Friday, August 28, 2015

Uh Oh. Peggy Noonan Goes Trump

For years I've used Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan as a weathervane. When Peggy writes about something in her weekly Wall Street Journal column then it's just gone mainstream.

Today she's writing about Donald Trump and how Hispanics aren't offended by him. She talked to her friend Cesar after the first GOP debate and he told her about a Hispanic call-in show right after the debate.
More than half called in to say they were for Mr. Trump. Their praise, Cesar told me a few weeks ago, dumbfounded the hosts.
What about after Trump dissed Jorge Ramos? A majority of callers backed Trump. What is going on here? Aren't Hispanics supposed to be offended by Trump?
Cesar shook his head: No, you have it wrong. Immigrants, he said, don’t like illegal immigration, and they’re with Mr. Trump on anchor babies. “They are coming in from other countries to give birth to take advantage of the system. We are saying that! When you come to this country, you pledge loyalty to the country that opened the doors to help you.”
Makes sense to me. After all, if you've gone through all the horrible bureaucratic process to immigrate legally, you sure don't appreciate people that are crashing the line.

On the other side we have chaps like Sam Tanenhaus talking about the Jesse Jackson party that the Democrats have become. And then there's Howard Fineman. Talking about Joe Biden, who's from the old labor-union Democratic Party, he writes:
He’d also have to somehow reach out to a new version of the party that is out there waiting to be born. It is a yet-to-be-defined mashup of Black Lives Matter; pro-immigration activism; non-European cultural consciousness; tolerance of all religions, lifestyles and genders; genuine urgency about the fate of the planet; confidence in technology, social media and the sharing economy; and skepticism about America’s right, power and duty to lead the world.
Hmm. Richard Fernandez writes that Fineman's "vision of the Democratic Party hoping to be born is actually the one waiting to die." Come on, Howard. The Democrats have been doing the whole "progressive" thing since 1998 and the Clinton impeachment and the birth of MoveOn.org. The problem is that, given the decline in Democratic strength in legislatures all across the nation, it looks like the American people really don't like the Democratic Party "waiting to be born."

All I know is our Mexican mailman's family. He was a high-school dropout back in Mexico. One way or another he's got his whole family over here, legally. His two daughters are going to college here in Washington state. I don't think that his children will find much in common with Black Lives Matter, for a start.

Peggy writes that "America Is So in Play." That means, of course that the whole vision of the emerging Democratic majority is baloney. And you can see why. President Obama's divisive presidency has riled up the people that thought that race politics was over now that we had elected our First Black President. And now they want out.

The Democratic Party is an over-under coalition in which the People of the Creative Self angry up the People of the Subordinate Self to stay on the liberal plantation as clients of their liberal patrons and give power to the creative elite. This cunning plan founders on the fact that most subordinate, marginalized people want to get out of the liberal plantation, get a good job, buy a modest home, and live in the suburbs, and hope that their kids will do better than they did.

Sooner or later, most immigrants become the African American woman I profiled yesterday: Peggy Hubbard. They become People of the Responsible Self. That is why Democrats are so pro-immigration. They need a new supply of People of the Subordinate Self from pre-industrial nations to replace folks like Peggy Hubbard.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Black Poster Girl for my "Three Peoples" Theory

My Big Idea to explain everything is to say that there are three kinds of people in the world. Let us call it the Three Peoples Theory.

There are the People of the Subordinate Self, your eternal peasants, the clients in the patron-client relationship. They are people that experience themselves as victims, tossed about by irresistible forces.

Then there are the People of the Responsible Self, the classic bourgeois, that experience themselves as responsible individuals. Finally there are the People of the Creative Self, your artists, intellectuals, political activists, and such.

We know what a person of the subordinate self looks like. He looks like the clueless African-American failed TV journalist that shot two white TV journalists to start a race war. Just like the clueless white guy that shot and killed people in Charleston, South Carolina, in order to start a race war.

