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Ed Driscoll

The Future and its Enemies

This is Why California Can’t Have Nice Things

September 21st, 2014 - 9:37 am

“Castro Valley Winery to Government: Crush Grapes, Not Vintners,” Debra Saunders writes at Townhall:

“You’ll never meet anyone who says, ‘I want to be a millionaire. I think I’ll start a winery,’” owner Bill Smyth tells me from his small office over the tasting room of Westover Vineyards, nestled in Palomares Canyon. Smyth has worked in a number of fields. He made some money. He bought the vineyard property when he was young. His ex-wife bought him a kit to make wine, and his labor of love turned into a small business.

Now, thanks to heavy-handed California regulators, he’s selling off his ports and boutique wines and turning his winery back into a home.

In July, California Department of Industrial Relations officials showed up at Westover Vineyards and slapped Smyth with $115,550 in fines, back wages and penalties. His bad: Like many other East Bay wineries, Westover benefits from the labor of volunteers to help with winemaking and pouring. Smyth offers a free course in winemaking; he says participants are free to help out or not. He has a legal form for volunteers. It reads: “I am donating my labor free by choice.”

We’re not talking about teens being pressed into grueling labor in hot fields. As one who enjoys the fruit and neighborhood feel of Livermore Valley wineries, I’ve met both volunteers and employees who started as volunteers. They tend to be middle-aged professionals who want a piece of the oenology dream.

California entrepreneurs pride themselves on the can-do spirit that allowed Hewlett and Packard and Jobs and Woz start their businesses in their garages — and then consistently vote for socialists who would make a kid’s lemonade stand illegal, let alone a winery or home business. And then they wonder why the state, with its gorgeous weather (at least near the coast) and tremendous natural resources has a net outflow of citizens. As the Manhattan Institute noted in 2012, “For the past two decades, California has been sending more people to other American states than it receives from them. Since 1990, the state has lost nearly 3.4 million residents through this migration.”

Related: Meanwhile, in Illinois, “I hate to see the Democratic Party continually demonize Americans that are successful. What? Should we all be failures?”

‘It’s the Libertarian Left Behind’

September 17th, 2014 - 6:35 pm

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I read many skeptical reviews of the first Atlas Shrugged movie in 2011, went in to the theater with absolutely zero expectations, and as I wrote here on the blog, I was mildly surprised at how watchable it was. Anthony Sacramone of the Intercollegiate Review says much the same about his response to the first two Atlas movies, before running absolutely roughshod over the latest edition, asking along the way, “This Is John Galt?”

There’s a reason why Atlas Shrugged is rife with railways and natural resources and raw materials. It’s a bombastic prose poem to the original Industrial Age, when great men built a nation out of what they could pull from the earth and refine and refashion. It’s primal. It’s passionate. It’s as real as the car you drive or the building you live in.

And even though I am no Randian today, having long ago come to terms with the many contingencies and interdependencies of life, I nevertheless understand the appeal, the excitement, engendered by the author’s ideas and lust for life. And the 1949 film adaptation of The Fountainhead was pretty good, with a screenplay by Rand herself, direction by King Vidor, and performances by Patricia Neal and the one and only Gary Cooper as Howard Roark, the visionary and uncompromising architect.

Which is why I think, dare I say it, that the original Atlas, for all its flaws, deserved better than this film. My libertarian friends deserved better. My eyeballs deserved better. That Native American who appeared in those anti-littering commercials back in the 1970s with a tear rolling down his cheek deserved better and I don’t even know why. He wasn’t even Native American—he was Italian.

It takes a while for Sacramone to get going, but his review is well worth your time; definitely read the whole thing. Or as Mark Hemingway tweets:

‘A Bridge Too Far’

September 16th, 2014 - 1:09 pm

Jacob Weisberg of Slate reviews The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan by self-admitted “European-style Social Democrat” Rick Perlstein, in Democracy Journal:

If he were willing to look more critically at the left, the way he does at the right, Perlstein might give more weight to the visible bridge of Reagan’s stated views. By the mid-1970s, the failures of Great Society liberalism were evident: Despite some popular and meaningful accomplishments like Medicaid, the poorly thought-out War on Poverty was arguably doing more harm than good. Broken welfare and public housing systems were not liberating the urban poor, but trapping a new underclass in a new kind of poverty. Crime, bad schools, and the threat of busing were driving the middle class away from America’s cities. With a top marginal rate of 70 percent kicking in at just over $100,000 for individuals (or around $275,000 in adjusted terms), income taxes were both too high and, with as many as 25 brackets, gratuitously complex. Few people paid 70 percent, of course, but the pursuit of shelters and loopholes was creating pervasive distortion in economic behavior. Delegated regulatory authority empowered unaccountable bureaucrats not only to ignore the economic cost of greater safety, but to set prices for everything from airline tickets to long-distance phone calls. Liberal government had arrived at an impasse that an interest-group-dominated Democratic Party was unable to address.

In the international sphere, similarly, Reagan’s critique of Henry Kissinger’s amoral realpolitik and detente with the Soviet Union was far from preposterous or the worldview of a simpleton. The anger of both conservatives and anti-Communist liberals over Ford’s refusal to meet with Alexander Solzhenitsyn in the summer of 1975 was fully justified—even if they were ultimately proven wrong in their negative view of the Helsinki Accords. Perlstein’s understanding of Reagan is constrained by his tendency to see conservatives as either frightening wackos or cynical manipulators. The one thing he doesn’t do in his new book, infuriatingly, is take conservative political ideas—and, by extension, the people who voted for them—seriously.

An alternative thesis is the one Perlstein seemed to be framing up with his first, shorter, and better book: that the crucial bridge in modern Republican politics was the one leading from Barry Goldwater to Reagan. Nixon was the last important President of the New Deal Era, in the same way that Bill Clinton is best subsumed under the rubric of the Reagan Era. Constraining the federal government was not a significant component of Nixon’s political rhetoric, and he left it bigger, more expensive, and more powerful than he found it. Reagan did not ultimately reduce the size of the federal government in any meaningful sense, but he did diminish its scope and ambitions in ways that continue to resonate and define contemporary Republican politics.

