» The Future and its Enemies

Ed Driscoll

The Future and its Enemies

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Daniel Drezner has an amusing take in the Washington Post on “What we can really learn” from the contents of the library inside the compound where “Osama bin Laden, perpetual impoverished grad student” spent his last days before matriculating into Hell:

This is not the collection of an ordinary policy wonk. No, as I perused this mish-mash of conspiracy tomes, quasi-conspiracy tomes, radical texts, mainstream bestsellers, and the occasional hidden gem, it struck me as an off-kilter, but very familiar mix.

And that’s when it hit me: this is the precise collection of books you would find if you went to a used bookstore and bought out the entire international relations section.

Any former graduate student who trolled used bookstores in search of bargains while living off of a modest stipend in the days before Amazon.com knows what I’m talking about. The search for book bargains never ends for impoverished grad students. The problem is the kind of books that find their way into used bookstores. Seriously, if you were to go to Half-Price Books in Austin or Powell’s in Chicago’s south side or Capitol Hill Books, this is pretty much the assortment you would find: crazy conspiracy books, past bestsellers, random think tank monographs, and Noam Chomsky. Lots of Noam Chomsky.

Read the whole thing, which concludes with Drezner’s very funny imaginary set of shopping instructions from bin Laden to one of his henchmen.

I can’t be the only person who read Drezner’s column and thought of a similarly named (just ask the late Teddy Kennedy!) perpetual grad student. As Michael Ledeen wrote in his PJM column in 2010, like the late Osama, Obama “doesn’t much like America or Americans, or the ‘former colonial powers’ like Britain.” and “Like so many would-be intellectuals, he admires lefty writers and screenwriters and actors and actresses:”

He likes the downtrodden, like the Palestinians, but he’s overcome with awe for the occasional cool (non-Western) monarch or emperor (whether Arab or Chinese).  He probably has a Che tee shirt tucked away in a drawer, don’t you think?

He doesn’t know much history (he thinks Muslims invented printing), geography (his America has 57 states), or economics (he believes you can reduce health care costs by adding millions to the public rolls).

The most important thing to this president is how you feel and what you say, not all those annoying facts (50 states, the Chinese invented printing, and you increase deficits when you spend more).  And, like most students, when the debate goes badly for him, the president makes fun of his critics–when he actually lets them talk a little bit.  Remember when he hosted a few Republicans in the White House so he could listen to what they might say about health care…and then talked twice as much as they did?

As a typical undergrad, Obama loves to talk, and loves to talk about peace and justice.  You know, the really important things.  His new nuclear policy is right out of a college bull session:  “Why don’t we just promise not to use them?”  Nukes are bad, ugly things. Doesn’t everyone agree that the world would be better off without them?

Well,  grownups don’t necessarily agree.  It all depends how you get there, and what the others do along the way.  We do have real enemies, but our undergrad-president understands their ire and shares their pain.  It’s up to us to make things right.  And so he apologizes, worrying more about our nukes (about which he has done something) than Iran’s (we haven’t done a thing).

Finally, he doesn’t seem to realize what a mess he’s making.  And when he gets his grades, he blames the professors (we the people, in this case) for being unfair.

That’s the sort we’ve been graduating for a generation or more, isn’t it?  Did you really think we’d never get one as president?

It was only a matter of time before we’d be forced to suffer daily with Obama’s voice, which shares the exact timbre and frequency range as the stereotypical wah-wah’d trombone-style Peanuts cartoon teacher. Speaking of which, “The secret to the Obama annoyance is snotty lecturing,” P.J. O’Rourke added shortly after Michael’s article went online:

His tone of voice sends us back to the worst place in college. We sit once more packed into the vast, dreary confines of a freshman survey course—“Rocks for Jocks,” “Nuts and Sluts,” “Darkness at Noon.” At the lectern is a twerp of a grad student—the prototypical A student—insecure, overbearing, full of himself and contempt for his students. All we want is an easy three credits to fulfill a curriculum requirement in science, social science, or fine arts. We’ve got a mimeographed copy of last year’s final with multiple choice answers already written on our wrists. The grad student could skip his classes, the way we intend to, but there the s.o.b. is, taking attendance. (How else to explain this year’s census?)

America has made the mistake of letting the A student run things. It was A students who briefly took over the business world during the period of derivatives, credit swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. We’re still reeling from the effects. This is why good businessmen have always adhered to the maxim: “A students work for B students.” Or, as a businessman friend of mine put it, “B students work for C students—A students teach.”

It was a bunch of A students at the Defense Department who planned the syllabus for the Iraq war, and to hell with what happened to the Iraqi Class of ’03 after they’d graduated from Shock and Awe.

The U.S. tax code was written by A students. Every April 15 we have to pay somebody who got an A in accounting to keep ourselves from being sent to jail.

Now there’s health care reform—just the kind of thing that would earn an A on a term paper from that twerp of a grad student who teaches Econ 101.

Why are A students so hateful? I’m sure up at Harvard, over at the New York Times, and inside the White House they think we just envy their smarts. Maybe we are resentful clods gawking with bitter incomprehension at the intellectual magnificence of our betters. If so, why are our betters spending so much time nervously insisting that they’re smarter than Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement? They are. You can look it up (if you have a fancy education the way our betters do and know what the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary is). “Smart” has its root in the Old English word for being a pain. The adjective has eight other principal definitions ranging from “brisk” to “fashionable” to “neat.” Only two definitions indicate cleverness—smart as in “clever in talk” and smart as in “clever in looking after one’s own interests.” Don’t get smart with me.

The other objection to A students is what it takes to become one—toad-eating. A students must do what teachers and textbooks want and do it the way teachers and texts want it done. Neatness counts! A students are very busy.

Well, we can’t call Obama and “A” student, as he’s never revealed his grades. But how’s our perpetual grad student doing in his current gig? John Podhoretz isn’t giving him very good grades today, as “ISIS rises, the economy falters, and Obama’s legacy falls apart:”

So it will be up to his successors to bail him out in the eyes of history and make it appear as though his legacy wasn’t the nuclear destabilization of the Middle East!Speaking of legacies, how’s that key domestic-policy legacy going? Not so hot.

ObamaCare remains unpopular; far more Americans oppose than favor it.

People still remember the disaster of the October 2013 rollout, which still casts a shadow over the program today.

Those hard feelings were deepened last year by the discovery of a series of talks by key ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber in which he bragged that it had been falsely marketed to the American people to take advantage of their stupidity.

Its defenders say the program is beginning to work, in the sense that it’s covering more people — but it’s not covering as many as the administration said it would by this time.

They tout the fact that the cost of the program is lower than it was supposed to be by now.

But that’s an inconsistent claim; it’s only less expensive because it isn’t meeting its target numbers, not because cost savings have suddenly materialized from the ether.

Meanwhile, at some point over the next month, the entire policy may be thrown into terminal chaos when the Supreme Court issues its judgment in a case called King v. Burwell — which challenges the legality of a central component of ObamaCare.

As the Supreme Court debates and writes its opinions, the overall economy continues to sputter. Over the past five years, it grows and halts, grows and halts, in a somewhat mystifying pattern that has kept the American people on guard and on edge.

In the latest RealClearPolitics polling average, 62% say the country is on the wrong track — more than seven years after Obama moved into the White House.

Of course, that assumes that Obama means well, both in America and the Middle East. Obviously, he’s no OBL — but as Rudy Giuliani pointed out in February, much to consternation of Obama’s Democrat operatives with bylines, that doesn’t mean he unambiguously has the best interests of America at heart, either.

But then, don’t all perpetual grad students long to play socialist dictator and try reshaping her, one way or another?

‘Why Does the Left Kowtow to Islam?’

