How Good Are Democrats at Helping Cities?

Consider the chart below:

 

 City

Has had only Democratic mayors since

Last time a Republican was mayor

Detroit

1962

1962

Washington, D.C.

1961

1883

New Orleans

1936

1872

 

Of course these examples are cherry picked, but they certainly do demonstrate some dangerous myopia.  One could argue that there are plenty of cities historically run by Democrats that have always had stable success, and I would agree.  Colorado and New England, for example, are full of such places.

But that’s not my point.  It’s not enough to show that strong populations can be primarily liberal.  Since the Democratic platform–and definitely the popular appeal it tries to campaign on–is that their policies are good for the poor, the “disenfranchised,” the lower class, isn’t it fair to check that track record?  Shouldn’t places run exclusively by Democrats be able to maintain prior success, or turn around problems those cities have had?  If things have gotten bad–awful–after 50-100 years of solid rule, shouldn’t this say something critical of liberal ideas?

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The Psychology of Politics

Fascinating article in The Chronicle of Higher Education about a renegade psychologist whose work illuminates the hidden mental, social, and moral motives behind our political values.  It’s all enlightening, but some of it goes against the grain.  He’s a self-described moderate, atheist, Obama supporter, but his findings suggest that it’s American liberals who have the most soul-searching…and brain-racking….to do.  Some quotes:

  • “Conservatives believe in equality before the law,” he tells the young activists, who are here in the “canyons of wealth” to talk people power over vegan stew. “They just don’t care about equality of outcome.”
  • A partisan liberal, the University of Virginia professor hoped a better grasp of moral psychology could help Democrats sharpen their knives. But a funny thing happened. Haidt, now a visiting professor at New York University, emerged as a centrist who believes that “conservatives have a more accurate understanding of human nature than do liberals.”
  • “Liberals need to be shaken,” Haidt tells me. They “simply misunderstand conservatives far more than the other way around.”
  • Researchers have found that conservatives tend to be more sensitive to threats and liberals more open to new experiences.
  • Another example Haidt uses to underscore the tribal psychology of political sacredness is the 1960s research of the liberal sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Harvard professor and public-policy expert. In a famous report to President Johnson, Moynihan used the phrase “tangle of pathology” to describe the black family, arguing that some of its problems stemmed from high rates of out-of-wedlock birth, not just from racism. That made Moynihan a pariah; other Harvard professors wouldn’t let their kids play with his. As Haidt tells the story, Moynihan committed “the cardinal sin”: “blaming the victim, where the victim is one of your sacralized victim groups.” He points out that sociologists are now gingerly saying, “He was right.”

What the Left and Right Both Get Right

A pair of recent New York Times features asked political thinkers on both sides of the aisle what the other side gets right.  The columns are each fascinating: I enjoyed the recognition of key conservative principles in “What the Right Gets Right,” and I can easily agree with most of “What the Left Gets Right.”  Highly recommended.

From “What the Right Gets Right:”

It recognizes “the importance of material incentives in shaping behavior, and the difficulty in keeping bureaucracies under control and responsive to citizens.”

It is skeptical of “the application of social science theories to real world problems” and cognizant of “human fallibility/corruptibility.”

It places a high value on “liberty/autonomy.”

It places a similarly high value on “good parenting.”

It acknowledges “the superiority of market systems for encouraging efficient use of resources.”

From “What the Left Gets Right:”

Liberals are sensitive to the unsettling potential of income disparities. They are attentive to the overreaching of the federal government through its national security apparatus. They are less likely to pretend that scientific questions – is the planet getting warmer, for example, and if so, why? – are really ideological questions. They understand that the legacies of two centuries of slavery and another of Jim Crow are still active and still debilitating. And they are more realistic about the limits of American military power than many conservatives.

Reviewed: James Clavell’s Noble House

"The Epic Novel of Modern Hong Kong"

James Clavell’s Noble House is a novel about one week in the life of a Hong Kong business executive in 1963.  And it’s 1370 pages long.

No, wait, don’t stop reading!  That wouldn’t have enticed me, either, but it’s actually one of the most fascinating and exciting things I’ve ever read.  It’s full of espionage, drug gangs, political plots, natural disasters, kidnapping, hostile takeovers, seduction, ancient oaths being called into fulfillment…and, yes, quite a few business negotiations.

