Friday, August 31, 2012

Rachel Corrie believed in Israel

I don't know if anybody else has pointed this out -- they probably have -- but the Israel-hating Rachel Corrie showed by her actions that she recognized Israel's moral superiority. Why didn't she hop out of the way at the last minute instead of getting run over by the bulldozer? I certainly would have in her shoes.

But the reason why she did not is clear: She clearly had absolute confidence that the bulldozer would stop at the last moment. Her only mistake was in assuming that the driver would see her lying on the ground in front of him. Had it been a Palestinian bulldozer I cannot imagine anyone not being prepared to hop out of the way. But Rachel Corrie was clearly not so prepared.

By her own actions she betrayed more than any words could do that she knew Israel was not the moral monstrosity that she claimed it was. Her death was an unintentional tribute to Israel. She knew in her heart where the virtue was. And coming from an enemy of Israel, the tribute is all the more impressive. She was hate-filled but she knew the truth.

A trenchant comment from Israel about her here.


The impoverishment of America

The Presidential race is boiling down to one dominant issue: which party's policies will do more to help the financially stressed American middle class. President Obama's campaign theme is that Mitt Romney and the Republicans cater to the rich, while Mr. Obama cares about struggling families.

He may care, but he sure hasn't done much for them. New income data from the Census Bureau, tabulated by former Census income specialists at the nonpartisan economic consulting firm Sentier Research, reveal that the three-and-a-half years of the Obama Presidency have done enormous harm to middle-class households.

In January 2009, the month President Obama entered the Oval Office and shortly before he signed his stimulus spending bill, median household income was $54,983. By June 2012, it had tumbled to $50,964, adjusted for inflation. (See the chart nearby.) That's $4,019 in lost real income, a little less than a month's income every year.

Unfair, you say, because Mr. Obama inherited a recession? Well, even if you start the analysis when the recession ended in June 2009, the numbers are dismal. Three years after the economy hit its trough, median household income is down $2,544, or nearly 5%.

The new income data reveal other eye-opening trends. The group that has suffered the most during the Obama Presidency has been black Americans, whose real incomes have fallen by more than 11%.

Mr. Obama also likes to say that government workers like teachers are hurting and the private economy is doing "just fine." But the data indicate that over the past three years households with government workers saw their incomes decline less than households with private workers. The public-private pay gap is now wider than ever ($77,998 government versus $63,800).

The last time incomes fell this fast was during the late 1970s under Jimmy Carter, and it's no coincidence that economic policies then and now are so similar. If Mr. Obama succeeds in convincing voters that he really is the tribune of the middle class, it will be the political conjurer's trick of the century.



MSNBC abandons GOP convention during every speech by a minority

One of the left's favorite attacks on the Republican Party is that it is the party of old white people, devoid of diversity and probably racist.

If you were watching MSNBC's coverage of the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Tuesday night, you might believe those assertions, since missing from the coverage was nearly every ethnic minority that spoke during Tuesday's festivities.

In lieu of airing speeches from former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis, a black American; Mia Love, a black candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Utah; and Texas senatorial hopeful Ted Cruz, a Latino American, MSNBC opted to show commentary anchored by Rachel Maddow from Rev. Al Sharpton, Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes and Steve Schmidt.



Entitlement Reforms

Thomas Sowell

For those of us who like to believe that human beings are rational, trying to explain what happens in politics can be a real challenge.

For example, that segment of the population that has the least to fear from a reform of Medicare or Social Security is the most fearful -- namely, those already receiving Medicare or Social Security benefits.

It is understandable that people heavily dependent on these programs would fear losing their benefits, especially after a lifetime of paying into these programs. But nobody in his right mind has even proposed taking away the benefits of those who are already receiving them.

Yet opponents of reforming these programs have managed repeatedly to scare the daylights out of seniors with wild claims and television ads such as one showing someone -- who looks somewhat like Paul Ryan -- pushing an elderly lady in a wheelchair toward a cliff and then dumping her over.

There are people who take seriously such statements as those by President Barack Obama that Republicans want to "end Medicare as we know it."

Let's stop and think, if only for the novelty of it. If you make any change in anything, you are ending it "as we know it." Does that mean that everything in the status quo should be considered to be set in concrete forever?

If there were not a single Republican, or none who got elected to any office, arithmetic would still end "Medicare as we know it," for the simple reason that the money in the till is not enough to keep paying for it. The same is true of Social Security.

The same has been true of welfare state programs in European countries that are currently struggling with both financial crises and riots in the streets from people who feel betrayed by their governments. They have in fact been betrayed by their politicians, who have promised them things that there was not enough money to pay for. That is the basic problem in the United States as well.

We are not yet Greece, but we are not exempt from the same rules of arithmetic that eventually caught up with Greece. We just have a little more time. The only question is whether we will use that time to make politically difficult changes or whether we will just kick the can down the road, and keep pretending that "Medicare as we know it" would continue on indefinitely, if it were not for people who just want to be mean to the elderly.

In both Europe and America, there are many people who get angry at those who tell them the truth that the money is just not there to sustain huge welfare state programs indefinitely. But that anger might be better directed at those who lied to them by promising them benefits that were inherently unsustainable.

Neither Social Security nor Medicare has ever had enough assets to cover its liabilities. Very simply, there has never been enough money put aside to do what the government promised to do.

These systems operate on what their advocates like to call a "pay as you go" basis. That is, the younger generation pays in money that is used to cover the cost of benefits for the older generation. This is the kind of financial pyramid scheme that got Charles Ponzi put in prison in the 1920s and got Bernie Madoff put in prison in our times.

A private annuity cannot play these financial games without its executives risking the fate of Ponzi and Madoff. That is why proposed Social Security and Medicare reforms would allow young people to put their money somewhere where the money they pay in would be put aside specifically for them, not used as at present to pay older people's pensions, with anything left over being used for whatever else politicians feel like spending the money on.

It is today's young people who are going to be left holding the bag when they reach retirement age and discover that all the money they paid in is long gone. It is today's young people who are going to be dumped over a cliff when they reach retirement age, if nothing is done to reform entitlements.

Yet the young seem not to be nearly as alarmed as the elderly, who have no real reason to fear. Try reconciling that with the belief that human beings are rational.



Heavier Punishment for failing to fill out a form than for Child Porn

If you can read the following and not get upset, you are not a good person. Please move to France (where higher taxes are “patriotic”) and don’t come back.

I’m engaging in a bit of hyperbole, but you’ll hopefully understand after reading this excerpt from a very disturbing report posted on Zero Hedge.
Jacques Wajsfelner of Weston, Massachusetts is a criminal mastermind. Big time. Like Lex Luthor. But rest easy, ladies and gentlemen, for this nefarious villain is about to face some serious jail time thanks to the courageous work of US government agents. You see, Mr. Wajsfelner was finally caught and convicted of a most heinous crime: failing to disclose his foreign bank account to the US government.

Note– he was not convicted of tax evasion. He was not convicted of failing to file or pay taxes. His crime was not filing the annual Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). Because of his failure to disclose his foreign bank account, Wajsfelner is now looking at FIVE YEARS behind bars in a Day-Glo orange jumpsuit.

Oh, one more thing– Wajsfelner is 83 years old. He was born in Germany during the global depression and rise of Adolf Hitler. The Wajsfelner family soon fled the Nazi regime and made its way to the United States.

Please note that Mr. Wajsfelner didn’t get convicted of not paying tax. He got convicted for the utterly trivial and victimless “crime” of not reporting a foreign bank account.

So the government is sending a completely harmless old man to jail for something that shouldn’t be illegal (and if we had a flat tax, there would be no double taxation of saving and investment, so it wouldn’t matter for tax purposes if your bank account was in Georgetown, Kentucky, or Georgetown, Cayman Islands).

Now let’s compare the treatment of Mr. Wajsfelner with the way some real criminals are treated.

Then there’s Eric Higgins of Port Huron, Michigan, who was recently busted for major possession of child pornography and engaging in sexually explicit conversations with juveniles online. He was given 20 months. Oh… and Mr. Higgins was a US Customs & Border Patrol agent. …

Or Ricardo Cordero, another US Customs & Border Patrol officer who was given 27-months for personally smuggling 30 Mexican nationals into the United States, and assisting another smuggler to bring 15 Mexican nationals across the border. This genius even had the smuggler testify as a character witness at his divorce proceeding!

