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Ed Driscoll

The Future and its Enemies

“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:

2009_socialist_newsweek_cover_5-5-13-1

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

di_blasio_bane_batman_1-2-14-3

“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.

time-ebola-cover-person-of-the-year-12-10-14-1

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:

occupy_wall_street_time_magazine_parody_12-10-11

* 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:

Elizabeth Warren Goes Full Orwell

December 8th, 2014 - 4:41 pm

Targeted?

During a meeting with nearly 50 of her top Boston-area donors Sunday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren strongly criticized President Barack Obama’s Treasury Department pick Antonio Weiss and said Hispanic and African-American families were “targeted” during the mortgage crisis, according to people who attended the event.

* * * * * * * *

She ascribed some of the problem to a worsening climate of economic opportunity for African-Americans than existed even a decade ago, according to attendees. And she said that the mortgage crisis affected black and Hispanic families more heavily, describing those groups as being “targeted.”

Umm, minorities were targeted all right — by the Federal government — who demanded that banks lend money to those with those with insufficient credit to likely repay the loans, ushering in the subprime mortgage bubble that, when it burst, created the economic crisis that ushered in Barack Obama in the fall of 2008:

As a commenter at Hot Air notes:

This is an argument we can’t win with the left. If the sub prime loans are not made, then we are denying mortgages to low income families (Never mind that the interest rate is higher because of the increased risk to the lending institution). Since they were made, the left argues that they were predatory. And if you suggest that the interest rates should be higher to higher risk borrowers, now you are being discriminatory.

Just ask Barack Obama, who sued banks in 1998 as a young lawyer and would-be community organizer on behalf of 186 Chicago-area clients.  As Neil Munro noted in 2012 at the Daily Caller, “With landmark lawsuit, Barack Obama pushed banks to give subprime loans to Chicago’s African-Americans:”

Two guesses as to how that all worked out:

At least 46 of Obama’s 186 clients have declared bankruptcy since 1996, often multiple times.

That’s a far higher bankruptcy rate than the rate for all Americans, for Chicagoans and even for African-Americans in Chicago.

In a 2011 report, the left-of-center Woodstock Institute reported that just 4.25 percent of African-Americans living in Chicago’s mostly black neighborhoods went bankrupt between 2006 and 2010.

By contrast, 11 of Obama’s 186 clients — or 6.6 percent — went bankrupt during the same five-year period.

That bankruptcy is 50 percent higher than the rate among Cook County’s African-American population, and almost three times the bankruptcy rate of all Cook county residents, according to data in the Woodstock report, titled “Bridging the Gap II.”

And there you have it: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and even young radical Barack Obama pushing banks to lend money to those least likely to pay back their loans, and now Elizabeth Warren declaring those same subprime loan applicants were “targeted.”

Perhaps this earlier government spokesman summed up this Mobius Loop best:

Exit quote: “The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.”

But good luck trying tell America’s best-known phony Indian that.

I Can See the Next Detroits from My House

December 8th, 2014 - 3:59 pm

Shot:

“Urban Blacks in U.S. Have Little Confidence in Police.”

—Gallup Poll, today.

Chaser:

“Philly Mayor: ‘You Have Some Police Officers Who are Increasingly Afraid of the Community.’

—CBS, today.

“Riots bring but one certainty—enormous economic and social costs,” Fred Siegel wrote in August at City Journal, during the first round of the left’s collective Death Wish for the small town of Ferguson, Missouri:

Businesses flee, taking jobs and tax revenues with them. Home values decline for all races, but particularly for blacks. Insurance costs rise and civic morale collapses. The black and white middle classes move out. Despite its busy port and enormous geographic assets, Newark, New Jersey has never fully recovered from its 1967 riot. This year, Newark elected as its mayor Ras Baraka, the son and political heir of Amiri Baraka—the intellectual inspiration for the 1967 unrest.

The story is similar in Detroit, which lost half its residents between 1967 and 2000. Civic authority was never restored after the late 1960s riots, which never really ended; they just continued in slow motion. “It got decided a long time ago in Detroit,” explained Adolph Mongo, advisor to the jailed former “hip-hop mayor,” Kwame Kilpatrick, that “the city belongs to the black man. The white man was a convenient target until there were no white men left in Detroit.” The upshot, explained Sam Riddle, an advisor to current congressman John Conyers, first elected in 1965, is that “the only difference between Detroit and the Third World in terms of corruption is that Detroit don’t have no goats in the streets.”

