Friday, August 22, 2014

What Three Things Should We Do? Sorry, I'll Have to Punt on That

I just had a spirited discussion with a new acquaintance, a Seattle businessman, and eventually we came to the businessman's big question:  What three things would you do to fix the government?

And I punted.

That's because I think we are nowhere near being able to do big things about the current mess.

Let me be clear.  I have plenty of big ideas to fix things.  I just don't believe that this is the time for big things.  Not yet.

Here's my Three Point Plan.  Actually, it is a Four Point Plan.

First, middle-class Americans should pay for their own retirement.  The current system is a system of intergenerational injustice where older, richer seniors get paid pensions by younger, poorer workers.  My plan of intergenerational justice is that middle-class people get to retire when they have accumulated the savings to create enough productive jobs for the young 'uns to support the old 'uns.

Second, middle-class Americans should pay for their own healthcare in retirement.  Of course we want to do the right thing by seniors like me, but not at the expense of young people trying to buy a home and raise a family.

Third, American children should not be sent to government child-custodial facilities for twelve years to sit on benches all day with no time off for good behavior.  Yes: can you spell J-A-I-L?

Fourth, the system of welfare where people trying to get off welfare pay higher marginal taxes than billionaires is unjust.  If we are to have a system of government welfare it should be focused like a laser on getting people back to work now.  Settled science says that people lose job skills from the day they are laid off.

In my ideal world workers wouldn't be paying swingeing taxes to pay grandpa's Social Security; income tax payers wouldn't be paying for grandma's frequent trips to the cardiologist, neurologist so that she needs two sets of weekly pill organizers.  They wouldn't be sending their kids to school but the neighborhood mothers would organize home-school cooperatively.  And the poor would be helped by the ABCDEFG method developed by charity professionals in the 19th century, backed up by mutual-aid associations that also flourished in the 19th century until the welfare state killed them both stone dead.

But there isn't a chance in hell that my four step program could be passed today.  That's because change -- real change -- can only come as a result of a great moral movement.  Think Reformation, Puritans, Great Awakening, Anti-slavery, Islamism.  And don't forget the secular moral movements like romanticism, socialism, nationalism, fascism, communism, environmentalism, feminism, gay rights.

Right now there is no moral movement that is organizing and socializing people to change the welfare state.  The average person accepts the current system and merely grumbles about minor indignities.  People are afraid of any change and rightly worry that any change would hurt them.  They are right to be afraid.  When political change comes to town the current generation gets screwed.  Ask the Indians after the Puritans showed up.  Ask the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  They almost all lost their lives, their fortunes, and I'm not so sure what happened to their sacred honor.  The Civil War?  Wiped out a generation of young men and condemned the slaves to a century of Jim Crow.  War against Nazism?  Great for the US, but whacked Europe and Russia for a generation.

Yeah, it would be great to solve the great injustices of the current era, but if you ask me things are going to have to get worse before they get better.  Eventually the "worse" will lead to a new moral movement of renewal.  Which may fail.  Even if the moral movement succeeds and rebuilds the culture and politics on new foundations, it will still exact an enormous cost on the generation that lives through it.

Gee.  I just Googled myself and I find that I wrote this whole thing back in 2010.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Race Card Tactics -- and Strategy

Nobody doubts that the tactics of the race card is effective.  Jump on a white-on-black incident and exploit it to the skies.  African Americans get outraged and whites get surly.

Yeah, but what about Hispanics?  Anybody checked on them lately?

Never mind about tactics; what about race-card strategy?

I am thinking about this because I am reading Alexander Hamilton: A Life by Willard Sterne Randall.  We are up to 1780, just before the campaign of 1781 and the surrender at Yorktown.  The point is that tactically, the Revolutionaries sucked.  They fumbled and bumbled through most of the battles.  In the middle of it all in the winter at Valley Forge, Col. Hamilton rewrote the army training manual -- a kid from St. Croix -- and he helped Steuben retrain the army using a simplified quickie course that they'd cooked up together.

Tactics, scmactics.  In the end, the Brits lost because they bumbled the strategy; they got distracted by the entry of the French on the revolutionary side, and retreated from Philadelphia in 1778.

