Monday, January 24, 2011
They Killed Rasputin, Didn't They?
The earnest discussions of right-wing connections still haven't died on NPR - they appear to have retained the guy from the Southern Poverty Law Center full time to talk about his Dark Suspicions. You're probably amazed to discover that grammar as a mind control mechanism is a theme in right wing organizations. So are the right wing organizations, most of whom are still trying to figure out what grammar is. These groups are not noted for their scholarship and literacy. If they ever do figure it out the definition of grammar, it is quite possible that they may find Loughner's argument on that point convincing. It is probable that the founders of such groups also encountered disparaging comments about their grammar from mind-controlling academics.
This right wing connection appears to be a truth known only to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Paranoia Division. I suspect the Paranoia Division is going to be doing very well financially; one can only hope that some of the moolah is diverted to some of the SPLC's more creditable endeavors.
From Ann Althouse, a chirpy little play that just opened in Madison, WI. It's set in Iowa City, which location is just about the funniest part of the whole thing.
The play is about a group of leftists who decide to murder people whose political opinions they don't like via dinner party invitations accompanied by Rasputin-like murders. Fortunately, the carcasses of the demised heterosexual rightists are properly used as organic fertilizer, so the play is completely environmentally responsible, and thus, per the definition of the SPLC's Paranoia Division, not extremist at all.
I gather the play's author is not in favor of this tactic, but still....
There is no question that violence is violence, and that violence is the enemy to democracy. There is no question that there are some rightist groups out there that advocate violence. But it is also true that in recent decades in our own society, it is calls for violence from the leftish wing of things that have been most predominant and treated, fundamentally, as respectable by the press and academia. You will note, for example, that the SPLC Paranoia Division is unable to conceive of a leftist extremist organization. Bill Ayers and Mark Rudd are the type of people that are given a platform in our media/academic society.
More recently, we have seen continued calls from the left for the suppression of speech on every topic from climate catastrophism to political speech (and, to our shame, our own president joined that crowd in the State of the Union speech when he denounced the Citizens United SC decision.)
Now if you try to forbid speech and succeed, you are going to generate a group of people that are predisposed to violence. The left is able to make this connection with respect to say, Muslims (who may or may not be moderate), but seems to regard scientists who are dubious about the IPCC predictions as "traitors" and persons who do not agree that the current health care reform bill is workable as Nazis.
SW commented in this post about the failure of the left:
The failures of the Left to provide for their subjects whenever they have had the opportunity means that they have lost the battle of ideas. All they have left is the struggle to hold onto their power. They now must resort to controlling what people are allowed to say in an effort to control what people are allowed to think; this is a sure sign of desperation.I don't think he's quite correct. Yes, this is a sign of desperation. But the failure to convince is really based on the contempt of the average person that is the basis of the Rudd/Ayers generation of leftists. They never tried to convince, because they moved straight to violence. Because their grounding axioms were passion regarding self-evident righteousness, they never attempted to form a political basis of action in the US; they never attempted to make a case for their ideas in the wider society. They picked up on the Marxist/Fascist idea that wider society had to be destroyed before a workable society could be created, and that is still their fundamental axiom. They are unwilling to put their ideas to the test of democracy, which is of course childish and ultimately futile.
It is true that socialism in Europe, while not dead, has mutated quite rapidly either toward outright failure or, in the case of the northern socialist countries, to something that is more akin to Reaganism than Krugman can accept. The fact that Denmark and Sweden have chopped their corporate tax rates doesn't mean that those countries have given up socialism, it is just that they have adapted their socialist ideas to reality, i.e., job formation achieved through private capital formation and deployment. They continue the socialist part by imposing high individual tax rates, which create a society in which individuals are quite secure but have little opportunity to move up the social ladder.
One can only imagine the depths of the social disaster that would ensue for a society like the US, which is composed of a huge number of recent immigrants that would be frozen into their current low status, if we were to take the same direction. Social mobility is the glue that holds our societal consensus together, combined with a pretty decent safety net for those who don't succeed. We know that it would not work by looking at the results in the "sucessful" northern socialist republics. A couple of generations ago, these societies were not racist. Today they are. Within a generation and a half, they have succeeded in creating a ghettoized population of largely Muslim immigrants, and a predominant native population that is developing racial and religious attitudes that would make someone like David Duke proud and happy. The SPLC might get quite a shock if it studied Denmark a bit.