Hey, how about that iconic tweet:
The best part about the Obama era is all the racial healing.
But here's a rant by a black woman, Peggy Hubbard, who is about as clear a card-carrying member of the People of the Responsible Self as you could imagine.
Police brutality? How about black brutality? You black people, my black people, you are the . . . most violent [people] I have ever seen in my life. A little girl is dead. You say black lives matter? Her life mattered.
Notice one little thing in that quote. Peggy doesn't say Black Lives Matter. Or even All Lives Matter. She says Her Life Mattered, that individual that just got killed. But here is the money quote:
Excuse me, but I didn’t know there was a side to be on. Only thing I know is I see right, and I see wrong. I see good, I see bad. This is not a race issue, and it never has been a race issue. People made it about race. This is not about race. This is about morals. This is about accountability and responsibility. We have to be responsible for the things we do and the things we say.
 See that? "I see right, and I see wrong." And then "This is about accountability and responsibility. We have to be responsible for the things we do and the things we say."

Of course, as the People of the Creative Self are so fond of telling us, there is no such thing as right and wrong. Moral codes are social constructions, just like everything else except climate change and racism, sexism and homophobia, which are just Wrong and Hateful and Divisive. And nobody can truly be accountable and responsible in this world of oppressions and exploitations.

People that belong in each of the Three Peoples buckets are all living a fantasy. Subordinate people are not as helpless as they think. Responsible people are not as individual as they think. Creative people are not as creative as they think. We are all bound to the facts of the material world. John Gray in The Silence of Animals addresses this. He writes that the "dystopia of power," that "two and two is five" if the Party says so, "is a fantasy." Nor is Dostoyevsky right when he argues in Notes from the Underground that freedom is nothing if we can't push back against the laws of nature.
Yet the two projects serve the same infantile fantasy: the magical omnipotence of thought. Whether affirmed in terms of classical logic or denied in those of romantic will, the message is the same: the human mind is the measure of reality. 
And yet the human mind is the means by which we negotiate reality; in order to act in the real world we must each of us develop a world-view that pretends to understand that reality and its meaning.

Some people say that only Black Lives Matter and the police are out to get black people. Some people say that individual accountability and responsibility for individual acts are the only thing. Some people say that creative or romantic will is the only thing.

But I say that the first thing is to teach the People of the Subordinate Self how to grow out of clientism into the bigger world of individual responsibility. The second thing is to teach the People of the Responsible Self that the world is not just about good and bad and responsible acts; it is also about the liberating serendipity of the creative act. The third thing is to teach the People of the Creative Self to stop exploiting subordinate people by inflaming their tribal instincts with social-justice politics, and to learn a little compassion and understanding for the worthy, if narrow, People of the Responsible Self.

But the words of Peggy Hubbard are a start.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Rap, Race, and Homicide Rates

If you read the excellent The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker you will learn three important historical facts about homicidal violence.

Fact One is that death by violence in the hunter-gatherer age was about 500 per 100,000 population, or about 0.5 percent per year.

Fact Two is that death by violence in the late agricultural age was about 50 per 100,000 population, or about 0.05 percent per year.

Fact Three is that death by violence in the mid 20th century (after World War II) was about 5 per 100,000 population, or about 0.005 percent per year.

I discuss all this in my "Government and the Technology of Power."

It makes sense, because in the hunter-gatherer age practically every adult male was involved in defending the tribe from the next tribe over, and Pinker tells us that each tribe was more or less constantly at war.

But in the agricultural age the political units were bigger and most of the fighting was done by "marcher lords" and their retainers. Think the Percys, Dukes of Northumberland, keeping the pesky Scots out of England.

In the industrial age political units were bigger still, and with wealth now consisting of ideas in peoples' minds rather than broad rich acres, violence went down again.

But not, as Steve Sailer writes, in Straight Outta Compton during the crack age around 1990. He shows Figure 22b Black male homicide offending rates by age, 1980-2008 from the Bureau of Justice Statistics "Homicide Trends in the United States 1980-2008." He shows black homicide offending rates for age 18-24 at about 350 per 100,000 during the early 1990s and the peak of the crack epidemic and gang wars and gansta rap craze.

Which makes sense, because huge numbers of young black males were probably engaged in or affected by the crack business and living in a small tribe that had to defend itself against all comers.

