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Works and Days

The Last Generation of the West and the Thin Strand of Civilization

January 19th, 2014 - 2:26 pm

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Had the Greeks lost at Salamis, Western civilization might easily have been strangled in its adolescence. Had Hitler not invaded the Soviet Union, the European democracies would have probably remained overwhelmed. And had the Japanese just sidestepped the Philippines and Pearl Harbor, as they gobbled up the orphaned Pacific colonies of a defunct Western Europe, the Pacific World as we know it now might be a far different, far darker place.

I am not engaging in pop counterfactual history, as much as reminding us of how thin the thread of civilization sometimes hangs, both in its beginning and full maturity. Something analogous is happening currently in the 21st-century West. But the old alarmist scenarios — a nuclear exchange, global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps, a new lethal AIDS-like virus — should not be our worry.

Rather our way of life is changing not with a bang, but with a whimper, insidiously and self-inflicted, rather than abruptly and from foreign stimuli. Most of the problem is cultural. Unfortunately it was predicted by a host of pessimistic anti-democratic philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Hegel and Spengler. I’ve always hoped that these gloom-and-doomers were wrong about the Western paradigm, but some days it becomes harder.

Over 90 million Americans who could work are not working (the “non-institutionalized” over 16). What we take for granted — our electrical power, fuel, building materials, food, health care, and communications — all hinge on just 144 million getting up in the morning to produce what about 160-170 million others (the sick, the young, and the retired who need assistance along with the 90 million idle) consume.

Every three working Americans provide sustenance for two who are not ill, enfeebled, or too young. The former help the disabled, the latter take resources from them. The gang-banger has only disdain for the geek at the mall — until one Saturday night his liver is shredded by gang gunfire and suddenly he whimpers (who is now the real wimp?) that he needs such a Stanford-trained nerd to do sophisticated surgery to get him back in one piece to the carjackings, muggings, assaults, and knockout games — or lawsuits follow!

Given that the number of non-working is growing (an additional 10 million were idled in the Obama “recovery” alone), it is likely to keep growing. At some point, we will hit a 50/50 ratio of idle versus active. Then things will get interesting. The percentage of workers’ pay deducted to pay for the non-working will soar even higher. So will the present redistributive schemes and the borrowing from the unborn.

We forget that the obligations of the working to care for the 70-80 million who genuinely cannot work become more difficult, when the 90 million who can work for all sorts of reasons won’t. Note the theme of this essay: the more in humane fashion we provide unemployment insurance, food stamps, subsidized housing, legal advice, health care and disability insurance, the more the recipients find it all inadequate, inherent proof of unfairness and inequality, and always not enough.

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The Rural Way

January 12th, 2014 - 11:22 am

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Hard physical work is still a requisite for a sound outlook on an ever more crazy world. I ride a bike; but such exercise is not quite the same, given that the achievement of doing 35 miles is therapeutic for the body and mind, but does not lead to a sense of accomplishment in the material sense — a 30-foot dead tree cut up, a shed rebuilt, a barn repainted. I never quite understood why all these joggers in Silicon Valley have immigrants from Latin America doing their landscaping. Would not seven hours a week spent raking and pruning be as healthy as jogging in spandex — aside from the idea of autonomy that one receives by taking care of one’s own spread?

On the topic of keeping attuned with the physical world: if it does not rain (and the “rainy” season is about half over with nothing yet to show for it), the Bay Area and Los Angeles will see some strange things that even Apple, Google, and the new transgendered rest room law cannot fix. We have had two-year droughts, but never in my lifetime three years of no rain or much snow — much less in a California now of 39 million people.  I doubt we will hear much for a while about the past wisdom of emptying our reservoirs and letting the great rivers year-round flow to the Bay to restore mythical 19th-century salmon runs and to save the Delta three-inch bait fish. As long as it was a question of shutting down 250,000 irrigated acres in distant and dusty Mendota or Firebaugh, dumping fresh water in the sea was a good thing. When it now comes down to putting grey water or worse on the bougainvilleas in Menlo Park, or cutting back on that evening shower, I think even those of Silicon Valley will wonder, “What in the hell were we thinking?”