So the group of leftists that were not in favor of violence and an anarchistic destruction of society were left without much of a grounding. Certainly they are the majority, but a majority of what? "Don't be evil" has not proven to be a very workable motto; Friedman-like, it just cuddles up with rulers who do things that those who chant the motto would claim were evil.
What has been used as a proxy for that grounding are the theoretical benefits and successes of European socialism. That is why there is so little commentary in the national press on the current European debacle. And it is a debacle. It will reshape Europe over the next two decades.
It is not just the financial stress that is impacting Europe - the same financial stresses, which are largely demographic and fiscal, are impacting the US and Canada, etc. But in Europe, their faith was put in their shared decision-making structure, and the problem is that every decision it has developed has flopped. Hard. Everyone now realizes that Greece will default on its debt. By the end of the year it will be obvious that the Irish fix will be repudiated by the Irish a la Versailles. The "green" energy thing is collapsing of its own weight, and the worst of it is that in some of these countries, the banks are going to now take a hit on their associated loans.
And so the much larger group of non-violent leftists is wandering in a daze, trying to find a beacon. They believe in their principles. They know their hearts are right. They believe their principles are important for everyone. As their principles collide with reality in this country, they have no guidance, because no experience, on how to deal with that collision. The response of a vocal minority has simply been to identify their opponents as evil, and an evil that must be silenced and purged.
I have been reading Assistant Village Idiot quite regularly for a very long time, but in the past few months I think he has posted some very profound and accurate posts about the underlying human angst in back of our current crisis of decision. One of these looks at the proposals to intercept people like Loughner, and is good at rebuffing that theory. In the process, AVI also addresses a broader problem (the conservative AND liberal disconnects):
Conservatives and liberals have their separate ways of screwing this up. Small-government types entertain the fantasy that a lot of this would work itself out if people were more self-reliant - if individuals and families stepped up and made these natural solutions happen. They have a point, of course. I am very reluctant to apply for disability benefits for young people, knowing that this dooms them to a rather meager, helpless life in many cases. A lot of people could indeed smarten up and fly right if they had to. The risk of that is, some people can't, even with significant family support, or can't quite, and pushing them out into the world is merely kicking them when they are down. And let me assure you, you don't know which one's are which.Now I am afraid that you won't read this post, so I am driven to post a huge part of it. AVI's conclusion:
Liberals feel your pain, and in their kind-heartedness think we could do what is necessary if we would just try harder. They also have no idea how extensive the problems are. But you can see how they sense it at a distance, because a lot of them move into parts of the human-services bureaucracy where they are no longer providing services. They set up information clearinghouses, in order to connect people to services that already exist. They go into advocacy, trying to get this miserly, uncaring society to see how much we need to increase our support and grow new programs. They believe that if we all just pull together, dammit, we could make this pretty good. And so human service bureaucracies, and non-profits supported by government money, become about 50% people not doing anything that actually provides services. They go to meetings a lot.
They move into these positions to avoid despair. And it keeps the fantasy alive that if we would just be a good society like oh, all of Europe, they think, that this is manageable. Yes we can.
Sooner or later liberals are going to have to face the despair, and deal with it emotionally. Their emotion drives their politics, and their hatred of people who won't do what they just know is important is a hatred of that despair. A hatred of reality.Note that AVI is referring to both liberals and conservatives in that conclusion.
No one wants this reality. In a fallen world, this will always be here. But facing the despair, and deciding what is my part in this, is a task of adulthood. There will be no comity until everyone faces a little more of the truth.
Liberals are currently despairing because unlike conservatives and libertarians, they have no experience in discussing and evolving sustainable solutions. It is appalling how the liberal wing has devolved its dialogue to a mere characterization of their opponents as wrong and evil.