The black male homicide rate in the early 1990s was about ten times the white male rate, which peaked at a little under 35 per 100,000 in the early 1990s. The black female homicide rate was about the same as the white male rate. The white female rate showed no bump during the crack age and remained under 3 per 100,000.

Really, the homicide rate is an inverse measure of embourgeoisification. Bourgeois males don't kill each other, they compete instead for promotions and market share.

Of course they do take on gunmen in trains, some of them. But that is another story.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Politicians Wreck Economies, Chinese and US

After the three-day market rout it's time for an I Told You So article on the follies of the politician-driven Chinese economy. Writes Rich Lowry:
China might have bright, shiny airports and gauzy GDP numbers, but that is window dressing on a badly distorted economic system that is being managed about as well as you’d expect by a group of corrupt, self-interested statists, which is to say not well at all.
Hmm. Politicians distorting the economic system, with the result that "A country famous for its 'ghost cities,' massive unoccupied developments, obviously has a huge malinvestment problem." Where have I heard that before? Which country has a huge problem with politicians throwing government subsidies at malinvestments in, e.g., "affordable housing" and "green energy?"

Rich Lowry says that at least the Chinese government knows it has a problem.
The Chinese government has talked up reforms as it seeks to put the economy on a sounder long-term footing. The list of necessary changes is incredibly long. For a truly modern economy, China needs a commercial banking system, less powerful state-owned enterprises, free capital flows, greater labor mobility, and a proper retirement system, not to mention the rule of law, property rights, and an independent judiciary, among other things.
What Lowry is saying is that the politicians everywhere need to get out of picking winners and losers and directing the economy with their corrupt (and probably economically incompetent) nominees.

What about the United States? Where is the groundswell of political opinion from the heartland demanding that the government get out of its endless interventions in the economy? For instance, libertarian activist Stephen Moore can't get a mortgage, because Dodd-Frank, even though he's putting 25 percent down, and people that put 25 percent down don't walk away from their mortgages.
Virtually all the defaulted loans had low down payments, with many having less than 5 percent down, thanks to government "affordable housing" mandates.
Moore is being denied because he has a low credit score -- for two late credit card payments and $300 in unpaid parking tickets. Meanwhile the government is still on its "affordable housing" kick.
While I'm making a 25 percent down payment, the government insurance underwriters -- the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- are backing with taxpayer dollars hundreds of thousands of loans made with as little as 3 percent down. These are the loans that will likely default. And taxpayers are on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars.
What could go wrong? If you add in the tens of thousands of crony-green wind turbines that unroll beneath you as you fly across the fruited plain, you remind yourself that there is plenty of ruin in the United States.

We should be careful in sneering at China. We have plenty of screwed up economic nightmares waiting to happen right here at home.

The reason that China has a screwed-up economy is that its corrupt Communist Party un-elected oligarchy doesn't have a clue about how to run the economy. The reason that the US has a screwed-up economy is that the voters keep electing politicians to office that don't have a clue about how to run the economy.

Hello people! If you want to know what to do about the economy, don't listen to a word the politicians say. They will say anything to get your vote.

The people to trust with the economy are the businessmen. They are idiots, of course, but unless they have politicians in their pocket they are forced to adjust their businesses to the reality of the market every day. And that is what makes them grow the economy.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Unwinding Obama's Transformation of America

In The Politico, old hand Jeff Greenfield in "Democratic Blues" told fellow Democrats that the verdict was still out on the "policy" of the Obama era. But the Obama "politics" had reduced the Democratic party to "its worst shape since the Great Depression—even if Hillary wins."

Now that I think about it I'm not too sure just what Greenfield means by "policy" and "politics." I suppose he means by "policy" the things that Obama has done with the government, and by "politics" his party's electoral fortunes. Of course Greenfield is writing for Democrats and bucking up their spirits by telling them that, just because the Republicans have captured majorities in both houses of Congress and the majority of state houses, not everything is lost. Historians could one day praise Obama for his controversial policy initiatives.

But I think that old hand Phil Gramm has a better grasp of the situation when he critiques the Obama "policy" in "How Obama Transformed America."

