Yesterday, I kind of became a drag about the tough spot our financial system is in, and how close it is to collapse. We could fix it, of course…but we probably wont.
The thing is, I’m increasingly getting the feeling that it’s not just our economy that’s teetering, it’s our very civilization. I’m reminded of this by today’s events in Egypt, where an Islamist mob stormed the US Embassy in Cairo, tore down the American flag, and raised an al-Qaida-associated flag, while yelling, "We are all Osama." Apparently, there’s a film of sort—that I’ve never heard of—being produced by some Coptic Christians here in the US that’s insufficiently servile in its treatment of Mohammed. The Egyptian Islamists who attacked the embassy today were upset about it.
The response of the the US Embassy in Cairo was to go on Twitter to assure everyone that they condemned those who "abuse the universal human right of free speech", presumably a reference to the filmmakers—if they actually exist outside the fevered minds of the Islamists who apparently have a better inside scoop on the American film industry than I do. Thus began as embarrassing a failure of public diplomacy as I’ve every seen in my lifetime. (Some background here and here.)
The response of the US Embassy to this assault was to condemn the "abuse" of free speech. Just think about that for a minute.
Civilization is a lot like the skin of an apple. It can be brilliantly colored, flawlessly smooth, and brightly polished. But it’s very, very thin. It’s fragile. So, it has to be protected.
Barbarism, on the other hand hand, is tough. It doesn’t have to be nurtured. It is, in fact, the natural state of man. It grows spontaneously, and so, like weeds in a beautiful lawn, it must be ruthlessly stamped out. And the only thing that’s ever been effective in stamping it out is a robust and vigilant civilization; one that is not afraid to do the dirty work of crushing the barbarians mercilessly.
When the British Empire decided to end the African slave trade, they did not bring the issue up at a transnational diplomatic council, and request a commission of enquiry and hope that a Security Council resolution would support them—and not run into a Russian or Chinese veto. No, they simply sent the Royal navy to patrol the coast of West Africa, boarded and searched slave vessels, and hung their crews. I’m also reminded of General Sir Charles Napier in India, who, when told by the Indians that the custom of suttee, where the surviving wife was burned with her dead husband, had to be honored replied,
Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.
When it comes to barbarians, we’re not big on gibbets these days. No, our Embassy condemns an exercise of freedom that upsets the poor dears.
Since the 1960s, we in the West have more or less had a hands-off attitude towards the world’s barbarians. Huge swathes of Africa have descended into nightmare lands of atrocity at the hands of child soldiers. The entire Middle East has devolved from colonialism, to secular socialist and military dictatorship, and now into 12th-century Islamism.
A full 1/3 of the world have become modern day Goths. And not the good kind, with extravagant vampire makeup, listening to sad Cure songs on their iPods, but the bad kind with the light of fanaticism in their eyes, and knives always keen for a beheading of their enemies.
We think it’s because we haven’t tried hard enough to understand their unique cultural point of view. And woe to any president who tries to do otherwise, because he’s in for a constant parade of criticism and demonstrations against "blood for oil" or some other nonsense.
And, of course, even then, such a president feels obligated to follow the "you broke it, you bought it rule" and embark on a decade-long project to rebuild the enemy’s country and create a stable, functioning democracy in Kaplokistan.
Because a simple punitive expedition would just be…wrong.
Our civilization, by which I mean modern, technological civilization, is more fragile than we can even understand. Our entire way of life is predicated on the constant, uninterrupted flow of electricity, and the sophisticated electronic devices that store our records, run our stoplights, enable us to communicate, and even fix our cars.
There is an entire substrate of technology beneath the surface of what we see, but it is no less important for being almost completely hidden. But think about just two things: You bring up Amazon in your web browser right now, find an item you like, buy it with a simple button click, and a nice man will deliver to your door tomorrow. You can go to a supermarket in January and buy fresh strawberries from Chile.
Imagine the technological complexity that has to exist for either of those two things to happen. We are truly living in a Golden Age.
And yet, we are, at all times, less than 20 years from its complete collapse. Why?
Because each generation of children is a vertical invasion of barbarians. They will only know about our civilization, how to run it, and how to defend it, if we invest 12 or 16 years in training them to do so. Indoctrinating them in the benefits of civilization.
And have no doubt that it is a necessary indoctrination, because for young men especially, it will always be more fun to run around in the hills with rifles and shoot people you don’t like than it will to get up every morning at 6am, and fight traffic to get get to a relatively boring job that you really don’t want to do.
But, in my lifetime, we’ve done a progressively worse job at conducting that indoctrination.
From the beginning of public education until sometime in the late 1970s, the mission of the public schools was to raise children who were properly educated and civilized, especially children whose culture at home was sub-standard. Somehow, in the last 40 years, that has completely reversed itself. Now the education establishment says that a poor culture at home makes the schools powerless to teach. So, increasingly, they don’t.
Schools used to have as one of their primary missions the assimilation and Americanization of immigrant children. Now, of course, no culture is superior to any other, and as far as assimilation goes…well, it’s just easier to teach the immigrant kids in, say, Spanish, rather than force them into English immersion. And why should we teach the culture bequeathed to us from a bunch of dead slave-owners anyway? They were just hypocrites whose high-sounding phrases about freedom and equality just glossed over a squalid reality of racism and sexism.
So, about half of high school graduates now can’t even read at an adult level. Fully a quarter are functionally illiterate.
But, somehow, 20 years from now, when they’re running things, they’ll still be able to get a new thumb drive to your door within 24 hours after you click "Buy Now With 1-Click" button on Amazon.
Right. Good luck with that.
We seem to have forgotten that, just because we’re the richest country on earth, that is not an ordained end. It won’t remain so unless we continue to do the things that made us such a wealthy civilization in the first place. There’s no magical goose that lays golden eggs. It’s the result of hard work, saving, investment, innovation, and a culture that celebrates individual liberty and rewards individual success.
But we’re turning—if we haven’t already—into a culture that thinks wealth is the by-product of some sort of chance or luck, and that the reward of success should be to share it with everyone else. Nearly half of the country hears about those who "profited unfairly in the 80s" as Bill Clinton once put it, and thinks, "they need to share the wealth." A significant number of people in this country today hear "You didn’t build that", and thinks, "Yes. That’s right. You owe society for giving you the means to be successful."
We’ve lost the meaning of what free markets mean. We’ve replaced it by a cronyism so deep that, no matter if the Republicans or Democrats win the presidency, there’ll be representatives of Goldman-Sachs running the Treasury Department. We’ve imposed so many layers of regulation that small business is constantly squeezed, while large corporations can cover the costs. We’re creating a corporatist, cronyist economic system that’s increasingly impoverishing the middle class bit by bit.
As a libertarian, I distrust all groupings of power, whether the group is the government, or large corporations, yet I’ve watched as both Democratic and Republican administrations have made both government and corporations—and unions—more powerful, and individuals less so. And, as far as I can tell, half the population is perfectly happy with that—as long as their party is in charge of the cronyism, of course.
In 1972, the mildly Leftist George McGovern was beaten like an egg-sucking dog by Dick Nixon, but today, the much more leftist Barack Obama may actually be re-elected. Which, I suppose, would really worry me about the future, if it wasn’t for the fact that we’re due for the Mayan Apocalypse on December 21st, anyway.
So, I guess it doesn’t matter.
If you were a betting man, what odds would you give for the future of a civilization that won’t kill the barbarians in the hinterlands, or civilize the barbarians they breed internally? What odds would you give for a civilization that doesn’t even seem to know—or want to know—that it’s teetering on the abyss of an existential crisis?
Tom Kratman, in his book H-Hour: Countdown, wrote, “’Should’ and ‘ought’ are mere meaningless fantasies. ‘Is’ and ‘real’ and ‘works’ are what matter." Sadly, we’ve increasingly become a society of "should" and "ought". A robust civilization would call that "decadence".
The barbarians call it "an opportunity".
Decadent civilizations don’t collapse overnight, usually. It took more than a century for Rome to fall. But it was an increasingly hard century, and when Rome fell, after the Vandals danced through the streets of the sacked city, it was followed by hundreds of years of barbarism. Much of the technical and engineering knowledge that Rome brought to the world disappeared, and had to be relearned over a millennium.
But Rome didn’t face the utter collapse of their monetary and financial system overnight. I fear that the fall of our civilization could be much faster, and, therefore, much more traumatic. Happily, I don’t expect the following centuries of barbarism to be more brutal than that which followed the fall of Rome.
But, of course, that’s only because it really couldn’t be.
It is America – not 100 different little ethnic and racial groups, all of which must be catered too. And this is another branch of the “fairness” argument that is just as bankrupt as the rest:
Verenice Gutierrez picks up on the subtle language of racism every day.
Take the peanut butter sandwich, a seemingly innocent example a teacher used in a lesson last school year.
“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” says Gutierrez, principal at Harvey Scott K-8 School, a diverse school of 500 students in Northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood.
“Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”
Guitierrez, along with all of Portland Public Schools’ principals, will start the new school year off this week by drilling in on the language of “Courageous Conversations,” the district-wide equity training being implemented in every building in phases during the past few years.
Through intensive staff trainings, frequent staff meetings, classroom observations and other initiatives, the premise is that if educators can understand their own “white privilege,” then they can change their teaching practices to boost minority students’ performance.
Last Wednesday, the first day of the school year for staff, for example, the first item of business for teachers at Scott School was to have a Courageous Conversation — to examine a news article and discuss the “white privilege” it conveys.
PB&J is about unthinking “white privilege”? Really? And because some Somali kid or Hispanic student, who chose to come here, may have never had one, others should think of what they’re eating in racial terms?
And then, let’s make them as separate from the rest of us as we can by highlighting the fact that they may never have seen such a thing (when in fact, if they’ve been going to school for more than a day, they’ve likely had PB&J in the school lunch room).
If America is a melting pot, not a salad bowl, then why should there be any problem discussing something that is fairly basic to American culture? Did the Somali kid come here to be a Somali or an American?
And what has a PB&J sandwich to do with “white privilege”? Do American’s of Hispanic decent not eat them? African-Amerians? Asian-Americans? Of course they do.
What has it to do with just “whites?”
This is the sort of nonsense that divides people into little insular groups that identify with their ethnicity or race before they identify more broadly as Americans. It is precisely the opposite of the idea of cultural assimilation that has made this country one of the strongest and most diverse in the world. It is a step backward, in fact multiple steps backwards.
People like Guitierrez should be ignored. They are the ones who continue to make race and ethnicity, i.e. “multiculturalism”, into the culturally divisive mess it has become. Here’s a fact that folks like Guitierrez won’t like: All cultures aren’t equal. And if one chooses to come here, then it is the American culture that they should learn. Not become some outpost of a culture they willingly fled.
America isn’t about how you did it in the old country. In fact, if it is anything it is about not doing it how you did it in the old country. We had a whole revolution based on that. You may have heard of it.
You’re not in the old country anymore. It is about this new country. And the way you learn about a new country is through cultural immersion. And that includes PB&J sandwiches without explanation or guilt.
The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:
June’s new home sales annual rate of 350,000 is 20,000 below expectations; however, May was revised upwards 13,000 to 382,000, the highest rate in two years. April was also revised up 15,000 to 358,000.
MBA Purchase Applications rose 0.9%, with purchase applications falling -3.0%, but refinancing applications rising 2.0%. Mortgage rates were unchanged, with conforming mortgages going at 3.74%.
It’s no secret that my optimism well has about run dry. Signs like this don’t make the level rise any. Read the whole thing. Go on. I’ll wait.
You see here’s the thing: I’ve been writing about how close we are to and economic and currency meltdown, but not a lot about societal meltdown. But troubling signs are there, too. There’s a fundamental and growing lack of respect for the government. Not because we’re bad people, but because we recognize the growing divergence between what the government does and what common sense tells us.
So, as the linked article points out, we engage in an endless list of violations. It’s estimated that in perhaps in the course of a day, and almost certainly in the course of a week, all of us commit some act that, statutorily, makes us criminals. The range of government powers, and the scope of activities they cover, make it almost possible to obey the law in it’s entirety. We know this, and we know, just as surely, that there is something wrong about it at a very basic level. And we respond to that knowledge.
It’s not civil disobedience that I’m talking about. It’s the opposite: Civil disobedience is meant to be noticed. It is a price paid in the hope of creating social change. What I’m talking about is not based on hope; in fact, it has given up much hope on social change. It thinks the government is a colossal amoeba twitching mindlessly in response to tiny pinpricks of pain from an endless army of micro-brained interest groups. The point is not to teach the amoeba nor to guide it, but simply to stay away from the lethal stupidity of its pseudopods.
The amoeba does not get smarter but it does get hungrier and bigger. On the other hand, we get smarter. More and more of our life takes place outside of the amoeba’s reach: in the privacy of our own homes, or in capital accounts in other nations, or in the fastest growing amoeba avoidance zone ever created, cyberspace. We revolt decision by decision, transaction by transaction, because we believe deep down that most of what government tells us to do is at bottom illegitimate.
In other words, in a thousand small ways, an increasing number of us are learning the power of "no". We just haven’t started acting on it seriously yet. And, of course, it’s not all of us. There are still a fair number of people whose faith in the government to be everyone’s mommy and daddy would be touching, if it weren’t so frightening. But a lot of people are waking up to the fact that the government, in matter both large and small, is increasingly incompetent.
Now we might never act on the increasing size and scope of government, if we felt we were getting some value out of it. If it could keep the trains running on time, we might think we’d gotten a fair trade-off, or, at least, enough of us would that society would keep humming along in a fairly stable trajectory. Sadly, it’s increasingly obvious that ever-larger government not only can’t keep the trains running on time, it actively prevents them from doing so.
Nowhere is this more clear than in the economy, and the government’s response to an increasingly irrational monetary and fiscal policy.
After World War II, the debt:GDP ratio stood at 128%, approximately 24% higher than it is now. How did we reduce that debt? First, the entirety of wartime regulation was eliminated practically overnight. Rationing, wage and price controls, industrial production controls, confiscatory business and personal taxes…all gone. And, in the three years after the war, government spending was cut by half.
That would be impossible today, of course. Social Security and Medicare alone make up more than half of government spending. Unless we gut entitlements—along with everything else—we will never have a balanced budget again. This is especially true when you consider that, though debt service is just under 6% of the Federal Budget today, that’s only true because we have artificially low interest rates. If interest rates return to the 1996 levels, then over 20% of the budget will have go to debt service payments alone…a percentage that will steadily increase as the amount of debt increases. That means 80%+ of the federal budget will be Social Security, Medicare, and interest payments on the debt.
Today, the Treasury announced that the June fiscal deficit was $904 Billion for the year so far. So, we’re going to have another $1 trillion deficit this year. Just like last year. Just like next year. And as far as the eye can see.
It doesn’t take any advanced math to see what’s going to happen. We’re going to default on our debt. Or, considering that, according to today’s announcement of the money supply, by next week, there’ll be $10 Trillion in M2 floating around out there, we’ll simply monetize it through inflation, which amounts to the same thing. But we’re clearly not going to restrain spending, which means we are years, if not months, from an economic and monetary collapse.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone when it comes. Anyone who can do simple math has the capability to see it coming. Anyone with common sense can see what we have to do to avoid it. Everyone knows that maintaining a reasonable fiscal policy and sound currency are two of the government’s primary domestic responsibilities, and everyone know that they simply aren’t doing it, and, worse, seem incapable of ever doing it again.
The excuses for not cutting government are innumerable. We can’t eliminate the Department of Education, or our children will become stumbling morons. We can’t cut Social Security, or seniors will be eating Alpo. We can’t cut the Department of the Environment, or we’ll die choking in the stinking gasses of industrial effluvia. We can’t cut Defense, or foreigners will walk openly on the streets of Washington. We can’t cut the DEA, or we’ll all be jumping out of windows from some sort of of acid-fueled illusion that we can fly over the pretty colors we smell. We can’t, in short, cut anything, because every penny of it is vital and necessary, and without it, we’ll be reduced to just a lucky few who flee from the zombie hordes inhabiting the stark, post-apocalyptic landscape brought on by smaller government. Assuming, of course, that anyone can "flee" with the acute diabetes they’ve acquired by lugging along an extra couple of hundred pounds they’ve gained from unrestricted access to 64-ounce Big Gulps.
So, not only are we gonna ride this puppy down in flames, anyone with any sense already knows that we’re gonna do it, if we stay on the current path.
The thing is: it’s no longer just some whacko fringe or criminal class who are turning into everyday scofflaws, it’s the middle class. The very people we depend upon for stability in society are the people who are now realizing that "society" is increasingly turning into a confidence game played to promote the interests of the politically powerful and their clients at the expense of the middle class. The people who aren’t rich enough to insulate themselves from the vagaries of fortune, but who are rich enough to have something to lose are supposed to be the stolid citizens, the defenders of the status quo. Increasingly, they aren’t.
So, the interesting question then becomes, what response will we see to the sort of entirely foreseeable and preventable collapse that is coming from a middle class that increasingly knows the government is a huge pile of fail? And how will they respond to the bleats of the not inconsiderable portion of their fellow citizens who will blame it not on government, but on "rootless cosmopolitans", "the 1%", "banksters", et al., and demand an even more powerful government to "fix" the problem?
Here’s another interesting question. Social Security and Medicare are about the only benefits the middle class has left. It’s almost the last thing they can expect to get back from all the money they’ve poured into the system their whole lives. How will they respond when you tell them that we can’t afford those entitlements anymore, and the only way to fix the fiscal disaster we’re facing is to take away the only skin they’ve got left in the game? What do they do when the advantages they receive from government are outweighed by the burden government puts on them?
Those are questions that really bear thinking on. Because if you lose the middle class, then their response to a crisis may not be to repair and reform the existing edifice in an attempt to return to status quo ante. Instead, it may be to simply burn the whole thing down, and start rebuilding something else from scratch. After all, when you’ve got nothing left to lose…what’ve you got to lose? What happens if the middle class are turned into revolutionaries?
Somebody may want to start figuring that out.
How little interest has the media show in the actual facts of Barack Obama’s history?
The simple answer is “very little”. For instance I expect a minute and basically negative examination of the Mormon religion when Mitt Romney is officially nominated. That’s already being set up by numerous of those type articles already beginning to surface.
But Obama’s 20 years in a church with a reverend who basically preached anti-Americanism and black liberation theology? Meh.
A great example of what I’m talking about is covered by Jonathan Tobin in Commentary’s “Contentions” blog. It is about the story oft repeated by Obama. It is his version of his mother death of cancer because those nasty old insurance companies wouldn’t pay.
It’s a lie. Again, I use the word “lie” much less frequently than do many in the press or around the blogosphere. A lie is a knowing falsehood. I try to restrict my usage to that tight definition. As it turns out, the story Obama has told repeatedly as the truth about his mother’s death is, in fact, a lie. Oh, and the mainstream media knows it.
Proof? Well, they said so.
Never let it be said the New York Times is afraid to tackle an unflattering story about President Obama, even if it’s often a delayed reaction. The paper’s political blog The Caucus deigned to notice today that the new biography of the president by David Maraniss uncovered the fact that much of Dreams From My Father, the highly praised Barack Obama autobiography, is either fabricated or exaggerated. The Times’s Michael Shear opines that having its author now sitting in the White House has brought Dreams more scrutiny than its author could have envisioned when he wrote it in 1995. But the problem with contemporary analyses of the questionable personal history in the book is not so much the peril associated with being a famous political author but whether the book provides proof of a pattern of falsehoods and distortions about his past that has been one of the hallmarks of the president’s public career.
The answer to that question is contained near the bottom of the piece in which Shear lets drop that proof of such a pattern was already provided by his own newspaper last year. Though the Times buried the story when it broke and then never followed up or editorialized on the scandal, it was their own reporter Janny Scott whose research on the life of the president’s mother Ann Dunham revealed that the oft-told story of her dying because of the failure of her health insurance company to pay for her cancer treatment was a flat out lie. But while Shear is right that this year’s election will not turn on how Maraniss’s book is received, the unwillingness of the Times and other mainstream publications to call out Obama for writing fiction and calling it autobiography gives us a good indication of how much of an advantage having a quiescent media is for an incumbent president. [emphasis mine]
You know the standard line here: imagine them discovering something like this about someone on the right. Do you suppose it would not be followed up or be editorialized? Do you suppose they’d skip pointing out it seems to indicate a pattern?
As to that pattern and the specifics of his mother’s death:
The fables Obama seems to have told about his alienation, his girlfriends and the rest of his over-intellectualized voyage of self-discovery actually pale in comparison to the whopper he told when running for election in 2008 that his mother died because she had been denied coverage and treatment of her disease. Scott revealed that in fact the expenses relating to her cancer had been paid by her insurance. Though she had a separate and totally unrelated dispute relating to disability coverage, Scott’s research proved that Obama’s statement during the 2008 presidential debate was fiction:
“For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.”
It bears repeating that the president knew this account was false because he served as his mother’s attorney in all her dealings with the insurance company. [emphasis mine]
And where did the Times run this revelation? What was the White House reaction?
When the Times ran that story (on page 14 rather than on the front page), the White House chose not to deny the truth of Scott’s reporting. But that didn’t stop the Obama campaign from refloating the same falsehoods about Ms. Dunham having perished for lack of insurance coverage in an autobiographical campaign film narrated by Tom Hanks.
So the Times discovered what would be a bombshell revelation were it anyone else, they plop it out on page 14, the White House denies it and that ends it?
Now that’s journalism isn’t it? Duty fulfilled, even halfheartedly, and now safe to ignore. Meanwhile the lie lives on and no one even bothers to address the fact that’s what it is. It is pure political propaganda designed to demonize an industry in order to gain popular consent to all but wreck it and have government take its place.
Yet, it’s only worth page 14 in the “paper of record” and zero followup.
Not only has the president never apologized for lying to the American people about his mother’s plight, he rightly assumed that even though the truth was uncovered by the New York Times, neither that paper nor the rest of the mainstream media would follow up on it as they undoubtedly would had a Republican ever tried to sell the voters such a transparent whopper.
There’s the bottom line.
Another example of how poorly a biased media is serving the public. Yet they wonder why the public’s confidence in them continues to drop and newspapers all over the country are dying.
We have it so bad here. Income inequality, unfairness, the rich, the 1%. Occupy whatever, etc.
Reality again intrudes (from the Economist) to kick that meme right where it deserves to be kicked:
[T]he OECD … has created the "Better-Life" index. Now in its second year, the index uses 24 variables (which include both hard data and survey data) across 11 sectors to create a measure of welfare for 34 of its member countries, plus Brazil and Russia.
The Economist has grouped these 11 sectors into four broader categories. America excels most in money and jobs, Switzerland in health and education. This year the OECD has adjusted the index for equality to give an estimate for the top and bottom 20% of each country’s population. America scores particularly poorly on this account, with the bottom 20% having an index score some 25% below that of the top 20%.
And a handy chart to go with it:
Yup, life sucks in the US. We need more fairness. We’re just not keeping up. We’re the worst.
Well, except for all the others (save Australia).
I wonder about the validity of these sorts of numbers:
While rising 14 points since February, Romney still trails the president, who currently has a 56% favorable rating, with 42% saying they hold an unfavorable opinion of Obama. The president’s favorable and unfavorable ratings are unchanged from CNN polls in March and April.
“The biggest gap between Obama and Romney’s favorable ratings is among younger Americans. More than two-thirds of those under 30 have a favorable view of Obama, compared to only four-in-ten who feel that way about Romney. Romney is much stronger among senior citizens, but the gap is not nearly as big," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Romney may have a small advantage among independent voters, but that is offset by his lower favorable rating among Republicans than Obama has among Democrats."
A couple of things – how strong, really, is Obama’s favorable ratings among a demographic scared to death of being called a racist if they happen to have an unfavorable view of our first black president? That’s a legitimate question.
Old folks, for the most part, don’t give a damn about that and may more closely mirror the real feelings out in fly over land.
The reason I say that is Obama’s “favorable ratings” have continued to stay high while his job performance numbers have continued to fall. That seems somewhat unlikely. Usually the two show some movement in the same direction even if one is higher than the other.
Romney is going to grow on Republicans if he continues to attack (i.e. not be the designated place holder for the GOP and refuse to do what is necessary to win as did John McCain), keep the campaign focused on the real issues of the campaign (and Obama’s record) and not fall for the distractions that are sure to be tossed out to the media every week by the Obama campaign. Republicans are eager for someone, anyone, who will carry the political battle to the Democrats.
John Hayward talks about the Glenn Reynolds “preference cascade”, a phenomenon Reynolds notes while talking about the collapse of totalitarian regimes. Hayward describes it here:
A large population can be dominated by a small group only by persuading all dissenters that they stand alone. Most of their fellow citizens are portrayed as loyal to the regime, and everyone around the dissident is a potential informer. A huge dissident population can therefore be suppressed, by making them believe they’re all lonely voices in the wilderness… until the day they begin realizing they are not alone, and most people don’t support the regime. The process by which dissent becomes seen as commonplace, and eventually overwhelming, is the preference cascade.
This analysis doesn’t have to be confined to the study of repressive, dictatorial regimes, or even politics. Consider the phenomenon of celebrity without merit – that is, people who are famous for being famous. Their popularity tends to evaporate in a preference cascade eventually, as people in the audience begin wondering if anyone else is tired of hearing about the ersatz “celebrity,” and soon discover that everyone is.
He then applies it to the politics of this race:
That’s what began happening over the past couple of weeks: a large number of people discovered it’s okay to strongly disapprove of Barack Obama. His popularity has always been buttressed by the conviction – very aggressively pushed by his supporters – disapproval of his personal or official conduct is immoral. You’re presumptively “racist” if you disagree with him
That’s what began happening over the past couple of weeks: a large number of people discovered it’s okay to strongly disapprove of Barack Obama. His popularity has always been buttressed by the conviction – very aggressively pushed by his supporters – that disapproval of his personal or official conduct is immoral. You’re presumptively “racist” if you disagree with him, or at least a greedy tool of the Evil Rich, or a “Tea Party extremist.”
A negative mirror image of this narrative was installed around Mitt Romney, who is supposedly a fat-cat extremist (and, thanks to the insidious War On Mormons, a religious nut) who nobody likes… even though large numbers of people in many different states voted for him in the primaries. Of course he has his critics, and I’m not seeking to dismiss the intensity or sincerity of that criticism… but the idea was to make Romney supporters feel isolated going into the general election, particularly the people who don’t really get involved in primary elections.
Both of those convergent narratives began crumbling this week: Obama is deeply vulnerable, and his campaign has no real answer to criticism of his record – they’ve even tried floating an outright fraud, the now-infamous Rex Nutting charts that presented Obama as some kind of fiscal hawk. (Stop laughing – major media figures took this garbage seriously for a couple of days, and Team Obama did push it.) Major Democrats, beginning with Newark mayor Cory Booker, expressed criticism of the Obama campaign… and the Left reacted with shrieking hysteria and vows of personal destruction for the “traitors.”
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney effectively presented both substantive criticism of Obama, and a positive agenda. Attacks on his business record that were supposed to destroy him through class-warfare tactics failed to draw blood. The idea that he can win became widely accepted. That doesn’t mean he won the 2012 argument… but unlike Barack Obama, he is offering one.
What is beginning to lose its effectiveness, it’s cache, is, as Hayward notes, " … disapproval of his personal or official conduct is immoral. You’re presumptively “racist” if you disagree with him …”.
But when polled, especially among younger voters, that presumption is still powerful enough I would guess, to see those voters lie to pollsters. It is a sort of social conditioning that has taught them to avoid such a label even at the cost of a lie (and even when speaking to a pollster).
So, and it is merely a guess, but based on a life long study of human nature, there is a distinct possibility that the “Tom Bradley” effect may be pumping up Obama’s popularity numbers.
And, as Hayward points out, as it becomes less and less effective or acceptable to accuse those who do not like Obama of being racists, the possibility of a preference cascade negative to Obama’s favorability is a distinct possibility.
No one who has watched the beginnings of this race can, with any credibility, claim the Obama campaign isn’t struggling. Donors are deserting him, his record is an albatross around his neck, there is strife between his administration and campaign and many of his political supporters seem luke warm at best with any number of Democrats running for reelection in Congress content not to be seen with the man. Too many indicators that point to the probability that the numbers CNN are pushing aren’t quite as solid as they may seem.
Hayward concludes with an important update:
I should add that the most powerful cascades occur when an artificially imposed sense of isolation crumbles. That’s very definitely what is happening here. Widespread popular discontent with the Obama presidency has been suppressed by making the unhappy campers feel marginalized. The failure of that strategy is akin to watching a dam burst under high pressure.
The race, once it gets into high gear, is what will cause the “dam burst” as more and more Americans discover they’re not alone in their feelings about the President and that they are not at all on the margins, but very mainstream.
Once that happens (and it will), when everyone finally realizes they’re not the only one who has noticed the emperor has no clothes, the chances of a one-term Obama presidency increase exponentially.
It is a good question. My guess, given the way I’ve watched the subject treated over the years, those who try would be labeled racists. The reason? Watch the video:
The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:
Personal income rose 0.4% in March, while personal spending rose 0.3%. The PCE Price index, an inflation measure, rose 0.2%. One a year over year basis, personal income rose 3.2%, personal spending rose 4.0%, and the PCE Price index rose 2.1%.
The Dallas Fed Mfg Survey shows slowing growth, with the business activity index falling to -3.4, while the production index fell to 5.6.
The Chicago PMI shows growing business activity in the Chicago Area, with the Business Barometer Index at 65.2. This report is widely seen as a precursor to the national PMI due out tomorrow, but there is often substantial divergence between the Chicago and nationwide reports.
The owner of “Hands On Originals,” a well-known t-shirt company in the region, declined to print the shirts for the city’s Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) because it would conflict with their Christian convictions.
The privately owned company is now accused of violating Lexington’s Fairness Act – which protects people and organizations from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
An attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund who is representing the T-shirt company says:
“No business owner should be forced to violate his conscience simply because someone demands it,” he said. “The Constitution absolutely supports the rights of business owners to decline a request to support a message that conflicts with their deeply held convictions.”
But the city says:
“Hands On Originals” will be “required by law to participate in the investigation.”
“We have subpoena power and have the backing of the law,” he said. “We are a law enforcement agency and people have to comply.”
Should the company be found guilty of discriminating against the homosexuals Sexton said they could be subjected to fines.
Yes, friends, a city has a “human rights commission” which is considered a “law enforcement agency” that can force compliance with a law that would do precisely what the ADF lawyer claims it shouldn’t have the power to do.
You’d think there’d be a solution that could be reached well before this is escalated to the use of government coercion, doesn’t it? That is if all the GLSO wanted to do was buy T-shirts.
And, a solution was offered:
GLSO wanted “Hands On Original” to print shirts for the city’s fifth annual Lexington Pride Festival. The store offered to find another company that would honor its price – but that wasn’t good enough for the GLSO.
“Our feeling on that is, separate but equal wasn’t okay during the civil rights movement and it’s not okay now,” Aaron Baker told the television station. Baker is board president of GLSO.
That’s right, it is agenda time. This isn’t about T-shirts at all. It’s about forcing their one-way version of tolerance on someone. The irony is that GLSO appears to have absolutely no tolerance for the principles of the owners of the T-shirt company.
Which set me to wondering. Here’s a hypothetical for you. What if the owner of the T-shirt company was gay? And what if Westboro Baptist Church placed an order for 10 dozen T-shirts which said “God hates faggots” on them? What if the T-shirt shop owner refused the order because of his principles?
I’d guess no. In fact, I’d guess precisely the opposite reaction.
The T-shirt company owner wrote an op-ed for the paper explaining his point of view:
“I decided to pass on the opportunity because, as a Christian owner, I cannot in good conscience endorse groups or events that run counter to my convictions,” Adamson wrote in the op-ed.
Adamson, who has been in business for more than 20 years, wrote that he “does not expect, or even ask, people to agree with my view.”
“All I ask for people is to respect my right as an owner to not produce a product that is contrary to my principles,” he wrote.
Adamson called on people to stand up for the rights of small business owners not “to be forced into producing a product with a message that conflicts with their beliefs and consciences.”
The reaction was anything but tolerant or understanding of a differing view:
“Hands On Originals” has faced a barrage of attacks since the accusations were made public. More than 2,000 people have joined a boycott movement on Facebook. Another group is trying to buy the company’s mortgage so they can be evicted.
The Fayette County public school system placed a temporary hold on buying t-shirts from the company until the issue is resolved. The University of Kentucky is also reviewing its future business with the t-shirt maker.
Even Lexington’s openly gay mayor has condemned the privately-owned t-shirt company, telling the Lexington Herald-Leader “People don’t have patience for this sort of attitude today.”
“I’m against discrimination, period,” Gray said in a statement released to television station WKYT. “It’s bad for business and bad for the city. I support the Human Rights Commission in a full and thorough investigation.”
Real tolerance is apparently unacceptable. The hypocrisy of GLSO is palpable. And trying to use the coercive power of government is disgusting.
Tolerance isn’t a one-sided principle. If one wants people to tolerate their beliefs and lifestyle, it is incumbent upon them to do the same for others. If they actually believe in true tolerance, that is.
What is clear here is GLSO doesn’t.
More disgusting, at least to me, is the inclusion of this ridiculous city level “human rights commission” as a law enforcement agency and it’s obvious intent to force “compliance” against the conscience and principles of the owner.
There was a problem (GLSO wanted T-shirts, T-shirt company refused due to conscience), an offered solution (T-shirt company offers to find another producer at same price) which was reasonable and a rejection of that solution because the group has an political agenda and wishes to force the company to violate its principles and conscience. And which side does government take?
The side that wants to use its coercive power to force that violation.
Let freedom ring.