But libertarians and conservatives, although they have been disfavored by the academic/media alignment (largely composed of the coterie AVI so aptly describes of those who have abandoned action for advocacy), face a profound challenge of their own. Our society would not be workable without the basic safety net, and we are now faced by a grim necessity to expand and support the safety net. By necessity, this can only be done by cutting out large portions of it.
In the future, we will have to stop extending huge unpayable loans for college and postgraduate education if we want to keep retirees from starving. We are going to have to cut out a number of middle-class subsidies. In the process the higher education establishment will see a brutal upheaval. We are going to have to pay higher taxes for less services. That process is well underway at the states. We are going to default on a number of public pensions. We are going to have to cut out a lot of corporate subsidies.
We are in for a round of austerity which our society can only survive if we strengthen the social safety net to prevent the evolution of pockets of pure despair. The great majority of us will face a future which is economically more straitened and far less secure than we had expected only a few years ago. Neither conservatism nor libertarianism has a chance of success unless they can fashion an approach to these necessities that will offer the average person some basic level of insurance and some reason for real hope in exchange for their illusions. This will be a terribly painful transition.
As a solution generator, Obama has been a tragic, tragic failure. His current drive is essentially toward a corporate fascism, which has been separately generated in Europe and Asia by an alliance of socialism and power-seeking, and which has always failed. Today's left is accurately detecting and arguing against this turn. Here I will give Krugman a chance to show that he is not psychotic, as he skewers the new approach by pointing out that the interests of GE and the US are not well aligned. It is certainly good for GE to have a high place in the nation's decision-making, but the average person probably realizes that the solutions that GE will recommend will be solutions that in essence ask the average American to subsidize GE's products. The fallacy about green jobs is already well demonstrated.
However Obama has one great virtue which is currently underrated, and that is that he is unwilling to abandon the discussion. The left largely has. For the most part, when Obama removes his campaign hat, he simply refuses to abandon policy for name-calling. He does not appear to have the background required to recognize what will work, but he does have the fortitude to insist that we must come up with a solution. In so far as he can perceive reality, he seems to try to insist upon recognizing it and addressing it.
Whatever their drawbacks, the efforts of people like Paul Ryan and groups like the Deficit Commission are aimed at finding a way forward, and most of all, a way forward that is pretty broad-based. Obama therefore won't shut the door on them. So we'll see what happens, but the current SOTU speech is going to be a non-starter. It will have pretty rhetoric that has nothing to do with reality. Main Street knows this. The left knows this. The right knows this.
The profound failure of health care reform is already evident. The regulations have been written, and as the regulations come into effect, almost all the organizations that weren't meeting them before are opting out of them now, with regulatory approval. This is because the bill never made economic sense, and as we get closer and closer to full implementation, the economic reality/hopeful legislation gap will get larger and larger.
Meanwhile, the extremists are still trying to figure out political grammar, but since political grammar is rooted in the speech of the average citizen, and since the common principle of extremists is that the average citizen is a dolt who can contribute nothing of worth to the debate, the extremists have no chance of success.
To me, this is the most dismaying aspect of the last two years. It's not just President Obama, it's most of the "elite"--what is supposed to be the best education our country can offer seems to have been designed to prevent certain types of knowledge, and fore-ordain specific policies. What should be our best and brightest has some tremendous blind spots as a result.
This article seems somehow related.
Sarah's image as a hunter of wolves and Moose leaves much to be desired when running for President and puts her clearly on the top of the Democrats list of hopefuls. Sarah likes to use gun culture vocabulary which strikes a cord with NRA followers but has a down side which she is currently catching. The question now is will she widen here vocab beyond the Alaska frontier NRA crowd and try to connect with folks that don't want to hunt for their dinner instead a steady job, good house and education for the kids is top of the list.
Obama and most liberals don't understand that the economy must thrive for the citizens to thrive. They don't seem to get the connection between GNP and the amount of tax revenues generated. They just see programs that will provide solutions to problems, and if that program doesn't solve the problem. they will fund another and another and another ad infinitum - cost be damned.
I like to read The Skeptical Optimist, an infrequent poster who sees the growth of the economy as the holy grail that makes everything else possible in this country. One of his posts on growth is here:
I think it provides some ideas that our government would do well to adopt.
