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Ed Driscoll

The Future and its Enemies

Obama: The Provincial President

March 3rd, 2015 - 6:23 pm

“Why Obama hates Netanyahu, and vice versa” is explored in a remarkable essay by Haviv Rettig Gur of the Times of Israel:

At a recent gathering of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, the eminent former director general of the Foreign Ministry, Prof. Shlomo Avineri, called Obama’s foreign policy “provincial.” It was a strange choice of words to describe the policies of a president with such a cosmopolitan outlook and so much eagerness to engage the world.

But Avineri had a point.

Obama’s remarkable memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” includes a powerful account of how his experiences as a young, keenly observant social organizer in South Chicago instilled in him the sensibility that would come to define his presidency.

In the book, he describes his reaction upon hearing the children of a poor Chicago neighborhood divided into “good kids and bad kids – the distinction didn’t compute in my head.” If a particular child “ended up in a gang or in jail, would that prove his essence somehow, a wayward gene…or just the consequences of a malnourished world?”

“In every society, young men are going to have violent tendencies,” an educator in one majority-black Chicago high school told him in the late 1980s. “Either those tendencies are directed and disciplined in creative pursuits or those tendencies destroy the young men, or the society, or both.”

The book is full of such ruminations, and they echo throughout Obama’s rhetoric as president. In his last speech to the UN General Assembly, he asserted that “if young people live in places where the only option is between the dictates of a state or the lure of an extremist underground, no counterterrorism strategy can succeed.”

For Obama, terrorism is, at root, a product of social disintegration. War may be necessary to contain the spread of Islamic State, for example, but only social reform can really cure it.

Add to this social vision the experience of a consummate outsider – half-white and half-black, with a childhood and a family scattered around the world – and one begins to see the profile of a man with an automatic empathy for the marginalized and an almost instinctive sense that the most significant problems of the world are rooted not in ideology but in oppressive social and economic structures that reinforce marginalization. This sensibility is broader than any economic orthodoxy, and is rooted in the hard experience of South Chicago.

After taking the helm of the world’s preeminent superpower in January 2009, this social organizer set about constructing a foreign policy that translated this consciousness into geopolitical action.

“The imperative that he and his advisors felt was not only to introduce a post-Bush narrative but also a post-post-9/11 understanding of what needed to be done in the world,” James Traub noted in a recent Foreign Policy essay. “They believed that the great issues confronting the United States were not traditional state-to-state questions, but new ones that sought to advance global goods and required global cooperation — climate change, energy supply, weak and failing states, nuclear nonproliferation. It was precisely on such issues that one needed to enlist the support of citizens as well as leaders.”

The world was one large Chicago, its essential problems not categorically different from those of South Chicago’s blacks, and the solutions to those problems were rooted in the same essential human capacity for overcoming social divisions and inequities. This was Obama’s “provincialism” — his vision of the world that favored the disadvantaged and downtrodden, that saw the ideological and political clashes between governments as secondary to the more universal and ultimately social crises that troubled a tumultuous world.

No wonder the gang at NBC attacks anyone using the word “Chicago” as racist; it’s the entire prism through which their God King sees the world.

Perhaps what worried Mr. Obama the most about Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking today were the inevitable comparisons of tone and style, and for good reason. As a result of watching Netanyahu, Jazz Shaw of Hot Air takes a second look at Bibi:

When the Prime Minister finished speaking today, I realized exactly how wrong I had been in assuming that this was going to be some cheap, catchpenny display. This was, as I said on Twitter in the moments following the address, one of the most powerful speeches which I have seen delivered in that chamber in the modern era. Netanyahu was the essence of many attributes so lacking in American politics today. He was gracious, not only to those who obviously support him, but to those who might disagree with him here on various policy points. (And, as I will cover below, even with those who were simply rude.) He projected wisdom and rational thought, so frequently lacking in the cheap seats of the theater of American politics. He was sincerely grateful for all that he and the nation he represents have received from the United States and for the consanguinity between our nations. He expressed confidence and hope in a lasting relationship which should be a hallmark of civilized relations in the modern world.

Above all, he was not there to be a politician as I had previously supposed. He was there to be a leader, but also a gracious ally, speaking as an equal on the world stage. He did not come with his hat in hand to ask America to save him. He reiterated that Israel could save itself, but that it would not have to stand alone as long as those with common values which embrace basic goodness stood together in sodality. It was, quite simply, one of the most moving speeches I have witnessed in many years.

I was wrong – in the worst way, since I have clearly allowed cynicism to poison the well – when I supposed that this speech was a pointless, partisan, political ploy. I think I’ve spent too long watching American politicians standing up on cable news and barking out the same tired talking points which their minions repeat ad nauseam for the mainstream media complex. I was highly impressed and felt a bit ashamed. I owe the Prime Minister an apology and I do so now.

I miss the days when America was led by a grownup who had faith in his country and its people. I hope we have that experience once again.

Related: “Dreams from Netanyahu’s Father,” from Seth Lipsky of the New York Sun and Time magazine.

‘Preparing for China’s Collapse’

March 3rd, 2015 - 12:58 pm

P.J. O’Rourke was interviewed by Peter Robinson of Ricochet and the Hoover Institute last month, and near the end of their wide-ranging conversation, Robinson asked O’Rourke about those of us in California who’ve given up on trying to reform the sclerotic dinosaur that is Sacramento. O’Rourke began his reply with this great anecdote referencing an even bigger and more dangerous ancient socialist government:

I remember going around China with a friend of mine who owned some steel foundries and a pelletized iron ore plant. He’s an American, but he lives in Hong Kong. Anyway, we’re wandering around mainland China, and I remember saying that I hadn’t heard any political discussions. Is it because people are afraid to talk about politics? He said, “no, they’re not afraid to [talk about politics]. You get ‘em started, and they’ll go on. But you’ve got understand the fundamental Chinese attitude toward government is ‘shhhhhhh….don’t wake it up when it’s sleeping.’” And I think our Millennials have a little bit of that same attitude. Fortunately, what they would wake up would not be as terrifying as [China’s cultural revolution.]