But nobody could tell in 1778 that the Brits had made a fatal strategic error.  They were all playing politics and blaming people and challenging each other to duels, and trying to get in with the rich babes.

Fast forward to today and the Dems' race card.  How's that race card turning out, strategically?  I'd say, not so well.

Because I'd say that the stumbling and bumbling over Ferguson, as over the Zimmerman case and the Duke lacrosse case and the stupid O.J. case...

Hey!  What do you remember most about the Rodney King case: the cops beating Rodney King or the rioters dragging white truck driver out of his truck and beating him?

If I were a black voter right now I'd be as angry as can be, but I'd still be hearing a still small voice in my head channeling Hillary Clinton: "What difference, at this point, does it make?"

What's the point of electing a black president if nothing gets better?  What's the point of all this demonstrating if nothing changes?

Let's switch to longshoreman Eric Hoffer in The Ordeal of Change.  He writes about the ephemeral nature of enthusiasm.  Hence enthusiasm is "unserviceable for the long haul."
The attempt to keep people enthusiastic once they have ceased to believe is productive of the most pernicious consequences... The Communists started out with faith and extravagant hope, then passed to pride and hatred, and finally settled on fear.  The use of Terror to evoke enthusiasm was one of Stalin's most pernicious inventions.
It is telling, I think, that liberals these days find they have to resort to fear, using the IRS, using trumped-up prosecutions, using political correctness, using riots in the streets, using pressure groups to suppress heretical thoughts.

The problem with all politics and all government programs is that it begins in enthusiasm and talented activists.  But then the activists go on to their next gig and the programs and the government gets taken over by lifers.  And one thing the lifers don't want is renewed enthusiasm that would disturb their untroubled life of watching internet porn and counting the days until retirement.

(The same thing applies to the corporate world, of course.  Talented enthusiasts create a business startup and build it into a great corporation.  But then the lifers take over and when the market changes the lifers just don't have the talent or energy to adjust.  Time for a government bailout!)

Of course nobody knows what the future will bring.  But if you are like me you are constantly trying to peer through the noise of the day-to-day to try and discern the bigger picture.

Sometimes you mistake the bigger picture; sometimes there is no bigger picture, just sound and fury signifying nothing.  But usually there is more going on in the world than just the surface effects.

Yea.   Just what is the Democrats' long-term strategy on race?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Put Not Your Trust in Princes

As Foghorn Leghorn might have said: there's something Ugh about folks what publicize their sorrows.  I am thinking first about reality TV.  What kind of a fool would get involved with that? And yet people are eager to get involved.

Reality TV is a lie, of course, just as it's a lie that the friendly woman on the morning TV show is like one of your friend in your neighborhood coffee klatsch.  No she isn't your friend; she just plays one on TV.

So it is when the race-card sharps descend on the latest race killing.  Trouble is that reality is not the same as reality TV.  Reality TV is an illusion, but when you deputize the race-card sharps to publicize your sorrow, you get humiliated.

That's what is developing in the Ferguson, Missouri race incident.  It's turning out that Michael Brown was not just a kid walking down the street.  As Bob Tyrreli writes, Swisher Sweets, the cigars that Brown strong-armed just before his fatal encounter with the police, are used in the mixing of pot and PCP. Here's a report on the manufacture, consumption, and effects of "street fry".  You take a Swisher Sweet, replace the tobacco with marijuana, and soak the result in embalming fluid [!] laced with PCP.  Effects can include walking in the middle of the street oblivious to the traffic.

I keep returning to my notion of government as force, and political supporters as the soldiers in the politicians' army.  I do that because I think that people that loiter around politics hoping for free stuff are like soldiers in the old European armies.  You join up like any 19-year-old with a vision of mayhem and loot, and you end up diseased and starved and dying by the side of the road a thousand miles from home.

This is what is happening to African-Americans as the Democrats march them on their road to the next political battle.  Complete and utter humiliation.