My daughter labored 10 years as a therapist for a mental health NGO that provided mental health services to the poor. Her case loads grew every year as did the number of regulations, forms, and demands on her time from bureaucrats in the human services bureaucracies. She loved her work and got a major sense of satisfaction out of helping many young people get their lives in order. But she burned out. She is now in private practice making twice as much money (and could be making more if she didn't need lots of down time to stay sane herself.) She still takes on pro bono cases when she can fit them into her schedule and sees a chance to actually help the person.
I have learned from her that the demand is huge and too much of it is unmet. It makes one's heart ache, but there are so many competing demands for charity and social services. If not here then in Haiti, the Congo, Sudan and on and on. One thing I am sure of: We have a better chance of helping more of the types of individuals AVI describes and my daughter treats if we have a prosperous, growing economy.
The bubble in higher education that Glenn Reynolds has been addressing for the last few years is going to deflate, as you seem to believe. I've been aware of the situation in colleges for many years. I was going to establish a memorial scholarship in our son's name at my alma mater. After some talks with the Geology Department Chair, it became clear to me that the school had about the same number of students as when I had attended 25 years earlier, but the faculty was twice as large. That seemed strange, but what really turned me off was when I saw that fully half the faculty was not involved in teaching. Instead they were in research paid for by the government (mostly environment oriented.) or on year long sabbaticals. My old profs would have called that socialism. So, I found a better place to donate money. That was 30 years ago. The situation has not improved.
The cost of education would not be outstripping inflation if the borrowed money for tuition and books was removed from the equation. The colleges would have to do what businesses do - cut back and improve their product. They might also consider dipping into their endowments to pay some of the expenses.
Hard times are probably assured unless Obama has seen a burning bush with the message of redemption through growth of the economy.
"And so human service bureaucracies, and non-profits supported by government money, become about 50% people not doing anything that actually provides services. They go to meetings a lot."
Here are a few charts that I made this evening which might even be somewhat on topic for a change.
Charting Our Service Economy
"Obama and most liberals don't understand that the economy must thrive for the citizens to thrive."
I hear that.
I guess that makes me a moderate.
I see growing income inequality as a problem. I also know that we can't offer gravy and biscuits to everyone without actually finding a way to pay for it though.
The real tragedy would come if we promise far more than we can deliver (which we probably have), get people hooked on social programs (which we probably have), and then yank them out from underneath them just as they became dependent (which we probably must).
That's my opinion for what it is worth.
Back when he first started announcing his appointments, I was crestfallen to see the type of people he was choosing. They were very much idea vs practice picks, and as you say, selected from a very small social circle.
He has picked people who think like he does, when what he needs are people who come from the much broader world of action. Admittedly, most of the workable ideas out there aren't big and exciting, but over time they should pay off. Not only does Obama not have the experience to understand how to run things, but he doesn't even have the experience to pick people who know how to run things.
His change in advisors may be an attempt to fix that, but I don't think his picks as announced are at all likely to get him there. Many of them are retreads from a few decades ago, and the problems the country faces now have nothing to do with the problems that the country faced then. What was successful then won't be successful now.
Just as Obama picked an academic pediatrician to "fix" Medicare on the basis of the that professor's espousal of rationing, Obama is now trying to broaden his circle by picking people who were advisors who failed to foresee the problems of today.
He is making a fatal policy error, and he doesn't seem to know how to reverse course. He's stuck on professor.
We have done several things to push the costs of college up. First, we subsidize it, which makes it easier for people to choose high-cost options. Second, we have barriers to entry. Schools are accredited by other schools, and anything too innovative will get cut down. Third, we entice students to go away for the experience, rather than commuting to school. This means that they require room and board, and they are enticed by health clubs and ball fields and all the rest. All of these can be used by the academic left to reshape them in the academic left's image (eg. coed dorms, coed mass bathrooms). Fourth, we encourage everyone to go to college, thereby keeping up the demand.
With a greatly increased number of students since the GI Bill, we should have seen a forest of four-year and graduate commuter colleges spring up. And if you live near a big city, you will find some of these as options. But if you live more than a few hours away from a big city center, your options may be limited to 2-year community colleges.
