Regional Voting

There are new polls out showing Ben Carson as the leader in Iowa at the moment. None of this means anything as there are loads of examples where candidate X lead three months out and failed to get single digit support in the actual caucuses. Ben Carson could say something batty like evolution is the work of Satan and everything changes. I have nothing for or against Carson, I’m just pointing out that these polls are meaningless.

But, it does raise the age old question about Iowa. Why do they go first? Iowa is not very representative of the country. Iowa, for example, is 2.6% black, while America is 13% black. It has a family formation rate similar to Texas, but votes like Connecticut. Similarly, it has church attendance similar to Tennessee, but votes for pro-abortion candidates. Iowa is a very weird state.

If I’m running the GOP, I’d want a state that is typical of my voting base to kick off the season. Virginia would be a good example as it is usually Republican and conservative, but it’s not Utah. They will vote Democrat and parts of the state are fairly loony so it has a good mix. The best solution would be to have a group of states vote first and pick the states that hover around the political center, like Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Thinking about it reminded me of a previous post about how the country would look post break up. America is becoming two ships passing in the night with most areas solidly in one camp or the other. It occurred to me that both parties are collapsing largely because they are out of sync with the balkanization of the country, even though both parties are responsible for it.

If you travel around the country, it is clear that Arlington Texas is in a different country from Arlington Massachusetts. On the other hand, Portland Oregon is not a lot different from Portland Maine. It’s a big country with distinct regional cultures and sensibilities. The parties would be wise to take advantage of this to produce leadership and nominees that represent a broader segment of the country.

I’m thinking about this great map from the book American Nations.

We have roughly five regions in the country. New France, El Norte and New Netherland are too small to make this work so I’m sticking with the big five. If we divide the states into five buckets and have each vote for the presidential nominee as a block, then it forces the candidate to appeal to at least three regions of the country.

The obvious flaw is that one or two regions could have a hometown favorite and you end up with no candidate getting three regions so this regional vote has to be an over layer on the state by state system. Currently, the states send delegates to the convention based on the makeup of their congressional delegation. Then there are a bunch of extra delegates so the party leaders can put their thumb the scale.

My thinking is you have regional delegates that are awarded to candidates that win the popular election in the regions. A candidate that won the most votes in Yankeedom, for example, would get all of those regional delegates, even if they only won Mass and Connecticut. Similarly, winning California by a few points, could still mean losing the region if the other candidate wins the other states by big margins.

The idea is not to create national candidates, but to create nominees that think regionally and strategically. Crafting a campaign that appeals to The Midlands, Appalachia and the South is not just going to win the nomination, but it will make for a winning general election campaign, at least for the Republicans. It also breaks their nominees free from trying to appeal to primary voters in the Northeast who will never vote for them in the general.

Obviously, I have no spent a lot of time thinking it through, but I’m thinking that the current situation is headed for a bad place. The GOP is dumpster fire of a party, as we see with the struggle to find a new Speaker of the House. If a welfare state technocrat from Wisconsin is the bets they can do, it may be time to disband and try something else.

Burn, baby! Burn!

During the unrest in Baltimore, an unreported element was the revenge and score settling. The news people painted a picture of aggrieved brown people going into the streets to make their case the only way they knew how, but that was just the TV show part. Most of it was good old fashioned looting, stealing and pointless mayhem. But, a small portion was gang bangers taking the opportunity to settle scores, rearrange the map and make some points.

In every community on earth, there are people who have revenge on their minds and when the opportunity comes along to get some payback, they take it. It’s just a part of human nature. Fear of going to prison or fear of being found out keeps most of it under control, but in a place like Baltimore or Detroit, it does not take much to set off a round of score settling.

Revolutions, when they come, unlock all of those doors at once and you get a lot of bloodletting that has nothing to do with the revolution. Sure, the revolutionaries hold public trials, humiliate their former masters and hang enough of them to satisfy their lust for revenge. That’s just part of the deal, but the common people settle their scores too. The revolutionaries eventually have to reign it in which is when the revolutionaries start looking a lot like the guys they overthrew.

Anyway, I was thinking about that when reading this story.

