Shape Shifting

One of my recurring themes here is how political liberalism operates more like a religious cult than a well thought out set of public policy opinions. In the latter, people sort through the available data updating and adjusting their opinions in order to arrive at a solution for a problem. Those opinions may be built on a set of beliefs about how society should be structured, but they say nothing about the people that hold them or the people who oppose them.

For example, the Weekly Standard crowd has a well defined set of positions, with regards to what we think of as the Middle East and North Africa. For twenty years they have insisted on heavy US involvement in these countries in order to impose Western liberal democracy and consumerism. They don’t think Obama is evil for not accepting their opinions. They don’t think Rand Paul is evil for rejecting their opinions. They are convinced these people are wrong.

Modern liberalism does not work this way. Obama and the Left were convinced Bush was evil for embarking on polices in the Middle East with which the Left disagreed. There was nothing that could dissuade them from this opinion. It was so strong that when Obama gained office, he reversed the Bush polices by evacuating from Iraq and ratcheting up the war in Afghanistan. The logic behind these decisions was simply a reaction to what they believed to be the polices of evil men. Doing the opposite of evil men, in their thinking, must be good.

Cults are always obsessed with the borders. The line between those inside the cult and those outside the cult is what defines the cult and therefore the people in it. People do not join mass movements in order to celebrate their individuality. People are attracted to mass movements out of self-loathing. They seek to exchange their identity, which they despise, with that of the group, which they believe is good or noble. Therefore, knowing that line between those who are inside and those who are outside is paramount.

This bright line between the good people inside and bad people outside frees the good people to think all sorts of things about the bad people on the other side of the walls. It’s why Progressives use words like “conservative, Republican, right-wing and extremist” as synonyms. These are all words that mean “outsider” which is just another word for bad. When I did not have a television I was often accused by liberal friends of getting my information from Fox News. They knew I did not have a TV, but they said it anyway.

People in a cult see those outside as an undifferentiated other. They are just eyes peeping out at them from the void surrounding the light of their movement. It’s why liberals will throw guys like Kevin Williamson, Nick Gillespie and Steve Sailer into the same bucket, despite the fact those three men disagree more than they agree. I’m regularly called a conservative, even though I agree with very little of what is labeled conservative these days. These distinctions do not register with Progressives.

This is on display with the Cult’s reaction to the shooting in South Carolina. Progressives did not wait for the bodies to drop before pointing a finger at their enemies. They insist that the bad people are celebrating this shooting because that’s what bad people do. Progressives are largely silent on the victims and instead have invested all their time insisting this lunatic is just another member of the people outside the wall.

Small caliber opinion writers on what passes for the Right struggle with this, insisting that the debate is over facts and reason. Predictably, they spend all of their time rustling facts to disprove the claims of the Left, believing this is how one counters these attacks. I say predictably because this is another feature of how cults operate. As a defense mechanism, they look for ways to keep the people outside the walls focused on something other than the walls. It is not a conscious thing; it is an instinctual thing. People avoiding themselves naturally want to avoid notice.

Think of it this way. Imagine a herd of zebra on the plain. No single zebra wants to be an individual. They all struggle with one another to avoid the edge of the herd. The worst thing that can happen to a zebra is to be noticed by the lions. The individual instincts of each zebra become the herd’s natural group instincts. The defense mechanism of the herd is to be an amorphous blob. Just as the zebra uses stripes to fool the lion, herds of zebra uses shapelessness to fool the lions.

Modern Liberalism works in a similar way. The people who join these things, as I said before, do so in order to swap their identity with that of the group. The worst thing you can do to a Progressive is ask them questions targeting their opinions. They will try everything they can to shift the focus away from them onto something else, usually some defect they imagine in their questioner. The worst imaginable thing for a Progressive is be standing alone facing their true nature.

As an example, consider any discussion of homosexual marriage you have had with a liberal. The first bullet out of their gun is to demand why you are denying gays the same rights as straights. You see? They are not making an affirmative argument in favor of their new policy. They are not even saying their position is new. Instead, they are shifting the focus onto you, demanding you explain yourself to their satisfaction. By the time you give them the history of marriage the conversation is over and they have successfully avoided exposure.

This scales up by assigning any terrible event to the people on the other side of the wall. A lunatic shoots up a church and it is the NRA. A Muslim tries to set off a bomb in Times Square and it is probably an ObamaCare opponent. Blacks riot in Ferguson and it is white racism. The result here is the people outside the Cult invest all of their time explaining why they are not to blame. That’s where the focus lies and therefore the Cult avoids having the spotlight on them. It’s why they are so good at this tactic. It is integral to how mass movements function in the minority.

Bitter is the New Black

I saw this linked on Drudge the other day and it caught my eye because he labeled it “Millennials Are More Racist.” That struck me as at odds with my own experience so I got curious. Generation Snowflake is afraid of everything especially race.

It was in the section with the stories about the South Carolina shooting, which I would normally skip, as I’m not into race porn. This is the modern phenomenon where dandies from the leisure classes wallow in misery over some racist act, real or imagined, past or present, for the entertainment of others.