Beyond the plagiarism charges circulating around Perlstein over this book raised initially by Craig Shirley, the conservative author of earlier works on Reagan that Perlstein, to say the least, apparently leaned on rather heavily, Orrin Judd had the best short critique of it. Dubbing him “The Accidental Hagiographer,” Orrin writes:

As you can see here, the premise of this volume is not only hilarious but inflates Ronald Reagan into a mythical hero far moreso than any of the fawning texts we on the right produce : the gnostic reality, known only to the Left, is that America is nothing special and, for one brief shining moment, in the 70s everyone was about to realize that, but Reagan, through the exercise of little more than his personal will, restores the delusion that America is more important than other states.

If Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh had given Reagan that much credit for reshaping the world around himself, they’d be dismissed as overenthusiastic cultists.  But Reagan looms so large in the mind of the Left that Friend Perlstein can’t see he’s gone far beyond any Reagan fanboy of the right in his claims for the greatness (let’s say we use the term in its value neutral sense) of the Gipper.

Of course, as great as the Gipper ultimately was (and his ghost is still living rent free in Obama’s addled mind) he couldn’t have done it without the left making a complete hash of America in the 1970s, as Weisberg notes above. To paraphrase an old line by P.J. O’Rourke, that’s the one and only reason we should always be grateful to Jimmy Carter.

(Via John Podhoretz.)

CNN Gets Mugged By Reality

September 15th, 2014 - 7:08 pm

The National Labor Relations Board, one of FDR’s alphabet soup programs designed to prolong the Depression by dramatically bloating the size of government* “has ordered CNN to rehire 100 workers and compensate 200 others for a labor dispute that originated in 2003,” according to show-biz house organ Variety:

The 11-year dispute stems from CNN’s decision to replace a unionized subcontractor called Team Video Services, which provided the network with audio and video technicians, with an in-house nonunion work force in its Washington and New York bureaus.

The decision comes weeks after CNN’s top boss Jeff Zucker hinted at additional job cuts at the Turner-owned [ultimately Time-Warner-owned -- Ed] news channel, which employs over 2,000 people.

“We are going to have to do what we do with less,” he said in a memo to CNN employees. “As a result, that means there will be changes. No final decisions have been made.”

It’s unclear how the NLRB’s ruling will impact the expected restructuring at the news operation.

The Labor Board found “overwhelming” evidence of anti-union animus in CNN’s failure to bargain with the union about the decision to terminate the subcontracts. The org also found CNN had implemented a hiring plan designed to limit the number of discharged TVS employees to avoid a successorship bargaining obligation.

A CNN spokesperson said, “CNN disagrees with the NLRB decision and we are evaluating our options.”

Really? CNN admits that a Roosevelt-era federal government agency in the Obama era can make a mistake? CNN won’t be having its anchors bake cakes or fist-bump on-air in celebration of this decision? It won’t hire a children’s choir as human shields to sing its praises? Talk about burying the lede — this may be a first for the struggling, little-watched network.

I wonder if anyone at CNN has said, “What right does government have to do this to us?” Now if only we could get them to ask, “What is it that the American government shouldn’t be allowed to do?”

To paraphrase Irving Kristol, a conservative is a liberal that’s just gotten mugged by reality. Of course, it will take far more than this to awaken CNN from their decades of ideological torpor — but then, an angry bureaucracy in the waning days of the Obama era likely has far more to dish out, as well.

* Well, that’s how it ultimately worked out. As socialist Stuart Chase said when dreaming up Roosevelt’s New Deal, “Why should the Soviets have all the fun remaking a world?”

With headlines like “Obama’s Scariest ISIS Comment Yet: ‘I’m Not Going to Anticipate Failure’” — even the Obama fanboys at the New Republic are beginning to catch on to the SCOAMF-y-esque* nature of our recently retired former president:

Over the past month, President Obama has weathered frequent criticism for his comments about the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Most notable was his “gaffe” on August 28 when he said, “We don’t have a strategy yet.” Two weeks later, the president announced a plan to strike ISIS in Syria and provide military aid to moderate rebels. But those days in between were a devastating blow to our place in the world. Or, you know, maybe Washington pundits were overstating the significance of Obama’s comments.

In fact, though, Obama did make a serious error on ISIS recently. They weren’t public comments and they didn’t garner huge coverage, but they represent a dangerous mindset as the country embarks on another multi-year military engagement in the Middle East.

President Obama made the comment in a private, off-the-record meeting with a select group of journalists before his prime-time speech last week. On Sunday, Peter Baker, who was not at the meeting, reported in the New York Times about what was said there. Among other things, Obama was reportedly asked how he would adjust his strategy if his new plan proved unsuccessful. “I’m not going to anticipate failure at this point,” Obama responded, according to Baker’s report.

We’ve seen this movie before, haven’t we? Why, yes we have:

When the tech geeks raised concerns about their ability to deliver the website on time, they are reported to have been told “Failure is not an option.” Unfortunately, this is what happens when you say “failure is not an option”: You don’t develop backup plans, which means that your failure may turn into a disaster.

That’s from former Obama supporter Megan McArdle’s piece at Bloomberg (unexpectedly!) View on Obamacare last year titled, “Hope Is All Obamacare Has Left.”

In the 1920s and 1930s, as the “Progressive” socialists who had followed Woodrow Wilson into transforming America into a socialist state blanched at America’s return to normalcy, “We planned in war” became the rallying cry that led to the New Deal, staffed with Wilson-era retreads, who saw the New Deal as “The Moral Equivalent of War,” albeit in peacetime.

Gee, that worked out swell for everyone, didn’t it? See also, the busted flush of the “Stimulus” program, aka Obama later discovering that “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects.” and the Obamacare meltdown, with the former president reduced to muttering, “What we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy,” and “One of the things the federal government does not do well is information technology procurement.”

But if you’re going to plan for a real battle, and not the moral equivalent thereof, having a contingency plan for what to do if things go completely pear-shaped is usually a good idea. Fortunately though, as past performance on the “Stimulus,” Iraq, and Obamacare each indicates, our current president is far too smart to let that ever happen:

* Sorry Ace.

