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Ed Driscoll

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Pinch

September 17th, 2011 - 2:17 pm

Kathy Shaidle recently found the quintessential moment when the Gray Lady that is the New York Times finally admitted that she could really use a dye job. Here’s the opening to a Times piece titled, “In Woodstock, Values Collide Over Housing:”

If they had decided to pave paradise and put up a parking lot, the issues might have seemed simpler.

Instead, a protracted battle over a 53-unit affordable housing project is dividing this still-crunchy town where mellow ’60s vibes and liberal politics coexist uneasily with real estate prices increasingly out of the reach of the humbler classes.

When workers finally began clearing land for the Woodstock Commons project in July, it looked as if the uncomfortable dispute might finally be ending. Instead, new issues kept popping up: the plight of black bears and endangered Indiana bats threatened by the construction; a botched permitting process; uncertainty about water service.

In some ways what is playing out in this Ulster County town is a more colorful microcosm of affordable housing controversies elsewhere. Still, the collision of environmental, neighborhood and social justice issues is making people squirm in a place where the only thing more important than making the world better can be keeping Woodstock the same.

Or as Kathy wrote quoting the above bolded text,  “NYT accidentally summarizes ‘progressivism’ in half a sentence:”

“Progressives” live in the past — a past that (like the one they so often accuse conservatives of romantically yearning for) didn’t exist:

Rosa Parks wasn’t just “tired” — she was a semi-professional activist, trained at a Communist “school”; Alger Hiss was guilty; so were Sacco and Venzetti; there really were Communist spies in the State Department; FDR prolonged the Depression; “busing” increased racial hatred; Bush’s verbal SATs were higher than Kerry’s…

Once you realize that liberals live in a nostalgic past of their own invention and on-going promotion (like Mrs. Havisham or a tragic Tennessee Williams “heroine”) almost everything “progressives” do then makes “sense.”

Freeze-dry the (mostly imaginary) past, but hurry up and change the entire existing social and economic order, seem to be the two modes the left seems to operate in, sometimes simultaneously. You can see it in Barack Obama, with his love of 1930s-era socialism, and his ’70s-era sci-fi obsessions with “green” jobs and global warming.  But it’s folly to cast all of the blame on Obama; it’s been the mindset of the left for the last decade or so.  At the end of 2004, Paul Mirengoff, then with Power Line wrote:

The Democratic party, [Michael Barone] argues, is defined by 1930 era views on social security, 60s views on the state of race relations and the use of military force, and 70s views on feminism. Cosmetically at least, this state of affairs constitutes a reversal of roles from 1996 when the Democrats claimed they couldn’t “stop thinking about tomorrow,” while Bob Dole promised to be “a bridge to the past.”

But the problem for some factions of the far left is that Dole didn’t go far back enough. Or as Pete Seeger once told the New York Times, “I like to say I’m more conservative than Goldwater. He just wanted to turn the clock back to when there was no income tax. I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other.”

Just as long as it’s the right village, somewhere far out of sight, where the low-income housing won’t clash with the namesake of the location where half a million high-income hippies had their ultimate moment of nostalgie de la boue.

Speaking of music and “progressivism,” back around 2004, libertarian blogger Radley Balko explored the intersection of  “Tower Records and the Conservative Left.”  When the Tower Records chain fell apart in 2004, a New York Times columnist wrote:

But we have reached what to me, back in 1966, was an unimaginable place — an America where the small-town variety stores have gone out of business because a Wal-Mart opened up out by the highway; an America where with a few keystrokes and a valid credit card you can own virtually any recording you want, the instant it’s released. Somehow it sounds more inviting than it actually is.

It sounds pretty darn amazing to me — it’s also an America where you can read just about any newspaper from anywhere in the world online, or start your own digital version, should you so desire. And the flip-side is that any musician is guaranteed of getting listened to, particularly if he applies just a modicum of self-promotion. If you make it to the top, the odds are greatly decreased that you’ll have your own private plane to tour in, ala Led Zeppelin, but given the Times’ obsessions with equalizing income, that should be a feature from their perspective, not a bug, right?