The link takes you to an essay by a woman named Karen Attiah. According to her resume posted on-line, she is a graduate of Northwestern and Columbia, receiving a bachelors in communications from the former and a human rights degree from the latter. Putting aside the fact that communications is a click less rigorous than a physical education degree, both schools are training centers for members of the elite and their attendants. Graduates of those schools wait on the movers and shakers in the cultural and political elite.

Further, it says she has killed time between schooling at elite organizations like the World Bank and Duke University. She is now starting a career in media at the Washington Post as a contract worker of some sort. Even though she is pushing 30 and has yet to settle into a paying career, she sports the type of credentials one sees these days in the managerial class. Life in America has been very good to Miss Attiah and promises to be much better, assuming she avoids costly errors in judgement.

Now, her article:

America should be shaken to its very core by what happened in Charleston.

The gruesome massacre of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., may amount to the worst racially motivated terror attack of our generation and a deeply violent reminder that racism and white supremacy continue to course through America’s veins. One cannot help but draw comparisons to the firebombing of a black church in Birmingham, Ala., almost 52 years ago.

Shaken to its core? This is a particularly ghastly crime, shooting people in a church, but is it really so heinous that we have to question the very existence of our country?

One would expect that a graduate of elite colleges would know the word for something that happens every fifty years. That word is “rare.” In fact, “unusually rare” would be accurate. That’s opposed to something that happens every day, like black kids shooting innocent people of all races, but mostly other black people. That’s what we call “common.” So common, in fact, that hardly anyone bothers to notice.

The shooting suspect in Charleston has been identified as Dylann Roof, a white 21-year-old. He was arrested (peacefully, one should add) at a traffic stop. Many will argue about what words we will use to describe Roof, whether he should be described as a mentally disturbed kid (a description rarely applied when the alleged perpetrator isn’t a white male) or a rational adult responsible for his alleged actions. His age matters, but not for the reasons you may think.

Here’s where the bitterness shows its teeth. We see this with Obama, Holder, Jarrett, Lynch and the rest of the mulatto mafia in the White House. We see it all over the country. Blacks who have done spectacularly well, by any standard, in America run around bitter and resentful of the country that has raised them up to high status.

When Obama was born, the safe bet was to assume his mother had ruined her life and condemned her son to a life of despair. Instead, the culture changed so much and so fast that he rose rather easily to the ranks of the elite. Instead of being thankful, he is bitter.

We see it here with Miss Attiah. Her writing suggests she is qualified to cover high school softball games for the Podunk Free Press, not writing essays for the Washington Post. Given her resume and pictures on-line, it’s a safe bet that she is working the system with things other than her intellect. I don’t hold that against her, but she should be grateful she lives in a country where that is possible. In a post-racial meritocracy, she’s cleaning floors for a living.

Roof, who was born in 1994, violently shatters one particularly entrenched myth that society holds about racism — that today’s millennials are more tolerant than their parents, and that racism will magically die out as previous generations pass on. We think that millennials should be lauded for aspiring to be “colorblind.” There is the belief that tolerant young people will intermarry and create a post-racial, brown society and that it will be “beautiful.”

But the truth is that the kids are not all right when it comes to racial equality. Studies have shown that millennials are just about as racist as previous generations

I’m quoting this section in case you think I’m being unfair to Miss Attiah. Here we have one white lunatic out of tens of millions and his actions are treated as emblematic, despite being a glaring one-off. Even third rate minds can sort through this stuff. The numbers here contradict the point she is claiming. Again, things that are rare are things that don’t often occur. Miss Attiah appears to be confused by the words, “rare”, “few” “many” and “often.” How is that possible?

Of course, this sort of spaghetti-minded reasoning gets published because the editors at the Post don’t need the hassle of spiking a piece by one of the chosen people. If the editor is an old white guy and he sends this back pointing out the logical errors, his next meeting is with the human resources people to discuss his termination. So, Miss Attiah floats through life unmolested, writing nonsense others are too polite or too afraid to correct.

Way back in the olden thymes, one argument against affirmative action was that it diminished the work of those with real talent. A black guy who was smart and worked hard would look over at the black guys who got there on affirmative action and resent the people who allowed it. At the same time, blacks promoted into areas beyond their ability would resent it because they would live a life of frustration. At some level, Miss Attiah has always known she is in way over her head.

Those warnings turned out to have been prophetic. In modern America, blacks are close to being an object of worship. In another generation we will paint the Washington Monument black and make it a shrine. If you are a reasonably well behaved black person with anything on the ball, an army of white people is ready to carry you to the heights of society. Yet, those blacks on those litters resent the people carrying them and the country that permits it to happen.

Bitter is the new black.

Five Star Trump

When I was writing this post a couple of weeks back, I had a section on how much I despised Donald trump. But, the post got too long so I cut it out. He’s one of those people that I heard speak a few sentences and decided I did not like. That was back in the 1980’s when he was peddling himself as a master negotiator. One of my friends read his book and thought it must be some sort of gag because Trump’s advice was ridiculous.