This year’s riots will only add to their misery, as Victor Davis Hanson wrote yesterday:

So another unspoken lesson from Ferguson may be that unarmed assailants such as Brown — or Trayvon Martin — can, just as armed suspects, pose as great challenges to those who confront them, in the sense that being assaulted by them might now be seen as preferable to using a firearm in self-defense, with the subsequent ruin that follows.

Note further that the community of Ferguson dissenters was not much worried that strong-armed robbery occurred, or that a town cannot long exist with youths walking in the middle of the street under the influence or assaulting police officers, or disobeying orders to cease and desist, or postfacto rioting and looting as much as the fact that in the shoot-out, a white policeman shot a black unarmed assailant.  That fact, too, will be silently noted.

Will some law enforcement officials now surmise that it is wiser to ignore some crimes in the inner city on the practicable logic that the denouement for the officer will likely be negative — either by stopping the assailant through force or not stopping the assault and thus being assaulted? If the suspect is unarmed but attacks, the post-Ferguson choice will either be to suffer physical harm or to respond in ways that may equate with the end of a career. So it may be preferable that the suspect is armed, at least in the sense that any resort to armed self-defense at least offers the hope of dodging the first bullet or two, while still escaping the specter of Ferguson justice. (Note the near contemporaneous case of an off-duty officer in St. Louis who shot an African-American assailant who had first fired but missed. The key fact of the case was that the assailant got in the first three shots and thus the protests that followed fizzled out before rioting.)

The riots of the mid-’60s and their negative impact on law enforcement quickly brought repercussions far beyond Detroit, Watts, and Newark, lasting for decades.

Just ask Mr. Sammler.

Quotes of the Day

December 7th, 2014 - 5:01 pm

During the 3-1/2 years of World War 2 that started with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and ended with the Surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945, “We the People of the U.S.A.” produced the following:

22 aircraft carriers,
8 battleships,
48 cruisers,
349 destroyers,
420 destroyer escorts,
203 submarines,
34 million tons of merchant ships,
100,000 fighter aircraft,
98,000 bombers,
24,000 transport aircraft,
58,000 training aircraft,
93,000 tanks,
257,000 artillery pieces,
105,000 mortars,
3,000,000 machine guns, and
2,500,000 military trucks.

We put 16.1 million men in uniform in the various armed services, invaded Africa, invaded Sicily and Italy, won the battle for the Atlantic, planned and executed D-Day, marched across the Pacific and Europe, developed the atomic bomb, and ultimately conquered Japan and Germany.

It’s worth noting, that during the almost exact amount of time, the Obama Administration couldn’t even build a web site that worked.

From the comments of “Dec. 7 1941″ at Ace of Spades today.

On the other hand, there are some rather unsavory traits that FDR and BHO do share in common:

As I’ve said before, despite UCLA noting four years prior that “FDR’s policies prolonged Depression by 7 years, UCLA economists calculate,” Time-Warner-CNN-HBO meant this November 2008 cover as a compliment:
time_obama_fdr_12-24-2008-3

Empty Integrity: The New Morality

December 7th, 2014 - 2:07 pm

How is it going to work out for us all?, Jonah Goldberg asked last month in National Review on Dead Tree:

According to Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the death of God and the coming of the übermensch was going to require the new kind of inner-directed hero to become his own god. As a result, anything society did to inconvenience the heroic individual was morally suspect, a backdoor attempt by The Man to impose conformity. This is pretty much exactly what Robin Williams teaches in Dead Poets Society. But that ethos has traveled a long way from Mork. When Barack Obama was asked by a minister to define “sin,” he confidently answered that “sin” just means being “out of alignment with my values.” Taken literally, this would mean that Hannibal Lecter is being sinful when he abstains from human flesh in favor of a Waldorf salad. As you can see, when you take the modern definition of integrity all the way to the horizon, suddenly “integrity” can be understood only as a firm commitment to one’s own principles — because one’s own principles are the only legitimate principles. Heck, if you are a god, then doing what you want is God’s will.