But what happens when China’s government does wake from its slumber? Steve Green writes today that the results won’t be pretty:

If a collapse should come, there is something we need to think about very seriously whether or not Washington ever heeds Mattis’s advice: The huge economic disruptions. China does in manufacturing today what America used to do, which is to move fast and scale up even faster. China moves workers and material in amounts and at speeds which are a legal and regulatory impossibility in 21st Century America. Between worker regs and the EPA, it simply isn’t possible for the US to replace China’s manufacturing ability — and there’s no other country besides us big enough and skilled enough to even try.

China’s collapse would cut a whole leg off of the global economy, with no anesthetic and no way to stop the bleeding. The loss of physical capital and manufacturing know-how would make a second Great Depression all but certain.

We need to have a plan in place to lift an awful lot of regulations, immediately, so that American business can go back to doing the kinds of things it used to do — and could do again if Big Fat Washington weren’t sitting on its chest.

In the early days of WWII, FDR asked for the impossible — that American industry build 50,000 warplanes in the first year, and 50,000 more every year after that. Nothing like it had ever been tried. But American business saw the profit potential, and FDR (for once) mostly got Washington out of the way. Sure enough, he got his airplanes.

We could do this, and avoid a global depression. The only thing stopping us is us.

I’m tempted to say “insert the Pogo quote here,” but given its origins during the rise of the American environmentalist left in the early 1970s, it was designed to stop us as well.

Related Exit Quote, via William F. Buckley: “Every ten years I quote the same adage from the late Austrian analyst Willi Schlamm, and I hope that ten years from now someone will remember to quote it in my memory. It goes, ‘The trouble with socialism is socialism. The trouble with capitalism is capitalists.’”

Susan Rice speaks to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference today, and you won’t believe what happens next! (Sorry.) As Twitchy notes, “The highlight of her speech was undoubtedly the standing ovation she received for acknowledging the desire for a complete halt to Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. The look on her face while waiting for the cheers to die down so she could add ‘but’ and finish her sentence: priceless:”

John Podhoretz responded, “So without a deal, Rice is saying, Iran will build a bomb. Also, with a deal, Iran will build a bomb. This is really astounding.” And Twitchy also quotes Bloomberg’s Dave Weigel, who tweeted, “Before Susan Rice got up to speak at AIPAC, the video screens played friendly reminders not to boo anybody.

Last night, Roger L. Simon asked, “Will Obama’s Iran Deal Be the Worst Deal Ever Made?” That is, if it even comes to pass:

 I don’t enjoy making predictions because I’m usually wrong, but this is what I suspect will transpire as of Sunday night, March 1.  A deal ultimately will not be made.  Khamenei never wanted one in the first place, only to mark time for more nuclear research.  To make a deal would, for him, undermine too many years of hating America, undercutting the rationale for his hideous regime.  BUT… Israel (specifically pushy Netanyahu), not Iran,  will be blamed for the failure by the U.S. administration and its MSM minions, led by the New York Times.  Iran will collude with this, dropping the proper hints — if it weren’t for those Israelis we would have had an agreement, but you know they can’t be trusted.  The Republican presidential candidates will be swept up in this. They better be ready, but I fear they are not.  They don’t impress me as a particularly sophisticated bunch on the international front, I’m sorry to say, and the Iranians know how to play disinformation-hardball almost as well as the Russians.  I hope I’m wrong in all this. I hope Netanyahu knocks that same hardball out of the proverbial park and with it some sense into the American public.  But I worry.

And for ever-increasing good reason.

Related: We know that, to paraphrase Sean Davis, Elizabeth Warren is off the reservation when it comes to Netanyahu’s speech tomorrow. So where does Hillary stand?

‘Let’s Destroy Liberal Academia’

March 2nd, 2015 - 2:08 pm

As I’ve long argued, while attacking media bias is both vital and fun, the real ground zero of the left is academia. Before he passed away three years ago, Andrew Breitbart talked about adding “Big Education” to the roster of Big Hollywood, Big Government, Big Journalism and Big Peace at Breitbart.com, and I’m sorry to see that element of vision never came to pass. But at Townhall, Kurt Schlichter writes that if conservatives and libertarians really want to return to controlling the overculture, academia is where they should target their efforts:

Understand that the purpose of modern American “education” is not to educate students. It is primarily to provide cushy, subsidized sinecures for liberal administrators and faculty while, secondarily, providing a forum to indoctrinate soft young minds in the liberal fetishes du jour. Actually educating students is hard, and a meaningful education is anathema to liberalism. In the liberals’ ideal world, the universities would simply fester with leftist nonsense and not even bother with trying to teach their charges anything at all. And today, it’s pretty close to being the liberals’ ideal world.

You liberal readers are foaming at the mouth right about now, furious not because I’m wrong but because I’m undeniably, absolutely, incontrovertibly right. So your next move – see, I’ve done this before, my Marxist Ceramics-majoring friend – is now to attack me personally since you never learned from your goateed TA how to argue like an adult. Your first gambit will be to impugn my own academic career. Try again – I have the academic credentials you prize so highly and with so little reason. Been there, done that, built a company, married an ex-model, and no, I don’t want to see your resume.