Trump has always struck me a gold-plated phony. His real estate deals seem to always involve someone going bankrupt. He reminds me of an uncle I had as a kid. Uncle Jack had the bluster and the vanity you see with Trump. Uncle Jack always settled for the very best, even when he was broke, which was all of the time. He ended up doing ten years in federal prison. To his credit, he did his time and kept his mouth shut.

That’s probably why I never cared for Trump. My uncle Jack was not an evil man. He was just one of those assholes you always regret having met if you hang around him long enough. There are guys you meet who are never on the level. They also have some angle so you can never turn your back on them. Because you can never let your guard down, they wear you out just being in the same room with them.

Anyway, Trump running for president was not exactly welcome news. Our elections are ridiculous when they try to play it straight. Having a guy who is a click away from being a carnival act in the race means it is going to a joke until he finally gets tired of it and quits. That was my first reaction when he announced. I just assumed this was going to be another publicity stunt that would last through the summer.

Then I heard him on the radio talking with Howie Carr. For those unfamiliar with Howie Carr, he is a local Boston talker who has been around forever. He’s a cynical old newspaper guy who does not take a lot of guff from anyone. He hounded the Bulger family as a reporter when Whitey Bulger was loose and killing people with the protection of the FBI, so he is not afraid to give guys like Trump the business.

If you listen to the interview, Trump is not quite as clownish as usual so he may be serious about running. He did not say anything that struck me as smart or clever, but he handled the questions in a more honest way that you typically hear from politicians. His answer to why he gave money to Democrats was actually pretty funny. Without saying it, he made clear that you have to bribe these guys to get them off your back.

The thing that kept coming to mind was that Trump actually sounds like a normal person compared to the average politician. I was somewhat blown away by the realization that a bullshitter like Trump is more authentic than the most down to earth politicians. Carr later made the point that Trump gave a speech he did not even bother to write down before giving it. Jeb Bush had a team of fifty that spend months writing his speech.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll never vote for Trump and I think I’d rather have Hillary Clinton in the White House than Trump. What I think he may do is force the rest of the field out from behind their force field of consultants. He’s quick on his feet and used to yelling at rich people so he will have no problem yelling at the collection of technocrats on stage with him. A guy like Trump looks at them as servants, not peers.

The other thing is he is going to talk about the taboo topics that are important to most Americans. Immigration, trade, the economy and corruption are at the top of the list for Americans, but the pols refuse to talk about them. It sounds like Trump sees that as his angle and is only talking about those issues. His ideas are not my ideas, but making the technocrats talk about these issues could be helpful.

Trump is going to be our Beppe Grillo. He’s not a serious candidate in the sense that anyone seriously wants him in office. He’s a serious candidate because he can talk about the serious issues without anything to lose. Trump is rich and his act is what it is. He’s got nothing to lose by running. Grillo has raised all sorts of hell in politics because he is barred from holding office in Italy so he has nothing to lose.

It’s not a perfect analogy. Beppe Grillo started a political party that is now challenging the main parties. Trump is not doing anything like that and he lacks the political savvy to be anything more than one guy raising hell. Still, a guy raising hell is a dangerous man if you’re one of the technocrats in the GOP field. While its sad that we have to rely on clowns to shake up the political elite, it’s something.

Rambling About the Passive-Authoritarian State

Here is a strange article in the Telegraph that touches on a popular theme of mine. That is, there are never any consequences to failure these days. In fact, failure has become a weird status symbol in the ruling classes. The bigger the screw up, the more likely it will redound to your favor in the future. It’s as if we have fallen into an alternative universe where all of the normal human structures are upside down and backward.

The most obvious example is in finance. In the 80’s, the S&L Crisis resulted in a lot of people going to prison for fraud, theft and violations of various banking rules. I knew a guy who spent a few years in the can after running a New Hampshire S&L into the ground. A lot of people went to prison, including rich people. Further, a lot of rich people were wiped out, losing their money or having it confiscated as punishment.

Fast forward to the accounting scandals of the late 90’s and count up the number of people who went to prison. That number is one. One guy went to the can after Arthur Anderson collapsed. The number of people who faced criminal prosecution after the dot-com bubble burst was tiny and limited to the low-lifes running boiler room operations for organized crime.

The pumpers in $5000 suits on CNBC faced no punishment. They did not lose their jobs as TV fluffers. Most went on to hype mortgage stocks in the following decade. Jim Cramer remains on TV despite recommending Wachovia stock the night before the bank failed. This is the same guy who defended Bear Sterns a week before it collapsed. He also has a long list of scandals involving his days as a trader. Yet, there he is on TV.

There are, of course, plenty of excuses for why we no longer see anyone of importance face consequences. In the case of the bankers and their fraudulent mortgage practices, the excuse was that the law compelled them to do it. That and forces no one truly understood, like magic or evil spirits. The consequences of lending money to people with no ability to pay was repackaged as a “black swan event.”