How’s this new morality going to work out for us all? I’m reminded of the time when an entrepreneur announced he was going to release a new line of beer laced with Viagra. Some wag immediately quipped, “What could possibly go wrong?” Which is pretty much where we are today. It’s impossible to predict what Integrity 2.0 will yield — because no society in the history of Western civilization has so energetically and deliberately torn down its classical ideal and replaced it with do-it-yourself morality. But a betting man would probably wager that this won’t end well.

I suspect that before long we’ll be pining for the good old days, when, no matter how often people failed to uphold the standards of integrity, those standards actually meant something.

Or to put the above into visual terms:

Related: “Re-read that last sentence. It was written by a senior campus journalist, someone in training now to become a professional journalist. And she doesn’t think facts are of primary importance in the narrative. Only what is useful to the cause, it would appear.”

And Thus is Born Miniature Detroit

November 30th, 2014 - 3:59 pm

“Do not rebuild in #Ferguson,” Don Surber writes:

From a kid who survived the Hough Riots in Cleveland nearly a half century ago, some unsolicited advice to the business owners in Ferguson, Missouri: Do not bother rebuilding. Your customers do not want you. They tore up your stores — twice. And after one of them robbed a store. These are not protests. They are pogroms aimed at the middle class. Take the insurance money and run.

Police officers, too, should leave. Why risk a criminal trial or worse for doing your job?

Homeowners, too. Black, white, Asian, Hispanic — it does not matter. You are middle class. They do not want you. Leave.

Zev Chafets’ brilliant Devil’s Night is a time machine — written 25 years ago; it’s not only an excellent look at life in post-riot Detroit, but its vignettes are a preview of Ferguson about five years or so from now.

The Desire Named Streetcar

November 28th, 2014 - 3:25 pm

“Public Transit Is Going Extinct, But Toy Trains Still Snooker Cities,” Georgi Boorman writes at the Federalist:

In 1941, all of Seattle’s streetcars were replaced with trolley coaches, which are essentially buses that run along the same overhead wires as the streetcars did. The city quickly adopted the new technology, painfully aware that the current system was unsafe, unpleasant, and difficult to maintain. Bus engineering quickly developed into the types of free-range buses we use today, but the key transition was that of “rails to rubber,” which proved vastly more comfortable and easier to maintain.

Today, cities across the country have extensive bus systems with very low capital costs that largely meet the needs of their residents. Buses revolutionized transit for the better, offering much greater flexibility to quickly adapt routes and better serve riders. Despite being in use for over half a century, they are the cutting edge of mass transit technology at the urban level. “Modern” streetcars, on the other hand, may look sleek and appealing, but their core functionality is essentially the same as it was 70 years ago. They do not travel any faster than buses, increase congestion at intersections, take several years and millions of dollars to build, and for heaven’s sake they are literally and unalterably installed in the ground.

The “very low capital costs” of buses that Boorman notes in the above passage actually works against them from the point of view of a city government looking to protect its phoney-baloney jobs and create many of them, as the CATO Institute noted nearly a decade ago:

A transit agency that expands its bus fleet gets the support of the transit operators union. But an agency that builds a rail line gets the support of construction companies, construction unions, banks and bond dealers, railcar manufacturers, electric power companies (if the railcars are electric powered), downtown property owners, and other real estate interests. Rail may be a negative-sum game for the region as a whole, but those concentrated interests stand to gain a lot at a relatively small expense to everyone else.

So crony socialism, in other words. No wonder Mr. Obama, the man who practices it on a super-sized scale, obsesses over “high-speed intercontinental [sic] rail.”

As for his comic-relief sidekick, perhaps Orson Welles was wrong — a movie studio is not the best electric train set a boy can play with:

joe_biden_amtrak_tweet_11-28-14-1

Because to paraphrase this Twitchy headline, nothing says safety like the prospect of an untrained 72-year old career politician at the controls of a 190,000 pound electric locomotive and its passenger cars.

Related: “Piece by Piece, The Blue Model Sickens and Dies,” Walter Russell Mead writes on the competition that the massively-regulated taxi system is facing from startups such as Uber and Lyft.