Obama "learned" from previous progressive failures that the way to push the progressive agenda was to hide controversial details that could provoke opposition, and then ram the details through with administrative and executive action. This was what Democrats learned from the abortive Clinton intitiatives. Gramm writes:
Americans have always found progressivism appealing in the abstract, but they have revolted when they saw the details. President Clinton’s very progressive agenda—to nationalize health care and use private pensions to promote social goals—was hardly controversial during the 1992 election. But once the debate turned to the details, Americans quickly understood that his health-care plan would take away their freedom. 
So the Obamis "learned" to hide the details, as in Nancy Pelosi's famous sound bite that we could find out what was in Obamacare once we had passed it.

But Gramm points out the flaw in this strategy.
The means by which Mr. Obama wrought his transformation imperil its ability to stand the test of time. All of his executive orders can be overturned by a new president. ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank can be largely circumvented using exactly the same discretionary powers Mr. Obama used to implement them in the first place. Republicans, who never supported his program, are now united in their commitment to repeal it.
It's easy to see where the Obama strategy came from. It came from the leftist revolutionary tradition, which is all about seizing power and then just implementing the leftist agenda without benefit of a "conversation." In the original formulation implemented by Lenin the seizure of power was accomplished by armed revolution and brutal suppression of dissent. In the Gramscian "long march through the institutions" it is accomplished by a kind of office politics writ large backed up by the "political correctness" culture that makes ordinary bourgeois ideas into forbidden hate speech. There's a good piece on the whole leftist process in the American Thinker here from Scott S. Powell of Seattle's Discovery Institute.

But in the face of all this gloom and doom, I remain optimistic.

I think that the leftist model is fundamentally flawed. It negates the whole idea of humans as social animals, for all it wants to do is to conquer and dominate; all it aspires to is making its targets into enemies. All it achieves is the silence of the gaol and the wasteland of places like the former Soviet Union, the Castro brothers' Cuba, and Maduro's Venezuela.

That's why I think that the current book on the 2016 election, that Hillary Clinton has a 60% chance of winning, is a fantasy. Obama and his acolytes have humiliated too many people, have broken too many laws, have ridden roughshod over too many settled agreements. Obama has turned too many neutrals into opponents.

The reason for elections is to confine the warring spirit to defined election seasons, and agree to disagree the rest of the time. The reason for seeking the "consent of the governed" is to keep the minority moderately happy. The reason for the government to obey its own laws is to prevent the victims of government power from forming a head of rebellion. The reason for the president to assemble bipartisan majorities for his legislation is to prevent the opposition from coming to power and repealing everything he has done.

The failure of President Obama to do this is a profound misunderstanding of the nature of the human condition and the roots of peaceable human society. And we know why. Obama learned his politics from Gramsci and Alinsky, which says nothing about cooperation and everything about fighting.

It is my hope that the American people will revolt electorally against the Obama and the leftist culture in 2016. That revolt will provide a chance to heal the social wounds inflicted in the Obama era.

If we don't heal the wounds now, then we will find ourselves doing radical surgery later. And that would be a human tragedy.

Friday, August 21, 2015

When the Narrative Stops

Many conservatives like to rail against "cultural Marxism," the product of the Frankfurt School that transformed Marxism from a class-warfare argument to a culture-warfare argument.

The Frankfurt School realized after World War I that the class-warfare argument had been proved wrong, for the working class was thriving instead of "immiserating." So they proposed changing the narrative to a culture-war argument -- that certain minorities, such as blacks, women, and gays, had been exploited and oppressed by the majority white culture.

In parallel with this argument the Frankfurters developed the whole political armory we call "political correctness" in which they made explicit what had been merely implicit. They developed a political culture that would consciously control the narrative, use Marcuse's notion of "repressive tolerance" to shut up your political opponents, and execute on Gramsci's "long march through the institutions." Every ruling class does this, but nobody had really thought about it rationally, instead of merely executing on it instinctively.

The point about the "Narrative" is that it works beautifully to control what politicians are allowed to say and not say. It executes on the teenage mean-girls line "I can't believe you said that!" Also called the Overton Window.