Or Jon Corzine, former CEO of Goldman Sachs and member of the political elite, who presided over one of the largest plunders in the financial system ever seen during the recent MF Global collapse. He walks the streets freely to this day.

The article closes with a very accurate – but understated – assessment of the federal government.
It seems pretty clear where the US government stands: the victimless crime of failing to report a foreign bank account is far more egregious than, say, possession of child pornography, engaging with minors in online sex chat, bribery, extortion, fraud, and abuse of official power.

This horrifying example of government abuse is a good example of why I’m a libertarian. Yes, I get upset about bloated and counterproductive government spending. And I also get irked by our punitive and destructive class-warfare tax system.

But what gets me most upset is unfair tyranny against powerless people.

More HERE (See the original for links)


The end of the wedge is not as thin as it used to be

Three Brazilians have been united in a civil ceremony after a public official deemed that the man and two women should be entitled to family rights as any other couple would be.

Public Notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues, from the state of Sao Paulo, accepted the civil union between the three people, saying there is no law to prevent it happening and that it merely reflected the changing idea of family.

"We are only recognising what has always existed. We are not inventing anything," Ms Domingues said.

"For better or worse, it doesn't matter, but what we considered a family before isn't necessarily what we could consider a family today."

The three were formally united three months ago but the news had only emerged this week.

They had lived together in Rio de Janeiro for three years sharing bills and expenses and had recently opened a joint bank account.

The union has enraged some religious and legal groups, with lawyer Regina Beatriz Tavarez da Silva telling the BBC it was "absurd and totally illegal".

The individuals originally decided to join in civil union to protect their rights in case of death or separation from a partner.



French writer says Anders Breivik was 'what Norway deserves’

Richard Millet, a respected French writer and editor, has sparked controversy for his comments on Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass killer, whom he described as “without doubt what Norway deserves”.

Mr Millet, who says he has read all 1,500 pages of Breivik’s online manifesto, insists that he does not approve of the Norwegian gunman’s crimes.

However, he praised Breivik’s writing and cry of hatred for social democracy, immigration and multiculturalism.

“Breivik is without doubt what Norway deserves,” wrote Millet in an 18-page pamphlet. He is “as much a child of a broken family as of an ideological and racial fracture caused by immigration from outside Europe over the last 20 years,” added Mr Millet, who has edited several award-winning books in France.

His writing about Breivik has sparked consternation in the literary circles, with one author Annie Ernaux calling the text “a politically dangerous act”.

Another author Tahar Ben Jelloun said: “He has lost his head.”

Others were less critical. “He is still my editor,” said Alexis Jenni. “I don’t want to take any public position on the subject. Millet believes only in literature. “He is someone who writes marvellously well. His questionable ideas do not reduce his literary qualities,” he argued.

Breivik was last week sentenced to 21 years in prison for killing 77 people in a bomb attack and deadly shooting rampage that shook Norway.



My identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my old Facebook page as I rarely accessed it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Thursday, August 30, 2012

The death of a Jew-hater

There is a lot of outrage on the net today over an Israeli court giving the "wrong" verdict over the death of a pro-Palestinian protester, Rachel Corrie, in March, 2003. She was run over by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to be a "human shield" to protect a Palestinian terrorist site. The IDF has always held that the driver of the bulldozer did not see her before he ran over her. He was driving a large and heavily armored bulldozer with small slits for vision. The court upheld the driver's account.

The interesting thing to me is the close-up picture that accompanies many of the stories. It portrays her as a quiet and serious young woman in what could be a studio portrait (though even in a studio portrait they could not get her to smile). You can search high and low on the net to find a picture that gives any other impression of her. Being an old guy, however, I have certain records and one of them has produced a picture of her that is what the bulldozer driver would have seen if he had been looking down. A picture is worth a 1,000 words, I think. The stock picture followed by the "forgotten" picture below. The forgotten picture shows her at a rally shortly beforehand.

Even in the above picture she looks rather angry

A face of hate

If anyone is to blame in the matter it is the parents who indoctrinated her with their Leftist hates. May their grief help them to repent. The love of Christ would not have led them into the Devil's kingdom.


More inspissated ignorance from the Left

They don't even know what conservatism is (Or they don't want to know)

The term “conservative” is used elastically these days, normally to indicate something that the author using the term dislikes. And while many such writers tend indeed to dislike conservative ideas, the objects of their dislike are rarely conservative in any sense a conservative would recognize.

A few years ago, the late Christopher Hitchens spoke of fringe elements in Jerusalem seeking the expulsion of Arabs as “Israeli conservatives” – surely a surprise to Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, and other groupings that comprise the vast bulk of Israeli right-of-center politics.

Reuters thinks Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a “conservative,” and the New York Times even headed its report on his election as president with the title “New Conservative President Takes Power in Iran.” Actually, Ahmadinejad is a radical among radicals in the Iranian hierarchy, with a penchant for Holocaust denial and harping on erasing Israel from the page of history. But then, the Associated Press regards him as “ultraconservative,” so the Times appears measured by comparison.

Now, David Greenberg at Slate thinks the recently deceased writer Gore Vidal was a “conservative.”

Vidal was neither insecure nor stupid, but if he can be described with a straight face as conservative, then just about anyone else can be as well. If conservatism comprises respect for custom, institutions, religious faith, the Judeo-Christian tradition, and limited government, Vidal was as anti-conservative as one could be. He regarded monotheism as “the great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture.” He despised Ronald Reagan and supported the Democrats across the decades, even once running (unsuccessfully) as a Democrat for congressional office in New York. But that was altogether too mainstream for him. For two years (1970-1972), he chaired the People’s Party, a short-lived grouping that promoted legalizing marijuana and instituting such decidedly unconservative devices as a minimum wage and even a maximum wage.

In 2004, he supported the presidential candidacy of far left Democrat Dennis Kucinich.

In short, Vidal was a political crank of the left. He was also an avid and perennial peddler of conspiracy theories. He believed that Winston Churchill was a malefactor who helped infiltrate “little Englander” film directors and producers into 1930s Hollywood to valorize Albion and to incite the American public out of neutrality and into the war. He believed to the grave that Franklin Roosevelt deliberately provoked Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor so as to facilitate U.S. entry into the war. Vidal’s isolationist stance was all of piece with that of Father Charles Coughlin — a thorough-going radical, though one also often deemed conservative by those who should know better — and like Coughlin’s, was thoroughly laced with anti-Semitism. Vidal also befriended through correspondence the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Greenberg is too well-read not to have known all this, and his piece shows that he has no illusions about Vidal being a paragon of immoderate bigotry and nastiness. How does Greenberg connect this blighted record to conservatism? On inspection, the connection rests on the exceedingly slender reed of Vidal having once said “I think of myself as conservative.” But then perhaps Vidal was, by his own lights — a conserver of patrician aloofness, avuncular unpleasantness, and drawing-room bigotry, all of which were going out of fashion in his lifetime. But as a lucid estimate of his political pedigree? Obviously Greenberg found it too tempting to tar conservatives with the brush of nastiness that was the bread and butter of progressives, whom leftists today would prefer be remembered as something they were not.

The procedure of discovering new “conservatives” seems to rest in transferring to fictitious conservatives all the ugly traits, vicious sentiments, and rancid rancors that have disfigured actual leftists.

This procedure has been going on since at least the time of the Soviet Union’s terminal phase, when Western journalists, inebriated with Gorbymania and the prospect of a hip, glastnosted, and perestroikaed Soviet Union, labeled the Bolshevik hardliners in the Kremlin old guard who looked on askance at all this as “conservatives.” An odd label when one thinks that these same people mounted the 1991 coup in an effort to keep old-style Bolshevism alive.

Unless diehard Marxist-Leninism or Stalinism has something to do with the thinking of Edmund Burke, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, the Marquess of Salisbury, Michael Oakeshott, Elie Kedourie, or William F. Buckley, the promiscuous abuse of the term “conservative” debases language and ideas to irreverent ends.