“Obama Awards Medal of Freedom to Supporter and Former NBC Anchor Tom Brokaw,” Curtis Houck writes at NewsBusters:

Throughout her report [on Brokaw receiving the award], [Andrea] Mitchell certainly didn’t note many of the instances in which Brokaw heaped mounds of praise on the President (that has appeared to pay off). As the Media Research Center’s Kyle Drennen noted back on November 12, Brokaw’s positive remarks toward the President are numerous and included him comparing Obama to Vaclev Havel, who led the “Velet Revolution” that brought down communism in the former Czechoslovakia.

It would be fun to ask Brokaw what his definition of “freedom” is, given that the veteran NBC newsreader begged the Chief Spokesman for the Office of the President Elect in December of 2008 to raise taxes during the trough of the Great Recession (consistent with his take on President Reagan cutting taxes), and his loathing of the Second Amendment, telling fellow NBC employees Al Sharpton and Joe Scarborough in January of 2013 that, as Nathaniel Botwinick paraphrased at NRO’s The Corner, “Silence on Gun Violence Like Not Speaking Out Against Segregation in 1960s South.” Or as Brokaw himself said:

All these component parts claim, it’s not their responsibility. The NRA says it’s not about the guns, it’s about violence and mental health. Mental health people can’t share information because we have privacy issues here. The video game industry says we have a right under the First Amendment. Reverend Al, it reminds me a lot of what happened in the South during the 1960s during the civil rights movement. Good people stayed in their houses and didn’t speak up when there was carnage in the streets and the total violation of the fundamental rights of African-Americans as they marched in Selma. And they let Bull Connor and the redneck elements of the South and the Klan take over their culture in effect and become a face of it.

The testimony of many blacks who relied upon the Second Amendment to defend themselves during that period against Brokaw’s fellow Democrat Bull Connor contradicts the NBC newsreader:

When Charles “Chuck” Hicks does the Martin Luther King Jr. Day peace and freedom walks Saturday, he’ll also be taking a step for what the National Rifle Association has dubbed “National Rifle Appreciation Day.” That’s because Hicks is the son of Robert Hicks, a prominent leader of the legendary Deacons for Defense and Justice — an organization of black men in Louisiana who used shotguns and rifles to repel attacks by white vigilantes during the 1960s.

“The Klan would drive through our neighborhood shooting at us, shooting into our homes,” recalled Hicks, 66, who grew up in Bogalusa, La., and has been a civil rights activist in the District for more than 35 years. “The black men in the community wouldn’t stand for it. You shoot at us, we shoot back at you. I’m convinced that without our guns, my family and many other black people would not be alive today.”

As the Glenn Reynolds adds, “Condi Rice tells a similar story, of course. More background here.”

Continuing with the Orwellian aspects of Tom’s award, when Dan Rather had cooked the books in September of 2004 launching his ultimately career-ending scandal known as Rathergate, his then-fellow over-the-air nightly news anchors Brokaw and the late Peter Jennings both circled the wagons the following month — with the presidential election still ongoing — to defend their fellow dino-journalist from those whom they perceived as rabble conservative upstarts.

Around that time four years later, Brokaw helpfully lied to PBS’s Charlie Rose, “We don’t know a lot about Barack Obama and the universe of his thinking about foreign policy…There’s a lot about him we don’t know.” Gee Tom and Charlie, if only you had entire armies of journalists you command at your two networks to answer those questions, not to mention an information retrieval device called the Internet.

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‘The Nihilist in the White House’

November 21st, 2014 - 1:49 pm

“This White House seems driven—does it understand this?—by a kind of political nihilism. They agitate, aggravate, fray and separate,” Peggy Noonan wrote last night:

ObamaCare, whose very legitimacy was half killed by the lie that “If you like your plan, you can keep it,” and later by the incompetence of its implementation, has been done in now by the mindless, highhanded bragging of a technocrat who helped build it, and who amused himself the past few years explaining that the law’s passage was secured only by lies, and the lies were effective because the American people are stupid. Jonah Goldberg of National Review had a great point the other day: They build a thing so impenetrable, so deliberately impossible for any normal person to understand, and then they denigrate them behind their backs for not understanding.