So save the posturing for the other gender-indeterminate members of your interpretive dance collective – most of us conservatives have endured your schools, gotten our diplomas, and now reject the scam that is modern academia. I’d suggest you call us academic apostates, but you wouldn’t know what that means without Googling it. Now fetch me my latte and I’ll drop a nice, shiny quarter in your tip jar.

As I discuss in my book Conservative Insurgency, and as others like Glenn Reynolds have observed, with modern academia we normal Americans are paying to support a suppurating abscess in our culture that, left untreated, will kill its host. We need to lance this boil and drain the leftist pus.

Modern academia is a refuge and sanctuary for the left within our culture where the inhabitants can devote their full efforts to destroying the very society that subsidizes them without having to worry about actually producing anything of value. It’s an intellectual and moral cesspool. Just look at some of the nightmares that have slithered out of our universities and into mainstream society in just the last few decades – political correctness, hook-up culture, Barack Obama.

And if Schlichter’s words don’t fire you up, perhaps this image will:

Related: The American Mind Gets Closed a Little Further.

The ‘Bam in the High Castle

February 22nd, 2015 - 3:27 pm

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What if Obama had been president in 1939? To understand the measure of just how temperamentally unsuited Barack Obama is to the job of president, just imagine him in the role of FDR on the eve of World War II, and the language he would use to describe the Axis, which is what VDH does in his latest column at PJM, “President Franklin Delano Obama Addresses the Threat of 1930s Violent Extremism:”

“As for acts of violence in Germany itself, we must express our worry to the German government over apparent extremism, but at the same time we must not overreact. As far as these sporadic attacks on random civilians, as, for example, during the recent Kristallnacht violence, we must keep things in perspective, when, for example, some terrorists randomly targeted some folks in a store. My job is sort of like a big-city mayor, to monitor these terrorist acts that are said to be done in the name of the German people. Let us not overreact and begin to listen to radio commentators who whip us up into a frenzy as if we were on the verge of war. We must not overestimate the SS, a sort of jayvee organization that remains a manageable problem.

“Here let me just say that we must never fall into the trap of blaming the German people abroad, but especially our German community here at home. National Socialism by no means has anything to do with socialism. These terrorists are desperate for legitimacy, and all of us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like the SS somehow represent socialism because that is a falsehood that embraces the terrorist narrative. It is true that America and Germany have a complicated history, but there is no clash of civilizations. The notion that the America would be at war with Germany is an ugly lie.

“So make no mistake about it: National Socialism has nothing to do with Germany or the German people but is rather a violent extremist organization that has perverted the culture of Germany. It is an extremist ideology that thrives on the joblessness of Germany and can be best opposed by the international community going to the root of German unemployment and economic hard times. Let us not confuse Nazism with legitimate expressions of German nationalism. Stiff-arm saluting and jack boots are legitimate tenets of Germanism, and the German Brotherhood, for example, is a largely peaceful organization.

“So we Americans must not get on our own high horse. We, too, have bullied our neighbors and invaded them. We, too, have struggled with racism and anti-Semitism, slavery and Jim Crow. And our own culture has at times treated American citizens in the same callous way as the National Socialist do Germans. Before we castigate the Nazis, let us remember the Inquisition and the Crusades.

It’s brilliant stuff; a reminder that Obama will make a great host on MSNBC in 2017, or a great Ivy League lecturer on Ferguson or income inequality or whatever the hot lefty fad du jour is, but was a disastrous choice by the left and the pundit class (but I repeat myself) to lead the nation in 2008. Get off your high horse and read the whole thing. Because the Crusades, maaaan.

Since this seems to the weekend for both revisionist history and exploring Obama’s own fantasyland worldview, also check out Kyle Smith in the New York Post, who notes that “Sure, Obama loves America — just not the America we live in:”

Even when Obama claims to support American exceptionalism, he can’t do so without a “but.”

At West Point last year he said, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions.”

That’s a strangely twisted definition: We’re only special if we stop acting as if we think we’re special?

Americans are, of course, far more skeptical of the idea that our actions must receive the blessing of international bodies. In a 2011 Pew Survey, only 45 percent of Americans said we should get UN approval before using military force. In France, Britain, Germany and Spain that number was 66 percent to 76 percent.

The reality of American exceptionalism is that it tells a story of a country very much at odds with the fantasy version preferred by Obama and other liberals, a sort of continental campus where “hate speech” is carefully controlled, everyone thinks income inequality is a big deal, government is respected or even beloved, the churches are empty and no one owns a gun.

Much to Obama’s chagrin, Americans overwhelmingly reject the idea that we’re all enrolled at the United States of Oberlin. They love America as it is.

Or to put it in graphic terms:

Live from Post-American Bandstand

January 23rd, 2015 - 11:33 am

Considering he’s known for taxpayer-funded “Obamaphones,” we shouldn’t be surprised that the president is phoning in his State of the Union addresses. In his latest column, Jonah Goldberg notes that “Six years later, Obama’s still reading from the same tired script,” and unlike say a vintage 1966 episode of the original Star Trek, it’s not a rerun worth watching:

This is Obama’s real understanding of “bipartisanship”; it is a political hack’s cudgel to unleash on your opponents, not a tool for governing. Diplomacy, Will Rogers once said, is the art of saying “nice doggie” until you can find a rock. Obama has a similar definition for gassy sound bites about cynicism.

His admirers see his speeches as ornate cathedrals of rhetoric when they are more like the kitsch from a TGI Friday’s, recycling old license plates and “gone fishin’” signs for that “authentic” feel. And just as every TGI Friday’s pretends it’s unique by adding a few bits of “flair” to the servers’ suspenders, what they dish out is always the same warmed-over swill drenched in cheesiness. So it is with Obama’s speeches.