The Shame of the Manhattan-Beltway Media Elites

Hugh Hewitt

When I asked Paul Ryan Wednesday night for his reaction to the news that the major television networks won’t carry a minute of the opening night of the GOP convention, he responded that he wasn’t surprised and that this is just the media terrain the GOP faces in the 2012 election cycle.

Ryan is right not to be surprised, and while he doesn’t have time to be angry, every American –left, right, center, undecided or simply indifferent—ought to be furious. The hypocrisy of anyone bemoaning the loss of civility in American politics who doesn’t also denounce the Manhattan-Beltway media elite’s dumbing down of American political coverage is large.

The conventions feature speeches. Speeches make arguments and they do not rely on soundbytes. Conventions aim to persuade, and it is a rare chance for both parties to make their case directly without the interruption or overlay of the chattering class (which of course on thee networks is overwhelming left.)

The ratings are not huge, but neither is voter turnout. If the future of a country in crisis is significant, so too is the opportunity for the voters to make a change or confirm a course.

But the suits have decided to cut the already drastically reduced coverage by 25%.

This of course helps the Obama/[?] ticket, because the president has nothing to sell and nothing to defend, and it is harder to attack, attack, and attack when you are the incumbent with a record to defend.

The president is fine with reduced coverage. He’d rather everyone be watching anything except the news and people discussing the news. As the ruins of his years in office continue to smoke, he’d like nothing more than to have everyone tune into a repeat of the Olympics.

The Manhattan-Beltway media elite knows this, and giving yet another nudge to the Obama forces is fine with them. They’ll deny that motive of course, and say they are driven simply by greed and that the cable channels will carry the proceedings anyway. (Interesting how when PBS funding is on the line we hear about the millions of Americans without cable, but when the lefty media brass want to put a finger on the scale for Obama that “public interest” argument goes out the window.)

This is a pattern, one that is so stark that it is more amusing than shocking.

Recall the coverage given to the New York Times-Quinnipiac state polls showing an Obama lead in Florid and Pennsylvania a couple of weeks back? The sample was overweighted to Democrats, but it ran and ran and ran without explanation or caution.

This week new polls show Romney/Ryan ahead by 15 points in Florida and almost 4 in Michigan! Now, that poll’s sample overweights GOP voters in my opinion, but no caution is needed because MSM simply hasn’t reported these results.

See the game?

Or how about the University of Colorado study employing the same methodology it has used since 1980 to predict elections? Have you heard that headline on the television? Probably not, because the study predicts a Romney/Ryan landslide.

Then there is the photo of President Obama from Ohio, where he posed in the famous Ohio State spell-out wherein four people make the O-H-I-O with their bodies.

Except the president and his three friends misspelled OHIO and form instead O-I-H-O.

What would be a front page photo were George W. Bush to have made the mistake –and the cover of all weeklies, and probably twice, if Dan Quayle had been involved—is posted on a few conservative websites like mine.

Like Ryan said, it is predictable. The GOP has to work around it.

Which is why I wrote last week’s column on talk radio and the opportunity it offers Romney/Ryan.

Yesterday I got eight minutes with Paul Ryan, and at the risk of sounding ungrateful to a dedicated campaign staff that found the slot on a crowded schedule, it should have been 80 minutes. He is a terrific candidate, and like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan charms and persuades. The more time he spends in conversation with serious talk show hosts the better the campaign will do in every conceivable way.

I devoted my time with Ryan to biography (a half dozen previous interviews in the past two years have been about policy), and would have spent much more time on his early years had I been there for the simple reason offered by Ulysses S. Grant:

“I read but few lives of great men because biographers do not, as a rule, tell enough about the formative period of life. What I want to know is what a man did as a boy.”

That time is available to both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, but not from the television networks that won't even cover the opening night of the convention.

So the candidates have to take up the offer of talkers across the country and invest the time. Not every show should get get a visit from Mitt Romney and/or Paul Ryan, and certainly not the goons and the pots-and-pan bangers.

But since the MSM is very eager to spin and slant, cover up what hurts the president and spend endless amounts of time on what they think will hurt Romney/Ryan, the GOP team simply has to use the opportunities available to them.

I did interviews with Romney senior advisors Lanhee Chen on Wednesday and Robert C. O’Brien on Tuesday (those transcripts will be found here) and these far outweigh in substance and detail anything MSM or cable has done with any advisor from either side. The key people are available. They will do the interviews. The Manhattan-Beltway media elite simply isn’t interested in serious argument about the peril facing the country.

This past week I have covered the loss of just four of themany heroes who have died in the past fortnight: Army Major Tom Kennedy, Air Force Major DavidGray, Marine Corps Captain Matt Manoukian, and Navy SEAL Davey Warsen. I did so because personal circumstances brought each man’s story to my attention, and the loss of four amazing men from the four branches along with the dozens of other casualties in the past few weeks has impressed on me that MSM finds war coverage as inconvenient as coverage of the convention.

How does a great nation remain great when its media crumbles this way? Remarkable. Shameful. Brave men and women sacrificing their everything and the American media can’t spare the political parties that guide the country an hour a night for four nights.




Risky Business

Thomas Sowell

Insurance is all about risk. Yet neither insurance companies nor their policy-holders can do anything about one of the biggest risks -- namely, interference by politicians, to turn insurance into something other than a device to deal with risk.

By passing laws to force insurance companies to cover things that have nothing to do with risk, politicians force up the cost of insurance.

Annual checkups, for example, are known in advance to take place once a year. Foreseeable events are not a risk. Annual checkups are no cheaper when they are covered by an insurance policy. On the contrary, they are one of many things that are more expensive when they are covered by an insurance policy.

All the paperwork, record-keeping and other things that go with having any medical procedure covered by insurance have to be paid for, in addition to the cost of the medical procedure itself.

If automobile insurance covered the cost of oil changes or the purchase of gasoline, then both oil changes and gasoline would have to cost more, to cover the additional bureaucratic work involved.

In the case of health insurance, however, politicians love to mandate things that insurance must cover, including in some states treatment for baldness, contraceptives and whatever else politicians can think of. Playing Santa Claus costs a politician nothing, but it can cost the policy-holder a bundle -- all of which the politician will blame on the "greed" of the insurance company.

Insurance companies are regulated by both states and the federal government. This means that, instead of there being one vast nationwide market, where innumerable insurance companies compete with each other from coast to coast, there are 50 fragmented markets with different rules. That adds to the costs and reduces the competition in a given state....

Too many political "solutions" are solutions to problems created by previous political "solutions" -- and will be followed by new problems created by their current "solutions." There is no free lunch. In the case of health insurance, there is not even an inexpensive lunch.

Health insurance would be a lot less expensive if it covered only the kinds of risks that can involve heavy costs, such as a major operation or a crippling disability. While such things can be individually very expensive, they don't happen to everybody, and insurance is one way to spread the risks, so that the protection of a given individual is not prohibitively expensive.



My identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my old Facebook page as I rarely accessed it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Japan, "Modernism" and the 19th century origins of Fascism

I said yesterday that I might say something today about the deeper reasons behind the West's early fascination with Japan. I need to set out a lot of background to get to that point, however, and "Modernism" is a rather surprising key to that. It explains both the fascination with Japan before WWI and the emergence of Fascism after WWI.

"Modernism" is a much abused term that has had a number of meanings over the years but the version that I want to discuss here was a movement, mostly in art and literature, in the closing decades of the 19th century and continuing into the early 20th century. It took a hit from the shattering events of WWI but rather surprisingly survived. It was particularly prominent in France and Italy and in Italy eventually merged with Fascism.

It was a rather euphoric movement marked by a general rejection of previous traditions and a feeling that the modernists could create the world anew. It all sounds rather silly and egotistical nowadays but its relationship with Fascism gives it more than ordinary historical importance. Wikipedia has one summary of it here for those who want to read further.

There is a book (briefly summarized here) by a frequent writer on Fascism (Roger Griffin) which attempts the daunting task of defining modernism -- and the author's apologies for the boldness of that endeavour must be my apologies too.

