Friday, August 29, 2014

The Silence of the Lambs

I'll be going to dinner with some liberal friends tonight.  And every time I do that I think of the things I'd like to ask them, but am too polite to do.

Can liberals really stand by in silence as the President of the United States arbitrarily writes the law, on Obamacare, on immigration, without benefit of Congress?  Would not liberals be tearing up the carpet if a Republican president were doing anything remotely similar?  Do liberals not understand how their silence enrages conservatives who think of, or hope for an America where both sides of the political divide recognize the need to make their own representatives obey the law and respect the constitution?

Can liberals really sit back in silence when partisan Democratic prosecutors in Wisconsin conduct a years-long investigation into the relations between conservative political committees and Governor Scott Walker in the hope of finding something, anything with which to hang on him?  Do liberals think that this could never happen to them?

And what about the criminal indictment of Governor Perry in Texas for threatening to veto an appropriation for a public integrity office in Austin?  Well, OK, a number of liberal commentators actually have objected to this.

Look I get what is going on here.  Your ordinary rank-and-file liberal has never heard about these matters.  They are just not the sort of thing that gets liberal commentators all riled up; they are not the kind of thing that publicity-seeking liberal activists are interested in.

So if a rank-and-file liberal hears about any of these issues they just shrug and forget about it. Hey, it's not their ox getting gored.

But you can be sure that once we get a Republican president in 2017 with a Republican Congress my liberal friends will be once again sensitive to the slightest appearance of impropriety and corruption, and their concern will by amplified by a hundred journalists and a thousand "activist" organizations.

OK, OK. It's what I call the Incoming Missile Syndrome.  Everyone responds and leaps for cover when the incoming missiles start raining in on their firebase.  But when you are sending mortar rounds out to some enemy trench half a mile away, who cares?  They had it coming.

There are, of course, maxims that deal with this sort of thing.  "Let sleeping dogs lie." "Do as you would be done by."  The point is that if you poke your political opponents you may find too late that you have provoked them into a political rage that will end up hurting your side more than it disables the other side.

Or maybe not.  They say that the attacks on the Koch Brothers are bearing fruit.  Would-be conservative contributors are said to be skittish because they don't want to attract attention to themselves.

But I suppose the ruling class has always tried to intimidate the opposition.  Nothing changes unless there are people who can look back after the revolution and declare how they "boldly did outdare / The dangers of the time."

But I'd still like it if my liberal friends actually had a single independent thought in their NYT/NPR prompted minds.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Liberals Lose the Plot

You've probably heard vaguely about the Rotherham 1400 in England. How "Asian" (read immigrant Pakistani) men ran a rape operation that preyed on underage girls for years right under the noses of city officials who did nothing for fear of being labeled racists.  Here's the BBC report. This flap has occurred in the wake of a report that identified the coverups going back into the 1990s.  And why did it occur? Here's what rank-and-file bureaucrats had to say:
Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought as racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.
Golly, I wonder how the lifer bureaucrats got that idea?  By the way, you might not have realized it, but pretty well all the politicians in Rotherham are Labour.  Did you know that pretty well all the politicians in and around Ferguson, Missouri, are Democrats too?

By the way, a high proportion of the victims were known to authorities because they had been identified by the child protective bureaucracy because of dysfunctional family issues.  Oh, and they were white.

You could get a look into the British government bureaucrat culture that condoned all this by reading the Inspector Gadget police blog. Only you can't, because the police inspector that ran the blog has shut it down as ordered by his superiors. OK, it's still on the Wayback Machine.  Again and again, Gadget illuminated the multi-culti left-wing culture that was forced on British policing by the higher-ups.  And he would write about "The Swamp" where the white welfare underclass lived in government housing in utter social collapse.

If you read Victor Davis Hanson you will experience that a similar project is going on in the US.  The liberal welfare state vigorously enforces the law on white middle-class suburbaners.  But when it comes to the Hispanic folks living out in the rural California Central Valley where Hanson lives there seems to be no attempt at law enforcement.  You can see how that works.  Liberals believe that Hispanics are victims and thus exempt from full responsibility.  And individual law enforcement officers know that enforcing the law on "immigrant communities" means nothing but trouble.

Let's return to the block quote up above.  These bureaucrats go to diversity training where they are trained to be super sensitive to any action that might be construed as racist.  So it's not surprising that they act as required by their training.  Most people -- up to 85 percent -- are conformists that do what they are told.  And as for bureaucrats with lifetime tenure...

Let us rehearse what has happened here.  Liberals, in their devotion to the struggle against injustice have upended the good old system that called for the law to apply equally to everyone.  Nobody got a pass, not the noble in his castle, not the peasant on his farm.

But under liberalism, under the necessity of wiping out racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia, the rule of law has been bent and broken.  You can't expect the victim classes to be subject to bourgeois law.  That would be unjust!  That would be like saying that the rich and the poor have an equal right to sleep under the Seine bridges in Paris.

There's another consequence of the necessity of wiping out racism, sexism, classism, and climate change.  You have to exempt the ruling class from the rule of law, as well.  We see this in the actions of the Obama administration.  It's so important to implement universal healthcare that the administration has to be able to make law up as it goes along.  It's so important to amnesty millions of illegal immigrants that we can't wait for Congress to get around to passing a law.  It is so important to dig out the racists in the Ferguson, Missouri, police department that the Attorney General of the United States needs to show up and whip the investigations along.

The point of the rule of law, of the separation of powers, of equality under the law is that anything else leads to mistrust and conflict.  Liberals think that their moral superiority franchises them to bend the rules a little in order to push along the march of progress.

They are wrong, of course, and they will pay for their folly.

Unfortunately the rest of us are going to have to pay for liberal folly as well.  Big time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Buffett Stock Tip: Sell Obamas

The thing about a chap like Warren Buffett, described by some as the world's foremost stock picker, is that he has to be careful.