The Iraq Invasion mentioned in the article is another one of those magical events that no one could have foreseen. After all, everyone knew Saddam had secret super weapons and was about to use them on the West. No one, of course, knew that Iraq would fall into tribal and sectarian chaos once the strong man was toppled. It was all just an inevitable chain of events no one could stop or predict.

Probably the best example of this consequence free world of the ruling elite is what we have seen with Obama. I’m old enough to remember when Nixon was run out of town for asking about whether the IRS could be used against his enemies. Team Obama co-opted the agency as a part of its election campaign and harassed hundreds of citizens. The agency then repeatedly lied to Congress about it and still refuses to turn over their records.

That’s a great example to use to show the break down of lawful order in the ruling class. Forty years ago the people in charge vigorously enforced their own rules on their own coevals. Today it is anything goes. No one follows the rules, no one enforces the rules and no one is the least bit troubled by any of it. The same people who cut their teeth howling in protest over Nixon now defend Obama to the death. They don’t do so on principle. They do so because they can.

If you want to dismiss this on partisan grounds, you can as that requires no evidence, just wishful thinking. You cannot dismiss what’s going on with Team Clinton on partisan grounds. Even her own people are pointing out that they are running a blatant money laundering operation. Their foundation is a way to process tens of millions in shake downs and bribes. This is something on which the partisans agree.

Yet, no one dares do anything about it or even make much of a fuss about it. The NYTimes and Washington Post report these stories and the people in power shrug. There’s even a sense that many are privately laughing at the audacity of the Clintons. Just when it seemed like they had plumbed the very bottom of public ethics, they find some new lower level of corruption.

This sort of lawlessness at the top is not without precedent. The third century saw the Roman elite at war with itself. A general would be raised up as emperor, only to be killed a month later by the same men in favor of some new general. From AD 235–284 the Empire was convulsed by economic and political crisis primarily due to a near total lack of order amongst the ruling elites. It was finally ended by Diocletian.

Sticking with Rome, the years preceding Julius Caesar saw a breakdown of the old order and the old customs. Rules regulating advancement through the ranks were increasingly ignored.  War and crisis were used as excuses to ignore prohibitions on holding positions beyond one term. Eventually, Caesar rode into Rome and imposed a new order on the city and the Empire.

It’s tempting to think we are seeing something similar in our current age. Maybe it is, but it could also explain why national and global elites are so hot for extra-national organizations like the EU, WTO and IMF. Instead of inviting a strong man into impose order, they invite in bureaucrats from an international organization to impose order on their behalf. The Greek government tried exactly that with the austerity program.

That may sound farfetched, but look at the effort being put into this Obama trade deal by the Republicans. A year ago they were promising to string Obama up by his junk and now they are murdering their own to pass this deal for him. Packed in the deal are things that will allow some international panel of bureaucrats to force things like amnesty, gun control and increases in immigration on America, that could never pass the legislature.

The future will not be authoritarian in the Orwellian sense. It will be passive-authoritarian, where the elected officials stand around helpless as their designates in the TPP or IMF force rules on the people against their will. The inevitable abuses and corruption will result in everyone standing around, carrying on like it is an act of God. Maybe there will be some finger pointing at the alphabet soup organization, but no one will ever be held to account.

Uber Screwed

At various times here I have ranted and spewed – that’s right SPEWDED! about Uber and other “sharing economy” companies. My contention is that they are just clever ways to dodge existing laws and regulations in order to undercut exiting providers. It’s not a new technology. It’s technology used to evade the law. It looks like the law is slowly coming around to that position.

It would appear that the California Labor Commission has ruled that at least one Uber driver is an employee.

As it stands now, Uber employs its drivers as third-party contractors, operating as a logistics company that provides access to customer demand and directions, transactions, etc. for the drivers. Uber has argued repeatedly in various courts that it is not a transportation or taxi company, but rather a software platform that matches customer demand with supply.

This ruling changes all that, turning Uber into a transportation startup instead of a logistics software company. That puts the company in a position to face a number of legal obstacles, as well as rising costs of employing those drivers directly and offering them benefits, etc.

As BI points out, one of Uber’s main costs is its full-time employees that work out of Uber corporate offices. If Uber drivers are deemed employees, the business model shifts drastically.

Uber is not the first company to try this trick. Most states have laws to address the use of “part-time” and “contract” employees. That’s because companies tried to shift their employment costs onto their employees by classifying full-time employees as contractors or temporary. In most states, an employee counts as an employee as soon as they reach a certain number of hours.

Years ago I was involved with a union campaign in Massachusetts. The company used part-time drivers and got into trouble when they let the part-time drivers work full-time hours. They were working 40-50 hours per week, but classed as seasonal temps. Sensing an opening, the Teamsters tried to organize them promising better wages and benefits.

Anyway, there’s no mystery to any of this. Operating a car service has well known costs. The car, its maintenance, gas and taxes are not costs that can be mitigated with a phone app. Similarly, licensing and regulatory fees are set by the state. There’s never been a lot of room to cut costs or increase efficiency. It is a basic business made more expensive by government.