‘Where Have You Gone, Michael Moore?’

September 14th, 2014 - 6:53 pm

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“We should be living in a new Michael Moore moment,” Christian Toto, veteran film critic at the Washington Times and later Breitbart.com’s Big Hollywood Website, writes at his new Website, Hollywood In Toto:

He made news this week by critiquing President Barack Obama from the left, saying Obama will be remembered as the first black president, not for any significant achievements.

Isn’t that fodder for a documentary, a profile of a president who promised to fundamentally transform the country and, in Moore’s eyes, ended up being a sign of racial progress and little else?

Meanwhile, wholesale changes in the film industry are making it easier than ever to be the next Michael Moore. Filmmakers can flex a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign to raise money, tap streaming services like Netflix or iTunes to distribute content without needing theatrical access and use social media to spread the word. Moore could piggyback on all of these advances or simply flex his industry clout to make more film op-eds.

Yet Moore’s film voice is silent.

Could it be that his progressive bona fides are on the decline? He rallied on behalf of Occupy Wall Street, an archaic movement which quickly burned itself out. More recently, details of his divorce proceedings leaked, showing his Everyman image camouflaged a wealthy man who enjoyed the perks of capitalism.

Presumably aware of the fates of  Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and Dinesh D’Souza, perhaps Moore doesn’t wish to become yet another filmmaker risking jail time from the regime he once championed.

Earlier: Michael Moore Now Living Out Old SNL Nixon Sketches.

Question of the Day

September 14th, 2014 - 3:46 pm

Which bumper sticker will leftists need to remove from their Prius or Smart Car in the coming weeks? “For example, this typical car spotted yesterday in Berkeley, with 2008-era bumper stickers,” as photographed by Zombie. I don’t want to steal the photo, so click over to see it:

On one side: “No Blood for Oil“; on the other: “Obama ’08.”

Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

One of those stickers simply has to be scraped off. Otherwise the cognitive dissonance would be too intense to tolerate.

But which sticker to remove?

The answer to that question may determine America’s political future in the near term.

Will anti-war liberals hold true to their unwavering belief that whenever America wages war in the Middle East, it is “for oil”? Or will they defend Obama politically as he once again sends American troops to Iraq?

Because when Obama invades Iraq, as he is about to do, you can’t have it both ways.

As former Democrat National Comittee chairman Howard Dean once claimed, “I will use whatever position I have in order to root out hypocrisy.” Given the left’s utter obsession on the topic, it’s fun to call them out, but the cognitive dissonance that led to Obama’s coronation in 2008 could lead to far worse things as well.

“Obama’s Ship is Sinking,” Michael Goodwin writes in the New York Post today. “I fear, we are on the cusp of tragedy,” he warns. It is reasonable to assume the worst-case scenarios about national security are growing increasingly likely to occur:”

Obama’s fecklessness is so unique that our adversaries and enemies surely realize they will never face a weaker president. They must assume the next commander in chief will take a more muscular approach to America’s interests and be more determined to forge alliances than the estranged man who occupies the Oval Office now.

So Vladimir Putin, Iran, China, Islamic State, al Qaeda and any other number of despots and terrorists know they have two years to make their moves and advance their interests, and that resistance will be token, if there is any at all.

Throw in the fact that Europe largely has scrapped its military might to pay for its welfare states, and the entire West is a diminished, confused opponent, ripe for the taking. Redrawn maps and expanded spheres of influence could last for generations.

Of course, there is a possibility that America could rally around the president in a crisis, and there would be many voices demanding just that. But a national consensus requires a president who is able to tap into a reservoir of good will and have his leadership trusted.

That’s not the president we have.

Long before the media tied their collective panties into knots over the Tea Party, Obama’s self-described “non-official campaign” staffers worked exceedingly hard in 2007 and 2008 at dividing America, dubbing anyone who was against him as racist, all the way to Bill and Hillary Clinton — and the workaday Democrat Americans who supported them in the primaries. Between alienating both sides of the aisle in Congress with his aloofness, pitting the rest of America from 2007 until today against itself and most recently angering his dove-ish BUSH SUX MAN! supporters by threatening ISIS, Obama’s has burned through an enormous amount of political capital and good will.

Perhaps with only a couple of years left in his administration, he didn’t think he’d need very much of it by now.

But in regards to Zombie’s statement that “when Obama invades Iraq, as he is about to do, you can’t have it both ways,” of course you can — if there’s a (D) after your name, you can flip-flop and contort your ideology — 360 degrees or more, as Maxine Waters might say — on every issue like you were John Kerry catching some really tasty waves on his windsurfing rig:

Nahh, just kidding. The legendary San Francisco moonbat told Time-Warner-CNN-HBO spokesman Bill Maher last night that “Civilization as we know it today would be in jeopardy if the Republicans win the Senate,” Chuck Ross writes at the Daily Caller:

On the one hand, California U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi claims that Democrats are not “fear-mongers;” on the other hand, she believes civilization is doomed if Republicans take control of the Senate from Democrats in November.

The former speaker of the House made those dramatic, incongruous statements on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” which aired live from Washington, D.C. Friday.

Maher asked Pelosi about recent polling which shows that the GOP is likely to take over the upper chamber and asked, given gridlock in Washingon, why it matters that Democrats keep control.

“It would be very important for the Democrats to retain control of the Senate,” Pelosi told Maher. “Civilization as we know it today would be in jeopardy if the Republicans win the Senate.”

Democrats currently hold 53 seats in the Senate. Republicans have 45. Two independents caucus with Democrats.

Maher asked about voter turnout for Democrats, which he asserted was too low to carry the party in the mid-term.

“Nobody comes about to vote to say ‘thank you,’” Maher said. “The people who get health care now — they’re the people least likely to vote. The people who come out to vote are the angry people.”

“That’s true,” said Pelosi. “Fear is a motivator, and we are not fear-mongers. The Democrats are messengers of hope, and that’s what we will continue to be.”