I think his approach to Fascism via Modernism is fruitful but there is also something in the Marxist account of social changes having economic causes -- so I would extend the analysis to say that even modernism can be seen as an economic product. I think economic history explains just about all of modernism in fact. But economic phenomena do not exist in a vacuum either. Behind economic history is political history. So on to that:

After the defeat of the French by German forces in 1870, Bismarck rapidly accomplished his long-pursued task of unifying most of the German lands under the Prussian crown. Only Austria proved indigestible.

Bismarck saw the great danger of the unification, however. Unified Germany was such a formidible economic and military power that it had great potential to strike terror into the rest of Europe. And a logical response to that terror would be for the rest of Europe to "gang up" on Germany in what would have to be a brutal and destructive war, whatever the outcome.

Rather surprisingly to some, however, Bismarck was a man of peace, despite his earlier talk of "blood and iron". His only real devotion was to his Vaterland so, although he made skilled use of war to bring about the widely desired unification of Germany, he was just as ready to use peace on behalf of Germany once that was accomplished.

And Bismarck saw the fatal weakness in hostility to Germany: Great alliances would have to be formed if there was to be any hope of taking Germany on. So for the remainder of his term as Reichskanzler he used diplomatic means to frustrate that. His constantly changing foreign policy confused everyone and prevented any firm alliances from forming. So purely to protect Germany, Bismarck achieved something remarkable: Peace in Europe.

And that peace became rather permanent. People got used to not being at war. Proof that peace was possible made it the status quo which most people wanted to continue. So even after Bismarck left the scene in 1890 the peace continued for nearly a quarter of a century more -- until 1914.

And peace in Europe had a hugely energizing effect. Scientific, technical and economic innovations had already begun in various places but with European energies diverted to peaceful pursuits rather than war, those developments got a huge kick-along and great economic progress took place. Europe emerged from a peasant age into an industrial age. Even in Russia, heavy industries emerged and railways snaked out across the land.

But these vast economic changes had a psychologically disruptive effect. As the old order crumbled before the steam train its assumptions crumbled too. Aristocracy lost legitimacy and all values were questioned. Any thinking that had been widely accepted in the past became automatically suspect as belonging to the past only.

And that, basically, was modernism: A confidence that the old could be swept away and replaced by a new more exciting and more heroic vision of just about everything.

But again at risk of seeming Marxist, the new vision had its antithesis. Many people were suspicious of the new enthusiasms and were not at all ready to throw away the wisdom of the past. This "reaction" was brilliantly managed by Disraeli in Britain, not managed at all in France and rather hamfistedly managed by Bismarck in in Germany. Bismarck was not nearly as successful in domestic policy as he was in foreign policy, though again his policies kept his opposition off-balance as long as he was around.

So, of the major European powers, only Britain merged smoothly into the modern world -- with only a minimum of social disruption. The values of the past were largely preserved while considerable innovations to cope with changed economic circumstances were also made. Russia was of course at the other end of the scale, where adaptation to the new was disastrously managed.

Perhaps the most vivid evidence of the orderly British transition is the survival right into the present day of the House of Lords, still a highly esteemed body but quite unlike any other present-day upper house that I know of. So Britain had plenty of cultural modernism in its day but Fascism never made significant inroads into British political life, despite the efforts of Sir Oswald Mosley.

So now I come to where I disagree with the Marxists (with whom Griffin, mentioned above, seems to agree partly). I think the Marxists have got the wrong end of the stick altogether. Marxists see Fascism as a form of defence of the old order when it was clearly quite the opposite. They see it as a defence of traditional values when Fascists themselves saw themselves as the vanguard of the new. Particularly in Italy it is clear that Fascists were the modernists, not traditionalists. Extreme modernists such as D'Annunzio were simply co-opted into Fascism.

One can perhaps excuse the Marxist confusion a little in that both Mussolini and Hitler did make major allusions to the past -- Mussolini aiming to re-establish the Roman empire and Hitler glorifying Germany's imagined pre-Christian lifestyle. But it is starkly clear that these allusions are to an imagined and remote past rather than to the actual immediate past. Neither man was a traditionalist in any sense. Both had visions for their countries that were thoroughly modernist. The visions were rather vague and inchoate but that was part of modernism.

But the major point behind the Marxist critique is that the changes wrought by the Fascists were much less sweeping than those wrought by the Bolsheviks in Russia. The Fascists left most of the existing structure of society in place. Does that not make them defenders of the status quo?

But it must be remembered that the modernists were idealists rather than the hate-filled smash-everything monsters of Bolshevism. And the "hope and change" message offered by the modernists was every bit as vague as a similar message in the 21st century. Their ideals left very little guide for action. So their actions were rather limited when they came to power. They were clear that they needed to gain close control over society but they saw that this could be done by laws and regulation rather than by mass-murder -- so chose that more orderly path.

The one ideal that they aimed to implement was the thoroughly socialist ideal of a better deal for the workers -- and they in fact did that by much expanded social welfare legislation. And they intruded further into the lives of the workers than even social democratic parties had ever envisaged -- even providing cheap recreations for the workers (The "Dopolavoro" system in Italy and the "Kraft durch Freude" movement in Germany).

A KDF "Holiday ship"

The Fascist control of their society was extensive and intrusive but not obviously destructive. They were in that way closer to the social democrats than the Bolsheviks. So the transformation of society under the Fascists was more restrained than what happened in Russia but it was still obviously motivated by socialist ideals and was just as disastrous in the end.

But what about the nationalism of the Fascists? Where does that fit in? It was in fact one way in which the Fascists did NOT innovate or stand out. Nationalism was normal across the political spectrum in Europe at the time. There were few more ardent German nationalists than Friedrich Engels, for instance. Yes. THAT Engels: Karl Marx's co-author. And Mussolini saw that. He saw that the working classes of Europe had supported their respective nation-states in WWI and it was largely that realization which eventually caused him to give up Marxist class-war ideas and invent Fascism instead. Hitler too was repulsed by class-war ideas.

So one can conclude that the political manifestation of modernism in the form of Fascism was largely a poorly managed response to an economic transformation. A new world called for new ideas and Fascism purported to offer that.

I will close by pointing out very briefly the rather obvious tie-in to the fascination with Japan that prevailed for a while in Europe. Japan modernized at the most breakneck speed of all and yet still seemed to retain all its traditional values! No wonder the modernists were fascinated! In fact, Japan had something for everyone, which is why it had so much influence (now mostly forgotten) in the run-up to WWI.

Footnote: I am mildly pleased to see that the Wikipedia entry on Bismarck agrees fairly closely with what I have said about him. I don't always have orthodox history on my side!


George Orwell, Call Your Office

Sometimes the mind just boggles. The Atlantic has an article this month with the title “Americans Want to Live in a Much More Equal Country (They Just Don’t Realize It).” I am always curious when intellectuals announce that the people (who in the American constitutional system serve as the sovereign power) don’t know what’s good for them (What’s the Matter with Kansas?) or don’t even know what they want.

Implicit in all of these revelations, of course, is the firmest, if never directly expressed, belief of the Left: That the average person is too stupid to run his own life, let alone make public policy decisions. Those few, those happy few, that band of liberal intellectuals, must do that for them.

The author of the Atlantic article, Dan Ariely—a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke—divided the American population into quintiles according to wealth. He then asked a representative sample of more than 5,000 Americans to guess how the country’s wealth was distributed amongst these quintiles.

He doesn’t say exactly how he determined the population’s wealth. Are the hundreds of billions of dollars in union and government pension funds that will fund the retirement of millions of blue-collar and government workers considered an asset of those workers? I’d guess not. Does this money greatly improve their standard of living? You bet, just like a trust fund improves the standard of living of some rich man’s grandson. But let that go.

It turns out that the overwhelming majority of the sample population thought the distribution of wealth was much more equal than in fact it is. The average guess was that 9 percent of the country’s private wealth belonged to the bottom 40 percent and that 59 percent of it belonged to the top 20 percent. According to the author, it is in fact 0.3 percent of American privately held wealth that belongs to the bottom 40 and 84 percent that belongs to the top 20. But, again, without some insight into the methodology, these figures are impossible to evaluate. They are simply declared ex cathedra.