Now the trouble about enforcing the "narrative" and shaming people that speak thoughts outside the Overton Window is that it is all a lie. You are enforcing a particular world view and forbidding anyone to think or speak outside it.

There is a -ism for that. Totalitarianism.

There's an irony here. Conservatives rail against "relativism," meaning the idea that world-views come in different shapes and sizes, while liberals celebrate their open minds and their willingness to tolerate diverse views. But in fact in today's political and cultural climate it is liberals that want to forbid any speech that threatens their monolithic liberal absolutism, while conservatives want to expand the conversation beyond the simplistic totalitarian narrative that the educated ruling class knows best and we want to acknowledge our basic ignorance about what works best.

So for the last couple of decades we have been confined within what we might call a Beltway Narrative. Propose a tough America-first narrative on immigration and you are a bigot. Oppose abortion on demand and you are warring on women. Propose to reform entitlements and you are proposing to push granny off a cliff. Regulate home mortgages with sensible limits on borrowing and credit scores and you are redlining minorities out of "affordable housing."

But of course it has all been a lie, a lie enforced by the Cathedral: the cultural and political ruling class of the media, the academy, the entertainment world, and the activism culture. It is a lie that is all about maintaining the power of the present ruling class, the post-1848 generation. Here is Deirdre McCloskey expanding on our present ruling class in the front matter to her forthcoming Bourgeois Equality.
Yet after 1848 a virulent aversion to the bourgeoisie infected the mass of artists, journalists, professionals, bureaucrats, and intellectuals, the “clerisy” as it was called in 1818 by Coleridge. The Germans called it the Clerisei or later the Bildungsb├╝rgertum, the cultivated and reading as against the commercial and bettering bourgeoisie. In the eighteenth century the members of the clerisy such as Voltaire and Tom Paine had courageously advocated our liberties. But in the 1830s and 1840s a much enlarged clerisy, mostly the sons of bourgeois fathers, commenced sneering at the liberties the fathers exercised so vigorously in the market and the factory.
(Bildungsb├╝rgertum means "educated/cultured bourgeoisie." We would say "gentry liberal.")

The point about a "narrative" is that, as the Frankfurt School explained, it is an apology for power, the ruling class's power. And it works to protect the ruling class from attempts to dislodge it and delegitimize it. Until it doesn't.

I think, with the explosion of Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left, that the current narrative has broken down. Semi-political America, the people just below the Cathedral, have stopped buying the current narrative because it is there is just too much of a disconnect between the narrative and the reality that they experience in their lives.

Barack Obama is the living embodiment of this disconnect, and you can see it in the whole story of his rise, his election, and his governance.

The point about government, any government, is that it is founded on the "consent of the governed." Government works so long as the governed are willing to put up with it. People may not actually support the government, but they do "consent" to the government's rule.

A wise and worthy ruling class uses its control of the "narrative" to develop a genuine consent of the governed in which it persuades the governed to accept its version of reality and what to do about it. In other words, it does not try to pull the wool over anyone's eyes.

Barack Obama has not done this. He has not tried to build a consensus for his policies. He always does a cramdown, or paints his policy with false equivalences, or just flat-out lies. Then he takes out after his opponents as being almost unpatriotic.

Dr. Johnson famously proposed that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel. Perhaps he meant that attacks on other peoples' patriotism is the lame resort of a tyrant that can't be bothered to cajole and persuade.

At any rate, I think that the political trench warfare of the last two decades is over, because the narrative that enforced the power of the Cathedral has broken down. The political armies are operating in open country, and that means that nobody knows how it will all turn out. We are no longer talking about frontal attacks and their wars of attrition, but flanking movements, double envelopments, and the Kesselschlacht.

Nobody knows how it will all turn out.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Pippin, A Post Sexual Revolution Musical

What do you do with the Broadway musical after the sexual revolution of the Sixties, now that it is assumed that kids get it on from a very early age -- as in: they are going to do it anyway -- and you can't have heroines as ingenues?