I do all the yard work on my three-acre home site and putter around the surrounding 40-acre vineyard. Mowing, chain-sawing, pruning, and hammering clear the head, and remind us that, even in the age of the knockout “game” and nightly TV ads for Trojan sex devices, we still live in a natural world. In the rural landscape, you are responsible for your own water. So you must know about what level resides the water table, and how deeply exactly your pump draws from, and the minutia of well depth, casing size, and type of pump. You know roughly how much sewage you’ve deposited in your cesspool and septic tank, and whether your propane tanks is half or a quarter full. There is no “they” who take care of such things, no department of this, or GS9 that to do it for you. Those who help you keep independent — the well drillers, pump mechanics, cesspool pumpers, asphalt layers, and assorted independent contractors — remind you that muscles and experience, not always degrees and techie know-how, are still important in extremis.

There are no neighbors across the backyard fence. At night there is no one out here, except the dogs that engage in howling wars with the coyotes. Nature abounds, both good and bad: squirrels that undermine the slab under your barn (I have shot them, gassed them, poisoned them for 40 years, and their burrows are larger than ever), and coyotes lingering out of range in the shadows by dusk. But also a red-tailed hawk in your redwood tree stands guard, and a great horned owl skimming across the vineyard that is strangely unafraid of humans. When I ride out in the Michigan countryside, I often stop and stare at octogenarians puttering around huge old clapboard farmhouses, determined in their final days to mow their lawns or paint their porches as if they were newlyweds — “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

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The president’s analyst. (James Coburn could not be reached for comment.)

New Deal Liberals Transform into the Faux Populist Radical Left

With elections looming in 2014, it is about time for Barack Obama to gear up another progressive “war” against the rich, the limb loppers, the fat cats, the tonsil pullers, the “enemies” of Latinos, the jet junketers, the women haters, and those who knew neither when to stop profiting nor how the government had really built their businesses. We shall shortly witness some of the wealthiest and most privileged of capitalist America decrying inequality and unfairness from the 18th hole in Hawaii, the Malibu gated estate, and the Beacon Hill mansion. And the faux populism will probably work, at least if 2008 and 2012 are any indications.

It is easy to chart the evolution of the wealthy progressive elite from the occasional limousine liberal of the 1950s and 1960s to the now dominant hierarchy of the Democratic Party.

The traditional Democratic boilerplate that I grew up with (as much as a ten year old can notice much of anything in 1963) — minimum wage, 40-hour work week, overtime pay, disability insurance, fair housing, civil rights, assistance for the needy — was mostly achieved by 1970. Equality of opportunity, however, did not translate into equality of result — given differences and imperfections in human nature.

Six instead of two children, three packs of cigarettes a day, four beers after work, two DUIs, a messy divorce, a freak accident on the job — the possibilities of either unsustainable responsibility or mishap are endless — can send one from middle class into poverty, well beyond the powers of the most enlightened government to prevent it. What is the liberal to do in those cases to ensure that we end up the same?

Moreover by 1995, the huge expansion of the U.S. economy, globalization, and sweeping breakthroughs in technology radically transformed the prior idea of “poverty,” as I had remembered it in 1960 (we of the rural middle class a half-century ago all used the privy farm toilet when outdoors around the house, and shared a party phone line with eight other families). Today’s poor struggle with drugs, crime, shattered families, and malaise, but not outdoor privies, the lack of air conditioning and heating, dusty dirt roads, or a denial of access to a phone or TV. Deprivation now is almost defined as the absence of a free electronic tablet at school.

Urban riots do not break out over bread, but more likely about the nth model of Air Jordan sneakers. When I go to a local Quest lab for a blood draw, the waiting room is full of poor who suffer terribly from diabetes and kidney failure brought about by carbohydrate- and sugar-driven obesity, not malnourishment.  Too many calories are the scourge of America. There are no stormings of the local Wal-Mart to spread beans and rice around; occasional flash mobbing of electronics stores nationwide is prompted by desire for smart phones and pads.

I have seen holiday shoppers in my environs shout and push over big-screen TV holiday sales, not rant over who gets the last ham hock at the meat counter. The knockout game is not driven by poverty, but by boredom, a poverty of the mind, and the assumption that there will be little government downside (e.g., getting caught, convicted and sentenced to a long prison terms won’t necessary happen) or private consequences (i.e. the frail-looking metrosexual target might well pull out a .45 semi-automatic).

Once the liberal vision of legal equality of opportunity was mostly achieved, the melodrama of ensuring an equality of result entailed. Wealthy liberals, however, were not quite up to their own rhetoric, in the sense of living the life of egalitarianism, diversity, and conspicuously reduced consumption. I don’t remember any Silicon Valley grandees offering space for a few non-running Winnebagos to be parked out behind their six-car garages. (I can offer blueprints of how it is done by sending a few pictures from six or seven of my neighbors.) There are few Kias on Malibu streets. Or less dramatically, Google execs do not put their kids in Redwood City elementary schools to learn of hard-knocks from the Other. Kanye West’s house has unused room for lots of homeless people. MSNBC radicals do not take the subway home to inner Harlem. Tenured Stanford faculty do not live in East Palo Alto.

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Crashing and Burning in 2013

December 29th, 2013 - 6:21 pm
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Recording artist Miley Cyrus performs “Wrecking Ball” on NBC’s Today Show at Rockefeller Plaza on October 7, 2013 in New York City. Photo by Debby Wong, Shutterstock.com.

Recent polls suggest Barack Obama has become a turn-off. Why?

In part, all presidents wear on Americans. Their presence has become as ubiquitous in our lives as the busts of the emperor Augustus dotting the Mediterranean world. So who wouldn’t annoy after speaking and appearing on our screens 24/7 for five years?

But in Obama’s case, two character traits made him especially aggravating this year. Both explain why vero possumus and hope and change have descended to “you can keep your plan, period.”

One, Obama blames everything bad on everyone else, and takes credit for a few good things that he had nothing to do with. He reminds me of a losing Little League coach who blamed the lights, fans, and umpire for his last-place standing, only to brag about his own genius after inserting a 12 year old who hit a freak homer to win his only game.

Why so? Few care to speculate anymore other than the obvious that his cursus honorum was always characterized by rhetoric in lieu of achievement. By that I mean I don’t know how his transcript merited admittance to Harvard Law School; what publications he authored as editor of Harvard Law Review; on what basis he was offered tenure at Chicago; how his record in the Illinois legislature prepped a U.S. Senate career; or why his brief sojourn as a U.S. senator qualified him as president. But I do concede through it all he sounded pretty confident and mellifluous.

George Bush, ATM machines, the Tea Party, the post-2010 Congress, the earthquake in Washington, D.C., the Japanese Tsunami — all this and more have caused Obama’s otherwise brilliant policies to fail. You would have thought that he entered office with a Republican supermajority in the Senate and a raging Tea Party majority in the House, all conspiring to thwart his every godhead from January 21, 2009.

Putting higher taxes on the productive classes, discouraging energy exploration of federal lands, adding more regulations, chronically bad-mouthing the successful, borrowing $6 trillion  to waste on stimulus and handouts, and socializing a sixth of the American economy with an unworkable Obamacare plan apparently had nothing to do with our non-recovery.

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Pajama Boy Nation

December 22nd, 2013 - 11:11 pm

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Will Kane of High Noon Pajama Boy wasn’t. Somehow we as a nation went from the iconic Marlboro Man to Pajama Boy — from the noble individual with a bad habit to the ignoble without a good habit — without a blink in between.

There are lots of revolting things in the Pajama Boy ad. After all, how can you top all at once a nerdy-looking child-man dressed in infantile pajamas while cradling a cup of hot chocolate with the smug assurance that he is running your life more than you his?

The Liberal Body-Snatchers

Still, there are one or two even scarier thoughts.

One, did the Obama appendage, Organizing for Action, really believe that such a sad-sack image might galvanize anyone about anything?  And two, did they really think that Pajama Boy would resonate with any young people outside of the New York-DC circus, as if to assume he would be persuasive: stay cool with retro geek glasses, pajamas, and hot chocolate like Pajama Boy, and then, presto, rush out to buy an Obamacare policy?

Out here in the rural middle of California — or most anywhere 30 miles inland from the coasts — Pajama Boy would last about two seconds pruning vines, or walking about the local Wal-Mart parking lot with his hot chocolate. Yet put him where his foot-padded pajamas bring dividends and for the last five years we all have lived out the consequences of his ilk’s ideological dreaming.

The great mystery of America today is how many of us have joined Pajama Boy nation — 20%, 40%, 60%? — and how many want nothing to do with such metrosexual visions of a huge state run by a nerdocracy, incompetently doling out other people’s money. How many were on board for Obamacare, more entitlements, and lectures from the apartheid elite on inequality and fairness, versus how many turn the channel at sound of His voice.

Sharpton Good — Duck Dynasty Not?

This past week the question of two Americas seems to be playing out even in the trivial psychodramas of bastardized popular culture. If Michelle Obama photo-ops and consults with Al Sharpton — of Crown Heights riot, Freddie’s Fashion Mart, and Tawana Brawley notoriety — is anything off-limits?

As I understand liberal popular culture as expressed in television and entertainment, David Letterman — cynical, dry, raised eyebrows at each ironic smirk — can pun on air that Sarah Palin’s 14-year-old daughter had sex with a baseball player in the dugout.Or Martin Bashir rails that Mrs. Palin should have excrement and urine inserted into her mouth, or Chris Rock suggests that the 4th of July is “White People’s Day,” or Jamie Foxx jokes about  how fun it was to play a character killing white people. Fine, free speech is free speech. To each his own. Let the seller and buyer establish their own codes of speech. Live and let live and all that good stuff.

But, on the other hand, you must not, as a real-TV celebrity, dare to suggest off-camera that male sodomy is somehow less “normal” or perhaps less  ”moral” or hygienic than is heterosexual intercourse. (The downside of sodomy in this Miley Cyrus age of anything goes rawness is oddly a taboo subject).

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Obama’s Ironic Foreign Policy

December 15th, 2013 - 10:19 pm

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In the old postwar, pre-Obama world, the United States accepted a 65-year burden of defeating Soviet communism. It led the fight against radical Islamic terrorism. The American fleet and overseas bases ensured that global commerce, communications, and travel were largely free and uninterrupted. Globalization was a sort of synonym for Americanization.

It was neither a particularly pleasant nor popular task. To keep the Soviets out of the Persian Gulf, we made unpopular deals of convenience with odious dictators and monarchs to keep the oil freely flowing to global consumers. In return, the billionaire and authoritarian sheikdoms often used cartels and monopolies to jack up the price of oil, while subsidizing on the sly anti-Western Islamic terrorists. The United States almost had to beg those in the Middle East for the costly privilege of protecting them and buying their $100-a-barrel oil. What a strange world the U.S. created: we found Saudi oil; we protected Saudi Arabia; we kept the Persian Gulf open and secure; and we earned embargoes, OPEC, and 15 Saudi mass murderers on 9/11.

America for forty years has also been railing against the supposedly unfair protectionist trade policies of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan — to no avail. That we protected all three countries, first from the Soviet Union, and then from China, was a given, as was their periodic outbursts of anti-Americanism.

Europe followed the same paradox of the angry teen railing against his parent. In the last half-century, two themes predominated in our transatlantic relationship. One was total reliance on the U.S. military and American-led NATO alliance to protect it from an expansionary Soviet Union and its eastern European Warsaw Pact. On occasion, we took out anti-Western lunatics like the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, or Slobodan Milosevic.

The second theme was a fashionable European anti-Americanism. Without too many obligations for their own national security, Europeans could afford to invest in cradle-to-grave social programs. It was just as easy to assume a secure globalized world was a natural occurrence, rather than the result of the huge American investment in a worldwide military.

As in the case of the Middle East and the Pacific, the Europeans just figured that the U.S. commitment to their security was both ironclad and timeless — allowing them the luxury to dream of utopia and occasionally to ankle-bite their pestering American overseers. We were caricatured as efficient though unimaginative Romans; our European betters were the far more brilliant but other-worldly Greeks.

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Learning through Pain

December 8th, 2013 - 6:03 pm

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What will history make so far of our five-year voyage with Barack Obama? What will it make of hope and change — other than a sort of hysteria of 2008 that was a political version of the Pet Rock or the Cabbage Patch Doll derangement? Did we really experience faux-Greek columns and Latin mottoes (vero possumus) as Obama props to usher in the new order of the ages?

What exactly made David Brooks focus on trouser creases, or Chris Matthews on involuntary leg tickles? How could any serious person believe a candidate who promised to change the very terrain of the planet? Why would sober critics declare a near rookie senator “a god”?

Only as America slowly sobers up from five years of slumber can we begin to fathom Obama’s likely legacy — which is mostly wisdom acquired only from pain.

Liberals always had thought a right-wing bully president would erode civil liberties. How ironic that a charismatic, post-racial, self-described “constitutional law professor” has done more damage to our Constitution than has any president since Richard Nixon. Had the AP, IRS, or NSA scandals occurred during the Bush second term, congressional Democrats would have been calling for impeachment.

The old controversial presidential signing statements of the past are mere misdemeanors compared to Obama felonies of declaring settled law null and void, from the employer mandate to the implementation guidelines of Obamacare to exempting pet businesses and congressional staffs from the requirements of the law. A president can now decide not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, or grant pre-election, de facto amnesties. Why, then, pass laws in the first place? The idea of political opponents being audited by the IRS or critical journalists having their phones monitored will be Obama’s Nixonian legacy. After Obama, one of two things will happen: either the presidency will be redefined as a sort of super-executive that can both make and enforce statutes, or a constitutional reaction will set in, and Obamism will be cited as a danger to the republic that we wish in the future never to repeat.

Another legacy of Obama is the notion that there is no such thing anymore as a scandal. Obama labeled the IRS corruption as “outrageous” and then recently backtracked and berated progressive journalists for even thinking that the Tea Party was treaty unfairly by his administration’s IRS appointees. No one yet in the administration has confessed that a video did not cause the deaths of Americans in Benghazi. Nor is anyone contrite about the AP monitoring. That the president of the United States serially lied over Obamacare earns a “duh.”  The NSA mess warrants a “whatever.” Each time we witness something akin to the NSA, IRS, AP, and ACA machinations in the future, the supporters of the next untruthful or immoral president will no doubt offer in defense, “But Obama did worse and nobody cared.” Obama’s ethical legacy is the doctrine of medieval exemption: declaring that he is seeking exalted ends excuses the tawdry means of obtaining them.

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Obama and the Suspension of Disbelief

December 1st, 2013 - 10:43 pm
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Trust, or the lack thereof.

 

Adding straws of scandal — Fast and Furious, the Associated Press monitoring, the IRS fiasco, and the NSA spying — on any presidential back except Barack Obama’s would have long ago broken it. Watergate ruined Richard Nixon. Iran-Contra earned a special prosecutor and nearly destroyed the Reagan second term. Katrina’s incompetent local and state reactions, coupled with a tardy federal effort — and the insurgency in postwar Iraq — ended the viability of George W. Bush in his second term.

Second, well apart from scandal, the perception of presidential lying usually ends presidential agendas. Richard Nixon resigned after never telling the truth about the Watergate cover-up. “Read my lips: no new taxes” cost George H.W. Bush his reelection. “I did not have sex with that woman” made Bill Clinton’s impeachment likely.

Yet Barack Obama on more than 20 occasions assured the American people that they could keep their existing health care coverage and their present doctor — and still save $2,500 a year per family. He knew those fables were absolutely untrue when he repeated them serially in the reelection cycle of 2012. Yet Obama has not faced any of the fallout of the sort that greeted his predecessors, even as the wreckage of the Affordable Care Act will affect the health of Americans in ways that transcend taxes or Oval Office sex.

Instead, the healthcare falsity — in the manner that the NSA disclosures were just more of the same old IRS and AP scandals — joins a litany of other untruths: the constant insistence that the Benghazi deaths were due to a video, dissimulation about ending the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols, the closing of Guantanamo, the “summer of recovery” after the stimulus, halving the national debt by the and of the first term, and the promised plunge in unemployment. Again — so what that the president does not tell the truth?

Third, the public is also indifferent to incompetence. Lying is not just what should sink Obamacare. Instead, its premises — young people will rush to sign up for something at higher costs that they rarely use to subsidize those who pay less and use it a lot, along with more coverage for more people at less cost — are contrary to basic logic.

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A Culture in Ruins

November 24th, 2013 - 11:19 pm

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Lady Gaga reportedly spent $25 million on pop art to jazz up her new and apparently underwhelming album. In contrast, Miley Cyrus’ sexual twerking at the MTV Music Video Awards earned her more millions by exposing her rather unimpressive anatomy. Both make the once vulgar Madonna seem like June Cleaver, but at least raise an existential question: how much lower can we go?

Meanwhile, hip-hop artist Kanye West is promoting his own new music video. He seems to be having sex with his girlfriend Kim Kardashian while riding a motorcycle. If you did not know that Kanye West was the singer of the background music, by the quality of the lyrics and beat, you might think that a fourth grader was spewing rhymed obscenities, in the fashion that Gaga and Cyrus make up with obscenity, both spoken and visual, what they lack in musical, dance, and artistic talent.

In the two-second attention spans of our app culture, a bare nipple, a potty-mouth obscenity, or a multimillionaire’s flippant reference to a “ho” earns followers and thus big money in a way that even once cutting-edge Elvis Presley’s melodies or an against-the-grain Van Gogh impressionistic painting or a T.S. Eliot poem could never quite seem so shockingly profitable.

Professors know that bored students do their Facebooking rather than listen to lectures. Commuters fear that texting while driving is more dangerous than drunk driving. Pedestrians are hit by other strollers whose heads are glued to iPhones. No one believes that such fixations arise from watching the History Channel, googling the Renaissance, or reading the Economist. No matter — in our therapeutic culture, in theory millions of students could do all those things, so the next new fad for our broke universities and trillion-dollar indebted college students is to provide them all with free iPads. Only the absence of an iPad robs us of future Edisons and Einsteins.

The radically egalitarian ethos demands always the descent to the lowest common denominators of taste. A world without requisites is the fairest. To capture the most attention of the masses requires a Cyrus, Gaga, or West. Once classical canons of artistic, literary, or musical expression were torn down, and once those classically trained rebels who ripped them apart have passed on, we are left with the ruins of trying to shock what is perhaps beyond being shocked. What more could Miley Cyrus do — wear two foam fingers? Could Mr. West mount his girlfriend, and sing and dance while riding backwards?

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The World of the Coliseum

November 17th, 2013 - 6:53 pm

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I woke up one morning not long ago, and noticed that the world that I was born into no longer exists. It was as if I had once lived in Republican Italy, took a nap, and awoke to the Roman Empire, AD 200.

Latifundia

Let me explain. All the farms in these environs that I grew up with — 40-80 acres with a farmhouse and family — have simply vanished.

Where did they go?

I suppose when I meet someone with 5,000 acres that I am supposed to think that spread represents the old, and now recombined, 100 50-acre farms under new management. Yet where did the 100 farm households go — and what replaced them?

When I ride around the rural landscape, I see the old skeletons of farmhouses; but they are mostly rented to farm workers.  Are the social circumstances of renting a house and working on a 5,000-acre farm different from 100 agrarian households doing it — in terms of local PTA, Little League, the regional hospital board, or city council?

I leave it to you to decide. I can attest only that in terms of agricultural productivity, today’s 8,000-acre almond operations look far more efficient, up to date, and savvy than what 100 80-acre almond orchards used to seem like: old barn, clunky tractors in the yard, kids out in the orchard not up on the latest scientific approaches to fertilization, mom doing the books in a way the computerized corporate whiz kid would laugh at, tight-fisted gramps hobbling about looking for loose tire-popping nails in the alleyway while giving sermons about avoiding a mortgage.

The Tech Ghettos

The new pyramid is not just agricultural. Go to Silicon Valley. In all the old quaint homes of Menlo Park, Mountain View, and Palo Alto that I remember visiting in the 1960s, there is only a small middle class. The houses, true, are almost preserved in amber, appearing just as they did on the tree-lined streets a half-century ago. But what is in them now?

Strapped $400,000 a year-income couples paying $10,000 a month in taxes and mortgages for $800-per-square-foot old frame cottages are not what I remember. Even a far greater number of residents are renting $2,000 a month apartments, while a vast underclass of families in Redwood City and East Palo Alto quadruples up in rented 1,000 square-foot houses.

A few tech and financing geniuses live in splendor in Woodside or Portola Valley (well, not quite in splendor: air lift their multimillion-dollar castles to Fresno or Merced and their square footages and design would suddenly be considered no more than mere $500,000 nice, big houses).

What drives the new madcap California rush to the high-priced coastal strip? The weather has not changed since 1960. Stanford is still Stanford; Berkeley remains Berkeley. Is it the destruction of the old interior muscular world and the new high profits of the cerebral coastal? Does one pass up a $150,000 house in Madera to go into life-long debtor status to buy something smaller for $1 million to escape the dividends of illegal immigration and vast entitlements in the interior?

The small dry cleaner and his wife the teacher do not buy a nice 1,500 square foot home in San Carlos, start their 3-children family in their twenties, and join the middle class. More likely the future bridegroom is still single, living at home until he is 30. His would-be wife is still renting. And at 35 they might marry and have one child with a $600,000 mortgage. There is no room there for the middle-class family starting out youthful, with visions of a ranch house, kids, good jobs, and upward mobility.

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