Ariely then asked people in the sample population to pick an ideal distribution of wealth among the quintiles. The average of their choices was much more egalitarian than is the American reality. The average proposed distribution was 11 percent for the poorest quintile and 32 percent for the richest.

The rest of the article is devoted to a discussion of how best to get to that preferred distribution.

A few points:

1) As long as no one lacks the wherewithal for a decent standard of living, is a very unequal division of wealth necessarily a bad thing and a more evenly distributed pattern of wealth necessarily a good thing? Professor Ariely blithely begs this fundamental question.

2) American society is notoriously fluid. Rising from a log cabin to the presidency is American folklore. It is also American reality. The majority of the Forbes 400 created their own fortunes.

But there is not an inkling here that individuals often transition through different quintiles during their lives. Someone might start off in the top quintile, living with his affluent parents. Then he graduates from college, gets an entry-level job and a studio apartment in a crummy part of town, and bam! He’s in the bottom quintile. He works hard, gets ahead, saves some money, and he’s in the next-to-bottom quintile. He marries a woman with a good job and moves up another. His parents help with the down payment on a house and 20 years later, once the mortgage is paid off, he’s in the next quintile. His father dies, leaves him a million dollars, and he’s in the top quintile. Then the market goes to hell, his net worth declines drastically, and, as a result, he drops down a notch or two. And so on.

Instead, there is an unmistakable implication in the article that the various quintiles are self-perpetuating, with the proletariat at the bottom leading lives of quiet desperation and a few fat cats at the top lighting cigars with hundred-dollar bills. That might have been true in the 1840s when Marx began writing (although the early 19th century was also a time of many new fortunes). It sure isn’t true in today’s America, where a bright idea for an iPad app can make you rich practically overnight (just ask the guy who invented Angry Birds) and talent is far more valued than ancestors.

3) How on earth are 5,500 people chosen from all walks of life—from janitor to rocket scientist—supposed to have the faintest idea what the ideal distribution of wealth should be in today’s rapidly changing economy? These people are picking numbers out of the air and saying, “Oh, that seems right.” Is it? Professor Ariely simply assumes that it is.

4) Shouldn’t we have some real idea as to what the ideal distribution actually is—if that’s even knowable—before we march the country off willy-nilly toward some arbitrary distribution chosen by a bunch of people in a random sample? The average of 5,000 guesses is an excellent way to produce an accurate estimate of the number of jelly beans in a big jar. It is a disastrously dumb way to determine the parameters of a vast social engineering project.

An even worse way to determine these parameters, of course, would be to have the choice made by a group of professors sitting around the faculty lounge and grumbling about the people who aren’t as bright as they are but who are worth tons more money.

5) Might deliberately trying to achieve a particular distribution of wealth—through taxation or other means—have terrible and utterly unanticipated real-world consequences? Neither I nor Professor Ariely nor anyone else has the faintest idea.

The American economy is a vast, hugely complex, and dynamic system, filled with individuals who are pursuing their self-interests whether the denizens of the faculty lounge (who are pursuing theirs) like it or not. It is beyond intellectually presumptuous to think that we understand the totality of the effects of a fundamental change in the economy.

6) In a highly dynamic system, such as a modern economy, when you pin down one number, requiring it not to move, all the other numbers will begin to behave differently, often in pernicious ways. Consider price controls. A price is the point in a free market where supply and demand balance. If the government requires that the price of a commodity not change in response to changes in supply and demand (such as with rent controls and minimum wage laws), one of two things will immediately begin to happen.

If the fixed price is set below the market price, scarcity will result. There is no current shortage of caviar. But set the price at $10 a pound, and there will be lines outside every gourmet shop in the country. And no caviar.

Set the price above the market price, however, and you will get an instant glut. Minimum wages for unskilled labor have produced armies of unemployed teenagers whom no one wants to hire at the legal price. So, if wealth must be distributed according to a set formula, heaven only knows what other numbers will promptly go out of whack. And, of course, the people whose wealth is scheduled to be redistributed are going to do what they can to prevent that. In a democracy, that will be a lot.

7) Major new technology produces new and larger fortunes than those known before. This, ineluctably, produces a more unequal distribution of wealth.

It happened with the steam engine. Benjamin Disraeli coined the word “millionaire” in 1826 to describe the new fortunes that were based on factories, not land. It happened with the railroads, with petroleum, and with the automobile, too.

And it is happening now with the most profound technological development at least since the steam engine—or perhaps ever—the microprocessor. The microprocessor is creating new fortunes (Microsoft, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Dell, Google, Bloomberg, Apple, Facebook, etc.) that are of unprecedented size. This is skewing the distribution of wealth sharply toward the top quintile. But no one is a dime poorer because Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg are billions richer. Their wealth was created by the dynamic economic enterprises they brought into being, not transferred from others.

The only way to prevent the increase in wealth inequality brought about by major new technology would be to prevent the creation of new fortunes that new technology makes possible. The country would be mad, utterly mad, to try to do that. These fortunes came into being only because millions of people flocked to buy the new products, use the new services, and shop in the new stores. No new fortunes, no new products, services, or stores.

What do you prefer: An America with a very uneven distribution of wealth and an unending stream of new products and services that make life better for everyone, or an oversized North Korea?

The idea that something as fundamental as the distribution of wealth can be radically altered in a democracy without disastrous side effects is an intellectual fantasy. Prohibition, a far simpler social engineering project than fundamentally redistributing wealth, didn’t get rid of demon rum, it gave us Al Capone. And the people who wanted to drink kept right on doing so.

Intellectuals, especially in the social sciences, have a nasty habit of thinking that, “This is the way the world should be, therefore this is the way the world can be.” This is what leads them to come up with so many ideas that are, in George Orwell’s phrase, “so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.”



My identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my old Facebook page as I rarely accessed it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The surprising influence of Japan

As someone who drives a car made in Japan, and as one who occasionally dines at a Sushi train, I am one of the many who is aware of the large influence of Japan in the modern world. What seems to have slipped out of general awareness is how far back that influence goes. It has been infuencing us for over 100 years.

Even when Commodore Perry anchored his black paddle-wheeler in Tokyo Bay in 1854 and signed a treaty opening Japan to the West, he was impressed by the rich Japanese culture -- and that impression has continued on from there. By the late 19th century there was quite a fad in Western Europe for all things Oriental, both Chinese and Japanese. This was very evident in Art Nouveau, the dominant art of the Belle Epoque. As one review says:
"Art Nouveau was not a style but a movement which was a reaction against the stuffy over-decoration of the nineteenth century. It took its early inspiration from the work of William Morris, Arthur Mackmurdo, and Walter Crane, and fused these with an enthusiam for Chinoiserie and Japonisme. And as a movement it errupted very suddenly in the 1890s, spread throughout Europe and even to the USA – and then ended just as abruptly in the first decade of the new century."

But while Westerners were enthusing (justifiably, in my view) about Japanese art, the Japanese were embarking on a uniquely determined attempt to catch up with the West technologically, something they had pretty much achieved as the dawn of the 20th century broke. Most Asian nations are still modernizing in the 21st century. Japan did it in the 19th. There is no doubt that they are a remarkable people.

And as I have previously pointed out, the culmination of that catch-up in the defeat of Russia in 1905 energized the West enormously. A civilization that was already esteemed became even more so -- to the extent of being taken as a model in many ways.

But Japanese culture, like Chinese culture, is a culture of honour/shame rather than a culture of moral absolutes so its influence was in some ways atrocious. Again as I have previously pointed out, its influence on military doctrine led to the mass slaughter of ONE'S OWN TROOPS being seen as a good thing!

And we see another awful instance of the power of honour/shame in the episode below:
I happened to be watching one of those TV progs about antiques the other day. This one was called "Flog It" and it encourages people to dig out old stuff they don't want, get it valued by experts and, if it is worth anything, either sell it to a dealer or put it into auction.

Apparently one of the things that can add extra value to an antique is its "provenance", i.e. its history, especially if it has some particular association with a person or event that makes the item "come alive" and become more interesting and collectible.