A rich billionaire has to keep his friends close and his enemies closer.  Because billions.  Everyone wants a piece of Warren, including the tax man.

So Warren Buffett has sailed a very clever course during the Obama administration, as Andrew B. Wilson reminds us.  Back in November 2010 Warren wrote a letter to his Uncle Sam (printed in the New York Times) thanking his uncle for getting us through the Crash of 2008.

A grateful president gave Warren a Presidential Medal of Freedom not three months later.

And Warren has chirped up a couple of times about the benefit of increasing taxes.

Earlier this year, Fox News reported that Warren had given $1.2 billion to abortion groups since 2001.

I tell you what I call all of that.  I call that taking care of business.  A big billionaire like Buffett is a target for political activists.  It's a good idea for someone like him to kow-tow to the liberal household gods and buy a little protection.

But now it turns out that Buffett is helping finance the "inversion" of Burger King, as the burger business merges with Canada's Tim Horton and proposes that the resulting corporation be a Canadian corporation and lower its US tax bill.

Chaps like President Obama call the inversionists unpatriotic.

Wait!  I thought that dissent was the highest form of patriotism!

So what is Warren Buffett's game?  He has been making nicey nice with the Dems ever since he endorsed Obama in 2008.

I will tell you what Buffett is saying.  He is saying that Obama is now a busted flush and so he doesn't have to suck up to Obama and his Chicago machine any more.

In other words, the world's foremost stock picker is telling us that it is time to sell Obama.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Obama Era: A Rendez-vous with Reality

I have said it before, and I say it again.  The reason I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 with all the kiddies was because I felt that Democrats needed to own foreign policy.

Democrats needed to be in charge and experience for themselves what the US needed to do with respect to the forces in the world. Otherwise they'd just play politics like they did from the day after 9/11.  Remember?  The first liberal meme on 9/11 was that the Bush administration had failed to "connect the dots."  Then they put Jamie Gorelick on the 9/11 Commission even though she was the one that put up a wall between the FBI and the CIA.

On Iraq, Democrats were for it before they were against it.  And now, it seems, per Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal, their bellwether liberal writers are weather-vaning back in favor of it: at least to the extent of favoring "doing something" about ISIS.

OK.  I'm not a genius. I wasn't thinking that some years down the road a complete conflagration in the Middle East would turn liberal eyes back towards the late 1990s consensus on foreign policy.  I just wanted the liberal ruling class to get its fingers on the levers of power and make up its mind what it wanted.

The other good thing about the Obama era is that Democrats have been in charge during the discouraging years immediately after the generational Crash of 2008.  Imagine if John McCain had won the election and stumble-bummed his way through 2009-12 like Barack Obama!  He'd already be down in the presidential basement and everyone would agree that he was worse than Herbert Hoover, and he would be proof, as if any proof were needed, that Republicans didn't care about ordinary people and only cared about The Rich.

Here we are, with Obamacare, ISIS, corruption, economic stagnation, race riots, and it's all hanging around Obama's neck.  So now Republicans have a chance for real economic reform.

But the basic problem is still there.  The American people really don't know from bupkis when it comes to the economy.  As Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writes, we still retain our paleolithic economic intuitions.

What do we need to do?  It's not rocket science.

We need to X out all the stupid economic regulation from minimum wage to child labor that makes it extremely hard for marginal people to get ahead in America.

We need to end the generational injustice of Social Security and Medicare.  Here's my idea of justice.  So long as you are able to work, you get to retire when you have saved enough money to yield an income to retire on.  That means, if you wonder, that the old 'uns like me have saved enough to create jobs for the people whose work will support us in our old age.

We need to make welfare time-limited.  That was the idea behind the reform of 1996, but Obama has quietly repealed it -- without the consent of the governed.  And the American middle class needs to be socialized to believe that it is the personal responsibility of each American to relieve the sufferings of the poor.

We need to go back to sound money.  Of course.  But the lesson of the 20th century is that you can't have sound money with big government, because Big G is always screwing up the economy and needing to devalue the currency in order to get out of a jam.

We need to get the government out of education.  Maybe the best thing to do is to repeal compulsory attendance.  Middle-class kids will grow up to be literate and numerate anyway.  So that means we can concentrate on the children of the  poor.  And it would be better if: a) the poor paid for their kids' education as they do in the Third World  (see James Tooley and The Beautiful Tree) and b) the slack were made up with money from billionaires and time from middle-class volunteers.

I know what you are saying.  Good luck with that.

That's why I say that the only way out is through a moral/religious awakening that sweeps away all the dogs-in-a-manger -- that's you and me -- that won't go with the program because they won't give up their own personal little benefit from the government.

But at least the Obama era will have given many of us a rather compelling rendez-vous with the reality that progressivism doesn't work.

And the result will be some sensible piecemeal reforms that will heal the economy until the next Obama era thirty years from now.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Understanding 200 Years of "Counter Ideologies"

Why do they keep coming?  I am talking about what Abram N. Shulsky calls "counter-ideologies" to liberalism (i.e., classical liberalism).
Despite its overall success, liberalism has for two centuries been dogged by a series of counter-ideologies. So far, they have all been defeated, but sometimes only at great cost.
We are talking about Romanticism, bohemianism, avant-gardism, "extreme nationalism," fascism, and "various forms of communism and leftist extremism." And now Islamism.  What is going on?

After much to-ing and fro-ing Shulsky comes to the conclusion that the weakness of classical liberalism is that its intellectuals no longer believe in it and "there are seemingly ineradicable longings of the human soul that it ignores or pretends do not exist."

Yes, but.

I take the position that of course there have been lots of "counter-ideologies" to our present world of --well, let's call it "global responsible individualism."  When you turn the world upside down, what do you expect?