Likewise with his policies. Before the financial crisis, Obama ran on “investing” in education, health care, renewable energy, infrastructure, and so on. After the financial crisis hit, presumably our needs changed, but not Obama’s agenda. Suddenly, what America needed to do to respond to the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression was to again “invest” in education, health care, renewable energy, and infrastructure. And now that the “shadow of crisis has passed,” as he announced on Tuesday, the same investments are needed. Why? Because he said it before, of course.

The same holds true with his foreign-policy agenda. As a candidate, Obama vowed that we needed to pull back from the War on Terror. After the rise of the Islamic State and the metastasizing of jihadist terror around the world, we must stay the course. Even when events deviate from the president’s well-worn script, what matters is that the script never change so Obama can keep talking and talking and talking.

Armed with a sky-high pompadour and Sly-Stone’s muttonchop sideburns, Alfonzo Rachel of PJTV (with an introduction from a dapper-looking Pat Boone and an amazing kitchen-sink production job supervised by Roger L. Simon) had Mr. Obama’s number over four years ago:

Tweets of the Day

January 20th, 2015 - 8:03 pm

Quote of the Day

January 19th, 2015 - 10:12 pm

It was the genius and the greatness of Dr. King then to recognize that disobedience would confront America with the flaws in its own system–that eventually people would see that it was immoral, within the context of our own belief system, to punish people for seeking the rights that they’d already been promised and, indeed, granted in the Constitution. It just was not possible to treat blacks as indecently as we did and maintain the pretext that we had a decent society. What was required, and what the Civil Rights movement achieved, was to drive that truth home to all of us in the most public and persistent way, until it could no longer be ignored. In a very real sense, he sought not to fracture society but to make it whole and healthy.

—Orrin Judd, “A More Perfect Union,” 1/20/03.

Quote of the Day

January 5th, 2015 - 5:01 pm

The theme of modern life’s alienation has been a common one among leftist thinkers, including Rousseau and Marx. (Among conservative thinkers too, but no one is surprised when they express reactionary sentiments.) One might explain such alienation in terms of evolutionary theory. Since the vast majority of human natural selection occurred when the basic social structure was the “village” or tribe, it stands to reason that most people today would retain many of the adaptations that survived in that setting, and that modern life with all its novelty, and for all its advantages, would entail considerable discontents.

But whereas philosophers engage in theory and speculation, politicians who identify a problem feel obliged to do something about it. And here is where the progressive left’s disconnect comes into sharp relief. If you’re looking for a means by which to make life less alienating, you could hardly do worse than the contemporary bureaucratic state, an entity that is efficient and impersonal at its best, brutal and impersonal at its worst.

—James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal in his latest “Best of the Web Today” column on the passing of Mario Cuomo and “The reactionary longings of the progressive left.”

Quote of the Day

January 4th, 2015 - 10:54 pm

The vast accumulations of knowledge—or at least of information—deposited by the nineteenth century have been responsible for an equally vast ignorance. When there is so much to be known, when there are so many fields of knowledge in which the same words are used with different meanings, when every one knows a little about a great many things, it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to know whether he knows what he is talking about or not. And when we do not know, or when we do not know enough, we tend always to substitute emotions for thoughts.

—T.S. Eliot, The Sacred Wood, 1921.

(Via K Street Hipster)

Mario Cuomo and the Descent of Political Man

January 2nd, 2015 - 12:04 pm

The left’s “Hamlet on the Hudson” is placed into perspective by Kevin D. Williamson:

Cuomo was something of a Barack Obama before his time: Like the president, Cuomo came to prominence after making a highly regarded speech at the Democratic National Convention. Like the president, he never quite figured out that there was more to his job than making speeches. Take a look at the books written by and about Cuomo, you’ll find a couple of books about Lincoln, emphasizing his oratory, and a bunch of variation on the theme More Than Words: The Speeches of Mario Cuomo and Great Speeches, Volume IV.

In 2015 anno Domini, well-spoken mediocrity goes a long way — a longer way than it did in the elder Cuomo’s day, which is why Barack Obama became president and Mario Cuomo did not.

If the Cuomo-to-Cuomo timeline traces a depressing descent in American public and intellectual life, it is far from marking the deepest decline. Consider that the Senate seat occupied by Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York subsequently was filled by Hillary Rodham Clinton and then by Kirsten Gillibrand. The phrase “decline and fall” leaps to mind when contemplating that succession. It is a pity, though, that Herself stopped pretending to be a New York politician; she would have made a much better mayor of New York City than Sandinista leftover Bill de Blasio does, the job being about the right size for her intellectual scope and well suited to her talents, which are heavy on triangulating among lefty constituencies and light on things at which a secretary of state (or, angels and ministers of grace defend us, a president) might be expected to excel.

The lines of heirs and epigones can be illuminating. Consider: Much of what is wrong and distasteful about the modern Republican party can be compressed into the fact that John McCain, an authentic war hero and authentically unbearable poseur occupies the Senate seat previously held by Barry Goldwater. Terry McAuliffe sits in a chair previously occupied by Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, though that’s an unfair comparison, but George Allen looks pretty good in comparison, too. Jerry Brown, the New Age goof who occupies the governor’s mansion in California, was preceded by Jerry Brown, the New Age goof who had a couple of good ideas about taxes and budgeting, as well as by a noted organized-labor leader who went on to become president. Similarly, the line of Senate succession that led from Andrew Jackson to Lamar Alexander has had its ups and downs, its nadir being Al Gore.

Despite the increasingly primitive — and punitive — nature of our political leaders, some things in American life have actually gotten better — much better in the last half century. As Rich Lowry writes in his review of the new film Selma, its “implicit message” is that “it is not 1965:”

The temptation for the Left to live perpetually in 1965 is irresistible. It wants to borrow the haze of glory around the civil-rights movement of that era and apply it to contemporary causes. It wants to believe that America is nearly as unjust as it was then, and wants to attribute to itself as much of the bravery and righteousness of the civil-rights pioneers as possible.

Of course, 1965, the brief apogee of Lyndon Johnson’s New Deal-inspired “Great Society” was also yet another moment when America reached what Walter Russell Mead calls “Peak Left.” Only for the leftists to discover, to borrow one of their current favorite buzzwords, the ideal political world of Lyndon Johnson, Mario Cuomo and Barack Obama — a giant socialist nanny state from sea to shining sea — is unsustainable. And as we saw during the mid-t0-late ’60s and in 2014, severe cognitive dissonance can set in while the collective left collectively processes that fact.

In the “United States of Anxiety,” Kevin D. Williamson of NRO writes:

Liberal, open societies are always vulnerable to encroachments from illiberal forces with sufficient motivation, whether it’s the totalitarians in Pyongyang, the ones in Riyadh, or the ones in Cambridge, Mass. That’s especially true when elites lose their confidence in such liberal principles as free speech and freedom of conscience. As soon as you accept the premise that a person’s right to free speech (or a professor’s ability to conduct his class) is circumscribed by another person’s “right” not to be offended, then you have jettisoned principle entirely, and all that’s left is brute-force negotiation — a situation in which the partisans of liberty and humaneness always find themselves lamentably outnumbered. And if we’ve learned anything from the waning days of Harry Reid, during which Senate Democrats attempted to repeal the First Amendment, it is that our own elites do not have very much confidence in traditional American liberalism.

In “Collectivism and the presumption of guilt,” Red State’s John Hayward rounds up the First Lady’s then-and-now flashbacks of her 2011 trip to Target, Samuel L. Jackson’s cry of racism in the deaths of petty criminals Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the Australian “I’ll Ride With You” journalistic fable and similar stories and concludes:

What all of these stories, and so many others, have in common is the assumption of bad faith by liberals, who claim they can read the minds of everyone from dinner-party guests to society at large and detect the dark secret impulses seething beneath every word and deed.  The worst bad motives are assumed for every action, including something as harmless as a short woman asking a taller department-store patron to grab a box of detergent off the top shelf for her.  If events that cannot be construed as social-justice crimes are not ready to hand, the liberal will simply invent them, transforming lies into Deeper Truth with the magical power of leftist ideology.  We’re even presumed guilty of crimes no one actually committed, most notably the horrible “anti-Muslim backlash” that never actually happens after Muslim terrorists commit atrocities.

This presumption of guilt is absolutely crucial to collectivism.  The Left must teach its subjects to think of themselves as criminals.  That’s the only way law-abiding people will endure levels of coercive power that would normally require specific accusations, a fair trial, and the possibility of appeals.  Social-justice “crimes” can be prosecuted without any of those things.  There is no appeal from the sentence, and no statute of limitations on the crimes, as any left-winger who thinks today’s American citizens need to suffer for the historical offense of slavery will be happy to explain to you.  There’s no evidence you can present in your defense, for the Left has read your mind, and knows better than you what demons lurk in its recesses.

This is one reason the Left dislikes the trappings of constitutional law and order.

And increasingly, through once-respected journalistic outlets such as the New York Times, Time Magazine, the Washington Post and NBC, they’re not afraid to admit it.

obamacare_wheel_mud_big_11-3-13

“You can’t attribute the entire mess to one cause, but it certainly didn’t help [Democrat Governor Peter Shumlin's] case to have Jonathan Gruber involved in the project to the tune of roughly $400K. The voters probably weren’t looking forward to being lectured on videotape about how stupid they are in 2015:”

But perhaps the most telling feature of this staggering failure was the fact that the plan could not work without a massive influx of federal dollars. They were not able to secure a guarantee that the money would be available and the project went under. Now imagine scaling that up to a national single payer plan. Who would be available further upstream to help fund that? Nobody. The money would all have to be extracted from the taxpayers and every business in the country. And if we managed to pull it off you could soon be enjoying the benefits of waiting for years to get an appointment or some critical surgery.

Vermont is clearly a leader in socialist experimentation. In this case they may have actually provided us with a valuable lesson in what not to do.

That’s been Vermont’s primary role in the Union for well over a quarter of a century.

How bad has the state become?

As unlikely as it may seem, a prime area for heroin users is now the sleepy state of Vermont. On Wednesday [in January of 2014], Gov. Peter Shumlin’s entire State of the State address was devoted to what he called Vermont’s “full blown heroin crisis.” Vermont now has the highest rate of illicit drug use in the United States.

That bad.

“The great start-up slowdown” is explored by the Washington Post:

The more pronounced of those trends is a slowing birthrate for new businesses. The slowdown has persisted over two decades and has worsened since 2000. Economists aren’t entirely sure what’s causing it.

The nation’s “start-up rate,” the number of new companies as a share of total companies, declined by 12 percent from the late 1980s to the eve of the Great Recession. That’s according to research by John Haltiwanger, a pathbreaking University of Maryland economist who studies business dynamics, and several co-authors. They found the rate dropped even further during the recession: By 2011, it was about 25 percent lower than it was in the late ’80s.

Recent research from the Brookings Institution confirms that compared to 25 years ago, a smaller share of Americans today work in start-up companies and that a smaller share of companies are start-ups. Even the tech industry — that bastion of venture capital and IPOs — has seen its start-up rate decline. In 1982, Haltiwanger and coauthors report, 3 in 5 high-tech firms were young start-ups; in 2012, that had fallen to less than 2 in 5.