So just to confirm: the left aren’t fear-mongers, they’re messengers of hope, but civilization is doomed if the Senate is controlled by those who wish your taxes were three or four percent lower. Gotcha.

And note Nancy’s incredible timing, given the recently retired president’s speech this week on the hash he’s made of Iraq:

Related: Steve Hayward at Power Line on “What’s Wrong With California in One Map.”

And at Twitchy, what else does Nancy Pelosi endanger?

Symmetrical Sophistry

September 12th, 2014 - 10:19 pm

“There Are Now 52 Explanations For The Pause In Global Warming,” Michael Bastasch of the Daily Caller writes:

It’s been a busy year for climate scientists, who have been trying to explain why there has been no global warming for nearly two decades.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reported in February there were eight mainstream explanations for the pause, but there are now a whopping 52 explanations for why there has been no warming trend for the last 215 months.

Which oddly makes sense: the savants of settled science are proffering almost as many explanations as to why there’s no global warming as the number of maladies supposedly caused by global warming.

I blame Leonard Nimoy.

Quote of the Day

September 12th, 2014 - 5:01 pm

In previous posts I’ve introduced the metaphor of the attrition mill–a machine in which two steel disks, rotating at high speed in opposite directions, crush between them the grain or other substance to be milled. Our society is caught in a gigantic attrition mill, with one disk being the Islamic terrorist enemy and the other being the “progressive” Left within our own societies–some of whom are wishful thinkers who deny uncomfortable realities, an alarming number of whom forthrightly despise their own societies and the majority of their fellow citizens. Without the existence of the second disk, the terrorist threat would be serious, inconvenient, and dangerous, but would not be an existential threat to Western civilization. But it is the interaction of the two disks, despite the differences in their stated philosophies of life*, that increases the societal threat by orders of magnitude.

“9/11 Plus Thirteen Years,” David Foster, the Chicago Boyz Website, yesterday.

* The key word in that sentence being stated. The two ideologies actually have much in common.

From a Command Economy to a Command Reality

September 12th, 2014 - 1:24 pm

“Democratic thinking [typically unfolds] in three stages,” Jeff Bergner writes in “The Party of Reason?” at the Weekly Standard:

1) Policy is predicated on reality as one wishes it to be, not as it is. (2) That policy fails. And (3) its advocates explain the failure by demonizing their opponents. The demonization of political opponents to cover policy failures is an all too reliable indicator that the policies rest on unsound, anti-scientific, irrational foundations.

As Bergner concludes:

Because the left wishes to eliminate poverty by redistribution, it assumes reality can be made to conform. Because it judges fossil fuels bad, they must be allowed no future. Because it insists on human causation for global warming, dissenters must be hounded. Because the left favors unrestricted access to abortion, a woman’s right to choose must be enshrined.

The words of today’s political left are much like ancient incantations. They are magic. But there is one difference: Ancient incantations reflected an underlying belief in an external world that was difficult to control, a world in which humans had at best a modest measure of influence.

Liberals have long favored the notion of a command economy; today they operate in nothing less than a command reality. For the modern liberal, we humans have the power to deconstruct and reconstruct reality as we please. In this brave new world, words are all that is required for a new reality to leap into existence. To speak about an issue is to resolve it. Good intentions suffice. If the results of programs created with good intentions disappoint, it doesn’t matter. Disastrous policy results do not reflect a misunderstanding of reality, but the evil machinations of political opponents.

This of course is not reason; it is hubris. The great power of modern science arises from the understanding that we gain a degree of mastery over natural forces and ourselves only by conforming our thoughts and actions to the nature of reality itself. The incantations of the modern left notwithstanding, reality is not easily bent by words alone.

No, sometimes really devastating magical thinking requires the willing aid of a faux newscaster as well:

‘Gearing Up for the Post-Radio Shack World’

September 10th, 2014 - 2:00 pm

It’s “Mourning in America” for Scott Ott, as he watches the slow and painful death of a once ubiquitous American institution:

Then, most Wednesdays, if we didn’t need a haircut at the barbershop — a Princeton: tight on the sides, longer on top, looped over with a generous handful of Vitalis — it was off to one of three destinations in the Doylestown Shopping Center:

1) W.T. Grant: a five-and-dime, if we needed school clothes or supplies, or to look at the tropical fish, chameleons and pet rodents.

2) Sears: where my brothers and I played Pong, or fished through the discount 45′s bin while Pop shopped for tools.

3) Radio Shack: AKA Heaven for Boys

While the first two had their charms, it was Radio Shack that cast a spell on us, drawing us in at a dead run.

Gadgets and kits, lights and switches, buzzing and whirring and crackling — things that were cool before “cool” became “bad” or “sick” or “ridiculous” or whatever “cool” is now.

There was nothing like Radio Shack.

Today, I read that Radio Shack is sick — actually sick, perhaps dying — almost certainly headed for bankruptcy.

Troubled electronics retailer RadioShack Corp’s shares have lost nearly a third of their value since brokerage Wedbush Securities said on Tuesday the company could file for bankruptcy soon, making the stock worthless by the end of this year.

The stock fell as much as 20 percent to 76 cents on Wednesday, adding to a 23 percent plunge on Tuesday.

“Our price target reflects our expectation that creditors will force a reorganization and wipe out RadioShack’s equity,” Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter wrote in a note.

I too grew up spending many hours as a kid pouring over Radio Shack catalogs, wiring together 150-in-one Electronics Projects kits, where I was sure I would ultimately craft the device that saves planet earth from an all-out interstellar alien attack. A few years later, the first personal computer I ever owned was a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I, which I eventually tricked out with a blazing 300 baud Hayes modem and connected to CompuServe and various BBSs in the early 1980s. Good times.