The only way Uber and Lyft can be offering a better cheaper service is to avoid the government imposed costs or transferring some of their costs onto others. It turns out they are doing both of those things. On the one hand they dump their fleet costs on their drivers. On the other hand they dodge local regulations and licensing. Add back all of those costs and Uber is just another taxi company.

The interesting thing about this line of attack on Uber is the potential liabilities. Once the states start calling those Uber drivers employees, they can go to the local labor boards and get back wages, benefits and possibly damages. At the very minimum, Uber will be hiring a big shot law firm charging big shot law firm rates. Those costs will show up in the price of the product.

As I’ve said in the past, I’m not against Uber or Lyft. I’m against the idiots claiming they are creating “disruptive technology.” That offends me. Uber and Lyft are not building a better mousetrap so much as they are just exempting themselves from the laws the rest of us must follow. We have a lot of stupid laws governing banks, but I’m still against bank robbery. Most taxi laws are probably stupid too, but that does not mean Uber is a great way to mitigate those laws.

 

Wall Street Versus Americans

Back in the Clinton years, a main paleo-conservative argument was that Wall Street had bought both parties. The tradition counters to big business were unable to compete with the vast amounts of money pouring into the parties from global corporations and their bankers. The old conservative aphorism, “the trouble with capitalism is capitalists” had given way to unanimous support for Gramm-Leach.

At the time, I was a little skeptical as it seemed to me that the rich and powerful would always have the whip hand in politics. It has always been thus so why should the future be any different? If America was transitioning from an industrial power to a financial and technological power, then the people in charge would the titans of finance and technology.

I think that the thing that no one saw coming is the class awareness of the global elite. For all of human history, the rich and powerful were tied to their country of origin by blood, language and tradition. The rootless cosmopolitan was a fringe character, never to be trusted. The new elite are different in that they are much more like the rootless cosmopolitan, with infinitely more money and, consequently, power.

The consequences are becoming apparent to many grassroots Republicans. They rallied to give the GOP majorities in both houses only to see the GOP embrace the Obama agenda with an enthusiasm of a fanatic. If you trundled out to vote in 2010 and 2014 and you don’t feel like a fool right now, you’re not paying attention. Just wait until the court rules against ObamaCare and the GOP rushes a fix through both houses. Maybe then you’ll see.

If not, the people with the whip hand are about to make sure you know who is running things now. Business Insider reports that the paymasters have grown tired of appeasing the provincials and their primitive customs.

For years, when it came to presidential candidates, Wall Street made huge compromises in order to support the Republican Party.

The money men in New York City set aside their socially liberal views in order to support fiscally conservative candidates because that was the only way to get on the same page as the GOP base.

The result has been a series of candidates Wall Street’s big donors didn’t really want.

It seems those donors are getting tired of that outcome.

Hedge fund billionaire Leon Cooperman recently vented his frustration with this arrangement on an episode of Wall Street Week.

“I tend to be more Republican in my views, but socially very liberal. I’m going to have trouble with any Republican that does not disavow a fixation with social issues,” he said.

“Republicans have to understand that because young people in our country are not grabbed by those issues.”

“Republicans have to understand that because young people in our country are not grabbed by those issues.”

Republican candidates are not getting the message.

In fact, some social conservatives are actually hardening their stances before a new wave of younger voters has the mass to make a difference at the polls.

A recent Pew Research poll found that Republican Conservatives are the only group in America who have become less accepting of homosexuality over the last two years.

This is not what Wall Street wants to see.

As an aside, the obsession over young people is a strange psychosis that you don’t see in the history books. Up until the birth of mass culture, people just assumed young people did not know enough to be trusted so they had to be taught. Suddenly, that got flipped on its head and everyone claims to be living on a knife’s edge over the choices made by teenagers.

Anyway, the old crime thinkers who were run out of conservative politics decades ago are being proven correct about the culture war. Culture trumps everything. The plutocrats living off the financial system will do business with the either party, but they will favor those who share their worldview. Leon Cooperman will give money to Elizabeth Warren over Ted Cruz because Warren is better for the gays.

If you look at how the people who invented Christianity converted Europe, you’ll see it was not a bottom up approach. They went for the top guys, knowing they would compel their people to convert. That’s exactly how Augustine went about converting the Anglo-Saxons. He baptized Æthelberht, the king of Kent, assuming the people would follow.

That’s a lesson to consider here. The people in charge of the two political parties are wholly owned by the financial class. That financial class is culturally at odds with the people, but they control the means of public expression, as well as the dominant cultural institutions. History says they win, no matter how many times you vote Republican.

¿El Presidente?

News brings word that Juan Eduardo Bush is officially running for Emperor President of the Western Administrative District United States.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has officially launched his US presidential campaign, promising to “run with heart” and “take nothing and no one for granted”.

Mr Bush, the son and brother of two former presidents, spoke in his hometown of Miami, Florida.