SunTrust Banks in Atlanta is laying off about 100 IT employees as it moves work offshore. But this layoff is unusual for what the employer is asking of its soon-to-be displaced workers: SunTrust’s severance agreement requires terminated employees to remain available for two years to provide help if needed, including in-person assistance, and to do so without compensation.

Many of the affected IT employees, who are now training their replacements, have years of experience and provide the highest levels of technical support. The proof of their ability may be in the severance requirement, which gives the bank a way to tap their expertise long after their departure.

The bank’s severance deal includes a “continuing cooperation” clause for a period of two years, where the employee agrees to “make myself reasonably available” to SunTrust “regarding matters in which I have been involved in the course of my employment with SunTrust and/or about which I have knowledge as a result of my employment at SunTrust.”

The employees were informed of their layoff at the end of September, and the last day of work for some is Nov. 1. This is according to several of the affected employees, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.

The severance is seen by affected employees as a requirement to provide ongoing technical assistance as needed. The severance agreement itself says that this assistance from former employees “will be requested at such times and in such a manner so as to not unreasonably interfere with my subsequent employment.” An employee shared the severance clause with Computerworld.

This assistance can be by telephone or in-person meetings, and it may be provided without “additional consideration or compensation of any kind,” the clause says.

“How do they think this is acceptable?” said one affected IT worker about the clause. He said he couldn’t fathom how the bank can cut its IT staff and yet insist that former workers be available to fix problems.

You come into work and learn you will be laid off. That sucks, but it happens. Then they tell you that you have to train your replacement. That more than sucks. That’s humiliating. Then you learn that your replacement is a turd eater from the other side of the world. Now you’re pissed. Then some smug asshole from HR says you will have to agree to help the guy for two years on your dime.

Here’s a wild guess on my part, but if things get out of control in America, a whole lot of bank managers are going to turn up with their throats cut. Of course, this sort of spiteful treatment of Americans by people who no longer think they are Americans is common these days. The Cloud People who imagine themselves cut loose from the bounds of citizenship seem to take pleasure in humiliating the Ground People.

Thinking about it, I wonder if revolutions are not just the accumulation of slights and humiliations to a point where the damn breaks and they wash away the old order, leaving a vacuum for someone to fill. Those avant garde revolutionaries that end up in charge are not the vanguard. They are just the people smart enough to ride the tidal wave of resentments.

I don’t know enough about revolution to know and I don’t think much about it. I have my revenge fantasies like any other normal man, but those are for my own entertainment. It just seems to me that our betters are in a hurry to heap as many slights and humiliations upon as they can. It’s as if they think they are at war with us. At some point, the other side of that war is going to wake up and decide to join the fight. I would not want to be a SunTrust Bank manager when that happens.

The Myth of Growth

An expression I’m fond of using is “no tree grows to the sky.” I don’t know where I picked it up, but like most of my pithy expressions, it appeals to be sense of the natural order. Everything begins, evolves, changes, adapts, but eventually ends. It strikes me that most of the periods of tumult were the result of people just assuming the trend lines would never change. Everything would stay the same forever.

The one area where this always jumps out to me is the cult of economics. If you scrape away the posing and posturing, this strange modern religion is built on the absolute belief that economies can and must grow forever. The “economy” has been turned into a thing with agency that punishes and rewards the people, based on their treatment of the economy.

Nowhere in modern economics do you find people talking about steady low growth or even static economies, other than as cautionary tales. In the word of modern economics, the economy of a country is the plant from Little Shop of Horrors. It must be fed so it can grow and nothing must be permitted to get in the way of feeding the thing. In the moral hierarchy of modern economics, everything comes second to the economy, even human life.

To some degree, this is what drives the open borders fanaticism among the ruling classes. The shamans of the cult of economics tell these simple minds in politics that the economy must grow or we all die. Further, they tell them that the only way to grow it is to grow the population. Since the locals refuse to have ten kids per woman, the only solution is to import millions of peasants from the fringes of civilization.

In fact, growing the economy is so important to the health of the people that it trumps the life of the people. Mark Dayton comes pretty close here to saying that opponents of mass immigration don’t deserve to live, that they can be fed to the economy like the murder victims are fed to the plant in the above musical. To Mark Dayton, his statement is noble because he is saying he is willing to sacrifice his kin to please the god of modern economics.