I don’t know how ObamaCare will go, but it won’t last as it is. If the White House had wisdom, they’d declare that they’d won on the essential argument—health coverage is a right for all—and go back to the drawing board with Congress. The only part of the ObamaCare law that is popular is its intention, not its reality. The White House should declare victory and redraw the bill. But the White House is a wisdom-free zone.

The president’s executive action on immigration is an act of willful nihilism that he himself had argued against in the past. It is a sharp stick in the eye of the new congressional majority. It is at odds with—it defies—the meaning and message of the last election, and therefore is destructive to the reputation of democracy itself. It is huge in its impact but has only a sole cause, the president’s lone will. It damages the standing of our tottery political institutions rather than strengthening them, which is what they desperately need, and sets a template for future executive abuse. It will surely encourage increased illegal immigration and thus further erode the position of the American working class.

Jonah’s latest G-File (emailed today, online tomorrow) illustrates just how craven Mr. Obama can be. I don’t believe the president is a crypto-Muslim — he’s far t00 in love with himself to worship Allah, as one wag has noted — but note this disgusting bit of theater:

One last item I don’t want to fall down the memory hole. I was going to write a whole column on this, but Mona Charen beat me to the punch. Still, my jaw dropped when I heard Obama’s reaction to the beheading of Peter Kassig.

“ISIL’s actions represent no faith,” Obama said, “least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own.”

Abdul-Rahman was Kassig’s Muslim name, which he adopted only while being held captive by Islamists. Perhaps the conversion was sincere, though I suspect Kassig did it to stay alive and certainly under duress and I can begrudge him it. Either way, there’s something disgusting about using Kassig’s Muslim name in order to score a propaganda point.

It’s even worse when that propaganda point is so incandescently stupid.

As Mona notes (and as I argued here), no one except Barack Obama thinks it’s a revelation that the Islamic State kills Muslims. No Kurd, no Shia, no moderate Sunni stays in his home when the Islamic State is at the gates, and says “Hey, we’re Muslim and Muslims don’t kill Muslims. We’ve got nothing to worry about.”

But it’s the phrase “least of all the Muslim faith” that is truly infuriating. Least of all? Really? So other faiths are more implicated in this atrocity than Islam? Which ones? Does he really mean to be suggesting that while the Islamic State’s actions “represent no faith,” if we have to assign blame, Islam is the least culpable? Could a team of rhetoricians, theologians and logicians working around the clock in some Andromeda Strain bunker beneath the Nevada desert come up with an argument that puts even a scintilla more blame at the feet of, say, the Lutherans or Quakers? On the one hand we have a bunch of dudes who shout “Allāhu Akbar!”, memorize the Koran, and rape and murder in the name of the Islamic State. On the other hand, we have a grab bag of Buddhists, Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, and Southern Baptists. And the one faith least implicated here is Islam? Really. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

Heh. But then, along with cynicism, crazy is the currency of the Beltway at the moment.

Update: Bedpans.

#Grubergate and ‘Low Information Experts’

November 21st, 2014 - 12:02 pm

Note the acronym those first letters form,  James Bovard writes at the Washington Times:

Unfortunately, contemporary Washington is calibrated to defer to experts who defer to politicians, providing an intellectual Praetorian Guard for the constant growth of a leviathan. As Denver University professor David Ciepley noted, “Starting in the First World War, and much more so during the New Deal and World War II, American social scientists became part of the autonomous state themselves, helping staff the mushrooming government agencies.” The closer that intellectuals get to politicians, the more weaselly they usually become.

Playing off Mr. Gruber’s derision of average Americans, one wag suggested a new acronym — L.I.E. — for Low Information Experts. Mr. Gruber and many other professors have gotten rich by pretending that government is far more competent than it actually is. Economist Robert Skidelsky, writing about the history of modern socialism, observed that “the collectivist belief system existed independently of the facts of modern life.” The same is true of the academic cadre who profit by vindicating endless government interventions that breed chaos and dependency.

The shenanigans by which Obamacare was enacted vivify how far this nation has fallen from the Founding Fathers’ ideals. We increasingly have a caretaker democracy in which rulers dupe and punish citizens for their own good. Supposedly, voters still enjoy self-government because they are permitted a token choice in who will deceive and shackle them.