May 19th, 2015 - 6:27 pm

In the 1930s as a result of a rival faction of socialists having seized control of post-Weimar Germany, the founders of the leftwing Frankfurt School fled to America. By the fall of 1941, several of the Frankfurt School big boys eventually wound up in southern California, as a New York Times writer noted in 2010, in a passage much beloved for its deadpan irony by the late Andrew Breitbart:

The Frankfurt School of philosophers emigrated from Nazi Germany and became dyspeptic critics of American culture. Several landed in Southern California where they were disturbed by the consumer culture and the gospel of relentless cheeriness. Depressive by nature, they focused on the disappointments and venality that surrounded them and how unnecessary it all was. It could be paradise, Theodor Adorno complained, but it was only California.

Just as a reminder, this was at very pinnacle of the film industry’s studio system, a period in which Hollywood was routinely cranking out such titles as Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Fantasia, Pinocchio, Stagecoach, Citizen Kane, the Thin Man movies, and dozens and dozens of other classic audience-pleasing films.

“But it was only California.”

As Andrew Breitbart wrote in his 2011 book Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World:

We always feel that our incredible traditions of freedom and liberty will convert those who show up on our shores, that they will appreciate the way of life we have created—isn’t that why they wanted to come here in the first place? We can’t imagine anyone coming here, experiencing the true wonder that is living in this country, and wanting to destroy that. But that’s exactly what the Frankfurt School wanted to do.

These were not happy people looking for a new lease on life. When they moved to California, they simply couldn’t deal with the change of scenery—there was cognitive dissonance. Horkheimer and Adorno and depressive allies like Bertolt Brecht moved into a house in Santa Monica on Twenty-sixth Street, coincidentally, the epicenter of my childhood. They had moved to heaven on earth from Nazi Germany and apparently could not handle the fun, the sun, and the roaring good times. Ingratitude is not strong enough a word to describe these hideous malcontents.

If only they had had IKEA furniture, this would have made for a fantastic season of The Real World.

Brecht and his ilk were the Kurt Cobains of their day: massively depressed, nihilistic people who wore full suits in eighty-degree weather while living in a house by the beach.

And the socialist Frankfurt School set about in earnest poisoning the idea of freedom and democracy in America, despite America having taken them in from National Socialist totalitarianism in Germany.

Nearly a decade later, as Mark Steyn noted last year, “a young middle-class Egyptian spending some time in the US had the misfortune to be invited to a dance one weekend,” and like the emigres of the Frankfurt Institute, was similarly “horrified at what he witnessed,” in which another Hollywood product again inadvertently played a leading role, causing our “young middle-class Egyptian” to feverishly write:

The room convulsed with the feverish music from the gramophone. Dancing naked legs filled the hall, arms draped around the waists, chests met chests, lips met lips . . .

Where was this den of debauchery? Studio 54 in the 1970s? Haight-Ashbury in the summer of love? No, the throbbing pulsating sewer of sin was Greeley, Colorado, in 1949. As it happens, Greeley, Colorado, in 1949 was a dry town. The dance was a church social. And the feverish music was “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” as introduced by Esther Williams in “Neptune’s Daughter.” Revolted by the experience, Sayyid Qutb decided that America (and modernity in general) was an abomination, returned to Egypt, became the leading intellectual muscle in the Muslim Brotherhood, and set off a chain that led from Qutb to Zawahiri to bin Laden to the Hindu Kush to the Balkans to 9/11 to the brief Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt to the Islamic State marching across Syria and Iraq. Indeed, Qutb’s view of the West is the merest extension of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” — America as the ultimate seducer, the Great Satan.

I’m a reasonable chap, and I’d be willing to meet the Muslim Brotherhood chaps halfway on a lot of the peripheral stuff like beheadings, stonings, clitoridectomies and whatnot. But you’ll have to pry “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from my cold dead hands and my dancing naked legs. A world without “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” would be very cold indeed.

I know it’s taken me a while to get there, but I wanted to set the stage for Robert Tracinski’s new article at the Federalist, in which Tracinski asks The question of the 21st century West, in both America and Europe: “Why Does the Left Kowtow to Islam?”

You might suspect that the question answers itself. They kowtow to Islam precisely because it is a real threat, a macroaggression that trumps all of the microaggressions. So you could say that it is simple cowardice. They protest against people they know are extremely unlikely to harm them, and they shut up about the fanatics who might actually follow through on their threats.

But I don’t think that’s the fundamental cause. After all, most lefties are not being called upon to take any personal risk, because somebody else has already stuck his neck out. Drawing or publishing a cartoon of Mohammed might get you put on an al-Qaeda hit list. Simply saying that you support the cartoonist’s defiance of that threat won’t get you on anybody’s list.

In fact, a running theme of the left’s arguments, repeated with a great deal of apparent sincerity, is the notion that it is irrational to fear Islam, that describing the religion as violent and dangerous is “Islamophobia.” They seem to have largely talked themselves into believing that they have nothing personally to fear from Islam. Jihadists may throw gays off of buildings in Syria, but it can’t happen here.

This is nonsense, of course, but it is revealing of the mindset. They actually talk themselves into believing that “censorship of LGBT artists” is an equal or even greater threat, far more urgent than anything having to do with Islam. For the left, the main source of evil in the world always comes from within America and from within the West, never outside of it.

Read the whole thing, which traces the weird twists of the leftwing history from its original “Progressive” era at the dawn of the 2oth century to today. And to bring this post full circle, note that as Glenn Reynolds wrote in response to photos of Iranian and Afghani women pre-Ayatollah and pre-Taliban strutting their stuff in mini-skirts, high-heels and uncovered Liza Minnelli-inspired hairdos, “In the 1950s Western culture was confident, and thus widely imitated. Our cultural leaders soon fixed that.”

Sayyid Qutb, Osama bin Laden, and the Ayatollah Khomeini couldn’t have “fundamentally transformed” the Middle East without them.

Update (5/20/15): “Confirmed: Bin Laden was into conspiracy theories, including 9/11 conspiracy theories,” Allahpundit writes today at Hot Air:

That’s the choicest morsel from this morning’s kinda interesting but not terribly newsworthy document dump by the feds of what they found in Casa Osama. The SEALs reportedly took more than one million documents from the compound in 2011, including evidence of Al Qaeda’s relationships with Iran and Pakistan, but all the White House is comfortable with Americans knowing is the fact that Bin Laden read Noam Chomsky. Which we already knew, as if we couldn’t have guessed. (Chomsky returned the compliment after Bin Laden was killed, calling the operation a violation of international law and absolving Bin Laden of any role in 9/11.)

And as the Washington Post noted on October 1st 2010, “Osama bin Laden embraces his inner Al Gore” as well:

The al-Qaeda chief’s recorded messages are ordinarily calls to arms against the West, warning of apocalyptic consequences for enemies of his puritanical strain of Islam. But the latest message, released Friday, is instead devoted to the consequences of climate change.

But of course. He certainly worked hard to reduce lower Manhattan’s carbon footprint.

Timothy P. Carney of the American Enterprise Institute is interviewed by Libertarianism.org on “Big Business Loves Big Government: Cronyism in American Politics:”

So the most famous sort of muckraker progressive story is Upton Sinclair, going into the meat packing plants and then everybody reads a book and sees how gross his meat packing plants are.

It’s an interesting story as a journalist because Sinclair was trying to write a socialist thing about the plight of the worker and people maybe started thinking, “Oh, the worker has it rough,” and then they say, “They put what in my meat?” and they lost all concern …

[Crosstalk]

Timothy Carney: Yeah, and the – he said, “I aimed for the country’s heart and I accidentally hit them in the gut.” That’s what Sinclair said and so there are letters that Teddy Roosevelt wrote that Gabriel Kolko who himself calls himself a socialist, he dug up these letters and he sees Roosevelt saying, “I find Sinclair like a completely despicable man, but he’s very useful here because it allows me to push for increased mandatory federal regulation of meat packing.”

