Weekend Links

I’m back! Happy New Year! I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2016. It will be an interesting year for personal and political reasons. Let’s start with the personal.

My wife received a job offer from a non-profit organization based in New York. I can’t really explain how proud I am of her for working so hard on her job search, finding an opportunity that looks to be a great fit, and impressing so much that she received an offer. She accepted the position and starts this coming Monday already.

I’ll go visit her in a few weeks but then I come back to China to work the spring semester for the school I helped found, Ivy Language Academy. I’ll stay here through June and will apply for graduate school programs and jobs with the hopes of starting something this coming summer or fall. With my wife landing in New York, I couldn’t ask for a better geographic region to target. Plus, most of my family including my parents and brother live in the NY/NJ area, so that’s great!

The pictures above were taken at Weishan (巍山) here in Yunnan Province. The students in my adult class and I took a little trip together on the day of Christmas Eve. Weishan is a county seat with some buildings preserved from its old town center. It also has a claim to historical importance for the role people there and in surrounding areas played in the rise of the Nanzhao Kingdom. Actually, Weishan has one of the nicest and best-designed museums I have ever seen in China, especially for such a small town. Check it out if you ever visit and learn more about Nanzhao and the local area.

Weishan is a good overnight trip from Dali. Get there by 10am, walk through the old town, go to the museum, peruse “Snack Street” and then go get some noodles. Don’t miss the “Over the River Noodles” (过江饵丝) pictured above. I don’t usually love rice noodles but these were fantastic. Then, visit Weibo Shan (巍宝山) in the afternoon. This is a still living Taoist temple complex that is nice to walk around.

A couple that are friends with one of my students played hosts for the day. They live and work in Weishan and couldn’t have been nicer hosts. We wrapped up the day at the husband’s place of business, a tree nursery, where they treated us to some local dishes, including a spicy donkey meat that wasn’t bad. I’m not proud of it, but I avoided the tripe. Tripe is one kind of Chinese dish, along with congealed blood and very fatty meat, that I’ve just never gotten used to.

We returned to Dali the same evening since several of us had to work the next day. But it was a late return and the road back to Dali was mountainous, winding and not well-lit, and frankly, dangerous. If you have the time I recommend booking a room in one of the several guest houses that have popped up to take advantage of Weishan’s growing popularity with tourists. Take it easy, stay the night, and it’s safer to travel back in daylight.

I haven’t written in a while due to several factors: my wife accepting a job offer back in the US just a few weeks ago meant I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible; we threw a really nice Christmas party for the kids at our school that took quite a bit of planning; Christmas isn’t a holiday here so it’s regular old busy work schedule for me; and oh yeah, I had to move on the 31st. My new living situation is a post in itself that I’ll try to write this coming week. But generally it’s fine and comfortable, and importantly, cheaper. No sense in living in luxury when it’s just me and we could use the money as we resettle back in the US.

To the links. I haven’t been keeping up with the news as much as I’d like so this installment is brief:

  • Who knew renowned brain surgeons could be useful idiots? Or does Dr. Ben Carson know exactly what he’s doing and is happy to ride the gravy train til it stops? Either way, looks like the grifters involved with Carson’s campaign have taken complete control and look for him to be toast after Iowa. At best he’ll be a dead man walking when the pious Iowa hayseeds who are Carson’s base don’t deliver him a top two finish. I guess that’s one less crazy guy that could become president.
  • Let’s check in with the polls again, here and here. Nationally and in specific early states things continue to look not so good for the Republican establishment. Let’s be generous and say we don’t know how to classify Rand Paul (2.8%), Carly Fiorina (2.5%), or Mike Huckabee (2.0%). That means the candidates unpalatable at best to the establishment – Donald Trump (35%), Ted Cruz (19.5%), and Carson (8.8%) – combine for 63.3%. That’s against 22.4% combined for establishment candidates: Marco Rubio (11.5%), Chris Christie (4.8%), Jeb Bush (4.3%), and John Kasich (1.8%).
  • An optimistic establishment Republican might look at Rubio’s trendline in New Hampshire and think that a respectable third place finish in Iowa accompanied by a Trump second place finish there will give Rubio an opening to actually win New Hampshire. That optimistic establishment Republican should probably not read this by Alex Pareene. A sample:

    The idiocy of Rubio’s “plan” to “win” the nomination cannot be overstated: It’s not just untested; it’s more or less what a political scientist and a veteran campaign strategist would collaboratively design as a hypothetical worst-practices presidential campaign strategy.

  • The Democratic Party’s race is a straightforward two-person affair. Hillary Clinton will win unless something big happens to shake up the race. She has leads basically everywhere and it’s doubtful she and her team will make the same ground organization mistakes they made in 2008. Bernie Sanders could and maybe will win in New Hampshire, but where does he go from there? Theoretically a boost out of New Hampshire can make him more competitive elsewhere, but it’s doubtful. None of this is to say I wouldn’t want Sanders to win or that he should stop contesting the nomination. Actually, I think he could win the general election against any Republican but especially if that party’s nominee is Trump or Cruz. It’s just the math is what it is, and Clinton is – gasp! – a good solid Democratic Party candidate, thanks in part to Sanders’s candidacy.
  • So, as we get rolling in 2016 let’s ask the question: Who’s going to win the 2016 presidential election? I think Clinton will win the Democratic nomination and then the presidency. If she can assemble a coalition resembling that which elected President Obama twice, the 2016 election won’t even be that close.
  • I feel much less confident predicting the Republican nominee. I’m starting to think that Cruz may have a chance at both the nomination and the presidency. But if Trump holds on to win New Hampshire while continuing to look strong elsewhere, then you have to like his chances, at least for the nomination. The establishment really doesn’t like either of those guys (though I think they’ll hold their noses for Cruz) so if Rubio or any of their other preferred candidates show signs of life expect the establishment to rally that person’s way hard. All that’s to say, I don’t even want to predict the Republican race. For now I say it’s a coin flip between Trump and Cruz, but I still think an establishment type has time to find footing.
  • Cruz worries me in a general election because the average voter probably won’t know who he is until the summer and if anything should happen to shake up the fundamentals of the race – economic crisis, terrorist attack, etc. – the out-party will start looking more attractive to the “independent” voter. True independents are people who pay little or no attention to politics and basically flip a coin at election time, with the coin weighted a bit towards the in-party if things are good or the out-party if things are bad. Not enough of these voters actually exist in the wild to influence recent elections driven by fundamentals, but a major crisis that reflects poorly on Obama will push these voters and maybe even some usually reliable Democratic voters towards the Republican, no matter who that is, and especially if he or she isn’t Trump. I think Cruz has a decent shot to redefine himself, George W. Bush-like, as a regular guy you want to go hunting with in time for the general election (maybe it goes without saying but I think Trump will NOT be able to do this). If Cruz can pull that off in a close election, the fate of the country may be in the hands of the people who know the least about its politics. Happy 2016!