It's a problem, and maybe that's why the Broadway musical has gone into something of a decline since The Sound of Music that debuted on Broadway in 1959 and ran as a movie in 1965 when I was in college.

(And I remember that I studiously did not go to the movie. I was far too sophisticated for boy-meets-girl musicals back then.)

But yesterday we went to a performance of the revived Pippin road show here in Seattle. In case you didn't know the show puts notional scenes in the life of Pippin, the son of Charlemagne, King of the Franks, in the context of a circus. It breaks the "fourth wall" in the manner of Brecht, and its songs are unmemorable Seventies pop.

Since we can't have boy-meets-girl anymore, what do we do? Well, Pippin is a twenty-something lad who has just graduated from university in Padua (no wiving and thriving there for him). He doesn't know what he wants to do, but he wants it to do something "extraordinary."

In other words, to use my taxonomy, the musical Pippin character is a person of the creative self. He does not just propose to exist as a person of the subordinate self, as a client to some great patron. He does not want to live as a bourgeois responsible individual. He wants to "make a difference." He is, in other words, thoroughly modern.

But since he is the title role of a post-sexual-revolution musical he can't just meet a girl and fall in love. Oh no. Because nowadays people don't do that (do they?). No, they have relationships and then after "finding themselves" they, well who knows what they might do. They might get married. Or they might realize they are gay. Or, what with Rachel Dolezal and all, they might fake being black! They might even become a world-renowned creative artist (in your dreams).

In the end, of course, most of today's twentysomething people of the creative self, living in lofts and wearing artistical black, end up living conventional lives, and that is what Pippin does.

But first there must be sex, because you always have sex, I mean love, in musicals. In this case the Leading Player runs Pippin through a series of sexual experimentations, including one in a circus animal cage with some (human) circus animals.

I kept wondering, as I sat through these crudities, sitting next to a young woman who will be a sophomore in college this year, where is the "safe space?" Suppose this young woman got triggered by the burlesque tableaux on stage? Surely, the special snowflakes now attending college are not just triggered by, e.g., a conservative feminist showing up on campus and daring to speak non-liberal thoughts and ideas? Surely the players on stage should get affirmative permission from the audience before they potentially "trigger" then with scenes that some audience members might have experienced in some regretted sexual episode.

Well, no. No "safe spaces." Which reminds us, as if we need reminding, that the whole triggering and microaggression thing is nothing but left-liberal political bullying designed to name and shame anyone that doesn't think the right thoughts and recite the right catchphrases.

Anyway, eventually Pippin does meet his blonde ingenue, only she is a young widow with a son. And because he has mental health issues on account of he can't find anything "extraordinary" to do, she has to nurse him back to mental health.

I am not kidding.

After a year of this nursing Pippin does the fatherly thing by the young blonde widow's son when the son's duck "Otto" dies. Then they kiss. Then they immediately jump in the sack right there on stage.

I don't know about you, but I don't find this post-sexual revolution world all that compelling. And I don't think it makes for a very compelling musical.

Really, of course, the whole point of the old Broadway musical was to tell the story of the immigrant girl from the 1900 immigrant wave and the great question of her coming of age: whether she dares to "marry out" of her ethnic group.

You could say that the old Broadway certainly ended on a high note in The Sound of Music when a nobody governess from the local convent beats out the rich bitch for the love of the fabulously rich Georg von Trapp by winning the love of his children using old discarded curtains for play clothes and teaching them silly songs.

I think that the whole post sexual revolution thing will eventually collapse. Because it is a really bad deal for women. In my view the current "rape culture" hysteria shows that women are finally starting to push back on the sexual revolution. But since the "rape culture" pushback is led by clueless liberal post-bourgeois feminists that never thought an original thought in their lives it has completely lost the plot.

The current "rape culture" hysteria is saying that young women can't be trusted to make sensible decisions about sex. They must be supervised by wise and caring college administrators. But that is no different from the old days, when young women were sexually supervised by their fathers.

Er, no. Sorry I got that wrong. in the old days young women were really supervised by their mothers and other mature women. But that would ruin the feminist thing about the "patriarchy." And that would never do.