You have the head of the big meat packer show up in congressional committees and say, “We are now and have always been in favor of federal regulation of meat packing.” Sinclair said, “No, this isn’t what I was aiming for. This is going to just give a government stamp of approval on the big guys. It’s going to create barriers to entry that keeps out the little guys.”

You see it again and again throughout where a lot of the attempts at monopoly and say oil and steel that the market undercut those attempts in the ways that you know they very often do. Everybody raises their prices in a cartel and then one guy is just way too tempted by the idea of stealing all the sales by undercutting the cartel. They started to go get together and say, “We’re not going to have a successful cartel unless we bring the government into it.”

So again, I track it back to Alexander Hamilton and George Washington but you can also – you can see it throughout all of history.

Aaron Ross Powell: Given that this has been going on for so long and that many cases sounds like it was rather obvious, what was going on, I mean was – there was no real attempt to hide the influence of big business on these regulations. Why does this narrative of the antagonism persist?

Timothy Carney: Why does the big myth persist? This is something I’ve tried to look into. For one, there are people who find it useful. If you’re a big business, you find it very useful to sort of have a docile kind of republican party that’s willing to do what you say, because they believe it’s in service of a higher cause.

I actually think that would be a more interesting story but it’s a harder story to tell and a lot of the reporters don’t even grasp it. When they do grasp it, it’s this amazing exception. The New York Times just recently had a piece about catfishing companies and said that these companies would sell these catfish. They were having trouble and so they did the unthinkable. They asked for more federal regulation.

Of course that’s almost the same phrase the New York Times used when they said Philip Morris did the unthinkable and they asked for more federal regulation of cigarettes and then you’ve got the – all these other companies that go ahead and they did the unthinkable and they asked for more government involvement.

And then there is Wall Street embracing Barack Obama in 2008, (aka “President Goldman Sachs”) and embracing Hillary Clinton $250,000 at a time. But the media continue to insist that Big Business is monolithically conservative and Republican — it’s kabuki all the way down, and it’s been that way for years.

Shot:

That critical thinking plays a role in falling birthrates is backed up by a study conducted at Kansas State University, in which researchers found that “people’s desire to have children is most influenced by the positive and negative interactions, and the trade-offs.” These are detailed elegantly in an essay by Lionel Shriver, the author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, a book in which a mother’s life is ruined by her psychopathic son. “I could have afforded children, financially,” Shriver writes. “I just didn’t want them. They are untidy, they would have messed up my apartment. In the main, they are ungrateful. They would have siphoned away too much time from my precious books.”

Shriver acknowledges that this attitude could be interpreted as selfish. But, it seems, her feelings are indicative of “a larger transformation in Western culture no less profound than our collective consensus on what life is for.” In other words, she’s saying, an existential shift in the way educated humans approach living—a switch from living for the (possibly celestial) future to enjoying the present—has led humans to think much more carefully about having children, since the drawbacks tend to outweigh the benefits. “As we age,” she writes, “we are apt to look back on our pasts and question, not, did I serve family, God, and country, but did I ever get to Cuba, or run a marathon? Did I take up landscape painting? Was I fat? We will assess the success of our lives in accordance not with whether they were righteous, but whether they were interesting and fun.”*

“Why Women Aren’t Having Children,”** The Atlantic, Friday.

Chaser:

Of course, the liberals’ answer is to fight the numbers with amnesty, importing what they hope will be fertile new recruits for their grim ideology in from the Third World. But the problem is that once here, those immigrants who share liberal values eventually stop having babies too. It seems abortion and reproduction don’t mix. The black community has already suffered depredations from the abortion laws Democrats love, a Democrat crime that dwarfs the crime that was Jim Crow. Now immigrant women seem to be taking a cue from liberal women and doing the same. In the meantime, red states like Utah and Texas grow and grow while blue states California and New York gray and shrivel.

Conservatives, it is not enough to merely produce children or, as so many do, adopt those already here. We must nurture them and teach them properly because liberal society is determined to corrupt them and convert them into eager drones for the Borg Collective that is progressivism. Fight back. If you are religious, teach your children about God. If not, teach them to respect and understand those who are. Teach them about our country and our history – there’s no better way to demonstrate to them, as opposed to indoctrinate them, why America deserves their patriotism. My earliest memory is of standing on a Gettysburg battlefield, not far from where my family’s hometown had been burned by Confederate raiders. There really was never much question that someday I would help defend our country as I aspired to be like the heroes who died on those fields.

And teach your kids skills that will help them survive. Teach them to fight, and to shoot. Teach them to be steadfast in the defense of their rights, and to stand up for those being oppressed. My kids have a standing offer – if their school suspends them for justifiably punching a bully they get taken out for ice cream. And demand that your school teaches your kids properly – as Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds often says, sending your kids to public schools is almost parental malpractice.

Not all conservatives will choose to have kids. Some can’t, and some have personal reasons not to – as grown men and women, none of them owe us any explanation. But by and large, we conservatives will outbreed our opponents if we just keep at it. So get some cabernet poured and some Barry White on and get busy, conservatives. Get busy…for America.

“Sexy Conservatives Will Out-Breed Barren Liberals,” Kurt Schlichter, Townhall, today.

Hangover:

* Let’s return to this line from the Atlantic article: “We are apt to look back on our pasts and question, not, did I serve family, God, and country, but did I ever get to Cuba, or run a marathon? Did I take up landscape painting? Was I fat? We will assess the success of our lives in accordance not with whether they were righteous, but whether they were interesting and fun.”

Did Tom Wolfe call this 40 years ago in “The ‘Me’ Decade and the Third Great Awakening,” or what?

Whatever the Third Great Awakening amounts to, for better or for worse, will have to do with this unprecedented post-World War II American development: the luxury, enjoyed by so many millions of middling folk, of dwelling upon the self. At first glance, Shirley Polykoff’s [advertising] slogan—“If I’ve only one life, let me live it as a blonde!”—seems like merely another example of a superficial and irritating rhetorical trope (antanaclasis) that now happens to be fashionable among advertising copywriters. But in fact the notion of “If I’ve only one life” challenges one of those assumptions of society that are so deep-rooted and ancient, they have no name—they are simply lived by. In this case: man’s age-old belief in serial immortality.

The husband and wife who sacrifice their own ambitions and their material assets in order to provide “a better future” for their children . . . the soldier who risks his life, or perhaps consciously sacrifices it, in battle . . . the man who devotes his life to some struggle for “his people” that cannot possibly be won in his lifetime . . . people (or most of them) who buy life insurance or leave wills . . . and, for that matter, most women upon becoming pregnant for the first time . . . are people who conceive of themselves, however unconsciously, as part of a great biological stream. Just as something of their ancestors lives on in them, so will something of them live on in their children . . . or in their people, their race, their community—for childless people, too, conduct their lives and try to arrange their postmortem affairs with concern for how the great stream is going to flow on. Most people, historically, have not lived their lives as if thinking, “I have only one life to live.” Instead they have lived as if they are living their ancestors’ lives and their offspring’s lives and perhaps their neighbors’ lives as well. They have seen themselves as inseparable from the great tide of chromosomes of which they are created and which they pass on. The mere fact that you were only going to be here a short time and would be dead soon enough did not give you the license to try to climb out of the stream and change the natural order of things. The Chinese, in ancestor worship, have literally worshiped the great tide itself, and not any god or gods. For anyone to renounce the notion of serial immortality, in the West or the East, has been to defy what seems like a law of Nature. Hence the wicked feeling—the excitement!—of “If I’ve only one life, let me live it as a ———!” Fill in the blank, if you dare.