Recently released campaign branding leaves behind his surname, which some see as a political liability.

Polling suggests he has yet to dominate a wide field of Republican candidates.

Speaking in both English and Spanish, Mr Bush used his speech to appeal to a broad swath of the US electorate – of which minorities have become increasingly more important – not just the Republican’s conservative base.

“In any language,” Mr Bush said, “my message will be an optimistic one because I am certain that we can make the decades just ahead in America the greatest time ever to be alive in this world.”

Not mentioned in the news is that Bush promises to legalize the tens of millions here illegally, as well as open the southern border to all comers. He doesn’t say it that way, but he has made that clear for a long time now. His constant yapping in Spanish is what more sophisticated observers would call signalling. “Vote for me and your village can join you here in America.”

Listening to his speech today, it occurred to me that there are three possibilities with regards to the Bush campaign. It’s pretty clear that Jeb has been plotting this campaign for a long time and he is not just winging it. He is a political animal from a political family. Legend has it he was the Bush son groomed for the presidency, not his brother. The cards just fell the right way for W and not for Jeb.

Regardless of how I feel about another Bush in the White House, there is a strong possibility he is right. He thinks American wants a multicultural, bilingual globalist as an antidote for the malaise that has gripped the nation for close to a decade. The Republican voters, sensing a winner, will rally to his message, despite the fact they don’t speak his language, and he will win the nomination and the presidency.

That’s one possibility. The other is he is right about the country, but the GOP is, as usual, late to the party and not ready to nominate a citizen of the world. Back in 2008 this was exactly what all the experts claimed was Obama’s advantage. The country was moving away from the old fashioned provincialism toward a worldly cosmopolitanism. That would mean a Democrat win in the general as the GOP would nominate a yesterday man of some sort.

The final possibility is that Jeb is simply out of touch with reality. He does sort of sound like a Contract With America Republican when he talks about being optimistic and inclusive. All that big tent happy talk was popular in the Clinton years as the GOP searched for a way to recycle the Reagan material, without all the mean stuff about liberals. You just know that Jeb wants to use “compassionate conservatism” in his pitch.

My hope, of course, is that the nation rises up as one and smashes his campaign, chases off his supporters and bans the use of the Bush name within our borders. Barring that, then my hope is Jeb is simply out of touch with reality having spent the last decade removed from politics. That at leaves some hope for the country. In the fullness of time, people will be able to drag their leaders back to reality and put things right.

I’m too much of a pessimist these days to think that is the case. Instead it is one of the first two options. The polling suggests it is probably the second choice. The nation is ready to embrace the post-nation state, but the GOP is lagging behind. Of course, history says GOP voters are desperate to catch up with the Democrats so maybe Bush is just a little ahead of his time, but not so far ahead that he cannot win the nomination.

Either way, it is hard to be optimistic about the coming elections.

The New Religion

The Rachel Dolezal story is hilarious for a boatload of reasons. There’s the obvious comparison to people who insist we pretend they are of another sex. If you can pretend to be the opposite sex, why not another race? More precisely, if sex is a social construct, then why is race not a social construct? Of course, for decades the war on white people has been based on the assertion that race is a social construct.

It used to be that we need not worry about such things. Biology was real and people accepted it. Those who did not were deemed mentally ill and treated accordingly. Rachel Dolezal was not fooling anyone, I suspect. People are not that stupid. They are that polite, however, and no one wants to get in a spat over race, even if it involves someone fraudulently using race to game the system. Elizabeth Warren pulled the same stunt and got away with it for the same reasons.

It’s fun to make sport of the internal contradictions, but it is even more fun to watch the Cult attack itself over something like this. Rachel Dolezal believes all the right things and has literally committed her life to them, but in doing so she has made a mockery of the one true faith. But, condemning someone for not being black enough sounds a lot like the paper bag test or the one drop rule.

Aside from the humor, it does reveal the basics of the New Religion, at least at this stage of its development. The New Religion is based on three principles: egalitarianism, multiculturalism and anti-racism.The order is important as the first two principles are the oldest and most important. Egalitarianism goes back to Rousseau and is at the root of all radical movements since the French Revolution.

If all men are the same, logically all cultures are the same. Multiculturalism is not logically possible without accepting egalitarianism. On the other hand, like Marxism, multiculturalism is a solution to the obvious problem that people will notice that not all cultures are the same and not all people seem to be equal. By ennobling the embrace of all cultures and condemning ethnocentrism, noticing becomes a defect in the noticer, rather than in the noticed.

If everyone is the same and no cultures are better than any other, inequity must be due to something other than biology and culture. Since white societies are the richest and most dominant, they must doing something to upset the natural order. That’s where anti-racism comes into the mix. The sin of racism is what allows whites in particular and white society in general, to rule over the rest of the world.

Therefore, white people of the New Religion jostle with one another for who can be the most ethno-masochist. The ultimate expression of that is to change ones race from white to black. We can all agree that Rachel Dolezal is nuts, but her choice here is not entirely irrational from the perspective of the true believer. Some white women marry black men, but she went even further and converted to blackness!