We are supposed to be all worked up about a 300 lb 18-year-old dope-head?  We are supposed to make a national issue about a kid going wrong and riling up a local Neighborhood Watch volunteer?  We are supposed to get upset about the travails of a jealous over-the-hill athlete? We get to burn up Los Angeles because some thug got beaten up by police after resisting arrest?

I've been reading Victor Davis Hanson and David Goldman in the last few days as they have talked about the later stages of the Civil War.  The decisive battles were fought in 1863, but the South wasn't ready to quit, so 1864 was about the slaughter of the South in Grant's Wilderness campaign and the humiliation of the South in Sherman's capture of Atlanta and his March to the Sea.

Strictly speaking, they argue, the South could not have won after 1863.  But it took a lot more defeat and humiliation before the South could surrender.  And even then, don't forget, it was General Lee that surrendered, not the politicians that sent hundreds of thousands to their death.

Let's think instead about LBJ's Great Society and the War on Poverty and the current Democratic coalition of minorities and women.  The intellectual battle was won decades ago by George Gilder in Wealth and Poverty and Charles Murray in Losing Ground.  The War on Poverty was a terrible idea that hurt the very people it was supposed to help. But liberals were not ready to admit defeat.

So now it is 30 years since the intellectual battles were fought, and mindless politicians like Barack Obama, who are like the young bucks that Scarlett O'Hara flirts with at the start of Gone With the Wind, are still leading women and minorities to perdition.  They are all for the cause, filled with the rhetoric of catchphrases and interest groups of a century of leftism.

Only it's all lies, lies that sauntering politicians tried out years before, and that shallow minds picked up and repeated.  That's what we got with the Reverends and Barack Obama and Eric Holder and the execrable hosts from MSNBC.

Right now everyone is pretending that the US Senate is up for grabs in November.  Harry Reid says he's confident that the Democrats will prevail -- but he has to -- and Republicans are confident but restrained.  I suspect that the result with be a shocker, a blot from the blue.

And the result will issue from the fact that the rank-and-file foot soldiers of the Democratic coalition are demoralized.  They have been marched and drilled and pushed and pulled and manipulated and lied to.  Hey, they still believe in the cause, sort of.  But now they are just tired.  Because they thought that by now they would be enjoying the benefit of hope and change, peace and justice.

Then there are the people that didn't vote in the last couple of elections because the Democrats did such a good job of defining Republicans as the party of the rich and the party of politicians that don't care about ordinary people.

So between the exhausted rank-and-file and the millions of folks angered and betrayed by the Obama gang (I'm looking at you millennials) it truly is Time for a Change.

But really, Americans, the best policy is not to put your trust in politicians in the first place.  That is the whole point of the middle class and its philosophy of the responsible individual.

There's only one thing you need to remember about politicians.  They only want your vote.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Dems Will Stop Playing the Race Card When...

I am reading yet another biography of my man Alexander Hamilton. It's Alexander Hamilton: A Life by Willard Sterne Randall, first published in 2003. Right now I gotta say that I like it better than the 2004 Ron Chernow Alexander Hamilton.  It seems to portray the extraordinary personality of this great founder with more force than the excellent Chernow biography.

One thing you get from Randall's reporting on the colonies in the 1770s is that those guys were crazy. They make the rioters of Ferguson, Missouri, look like pikers.

The 20-year-old Alexander Hamilton got right into the thick of things, reading and writing and getting in with all the revolutionary movers and shakers.  But he hated riot and mayhem.  When the rioters came to Kings College to rout out the hated Tory college president Myles Cooper, Hamilton stood on the steps of the college building to persuade the mob not to harm Cooper.

You don't see young collegians doing that in Ferguson today.  They wouldn't dare go against their professors and Deans of Diversity.  Because they know that you don't dare go against the liberal Man in today's America.  And as for President Obama smoothing the waters...

Here's young Ezra Klein mourning that President Obama can't give a "race speech" in Ferguson like the one he gave in 2008, and instead has to send in Attorney General Eric Holder.