‘Low Information Experts’ and its resulting acronym certainly sums up Websites such as Washington Post castaway Vox.com — as one of its founders will admit in his more candid moments:

yglesias_sophistry_8-10

And certainly Politico’s Glenn Thrush and BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith are certainly more than willing to became rather “unexpectedly” incurious as journalists when it suits advancing socialist power.

Speaking of the latter fellow and the controversy he currently finds himself in given that, as Sean Davis writes at the Federalist, “BuzzFeed’s Executive Chairman Is Invested In Uber’s Competition,” here’s a question asked and answered:

By the way, the Daily Caller reports today that “House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa is calling on MIT economist and so-called Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber to testify next month about ‘transparency failures and outright deceptions surrounding Obamacare.’”

Pass the popcorn.

Related: “Ben Smith BenSmiths Buzzfeed’s Stake in Uber Hit Piece.” Unexpectedly.

“Thanks to Obama jumping the gun and supposedly addressing the humanitarian concerns of those already here, Republicans have the opening to argue that the serial approach is now the best way to solve the problem. That is what I meant by political jujitsu,” Ed Morrissey writes:

In jujitsu, one does not confront an opponent’s strength head on, but uses it against him. Obama clearly wanted to make himself look like the compassionate actor in this debate, and Republicans the heartless, cruel nativists. Instead of trying to fight that battle, make Obama own it and bypass it for the real battle the GOP wants to win on border security. Make Democrats vote against a border security bill, and make Obama veto one while his own amnesty remains in place.

How many Senate Democrats would be willing to sustain that veto before the 2016 election? I’m betting not too many. But Republicans have a perfect opportunity to turn the debate in that direction now and force Obama and his shrinking number of allies on Capitol Hill to go on the record.

Glenn Reynolds adds, “You know, if one of the GOP big-money donors — I’m looking at you, Sheldon Adelson — is smart, he’ll fund a welcome-wagon operation in swing states. Reach out to these newly-amnestied immigrants, help them get jobs, connect them with social services, offer them American civics education to help integrate, register them Republican. . . .”

And perhaps the best proposal of all is by Drew M. at Ace of Spades’ blog. “Let Obama Give The State Of The Union Somewhere Else:”

Yes the media will be apoplectic about this. Good, that’s the point. This is a serious moment in our nation’s history. I’ve not seen a single Republican, even ones who strongly support legislative amnesty, support the President on this. The outrage caused by what is an extreme step will help to focus the nation on the threat to our constitutional order.

The President and his supporters have repeatedly said the “prosecutorial discretion” he claims is well within in the law and his power. Well, not inviting the President to speak to the assembled members of Congress is well within the discretion and power of the Speaker of the House.

[Note: This is meant as an addition to the de-funding and nomination blocking ideas, not instead of them]

Drew’s suggestion would be a particularly devastating example of political jujitsu, but it would require Boehner and Mitch McConnell to grow spines sufficient to deal with, as Drew puts it, an apoplectic assemblage of DNC operatives with bylines. Which means it probably won’t happen, and more’s the pity.

Update:

 

“Democrats across print, web, and cable media have been repeating the claim that Obama is doing nothing more than what Presidents Reagan and Bush 41 did first.” Not true, Gabriel Malor writes at the Federalist:

In 1986, faced with a large and growing population of illegal aliens, Congress created a new, time-limited form of immigration relief for certain aliens who, among other things, had to have come to the United States more than six years previously. This is the much ballyhooed Reagan amnesty. It was, unfortunately, riddled with fraud in its execution, the uncovering of which is still roiling the immigrant community. But even setting that aside it left President Reagan with a moral dilemma. Congress’ amnesty was large—just shy of 3 million people—and it had the unanticipated effect of splitting up freshly-legalized parents from their illegally-present minor children who did not qualify for relief.

So Reagan, seeing this family unity problem that Congress had not anticipated or addressed when it granted amnesty to millions of parents, issued an executive order to defer the removal of children of the people who had applied for immigration amnesty under Congress’ new law. He allowed those children to remain in the United States while their parents’ applications for amnesty were pending. A few years later, Bush 41 extended this bit of administrative grace to these same children plus certain spouses of the aliens who had actually been granted immigration amnesty under Congress’ new law.