You see the same thing happening with trannies and homosexuals. In the mythology of the New Religion, women have been oppressed by white men almost as bad as blacks. This cult is, after all, a female cult. That makes white men the ultimate evil. How better to address that than proving maleness is a choice. If Bruce Jenner can choose to be female, then all of those terrible white men are choosing to be terrible white men.

All religions work backwards. By that I mean they begin with an endpoint and layout what must be done to reach that endpoint. For Christians, getting into heaven is about following certain rules and “living a Christian life.” For members of the New Religion, the goal is the earthly utopia where everyone lives in a paradise of equality. Therefore, the anointed are those who work to achieve it, through any means necessary.

Religions also always have a certain amount of hypocrisy and irrationality, too. They are human institutions, after all. The New Religion will ignore Elizabeth Warren’s trans-racialism because she is in the elite. Rachel Dolezal is just a provincial in flyover country. That means the good folks at NPR and the NYTimes can make sport of Rachel Dolezal, while celebrating Elizabet Warren.

It’s why cases like this will not have a lasting impact on the evolution of the New Religion. Hypocrisy, it turns out, is a great adaptation. It solves a lot of problems for human religion. Whether it is Catholic Bishops living like royalty while railing against earthly pleasures or Progressive pundits championing Bruce Jenner while condemning Rachel Dolezal, hypocrisy lets the faithful get past the internal contradictions and outright lunacy of their faith.

What’s a Conservative?

The other day, James asked about this line from one of my posts:

“On the other hand, people like me no longer describe ourselves as conservative because we are at odds with everything the modern conservative supports.”

His questions was:

“Two questions: 1. what specifically are the things the modern conservative supports? 2. In what respect are you at odds with each of these things?”

Large books have been written on the subject and I could easily write a small book on what I find objectionable with what we currently define as “conservative.” Since I don’t have the time to write a book at the moment, I’ll nibble away at it here. This post by one of Tyler Cowen’s grad students is a good place to start.

The latest from Louisiana is that taxes are going up, but in a strange way that won’t be called a tax increase:

One of the most critical parts of the budget plan, and the part that attracted most of the debate, would raise no revenue and lighten no one’s tax burdens. But because of a complicated arrangement of tax credits, this plan could, by some interpretations, allow Mr. Jindal, a Republican, to say that despite millions coming in from cigarette tax hikes and tax break rollbacks, the state had technically not raised net new tax revenue.

Read the whole article, it is even weirder than that sounds.  Combine that with the recent fiasco in Kansas, where the strongly Republican state government will be reversing earlier tax cuts.

It seems to me that, whether we like it or not, fiscal conservatism has been stymied at the state level.  No, that’s not true for Illinois, New York, or California, but it does seem to be true for many other states, especially those governed by Republicans.  (And yes, state pension obligations still do need to be reigned in and made subject to proper accounting.)  More concretely, trying to cut taxes at the state level doesn’t seem like a useful or productive way forward.

I’m old enough to remember when the people saying they were “fiscal conservatives” were almost always in the Democrat party. That phrase was a lot like “path to citizenship” or “secure the border” is today. It meant something different than the literal meaning. The Congressman I worked for was a fiscally conservative Democrat and that meant he was a deficit hawk.

My congressman was no one’s idea of a conservative back then. He was fine with New Deal style government programs, as long as they were paid for through taxes. Like all other fiscal conservatives in both parties, he preferred broad based taxes to pay for government. Today, exactly no one in politics is a deficit hawk. Borrowing is a given and no one cares how much or from whom the government borrows money.

The innovation Reagan brought to the debate was the idea of cutting taxes in order to force spending cuts. That’s what it meant to be a conservative. They agreed with the deficit hawks about not borrowing so cutting taxes naturally meant a restraint on spending. If you slow the growth of government to some level below inflation and population growth, the relative size and scope of the state shrinks.

In other words, conservative meant small, financially responsible government. That meant the aversion to borrowing of the deficit hawks and the desire to shrink government. The novelty of using tax policy to force spending restraint was a means to an end, not an end in itself.

There were objections to this on the Right. The old-school conservatives preferred to fight the spending fight on its own terms. They contended that the inevitable deficits from tax cuts would not force spending cuts, but normalize chronic borrowing. The fact that they were proven correct has been lost to the mists of time.

There was also another “conservative” principle in the use of tax cuts and that was simplification. The Progressive view on taxes was as another tool to shape behavior. The myriad of loopholes, shelters and breaks was a way to force behavior that otherwise would not occur, without the carrot of tax breaks. Conservatives always rejected that and pushed for simple tax systems.

Today, what passes for a conservative holds views no conservative would recognize forty years ago. For starters, demanding trivial reduction in taxes as some sort of great goal is just silly. The tax cuts of Bush, for example, had no impact on the lives of 90% of Americans. If twenty bucks a week is making a difference, you’re not paying taxes anyway. For most families, the Bush tax cuts were a rounding error.

Worse yet, today’s “fiscal conservatives’ are in favor of all sorts of social engineering through the tax code. The credits and breaks demanded by conservatives could fill a warehouse. The Reform Conservatives are calling for a proliferation of breaks and credits making tax lawyers rich and further entangling the state in the lives of citizens.

Tinkering with tax rates and expanding the complexity and scope of the tax code is what defines the term “fiscal conservative” today, along with an embrace of reckless borrowing to finance a metastasizing welfare state. I’m old enough to remember when moderate Democrats would mock that as woolly-headed liberalism.

That’s one example of where I am at odds with the modern conservative. Taxes are honest when they are frictionless. They should have as little impact on behavior as possible. They should be clear and in plain site. Hidden taxes are a crime against the free citizen. Taxes should also be universal. Citizens pay taxes.

The tax level is whatever is required to finance government. If the people want a lot of government, then they pay a lot of taxes. If they want lower taxes, then they have to cut spending. The core principle of conservatism is that public policy is about trade-offs. Borrowing conceals these trade-offs and deceives the public, just like hidden taxes and special tax breaks, thus making deficits at odds with a free society.

Thinking about the Post-National World

In other forums, I’ve gone around and around with people about the future of extra-national entities like Europe or the North American Union. Everyone alive has grown up in a world of countries and nations. They think that’s the natural order and anything that runs counter to it is doomed to fail.

People believe the nation is the natural end point of human societal evolution. European history was taught this way in American schools when we still taught history so maybe that’s the reason it is embedded in people’s minds. More likely it is just the fact that we have known nothing else. Even places where “country” is barely recognizable like the Middle East, we insist on maintaining national boundaries.

My contention is that history shows a steady evolution toward larger and larger organizing entities. Britain is a good example. When the Romans arrived, the people were organized into tribes. When the Romans left, the island was organized into small kingdoms. By the middle ages they had the Heptarchy.  Eventually, all of Britain was unified under one banner and one identity. In a few years, Britain will be absorbed in the EU as a province of Brussels.

That seems to be the way to bet. Europe is becoming an amorphous blob of people from all over creation. What was once thought of as countries are becoming administrative districts. When the German district runs low on people, they import more from Turkey or the Balkans. The French district imports people from Algeria and Tunisia. Being a French citizen has the same value to the local government as being a citizen of Swaziland or Jupiter.

The TPP that Republicans are hell bent on passing for Barak Obama will create an extra-national organization that will decide immigration, trade, tariffs, taxes, environmental issues, etc. Just as with the EU, this organization will absorb more and more of the duties national governments used to manage. Over time, the US government will simply be an enforcement arm of various world governing authorities.

That sounds like bad theater, but it is already happening in Europe. The EU recently passed a rule requiring cars to have tracking devices. The responsibility for enforcing such a rule will fall to what we used to call national governments. Those government will, in turn, delegate some portion of their duties to provincial and municipal governments. Those governments don’t get a say in it. They just enforce it on whoever happens to be coming through their administrative zone.

You can vote yourself silly in local and national elections, but all you will be doing is picking the people responsible for enforcing the rules. You will have no say in the writing of laws and formulation of policy, because the people for whom you are voting will have no power to write laws. That’s on display in Greece right now. They can have an election every week and the facts on the ground remain unchanged, because the decisions are made in Brussels.

This means citizenship goes away, for all practical purposes. Citizens participate in the management of their societies because they share a language, customs and history with the people of their society. If you no longer share these things and have no way to participate in the management of your society, why have any loyalty to any of it? Why bother calling yourself a citizen? You’re just someone who happens to live in an administrative district named after what it used to be.

Of course, humans are not atomized, transactional creatures. We are social animals. Even when we find ourselves randomly dispersed, we coagulate into groups based on our natures. There’s a reason that in every school cafeteria in America kids self-segregate by race, sex and age. Kids have to be forcibly integrated, despite being marinated in multiculturalism.

So, people will still group together and have in-group loyalties and out-group hostilities. How the global elite figures on managing that is anyone’s guess. It works now as most people remain patriotic and participate in civic life thinking it makes a difference. Everyday, however, more people come to the realization that citizenship is a suckers game. At some point, the legacy institutions will be abandoned by even the most romantic and a new way of controlling the population will be required.

The most likely solution is the soft authoritarianism you see in the ghetto. The dependent class is kept in-line by a mix of the lash and the leash. When you rely on the state to supply your house, your food, your entertainments and your drugs, even the dumbest ghetto dweller figures out how to play by the rules. Those who can’t behave are rounded up by the cops, if they don’t shoot one another.

Maybe some new organizing ethos will fill the void, allowing people to rally in support of their rulers like we had with patriotism and tribalism. It’s hard to imagine what it could be, but maybe nationalism was unfathomable before The Hundred Years War. Alternatively, maybe the future is just a cleaner, more orderly version of the ghetto where everyone is running a scam, loyal only to their circle of confidants.