And now many dare it! In Democracy in America, Tocqueville (the inevitable and ubiquitous Tocqueville) saw the American sense of equality itself as disrupting the stream, which he called “time’s pattern”: “Not only does democracy make each man forget his ancestors, it hides his descendants from him, and divides him from his contemporaries; it continually turns him back into himself, and threatens, at last, to enclose him entirely in the solitude of his own heart.” A grim prospect to the good Alexis de T.—but what did he know about . . . Let’s talk about Me!

** I blame global warming. No seriously; if you’ve truly internalized the crazed prophesies the warm-mongers have been shouting since the first Earth Day 45 years ago that “We only have five/ten/12 years, 362 days, 35 minutes and 22 seconds” to save the Earth, why would you want to inflict that vision of a barren future world on a kid?

talk_to_kids_climate_change_6-7-13

As spotted by Ace:

 

Unexpectedly.

Update:
Of course, it’s not like some masses need outside help to hasten their extinction.

And praises Common Core, Sean Davis writes at the Federalist:

During her first official campaign event in Iowa earlier this week, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton praised Common Core and referred to children’s education as a “non-family enterprise.” Clinton’s controversial statements about education, which were captured by C-SPAN, came in response to a question from a participant about how to offer a quality education throughout the U.S.

Just a reminder that Hillary’s “It Takes a Village” theme from the 1990s is her polite and folksy way of saying that in her socialist worldview, your children belong to the state, not to you.

In other Hillary news, as she likes to say, she’s exceedingly happy to “take things away from you on behalf of the common good.” And/or her own good. Does that include someone else’s handicapped parking spot?

(Perhaps though, owners of personal exoskeleton suits are granted exemptions under the ADA.)

11 years ago, I wrote an article titled “Hollywood Stasists vs. Valley Dynamists” for Tech Central Station, on the cold technological war between northern and southern California. But rather than using the dynamists and stasists terminology from Virginia Postrel’s 1999 book The Future and Its Enemies, perhaps I should have referred to both sides as the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks, as all of the battles were being led by various factions of the left.

The left-leaning (sometimes very left-leaning and occasionally more than a little racialist) National Journal spots Marlon Perkins-style, “The Secret Republicans of Silicon Valley.” Longtime readers of PJM should find this passage quite familiar:

Rather than ruffle feathers—or worse—Republicans who work there often just keep quiet. Rich Tafel, who coaches tech companies in politics and policy, understands the dynamic. The founder of the gay group Log Cabin Republicans, he’s had many Republicans in Silicon Valley confide to him their true political views.

“You just learn how to operate, if you will, in the closet as a Republican,” Tafel told National Journal. “You keep your viewpoints to yourself.”

One startup CEO who has worked in Silicon Valley for more than a decade says that while it’s popular to talk politics in the workplace, the underlying assumption is that everyone has similar views.

The CEO, who generally votes Republican and donates to GOP candidates—he spoke on background to conceal his right-leaning views—said that in 2012, “you wouldn’t want to say you’re voting for Romney in the election.” At the same time, openly expressing one’s support for Obama was “incredibly common.”

His opposition to raising the minimum wage is just one area where he diverges with most of his colleagues. “If you say something like, ‘We need a higher minimum wage,’ you don’t get critiqued,” he said. But he would never reveal his more conservative outlook on the matter.

“They can’t fathom that somebody disagrees with them,” he said. “And I disagree with them. So I’m not going to open up that box.”

Which our own Roger L. Simon described in the original title of his 2009 autobiography as “Blacklisting Myself:”

You see this new faith in practice at the average Hollywood story meeting. These are ritualized events and have been for the decades that I have participated in them. You wait an inordinately long time for your appointment, often longer than at a doctor’s office, but with nowhere near the legitimate excuse on the part of the executive keeping you waiting. They are definitely not in surgery. The intention is merely to confirm your lower place in the pecking order. (I have personal knowledge of an instance when John Huston and Jack Nicholson were kept cooling their heels in a tiny room by the now-forgotten head of ABC Motion Pictures for nearly two hours—I assume he didn’t realize they’d come to pitch him Prizzi’s Honor. Or maybe he did and this was a form of envy or vengeance.)

Once inside the executive’s office, the pecking order of talent and management thus confirmed, it’s instantly waved off in a burst of small talk and a call for the requisite mineral water—originally Perrier, now something more exotic like an obscure Welsh brand in a blue bottle whose unpronounceable name you can barely remember. But the small talk is what’s important. It usually revolves around the freeway traffic (a perpetual subject), the Lakers (depending on the year), and, over the last half-decade or more, a ritualized Bush bash. (What will they do without him?) Fucking Bush did this or that … Did you hear the stupid thing Chimpy the Idiot said? You didn’t even have to hear Bush referred to specifically— the word “idiot” sufficed. You knew. The subtext was that we were all together, part of the secret society, the world of those who know as opposed to those who don’t.

If you didn’t agree with this particular Weltanschauung, if you dissented from its orthodoxy just a tiny bit, you had but three choices: One, you could argue, in which case you would be almost certain to be dismissed as a fool, a warmonger, or a right-wing nut (all three, probably) and therefore have had little or no chance at the writing or directing job that brought you there. Two, you could shut up and ignore it (stay in the closet), in which case you felt like a coward and experienced (as I have) a dose of nausea straight out of Sartre. Three, you could stop going to the meetings altogether—you could, in effect, blacklist yourself.

I don’t know the size of that self-selected blacklist, but I suspect it’s substantial, though certainly not as large as the number of those in the closet. People have to make a living, after all, as in the days of the old blacklist. Only there are no “fronts,” as in the Woody Allen movie of the same name.

This happens with actors as well; Morgan Brittany, one of the former stars of Dallas who’s openly Republican, tells this story of appearing onstage with Ed Asner, who’s openly Stalinist:

Brittany told of building a friendship with actor Ed Asner, a sometimes activist for progressive causes, when the two starred in a stage-play together during the infamous Florida recount that put Republican George W. Bush in the White House over Democrat Al Gore. And she told how she lost Asner’s friendship due to politics.

“Every night he just loved me and came in and gave me a big hug,” she said. “Then one night he was going crazy about Gore and Bush and stealing the election. I’m backstage and I said, ‘Ed, chill, not everybody thinks the way you do’.”

“Well, where do I begin?” I swear. It was like a light switch,” she said. “He turned to me and said, ‘you’re not a Republican?’ I said, ‘yep.’ And he said, ‘I can’t even look at you. I can’t even talk to you’.”

“From that moment on, he never spoke to me again, except on stage,” she said. “This is what we’re dealing with. The intolerance of the left.”

Goodbye to all of that, says science fiction/fantasy novelist and frequent PJM contributor Sarah Hoyt in response to the socialist justice warriors overrunning that industry’s Hugo Awards, which we mentioned last week, creating what she calls, quite accurately, “The Architecture of Fear:”

Do consider how it would feel to come out of the closet and kick the mouse up and down main street, making him eat his Stalinist “guilt by association” cries.

I’m not going to force you.  I’m not going to out you.

But this Stalinist “I know everything you do and it’s all analyzed for deviationism” always leads to purges.  In SF/F those purges might mean not publishing traditional.  Or they might mean not winning awards.  Or getting kicked out of an organization.

But this type of mind-set is a cancer in the culture and sooner or later leads to gulags and graves.

I can’t push you and I won’t.  If you want to keep your opinions — left, right, moderate, libertarian, anarchist — hidden, it’s your job.  I am not the keeper of your soul.