But in a way, having played a major role in birthing the personal computer revolution a generation ago, Radio Shack in the 21st century is an unwitting victim to that industry’s staggering success. At the start of the year, Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute spotted a 1991 Radio Shack ad featuring “13 electronic products for $5k (and 290 hrs. work) can now be replaced with a $200 iPhone (10 hrs.):

Buffalo (NY) journalist and historian Steve Cichon has an article on the Trending Buffalo website (“Everything from 1991 Radio Shack ad I now do with my phone“) featuring a full-page Radio Shack ad from the Buffalo News on February 16, 1991 (see graphic above). Of the 15 electronics products featured in the Radio Shack ad, 13 of them can now be replaced with a $200 iPhone according to Steve’s analysis. The 13 Radio Shack items in the ad (all-weather personal stereo, AM/FM clock radio, headphones, calculator, computer, camcorder, cell phone, regular phone, CD player, CB radio, scanner, phone answering machine, and cassette recorder) would have cost a total of $3,055 in 1991, which is equivalent in today’s dollars to $5,225. Versus only $200 for an iPhone 5S.

In hours worked at the average wage, the 13 electronics items in 1991 would have had a “time cost” of 290.4 hours of work at the average hourly wage then of $10.52 (or 7.25 weeks or 36.3 days). Today, the $200 iPhone would have a “time cost” of fewer than 10 hours (9.82) of work at the average hourly wage today of $20.35, and just one day of work, plus a few extra hours.

MP: When you consider that an iPhone can fit in your pocket and has many apps and features that were either not available in 1991 (GPS, text messaging, Internet access, mobile access to movies, more than 900,000 apps, iCloud access, etc.) or not listed in the 1991 Radio Shack ad (camera, photo-editing), it’s amazing how much progress we’ve made in just several decades, and how affordable electronic productions have become.

Which dovetails nicely with an observation by David Harsanyi in the Federalist today that “Global Warming was Worth It:”

In a piece in the Atlantic, adapted from his new book, “Sustainability: A History” (which I haven’t read), historian Jeremy Caradonna challenges prevailing notions regarding the Industrial Revolution. Was the explosion of industry and subsequent rise in productivity and technology good for humanity? Not if you believe there are too many people living way too long and emitting way too much carbon into the atmosphere. And this “ecological crisis” – the greatest threat to ever challenge mankind – has its roots in the Industrial Revolution.

So if, for some reason, you embrace a “narrative” that says the rise of laissez faire economics – and the resulting efficiency and technological advancements – were moral because they freed millions from poverty and made modern life possible, you’re not thinking clearly. If you cling to the narrative that prosperity creates economic stability which in turn creates an environment that makes political stability possible, you’re just being didactic.

As Steve Green writes in response, “For 50 years now at least, progressivism has been about casting one’s self-loathing with a wide enough net to cover all of humanity. That’s self-evident of any ideology wanting far fewer (if any) people in the world, most in suffering under state-mandated shivering destitution.”

And don’t forget the notion that James Delingpole of Ricochet and Breitbart UK, dubs “The Drawbridge Effect.” Leftwing wealthy elitists have theirs; they want to dramatically reduce the odds that anyone else will succeed on a similar level:

You’ve made your money. Now the very last thing you want is for all those trashy middle class people below you to have a fair shot at getting as rich as you are. That’s why you want to make energy more expensive by opposing Keystone XL; why you’re all for environmental land sequestration (because you already own your exclusive country property); and Agenda 21 — which will make all Americans poorer, but you not so much, because you’ve enough cash to cushion you from the higher taxes and regulation with which the greenies want to hamstring the economy.

Finally, to return to the nostalgic opening of Scott’s post, while I love the Internet, tablets, the PC, the Web, and the ubiquitous 21st century technology we take for granted, I will miss the shopping mall — shopping for CDs at Sam Goody’s and Tower Records, DVDs and books at Borders, and gadgets at Radio Shack. I realize it’s all available at Amazon (which I also love), but the afternoon walking through the mall is often a pleasurable activity as well. Will we miss it when it’s gone?

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The Economist Meets the Underwear Gnomes

September 9th, 2014 - 11:13 am

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Complete with its headline, “The Criminalization of American Business,” the cover of the latest issue of the Economist stared up from the magazine rack at the local Safeway yesterday. 

Gee, how did American business become so criminalized in recent years? Some of the mile-markers along the way are pretty frightening stuff. Incidents such as the raids on Gibson Guitar and other businesses. Siccing the IRS on small businesses after “joking” early in his administration that he’d do just that. Operation Choke Point. And small-time videomakers being tossed into jail. It’s not like the Economist would condone such actions, would they?

Oh, right:

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Economist Obama covers through the years. Click to enlarge.

As I’ve written before, you can a pretty good sense of the arc of the left’s Obama worship by checking the various Economist covers from 2008 through the present.  The outlier in the collage above is the image of a punch-drunk and bandaged Obama after the bruising fight to pass ObamaCare in 2010; but note that the Economist was firmly back in the tank by 2011. Nice touch having Michele Bachmann waving at the president while brandishing a sniper rifle; take two Krugmans out of petty cash, boys.

So to review how we got here, let’s borrow from a beloved meme from TV’s South Park:

  1. Support a socialist-loving community organizer turned tyro senator who had completed less than a full term before choosing to run for the White House blindly, pretend, like most Democrat operatives with bylines, that he walks on water.
  2. ?
  3. Wonder why American business has become increasing criminalized.

When it was obvious as early as mid-2009 that Mr. Obama was having more than a little trouble staying afloat while walking on water, Mark Steyn wrote:

This is the point: The nuancey boys were wrong on Obama, and the knuckledragging morons were right. There is no post-partisan centrist “grappling” with the economy, only a transformative radical willing to make Americans poorer in the cause of massive government expansion. At some point, The Economist, Messrs Brooks, Buckley & Co are going to have to acknowledge this. If they’re planning on spending the rest of his term tutting that his management style is obstructing the effective implementation of his centrist agenda, it’s going to be a long four years.

And how about this?

In an accomplished press conference this week, Mr Obama reminded the world what an impressive politician he can be. He has a capacity to inspire that is unmatched abroad or at home.

Oh, dear. That’s so January 20th it makes these toffee-nosed Brits sound like straw-sucking hayseeds.