On this occasion an elderly woman was selling a set of medals. Alongside the medals she had an old, faded sepia photograph of two boys sitting either side of a young girl. She explained that the picture was taken just before World War I; the girl was her mother and the two boys her uncles - that she had never known. She went on to explain why she had never known them.

Just after the war broke out, one of her uncles was on a bus when a woman approached him and pinned a white feather on him. Readers will recognise this as a familiar insult used by women at the time to shame young men into joining the military and going out to fight in the war. The white feather did exactly what it was designed to do; the young man felt so humiliated by the woman's act that he promptly signed up. But he had to lie about his age in order to get in. Why? Because he was only fifteen years old. That's right: FIFTEEN. He looked older, but that was his precise age.

The medals on show on the programme were the ones he and his brother, who followed him into the army, won in their brief lives. Within a year of signing up, they were both dead on the killing fields.

Dead. Wasted. Before they could start their own families, before they even had a vote, before they had any chance of fulfilling their promise. Brave, honourable, but uselessly dead.

The presenter of the programme could not hide his shock at the story. It is good that people can still register such shock, because we should never forget the lessons. Did that woman who pinned the feather ever know what wickedness she had perpetrated? Did she ever care?

It occurs to me that in order to pin the feather on the young man, she must have deliberately taken it out with her that day. She must have had it in her bag or whatever, and was specifically looking for a young man to pin it on. It could not have been a spontaneous act: it was planned. She had a clear intent to inflict personal shame and misery, and ultimately complete destruction, on an innocent young man she didn't even know. She might as well have pulled out a gun and shot him. But she got clean away with it."

What kind of person is it that approaches a random stranger and calls him a coward knowing nothing about him, not his age, his occupation, his health and fitness, any of his history at all, the only type of person who does this is one who feels completely invulnerable, secure and confident in the knowledge that they would not be censored or criticized"

Fortunately, the follies of WWI were rapidly recognized as soon as the war was over and Western Christian values were more or less restored throughout Europe.

During WWI, Japan itself continued its alliance with Britain but mainly undertook naval operations (Would you believe Japanese navy warships assisting the British even in the Mediterranean?) -- so Japanese values continued on as before, leading them into the disaster of their conflict with the USA in WWII.

I might say something tomorrow about the deeper reasons behind the early fascination with Japan.


Barack Obama’s War on the Middle Class

Like conflict, numbers have a way of concentrating the mind. Everyone knows the economy is in bad shape. But just how bad is it? As President Obama campaigns to move the country “Forward” and tries to scare the middle class into voting against Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan (rather than for him), it’s critical to note how badly Americans’ incomes have fared in the Obama economy.

According to the Washington Post, “Incomes have dropped more since the beginning of the recovery than they did during the recession itself.” The Post cites a report which notes that “from June 2009 to June 2012, inflation-adjusted median household income fell 4.8 percent to $50,964.”

A broader historical comparison reveals just how acute the present crisis is. The report further notes that “median income is 7.2 percent below its December 2007 level and 8.1 percent below where it stood in January 2000, which was at $55,470.” Such grim news is just the latest reminder that President Obama’s leadership has left Americans poorer than they were under George W. Bush, and poorer than they’ve been in a generation.

Indeed, as a result of Barack Obama’s failure to stem the economic bleeding, the Federal Reserve reported earlier in the summer that the recession erased two decades’ worth of our collective wealth. There have been 42 straight months where the unemployment rate has exceeded 8%. Offering four more years of economic woe is anything but “Forward.”

It’s no secret the prolonged recession has most hurt the very people President Obama ostensibly intended to help with his ill-conceived government “investments,” the middle class. The middle class, i.e. those making between $39,000 and $118,000 (according to the Pew Research Center), has borne the brunt of the bad economy. As the above numbers demonstrate, three years after the recession technically ended (August 2009), the recession continues to ravage the middle class.

These are facts President Obama cannot mention. And in the Leftist playbook, when you cannot tell the truth, you deceive and personally attack those who dare to do so. Further, you attempt to divide people by artificial barriers, like income. Hence Barack Obama’s obsession with Mitt Romney’s tax returns. There is something gross about categorizing Americans by their gross income. In the Obama worldview, you are your W-2.

Seeing the nation as distinct “classes,” or better yet castes, is illogical and offensive. It’s illogical because there are not separate classes of Americans. Our motto is out of many one, not out of many, many. And it’s offensive because it ignores one of America’s best attributes: upward social mobility. Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs were not born billionaires. And we all know President Obama was not born a millionaire.

The tenuous relationship with the truth that characterizes his best selling autobiographies is evident in his dishonest campaign to win over the middle class. Like the Good Samaritan offering to tend to the wounded traveler by inflicting further harm upon him, the president claims to support the middle class but undermines it by creating more government dependents than private employees. As more people go to their mailbox to receive government handouts than go to work to earn a paycheck, and as Obama guts the welfare reform work requirement, he touts both as progress. In an opposite world George Costanza could only dream of, Barack Obama attacks the middle class like a scourge to be eradicated, while simultaneously claiming to save it. The cognitive dissonance is dizzying, and alarming. To wit:

Barack Obama claims to support unemployed Americans while pandering to and bribing illegal immigrants, and punishing state-based efforts to address illegal immigration and the attendant violence and wage depression.

Barack Obama affirms the middle class vote while marginalizing that vote by seeking to provide ballots to felons and illegal immigrants, rather than soldiers deployed abroad, and by litigating against overwhelmingly popular voter ID initiatives and providing federal tax dollars to shady outfits that register felons, dead people, and Mickey Mouse.

Barack Obama claims to support middle class values while mocking religious voters as weak clingers and forcing religious institutions to provide free contraception and abortifacients, in violation of their most sacred beliefs.

Barack Obama claims to support middle class jobs but has unleashed his EPA to undermine the domestic energy industry that employs and feeds the middle class in many parts of our nation, targeting coal plants for death by regulation and impeding new domestic and offshore drilling on public land, like the Keystone Pipeline.

Barack Obama claims to support middle class healthcare while imposing the Affordable Care Act, which will raise premiums, decrease care, encourage employers to drop coverage, and put government bureaucrats between patients and doctors.

Barack Obama claims to support middle class education but opposes tested and proven education reforms – vouchers and charter schools – that would drastically improve education outcomes for middle and lower class students stuck in failing public schools.

Barack Obama claims to support the middle class’ future, but he has done nothing about the deficit, and nothing to address the unfunded obligations of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that will bankrupt the middle class in a few years’ time.

The evidence is undisputed. Barack Obama’s claims to support the middle class are fiction, contempt masquerading as care. Politicians, no less than individuals, are judged by their actions, not simply their words. The distortion and demonization Barack Obama peddles on the campaign trail cannot hide the damage his policies have caused middle class Americans. They deserve better than him, and better than the “Forward” he offers. In Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, they have the chance to choose it.



Leftist logic: Paul Ryan’s Black College Girlfriend Could Mean He’s Racist

Paul Ryan had a black girlfriend in college? The Root’s Kelli Goff suggests in this article that blacks should be suspicious of this, implying Ryan could be a racist. Maybe a call to the Guinness Book of World Records is in order. Ryan isn’t the first white man to date a black person and certainly won’t be the last. Ryan dating a black woman in college shows me he’s just as audacious in his personal life (evolved and open-minded) as he is in his approach to governance.

But apparently, interracial dating is a story only when a white Republican does it. President Obama dated white women in college and law school and that never became a significant story during the 2008 campaign. In fact, discussion by the mainstream media of the President Obama dating white women in college and law school often implied that he was more tolerant, complicated and interesting. Instead, the Root’s political writer Keli Goff speculates just the opposite of Ryan that because Ryan dated a black woman in college, doesn’t mean he’s NOT a racist.

When it comes to a white conservative politicians interracial dating, the Liberal media portrays it as something negative. “Is the fact that Ryan has dated interracially a noteworthy detail to consider when analyzing his politics and policies?” wrote Goff.

Referencing no examples of behavior by Ryan that could be viewed racist, Goff only suggests that one day Ryan may be faced with racist allegations and use the fact that he dated a black woman in college as his defense. She writes: “Here's a well-known phrase that has virtually become a punch line: When someone finds himself on the ropes facing an allegation of racism, the go-to reflex defense is usually something along the lines of "But some of my best friends are black!" Translation: "I can't possibly be racist or racially insensitive because there are black people I like and they like me. So there."

