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Ed Driscoll

The Future and its Enemies

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.

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“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:

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

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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.

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.