A story this large and detailed could be approached from many angles (I’d love to discuss its use of Chinese words and phrases–this book is packed with Chinese culture and treats it with unreserved reverence), but the biggest surprise for me was just how political Noble House is.

I guess I should have expected it.  The book is dedicated “as a tribute to Her Britannic Majesty, Elizabeth II, to the people of Her Crown Colony of Hong Kong—and perdition to their enemies.”  So the author’s perspective is pretty clear from the get go.

Noble House is a cold war novel—communist spies and leftist traitors abound.  Continue reading

The Problem With Throwing Money at Problems

There’s a dangerous floodgate opened when liberals say that throwing money at a problem will solve it.  If liberals say that spending more money on something–like health, education, or the economy–will improve it, then it follows that you should spend as much money on it as possible.

After all, if graduation rates or test scores would go up 10% if a state spends $50 million more on education, then why not spend $100 million and get even better results?  Why not spend a billion dollars—a trillion!—and get a whole nation of guaranteed geniuses? 

If a spending proponent would say that such an exaggeration is silly, I’d ask to see what evidence they have that their claims of money-based progress have noted any limits or diminishing returns.  In the absence of such, if they believe what they say they believe, it would only be reasonable to spend as much as absolutely possible on these priorities. 

This is the same problem liberals run into with things like the minimum wage.  If it’s possible to artificially demand that everybody get paid at least a certain amount so their standard of living will be adequate, why stop at just $5 or $10 dollars an hour?  Isn’t that just arbitrarily putting a ceiling on the quality of life that the working class can enjoy?  Why not make it $100 an hour?  Wouldn’t that automatically make everyone rich? 

The next time someone says that we need to spend X millions of dollars to solve a problem, my reply will be, “Only X?  If X will make it better, then we need to spend at least ten times that much—more, if we can!  Anything less would rob our precious friends of their rights!  Why don’t you care about that?  What’s wrong with your cold, evil heart?”

I’ll Make This Simple: Homer = Democrats

I was amused when I saw a letter in Thursday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal comparing the Republican victories in the election to the episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes sanitation manager.  My response was printed in today’s paper, reproduced below.  As I put it on Facebook, you think you can use The Simpsons to back up your liberal agenda?  Not on my watch, bub.

Letter writer Randall Buie argued against his own opinion on Thursday. He referenced the episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer becomes sanitation engineer and ruins the city.

Mr. Buie failed to mention how Homer won, or how he ruined the city. He won by capitalizing on people’s laziness, promising to provide every creature comfort he could think of. His campaign slogan was, “Can’t someone else do it?”

After the election, he wasted his department’s annual budget in weeks.

So Homer pandered to demands for entitlements and then bankrupted his administration. Mr. Buie, exactly which party did you think Homer represented again?

D’oh, indeed.

Bill Clinton on the Tea Party

In Las Vegas Tuesday, stumping for Harry Reid, former President Bill Clinton said, “You and I know the only reason this is a tough race is because people are having a tough time. When people are mad, it’s time to think.”

Translation: “If you support Sharron Angle, it’s only because you’re a poor, confused, lost little lamb, dizzy in the head because you can’t handle what’s going on. There, there little lamb. It’s OK. Just let the elites keep taking care of you, and everything will be fine. That’s right, go back to sleep like a good little girl.”

Fascism of the Left and Right

I just checked out Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism from the library again–every now and then I’ll pick it up and read whatever chapter or two grab my interest at the time. 

One theme in the introduction is that “fascism” is difficult to define, and a simple, universally recognized definition doesn’t exist.  He puts together a usable understanding, but I noticed something about each of the eras and events he discussed that might lead us to see a clear sign of fascism: it always implies force. 

Although this is not a complete picture of fascism, I think the presence of coercion is a major trait that must be recognized to spot and prevent it.  Fascism, then, is not necessarily a political ideology (although, as in the case of Italy’s Mussolini, especially, it can be) so much as it is a means of promoting an ideology. 

On the left, fascism, seen in this way, classically manifests itself in communist governments: the Soviet Union, Cuba, China, North Korea, etc.  The use of (indeed, reverence for) centralized, collectivized, government control is a key danger of a leftist government run amok. 

The biggest myth about fascism (and Goldberg spends a great deal of time analyzing this one) is that it’s also a feature of an extreme, hard right government.  Actually, the logical warping of conservatism wouldn’t be fascism, it would be anarchy; fascism of the right would be less common, particularly in the west, not because it is inherently more virtuous, but because an emphasis on limited government would naturally have the effect of decreasing the opportunities for and acceptance of fascist tactics.  However, that is not to say that it doesn’t exist.  The best examples of conservative fascism that I can think of are all theocracies: Iran, ancient Egypt, Puritan New England, etc.  The reverence for tradition and order can be so elevated that it becomes primary even over freedom itself. 

So what’s the warning here for America?  Are we in danger of socialist-dictator fascism or theocratic fascism?  I suppose the potential for both exists, though one silver lining of a country so polarized down the middle is that neither half would let the other get that out of control. 

One observation, though, about a hybrid danger we might term “liberal theocratic fascism:” Continue reading

The Brown Herring

I haven’t yet commented on the kerfuffle over Arizona’s illegal alien law because it was so fractious that I wanted to let the dust settle, and I wanted to collect my thoughts before writing.  Sadly, the first isn’t even close to happening yet, so neither is the second.  But especially since so many in my own community–Latter-day Saints–are voicing opposition to this online, I need to contribute.

Almost all of the argument against the Arizona law amounts to one paltry thing: they’re racist!  They’re doing it because they hate Hispanics

Haven’t we lived with political correctness long enough to see it for the desperate, transparent attempt to stifle freedom and restrict discussion that it is?  Individual racists still exist, but are few and far between, and certainly any broad social consensus on a policy issue such as this is based on the honest good intentions of the citizenry, not some sudden massive throwback to the Jim Crow era. 

I’m happy to debate the pros and cons of this law, but people who base their position on the idea that those who disagree–regardless of what they say, no matter what other information they bring to the table–are really doing it because their black evil hearts are just filled with hate, are indulging in the worst possible vices of civic discourse: lying, stereotyping, refusing to listen to others with the benefit of the doubt.  They’re changing the subject, sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting, “La la la!  I can’t hear you and I don’t have to because you’re just a dumb meanie!  La la la!”  No constructive conversation can come from such an intellectual disconnect. 

I encourage anyone who supports Arizona to engage in discussions with those who disagree with us, but to present this understanding to them up front: if you’re going to insult millions of people and boil our principles down to ugly slurs, this conversation is over and I will walk away. 

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Las Vegas: An Example Of Society’s Growing Anti-Semitism

A story appeared in Friday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal about a local high school teacher who has stirred controversy when she questioned the historicity of the Holocaust to her class.  I’m not interested in commenting on that so much as I am on the reader comments that appear after the article (here).  I certainly haven’t read all 300, but I read through enough of them to see a disturbing trend–a lot of them were viciously, violently anti-Semitic. 

Now, I’ve seen plenty of trolls online before, but they’re usually just tossing out quick insults to anger people for fun; the bigots writing on this forum were often writing long, detailed, even eloquent speeches against Jewish people.  In short, these are real racists.  I can’t put into words how shocked I am. 

I also don’t care to dignify their assertions about the Holocaust or Jews in general by analyzing them here, but I have to wonder where all of this comes from.  What in the world could any Jewish people have possibly done to create this degree of rancor from so many strangers?  Nothing, of course.  It doesn’t make any kind of sense.  Such is the inherently ignorant nature of prejudice, I suppose. 

Having read the posts that I did on that article, I can only think of two explanations: that many in our postmodern world are upset by a people whose very existence testifies of a solid, traditional religious heritage, and that a lot of people have been successfully convinced by multicultural media propaganda that Israel is evil (by overwhelming us with the message that “Palestinians” are underdog victims, mainly).  If I’m right about the racists’ motives, the commonality between them is likewise shocking: these are the motives of progressive leftists. 

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The Left Needs To Make Up Its Mind About Conservative Leadership

Once again, the political and cultural left in this country has been haranguing us with two contradictory mantras this year:

On one hand, conservatives have no official, strong, unifying leadership.

On the other, the massive protests by conservatives are the work of carefully orchestrated planning by scary conservative leaders.

You can’t have it both ways, media!  Either American conservatives have nobody in power representing them effectively, or they not only do have leaders, but leaders who are masterminding an impressive series of unified protests. 

Make up your mind and get back to us.

An Open Letter To Senator John McCain

Dear Senator McCain:

First of all, thank you for your long service to your country.  Your heroism in war and your career as a leader distinguish you in the hearts of your fellow citizens. 

However, none of those things guarantee that anything done in the present will automatically be the right choice.  Surely you must be aware that many, if not most, American conservatives have strong reservations about much of your political record, especially some of your most recent legislation and the manner in which you campaigned for president last year.

Your failed presidential campaign resulted in the election of Barack Obama, who in just over half a year has drastically altered the shape and scope of our government, by already spending more than every other president combined, by nominating a host of radicals to positions without real accountability, and by seizing the reigns of such fundamental areas of private life as commerce and health care. 

Despite such scary changes, you have continued in “town hall” appearances over the summer to compliment and even cheer this president, just as you often did–to the consternation of your party’s base–during last year’s campaign.  That irresponsibly inappropriate friendliness was just one of many, many things so critically wrong with your campaign that it was a foregone conclusion long before November that you would lose.  And yet you continued on in this manner, ignoring the chorus of voices urging you to fight, to represent the desperate cries for help you heard along the campaign trail.

In short, your stubborn cluelessness as a presidential candidate enabled Barack Obama to win. 

That’s why, Senator McCain, I am asking you to apologize to the American people for running for president.

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Stephen King Was Wrong About Nuclear Power

When I was a kid, I read a lot of Stephen King.  One of my favorite sections of his novels was the ten page scene in The Tommyknockers where the dashing, rebellious writer confronts an obnoxious old energy executive with the shocking “truth” about the dangers of nuclear power.  I remember reading that for the first time and just tearing through it, amazed at the strength of the facts on the side of King’s hippie hero.  Surely, I thought, it must be clear to anyone with a brain that nuclear power is bad. 

Of course, I was a kid.  I was easily impressed by messages where emotional young rebels strike out at conservative caricatures.  Actually, that’s why I don’t read much King anymore: I got tired of the constant bashing of conservatives.  Seriously, where would King stories be without insane religious fundamentalists to be the bad guys in almost every book

Anyway, for some reason I thought of that scene recently, and I wondered how it held up with twenty years of hindsight (The Tommyknockers was published in 1987).  I looked it up (I have the original mass market paperback edition, which I think still has the same page numbering as the current editions), and was surprised by how vapid the argument was that I was so impressed by as a teen.  Here are the major points King makes in his screed:

  1. “When you examine the cancer-death stats for the areas surrounding every nuclear power facility in the country, you find anomalies, deaths that are way out of line with the norm.”  (page 101, repeated on 104)
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Defending Ayn Rand

atlasPoor Ayn Rand.  She’s taken her licks lately in the Bloggernacle, getting excoriated at By Common Consent.  Some have stepped up to defend her honor, conservative gentlemen they are, but there are still some important points to be made that I don’t think anybody has explained yet. 

Rand is criticized for three main things: that her philosophy promotes greed and selfishness, that she was militantly anti-religion, and that her writing is poor.  I’ll address each:

1.  On the title page of my personal copy of Atlas Shrugged, I copied this famous quote from Book IV, chapter 2 of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations:

Every individual…generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it…he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention….By pursuing his own interest, he frequently promotes that of the society more efficiently than when he really intends to promote it. 

Meaning, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism may seem selfish and greedy…but it results in a better world for all, a world more just, more prosperous, and more fair than any other system.  Continue reading

Conservative African Praised In NYT?

Thanks to Arts and Letters Daily, I just read this fascinating interviewwith a young African woman named Dambisa Moyo, who’s publishing a scathing new book indicting the liberal elitist “benefactor” mentality that drives the Anglo world’s policy towards Africa.  She makes several quick but devastatingly sharp insights about the free market system and our narcissistic nannying of Africa.  And the New York Times ran this? 

Forty years ago, China was poorer than many African countries. Yes, they have money today, but where did that money come from? They built that, they worked very hard to create a situation where they are not dependent on aid.

 

Care to comment on America’s stimulus package, Ms. Moyo?

 

Read the interview here.