When you write history, you write it as though your kind naturally acceded to world dominance by the grace of God of the inevitable march of history.  And to call your ideology "liberalism" kinda hides the truth.  Because the process was not liberal; it was instead a brutal process of creative destruction.  Old ways and empires and forms of dominance from one end of the world to the other were trashed and thrown on the ash heap of history.  And replaced with something different.

Of course people objected to this.  Of course the Islamists are hopping mad.  "We" are tearing their world up by the roots and, worse, treating the Middle East as a savage backwater that can be conquered and remade at the will and the convenience of our commerce and our power.

Let's unpack the term I've used "global responsible individualism."  I use that term because until just yesterday life for most humans was local, was subservient, and was collective.  People lived and died pretty near to where they were born.  They belonged to a small community that was profoundly hierarchical; there was a lord, and in your particular family there was a patriarch.  You did what you were told.  And life was collective.  You didn't think of "I"; you just lived the way of the ancestors and the tribe and the village without thinking that there could be another way.

But now that's changed. Let's start with global.  Both my grandfathers, I think, were born in England. But my father was born in Russia and my mother was born in Japan.  I was born in India.  My children were born in the US.  Two of my grandchildren were born in England, two in France, and two in the US. Just to make it fair!

Then there is the "responsible individualism."  In my view, starting in the Axial Age of the first millennium BC, the idea got about that people were responsible for the conduct of their lives individually to God. And there were consequences: Heaven, Hell, reincarnation as a dog.

My feeling is that few people were affected by this ideological revolution until Gutenberg, until the Reformation, until the industrial revolution.  The People of the Responsible Self were a small, but growing minority.  Then the movement went critical and conquered the world.

Now responsible individualism is hard.  Everything about your life is piled on your back; "you" not "they" is responsible. And the weight can become intolerable.  Of course people revolted against this revolution.   Artists didn't like the idea that creative inspiration was being devalued by reason and steam engines. Intellectuals didn't like the idea that the market economy was self-regulating and didn't really need people like them to run the trains. Workers were confused as they migrated out of rural idiocy into the rough and tumble of city work and life.  The rich didn't like the cities busting out and destroying their parks and shrubberies.

Of course there is unrest; of course there are counter-ideologies.  Of course there are wars and movements and religions and cults and disasters.  This is the biggest thing ever.

Meanwhile, as Instapundit Glenn Reynolds reminds us,
most people’s economic intuitions are — quite literally — paleolithic. Whole political ideologies have flourished by taking advantage of that.
Which is merely saying the same thing as Shulsky and me.  Here we are, billions of humans still mostly programmed for life in the Old Stone Age that was local, subservient, and collective.  And we are being forced to life in a world that is global, responsible, and individual.

Many people would rather go back to the old ways.

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.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Is the Corruption Finally Catching Up with Liberals?

Remember back in 2006?  Liberals and the media were all wigged out about Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  You can get the flavor from Wikipedia:
The federal investigations into Jack Abramoff and his political and business dealings are among the broadest and most extensive in American political history, involving well over a dozen offices of the FBI and over 100 FBI agents tasked exclusively to the investigation.
And what had Abramoff done?  Well, among other things he was lobbying for Indian casinos.  And so the voters properly wiped out the Republicans in the 2006 midterms.

But what about Democratic corruption?  Well, never mind that the media tend to tag Republican corruptocrats with and "R" but leave off the party affiliation where Democratic corruption is concerned.  The fact is that the media don't tag normal pay-for-play influence peddling as corruption, so long as it advances the liberal agenda. Medicare and Medicaid and welfare programs are rotted with corruption; nobody cares.  Solar power and wind turbines are drenched in subsidy, paid for by taxpayers and ordinary electric utility customers.  And the winners are politically connected individuals and corporations.  Then we have well-connected liberal billionaires like Tom Steyer.  He's putting money into politics to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, but wouldn't you know he "has long had a stake in a rival pipeline called Kinder Morgan."  Actually Kinder Morgan is a massive pipeline/terminal corporation.  Tom's invested in San Francisco's Mission District and wouldn't you know Nancy Pelosi has pushed transit and infrastructure improvements to help.

The point is that if you are a liberal lady and you read The New York Times and listen to NPR it would be really hard for you to get the idea that fracking is safe, that Tom Steyer made lots of money building coal plants in Indonesia, that the 800-pound gorilla in the room on global warming is not Big Oil money but billions in government grants to go-along-to-get-along scientists.  Nice liberal ladies know nothing except top-down benevolent programs from credentialed experts and government bureaucracies advocated by social-justice non-profits.

The problem is that government is force.  All government programs are attempts to replace the velvet glove of voluntary cooperation with the mailed fist of force.  And force ain't pretty. When you look beneath the propaganda and the PR you get to see incompetence and corruption.  You can usually keep the lid on, especially if you have a mainstream media that believes that liberals and progressives have their hearts in the right place.

But eventually, the lid blows off.

Over the next two years we'll see a lot of lids blow off, and the nice liberal ladies are going to be confused and demoralized.  Nobody told them, you see; they had no idea.

Welcome to the world, liberal ladies.  We conservatives do not propose limited government because we are mean-spirited bigots.  We believe in limited government because all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Yeah, power even corrupts liberals.  We believe in limited government because we believe that force is very seldom needed in day-to-day human affairs, except in the defense against enemies foreign and domestic.

It's a shame, really.  In January 2017 the US will wake up with a Republican president and a Republican Congress, and liberal ladies will be asking each other how it could have happened.  After all, they will say to each other, nobody I know voted for the Republican.

It will have happened because nice liberal ladies believed what they were told, and didn't think to ask questions, didn't think to step outside their liberal bubbles so that they might accidentally encounter non-liberal reality.