This is bad for middle-class workers. Newer companies create a lot more jobs, on net, than long-established ones, according to several studies, including a recent one by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which compiles economic statistics for wealthy nations around the world. (This is true even though so many start-ups fail.) Haltiwanger’s research suggests America would have 1.1 million more jobs today if dynamism were still at even mid-1980s levels. More jobs would reduce competition among would-be workers for available slots, which would mean companies would need to pay workers more to attract or keep them.

I blame the Washington Post.

Well, at least a little bit. After pulling out all the stops to get Mr. Obama elected, at dawn of his presidency, the Post, through its then-Newsweek division, ran the following cover:

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If you’re plumping for socialism, you’re also rejecting a dynamic entrepreneur-friendly economy in search of what Virginia Postrel calls stasism, a freeze-dried early-20th century economic paradigm in which big corporations, through plenty of help from government, happily crush small businesses into the ground.

Short of full-out nationalization*, that model seems like an ideal solution or at least a nifty modified limited hangout** when your industry is in its death-throes, and it’s not a coincidence that the Graham Family first divested itself of Newsweek after a half century of ownership for a dollar a year and a half after the above cover, and then last year offloaded the Post itself at fire-sale prices to Jeff Bezos.

Since Bezos made his money launching a quintessential start-up, presumably the new iteration of the Post is a bit more start-up friendly (at least for now). But the sins of their namesake predecessors shouldn’t be forgotten.

* Which Salon called on the government to do to all of media. No, really. Say, I wonder if they’ll ask the new Congress to take up the idea next year…?

** Whom the Gods destroy, they first transform into the second coming of the Post’s nemesis, the Nixon Administration. (See also: Rather, Dan.)

“What Happens to Society When Robots Replace Workers?” William H. Davidow and PJM alumnus Michael S. Malone ask at the Harvard Business Review. Though note the chilling phrase that concludes this passage:

Estimates of general rates of technological progress are always imprecise, but it is fair to say that, in the past, progress came more slowly. Henry Adams, the historian, measured technological progress by the power generated from coal, and estimated that power output doubled every ten years between 1840 and 1900, a compounded rate of progress of about 7% per year. The reality was probably much less. For example, in 1848, the world record for rail speed reached 60 miles per hour. A century later, commercial aircraft could carry passengers at speeds approaching 600 miles per hour, a rate of progress of only about 2% per year.

By contrast, progress today comes rapidly. Consider the numbers for information storage density in computer memory. Between 1960 and 2003, those densities increased by a factor of five million, at times progressing at a rate of 60% per year. At the same time, true to Moore’s Law, semiconductor technology has been progressing at a 40% rate for more than 50 years. These rates of progress are embedded in the creation of intelligent machines, from robots to automobiles to drones, that will soon dominate the global economy – and in the process drive down the value of human labor with astonishing speed.

This is why we will soon be looking at hordes of citizens of zero economic value. Figuring out how to deal with the impacts of this development will be the greatest challenge facing free market economies in this century.

“Hordes of citizens of zero economic value?” Frances Fox Piven, call your office.

These Kids Today!

December 15th, 2014 - 12:03 pm

The Atlantic whines about “The Cheapest Generation: Why Millennials aren’t buying cars or houses, and what that means for the economy:”

In 2009, Ford brought its new supermini, the Fiesta, over from Europe in a brave attempt to attract the attention of young Americans. It passed out 100 of the cars to influential bloggers for a free six-month test-drive, with just one condition: document your experience online, whether you love the Fiesta or hate it.

Young bloggers loved the car. Young drivers? Not so much. After a brief burst of excitement, in which Ford sold more than 90,000 units over 18 months, Fiesta sales plummeted. As of April 2012, they were down 30 percent from 2011.

Don’t blame Ford. The company is trying to solve a puzzle that’s bewildering every automaker in America: How do you sell cars to Millennials (a k a Generation Y)? The fact is, today’s young people simply don’t drive like their predecessors did. In 2010, adults between the ages of 21 and 34 bought just 27 percent of all new vehicles sold in America, down from the peak of 38 percent in 1985. Miles driven are down, too. Even the proportion of teenagers with a license fell, by 28 percent, between 1998 and 2008.

In a bid to reverse these trends, General Motors has enlisted the youth-brand consultants at MTV Scratch—a corporate cousin of the TV network responsible for Jersey Shore—to give its vehicles some 20-something edge. “I don’t believe that young buyers don’t care about owning a car,” says John McFarland, GM’s 31-year-old manager of global strategic marketing. “We just think nobody truly understands them yet.” Subaru, meanwhile, is betting that it can appeal to the quirky eco-­conscious individualism that supposedly characterizes this generation. “We’re trying to get the emotional connection correct,” says Doug O’Reilly, a publicist for Subaru. Ford, for its part, continues to push heavily into social media, hoping to more closely match its marketing efforts to the channels that Millennials use and trust the most.

In 2012, Ann Althouse spotted the New York Times sneeringly dub Millenials the “The Go-Nowhere Generation” and complaining that “Back in the early 1980s, 80 percent of 18-year-olds proudly strutted out of the D.M.V. with newly minted licenses, according to a study by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. By 2008 — even before the Great Recession — that number had dropped to 65 percent.”

As Althouse replied, “Isn’t that what the Boomer generation told them to do? Cars are bad. They are destroying the planet. Then, when they avoid driving, we scold them for being — what? — sedentary? unambitious? incurious?!”

If they were supposed to believe that movie — “An Inconvenient Truth” — that was showed to them by one public school teacher after another, why aren’t we celebrating them now for their teeny tiny carbon footprint? Just give them a tiny room and a computer with high-speed internet, and they’ll be perfectly happy.

But Generation Y has become Generation Why Bother….