However, I want you to think of the dark and dank place that fear and that suspicion and the constant spying lead.

And then I want you to think of how good it would feel to get off your knees, stand on two, look your tormentors in the face and say “No more.  I’m free. My thoughts and my opinions, my beliefs, my tastes, my friends are my own.  You have no power over me.  Not now, and not ever again.”

That’s all.  I just want you to think.

Now that the left are threatening to burn down Midwestern pizza parlors, and getting Silicon Valley CEOs fired for doubleplus ungood oldthink, you don’t see many commercials from them these days like this 1981 Amnesty International ad toasting freedom and celebrating speaking your conscience, huh?

Related: “How free speech became right wing:”

Essentially, the left needs to rediscover and reclaim its liberalism. Otherwise, the basic liberties of free thought and free expression will become the exclusive purview of the right.

But at least in America, the left declaring itself “liberal” was simultaneously a stolen base and a rebranding tactic in the early 1920s, after the Wilson administration demonstrated — the hard way — that free speech and “Progressivism” were mutually incompatible terms.

God only knows what they have against pizza, though — it’s Mussolini-approved!

 

“Last Monday afternoon, Entertainment Weekly posted a story in its Books section with the ominous headline: ‘Hugo Award nominations fall victim to misogynistic, racist voting campaign,’” John Merline of Investor’s Business Daily notes in an article sardonically titled, “Another Great Moment in Mainstream Journalism:”

Within a few hours, the headline changed to: “Correction: Hugo Awards voting campaign sparks controversy.”

That’s some correction. So what happened?

Both versions of the EW story were about the annual Hugo Awards given out to science fiction and fantasy writers. In the original version, EW’s Isabella Biedenharn claimed that “misogynist groups lobbied to nominate only white males for the science fiction book awards,” urging their followers to “cast votes against female writers and writers of color.”

Turns out that the slate of authors recommended by one of the groups, at least, did include women and minorities. Several of them, in fact.

The group’s campaign, in fact, had nothing to do with women or minorities, but an effort “to get talented, worthy, deserving authors who would normally never have a chance (to be) nominated for the supposedly prestigious Hugo awards,” according to Larry Correia, who along with Brad Torgersen, started the “Sad Puppies” campaign to bring more ideological diversity to the Hugo nominations.

“I started this campaign a few years ago,” Correia wrote on his blog, “because I believed that the awards were politically biased and dominated by a few insider cliques. Authors who didn’t belong to these groups or failed to appease them politically were shunned.”

But since the EW reporter didn’t bother to reach out to Correia, or anyone else involved, to check her facts, she apparently didn’t know this.

This story, like the now-completely discredited Rolling Stone “campus rape” article, shows the dangers of an increasingly biased mainstream news media.

In-between castigating Rolling Stone for its rape-obsessed debacle last year, we shouldn’t let the disgusting racialist meltdown by a once fairly milquetoast showbiz gossip publication like Entertainment Weekly go without exploring what caused it. But like Gamergate, the events leading up to it are a bit complex for anyone coming into the story cold. So first, some historical background.

Science fiction has always had both a left, totalitarian side, as well as a right, libertarian side. As Fred Siegel noted in his 2009 City Journal profile of H.G. Wells, whom he accurately dubbed “The Godfather of American Liberalism,” a title that reflects the two-edged sword the G-word has become in recent decades, Wells in both his fiction and non-fiction, was a driving proponent of sci-fi’s totalitarianism:

Well before Mussolini, still a revolutionary socialist in the early twentieth century, and at roughly the same time as Lenin, Wells—in the book that he called the “keystone to the main arch of my work”—gave up not only on democracy but on organized labor as a transformative force. All three men rejected what might be described as social democracy, that is, the attempt to use political means to redress the inadequacies of capitalism. Instead, each proposed a new class, a vanguard to carry forward a postcapitalist social order.

Wells’ writing not only inspired the title of that long-running (if now rather addle-brained) publication, the New Republic, along with the eugenic efforts of Marget Sanger and Planned Parenthood, but in more recent years, a best-selling critique of the left as well, Siegel writes:

By 1932, a frustrated Wells found his superior wisdom bypassed time and again by the superior mass appeal of fascism and Communism. In a talk at Oxford provocatively titled “Liberal Fascism,” he called for liberalism to be “born again.” After his customary denunciation of parliamentary politics as an anachronism, he let out his frustrations, calling for fascist means to serve liberal ends by way of a liberal elite as “conceited” and as power-hungry as its rivals. “I suggest that you study the reinvigoration of Catholicism by Loyola,” Wells said. “I am asking for a Liberal Fascisti.” It was also to Communism that “we shall have to turn—we outsiders, that is, the young people with foresight for enlightened Nazis; I am proposing that you consider the formation for a greater Communist Party; a western response to Russia.”

Unfortunately, Wells wasn’t kidding, John J. Miller wrote in 2005, after Steven Spielberg’s big budget version of the War of the Worlds (whose screenwriter declared the Martians were standing in for America’s Red States):

Wells, for his part, was often appallingly wrong. “Human history is in essence a history of ideas,” he once wrote. That may be, but Wells flirted with the worst ideas of his time. After interviewing Lenin, Wells called him “creative” and described communism as the best hope for reforming Russia. The man simply never met a collectivist movement that didn’t intrigue him. “There is good in these Fascists,” he said of Italians in 1927. “There is something brave and well-meaning about them.” He despised Catholicism and mocked Jewish traditions as “nonsense.” It was for views such as these that George Orwell delivered a blunt verdict in 1941: “Much of what Wells has imagined and worked for is physically there in Nazi Germany.”

On the flip-side, Robert Heinlein’s libertarian bent can be found throughout his work, making him hugely influential on the right, as the Ludwig von Mises Insitute noted in 2010:

During the ’50s and ’60s, Heinlein won four Hugo awards [fancy that -- Ed] for best science fiction novel of the year. In 1969, he joined Walter Cronkite on national television to offer commentary on the first manned moon landing in history. In 1975, he was named the first recipient of the Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement in the field, by the Science Fiction Writers of America. By the time of his death in 1988, his nearly four dozen books — including novels and collections of short stories — had sold more than 40 million copies. And they haven’t stopped selling in the more than two decades that have gone by since then.”Isaac Asimov, who knew Heinlein from the mid-’30s on, was convinced that his personal political views were largely a function of the woman he was married to at the time.”

Why is all this important from the point of view of the libertarian tradition? Because, among the many hundreds of thousands of readers who made Robert A. Heinlein’s career in science fiction such a brilliant success were quite a few who later came to think of themselves as libertarians and to associate themselves, in one way or another, with the organized libertarian movement. Not a few of these would be happy to tell you that it was by reading Heinlein’s stories and novels that they discovered libertarian ideas and became persuaded of their power and truth.

In the early 1970s, according to a survey undertaken at the time by SIL, the Society for Individual Liberty, one libertarian activist in six had been led to libertarianism by reading the novels and short stories of Robert A. Heinlein.

For decades, the two sides of science fiction co-existed in somewhat uneasy fashion. (Yes, I know that’s an enormous simplification, but I’m trying to get this post back to April of 2015. Bear with me.) But as with first academia, then journalism, then Hollywood, and more recently with even seemingly apolitical video games, whenever the left gets a foothold, their primary goal is to bar any other points of view, and that includes science fiction as well, as Robert Tracinski writes at the Federalist:

By now, we know the basic ingredients of a typical skirmish in Culture War 4.0. It goes something like this: a) a leftist claque starts loudly pushing the “correct” Culture War position onto b) a field previously considered fun, innocuous, apolitical, purely personal, or recreational, and c) accusing anyone who opposes them of being a racist, sexist, bigot who relies on oppressive “privilege” to push everyone else down, while these claims are d) backed up by a biased press that swallows the line of attack uncritically and repeats it.

Any of that sound familiar? It’s just daily life for anyone on the Right, and it’s slowly becoming daily life for everybody else. Ask Comet Guy.

The innocuous field in which the personal is suddenly discovered to be very political might be fashion, music, toys, sports, or sex, not to mention weddings, flowers, cake-baking, and pizza.

Or video games. Or science fiction.

Which explains the latest, wide new front of the Great Social Justice War: Gamergate and its latest outgrowth, the battle over the Hugo Awards, a prestigious annual fiction award for science fiction and fantasy writers.

Read on for Tracinski’s details of how the Hugo, for decades sci-fi’s equivalent of the Oscar and Emmy, was awarded. Basically, anyone who pays a $40 annual membership is free to vote.

That’s far too democratic a process for those who want to keep the proverbial “wrong element” out of the genre — and by wrong element, I mean anyone who isn’t a full-on raving socialist justice warrior. I mean, anyone like you or me:

A few years back, conservative science-fiction author Larry Correia noticed that left-leaning participants at Worldcon were engaged in a whispering campaign against one of his nominated books because of his political views. Many of them had not even read his novels. They opposed him, not because of the quality of his work, but because of who he was. In effect, the Left was enforcing a blacklist in which no right-leaning science fiction writer can be allowed to win awards.

All of which sounds drearily familiar. Believe me, when you’re in my line of work, you don’t expect to win any of the mainstream awards, either. They just don’t give those things to people like us. It’s a part of our professional life that most writers on the right have just given up on. And maybe we shouldn’t have.

To counteract the voting bias, Correia organized a campaign called “Sad Puppies”—because, he explains, “boring message fiction is the leading cause of Puppy Related Sadness.” Which gives you a small sampling of the kind of goofy, irreverent humor with which the campaign has been conducted. The idea was simply to suggest a slate of authors Correia thought were likely to be overlooked or slighted because of their views—and to counteract that effect by lobbying in their favor.

His goal wasn’t even to win, but just to bring attention to the issue.

Naturally, in response, “they did what the Left always does: they smeared everyone who disagrees with them as racists.”

Click over to Tracinski’s post for the rest. On the one hand, we’re all “draftees in the new Culture War,” Tracinski writes. In other words, you may not be interested in the culture war, but the culture war is interested in you — to paraphrase a quote long attributed to one the earliest socialist justice warriors. (And used by Tracinski late last year in response to the SJW’s meltdown over a real-life rocket scientist’s shirt. On the other though, “From our perspective as draftees in the new Culture War, the 2015 Hugo Awards lay out the pattern for a successful counter-attack.”

Faster, please — as my colleague Micheal Ledeen likes to say about bringing regime change to totalitarian institutions.

Question Asked and Answered

April 2nd, 2015 - 6:18 pm

“Can Greeks Become Germans?”

— Thomas Friedman, the New York Times, July 19, 2011.

“Greeks Prepare to Nationalize Banks…”

—Headline today at the Drudge Report, linking to this London Telegraph article:

Greece no longer has enough money to pay the IMF €458m on April 9 and also to cover payments for salaries and social security on April 14, unless the eurozone agrees to disburse the next tranche of its interim bail-out deal in time.

“We are a Left-wing government. If we have to choose between a default to the IMF or a default to our own people, it is a no-brainer,” said a senior official.

“We may have to go into a silent arrears process with the IMF. This will cause a furore in the markets and means that the clock will start to tick much faster,” the source told The Telegraph.

What could go wrong?

weimarmillion-8-30-10

“You know, I believe people knew this was likely in the 1970s, but enviros stopped the necessary water projects,” Glenn Reynolds wrote as an aside in September while linking to an article titled “American Southwest has 80% chance of decade-long drought this century.” Today at City Journal, Victor Davis Hanson flashes back to when California enviro-leftists began the countdown on the state’s existence:

Brown and other Democratic leaders will never concede that their own opposition in the 1970s (when California had about half its present population) to the completion of state and federal water projects, along with their more recent allowance of massive water diversions for fish and river enhancement, left no margin for error in a state now home to 40 million people. Second, the mandated restrictions will bring home another truth as lawns die, pools empty, and boutique gardens shrivel in the coastal corridor from La Jolla to Berkeley: the very idea of a 20-million-person corridor along the narrow, scenic Pacific Ocean and adjoining foothills is just as unnatural as “big” agriculture’s Westside farming. The weather, climate, lifestyle, views, and culture of coastal living may all be spectacular, but the arid Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay-area megalopolises must rely on massive water transfers from the Sierra Nevada, Northern California, or out-of-state sources to support their unnatural ecosystems.

Now that no more reservoir water remains to divert to the Pacific Ocean, the exasperated Left is damning “corporate” agriculture (“Big Ag”) for “wasting” water on things like hundreds of thousands of acres of almonds and non-wine grapes. But the truth is that corporate giants like “Big Apple,” “Big Google,” and “Big Facebook” assume that their multimillion-person landscapes sit atop an aquifer. They don’t—at least, not one large enough to service their growing populations. Our California ancestors understood this; they saw, after the 1906 earthquake, that the dry hills of San Francisco and the adjoining peninsula could never rebuild without grabbing all the water possible from the distant Hetch Hetchy watershed. I have never met a Bay Area environmentalist or Silicon Valley grandee who didn’t drink or shower with water imported from a far distant water project.

The Bay Area remains almost completely reliant on ancient Hetch Hetchy water supplies from the distant Sierra Nevada, given the inability of groundwater pumping to service the Bay Area’s huge industrial and consumer demand for water. But after four years of drought, even Hetch Hetchy’s huge Sierra supplies have only about a year left, at best. Again, the California paradox: those who did the most to cancel water projects and divert reservoir water to pursue their reactionary nineteenth-century dreams of a scenic, depopulated, and fish-friendly environment enjoy lifestyles predicated entirely on the fragile early twentieth-century water projects of the sort they now condemn.

Read the whole thing, including VDH’s depressing but accurate conclusion, which dovetails well with Moe Lane’s take yesterday: “Across the board water restrictions come to California. Across the board attempts to evade them to follow.” As Moe writes, “Yup, there’s going to be screaming. And a lot of attempts at evasion. Man, it would purely be a shame if various liberal orgs and locales got caught trying to steal more than their fair share of the water…”

Related: Investor’s Business Daily adds that when it comes to the California drought, “What’s Scarce Is Wisdom, Not Water.” Wisdom is a commodity that’s long been depleted in Sacramento.

“I give you Harry Reid, Proud ‘McCarthyite,’ as CNN’s Dana Bash explicitly framed it,” Ed Morrissey writes:

REID: I don’t regret that at all. The Koch brothers — no one would help me. They were afraid the Koch brothers would go after them. So I did it on my own.

BASH: So no regrets about Mitt Romney, about the Koch Brothers. Some people have even called it McCarthyite.

REID: Well… [shrug] … they can call it whatever they want. Um … Romney didn’t win, did he?

As Ed responds, “Hey, so I smeared Romney. It worked, didn’t it?

Despicable. The Senate will likely throw him a celebration on his way out; they should be censuring him instead, especially with that arrogant admission. Reid embodies the worst of American politics, and no amount of fluffery over the next two years will disperse the stench that should attach itself to his name as long as it’s remembered at all.

Reid’s admission is “The soul of the 21st century Democratic Party laid bare,” Glenn Reynolds adds at Instapundit. “This kind of thing is surprising only if you haven’t been paying attention. And it’s not as if Reid is an outlier here, except in terms of his honesty.”