I can't state with certainty that these are decisive forces, but it seems to me a good case.
"anyone could have run GE and done well. Not only could anyone have run GE in the 1990s, [a] dog could have run GE. A German shepherd could have run GE."
Perhaps we will get a few examples of this in his new role...
Jimmy, you wouldn't want to be near academia today, it is much worse. My sister is at Harvard Med and the stories I hear are even worse than you describe. Her job is either writing grant requests or marketing for the department. She wants to teach a little but they won't let her at all!
The amazing thing is how ideology closes one's mind. She knows the dysfunction at Harvard first-hand, she knows that even the bright people there have glaring blind spots, but she supports Obama and his appointments 100% - even though she not only knows the problem with the appointees but she also grew up in the neighborhood where Obama was an "activist" and knows how useless he is. It's some "brush with celebrity" blind spot I guess. Almost cult-like. There's a little bit of a cult around Palin too, but it's rather loose and therefore ignorable.
It is clear that Obama's appointees are all based on the kind of position he is seeking post-presidency. I can see him setting himself up for the U of C or Harvard presidency. This is the main reason I would never vote for anyone under the age of 60 for POTUS.
If we can't turn this ship of state around, IMO, the sinking is going to look a lot like that of Argentina. (A country with ample natural resources, an educated population, but too much socialism/corporate cronyism.) It will be a slow process but one day everyone will wake up and find that the dole has slowed to a trickle and those who depended on it (Far more than any of us realize) are suddenly poor. There are some useful posts on line about how to survive a fiscal crisis such as occurred in Argentina. I won't go into the details exzcept for one item. Bulk gold was almost worthless. It was so valuable that an ounce was too much money to buy daily necessities. Small denomination silver coins and lengths of gold and silver chains were more useful. Also, barter becomes a useful skill.
I can't believe I'm even contemplating such a future, but there is no leader on the horizon that seems capable of getting the government out of the way and unleashing the American economy.
Like the church before it, all its shortcomings are blamed on non-believers. But government, like the church, is a false god. Useful organizations though they may be, they are human inventions that like all other human creations have limited useful lives and limited useful functions.
Nearly everyone who has ever worked for a living understands the drawbacks of working for bloated organizations, why we as a collective continue to vote for increased bloat is something I will never understand.
Up until the last calendar year, I truly believe that almost all government workers thought that they would escape the general fate. Indeed, they bragged about it. They also seem to have evolved a theory that they deserved the safe haven. I derived that from watching a number of battles on DU over the topic.
Well, as many commenters have written in various forms even on this blog, no one escapes the general fate. However it was possible to believe this if you just interacted with others in your circle.
Even now, I think the ugly truth is just beginning to set in.
My guess is that the wrath against people like Palin is just because they are seen as part of that horrifying amorphous hydra-headed "Other" talking tea. If you don't want to deal with reality, you naturally would like the messenger to go away.
It does coincide with an eerie trend that I have personally encountered, in which the higher up on the societal scale people are, the less they seem to understand what is happening.
My personal experience of young people with elite educations is that they seem to have been educated into stupidity. I can sit down and talk three Army grunts and discover that they know more about the world than eight Ivy League grads do. In part, that's because they read more foreign newspapers. On the economy, on international affairs, on business - they seem to have a wider
I can't describe how much this worries me. I don't think it used to be true. We have somehow created an "Oblivious" bubble that surrounds certain institutions, and unfortunately that bubble includes some very large news organizations.
I'm not sure of the precise behavioral phenomenon, but it's something like confirmation bias--we see what we expect to see. I've run into it in multiple technological disciplines, so I'm sure it can happen in sociological settings.
You can show someone a set of data that contradicts the prevailing theories, and he will construct a correct model to explain the data, and then place magical limits on the output of the model, so that it doesn't violate the theory. Anything, rather than accept that the theory can't be right.
But, it is clear the government cannot go as it is gong now. We have an entitlements system in Medicare and Social Security that just cannot continue. The solution does not include adding a new entitlement for health care on top of it. Are our politicians as stupid as they seem to be? Very few want to face up to the problems. Things will not "just all work out".