And I wasn’t exaggerating about the Economist believing that former President Obama walked on water. Recall their cover last fall, during the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, which itself will further criminalize millions of small businesses:

economist_walk_on_water_cover_11-21-13

As I noted last November, “Hey rubes! Considering that the only people who thought that Obama could walk on water in the first place was the MSM, the Economist tacitly flashes back to their naïveté. Which would be charming, if its end result hadn’t been so destructive to the country.”

Which brings us to the Economist’s latest cover. But I doubt they’ll connect the dots and point a few fingers at themselves.

Update: A very good rule indeed:

‘Bonjour, Malaise’

September 3rd, 2014 - 4:42 pm

“Barack Obama’s ‘malaise moment’ occurred in the afternoon of Aug. 28,” Noemie Emery writes in the Washington Examiner:

[D]ressed for failure in tan, he announced he did not have a strategy for combating the threat posed to us by ISIS and crossed into Carterland, the Desert of Fail feared by all politicians, in which the once fresh new face becomes for all time an object of ridicule, and each attempt made at controlling the damage only makes matters much worse.

Jimmy Carter, wrote Examiner columnist Michael Barone in his book Our Country, “failed to understand that voters yearning for control to be exerted over events would be appalled by the spectacle of a president canceling a major speech, isolating himself from public view, and declining all public comment while he met with … private citizens … for ‘leisurely conversations about our nation, my administration, and the serious problems we faced.’ ” But “leisurely converse” is not in demand when the world is on fire. Who knew?

But of course, the left have been in malaise mode ever since the failure of the Great Society in the mid-1960s. Just compare the confidence of JFK’s New Frontier rhetoric, to the dead-end tone of Bobby’s campaign ads in 1968 and George McGovern’s similar retreat from reality four years later. Bill Clinton’s centrism seemed to represent a way out of that mindset — but the left’s time spent in the box canyon appears to be permanent. Or as I wrote in 2011, “Welcome Back My Friends, to the Malaise that Never Ends.”

‘Are Liberals the Real Authoritarians?’

September 3rd, 2014 - 12:08 pm

detroit_joe_louis_fist_10-6-13

Past performance is no guarantee of future results:

I haven’t read Jonah Goldberg’s book, and frankly, am not likely to, so I won’t comment on the contents. But I have watched the Will Wilkinson Bloggingheads with Mr. Goldberg, and his defense of the title therein is well, kind of silly and pointless.

Jonah Goldberg once made one of the more interesting throwaway remarks about fascism I’ve ever seen, to the effect that when he is confronted by liberals ranting about fascism, he likes to ask “Other than the genocide, what is your disagreement with the fascists”–usually to blank and confused stares. The point being that genocide is not actually a tenet of fascism, merely something that was done by one fascist state, and that those who rant about “fascists” in government almost never have any knowledge of the actual history of the political movement.

“Liberal = Fascist?”, Megan McArdle, the Atlantic, January 23rd, 2008. (Jonah’s rebuttal to her post, here.)

In the ultra-liberal enclave I grew up in, the liberals were at least as fiercely tribal as any small-town Republican, though to be sure, the targets were different. Many of them knew no more about the nuts and bolts of evolution and other hot-button issues than your average creationist; they believed it on authority. And when it threatened to conflict with some sacred value, such as their beliefs about gender differences, many found evolutionary principles as easy to ignore as those creationists did. It is clearly true that liberals profess a moral code that excludes concerns about loyalty, honor, purity and obedience — but over the millennia, man has professed many ideals that are mostly honored in the breach.

“Are Liberals the Real Authoritarians?”, Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View, yesterday.

Responding to McArdle, Ace quotes Charles Murray on the topic:

[P]hilosophically, the progressive movement at the turn of the 20th century had roots in German philosophy ( Hegel and Nietzsche were big favorites) and German public administration ( Woodrow Wilson’s open reverence for Bismarck was typical among progressives). To simplify, progressive intellectuals were passionate advocates of rule by disinterested experts led by a strong unifying leader. They were in favor of using the state to mold social institutions in the interests of the collective. They thought that individualism and the Constitution were both outmoded.

That’s not a description that Woodrow Wilson or the other leading progressive intellectuals would have argued with. They openly said it themselves.

It is that core philosophy extolling the urge to mold society that still animates progressives today–a mind-set that produces the shutdown of debate and growing intolerance that we are witnessing in today’s America. Such thinking on the left also is behind the rationales for indulging President Obama in his anti-Constitutional use of executive power. If you want substantiation for what I’m saying, read Jonah Goldberg’s 2008 book “Liberal Fascism,” an erudite and closely argued exposition of American progressivism and its subsequent effects on liberalism. The title is all too accurate.

Indeed it is. As Fred Siegel wrote in his recent book, The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class, “The best short credo of liberalism came from the pen of the once canonical left-wing literary historian Vernon Parrington in the late 1920s. ‘Rid society of the dictatorship of the middle class,’ Parrington insisted, referring to both democracy and capitalism, ‘and the artist and the scientist will erect in America a civilization that may become, what civilization was in earlier days, a thing to be respected.’”

That’s certainly been the president’s motto as well — he’s far more interested in waging war against the Tea Party, non-union businesses like Gibson Guitars, and the GOP in general, than dealing with any of those pesky headlines he keeps seeing in the newspapers from the Middle East and Eastern Europe:

 

A century on, how’s the battle against the middle class progressing on the front lines? Have we broken sufficient eggs? As George Orwell asked three quarters of a century ago, when do we get to see the omelet?

Oh, and yet another reminder:

(Photo at top of page of the Joe Louis fist memorial in Detroit, placed there in 1986, during the disastrous and racist 20 year reign of Democrat Mayor Coleman Young. Photo by James Marvin Phelps, Shutterstock.com.)

Joe Biden: Racism Straight Up

September 1st, 2014 - 8:18 pm

As Biden has claimed,  “You don’t know my state. My state was a slave state. My state is a border state. My state is the eighth largest black population in the country. My state is anything from a Northeast liberal state,” where “you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking,” back when he was an opponent of the “first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

This is the 21st century. Why does this desperate and inarticulate man, who once famously believed FDR was president in 1929, and is now likely in his twilight as a career politician, continue to speak in such painfully obvious dog whistles to taunt his fellow Democrats in the media?

(On the flipside though, despite past Florsheim-in-mouth utterances on the subject by both Biden and his recently retired boss, Biden might just be the smartest, most competent man in the Obama administration — a terrifying prospect from all perspectives.)

Not All Celebrity Hacks are Considered Equal

September 1st, 2014 - 7:39 pm

“100 Celebrities Caught in Risque Photo Scandal, Hacker ‘On the Run,’” Kelli Serio writes at Big Hollywood on what some Internet wags have quickly dubbed “The Fappening.” (Sorry — but hey, I just report the news, folks). Despite its seemingly humorous initial appearance, the penalties for the hacker(s) involved could be serious:

The hacking of celebrity accounts has become increasingly popular throughout the years. Paris Hilton was said to be one of the first celebrities involved in such a violation, after her cell photos were stolen in 2005.

Just two years ago, a Florida man was prosecuted and sentenced to ten years in a federal prison for pirating nude photos and e-mail account information from Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera, and Mila Kunis.

The Independent reported this morning that the unidentified hacker is now threatening to release video footage of Jennifer Lawrence engaging in a sexual act. The individual was speculated to be accepting donations, via Paypal, for the video.

“I know no one will believe me, but I have a short Lawrence video,” the hacker wrote.

The Daily Mail released information this afternoon about today’s mystery thief, who has now thanked his “supporters” and accomplices just before fleeing his first location. He has referred to himself as the “original guy” and admitted that he acquired a team to pull off the conspiracy, which apparently took months of hard work.

“Guys, just to let you know. I didn’t do this by myself,” he declared. “I will soon be moving to another location from which I will continue to post.”

FBI involvement is promising, as per Jennifer Lawrence’s request, while the hunt for the serial hacker continues.

Of course, not all unsealing of private documents is considered bad by the far left, or as Ann Coulter dubbed it in 2012, when Mr. Obama’s allies were hot to pour through Mitt Romney’s tax returns, “Obama’s signature move.” This excerpt from Coulter’s column details only one of the several times the recently retired politician’s staff have employed it to enable his quick rise to power over the past decade:

As luck would have it, Obama’s opponent in the general election had also been divorced! Jack Ryan was tall, handsome, Catholic — and shared a name with one of Harrison Ford’s most popular onscreen characters! He went to Dartmouth, Harvard Law and Harvard Business School, made hundreds of millions of dollars as a partner at Goldman Sachs, and then, in his early 40s, left investment banking to teach at an inner city school on the South Side of Chicago.

Ryan would have walloped Obama in the Senate race. But at the request of — again — the Chicago Tribune, California Judge Robert Schnider unsealed the custody papers in Ryan’s divorce five years earlier from Hollywood starlet Jeri Lynn Ryan, the bombshell Borg on “Star Trek: Voyager.”

Jack Ryan had released his tax records. He had released his divorce records. But both he and his ex-wife sought to keep the custody records under seal to protect their son.

Amid the 400 pages of filings from the custody case, Jack Ryan claimed that his wife had had an affair, and she counterclaimed with the allegation that he had taken her to “sex clubs” in Paris, New York and New Orleans, which drove her to fall in love with another man.

(Republicans: If you plan a career in public office, please avoid marrying a wacko.)

Ryan had vehemently denied her allegations at the time, but it didn’t matter. The sex club allegations aired on “Entertainment Tonight,” “NBC Nightly News,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” and NBC’s “Today” show. CNN covered the story like it was the first moon landing.

(Interestingly, international papers also were ablaze with the story — the same newspapers that were supposed to be so bored with American sexual mores during Bill Clinton’s sex scandal.)

Four days after Judge Schnider unsealed the custody records, Ryan dropped out of the race for the horror of (allegedly) propositioning his own wife and then taking “no” for an answer.

Alan Keyes stepped in as a last-minute Republican candidate.

And that’s how Obama became a U.S. senator. He destroyed both his Democratic primary opponent and his Republican general election opponent with salacious allegations about their personal lives taken from “sealed” court records.

Coulter’s article was published on August 1st. Less than two months later, a hacked video that the media similarly covered like a moon landing (or Missouri riot) would signal the beginning of the end of Romney’s presidential bid:

But that’s different, right? Of course it is.

(H/T: Greg Pollowitz.)

Quote of the Day

August 30th, 2014 - 3:26 pm

In essence, the entire establishment of a South Yorkshire town accepted that the cultural mores of Islam superseded whatever squeamishness they might otherwise have about child rape.

So now, in the new multiculti Britain, the child sex trade is back, as part of the rich, vibrant tapestry of diversity – along with Jew-hate, and honor killings, and decapitation porn. The solutions to the internal contradictions of multiculturalism are (a) David Cameron’s expanded security state; (b) Afsun Qureshi’s universal prostration before Islam; or (c) an end to mass Muslim immigration. The last is too obvious for any viable western politician ever to propose it.

“The Reformation of Manners,” Mark Steyn, who adds, “Not every Muslim wants to chop your head off. Not every Muslim wants to ‘groom’ your 11-year-old daughter. But these pathologies nest within Islam, and thrive at the intersection of Islam and the west.”

And as Brigitte Gabriel noted this summer, the peaceful majority of moderate Muslims are sadly irrelevant compared to the millions who are neither peaceful nor moderate:

The era of media that former President Obama nostalgically longs for.

Bill Clinton understandably believes his fellow Democrats with bylines “are de facto allies,” as the Washington Post put it in 2006. So when a Democrat starts crying media bias, you know he’s in big trouble. Al Gore at least waited until after the 2002 midterms to blame the media for his party’s woes at the ballot box. Ditto Frank Rich, then still with the New York Times, in December of 2010. Yesterday, the growing disconnect between former President Obama’s mouth and brain caused him to get a couple of months ahead of the curve in that department, while fundraising in upstate New York in between golf games and late-night bull sessions with actors and musicians:

President Obama on Friday said social media and the nightly news are partly to blame for the sense that “the world is falling apart.”