It's because for some reason whenever the president opens his mouth on race it divides Americans.
Obama was elected president because he seemed, alone among American politicians, to be able to bridge the deep divides in American politics. The speech that rocketed him into national life was about bridging the red-blue divide. The speech that sealed his nomination was about bridging the racial divide. 
After Obama became president he complained that the police had "acted stupidly" when a Cambridge policeman arrested Harvard Professor Skip Gates on the doorstep of his home.
The backlash was fierce. To defuse it, Obama ended up inviting both Gates and his arresting officer for a "beer summit" at the White House.
Klein goes on to display poll data to show that prior to Obama Americans weren't all that divided on things like the O.J. verdict.  Now they are divided, so "the White House knows that when Obama leads, his critics become even less likely to follow."

You see what is going on here.  Liberals like Ezra Klein are looking at the division of America as something that just happened.  What's a poor guy like Obama to do when every time he opens his mouth his opponents collapse in a foaming rage?

How did it happen? If you are a Republican you think that it's the Democrats that have created the divide, starting with the contested election of 2000 when Sore Loser Al Gore wouldn't concede.  If you are a Democrat you believe that Republicans started it all with the outrageous impeachment of President Clinton over a lie about sex.

Here's something for thinking liberals to think about.  You chaps have set up the culture where everything is about race.  You have set up race/gender studies departments in every college in the nation.  You have created "critical legal studies" that interprets law as the expression of hidden interests and class domination.  I can see that there is a place to look at race and gender, and there is a value in thinking about law as something that goes beyond universal rules to fence in the bad guys.

But today in America thousands of good liberal activists running around doing activism based on a religious belief in fundamental injustice issuing from race and gender inequality and unjust laws.

On this liberal view everything is about race and gender, and everything can and should be politicized and brought under the lens of politics.  Because social justice.

On this view what conservatives call "playing the race card" is not cynical politics intended to divide people and keep racial minorities safe in racial silos.  It is a noble political struggle; it is fighting for peace and justice.

The bad thing is that things are going to go on being divided because both sides only see their own side.  The good thing is that passions are not nearly as high as they were when 20-year-old Alexander Hamilton was attending Kings College in New York City in the early 1770s.

But here's my sly little closer.  I don't think you can get 90 percent of any large group voting the same way unless you scare the crap out of them. We don't have white voters going 90% for anything; we don't even have single white women going 90% for Democrats.  But we do have African Americans going 90 percent plus for Democrats. So I'd say it's curious that these racial flaps like the Trayvon Martin case and the Ferguson riots occur in even years just before an election.

Yet here we have the White House and Ezra Klein making out that they have no clue why the president seems to divide people every time he opens his mouth.  Here's an idea.  Maybe it's because, as Peggy Noonan writes,
The president shouldn't be using a fateful and divisive word like "impeachment" to raise money and rouse his base. He shouldn't be at campaign-type rallies where he speaks only to the base, he should be speaking to the country.
Could Aunt Peggy have hit on something here, something that the White House and young Ezra have completely missed?

There is a danger, when you keep playing the race card right before elections and revving up the base to fever pitch.  One day it may not work, specially in the sixth year of an unspectacular presidency.  We've heard, after all, about people booing the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton and complaining that Obama has done nothing for them.

When the base is demoralized and starts to blow raspberries at its demagogic leaders as the Paris mob once did to Robespierre, what do you do for an encore?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Romney Rear-view Mirror

Here's an article that every single GOP operative should be reading and re-reading.  It's a piece by Salena Zito about a small businessman in Pennsylvania.

In the summer "Mark" runs a crew on the farm in Pennsylvania.  In winter he runs a snow-removal business.  You'd think he'd be a lock as a GOP voter.  But he's one of the missing. On Romney:
In hindsight, Mark said, Mitt Romney lined up with everything he believes in: “But what he was proposing was drowned out by the image Obama gave of him being a rich guy out of touch and tone-deaf to the needs of the country.
“Turns out Obama was that guy, not Romney,” he said, jumping off the back of the truck and heading back onto the farm field with his crew.
Hello GOP operatives!  Why do you chaps still have jobs?  If you can't reel in a small businessman doing business out of his pick-up truck, what's the point of guys like you?  Let's here some more from Mark.
“Gore, Kerry, Obama — all three made me dislike not just their rivals but them as well,”
So let's get back to reality.  The idea that the Democrats push, that they are for the people and "working families" and that the Republican Party is the party of the rich is a lie.  The truth is that the Democratic Party is an over-under party. On one side it's the party of the rich, the crony capitalist, and the tenured.  On the other side it's the party of the people that vote for the guy that offers free stuff. The Republican Party is the party of the responsible middle class, the people that go to work, obey the rules, pay their taxes and raise their families.

But above all, the Democratic Party is the party of the rich.  Warren Buffett? Democrat.  Bill Gates? Democrat.  George Soros?  Democrat moneybags.  Google Guys? Democrat.  Coal baron Tom Steyer? Democrat.  Koch Brothers?  Libertarian.  What's the matter with those Koch Brothers?

Now I don't know exactly why all these folks are Democrats.  I think that partly it is snobbery; they don't want to be lumped in with the bigots and the fundamentalist Christians.  I think partly it is the hall pass: support Democrats and we'll leave you alone.  Partly it is the idea that by voting for Democrats they are "giving back" to the poor, getting an indulgence from the pope. I think it is partly the instinctive knowledge of established tycoons that Democrats will help them fight off the young and hungry competition.

But it really doesn't matter why the rich vote Democrat.  GOP operatives need to spawn a hundred memes that tag the Democrats as the party of the rich and the privileged, and the party that doesn't care about middle-class people like you and me.  It can't be that hard, because it's true!

Here's Wayne Allyn Root getting an earful from his taxi-driver.
This taxi driver had just heard from his insurance agent. He and his wife are in their late 40’s. They just found out their premium will double starting January 1st. But that’s only the start of their pain. Their co-pay istripling from $10 per doctor visit to $30. Their surgery coverage is going from 90 percent to only 80 percent. And their deductible is doubling from $500 to $1000. Add it up, and this middle class couple faces a tripling of healthcare expenses.
Look, how hard can this be?  You talk about the rich: how if you want some government subsidy or some government loan, all you need to do is give a little or a lot to the Democrats at election time.  You talk about the middle class: you go to work, you pay your taxes, your pay your mortgage, you start a business, and every time you look around the government is dipping its hand in your pocket, or making it harder for you to make ends meet.

If it were me, I'd want to veer off into talking about tenured school teachers that don't teach, pensioned government employees that sit around all day watching internet porn.  I'd talk about whole cities and communities blighted by government programs that give a hand out not a hand up.  But I suspect that the GOP needs the votes of the tenured and can't afford to offend them.

But let's hop to it, GOP. We've now got the problem before us in black and white.

It's not that hard.  Tell the truth and shame the devil.  Let's do it! 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Oh No! Not Again!

I suspect that the private reaction to the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting among old white guys like me was: Oh, no, not again.

Because racist sexist homophobe guys like me just want this whole era of race politics to be over.  That's why we all voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

Then we learned that for Barack and the boys race politics is what it's all about.  They had no intention of moving on to a post-partisan, post-racial politics.

But still, it's discouraging: nearly 50 years after Watts, over 20 years after the Rodney King riots, here we are again with riots after a questionable arrest of a black man.

In retrospect it's not surprising, according to Megan McArdle.  Ferguson is a suburb of St. Louis that just flipped to majority black, and the city council and the police department are still white.

But now we learn that the dead 18-year-old might have been involved in a robbery immediately before his fatal encounter with the police.

Here was my takeaway from Ferguson: black folks booing Reverend Al Sharpton.

That's the thing about putting your faith in princes and politicians.  You find out eventually that it's like enlisting in the army.  First of all, you find out pretty quickly that you can't leave: desertion is what the army chiefs call it.  Then you realize that you are just cannon fodder.  The leaders aren't leading you to a promised land.  They are just using you in their cunning political power plays.  And when you are no longer useful, they will leave you by the side of the road.

That's why it's discouraging to me that blacks are still rioting, 50 years after Watts.  Back in 1992 Pat Buchanan coined the idea of "peasants with pitchforks" rebelling against the GOP establishment.  It's an apt notion because peasant uprisings never succeed.  Why?  Because the peasants are no match for the army.  And working-class or minority rioters are no match for the government and the middle class.

And that's the point.  The middle class doesn't riot.  Why not?  Because the middle class doesn't just sit there in a deteriorating situation, blaming the world for its problems, and finally exploding in rage.  Peasants do that, whether rural or urban.  But the middle class is different, because the middle class is composed of People of the Responsible Self.  The middle class believes that it is up to each individual to fix their problems, and waiting around for the government to fix things is likely to be a long wait.

And that's why I'm discouraged.  The riots in Ferguson, Missouri, tell us that African Americans still haven't climbed up into the middle class. And that's a crying shame.

On the other hand, they are starting to boo Barack and Al. That is what I call progress.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What are Police For?

Another white policeman has shot and killed another black teenager, this time in Ferguson, Missouri, and all the usual suspects are telling the same old story: racism.

Or, if you are a conservative, you write: yes, it's racism, but.

Let's put all this in perspective.  The reason that the Brits created a London police force back in the 19th century was to control under-class males.  They called the new policeman "bobbies" or "peelers" after the Home Secretary, Robert Peel, that pushed the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829.

That is what urban police forces are for: to control under-class young males.

The problem then and the problem now is that when people migrate to the city they typically experience severe social dislocation.  Men abandon their wives, boys grow up without fathers, young women support their children "on their backs."  And above all, young men do what comes naturally; they join a criminal gang and make war on other gangs and loot the poor.

We should not look down on this.  Politicians do the same: they join a political party, make war on other political parties, and loot the taxpayer.

In the United States this situation began not later than the arrival of the Irish on the coffin ships in the hungry 1840s.  In the 1850s in Manhattan they talked about 50,000 "nymphs of the pave."  And Irish lads were well represented in the draft riots of the 1860s.

By the end of the 19th century people were starting to talk about "lace curtain" Irish rather than "shanty" Irish.  And the menace of Irish criminality and barbarism had been replaced by the menace of Italian and Jewish gangs.

The point is, of course, that the police didn't like the immigrant kids and the kids didn't like the police. Fast forward to today, and it is black teenagers in gangs, not to mention the growing menace of Salvadorean gangs.  The police are involved in a daily battle with these young gang-bangers and vice versa.

There is an additional factor to consider.  The urban gang is very like a proto-government. It defends territory and it taxes the people in its territory with what used to be called "protection money," as in "nice little business you got here, pity if something should happen to it."  So the urban gang is, in a real sense, a mild rebellion or uprising: urban guerrillas, if you like.  Thus the urban gang is an intolerable affront to the official government.  It ought to winkle it out and destroy it, but instead often coexists with it in an uneasy unofficial truce.  See Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, Mayor.

In the end, each wave of young lower-class men get socialized into the life of the city; they become workers and husbands and citizens, and they are replaced by new immigrants and new gangs.

But the welfare state throws up its peculiar barriers to this process.  First of all, the welfare state taxes work. If you hire someone to work you can't just pay them; you have to pay taxes: payroll, unemployment, workers comp., which raises the cost of labor.  Maybe you choose to hire those teenage kids "off the books."  And then welfare makes it possible for lower-class women to raise children without the assistance of lower-class men.  So we get the situation illuminated by Charles Murray in Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010. The women don't marry and the men don't work.  That's a pity because the top indicator of child welfare is that children live with their biological, married parents.

So what's the solution?  Liberals and blacks yell about racism, and everybody else mutters in their beards about fathers and welfare and work.

I will tell you what I think will happen.  I think that black women will turn to marriage, and that will put black men to work.  Why do I say this?  Because for the lower-class woman struggling in the chaotic underclass world the hope, the vision, of middle-class respectability is a constant ache that never goes away.  And it won't go away until black lower-class women get themselves into the middle class.

There's no mystery about how you get to middle-class respectability.  You marry the father of your children and he goes to work to support them.

Is there anything we can do?  Well, we can make welfare more difficult and we can make work more easy.  Other than that, I don't have a clue what to do.

Meanwhile the police will be left on the front line, trying to keep order in the constant battle with gang-socialized young men.