I do not trust the bank profits because there are a lot of bad loans out there being marked to fantasy and a lot of the profits seem to be coming from a reduction in loan loss reserves. Moreover, the banks are getting revenue because Bernancke is transferring wealth from savers and the owners of capital and giving it to the banks in the form of interest free money to the banks and then he pays interest on that money to the banks when they redeposit it at the Fed. Can I get some of that sugar, too? Last I looked, Schwab is paying .4% on money market funds.
The NYT had an article today on state and local having no oney to fix pot holes and repave roads. Well, what does that mean for CAT and all those other companies enjoying better profits. How long can that go on if the country keeps getting poorer? On the other hand, the good news is some fish in California is getting plenty of water even as agriculture in the central valley withers away, and with it, jobs.
Glenn Reynolds has a series going on that starts off "They would rather talk about Palin than...." and then lists the latest impending disaster or problem. It is all Kabuki theater and none more so that then SOTU tonight. A real President would start of by saying "The state of the union is poor. We are financially insolvent and getting worse. We argue about trivialities think the solution is civility....". The local political cartoonist is now linking Palin and Bachman and taking his shots. The Democrats are attacking Paul Ryan in the hopes of neutralizing his "Roadmap", but offering nothing about impending financial doom except plugging their ears and going "la, la, la.. I can't hear you".
Charles Hugh Smith has had a series of posts about Social Security. His final one was on "triage".
His post for today is addressing exactly what we are talking about here.
There is a point which is past the point of no return, It will be impossible to fix the problems government has created. Until then, I guess, the State of the Union will be "strong".
I've written about SS so often that it seems old hat, but the current guest post is just wonderful. The sound of truth.
Yup, it's all gone. Deal with it, sucker.
The public conversation almost never includes non-government charity as a viable and respectable means of helping those in need. The lefties actively mock those thousand points of light. And they pound on the misperception that those who want less government also want less charity distributed. They’re wrong; it’s not about how much total help we give, but about how that help is generated and distributed.
I’ve been harping on action over advocacy for years. Private charity tends to be action-oriented. Your local church group actually feeds people. The government substitute for charity is driven by advocacy. Your local community organizer just harangues about getting more Social Workers.
The righties do good work, mostly quietly. The lefties talk loudly about hiring people to do good work, but do little themselves.
I take charity as a personal, individual responsibility. From what I’ve seen as a neighborhood activist, once a person is hired into a social service job, they feel that their charitable duty is fulfilled. It isn’t. It’s just your job. Charity is something each must perform as a gift of service, not as paid labor.
I guess it is individualism vs. collectivism. Having the right quota of worker bees is not the goal. Instead, each of us bees must do a little work.
Changing one's mind is a very difficult endeavor. The larger the ego, the harder it is to change one's mind.
Individuals in society are at various stages depending on when the crisis hit them. So the left vs. right thing is individual anger, not institutional.
Government is usually in the denial stage for a long time, it never gets to the anger stage until it involves itself in new wars. The trade wars haven't even begun yet; Europe is still in the denial stage thinking Greece et al will pay back loans. The only country who has gone beyond denial is Iceland. Japan has been in denial for over two decades.
Individuals have wanted to avoid this reality, so the voters have allowed politicians to bamboozle them.
As the article points out, this was never credible and we should take responsibility for it.
That Kubler-Ross article was quite something. I agree with his general thrust, but disagree with his opinion of the severity of the situation.
It's simply incorrect that Americans can't, won't, or don't know how to, make anything anymore. "Makers Faires", steam-ups, "American Choppers", Mythbusters, DIY stores, knitters, canners, and even the author's "Maid d’Orleans" meetings all disprove the point. It would take another two generations to beat the aptitude for innovation out of us. In my opinion, we can quickly turn it around and begin making our own stuff again. Sure, financial jobs and barristas grab the headlines, but there's enough technical know-how to get it done.
There's two big "ifs" though. We can turn it around if the government (and by extension the NIMBY crowd) acts soon to begin reducing penalties on captial investment. And we can turn it around if there are no major discontinuities before we can change direction. If we have to handle a real crisis with the current rules, it's going to be tough.
Links to this post: