 and believes China and Russia have the leverage to persuade it not to do so.

 

Biden and Xi are set to hold their first face-to-face meeting as national leaders on the sidelines of a summit of the G20 grouping of countries in the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

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