Etc. etc. These kids today! Speaking of “Why Bother,” why did we boomers bother to teach them to sneer at aggressive capitalism, consumeristic acquisitiveness, and driving powerful cars if we were going to turn around and whine about their not competing vigorously enough?

Over to you, Atlantic, Vox, BuzzFeed, Gray Lady, and their ultimate boss, our semi-retired president, who began down the path to his golden Millennial-funded retirement plan with gems such as this in 2008:

(Via Maggie’s Farm.)

The Breakdown of Civil Society

December 13th, 2014 - 5:06 pm

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“NYC cops preemptively uninvite de Blasio to their funerals,” Jazz Shaw writes at Hot Air. We mentioned this story yesterday, but Jazz’s conclusion to his post is worth highlighting:

What we’re witnessing here is, yet again, the breakdown of civil society and the weakening of the line between order and mayhem. As long as protesters were out there having their voices heard and the city presented a sympathetic, yet unified front which was willing to engage with them in a positive conversation, things could move ahead over this tricky terrain. But the Mayor has sent the message that he is not on the side of the police and sides with their accusers. He has let them know that the executive offices which are charged with leading law enforcement do not stand with the officers on the street and that they view them as the problem rather than the criminals. This will do nothing but embolden responses on the streets where the police already take their lives in their hands by the simple act of suiting up and heading out each day to do their jobs and protect the citizens.

At some point it will not be worth the time of the cops to keep showing up in the highest crime areas. And when they stop, let’s see how much everyone enjoys that civil society with nobody around to enforce the laws.

See also: history of Detroit. And the future of Ferguson.

In the fall of 2013, when my wife and I were in New York to visit family and friends, and Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure was nearing its end, I was well aware walking around the city that I was witnessing the potential end of an era. On the other hand, right around that time, New York-based journalist Fred Siegel was positing in the American Enterprise Institute that “New York After Bloomberg” wasn’t likely to descend back into its Death Wish, Taxi Driver, Panic in Needle Park, Taking of Pelham 1,2,3, bad old days. A period that despite whatever moral uplift beloved Mayor Ed Koch brought the city, stretched for varying degrees from the late 1960s until Rudy Giuliani took office and revolutionized New York’s crime prevention techniques:

By the time the next mayor is forced to face up to the fiscal issues, he or she will likely also have to face the consequences of their support for eliminating stop-and-frisk policing. A somewhat hysterical Bloomberg has warned that New York could become Detroit or Chicago should the policy end for good. That is unlikely. Unlike New York, Detroit and Chicago don’t have professionalized police departments. What will likely change, however, is that Gotham will shift from the active policing first introduced by Giuliani (but overdone by Bloomberg, who pushed arrest quotas on the police in recent years) back to the passive policing of the Dinkins years. Active policing eliminated the sense of menace that once defined the city’s streets. Pre-Giuliani and Bratton (his first police commissioner), just asking for a cup of coffee the wrong way could get you a fat lip.

But then, as Daniel Henninger noted in the Wall Street Journal back in 2005, there’s a certain class of Manhattan intelligentsia and SoHo Bobos who longed for a rerun of the Travis Bickle-era — and with Bill de Blasio, they certainly have the right man for the job to return New York to the Bad Old Days.

In 1968, Richard Nixon was elected president on a platform promising law & order after voters were disgusted by the race riots, assassinations, and leftwing mayhem at the 1968 Democrat Convention, which proved that both words in Lyndon Johnson’s “Great” “Society” to be lies. It’s entirely possible that a Republican could win back the White House in 2016 if voters are sufficiently angry over the violence, corruption, and rampant lawlessness of the eight years of the Obama era. But as the horrors of the 1970s remind us (including Watergate, of course), there’s only so much a president can do to restore order, when the rot in the nation’s leaders and bureaucrats is so systemic.

“Don’t Cry (Too Much) for The New Republic,” Lee Smith writes at the Weekly Standard (arguably its neoconservative spin-off), dubbing it “A magazine of ideas without ideas:”

There was no longer an argument in the magazine, or Peretz’s head, that might have taken on the serious issues the U.S.-led invasion and occupation raised—about projecting American power, for instance, or democracy promotion, both of which had been important issues to TNR in the past. Rather, the magazine simply advocated the position staked out by Democrats who, like TNR, had supported the war before they were against it.

Bush’s war, from their perspective, was so obviously bad, stupid, and vile that even American soldiers agreed with The New Republic. In July 2007, Pvt. Scott Beauchamp reported from Iraq and Kuwait that his fellow servicemen were violent jerks who, among other things, killed dogs and humiliated disfigured female soldiers. THE WEEKLY STANDARD’s Michael Goldfarb was the first to note problems with Beauchamp’s diary pieces, and then in August 2007, an Army investigation showed that Beauchamp’s reports were false.

But TNR and its editor at the time, Franklin Foer, didn’t budge. THE WEEKLY STANDARD was wrong, Goldfarb was wrong, the Army was wrong. What had Beauchamp, a novice journalist, done to merit the magazine’s trust, its willingness to stake its own reputation to the claims of an untested reporter? Nothing. The Beauchamp pieces weren’t part of a larger argument, rather they were part of a political campaign against Bush and his supporters, so any criticism of them from those quarters could only be more political warfare. Thus, TNR slid out of the world of ideas and facts. It wasn’t until four months later, in December 2007 that Foer finally decided that the magazine could no longer “stand by [Beauchmp’s] stories.”

Frank Foer is a good guy but the fact that he backed Beauchamp for so long was yet more evidence of a systemic problem with the culture of the magazine. It’s why Kelly stuck with Glass, why the staff was happy to take Hughes’s money when he bought the magazine in 2012, and why they walked out last week in self-righteous outrage. It’s not about ideas, but prestige, privilege, and self-image. They’re always right even when they’re wrong—like they were about Hughes, the wunderkind they once saw as the messiah: they’re arrogant. The TNR Hughes bought was a flattering looking glass that reflected back to its writers and editors, and readers, what they wanted to believe about themselves—that they’re serious people, which they are, with serious ideas, which they do not now have.

But then, that last paragraph, describing a smug arrogant mindset that thinks it’s “always right even when they’re wrong” doesn’t describe the worldview inside the old TNR bullpen, but of the 21st left itself:

 

Update:  “Three Top Lessons from the New Republic Implosion,”  from Kathy Shaidle at the PJ Lifestyle blog.

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Unlike some of Time’s other contestants, nobody’s going to get of offended at “The Ebola Fighters” as person (people?) of the year*; fighting the disease is certainly an extremely worthy cause deserving of praise. As is fighting the hubris of those being monitored for having the disease. (See also: Soup-craving NBC celebrity doctor, Nancy Snyderman.)

As Big Journalism notes, this is far from the first time that Time has pulled their punches in their selection: “Osama Bin Laden was almost named Person of the Year by the publication in 2001 after 9/11, but lost to New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.” And this year, one of the possible choices for person (people?) of the year were the Ferguson arsonists, but likely, that would have been a rehash of Time’s 2011 choice of ”The Protestor” as person (people) of the year.** And of course, Time pulled their punches that year as well, going with relatively tasteful cover art, rather than really playing it edgy, as one media critic suggested:

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* One minor peeve: Picking a large relatively faceless group goes against Henry Luce’s original intent in creating his annual “Man of the Year” cover in the 1920s to combat the Marxist cant of what was then seen as history’s dispassionate emotionless sweep, but then, pretty much every opinion uttered by Time in recent decades goes against its founder’s sane, centrist worldview.

** Which is one of the dangers of being in a permanently seething mood. After a while, the temper tantrums start to blur as the grownups become increasingly inured.

Geoffrey Norman of the Weekly Standard spots Bill Scher of Politico dreaming “of a day when the left can mobilize like the Tea Party did.  Interesting notion and perhaps he will get back to us when the progressives have, in a couple of mid-term blowouts, changed the nation’s political map.” In the meantime, Scher writes:

Even as they publicly condemn Tea Party Republicans as hostage-taking legislative thugs, the truth is that some Democrats are quietly jealous of them. Think of it: The Tea Party gang gets to intimidate party leaders, threaten legislation, block nominees, shut down the government and default on the debt if they don’t get their way. They cause major trouble.

Boy, does that sound good.

Haven’t we all seen this movie before? In 2011, the Washington Post was asking “Can Liberals Start Their Own Tea Party?” To which Glenn Reynolds responded:

Well, we’ve had the Coffee Party, the Brownbaggers, The Other 95%, A New Way Forward, the One Nation Movement — am I leaving any out? I can’t remember — and none of them has gone much beyond a spot of initial positive coverage from the NYT. So, probably not. But apparently, Van Jones is going to try again with the “The American Dream Movement.” I hear he’s got a catchy slogan, too: From Each According To His Abilities, To Each According To His Needs. Or maybe it’s Death to the Kulaks! I’m not sure . . . .

Of course, these days, the self-admitted Communist would likely call his movement, “Can I Kiss You? Can I Kiss You Here Against Your Will?”, but that’s another story entirely.

But the Tea Party’s goals are ultimately simple: cut taxes, reduce spending, shrink the size of government, and have it leave people the hell alone. What would a leftwing Tea Party oppose in Washington? As Jonah Goldberg noted in July, “To the extent mainstream liberals complain about Obama it is almost entirely about tactics and competence:”

When was the last time you heard a really serious ideological complaint about Obama from, say, EJ Dionne or the editorial board of the New York Times? I’ll go further. When was the last time you heard liberals have a really good, public, ideological fight about anything? I’m sure there have been some interesting arguments between bloggers and the like. But I can’t think of anything – on domestic policy at least – that has spilled out onto the airwaves and op-ed pages in a sustained way. The Democratic Leadership Council – once committed to moving the Democratic Party rightward — closed up shop in 2011. They muttered something about accomplishing their mission, but that was basically sad office talk over cake and packing crates. Al Gore was once considered a conservative Democrat, but he moved to the left and has stayed there. Hillary Clinton was once a committed leftist. She moved toward the center for entirely mercenary reasons. But by the time she got there, the tide of her party receded leftward leaving her on a lonely atoll with her pile of Wall Street lucre.  John Kerry was the most liberal (or progressive) member of the senate in 2004, and he was his party’s nominee for president. In 2008, the same could be said about Obama and, well, you know how that story goes.

The best way to get the measure and value of ideological distinctions is to see what the ideologues are willing to fight for, in public, at some reputational risk. On the right today, those metrics are on full display. Not so on the left. Everyone gets along, all oars pull in the same direction. And what disagreements there are – between liberals and leftists or liberals and progressives – they’re overwhelmingly about tactics or insufficient zeal toward “common goals” and they are kept to a dull roar.

At the Politico, Scher wrote that the a leftwing equivalent of the Tea Party causing “major trouble” for the centrist-GOP establishment sure sounds good. What trouble did Occupy wish to cause Obama, aka “President Goldman-Sachs?” Where were the anti-war protesters when Obama saber-rattled against Syria and ISIS? What trouble do the Ferguson and Eric Garner-related protesters want to cause him? Tough to have a sustained protest movement when it seems like it will be kabuki right from the start.

On the other hand, don’t count the negative impact of what the left are currently seething about: