The End of College

A popular camp fire story among the managerial types is the looming collapse of the college system in America. On the one hand, it seems like a manufactured crisis, as collapse is unlikely. The boom times may end, but boom times always end. On the other hand, the problems get worse every year and no one has any idea how to arrest the decline and reform the system. That’s probably why the death of college is such a popular story these days. This one made the rounds yesterday.

At a Dowling College campus on Long Island’s south shore, a fleet of unused shuttle buses sits in an otherwise empty parking lot. A dormitory is shuttered, as are a cafeteria, bookstore and some classrooms in the main academic building.

“There’s a lot of fear here,” said Steven Fournier, a senior who lived in the now-closed dorm for his first three years. “It’s not the same college I arrived at.”

Dowling, which got a failing grade for its financial resources from accreditors last month, epitomizes the growing plight of many small private colleges that depend almost entirely on tuition for revenue. It’s been five years since the recession ended and yet their finances are worsening. Soaring student debt, competition from online programs and poor job prospects for graduates are shrinking their applicant pools.

“What we’re concerned about is the death spiral — this continuing downward momentum for some institutions,” said Susan Fitzgerald, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service in New York. “We will see more closures than in the past.”

I admit to having never heard of Dowling College. An applicant would probably be better off not mentioning it to me if they were applying for a job. If the resume did not list a college, I’d probably never notice. Seeing an unfamiliar one I’d look it up. Looking at the college website does not fill me with confidence. “Literacy Education Department” sounds bad for some reason. I’m sure it is fine college, but who knows what that even means anymore?

These people claim to know, but their methodology is dubious. The graduates of Harvard are most likely smart and motivated. Comparing their earnings to those of other smart and motivated people who lack a diploma would be useful, but that’s impossible to construct. Every decade someone does the math and announces that a college degree nets a higher salary, but not necessarily a higher net worth.

The reason for this, and the flaw in the college model, is simple. Wealth is not the same as income. The small plumber with one truck and an assistant may not have a high salary. He’s constantly buying tools and paying off that truck. Once he gets the truck paid off, he buys another truck and hires another plumber. His salary is not going up, but the value of his business is going up. By the time he retires, he had four or five trucks, a paid off house, some real estate where he runs his business and so on. His brother the manager has none of that, despite making considerably more in salary.

Strangely, college is all about preparing a young person for life as an employee. The son of the plumber may go to state college to make dad proud or he may just go into the business. The manager’s son is taking out debt to finance college so he can work for someone just like his father did. If you want of nation of renters, debtors and employees, our university system is great, until it collapses. If you want a nation of plumbers building up their asset base, then you need something different.

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has predicted that as many as half of the more than 4,000 universities and colleges in the U.S. may fail in the next 15 years. The growing acceptance of online learning means higher education is ripe for technological upheaval, he has said.

He is most certainly wrong, but, if he is right it will not change much of anything. Half of college students at state universities have no business in college. The world has all the communication majors it needs. Sending kids to major in criminal justice or physical education is a waste of everyone’s time. The kids sit in class learning nothing useful, while the instructors get to extend childhood indefinitely.

In some respects, it is amazing how things evolved in the West. No one imagined taking out tens of thousands in debt in order to attend college. Someone majoring in gym would have seemed hilariously implausible a generation ago. Arithmetic says this arrangement has a short shelf life, but our rulers have managed to keep the plates spinning for three decades now.

The comments in this post at ParaPundit suggest the probable future. Taking an IQ test is a simple thing.  It will not be long before some company pops up offering a packaging of services to people so they can bypass the system in some way. A DNA test to show you have no genetic markers for expensive diseases could lower your insurance premium. An IQ test score from a credible company can help the truly gifted bypass college entirely. It may even be possible one day to use DNA to indicate raw IQ, language skills, math skills and so forth.

Panda Man

A problem that vexes economists and (soon) politicians is what will be done with all of the extra humans. It appears that we are running out of ways to keep people busy. In America, the labor participation rate remains stuck at all-time lows. Technology promises to eliminate the need for many jobs. Farming and manufacturing are two obvious examples of how technology eliminates the need for labor. Automation is now coming for white collar jobs and professions like the law.

Even growth industries like health care are ripe for technological upheaval. Much of what a doctor or nurse practitioner does can be automated. Getting a physical at a local kiosk is not far off. Accounting and engineering can and will be done by robots at some point in the near future. That’s the claim of this book, anyway. Of course predictions about the future tend to be hilariously wrong. This is great.

The Luddite Fallacy is nothing new. The counter to that is we have arrived at a time of genuine plenty. In the West, no one is going without food. Medicine is universally available, even if the delivery mechanism is unnecessarily expensive. Violence is slowly ticking down and plague appears to be unlikely. In other words, the big things that have threatened humanity have been conquered.

So much so that most of the human population can avoid work entirely. With further technological improvement, a very small number of people will be able to provide for the rest of humanity. The great challenge facing humanity over the next century will be how to organize ourselves in  world without work or want. This story is what should get everyone’s attention.

A genetic disease has been cured in living, adult animals for the first time using a revolutionary genome-editing technique that can make the smallest changes to the vast database of the DNA molecule with pinpoint accuracy.

Scientists have used the genome-editing technology to cure adult laboratory mice of an inherited liver disease by correcting a single “letter” of the genetic alphabet which had been mutated in a vital gene involved in liver metabolism.

A similar mutation in the same gene causes the equivalent inherited liver disease in humans – and the successful repair of the genetic defect in laboratory mice raises hopes that the first clinical trials on patients could begin within a few years, scientists said.

Given the state of medicine, the big challenge to extending human life is almost entirely genetic. The ability to fix these defects in our genome means, barring accident or environmental issues, humans could live to the maximum of their natural life. Better understanding of aging, which is moving along quickly, means living an extended youth. Whether or not human lifespans can be extended much beyond 100 years is debatable, but living to 100 in peak physical condition is a good deal.

That sounds great, but here’s something else we know from genetics. Roughly 50,000 years ago modern man emerged on the scene. Humans were physically and behaviorally human. Up until last week, scarcity was the rule for humanity. In fact, evolution depends on it. Competition for food and mates is what drives the whole process. It is not just what makes us human, it was necessary for there to ever have been humans. Just as important, it is what we are designed for as a species. All of our physical and behavior wiring is geared for a world of competition for food and mates.

Just as economists puzzle over what to do with all the extra people, we should also puzzle over what happens when all of those extra people are suddenly in a world for which they are poorly designed. The obesity issue is an obvious problem that comes from having unlimited food supplies. What happens when people have unlimited safety and unlimited pleasure? Are we even human at that point?

Another possible result is the falling birth rate. Liberals like to claim this is due to low infant mortality rates and high wealth. This is ridiculous. Others, like David Goldman, point to cultural decay. Having children is about celebrating the present and past. It is a gift to the future from those thriving today. That comes from culture. The old saying about proud societies is they are ones where old men plant trees in whose shade they will never sit. A strong and confident people wish to be remembered and the way to do that is through children. Otherwise, why bother?

An alternative may simply be confusion. For 49,900 years, humans had to have children as soon as they could. Every signal from their environment was triggering that urge, but now all those signals are scrambled. It is no wonder the receiving end would misinterpret these new signals. Just as obesity results from plenty, plummeting fertility rates may result from the lack of status and competition for mates. It’s not just the lack of babies; it is the lack of sex. Like people who work in a candy factory not liking candy, humans in a world of cost and objective free sex on demand may simply turn away.

This may sound ridiculous, but studies of the Khoisan people in Africa show us that humans quickly adapt to their environment. The hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari are the world’s oldest people according to geneticists. That means they are closest to the original people who are the foundation stock for humanity. Because they walk everywhere, women have one child at a time. If they have twins, the mother smothers one newborn. Carrying two children is too difficult so they can never have more than one small child at a time.

If you’re inclined to think a world without work or want is Eden, again consider the Khoisan. Until outside forces forced them onto farms, they were able to gather and hunt for enough food in about 20 hours per week. Attending other needs like food preparation, tool making and so forth took up another 20 or so hours. That means the Khoisan were working far less per week than most other peoples on the planet. They also had a murder rate of Detroit, including fratricide, and they were in constant conflict with other groups.

I have no idea where it is all heading. Predicting the future is a lousy business, but we are looking a lot like Panda Bears. While we have no natural enemies and plenty of food in our environment, we have stopped having sex and children. Archaeologists in the far away future will dig through the remains of our time and call us Panda Man, the human species that simply had no reason to carry on. Having arrived at the end goal of evolution, we looked around and decided it was not worth the effort.

Our future is going to be very strange.

Ivan Getting Smarter

There’s an old saying about the military always preparing to fight the last war. Usually when you hear it is from a retired military guy on TV criticizing something. If only the military had listened to guys like him they would not be in whatever mess they are current in at the moment. There’s another side to it, of course. Sometimes, a nation will learn from a war they were not involved. We see that with the Russians.

Elite Russian troops are displaying a new arsenal of body armor, individual weapons, armor-piercing ammunition and collar radios — a menu of essential gear that gives them a big tactical advantage against a lesser-equipped Ukrainian army.

If President Vladimir Putin orders an invasion, the new-generation body armor, in particular, would provide exceptional protection against small arms if Russian troops go street by street to capture Kiev and other cities.

“What we saw and what was dangled in front of the West was a clear indication that Putin is on a roll,” retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales said. “It just seems to me from watching the films that their arrows are pointing up and ours are sadly pointing down.”Weapons specialists such as Gen. Scales have been studying images of Spetsnaz, Russia’s ubiquitous special forces, and airborne troops since they conquered the Crimea region and mobilized to strike eastern Ukraine.

What they see are the fruits of a modernization plan begun in 2008, not just in tanks and vehicles but all the way down to the individual warrior. Russia now has the world’s third-highest defense budget, at over $70 billion.

“They’ve got better equipment than they had five years ago,” said Scott Traudt, an executive with Green Mountain, a Vermont gun manufacturer. “They’ve got new grenade launchers that are awesome. The helmets are better than our helmets. The body armor is better than our body armor. They’re doing a lot of things right. I’m pretty amazed at it.”

The Russians watched how American forces were able to overcome insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Superior equipment allowed for superior tactics. Instead of hunting bad guys from choppers as the Russians did in Afghanistan, the Americans could get up close and personal. Having body armor, advanced electronics and coordinated assets, the superior warrior could go right at the insurgents, without getting into a war of attrition. In Fallujah the kill ratio was 50:1.

Russian military tactics have always been a reflection of their history. The deep battle philosophy developed by the Soviets was a sort of punch-counter-punch approach to war. Big sweeping victories were not the aim. Rather, the premium was on holding territory, while putting pressure on the enemy. For a country that always looked at their people as a surplus, it made some sense. In modern mobile warfare where holding strategic assets is the key to victory, this is not a useful strategy.

Mr. Traudt is paying special attention to the body armor because it presents a big challenge to rifle and munition makers. It might be able to deflect NATO’s basic 5.56 mm rifle round. If so, Ukrainian soldiers face a daunting task because their AK-74 assault rifles fire a similar munition.

The Russians, in their new 6B43 model body armor, issued chest and back plates made of titanium and hard carbide boron ceramics.

“The stuff they have is impervious to 5.56, whereas our body armor is not completely proven against their weapons,” Gen. Scales said.Gen. Scales said the Russians carry AK-74s whose magazine is loaded with 5.45 “steel core” ammunition — a round that on April 8 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives banned from importation because the agency deemed it armor-piercing.

Gen. Scales described the 5.45 as “extremely lethal against any kind of body armor.”

While some national leaders focus on big defense issues, Mr. Putin has taken a personal interest in one of the smallest: the rifle. Last year, his government consolidated rifle manufacturing into one new firm, the Kalashnikov Corp., named after the AK’s famous inventor, Mikhail Kalashnikov.

Putin actually goes out and shoots these things,” Gen. Scales said.

U.S. soldiers have complained that their main rifle and round, the M4 carbine and its 5.56, lacked lethality in Afghanistan against a Taliban enemy that does not often wear body armor. Without a shot to the head, the enemy could take several 5.56 hits and keep going, soldiers said in surveys.

“If the Russians are coming across mechanized, with airborne and infantry units wearing their body armor, it basically means the Ukrainian rifles have no ability to penetrate the body armor worn by the Russian troops, meaning you’re talking about having to shoot somebody six, seven, eight times, in the chest,” Mr. Traudt said. “They’re going to get bumped, but there’s no lethality involved.”

I think it is far to assume Ivan has been watching the Americans and learning for the last decade. Instead of rolling in tanks and blowing stuff up to intimidate the enemy, they will be looking to seize strategic assets and neutralize the enemy fighters. Given the ideological drift, the goal will not be the conquest of Ukraine, but neutralization. If they can provoke a conflict, they can seize the Russian speaking regions and then gut the Ukrainian military. That effectively ends this drama.

Segregation Nonsense

Steve Sailer has a fantastic breakdown of this article in the Atlantic. The article is tedious, but Steve’s deconstruction is well worth the time it takes to read it. It is an example of why I rarely read anything written by women. Women want to share experiences and talk about them. Men want to see facts and state opinions. That does not mean all male writers are cold-blooded logic machines. It’s that many are willing to write about facts, rather than their feelings about the facts.

This line in the Atlantic post is interesting. “… In recent years, a new term, apartheid schools—meaning schools whose white population is 1 percent or less, schools like Central—has entered the scholarly lexicon. While most of these schools are in the Northeast and Midwest, some 12 percent of black students in the South now attend such schools ….” Northern whites will treat blacks as equals just as long as they don;’t have to live near them remains a stubborn reality.

But let’s back up here a second. The author, a black woman and is writing for a northern publication about “resegregation” in the South. Then she fully admits that the north is vastly more segregated than the South. If I did not know better, I’d assume this is a very clever prank by someone trying to illustrate the blinkered idiocy of northern white liberals. Maybe it is, but the lack of self-awareness with the sorts of people who now control publications the Atlantic cannot be overlooked.

According to the author’s resume, she lives in Brooklyn, a place that is actively driving out black people so upper middle-class whites can live in trendy neighborhoods. She grew up in Iowa, went to Notre Dame and then went to UNC for a masters. Her choice of majors tells us she grew up middle-class or better. Her knowledge of the South and experience with the underclass can probably be written on a napkin.

Outsiders often make the best observers as they lack the emotional blinkers of insiders, so her observations could worthwhile. As Steve illustrates, what we’re getting here is the same old liberal platitudes about race, dressed up with some statistics and decorative personal stories. In other words, the story was written before she started gathering personal accounts, anecdotes and statistics.

The point is not to inform, but to confirm. Nikole Hannah-Jones is playing the same side of the street as Ta-Nehisi Coates. This is a performance piece intended to flatter the all white northern liberal readership of The Atlantic. The Jews running it are good at this game, which is why they run the media. Town meetings in Iceland have more diversity than the readership of the Atlantic. It is also culturally monolithic. Ms. Jones seems to have figured this out and parlayed that into a nice payday.

I’m Not Interested In A Relationship

I bought some music from Amazon yesterday. It has been a while since I have done this, so I was unaware of the changes they have made to their process. Once I bought the songs, I was asked if I wanted to launch the cloud player. There was no second choice so I agreed. Then I was informed my cloud player was out of date and I was asked if I wanted to download the latest. The only choice was yes.

Eventually, the cloud player opened and I saw my songs. Nice. A little looking around at the new interface I saw that the songs were in the cloud, not on my PC. I’m a prime user, but I don’t use the cloud service. I had configured my account originally to automatically download music purchases. Amazon decided we needed to take our relationship to the next level and changed that for me.

A little fiddling and I am able to download them. Not exactly. I kept hitting the download button and nothing happened. This was starting to remind me of every long term relationship I’ve ever had with a woman. I try again and I’m informed I have to change my settings. OK, we’re definitely in a relationship now. I fiddle with this for a while and I get no where. Well, I get frustrated. I guess that is somewhere.

I take a look at where I save my music and discover it is restricted for some reason. I then remember I was trying to get my PC to talk to my XBox. In order to do that I had to have an extended exchange with Microsoft Media Center and my XBox. I probably spent two hours trying to get that to work so I could play a video. I ended up watching it on my PC after two hours of dealing with Microsoft.

Somewhere in the process, Media Center locked down all of my media folders. I guess this is Microsoft telling me they are jealous of my relationship with iTunes and Amazon. And yes, iTunes was not working now because it could not read those directories. I also noticed that Media Center had created a new user on my system. I guess this is for the XBox to talk to my PC. Who knows? Microsoft is such a jealous mistress.

Anyway, I unriddle all of this and fixed the permissions. I finally download my music and my transaction with Amazon was complete. I still have the cloud player on there and I have to get rid of the crappy Microsoft junk that caused all of this. The point of all this is it is getting increasingly difficult to have a transactional relationship with these companies. They expect a much deeper relationship.

I’m not interested in building a relationship with Amazon. I just want to buy my stuff and move on. The word “share” has become this screaming siren, warning you that some multinational is about to waste hours of your time trying to get to know you. By “getting to know you” I mean gathering up details about your life that they will use to “monetize” you down the road. Monetize means ease you into a situation where they get to skim money from your wallet at will and sell your personal information to other skimmers.

This is the world in which we find ourselves as “citizens” in late empire America. You cannot be left alone. If you want to do just about anything, you have to have a relationship with some company that is usually working hand and glove with the state to “nudge” you in the direction they prefer. Simple transactions like buying a song suddenly turn into elaborate time wasting exorcises. The great tech boom has resulted in the exact opposite of what libertarian technologists promised thirty years ago.

The Nuisance Segment

There is a theory called The Smart Fraction Theory. The very short version of it is that every human society has a distribution of IQ’s ranging from retarded to genius. Some populations have a high number of people, relative to human populations as a whole, with above average and better IQ’s. At the other end, some societies have a relatively low number of above average and better IQ’s. The former groups have rocketed ahead while the latter groups have lagged behind.

There’s a lot more to it, a lot more, but that’s a useful shorthand. The point being is the smart fraction exerts upward pressure on society. The larger and more capable that fraction, the better able they are to drag the whole of society upward. If the fraction is too small, you get Zimbabwe or Detroit. The smart fraction, unable to lift the whole of society, sets themselves up as a ruling elite, plundering what they can from society. It is why all the money in the world will not change the character of these societies.

There’s another fraction, one that is at the heart of what ails the West. That’s the nuisance segment. For example, I was at my favorite lunch place the other day. It is a fancy SWPL grocery store with a cafe of sorts. The cafe is mostly a big buffet, but buffets are working class so they splash the word “cafe” all over the place and stock the bar with weird stuff from foreign lands. The most popular food is the typical American stuff, but the sushi and Indian food makes everyone feel better.

Anyway, there’s not a ton of room for people to navigate the serving areas. Inevitably, there will be a few mothers with baby carriages mucking up the works. A few vibrant people will be there with grocery carriages jamming up the walkways. As a result the store has had to rearrange the place a few times to try and get ahead of the nuisance segment. They have been mostly successful, but the cost of these idiots is inevitably spread to the rest of us.

On every product in your house, you will find a warning label. On the shampoo bottle I have in my hand, there are two paragraphs explaining what not to do with it. No one expects the stupid to read these labels, of course. Someone dumb enough to drink shampoo or shove the bottle up their arse is not going to read the warning label. It is just to inoculate the company from the inevitable. The direct cost of litigation is 2% in America. The cost in warning labels is equal that or more. The stupid cost us at least 5% of GDP a year in direct costs.

That’s not the end of it. The regulatory bureaucracy which is the direct result of the nuisance fraction is enormous. So far Obama has added 12,000 pages of regulations to the quarter million or so already on the books. The exact number and nature of Federal crimes has now reached the point where it cannot be counted.  We are perilously close to the point where it is just assumed that everything is a violation of the law. In such a land, there are no laws. The people inevitably respond accordingly.

Reading first millennium history, one thing that jumps out is the high cost of being foolish. This was especially true of the elites. King Peada was murdered by his wife because he foolishly thought his connection with Oswiu, through his marriage to his daughter Alchflaed, would protect him. History of this period is full of examples where small mistakes in judgment resulted in death, often gruesome death. The nitwits pushing a cart through the buffet line never would have made it to adulthood in that era.

The New Russia

This is a very interesting post on Russia and what’s going on in Eurasia. It is one of the rare times an intellectual makes mention of the peculiar American habit of assuming everyone is just like America. Despite the yapping about diversity and vibrancy, American elites see the world as a reflection of their idealized selves. When they look out at the world they think, “They want what we want, they hate what we hate and they will be just like us if give the chance.”

I’ll elaborate what Putinism actually is, but before I do, it’s important to understand why President Obama and countless other Westerners cannot see what is right before them. Putin and the Kremlin actively parrot their propaganda, they are doing anything but hide it, yet we still cannot make it out.

This is simply because we are WEIRD. That’s social science shorthand for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic – and nobody is WEIRDer than Americans. In the last several decades many Americans, and essentially all our elites, have internalized a worldview based on affluence, individualism, and secularism that makes us unique, globally speaking. So much so that we seem unable to comprehend that there actually are opposing viewpoints out there.

Barack Obama, by virtue of his diverse ethnic and religious background and elite education, is almost an ideal stand-in for the WEIRD demographic, as he embodies so many things WEIRDos admire: education, affluence, diversity, progressive social views, etc. He comes close to being almost the perfect post-modern American, which perhaps is why so many Americans of that bent adore him deeply. Thus when President Obama says he detects no ideological rivalry with Putin’s Russia, he undoubtedly speaks the truth as he sees it.

Americans of all stripes have a well-honed ability to ignore inconvenient facts, and our better educated citizens seem particularly prone to this (as I noted with our “expert” inability to see what North Korea believes, even though they aren’t shy about it). At root, I suspect Obama and many Americans refuse to accept the in-our-face reality of Putin and his regime because they represent a past version of ourselves, caught up in retrograde views that are entirely unacceptable to our elites, therefore they pretend they do not exist, because they don’t actually exist in their world.

Simply put, Vladimir Putin is the stuff of Western progressive nightmares because he’s what they thought they’d gotten past. He’s a traditional male with “outmoded” views on, well, everything: gender relations, race, sexual identity, faith, the use of violence, the whole retrograde package. Putin at some level is the Old White Guy that post-moderns fear and loathe, except this one happens to control the largest country on earth plus several thousand nuclear weapons – and he hates us.

Steve Sailer has pointed out quite a few times that American elites seem to have the biggest problem with Putin over homosexuals. Over the last two decades, having a homosexual on your piety bracelet has been the hallmark of Progressive fashion. It is so well established now that it is inconceivable to them that any civilized person would have a contrary opinion on homosexual marriage, homosexual rights and so forth.

Of course, this also happens to explain why some Westerners who loathe post-modernism positively love Putin, at least from a safe distance. Some far-right Westerners – the accurate term is paleoconservatives – have been saying for years that the West, led very much by America, has become hopelessly decadent and they’ve been looking for a leader to counter all this, and – lo and behold – here he is, the new “leader of global conservatism.” Some paleocons have stated that, with the end of the Cold War, America has become the global revolutionary power, seeking to foist its post-modern views on the whole planet, by force if necessary, and now Putin’s Russia has emerged as the counterrevolutionary element. Cold War 2.0, in this telling, has the sides reversed.

I’m skeptical of all that, but it is important to note that the post-modernism about cultural and social matters that has become the default setting in the West in the last couple decades has had a hard time putting down roots in Eastern Europe. It’s an odd fact that living under the Old Left (i.e. Marxism-Leninism) inoculated Eastern Europeans from much of the New Left of the 1960s and after, with its emphasis on gender, sexuality, and race. “Critical Studies” didn’t get far with people who had to live under the KGB; indeed, East Bloc secret police in the 1980s viewed all this – the feminism and the gay rights stuff especially – as bourgeois deviance and a subversive Western import. Since 1990, Western countries have made actual efforts to import that, but it’s met a lot of resistance, and doesn’t make much of an impression outside educated circles; which is why when educated Westerners meet, say, educated Poles, “they seem just like us” – because they have accepted, verbatim, what we’ve told them is normative in a “developed” society.

Since as far back as we have records, “religion” and “culture” have been tangled up together. The Vikings, for example, lacked a word for religion. They had two words that roughly meant “cult” but did not carry the connotation they do today. The word “custom” is more accurate. People had private customs for how they appeased the gods. These were limited the family, the clan and the village.

Public customs were how everyone participated in worship of the gods. These customs were intimately tangled up in the identity of the people. It is how they defined themselves and gave meaning and purpose to their lives. It was why they got up in the morning, so to speak. It is also what bound them together, despite their private rituals and customs. It was a reflection of their blood ties as people.

The Russians had a perfectly good set of customs that defined who they were as people. Bolshevism came along and obliterated much of it, but replaced it with a new religion, Marxist-Leninism. Here we are two decades after the fall of communism and the Russians seem to be settling on a set of replacements.

They tried liberal democracy in the 1990’s and into the 2000’s. That resulted in falling birth rates, drug abuse, Americans adopting what few children they had and humiliation on the world stage. Whatever you want to call this new organizing faith, it clearly is a rejection of American Progressivism.

Resisting Western post-modernism on a cultural level is but one component of Putinism, albeit an important one. What comes first, however, is an emphasis on national sovereignty, meaning a more traditional, indeed Westphalian, view of state power and non-interference in others’ affairs. That Putin has stolen Crimea indicates that Moscow’s views on this are highly conditional. Nevertheless, it should be noted that Putin’s regular incantations of the need for respect for sovereignty, which are of course aimed directly at the United States, which Russia views as a hypocrite of the highest order in international affairs, are popular among other regional powers who fear U.S. military might, especially China and India. Moreover, Putin would no doubt argue that his seizing Crimea is in no way a violation of sovereignty since Ukraine is not a legitimate country in the first place (an interview last year where Putin referred to Ukraine as a mere “territory” did not get the attention abroad that it merited). For most Russians, all this falls under the need to restore national honor after the disasters of the 1990s, and is to be applauded heartily. Additionally, there are plenty of people in the world who don’t like Putin or Russia, yet who are happy that someone, somewhere is standing up to American hegemony.

Nationalism matters too. This is a tricky issue in Russia, which possesses some 185 recognized ethnic groups and many religions, with ethnic Russians making up but four-fifths of the population, and that figure is declining. Until recently, Putin had done a good job of promoting state patriotism and a Muscovite sort of multiculturalism that celebrates citizens of the Russian Federation, of any ethnicity or religion, as long as they accept Kremlin rule; that this bears little resemblance to post-modern Western notions of “tolerance” and “diversity” should be obvious. All the same, hardline Russian ethno-nationalists, local equivalents of David Duke, have regularly faced arrest in Putin’s Russia, which has feared setting off ethnic disputes that could turn explosive quickly.

Yet the reconquest of Crimea has caused a clear change of tone in Moscow, with celebration of old fashioned Russian nationalism coming into fashion. In his speech to the Duma announcing the triumphant annexation of Crimea, when speaking of Russians, Putin specifically used the ethnic term – russkiy –  not the more inclusive rossiyskiy, which applies to all citizens of the Russian Federation. This came among incantations to the full Great Russian program, with a Moscow-centric view of Eastern Europe seemingly endorsed by mentions of great Orthodox saints. Unstated yet clearly, this was all of a piece with “Third Rome” ideology, a powerful admixture of Orthodoxy, ethnic mysticism, and Slavophile tendencies that has deep resonance in Russian history.

Westerners seemed shocked by this “Holy Russia” stuff, but Putin has been dropping unsubtle hints for years that his state ideology includes a good amount of this back-to-the-future thinking, cloaked in piety and nationalism. Western “experts”  continue to state that a major influence here is Aleksandr Dugin, an eccentric philosopher who espouses “Eurasianism,” an odd blend of geopolitical theory and neo-fascism. While Dugin is not irrelevant, his star at the Kremlin actually faded a decade ago, though he gets some Kremlin attention because his father was a GRU general. Far more important to divining Putin’s worldview, however, is Ivan Ilyin, a Russian political and religious thinker who fled the Bolsheviks and died an emigre in Switzerland in 1953. In exile, Ilyin espoused ethnic-religious neo-traditionalism, amidst much talk about a unique “Russian soul.” Germanely, he believed that Russia would recover from the Bolshevik nightmare and rediscover itself, first spiritually then politically, thereby saving the world. Putin’s admiration for Ilyin is unconcealed: he has mentioned him in several major speeches and he had his body repatriated and buried at the famous Donskoy monastery with fanfare in 2005; Putin personally paid for a new headstone. Yet despite the fact that even Kremlin outlets note the importance of Ilyin to Putin’s worldview, not many Westerners have noticed.

This is fundamentally why Obama has been repeatedly humiliated by Putin. It is not simply that Obama is a klutz. While it is true that American foreign policy is run by rather foolish people with little going for them other than useless credentials, the real reason is Putin needs to do it. His NYTimes piece after outfoxing Obama over Syria was more than a victory lap. It was a signal to his people that he is not just smarter than the American leader. it’s that he is leading a special people, the Russian people.

War With The States

Historians generally point to the Whiskey Rebellion as the point at which the American public accepted the authority of the new federal government. The aftermath established the limits to and avenues for resisting the federal government. You could organize to get your people in Congress, but you could not burn down the local offices and hang the federal agents. In other words, the people had embraced the authority of the new government as legitimate and therefor defensible.

The Civil War ushered in a new relationship between the citizen and the national government. The states were no longer sovereign. If a state cannot leave the union, it is no longer sovereign as a practical matter. Put another way, the original republic was a government of consensus among the states. After the Civil War, that consensus was no longer required, as the states were now subordinate to the national government.

What is difficult to grasp is how it undermined the foundation of the Republic. The government created by the Founders pitted the power of sovereign states against the power of the federal government. Certain rights were granted to each exclusively. The idea being that this tension would put limits on both, thus providing the maximum amount of liberty to the people.

Here were are 150 years on and this broken relationship staggers on. The reason for this is that America is a big country with loads of resources. Being rich and powerful cures a lot of ills. Even so, those contradictions are there, slowing becoming fissures in the country. There’s a limit to this papering over the problem and we may be reaching that limit. The Bundy Ranch imbroglio is possibly a hint of what’s to come.

Wealthy interests allied with powerful members of the national government are stealing the property of citizens. All the technical nonsense aside, that’s what is going on here and all over the country. The federal government no longer represents the people, but rather it represents the ruling class to the people. It’s job is to impose the will of the ruling class, which is no longer connected to the people.

The trouble is the states are effectively bankrupt. That is, they are not able to meet their cash requirements. They borrow to cover the gaps, but that only delays the inevitable. As public pension liabilities come home, the crisis will overcome the state’s ability to pay their bills. According to the numbers, 32 states have been borrowing from the Fed to make ends meet. Demographics tells us the problem is just starting. Simple mathematics says it must get much worse.

In order to avoid collapse, states will be looking around for money. They will be looking at the state resources that Harry Reid wants to sell off to China. This means we are heading to a very serious problem.  The states are already making noises about regaining control of their lands.

It’s time for Western states to take control of federal lands within their borders, lawmakers and county commissioners from Western states said at Utah’s Capitol on Friday.

More than 50 political leaders from nine states convened for the first time to talk about their joint goal: wresting control of oil-, timber -and mineral-rich lands away from the feds.

“It’s simply time,” said Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, who organized the Legislative Summit on the Transfer for Public Lands along with Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder. “The urgency is now.”

Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, was flanked by a dozen participants, including her counterparts from Idaho and Montana, during a press conference after the daylong closed-door summit. U.S. Sen. Mike Lee addressed the group over lunch, Ivory said. New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington also were represented.

The summit was in the works before this month’s tense standoff between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management over cattle grazing, Lockhart said.

“What’s happened in Nevada is really just a symptom of a much larger problem,” Lockhart said.

Fielder, who described herself as “just a person who lives in the woods,” said federal land management is hamstrung by bad policies, politicized science and severe federal budget cuts.

“Those of us who live in the rural areas know how to take care of lands,” Fielder said, who lives in the northwestern Montana town of Thompson Falls.

“We have to start managing these lands. It’s the right thing to do for our people, for our environment, for our economy and for our freedoms,” Fielder said.

Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said Idaho forests and rangeland managed by the state have suffered less damage and watershed degradation from wildfire than have lands managed by federal agencies.

“It’s time the states in the West come of age,” Bedke said. “We’re every bit as capable of managing the lands in our boundaries as the states east of Colorado.”

Ivory said the issue is of interest to urban as well as rural lawmakers, in part because they see oilfields and other resources that could be developed to create jobs and fund education.

Moreover, the federal government’s debt threatens both its management of vast tracts of the West as well as its ability to come through with payments in lieu of taxes to the states, he said. Utah gets 32 percent of its revenue from the federal government, much of it unrelated to public lands.

“If we don’t stand up and act, seeing that trajectory of what’s coming … those problems are going to get bigger,” Ivory said.

He was the sponsor two years of ago of legislation, signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, that demands the federal government relinquish title to federal lands in Utah. The lawmakers and governor said they were only asking the federal government to make good on promises made in the 1894 Enabling Act for Utah to become a state.

The intent was never to take over national parks and wilderness created by an act of Congress Lockhart said. “We are not interested in having control of every acre,” she said. “There are lands that are off the table that rightly have been designated by the federal government.”

A study is underway at the University of Utah to analyze how Utah could manage the land now in federal control. That was called for in HB142, passed by the 2013 Utah Legislature.

None of the other Western states has gone as far as Utah, demanding Congress turn over federal lands. But five have task forces or other analyses underway to get a handle on the costs and benefits, Fielder said.

“Utah has been way ahead on this,” Fielder said.

In fairness, there’s a bit of emotion and romanticism at work here. But, money is at the root of the issue. The federal government owns a lot of land. That land has value the states would like to exploit. The resulting collision is inevitable. Bandits like Harry Reid versus the states. Maybe this time we can address the errors of Lincoln.

The War On Christians

Religions are not tolerant by design. In fact, they are extremely intolerant. They have to be, otherwise, what would be the point? A religion, after all, is a set of rules. Adherents agree, as a condition of admission to the faith, to follow that list of rules. To be a Catholic, for example, means doing things required of Catholics and not doing things prohibited by the Church. That’s how all religions work.

Like a baseball team, if you will not obey the rules, then you can’t be on the team. There can be no tolerance for the systematic breaking the rules as a matter of logic. Things, including religion, are defined by their limits. A baseball team has uniforms and they must show up at certain times and do certain things. If they can dress as they please, they are not a team. They are a bunch of guys in a park.

Religions also have an obligation to recruit new members. If you believe your way of doing things leads to salvation, the afterlife, eternal bliss or even just a discount at the local deli, you are obligated to encourage others to join. The reason for that is simple logic. If your customs are the right ones, rational people will want to join you. The test of that is to recruit new members to your faith.

The exception would be those based on race. Black Muslims will not be recruiting white people to their faith. Jews do no recruiting. Norse pagans were not interested in spreading their faith for a number of reasons, but primarily because they saw their gods as unique to them. With the exceptions noted, the general rule holds. Religions are covetous and seek to push out other faiths and dominate society.

We see this with the Left. It tries to chase off any faith that it sees a threat to its dominance or to its prosperity. It’s why the Left hates Christianity. America is a country founded by Christians. The founders, with a few exceptions, took their religion quite seriously and they wanted the people to do likewise. They expect America to be a Christian nation in that it was populated with Christians, white Christians.

They were men of their times and understood the danger of state religion. Continental Europe tore itself to pieces over state religion. The Thirty Years War left parts of Europe depopulated. Other parts were reduced to cannibalism. There was also the suppression of Catholics by Protestant monarchs and the persecution of Protestants by Catholics at various times. A limited government, in the minds of the Founders, could have no opinion about the religion of the Christian people.

To the Founders, it clearly meant that the national government would be indifferent to religion. The states had official religions and the people, could and should insist on members of their faith running their communities. As the ideas of the French Revolution  washed up on the shores of America, the new religion was born and spread among the ruling classes. This is the religion we call liberalism today.

Thus the war on Christianity has been with us for a long time now. Few members of the ruling class are Christian. The religion of the ruling class is liberalism, a mix of socialism, managerial-authoritarianism and cultural Marxism. Because it is a pagan faith, the rules are always changing, but one thing never changes. That’s the continued focus on Christianity as the enemy of the faith. No matter how much Christianity fades from public life, they will continue to hunt it wherever they can.

Way back when the Left was starting to ban Christianity from schools and public places, Christians made the argument that it was part of a larger assault on their religion. First it was kicking Christmas out of public buildings and then it would be banning Christianity from private life. This was laughed off with the claim that freedom from religion was ensured in the Bill of Rights. It was not an assault on Christianity, but rather a defense against it. At least that was the claim.

It looks like the Christians were right all along. The Left’s assault on middle class health care arrangements has provisions designed to weaken Christianity. Forcing Catholic charities, for example to fund things they believe are sins has nothing to do with health and everything to do with religion. What the Left learned about their destruction of Protestant sects like the Episcopalians is that once you stop enforcing the rules, people stop showing up, so they are forcing churches to break their rules.

They also learned that banning public displays of Christianity makes it really hard to get and keep members. That’s what is behind this new front opened by some outfit ironically calling itself The Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent a letter of complaint to Clemson University, citing “constitutional concerns about how the public university’s football program is entangled with religion.”

According to the foundation, Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney has promoted a culture in the program that violates constitutional stipulations of the separation of church and state.

No, he has promoted the wrong culture. That’s really what this is about. If he were preaching about the joys of sodomy, you can be sure the Cult would applaud him for promoting their culture.

The foundation said it had submitted an open records request in February and reviewed emails and published articles.

The foundation, a national nonprofit educational charity based in Madison, Wis., says it is the nation’s largest association of atheists and agnostics. According to Elliott, the organization does not intend to infringe on Swinney’s beliefs, but to ensure that the players’ constitutional rights are protected.

The foundation has recommended the elimination of Clemson’s chaplaincy position, currently held by former Clemson player James Trapp. It contends that Swinney and Trapp have used their positions in the program to proselytize, by arranging Bible studies, organizing devotionals and distributing Bibles and other religious materials.

“What we have observed in the records is that the football coaching staff is doing a number of things to promote Christianity to their student-athletes,” foundation staff attorney Patrick Elliott said.

“While student-athletes can pray, conduct Bible studies and engage in religious activities, the coaching staff, as public employees, should not be doing that with their student athletes.

In other words, Christianity must be banned from all public places. What logically must follow is you cannot be a Christian outside your home. After all, if a bunch of Christians were employed at a firm and were permitted to be Christian outside of their home, wherever they congregated, like the office, would take on the culture of Christianity. That, under the rules of liberalism, is forbidden. therefore, the only solution is to restrict the practice of Christianity to the home and approved places of worship.

What comes next is the last bit. If you cannot be a Christian outside, your worship houses cannot be Christian outside either. Unless Christians wise up, it will not be long before zoning boards dominated by ululating lunatics from the Left begin banning crosses and other religious iconography from public view. If freedom from religion is to be taken seriously, how can such public displays ever be tolerated?

Yes, It Is A Religion

Thinking of Progressivism as a religion is useful, but it gets a lot of resistance from so-called conservatives. Talking about it as a cult gets even more push-back. The truth is, few liberals know much about why they believe what they believe. They just do and they don’t spend a lot of time examining it. That’s how religion works. Few Catholics understand why they take communion. They just do. The same applies to the Left, even more so, in that examining the faith is treated as heresy.

If you look at the most liberal states in the country, you find the lowest levels of church attendance. On the other hand, states with highest church attendance tend to be the least inclined to vote Left. For example, the last election featured six continental states where Obama won more than 60% of the vote. That’s California, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, New York and Vermont. Everyone of those states, except Maryland, is at the bottom of church attendance numbers according to Pew.

At the other end of the spectrum, the states that went for Romney in the last election are Utah, Wyoming, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Arkansas and Kentucky. These are states with high church attendance. You have to get down to 20th on the church attendance list before you find an Obama state. Even if you assume religion is simply falling out of favor, traditional culture is also a good indication of voting habits. Steve Sailer tied together marriage and voting, which tracks close with church attendance.

If that’s not compelling, here’s a NYTimes profile of former Mayor Bloomberg.

Michael R. Bloomberg, making his first major political investment since leaving office, plans to spend $50 million this year building a nationwide grass-roots network to motivate voters who feel strongly about curbing gun violence, an organization he hopes can eventually outmuscle the National Rifle Association.

Mr. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, said gun control advocates need to learn from the N.R.A. and punish those politicians who fail to support their agenda — even Democrats whose positions otherwise align with his own.

“They say, ‘We don’t care. We’re going to go after you,’ ” he said of the N.R.A. “ ‘If you don’t vote with us we’re going to go after your kids and your grandkids and your great-grandkids. And we’re never going to stop.’ ”

He added: “We’ve got to make them afraid of us.”

That’s obviously insane. When you’re a billionaire, saying crazy things maybe makes you eccentric. If he was still hustling a sales route and was saying nutty things like this, they would lock him away. But, he is rich and he is a member in good standing of the Progressive faith. His fanaticism is therefore seen as a sign of his virtue.Again, that is how religions work. it’s about belief, not facts and logic.

Mr. Bloomberg was introspective as he spoke, and seemed both restless and wistful. When he sat down for the interview, it was a few days before his 50th college reunion. His mortality has started dawning on him, at 72. And he admitted he was a bit taken aback by how many of his former classmates had been appearing in the “in memoriam” pages of his school newsletter.

But if he senses that he may not have as much time left as he would like, he has little doubt about what would await him at a Judgment Day. Pointing to his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation, he said with a grin: “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”

That sounds a lot like a religious crusade. The reason it sounds that was is it is a religious crusade. In a difference age, Bloomberg would be wearing a black hat and reading the Torah all day. In a different place, he is a Zionist agitating for Israel. In a different America, most Progressive are Congregationalists or our preaching the social gospel as  part of their reform movement. Maybe they were heading out to Utah as part of a Mormon sect. Progressivism is the religion of this age.