But for the rest of us, the next two years will be a bracing experience.  Maybe we can actually hope for change.  Not just any old change, but change for the better.

But one thing is for sure.  It ain't gonna be easy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Is It World War? Or Not?

With the turmoil in the Middle East, there are two possibilities.  Either this is the end of the world as we know it, or it is not.  Either the ISIS fighters will take over Iraq, or they won't.  Either it's the end of the Pax Americana or it isn't.  Either Islam is going to take over the world, or it isn't.

It's the difference between the Mongols, that spread westwards across the Asian steppe to the borders of Europe, and the Boxer Rebellion in China that was defeated by western forces at the turn of the 20th century.

The Boxer Rebellion was an anti-western movement in China that rose up in 1898.  Of course, they didn't call themselves "Boxers;" they called themselves the "Righteous and Harmonious Fists."  It was a movement of young men driven to desperation by the dominance of the western powers in China at the end of the 19th century.  The Boxers thought that they were invulnerable to western cannons and rifles.

Then there were the Ghost Shirt dancers of the North American plains, also in the late 19th century.  The dancers, driven to desperation by the western migration of the white man, thought that their shirts had magical properties that would protect the wearer from western bullets.

There are some -- I am thinking of chaps like David Goldman -- that interpret the upsurge in Muslim terrorism as a movement of desperation, similar to the Boxers and the Ghost Shirters.  On this view the suicide bombers and ISIS fighters are fighting a desperate rearguard action against western culture and dominance.

Of course, it also happens that backward but aggressive fighters overwhelm a more powerful empire that has gone soft.  The Mongols defeated the Chinese in the 13th century (admittedly during a time of troubles).  The British barbarians came to India in about 1700 and dominated that vast and populous subcontinent for the next two centuries.  The Germans rose up in Europe during the 19th century, lost two world wars, and still ended up dominating the continent. Anything can happen.

Everybody is worried about Vladimir Putin's Russia.  But Russia's economy runs on selling hydrocarbons.  Everybody is worried about the Middle East.  But without oil, the Middle East would be a poverty-stricken desert.  Everybody is worried about China, but China is about to enter a demographic death spiral, courtesy of the One Child policy.  Nobody is worried about India, but then they never are.

The point is that we don't have a clue what is going to happen.  We don't know if the US will descend into entitlement program chaos, or a war between the races or a war between the religions, or a war between the classes.

In all this chaos fear there is probably only one thing that Americans can agree upon.  President Obama is probably the worst president ever.

But he sure has succeeded in getting Americans' attention.  That might be the best thing ever.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Is There Blood in the Water?

Here we are coming off a weekend when Hillary Clinton criticized President Obama on foreign policy. The president's former Secretary of State said that "Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle." Oh yeah.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) criticized the president on harsh interrogation techniques at the CIA. She's "An institutionalist who has repeatedly sought to defend congressional power."  Oh yeah.

So now a few Democrats that want to establish centrist cred are joining those obstructive and mean-spirited wascally Wepublicans who have been cynically creating gridlock and opposing our Lightworker president for the last four years.

And there are faint, oh so faint, indications that the folks in the liberal media, the storied "Democratic operatives with bylines" are starting to stir.

What could be going on?

I will tell you what is going on.  The Democrats are looking around the next bend in the river and they are seeing and hearing a wave election that will deliver the U.S. Senate to the Republicans.

In other words, there is blood in the water, and when there is blood in the water the normally docile domestic sharks that can be disciplined by a sharp blow on the nose, according to sources in the US Special Forces, are starting to thrash into a feeding frenzy.

Yeah.  Where were they when it mattered, when lies were being told about Obamacare, stupid stuff was going down on climate change, when "soft power" was all the rage in foreign policy?

I'll tell you where they were.  They were going along to get along.  They were responding like little puppy-dogs when a White House aide started shouting at them on the phone when they made a teensy-weensy criticism of the president.

Hey, but let's not be angry.  Let's not be despondent.  It probably had to be this way.  The American people don't know nuttin' about economics, about politics, about limited government, about the best way to grow the economy.  And in normal times there really isn't any bandwidth for a conservative message to balance the lefty cheerleading from the Democratic operatives with bylines.  The facts and reality may be conservative, but politics and religion are all about an ideal and perfect world.  So people aren't going to listen to a conservative message until democracy has given them what they want, good and hard.

So now the Blessed Moment of Hope and Change is over.  Now President Obama has a 40% approval rating.  Now voters are angry, even to the extent of disliking their own congressman.  "Everything is terrible" and "for the first time in 25 years, [pollsters find] that a majority of people disapprove of the job their own Congress member is doing."

Golly.  How could that have happened?  It couldn't be a failure of the ruling class from Obama to dogcatcher, could it?

Because, as everybody knows, anyone that opposes President Obama must be a racist, sexist homophobe.  By definition.

Until there is blood in the water.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Let's Have a Right-on Production of Verdi's Aida

Yesterday I was driving south through Oregon to visit with my daughter and family at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.

Started by a high-school teacher in the 1930s the Shakespeare festival has become reliably liberal over the years, and why not: that's what its audience of 50-something liberal women wants.  So we've had a woman CEO as Julius Caesar and a succession of predictably liberal contemporary plays. Recently the festival developed an American Revolutions project.  But nobody ever submitted a play with a "conservative perspective."

As I drove south I started thinking.  First I thought about how beautiful this country is, how breathtakingly beautiful and how I love it.  Then I thought about Aida.

That's because I was listening to Aida on my smartphone.

And I thought: Imagine a super-trendy production of Aida!  No, it wouldn't be some predictable liberal thing with Aida as a man, or the Pharoah dressed up as the Koch Brothers.  No, this one would be Speaking Truth to Power, the only real power in America: liberal power.

Now the plot in Aida goes something like this: Young Radames is sent off to battle with the Ethiopians, and the Pharaoh's daughter Amneris is in love with him.  Unfortunately, Radames is in love with a pretty little Ethiopian slave Aida.  Wait!  From what I have seen of young East African women they are tall and stuningly beautiful.  Anyway, Amneris suspects something is going on and, when she finds out that the slave Aida is her rival, plots to deal with her rival.  Wouldn't you know it turns out that Aida is also the daughter of a king, the captured Amonasro, king of the Ethiopians, and when Amonasro sees his daughter he gets her to deliver intelligence on the Egyptian army from Radames.  Amneris gets wind of this so it's curtains for Aida and Radames.  Except for the fact that Amneris gets to execute the love of her life, and then she's sorry.

Here's my right-on version of Aida that is set up for telling truth to liberal power.  The Pharaoh is the President of Egypt University and the Chief Priest that sends everyone off to war is the Chief Diversity Officer.  Amneris, of course, is the Dean of Women's Studies and Radames is a young professor about to get tenure.  Aida is a young graduate student that's really a closet Christian, daughter of Amonasro, president of the awful Christian college across town.

Well, you can imagine what the feminist Amneris, Dean of Women's Studies, is going to do, especially with her power over graduate student Aida and with Radames' application up before the tenure committee.

Just saying.  But it's my conceit that the good folks at Ashland couldn't even conceive of a right-on adaptation like this, let alone actually dare to do it, let alone dare to "challenge" their audience of 50-year-old liberal women.

Why not?  Because the whole speaking truth to power was always bullshit.  It was not about speaking truth to power, it was about delegitimizing and marginalizing and "challenging" mainstream bourgeois culture and replacing it with liberal activist culture.  It was about smashing the patriarchy and destabilizing capitalism.  It was about reining in the culture of freedom and teaching people that they'd better bow to the liberal gods or they would never get tenure.

Oh well, it's good to have fantasies.  Imagine a world where Americans were allowed to make fun of their rulers.  Like, oh, back in the Bush era.

Now it's time to go have lunch with my daughter.  This evening we'll go to a production of The Tempest. 

Oh brave new world that has such people in it.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Watch Democrats Break Apart

Every political party is a coalition of interests, and some of those interests conflict.

That's why political analysts tell us that a political coalition usually forms from interests out of power. They are united by their separated grievances. But once the coalition gets into power then the conflicts start to surface.

For ten years now, we have all agreed with Judis and Teixeira in The Emerging Democratic Majority that Democrats owned the future with the whammo coalition of minorities, women, educated and youth.

That was then; this is now.

Let's take immigration.  There is a gaping hole of interest between African American and recent-immigrant Hispanics.  It is encapsulated by this pithy remark from Instapundit Glenn Reynolds on a complaint that comprehensive immigration reform would be "disastrous" for blacks, particularly low-skilled African American men.  Says Reynolds:
When we had a (very modest) crackdown on businesses hiring illegals here in Knoxville, businesses quickly replaced Mexican workers with black workers.
 There's a double problem here for Democrats.  In the first place Hispanics are souring rapidly on Obama because of the economy; no doubt that's why Obama is dangling immigration before them.  But African Americans are also feeling betrayed, even if they can't or won't admit it.  They thought that America's First Black President would change everything.

Don't forget that the "yoof" is buried in student debt and in Colorodo Democrats seem to need to terrify women that Republicans want to take away their birth control pills. Well, you never know with those Wascally Wepublicans!

There may be a lesson here.  When you break America up into activist-led silos, each of them curdling with some activist-stirred grievance, then you shouldn't be surprised that you end up breaking America up into warring activist-led factions.

Let's get back to first principles. The whole point of the single-language nation state is that it scrambles the warring tribes together into a single nation of people.  People come out of their collective tribes and live as responsible individuals; they leave their tribal grievances behind and live under the faith that if they get a skill and offer it to the market and work hard then they will find some kind of decent prosperity and their children will reap the reward of their efforts.

I get the point of left-wing activism.  There are some people left behind; there are many people just trying to catch up.  There is injustice in the world.  It may be OK to take people that are not yet ready to become responsible individuals and fold them into collective organizations like labor unions, where they submerge their individual self in a collective. But that's a temporary fix; the modern world works on responsible individualism, and will keep doing so until we come up with something better.  If you lower your sights and join a collective then you are giving up your birthright in freedom.  You have taken the by-road into neo-serfdom, and the people that led you into that have led you into a diminished life.

I give our liberal friends the benefit of the doubt; it's a noble thing to fight for the oppressed.  But when you give the government extraordinary powers to fight injustice you'd better understand what you are doing.  You are saying that voluntary cooperation between social animals has failed and now the only resort is force. It's hard to understand this, because the corpus of left-wing thought is so huge and so tangled that few people really get what it all adds up to.

In my view, one of the few lefties that has really worked to face the truth is the grand old man of German thinking, J├╝rgen Habermas.  He recognizes that the great modern systems, from science to business to government, are inherently dominatory.  He wants to balance the power of the systems with the countervailing power of a peer-to-peer "discourse ethics." In other words, you can't just roll over your political opponent with name-calling and street power; you have to engage your opponents as peers with a legitimate opposing view.

Brave words!  But note the gorilla in the room.  Discourse ethics cannot work until the Alinsky-believing left-wing activist gets to be named and shamed every time he unleashes the all-purpose pejoratives like racist, sexist, homophobe.

Meanwhile, watch the Democrats try to keep their coalition together as its members start to wake up to their irreconcilable differences.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"How Can You Tell a Racist?"

Here's an All American one-liner for you.
Question: How can you tell a racist?

Answer: Shhh! You're not supposed to say!
Put it this way.  If you are an African American and you have the cultural power to tell a racist they are a racist then I submit to you that the reign of the racists is over.

Put it another way.  Would you, as a Negro back in the Jim Crow South have dared to call Democratic National Committeeman Bull Connor a racist to his face?

Fast forward to today.  Would you, as a white American with a job in a big corporation, dare to call Attorney General Eric Holder a racist to his face?  You know you wouldn't, because you want to keep your job.

OK, let's back up a bit.  We've been told over and over by our liberal friends that blacks can't be racist because they don't have the power.  Here is Michael Eric Dyson making the point.

I have a proposal.  If you have the cultural power to run around branding other people with political pejoratives, then you are the problem, not the other people.

If liberal race activists have the cultural power to run around calling white people racists, and their white targets are cringing in fear, then I say that white racism isn't a problem any more.  Case in  point is some-time presidential candidate Reverend Jesse Jackson who's made a good living shaking down corporations for race crimes.  Ditto Reverend Al Sharpton.

When feminists run around calling people sexists, it is they that have the power, not the cringing patriarchs.

When gays run around calling people homophobes, it is they that have the power, not the cringing traditionalists.

When liberals in general run around calling people McCarthyites and fascists, it is they that have the power, not the cringing right-wing nutcases.

When GOP candidates are trying to tell blacks and Hispanics in a kind of reverse Sally Field: Hey, we like you, we really like you!  It is not the GOP that is in the catbird seat.

All this is by way of a corollary to my recent post: "I Will Defend Americans Against the Bullies!" You see, it's all very well for the Next President of the United States to take out after the liberal moral bullies.  But when the liberals counterattack with "who are you to judge" or some such rubbish, the president needs a comeback.

He can say, in responding to the response to his anti-bullying remark about some celebrity liberal moral bully: Hey, if that spokesman has the cultural power to come out and call Mr. Ordinary Working-Class White Voter a sexist, then I'd have to wonder if sexism is no longer an existential problem needing government force and a battalion of sex-equality enforcers to rectify.  Just saying, dear White House press corps.

You see, dear liberals, I'd say that when some liberal activist lets loose with some bullying accusation and the net result is that the other guy is cowering in fear, I'd say that says something about the relative power of the activist and the Alinskyite target.

Yet the lefty Frankfurt School says that the goal of critical social theory is: "a form of life free from unnecessary domination in all its forms."

I'd say, just between you and me, that moral bullying by liberal activists is one of the "forms" of "unnecessary domination" that any honest and ethical leftist project would be sworn to fight and struggle against.

So let's do something about it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Penetrating the "Relativism" Smokescreen

There's a piece in the online American Spectator today that blames liberal "relativism" for the debacle of the Obama foreign policy.  Here liberals had been telling us that the world would be a better place if we stopped insisting their our way was best, and accept the idea that other ways, other cultures, deserve equal consideration. On the contrary, Virginia, there is good and evil.  Writes J.T. Young:
Few areas so starkly juxtapose good and evil as does the global community. Devoid of the political correctness permeating America — and often even civilized behavior itself — international relations often offer a no-holds-barred quest for self-interest that disregards the costs to others. Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Russia all meet this low standard. 
The thing is that all this relativism stuff is just a political tactic, designed by the lesser lights of the Frankfurt School as a diversion to take the eyes of liberal critics off the ball.  Liberals do too believe in good and evil.  And how.  But to implement their vision of the good they need first, as an operational necessity, to degrade the authority and the power of the western spirit of democratic capitalism.

All the believers in the left believe in enlightenment and emancipation and liberation.  But there is a dividing line between the revolutionary left and the establishment left.  The revolutionary left believe that it is the historical role of revolutionaries to seize political power and then spread enlightenment, emancipation and liberation with political power and government programs.   The establishment left believes that it is the historic role of educated people like them to preside over society and spread enlightenment, emancipation and liberation with political power and government programs.

The decisive actor for both wings of the movement is the activist that identifies an injustice and then mobilizes the marginalized into a political struggle to fight that injustice, to enlighten them to the fact of their domination and then to emancipate them from their servitude or liberate them from their marginalization with political power and government programs.  That is why the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, says that he is proud to be an activist.

If there were any truth to the assertion of relativism, it is negated by the cult of the activist.  There is no cultural relativism for the activist.  There is simple injustice, the rule of the rich and powerful over the poor and weak.  There is no argument in favor of the rich and powerful; they are simply evil, and anyone that argues against the activist is a racist, sexist, homophobe, and a fascist.  And a hater. Activists adhere to a simple, naive morality.  The activist is right and good and the activist's opponents are evil and wrong.

Our job, we Americans that want to live and let live, is to lance the boil of activism, to deflate their absurd pretensions, and penetrate the truth of liberal relativism to reveal underneath the simple calculus of power that drenches liberalism: the crude idea that you can solve the problems of the world with politics, which divides people, and government, which is nothing other than force.

And President Obama might have said, if he had a clue:  Government is not the name for the things we choose to do together, as Barney Frank has said.  Government is the name for things the ruling class of the day imposes on society and groups and individuals by force.

There is a name for the things we actually freely choose do together: society.  British Prime Minister David Cameron: "There is such a thing as society.  It's just not the same thing as the state."

Monday, August 4, 2014

"I Will Defend Americans from the Bullies"

I am trying to think how the next Republican nominee for President of the United States can tell the ordinary American people that he is on their side.

And that's how I came up with this: "If you elect me as your President," my candidate will say, "I will defend the ordinary American, not the just educated elite, not just the unfortunate that need the help of government, not just the well-connected businessman, but the ordinary American people that obey the law, that go to work, that follow the rules.  And I will defend them from bullies, foreign and domestic.  I am talking not just about foreign powers and local thugs.  I am talking about government officials that abuse their powers and call ordinary Americans potty names, and I am talking about the All-American moral bully."

"Men like power and will seize it if they can." That's straight from the horse's mouth, Nicholas Wade in The Faith Instinct. Next sentence: "But if they can't rule, their next preference is that no one rule over them."

No kidding!  Hey, I get it!  Let's adapt the sound bite for the Obama Age. "Liberals like bullying, and will bully if they can get away with it.  But Americans hate being ordered around, and sooner or later they rise up and kick the bullies in the keister."

I have no idea, no idea in the world, what "keister" means, but if Ronald Reagan used it, it's good enough for me.

The point is, of course, that liberals have developed, since Marx in the 1840s, a cunning trick for justifying their bullying.  They insist that all the bullying is in a good cause, helping the helpless.  First it was the working class that was being worked to death in the mines and the factories, and liberals had to help them. (Actually, according to modern analysts, the workers were getting a premium wage, for the times, in those mines and factories; that's why they migrated to the city in their millions. Duh!)

But once the working class got on its feet and started voting Republican, the lefties needed a new gig, and they found it with advocating for minorities and women.  Then it was gays.

In a long post, Alistair Roberts puts a name to this politics.  It is the politics of taking offence.  If you don't agree with the advocate of minorities you are a racist and a hater.  If you don't agree with the advocate of women you are a sexist and a rape enabler.  If you don't agree with government benefits for the workers you want children to starve.

The person that benefits most from this politics is the advocate of the persons "supposed to be offended."
The ‘subject supposed to be offended’ is especially powerful as a construction as it can include more empowered and privileged people in the offence game. In fact, the power of the culture of offence arguably owes more to this ‘subject supposed to be offended’ than to anything else. There are few people more zealous in offence-taking and outrage-making than persons doing so on behalf of the ‘subject supposed to be offended’. Few people who actually stand in a position to be personally hurt display anything approaching the degree of offence or passion for political correctness that the person taking offence on behalf of this posited individual can. Such persons regard themselves as sensitive and caring protectors of the weak and oppressed. Offence-taking and outrage-making is not a mere prerogative for them, but is a noble duty and calling. The more of an outrage they create on others’ behalf, the more virtuous they feel.
Amazing how that rings true!  But Roberts points out that the politics of taking offence does not just benefit the activist.  It has another effect; it can hurt the person "supposed to be offended." He quotes a couple of feminists that are concerned about the negative effects of Women's Studies on its students.
No doubt there were students who gained confidence and a sense of belonging from the sharing, caring, and calls to empowerment that pervaded feminist pedagogy. But we found that others felt excluded by the strict enforcement of whatever the prevailing feminist norms happened to be. And those who did fit in were taking on a worldview that militated against anything but a life as a feminist activist – and this by design. It is right for women to be alerted to the possibility of rape and violent assault and apprised of methods of prevention and legal recourse. But if such topics are to be discussed in a classroom setting, they must be dealt with carefully and analyzed as a complex social issue using the tools of social science. All too often the definitions and doctrines espoused within Women’s Studies seemed calculated merely to make women feel besieged. Their sensitivities were being sharpened to such an edge that some were turned into relentless grievance collectors or rendered too suspicious to function in the workaday world outside of Women’s Studies and were left with few possible roles in life beyond that of angry feminists.
Now the politics of "taking offence" is often called post-modern or multicultural, as though it is something more modern than modernism.  But viewed through Roberts' lens you can see that it is distinctly pre-modern.  And indeed this is true of the whole Left project.  It seeks to re-feudalize, or at a minimum, maintain feudal social relations for people struggling with adapting their lives to the ways of the city and the public square. That's when the Left rushes in and says: We will protect you from all this nastiness. The Left's agenda is not to ease the adjustment from feudal collectivism to modern responsible individualism.  It seeks to maintain pre-modern collective structures, or even reintroduce them.

When feudalism broke down in China about 500 AD, the Chinese people became individuals within families.  There was no longer any great lord to take care of them: they were on their own.  The Chinese people responded to this challenge by becoming the world's hardest workers.  If you worked hard you could buy land and distribute it to your sons.  Without enough land to support a family, your sons would have to sell their land and would regress into becoming hired laborers and would never marry and have children.  Social Darwinism, if you like, avant la lettre.

A related thing happened in Europe when feudalism broke down.  People became individuals, responsible for their own lives.  In Britain they responded to the challenge by kicking the kids out of the house at puberty; they became apprentices or domestic servants.  If the kids could figure out a way to earn a decent living they could afford to marry and reproduce.

Our friends on the Left like to call this event a cruel and anti-social disaster.  They have a point; but the change is also clearly the parent of today's growing economy.  As a serf, you might as well ease off on the work department, because hard work isn't going to get you anywhere.  But under individualism, hard work does make a difference.

Just to make the point clear.  In last two hundred years, in those areas of the world that allowed economic individualism to flourish, the daily income of ordinary people has gone from about $1-3 per day to $100 per day.  The average poor person in the US today has air conditioning.

Individualism is hard, as longshoreman Eric Hoffer admits in The Ordeal of Change.  The modern worker works hard because he has to. But he reckons that there really are only two choices for a society if the work is to get done.  Either the worker takes on the burden of supporting himself on his own back, or he works at the direction of a master, who really then amounts to a slave-master.

And we have seen how things work out when the state takes on the responsibility of getting the work done.  It has made the masters of the old slave plantations look like pikers.

Last week I watched a YouTube video of investment guru Peter Schiff at Occupy Wall Street in 2011. He was telling the Occupiers that government was their problem, not Wall Street, although he agreed that Wall Street was complicit in the whole mess.  But the protesters mostly would have none of it.  What they wanted was a government with a gun to the head of Wall Street and a gun to the head of their employer.  They wanted force, because that was the only thing they understood.

That is the basic political philosophy of the Left.  They believe, starting before Marx, that the only thing that will yield prosperity for the working man is for a new class of revolutionaries to get political power and hold a gun to the head of the titans of business.  Doesn't matter whether it's a labor union striking the greedy bosses, or government legislating wages and hours and safety and benefits.  They don't believe that the market delivers those benefits.  They think that only political force can do it.

Let's say that the factory owners of the Industrial Revolution were bullies.  They knew they had power over the workers and they exploited it. So what about union bosses?  You don't think that union bosses take advantage of the workers?  What about political bosses?  You don't think they take advantage of their power over business to exploit them and to shake down business for money in return for favors in the practice we call crony capitalism?

I say: Sure, let's come down like a ton of bricks on corporate bullies.  But let's level the playing field.  Let's ride herd on union bosses, as the Obama administration does not do. Let's ride herd on crony corporate public-private partnerships as the Obama administration does not do.  Let's ride hard on proud federal bureaucrats that use potty language to describe opposition activists. That is the minimum that we expect from the next Republican president.

But now we have a new kind of bully.  Let's call him the activist bully, and let's go back to Alistair Roberts and his discussion of the offence culture and the person leading and representing the "subject supposed to be offended."
One of the effects of the ‘subject supposed to be offended’ is a sort of competitive offence-taking on the part of certain persons in positions of power or influence. The most virtuous person is the person who is most successful in kicking up a fuss on behalf of the subject supposed to be offended. The accumulation of such virtue is generally fairly painless, but can win people great adulation, and a sense of moral superiority (which can conveniently serve as absolution for other faults). It is also a perfect way for officials to deflect attention away from other issues and to feel good about themselves. The temptations of this easily-won virtue are considerable, especially when the espousal of politically correct views can be sufficient to outweigh the personal vices of a life that demonstrates little evidence of a commitment to self-binding virtue.
I tell you, does that guy nail it, or what?

There surely is a place in this world for activists to lead the marginalized, the folks in this world that are getting a raw deal in the new individualist society where you have to shoulder the responsibility of organizing your own life. It's new; it's frightening; it takes a generation or two for people to learn. But the problem is that, in order to get on in the modern world, people need to get out of their collective silos and into the public square.  They need to measure themselves against the world and if they find themselves wanting, they need to do something about it.  Roberts again:
Strengths are developed as people refuse to pander to our weaknesses, viewing these weaknesses as obstacles that we both need and are sufficient to overcome. While we may not yet be prepared to face certain challenges, and need support and protection in such cases, we need to be pushed beyond our existing limits, to attain to new levels of independent strength.
You mean flush the positive self-esteem racket down the toilet?

Where can you find, in the system of left-wing activism, any process that actually encourages and leads people to develop strengths as individuals and to overcome their weaknesses?  The cycle of left-wing activism is: 1. Identify a marginalized community; 2. Show up and demand that injustices be addressed through government benefits; 4. Celebrate victory; 4. Head off to your next activism gig.  Emile Zola already had the activism game nailed a century ago and more in Germinal.

What we have seen, in the years of the Obama administration, is that these left-wing activists are not just hungry for the street power of leading peaceful protesters to demand justice and benefits.  They also want to bully and humiliate anyone that disagrees with them.  As culture and political warriors they understand that there is no high ground that can compete with the moral high ground.  And once you have captured the moral high ground you have your opponents at your mercy.  If people disagree with you then they must be a hater or a bigot.  Or a racist, sexist, and a homophobe.  And a fascist.  Of course a fascist.

There is something wrong with this.  Do you know what it is?  I will tell you.  These liberal bullies deny their opponents the right of moral agency.  They say: if you don't believe as I do then you are a bad person, a hater, a racist or a bigot, and you don't even deserve to stay in your job.

I say it is the job of government, especially a government with a First Amendment that says that there shall be no establishment of religion, to make sure that the people are defended not just against foreign invaders, not just against domestic criminals, but also against moral bullies.

And that is why I say that the next Republican that runs to become the Next President of the United States must run under this banner:
"I will defend the people of the United States against all bullies: against foreign princes and potentates; against domestic thugs and crooks; and against the most despicable of them all, the moral bullies that want to criminalize people for having the wrong opinions."
 I am not just blowing smoke here.  I think that it is a powerful message for the GOP nominee to make.  It gets around the difficulties of getting down to detail.  But it appeals to the millions of people in America who are frankly afraid today of saying something wrong, doing something wrong, and waking up to find that some left-wing activist has decided to make her career on exposing them as moral monsters.  And it stands on the unquestionable responsibility of any government, and that is defense against enemies, foreign and domestic.

I am not saying that we need a bunch of new laws about this. I am just saying we need a president who calls out people that deny their political opponents the right to believe in their own vision of America.  And not only that.  They deny their opponents the right to be wrong.

If there is one thing we have seen from President Obama it is that he doesn't accept the right of people to disagree with him.  Republicans that disagree with Obama are apparently all cynical and playing politics.  Well, of course they are: they are politicians.  But they also fundamentally disagree with his political agenda and they have a right, under our system, to disagree with the president and to push that agenda to their best ability and appeal to the American people to support them.

I can't predict the future, but I have an instinct that a president that called out the bullies would find himself a very popular man.  Of course he'd have to call out a conservative or two, but this would be an opportunity for a bit of moral discourse.  I can see liberals calling for the head of some conservative and the president saying, in a Reaganesque way with a dip of the head: "Well, he was a bit forthright, but you media mavens will recall that my problem is with moral bullies that deny the opposition the right to moral standing.  I don't think that Ron Righty's comment violated that standard."

Do you see how this approach trumps the left's game of grabbing the moral high ground with their politics of offence and then denying their opponents the right to disagree?

I'm going to be writing more about this.