But then, as Balko wrote, in words that echo in the recent Times article at the top of this post:

You know, you sometimes get the feeling the day after the polio vaccine was invented, today’s left would have run editorials lamenting the good ol’ days, when we were a little more cautious about what swimming pools we jumped into, and expressing sadness that we’d now have no new stories about the afflicted overcoming their disability to inspire the rest of us.

I’m not kidding. They’re that resistant to change. Every mill that shuts down is a “sign of our sad times.” No matter that the new mill will do things better, faster and cheaper than the old one. New farming techniques grow more food on less land. But dammit, if there wasn’t something romantic about the old-stye “family farm” that’s deserving of government protection. Innovation isn’t celebrated, it’s excoriated for displacing some idealized vision of the way things once were. In matters of progress and dynamism, the left is far more conservative than the conservatives are.

Getting back to Woodstock, it occurred nearly concurrent with the Apollo moon landing in the summer of 1969. Apollo marked the apogee of the postwar industrial era and its massive engineering projects. And yes, NASA in the 1960s was simultaneously JFK’s Moral Equivalent of War as Jonah Goldberg wrote in Liberal Fascism, and LBJ’s TVA-style project to help further modernize the south, as space journalist Rand Simberg once noted. But it was still an era that was obsessed with building something, unlike today’s NASA’s obsession with multiculti emotional pablum. Mark Steyn explored this extensively in the early chapters of After America; including quoting from Bruce Charlton, a professor of theoretical medicine at England’s University of Buckingham, who posited last year that “Human capability peaked before 1975 and has since declined:”

I suspect that human capability reached its peak or plateau around 1965-75 – at the time of the Apollo moon landings – and has been declining ever since.

This may sound bizarre or just plain false, but the argument is simple. That landing of men on the moon and bringing them back alive was the supreme achievement of human capability, the most difficult problem ever solved by humans. 40 years ago we could do it – repeatedly – but since then we have not been to the moon, and I suggest the real reason we have not been to the moon since 1972 is that we cannot any longer do it. Humans have lost the capability.

Of course, the standard line is that humans stopped going to the moon only because we no longer wanted to go to the moon, or could not afford to, or something…– but I am suggesting that all this is BS, merely excuses for not doing something which we cannot do.

It is as if an eighty year old ex-professional-cyclist was to claim that the reason he had stopped competing in the Tour de France was that he had now had found better ways to spend his time and money. It may be true; but does not disguise the fact that an 80 year old could not compete in international cycling races even if he wanted to.

However, technological progress in the form of computers, new businesses, and ultimately the Web accelerated exponentially in the 1980s ’til the fall of 2008. The Obama administration has worked hard to slow that progress to a halt as well. One reason for the lack of dynamism is that too many small businesses slows the amount of Federal palms that need to be greased, while simultaneously multiplying the number of cats that need to be herded. That’s a topic that James Pethokoukis recently discussed in his must-read column, “Solyndra, the logical endpoint of Obamanomics:”

No wonder many Democratic strategists predicted their party’s 2008 landslide win would usher in a generation of political dominance. Obamanomics, essentially, would divert taxpayer dollars to the Green Lobby – and then into the campaign coffers of the Democratic Party. This is what crony capitalism is really all about: politicians enriching favored businesses, who then return the favor. Or maybe it’s the other way around, Who cares, really. It’s an endless, profitable loop for both.

And Obama almost pulled it off. The Great Recession conveniently allowed the president to start the spendathon under the guise of economic stimulus. (“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” – White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, 2009). As it turns out, the $38.6 billion loan program for clean energy firms that Solyndra benefited from has created just 3,545 permanent new jobs after parceling out half its dough. That works out to around $5 million a job.

Unfortunately for the Obamacrats, the financial meltdown also undercut political support for cap-and-trade on Capitol Hill. Voters worried the scheme would slow growth and cost jobs. But without permanently and continually raising the price of carbon-based fuels, many green businesses can’t make the numbers work.

But hey, what’s a little magic thinking when you’re riding the unicorn already? Even if it’s on a treadmill.

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