And if you haven’t been paying attention, “The End of Tolerance And Enforced Morality” by Ben Domenech of the Federalist will quickly bring you up to speed, particularly in regards to how the new strain of liberal fascism, to coin a phrase, is working against the people of Indiana. Exit quote: “When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles.”

Update: When I was prepping this post for the PJM homepage, I came across this AP file photo of Reid from the beginning of March. While the Democrat operatives with bylines at AP apparently can’t be bothered to investigate how Reid’s face was really rearranged, reading between the lines of their caption, it sounds like even they’re not buying his cover story:

harry_reid_3-31-15-1

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. talks about his future and the agenda of the Democrats who are now in the minority, Wednesday, March 4, 2015, during an interview with The Associated Press in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington. Reid, 75, is wearing special glasses as part of his recovery from injuries suffered in a violent exercise accident in January. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Gotta watch out for those eye-injuring, face-bruising, jaw-swelling encounters with, err, violent exercise bands.

Fake magazines created as background props for Ridley Scott’s epochal 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner, set in 2019:


Real magazine available on newsstands in 2015:


So how far behind are Pris, Zora, and Rachel?

“I like to say I’m more conservative than Goldwater. He just wanted to turn the clock back to when there was no income tax. I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other.”

Stalinist and banjo player Pete Seeger, during a 1995 interview with the New York Times.

“When people have the power to choose, they choose wrong. Every single time.”

—Meryl Streep’s “Chief Elder” character in The Giver.

Now out on DVD and Blu-Ray is The Giver, an adaptation of Lois Lowry’s hugely influential 1993 young-adult dystopian novel, which inspired The Hunger Games and other cautionary futuristic tales. Starring Jeff Bridges in the film’s title role, Meryl Streep, newcomer Brenton Thwaites, and blink and you’ll miss her Taylor Swift, it’s a film that conservatives and libertarians should take to heart and advise all of their friends to see, to understand what lurks at the bottom of an otherwise cheery, friendly and seemingly carefree nanny state. (Spoilers abound in this article. You’ve been warned.)

“Don’t Immanentize the Eschaton” was a bumper sticker phrase that was very popular among the early readers of National Review magazine in the 1960s.  Coined in the previous decade by conservative sociologist Eric Voegelin, and popularized by William F. Buckley, the phrase warned that the goal of creating Heaven on Earth, a goal that ties together virtually all leftwing ideologies, from National Socialists in Germany to International Socialists in the Soviet Union and China to the Fabian Socialists of England to Democratic socialists in America, was invariably going to (a) end in failure and (b) very likely end with lots people loaded into boxcars on their way to becoming dead bodies.

And yet, crafting Heaven on Earth remains the goal of the left to this very day. Whether they’re based in Los Angeles or London, most actors and filmmakers have politics somewhere to the left of Mao. As James Lileks once joked, “Maybe directors like dictators because they understand the desire to have final cut.” So I’m always intrigued whenever a bunch of left-leaning filmmakers get together to produce a cautionary tale of a futuristic socialist dystopia, and I like to ask myself, what we’re they thinking they were filming?

I’ve read that the cast and crew of 1984 thought that they were taking a clever shot at Margaret Thatcher, never mind that the subjects of Orwell’s groundbreaking dystopia were dominated by an ideology he dubbed “Ingsoc,” short for English Socialism, Soviet-style Communism with a British accent. The following year, Terry Gilliam directed his similarly themed film Brazil, focusing on another slightly futuristic out-of-control socialist bureaucracy with a penchant for kidnapping, torture and murder. But then last year, Gilliam told an interviewer that Republicans “will always be a fungus and if I was running the country I would take them out and shoot them frankly, but that’s something else [laughs],” ret-conning his 1985 film from a warning into a how-to guide. Since 2012, Obama-fan Donald Sutherland has starred as the murderous President Coriolanus Snow in the Hunger Games franchise, despite doing his bit to usher in a real-life totalitarian government in Vietnam through his appearances alongside Jane Fonda in their infamous F.T.A. tour of US Army bases in 1971.

Hot on the heels of the success of the Obama-era Hunger Games franchise, last year, the Weinstein Company, not exactly known for its libertarian politics, released The Giver, starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep, and directed by Phillip Noyce, whose previous films include 1989’s Dead Calm and the Tom Clancy adaptations starring Harrison Ford, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger.

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Unexpectedly!

March 16th, 2015 - 1:40 pm

We’ve seen this movie before, haven’t we?

 

As far as the automated dining service, Jazz Shaw writes, “It’s a terribly impersonal service as compared to a bartender or waitress who stops to chat with you, but it gets the job done:”

I ran into one of these setups at the Philadelphia airport this winter and they work surprisingly well. If you plan to pay by credit or debit card (which is the only option in some cases) you barely interact with a human at all. You browse the drinks and food on the touch screen, place your order, swipe your card, and a short while later somebody strolls up with your food and beverage, says hello and drops them off. It’s a terribly impersonal service as compared to a bartender or waitress who stops to chat with you, but it gets the job done.

Of course, that last phrase is the big issue here, isn’t it? It gets the job done. That job used to be done by a person. Now it’s essentially a robot. So those workers are no longer on the payroll, but hopefully they’ll catch on someplace else. Unfortunately, as Seattle is finding out, employers who run single outlets and don’t have the backing and buffer range of a major chain often won’t be able to make the shift in technological infrastructure required to cut back on staffing while staying open. Those folks will shut down, and it’s apparently already beginning in Washington state.

You know… if only somebody had tried to warn them.

Unexpectedly.

Update: Jonah Goldberg explored the racialist origins of the minimum wage in his 2008 book, Liberal Fascism:

[Early "Progressive" stalwart Edward Alsworth Ross] was a showman, but his ideas fit squarely within the worldview of progressive economics, on both sides of the Atlantic. Consider the debate over the minimum wage. The controversy centered on what to do about what Sidney Webb called the “unemployable class.”It was Webb’s belief, shared by many of the progressive economists affiliated with the American Economic Association, that establishing a minimum wage above the value of the unemployables’worth would lock them out of the market, accelerating their elimination as a class. This is essentially the modern conservative argument against the minimum wage, and even today, when conservatives make it, they are accused of—you guessed it—social Darwinism. But for the progressives at the dawn of the fascist moment, this was an argument for it. “Of all ways of dealing with these unfortunate parasites,”Webb observed, “the most ruinous to the community is to allow them unrestrainedly to compete as wage earners.”30
Ross put it succinctly: “The Coolie cannot outdo the American, but he can underlive him.”Since the inferior races were content to live closer to a filthy state of nature than the Nordic man, the savages did not require a civilized wage. Hence if you raised minimum wages to a civilized level, employers wouldn’t hire such miscreants in preference to “fitter”specimens, making them less likely to reproduce and, if necessary, easier targets for forced sterilization.
And of course, even beyond its racialist origins, a high minimum wage also makes it that much more difficult for a small business to succeed in general, which “Progressives” then and now consider a feature, and not a bug.

Quote of the Day

March 11th, 2015 - 8:00 pm

Havel argues here that, in fact, cultivating an individual “sphere of truth” will ultimately destroy the totalitarian communist government. Using a simple metaphor, a grocer’s placing a “Worker’s of the World Unite” poster in his window, Havel explains how that “lie” (and similar simple acts) form both the foundation of yet ultimate weakness in his country’s communist government. The spiritual suffocation under communism is promoted by these simple, everyday acts of acquiescence. If individuals cease to participate in these lies, they are no longer bound by the communist lies and therefore, create a zone of freedom untouchable by the regime. From such “spheres of truth,” a groundswell of freedom will sweep away communist rule. Havel’s ability to create and share such powerful images through such simple (and sustained) metaphors provided the groups working against the Czechoslovakian communist rule with a powerful intellectual and moral center.