Congress, though it had desired to grant amnesty, had not considered and not included the spouses and children. Importantly, nor had it excluded them. So Presidents Reagan and Bush 41 filled that statutory gap. “What do we do with spouses and children?” INS asked. “Well,” the executive branch leaders said, “defer their deportation. Decline to exercise your lawful authority for the particular cases that are related to those Congress has offered amnesty.”

These Reagan and Bush 41 executive actions were obviously different than what Obama is doing now.

Read the whole thing.

The Gray Lady is not happy about a lawless, out of control White House, and demands checks and balances be put in place after November’s stunning election results:

Ask a long-serving member of the United States Senate — like, say, Patrick Leahy of Vermont — to reflect on the Senate’s role in our constitutional government, and he will almost invariably tell you a story from our nation’s founding that may or may not be apocryphal. It concerns an exchange that supposedly took place between Thomas Jefferson and George Washington in 1787, the year of the constitutional convention in Philadelphia. Jefferson, who had been serving as America’s ambassador to France during the convention, asked Washington over breakfast upon his return why he and the other framers created a Senate — in addition to the previously planned House of Representatives and presidency — in his absence.

“Why did you pour that coffee into your saucer?” Washington reportedly replied.

“To cool it,” Jefferson answered.

“Even so,” Washington said, “we pour our legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.”

The United States Senate has been called the world’s greatest deliberative body. By serving six-year terms — as opposed to the two-year terms in the more populist and considerably larger House of Representatives — senators are supposed to be able to stand above the ideological fray and engage in thoughtful and serious debate. What’s more, the filibuster rule allows a single senator to halt the creep of political passions into the decision-making process by blocking a given vote.

Perhaps nowhere is the ethos of the Senate, this commitment to principle over politics, more memorably captured than in the classic 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” when Jimmy Stewart, who plays an idealistic freshman senator wrongfully accused of graft, refuses to yield the floor until he has cleared his name. (After almost 24 hours, he winds up passing out from exhaustion but is ultimately exonerated.)

“We’re supposed to be the conscience of the nation,” Senator Leahy told me recently in his Washington office, which is decorated with New England folk art, including a print of a dog and cat cuddling on a throw rug that looks as if it could be on loan from a bed-and-breakfast in his home state.

Leahy is one of Congress’s so-called Watergate babies. He was elected to the Senate following Nixon’s resignation in 1974, and his arrival on Capitol Hill coincided with the sweeping bipartisan effort to investigate the Nixon administration’s abuses of executive power. “There was a sense inside the Senate among both Republicans and Democrats that the government had gotten off course and that we had a responsibility to find out what happened,” Leahy recalled.

Strong stuff. Of course, it was published on November 7th 2008, and the Times would go on to quickly forget its own words — if they even believed them in the first place. Since then, the paper has reveled in the glory of one-party government (as long as it’s as far to the left as possible) and nuking the Constitution.

No doubt, the only reservations the Carlos Slim-backed newspaper has on Obama’s amnesty is what a President Cruz or President Walker might do with such a precedent established. In the meantime, as Roger Kimball writes today, “It’s not every day that you get to have a ringside seat at the birth of tyranny.  Tune in tonight and you might have that dubious privilege.” The Times in particular should love their front row seats.

Related: “Watch Obama Admit That Obama’s Immigration Executive Order Is Illegal.”

Well, it’s not like the man held himself out as a professor who used to teach the Constitution while running for the presidency or anything.

Exit quote:

Quote of the Day

November 19th, 2014 - 11:52 am

“Send this police chief to Ferguson because this is the TRUTH they need to hear!” The Right Scoop blog notes:

Man oh man this is awesome. Police Chief Edward Flynn spoke to reporters on November 6 after a Fire and Police Commission meeting concerning the shooting of Dontre Hamilton. And he doesn’t hold back with the brazen truth about people who care more about a black teen shot by a cop than they do about all the violent crimes against blacks in Milwaukee, something he says is the true threat to the racial disparity.

Spot on. Watch the whole thing.