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The Old Wisdom

Bush, Bush everywhere…

This summer—in between weekly encounters on radio and in print exchanges with those suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome—I tried to get away, by climbing as many peaks in the Kaiser wilderness as possible, and marveled over the relative emptiness of that part of the central Sierra.

Recently I went up on the so-called Kaiser Loop, a 15-mile round-about hike to Kaiser Peak (about 10,300 feet). Lo and behold!—there were three hikers on the summit in that rarified atmosphere. And after exchanging pleasantries about the beauties of the empty wilderness, one well spoken and nice person remarked about the exploitation of the forests (yet not a house, road, or human to be seen), and the greed of developers (the nearest road hasn’t been improved since the 1940s).

Then Presto!—out came Katrina, Iraq, Bush this, Bush that. The clear air, the panoramic vista, the Sierra junipers—none of that could stop the onset of this paroxysm, this fit of madness. I hiked down, unsure whether I should have called the paramedics to copter him to Fresno.

So what is a Neocon?

Heard that up at 10,000 feet as well. The slur seems equivalent to the charge of being a child-molester. Apparently to be called a “new conservative” no longer refers to a way of thinking first identified with a group of influential New-York leftists who tired of their own doctrinaire liberalism in the late 1960s and 1970s, and turned on the Great Society. Nor in matters of foreign policy does it mean that these once liberal / now conservative skeptics were suspicious of both the realpolitik of supporting tyrants and the liberal appeasement of terrorists that amounted to the same thing through inaction.

Instead, to be frank—and I speak as one who supported the idea of removing Saddam and staying on to foster constitutional government there—it is now a thinly-veiled slur against supposedly sneaky, scheming Jewish intellectuals who likewise supposedly got us into a surrogate war for Israel. And this conspiracy theory persists despite the fact that former realists like Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, and Rumsfeld are neither Jewish nor easily hoodwinked—and ultimately made the final decision to go to war after receiving overwhelming authorization from the US Congress, including a majority of Democrats and stirring saber-rattling speeches and warnings about WMD from the likes of Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry.

I have disagreements with neo-cons on things like open borders, but on the Middle East ultimately I think they will be proven correct: that we must find a way to distance ourselves from dictators and yet reply militarily to those who harbor terrorists. In the long term, the forces of globalization and modernism are far more lethal to jihadism than 7th century Islam is to us, but in the dangerous short-term, Bush-I realism and Clintonian cruise-missiles will only lead to another 9/11.

Whom to Trust?

Not The New Republic that printed false accusations from a once anonymous, now unmasked Pvt. Beauchamp, his falsehoods “checked” at the magazine apparently by his newly-wedded wife. Not Newsweek’s “Periscope” that printed falsehoods about flushed Korans. Not Reuters or AP whose wirephotos can be assumed to be either photoshopped or simply captioned with untruths. Not CBS news (‘fake, but accurate’)—not CNN’s president who stepped down after those Davos slurs. I say this only out of amazement at the self-righteousness of all these outlets that give moral lectures about integrity and “truth” to the rest of us.

I Guess We Forgot the Laws of the Past

There used to be certain laws about mortgages, wisdom slowly acquired through past boom and bust cycles of American history. You got a fixed, usually 30-year mortgage. You paid 20% down. And you bought a house whose debt payments did not eat up more than 30-40% of your monthly income.

Tales of wild real estate riches and speculative profits, even if true, meant little, since a home was more than just an investment. Somehow all that was forgotten with no or little down payment loans, adjustable-rate or interest only schedules, and excess purchased square footage.

Apparently the idea was either to appreciate yourself into 2nd and 3rd mortgage equity, or to expect interest rates magically to go down and thus lower payments, or to buy and sell/buy and sell yourself into a mansion. So the house of straw is now tragically collapsing, and the old wisdom of the past being relearned.

Ditto the Chinese serial fiascos. In the 19th century, the muckrakers, crusaders, and populists all lectured us that most industrialists were good, but a small minority that wasn’t could do great damage through the mass sale of toxic products. Thus arose the alphabet soup of regulatory agencies and the consumer movement.

But then the new wisdom ignored that and we were told that out-sourcing was a win/win situation, as cheap goods flooded into the US, keeping inflation low, expanding our purchasing power, freeing us up from the drudgery of rote labor, while moderating the Chinese.

Few asked whether there were comparable regulatory institutions in China. And there weren’t. And now we have everything from toxic pet food to tainted toys—exactly in the manner of our own spoiled canned meat and drug-laced soft-drinks of generations past. Again we forget our ancestors’ past wisdom about human nature.

Ditto again open borders. Our illiberal ancestors worried about letting in too many groups in too quickly a time under less than legal auspices, lest the heralded melting pot stagnate and solidify.

We in our infinite wisdom laughed at all that as protectionist, illiberal, nativist, even racist. And so like the laxity of the Chinese manufacturing sector, for 30 years the U.S. functioned without the rule of law. Now the result is that Los Angeles is the second largest city of Mexican nationals in the world, the legal system has become a mockery, and the bankrupt idea of a salad bowl of unmixed and competing tribes has replaced the melting pot. Apartheid communities in the United States—try visiting Parlier or Orange Cove, California— are somehow models of diversity, not to be lamented for their poverty, racial and linguistic uniformity, and entitlement-dependent and often exploited illegal aliens.

How odd that liberalism is giving us a model right out of the Old Confederacy or South Africa, a nation in the American Southwest of two different societies. The old truism holds true: each time a Mexican national enters the US legally, knows English, and has graduated from high school, an employer loses a potential bargain hire and the Chicano Studies industry an exploited victim in need of its crusading zeal.

So once more we are turning back to the mundane: nations must have borders; a citizenry should have a single uniform official language; assimilation and integration must be encouraged, and separatism and tribalism shunned.

The one common thread is again short-term bounty and convenience at the expense of long-term disaster. An odd thought: I wish I could say that had we more farmers in this society, who are born, live, and die in the same place, and depend on what works over decades rather than what seems to work over a few years, we wouldn’t be in such dilemmas.

I say I wish because agriculture for years depended on illegal immigration, failing to realize that scarce labor would make prices rise and mechanization quicken--and that the doom of farmers was always overproduction and surfeit never shortages of product.