—Introduction to “The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe.”

Apocalypse Newark

March 9th, 2015 - 8:26 pm

By the late 1960s, an America that had been governed primarily by “liberal” politicians for much of the century seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Kennedy was assassinated in the Cold War. LBJ scaled FDR’s New Deal up to Texas-sized proportions, only to discover, the hard way, that a government that tries to do everything ends up doing everything very badly. Urban riots seemed to be omnipresent, Myron Magnet wrote in City Journal: 

In 1965, riots raged for six days in Los Angeles’s Watts ghetto, leaving over 30 dead and whole blocks in ashes; in 1967, over 40 died in the Detroit ghetto riots before the National Guard, with army reinforcements, restored order; and over 25 died in the Newark riots, in which the looters, shooters, and arsonists left $10 million of property in ruins. A year later, after Martin Luther King’s assassination, rioting raged in black neighborhoods for days in over 100 cities. Meanwhile, black radicals—most notably, the weapons-toting, cop-killing Black Panthers—were calling for armed revolution.

The riots resulted in wide swatches of “white flight” from these urban areas and decades of economic collapse. RFK and MLK were assassinated. The New Left rioted in protest of the Old Left at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. And New York went from the Mad Men swank of the early 1960s to the Death Wish/Taxi Driver/Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 nadir of the ’70s.

New Yorkers knew how badly the rot was setting in, and how Mayor John Lindsay contributed to it; as City Journal’s Fred Siegel wrote in 2010, assessing his legacy:

Lindsay’s entitlement liberalism doubled the city’s welfare rolls at a time when black male unemployment was 4 percent, so that when the economic downturn hit in 1969 and 1970, his policies—a bank tax, an income tax, a commuter tax, a stock-transfer tax, and higher real-estate taxes—made a bad situation far worse. By 1970, notes Josh Freeman, one of the contributors to the Roberts book, “Lindsay’s government employed more people than the garment, banking, and longshore industries put together.” In Lindsay’s second term, the city, reeling from rising costs and crime, bled 257,000 jobs.

It was Lindsay’s hubris and the hype that surrounded him that made his mayoralty special. Wisdom was sorely lacking. In 1972, journalist Steven Weisman, a contributor to the Roberts book, wrote that “the mayor has never been able to stop the city’s downward spiral. Services have continued to decline, division has deepened among races and economic classes, and there have been unending crises. . . . the quality of life in New York City has never seemed more bleak, its government never more sluggish, wasteful, and finally even helpless.” In 1970s New York, where just asking for a cup of coffee could get you a fat lip, the growth in crime and welfare and the decline in employment cut a generation of African-Americans off from the larger promise of American life, producing what would come to be called the underclass.

In the end, the city was worse off in 1974 than it had been when Lindsay took over in 1966. Not all the problems were of his making, of course. In fact, most predated his tenure. They worsened after he left office and were common to most other large northern cities of the period. But Lindsay, his minions in the press insisted, was supposed to be exceptional. He was elected to stop the city’s decline and rejuvenate life in New York. Instead, in the words of journalist Murray Kempton, he was a “splendid flop. . . . Failures can have their splendors and above and beyond all the variously unsuccessful Mayoralties that have been New York’s ration for the last 40 years, John Vliet Lindsay’s is the only shining failure.”

But when you’ve got a reelection on the line, how do you convince the electorate to let your administration keep their phoney-baloney jobs?

Scare the hell of the voters!

New York’s WNET-13, under the appropriately sardonic title of “Fun City Revisited,” has several minutes worth of John Lindsay 1969 campaign ads; the above two clips are my favorite. The first astonishing clip tells the voters that as bad as things are, they could always be worse — so  very, very worse that you almost expect to hear Dr. Egon Spengler telling the voters to “Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light” under the images, which look like they were filmed on the rubble-strewn Hue City set of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.

The second clip is better known; last week on Twitter, Dave Weigel of Bloomberg described it as “the classic 1969 ‘I suck’ ad,” and compared it to a new campaign ad by a more recent flailing big city “Progressive” attempting to hang on to his own phoney-baloney job, Rahm Emanuel:

Could Chicago get any worse with or without Rahm? I’ll bet plenty of New Yorkers in 1969 thought the worst was over as well.

Update: And speaking of Rahm, pass the popcorn: “Jesse Jackson backs Garcia over Emanuel for Chicago mayor.”

Go Dark

March 6th, 2015 - 11:22 am

Ben, I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Yes, sir.

Are you listening?

Yes, I am.

Silence.

Exactly how do you mean?

At Ricochet, GOP strategist Rick Wilson proffers some very simple advice to Republican politicians: “Stop talking:”

In the next two weeks, try something new; maintain discipline, hold focus, and keep an eye to a bigger objective than your daily press release. Try to play the long game, and help Hillary Clinton self-destruct.

Proceed against Clinton with a measured pace and tone. Don’t make it all about Benghazi or the record-keeping laws. Focus instead on the grave national security risks that her amateur-hour email server shenanigan posed. Do it with the sickly-sweet, sincere tone of “I just want to work in a bipartisan way for good, transparent government… and to protect national security secrets from the Chinese, Russians, and other threats” that the Acela media claims to worship.

Press the sore spots, subtly, but constantly. Use it as way to leverage discussion of the Clinton family’s infamous contempt for the law and remind the public of their their obsessive secrecy, paranoia, and habitual lawbreaking. Wonder, in serious tones, how much of the email traffic has to do with the other scandal that reporters have been desperately trying to cover up: the Clinton Foundation’s scuzzy foreign-money vacuum. Welcome the chance for Mrs. Clinton to give her side of the story in press conferences and hearings.

When you talk to the press, do it in measured tones, and avoid making wild claims about either the substance or political outcomes. Reduce expectations, rather than raise them. Be persistent. Be serious. Be smart.

This is the sort of media discipline shown by Democrat talking heads on cable TV shows that allowed the Clintons to wriggle out of so many self-made debacles in the 1990s. Republicans don’t seem anywhere near as good at playing that game. Which is too bad. “Where’s the Brutalizing Media Narrative Demanding Hillary Clinton Answer Questions?,” John Nolte asks at Big Journalism. A GOP with JournoList-level focus could force some Democrat operatives with bylines into asking those questions if only through sheer message discipline and focus. But since such a beast is impossible to imagine, as Jonah Goldberg writes in his column today, “The E-mail Scandal Won’t Doom Hillary:”

The real significance of this moment — and a partial explanation of the media firestorm over it — is that time is running out to stop the Clinton freight train.

Nothing in this story is surprising: not the desire for secrecy, nor the flouting of legal norms, nor the cynical attempts to shoot the messengers — and certainly not the staggering hypocrisy. (In 2007, then-senator Clinton denounced the Bush White House’s far more defensible use of “secret” Republican National Committee e-mail addresses for campaign business as proof that “our Constitution is being shredded.”) It’s all vintage Clinton.

At some point down the tracks, when yet another fetid cloud of Clintonism erupts into plain view, many smart liberals will look back at this moment as the time when they should have pulled the emergency brake and gotten off the Hillary train.

The unease they feel now will be nothing compared to the buyer’s remorse to come.

Because, as Charles Cooke writes elsewhere at NRO, “There is no Plan B for 2016.”

Obama: The Provincial President

March 3rd, 2015 - 6:23 pm

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

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

But Avineri had a point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Preparing for China’s Collapse’

March 3rd, 2015 - 12:58 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And for ever-increasing good reason.

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