Ryan doesn’t have a record of pushing legislation harmful to blacks, he authored a budget plan to help all Americans by reducing America’s debt, reforming our tax code and fixing entitlement programs to keep them from going bankrupt. But instead of pointing to specific legislation or actions by the congressman that might be construed as racist, Goff eagerly pushes a racist smearing of Ryan when there is ZERO evidence to suggest such a charge.

Goff like liberal journalist Toure Neblett is engaging in race baiting journalism because she knows black support for Obama is slipping and wants to either discourage blacks from voting for Mitt Romney or voting at all. A recent AP poll found black support for Obama has dropped from 95% to 82% due to Obama’s support of gay marriage and abysmal unemployment rate plaguing blacks, which is almost twice the national average.

By putting Ryan in the same company as Strom Thurmond, a professed segregationist who fathered a baby with his “black servant,” Goff is asking readers to believe Ryan may be a racist. She also points out that cable news pundit Lou Dobbs been married to a “Mexican-American woman” even though for years he “was the face of the anti-illegal-immigration crusade.”

While Goff professes at the end of her piece she’s “not calling Ryan a racist,” the question arises why she wrote this story to begin with? I agree with Goff “if you want to know where a politician's heart lies when it comes to a particular community, it may be best to look at that person's policies . . . rather than personal relationships” or the color of his skin. After three and half years, I’d like to see black journalists like Goff start to critically evaluate Obama’s policies and not continue to give him a free pass because he’s the country’s first black president.



From Jay Leno

They’re now worried that Tropical Storm Isaac could hit Florida during next week’s Republican convention. But Florida is ready for it. Thanks to President Obama’s economic policies, many businesses down there are already boarded up.

It’s now being reported that Joe Biden will go to the Republican convention to try to cause problems for Mitt Romney. Then after that, he will go to the Democratic convention where he will definitely cause problems for President Obama.

At a campaign stop in Virginia, Joe Biden said he is such a NASCAR fan, “I’d trade being vice president in a heartbeat for winning Daytona.” To which President Obama said, “Deal!”

President Obama met with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in the Oval Office. They agreed on a new economic plan after losing last night’s big Powerball lottery.

After his latest gaffe, Joe Biden has a new slogan — “Chains you can believe in.”

It was 109 degrees today in Los Angeles. It was so hot today, Joe Biden was putting his foot in his mouth just to cool it off.

Police in Florida have arrested a man who said he finally achieved his goal of shoplifting in all 50 states. You know what you call someone who steals from all 50 states? Congressman.



My identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my old Facebook page as I rarely accessed it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Monday, August 27, 2012

The Herd Mind of the Left

Why Leftists are impervious to rational argument: They cannot afford to listen. They would lose the security of their herd

Just about any gregarious conservative can register the same complaint: his friends of a liberal persuasion firmly believe in evolution, the hydrocarbon menace, technogenic global warming, and the virtues of green energy; they are convinced that racism is still rampant in America, that all the ills of inner-city schools can be cured by throwing more money at them, that criminals are actually victims of society, that voter fraud is a myth concocted by evil conservatives, that cheating at the polls is a sacred right of minorities, that illegal immigrants have committed no crime even though the word "illegal" is self-explanatory, that George Bush attacked Iraq at the behest of Halliburton to grab Iraqi oil...

In short, it is always the same mantra, demonstrably stupid and illogical, yet fervently espoused by all ardent liberals, irrespective of their social status or educational attainments.

How to account for it? And why are liberals totally impervious to any counter-arguments -- on those rare occasions, that is, when they actually deign to listen to the contrary views? The easiest explanation, of course, would be that those who persevere in beliefs glaringly devoid of any meaning or logic are just plain dumb. But no, there are a lot of highly intelligent people -- in fact, almost the entirety of academia -- among the most vocal proponents of that idiocy. So there must be some other explanation. And as a matter of fact, there is.

The estimable Lee Harris, in his wonderful book The Suicide of Reason (Basic Books, 2007), explores the concept of the shaming code developed by Thomas Huxley. Huxley, widely known as "Darwin's Bulldog" for his ferocious defense of evolutionary theory, thought long and hard about the inherent contradiction between man's "innate tendency to self-assertion ... as the condition of victory in the struggle for existence and the obvious fact that in the struggle for survival loners are losers and individuals who banded together increased their chances of survival." Upon reflection, Huxley came to the conclusion that the glue that holds together individuals in a group is the collective shaming code.

"It is this code that makes the members of the group feel as one," writes Lee Harris. "They are disgusted, angered, delighted and shamed by the same things. The unanimity of their visceral response is what provides the powerful sense of collective identity. It makes them feel and think as a tribal Us, in contrast to those tribes who are not disgusted by what disgusts us, or made angry by what makes us angry, and who feel no shame at what we think of as shameful[.] ... A tribe that shares a powerful visceral code that inhibits the natural tendency of the individual to self-assertion will present a united front against its enemies."

Therein lies the explanation of the total information blockade built around the highly dubious figure of Barack Obama by the left-leaning salons and the mainstream media, even including the respectable conservative media. It doesn't take unusual intelligence to see that the 44th president is a patent mediocrity with a totally contrived past. And yet, crickets.

In 1600, Sir John Harrington penned these immortal words: "Treason doth never prosper; what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason." In other words, treason attains respectability once it becomes a prevalent trait of the social mores, part and parcel of society's shaming code. Today, it is the very same shaming code that causes polite society to rally around the "right-thinking" Obama and rebuff all attempts to expose him as the fraud that he is. Even the late, utterly fearless Andrew Breitbart refused to wade into the controversy around Obama's birth certificate, advising his followers not to "go there," because he believed that it was unproductive and harmful to the conservative cause. He understood the power of the shaming code.

But why is today's social and political scene dominated by the left, allowing it to impose its shaming code on society? In the struggle for survival and supremacy, the advantage invariably goes to those who are more committed to maintaining and expanding their cultural traditions and who, because of the strength of that commitment, are united by the more powerful sense of group feeling. Hence the liberals' domination of the public discourse.

Conservatives are usually reluctant ideological warriors. For the most part, they want only to be left alone, to live and let live. Having won a battle, they sigh with relief and waste no time beating their swords into ploughshares. Not so the liberals. They never tire or despair in their attempts to impose their views on all others; if they lose a fight, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and, undaunted, continue to slog toward their goals. And in the struggle of opposites, the more fanatical will always win.

The vicious hatred of the left for its conservative opponents, belied by the liberals' constant protestations of their high-mindedness and tolerance, is also easily explainable in tribal terms. It is the hatred of the righteous for the sinner, of the acolyte of the one true faith for the heretic. Distilled to its essence, it is the hatred for "the other," of "us" for "them." It is also the reason why liberals so liberally lie and cheat in their dealings with the conservative "enemy." Everything is fair in love and war, and politics is war by other means. Why are liberals infinitely understanding and patient toward the Islamic terrorists who threaten to destroy Western civilization? Not only because the Islamofascists are of the third world and thus automatically endowed with virtue, but also because they offer no competition to the left for supremacy in American society, while conservatives do.

Today's left is every bit a tribe with its unthinking, fanatical devotion to the tribal code and animal fear of being ostracized. The ancient Greeks believed banishment from the tribe to be the harshest of all punishments, worse than death. Human nature has not changed, and the dread of being cast into outer darkness is still as strong as ever. Sure, there are some exceptions, but they pay a heavy price for their bravery. That's why so many bright people, eager to toe the line, join the fawning fandom of Obama; it's the price of admission to the club. They may have some doubts in the beginning, but as time goes by, they undoubtedly lose their qualms. The mask fuses with the face; they convince themselves of the truth of the cult and internalize its code, for to acknowledge the truth and rebel against the tribe is too painful and too dangerous.