“I can see why a lot of folks are troubled,” Obama told a group of donors gathered at a Democratic National Committee barbecue in Purchase, N.Y.

But the president said that current foreign policy crises across the world are not comparable to the challenges the U.S. faced during the Cold War.

Acknowledging “the barbarity” of Islamist militants and Russia “reasserting the notion that might means right,” Obama, though, dismissed the notion that he was facing unprecedented challenges.

“The world’s always been messy … we’re just noticing now in part because of social media,” he said, according to a White House pool report.

As my colleague Rick Moran quips, “Hear that, you twitterers? You’ve already ruined our president’s vacation. Now you want to go and scare people half to death by reporting on events around the world? Shame on you!”

This isn’t the first time the man who wafted into the Oval Office in 2008 based on a tissue-paper thin resume and massive amounts of help from social media — and big media as well — has lashed out at social media. Obama’s words yesterday confirm an initially surprising admission from Chuck Todd (no stranger to propping up Democrat election campaigns himself) on NBC’s Meet the Press in April of last year, the day after the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner:

CHUCK TODD: What I wonder how many people realized at the end [of Saturday's White House Correspondents' Dinner] when he did his, you know, there’s always this part at the end where they get serious for a minute. And it’s usually the part where presidents say, “You know, I think the press has a good job to do and I understand what they have to do.” He didn’t say that. He wasn’t very complimentary of the press. You know, we all can do better.

It did seem, I thought his pot shots joke wise and then the serious stuff about the internet, the rise of the internet media and social media and all that stuff — he hates it. Okay? He hates this part of the media. He really thinks that the sort of the buzzification — this isn’t just about Buzzfeed or Politico and all this stuff – he thinks that sort of coverage of political media has hurt political discourse. He hates it. And I think he was trying to make that clear last night.

“He hates it. And I think he was trying to make that clear last night,” Todd would go on to say.

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Ferguson Fizzles

August 29th, 2014 - 3:41 pm

“It was televised, but it wasn’t the revolution,” Charles C. W. Cooke writes:

Michael Brown’s death remains a great mystery. The witnesses’ accounts disagree, there is confusion as to which pieces of evidence are legitimate and which are not, and the police officer at the heart of the matter has not yet spoken. In lieu of hard information, two possible routes have presented themselves: speculation or patience. By and large, the American people have opted for the latter.

Which is to say that when Harvard Law School’s Charles Ogletree proposed this week that Brown’s killing was similar to the murders of Emmett Till and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. he had it precisely backwards. The cases of Till and of King were so powerful because they were so clear-cut — because both victims were self-evidently innocent parties whose lives were publicly taken from them by hate-filled men. Michael Brown, by contrast, could still turn out to have been the villain of the piece. We simply do not know what happened. This has made it difficult for those with an agenda to profit from the case. Ambiguity does not national outrage make, nor can effective political conversations be scripted by know-nothings.

The riots, too, served only to muddy the waters. It was damaging enough to the emerging narrative that those responsible for the unrest had so prematurely determined the officer’s guilt, but it was fatal that their anger was directed at private businesses whose owners and customers were unconnected to the matter at hand. The most effective revolts are simple in nature and morally clear. Legally, it would not have been more acceptable if Ferguson’s mutineers had elected to burn down the police station or to sack the town’s courthouse. But it would have brought their complaint more clearly into focus. Rash and irresponsible as their cry of “injustice!” was, agitators were nonetheless trying to convey to the general public that they are routinely mistreated by the system — that, in other words, Michael Brown is just one of many. There are many among us who would not dismiss this claim out of hand. Most of them, however, will fail to see the connection between striking a blow for the universal rights of man and burning down a QuikTrip. It is tough to keep the attention on the participants in the fight when you have, by your actions, created another set of victims on which the newspapers may fixate.

Gee, you mean taking your protest strategy from the ending of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is a pretty stupid idea? Other than 99 percent of the American public, who knew!

Related: Rather than dwell in the lurid revenge fantasies crafted by Lee and other “Hollywood Violence Profiteers” as Michelle Malkin dubs them in her new column, “Blacks Must Confront Reality,” Walter E. Williams writes at Townhall:

The Census Bureau pegs the poverty rate among blacks at 28.1 percent. A statistic that one never hears about is that the poverty rate among intact married black families has been in the single digits for more than two decades, currently at 8.4 percent. Weak family structures not only spell poverty and dependency but also contribute to the social pathology seen in many black communities — for example, violence and predatory sex. Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, the black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it’s 22 times that of whites. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Coupled with being most of the nation’s homicide victims, blacks are also major victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault, rape and robbery.

Unfortunately for everyone in America, the elite left cannot preach what it practices, as Charles Murray brilliantly put it, and instead, quietly practices conservative day-to-day values which they refuse to pass on to others less fortunate who would benefit from them as well:

That’s because the new upper-class has “lost self-confidence in the rightness of its own customs and values, and preaches nonjudgmentalism instead.” Non-judgementalism, he writes, “is one of the more baffling features of the new upper-class culture. The members of the new upper class are industrious to the point of obsession, but there are no derogatory labels for adults who are not industrious. The young women of the new upper class hardly ever have babies out of wedlock, but it is impermissible to use a derogatory label for non-marital births. You will probably raise a few eyebrows even if you use a derogatory label for criminals. When you get down to it, it is not acceptable in the new upper class to use derogatory labels for anyone, with three exceptions: people with differing political views, fundamentalist Christians, and rural working-class whites.”

As Marco Rubio said last month, “I was taught certain values that led me to live my life in a sequence that has a proven track record of success. In America, if you get an education, find a good job, and wait until marriage to have children, your chances of achieving economic security and professional fulfillment are incredibly high.”

But success and self-reliance don’t feed the left’s ever-growing victim-industrial complex, which helps to explain why elite leftists  can’t preach what they quietly practice amongst themselves.

It also helps to explain why, “After Hearing What a Tea Party Group Recently Did in Ferguson, You Likely Won’t Be Surprised That You Haven’t Heard About It.”

(Click here for my recent interview with Murray on his new book, The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead.)