Emerging from the questioning by the grand jury investigating President Clinton, Vernon Jordan loudly declared that he had "kept the faith" -- i.e., lied to save Bill Clinton's bacon. Jordan's standing with the tribe was more important to him than the potential perjury charge. The handlers assigned by John McCain to guide his inexperienced VP candidate, Sarah Palin, through the dangerous shoals of the 2008 presidential campaign chose to throw her to the media wolves. They failed in their duty not due to incompetence, but because their primary concern was preserving their credentials with the Washington in-crowd, paying obeisance to the tribal values. And so they blithely sacrificed their ward to safeguard their social status.

The astute Robert Heinlein in his 1961 best-selling SF novel Stranger in a Strange Land invented a special word, grok, to describe the phenomenon of tribal consciousness carried to its extreme: "Grok means ... to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience[.]" The practical corollary of the dissolution of one's identity in groupthink is that all Republican outreach efforts are a total waste of time, money, and hope. It's just too much trouble to open one's mind; how much more comfortable just to go on grokking in the tribal Nest!

Liberal intellectuals like to pose as bearers of the culture of reason, as fiercely independent thinkers. But they are kidding themselves. They have traded their intellectual primogeniture for the mess of pottage of group identity. They are fully integrated into the socially and politically dominant tribe, sharing the same visceral likes and dislikes, the same shaming code. Rather than being autonomous rational actors, they are merely an assemblage of cipher units marching in lock step to the tribal drumbeat. Harold Rosenberg mordantly branded them the herd of independent minds.



More of the herd mind: Voters fret about economy, Dems focus on abortion, homosexuality

"This election, to me, is about which candidate is more likely to return us to full employment," says former President Bill Clinton in a new ad released by the Obama campaign. Most voters would agree, at least if one believes countless polls that show the economy and jobs are the nation's top concern.

So why are Democrats planning to make their convention a celebration of abortion and gay marriage? The Obama campaign has given a new and prominent surrogate role to Sandra Fluke, the former Georgetown law student and full-time lefty activist who achieved notoriety after Rush Limbaugh called her a bad name because of her energetic promotion of taxpayer-financed contraception.

There will be a lot of talk about abortion, all of it from one side. But not all Democrats agree with Fluke and her fellow speakers when it comes to abortion; in May of this year, Gallup found 34 percent of Democrats identify themselves as pro-life. And, perhaps more important to President Obama's re-election prospects, 47 percent of independents describe themselves as pro-life.

Why would a party that wants to attract the largest possible number of votes this November make such extravagant pronouncements on abortion, knowing that one-third of its own members and nearly one-half of independents disagree?

If you stand on the floor of a Democratic convention when a speaker is discussing abortion, you can feel the depth of the emotion that many Democrats feel on the issue. Conservatives like to say abortion is a liberal sacrament. Maybe that's going too far, but it is very, very important. And when something means so much to a group of people, they can easily convince themselves that it means that much to others, too.



Famous dumb ideas: Let’s have a maximum wage, shall we?

Sometimes the mask slips a little on the left and you get a peek at the real collectivist agenda at work there. Other times a leftist will just take the mask off completely and show you the collectivist behind it.

It is one of the reasons I find the left to be the most potentially totalitarian side of the spectrum … because their basic premise, the premise that spawns all others, is indeed collectivism.

For instance, this Gawker screed by some nimrod named Hamilton Nolan:
"Let’s have a maximum annual income of, oh, $5 million, pegged to inflation. All income above that would be taxed at 99 percent. Our precious national sports stars, celebrities, and corporate executives could still be fabulously wealthy. The daydreaming poor could still have a nice big number about which to hopelessly dream. Five million dollars a year. Five million! Anyone with $5 million can invest it conservatively enough to earn 5 percent a year and still be making $250K per year without lifting a finger. In other words, $5 million provides you with the means to live as a member of the one percent without ever touching the principal. It’s everything that any reasonable person could ask for, financially speaking.

A million and a quarter per year? Far more than anyone should be earning, in a world with so much poverty and want, but not so much that someone could consider themselves set for life. It’s a number at which the go-getting rich person is still aspirational. They hope to double or triple that salary before their earning days are done. So a hefty 75 percent tax, though completely just, will not only spook them enough to flee, but allow them to retain a modicum of dignity while doing so, at least among the more affluent segments of their peer group.

But $5 million? I defy the slickest PR firm in America to explain to a nation of struggling, underemployed working class people with a median household income of just over $50,000 why an already-wealthy person felt the need to leave the country—taking money out of the taxpayers’ pockets in a very literal sense—rather than donate, to the common good, earnings over one hundred times the nation’s median household income. This requires an already-wealthy person who is, by definition, being paid a wage that far outstrips any measure of fairness or good sense, to stand up in front of a nation (to which he has no doubt paid ample lip service during his rise to the top) of people far, far less fortunate than he and declare: "I have far more than I need. But I would rather abandon you all than help you."

If someone is willing to do that, let them take their shame and go. Good riddance.

You have to read the whole thing to ensure its not a spoof. It’s not. This knucklehead is serious.

Note how blithely he decides what is proper for you to have. “It’s everything that any reasonable person could ask for, financially speaking”.

Is it? What if you’re trying to build a business that requires, oh, I don’t know, 10 million?

Well, you can’t have that. Because Hamilton Nolan has arbitrarily decided that 5 mil is it. It’s a bit like the crowd that decides that at a minimum, labor is worth, oh I don’t know, how about $7.25 an hour?

Sound good? Let’s go with it and prosecute anyone that tries pay below that. What do you mean that causes unemployment because wage payers aren’t willing to pay more than what the labor on a job is worth? Why would some of them rather automate than pay that wage to a real person? How does a minimum wage kick up the price of a product?

See it’s these little niggling questions that are never entertained by economic rubes like Nolan that blow their little collectivist theories all to blazes.

Things like “well if I can only earn 5 mil in the US but I can earn 10 mil in Russia, I’ll just move to Russia”, also known as human nature, simply don’t register.

Dingbat’s reaction to such a move? “Good riddance”.

Really? Good riddance?

Someone ought to ask this economic idiot if he got his job at Gawker from a poor person? And when he got that job did he believe he got it because: "America has provided all of the opportunity necessary for these people to earn their fortunes. That opportunity is paid for with tax dollars."

Because that’s what he wrote. Seriously Mr. Nolan, did “America” provide all the opportunity necessary, paid for by the taxpayers, for you to land at Gawker? Or did your work and effort perhaps ‘earn’ you the job (although reading this hash one might be led to believe that Gawker has very low standards of employment)?

How does our collectivist plan on “rewarding” the high earners who remain and government coercively fleeces, taking most of what they’ve produced (note that the word “produced” never is used in Nolan’s rant)?

Newspaper articles. No. Seriously. "The wealthy could still earn as much as they want. It’s not that they don’t get anything for their earnings above $5 million; they get the distinct privilege of making a huge and helpful contribution to their fellow countrymen. Give them awards. Lavish them with praise. Publish the names of the highest taxpayers in laudatory newspaper columns. Allow them to bask in civic pride. But take their money. They have plenty."

Because Mr. Nolan and the mob, er collective, believe they have first claim on the money anyone earns. They just have to vote for it (“hey, that’s democracy!”). And that my friends is the basic difference between the left and right in this country. They believe it is“their” money or the government’s money. They have no idea of how wealth is produced. They have no idea of the concept of what it takes to earn something. Instead, it’s real simple: you get to keep what they deem appropriate, because wealth doesn’t belong to the producer, in their world it belongs to the collective.

Why? "This is not primarily about raising our total national tax revenue. That’s a far broader issue. This is about inequality. It’s about what type of nation we want to be—what level of inequality we are willing to tolerate in order to protect a vague and twisted notion of "freedom" that most people cannot even fully articulate, and that was created by the rich to serve themselves. This is a baby step. But it’s one that would make us, fundamentally, a better and more just country. And if the rich people don’t like it, fine."

It’s not at all about “raising our total national tax revenue”.

It’s about nascent totalitarianism masquerading as “fairness”. Fairness is one of those code words on the left that is used to rationalize removing choice, using coercion and claiming their actions are justified because otherwise the status quo is “unfair”.

There is no worse of a sin in the collective than being ‘unfair’. And screw you if you don’t like it.


There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)