Harsh words and heartfelt sentiment were exchanged by community members and local officials on racial issues in Central Minnesota at the St. Cloud NAACP Community Conversation with Gov. Mark Dayton.

Hosted Tuesday at St. Cloud Public Library, about 100 people from diverse backgrounds gathered to ask questions of St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson, State Rep. Jim Knoblach, Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey, Council on Black Minnesotans Community Program Specialist Kolloh Nimley and St. Cloud AFYA Pharmacy co-owner Dr. Edris Kosar.

From the start of the event, Dayton bluntly stated his opinions on the racial tension in St. Cloud and across the state in regards to immigration.

“Look around you. This is Minnesota,” Dayton said. “Minnesota is not like it was 30, 50 years ago. … This is Minnesota and you have every right to be here. And anybody who cannot accept your right to be here, and this is Minnesota, should find another state.”

Dayton is defining citizenship here based on your acceptance of the New Religion. Much as libertarians think the unproductive should be turned into fertilizer, the man of the New Religion thinks the infidel is no longer his fellow citizen, maybe not even his fellow human being. The Bantu tribesman on the other side of the planet wishing to settle in your neighborhood means more to Mark Dayton than you, if you are not sufficiently enthusiastic for the new faith.

The bit of reality the shamans cannot contemplate is that the economy will not grow forever. Much of what is called growth is just currency manipulation. Another part is gaffing the numbers so the spreadsheets look pleasing. Automation, of course, is going to eliminate most work in the next generation. Growth as currently understood will come to an end by the middle of this century, no matter how many Bantus are imported to Minnesota.

The trouble is, everything in the West is based on the assumption that the economy will grow forever.That’s not irrational. For most of human history, scarcity has been the great challenge. The great minds were all put to the task of figuring out how society can allocate scare resources to support the maximum number of people. In a world with shortages of food, water, housing, shelter and safety, growing the supply of those stocks is paramount. It trumps everything.

That’s not the modern West. It’s barely the case in the savage areas. The population explosion in Africa is due to more food, medicine, shelter and security. We live in an age where poor people are obese because they sit around all day eating massive calories, taking massive amounts of intoxicants while watching television. Mexico is the most obese country on earth and they are allegedly waddling north in search of more stuff, like grazing animals.

A post-scarcity world should be a world of steady populations, with periods of modest growth and decline, based on fashion. It is a simple math problem. Instead, our rulers are convinced that we must have more and more people in order to feed the economy. Whether or not they really believe it is hotly debated on the Right, but clearly it is baked into their world view. The modern politician talks about nothing other than economics and economic growth.

I think it goes deeper than just a current fad. Everything is based on growth, real or imagined. Our institutions and culture are based on growth. We deliberately debase the value of labor through currency manipulation, for example, in order to encourage productivity and economic activity. The explosion of debt is so the welfare state can keep growing. Those massive credit markets everyone now fears is to keep the economy growing.

Generations of ruling classes have been trained on the core belief of never ending growth. Remove Audrey II from the modern discussion and what do we have? The error made on the Right is to assume this obsession with economics is in order to avoid answering that question. It may simply be that they fear discussing culture because it may upset the gods of growth and then there will be hell to pay.

Oh Canada

Way back in the olden thymes, everyone and I mean everyone believed that the weird fuzzy-wuzzy fascism of the Democratic Party was settled policy. Only lunatics and fans of Hitler thought otherwise. After all, the 1964 election had proved it! We did not yet have science! but the defeat of Goldwater was the next best thing. There could be only two types politics, hard-boiled liberalism and soft-boiled liberalism.

People could be forgiven for assuming that was true. Goldwater was recklessly described as a lunatic, who wanted to blow up the world. He was not, but the press and all the beautiful people hooted and roared when LBJ sent out psychologist claiming that Goldwater was deranged. As an aside, expect this to happen with Trump and Carson, except it will be economists.

That meant the choices before the voters would be between the metastasizing welfare state of the Republicans or the metastasizing welfare state of Democrats. In other words, you could have any color car you wanted as long as it was black. There was no turning back the clock and going back to the dark days when things were better. No sirree, it was all settled. All the smart people said so and if you said otherwise, you were not smart, maybe even crazy.

The weird thing about the Reagan years is they may as well have never happened. All the good that was done in those years has been rolled back and some of it so quickly it is hard remember that was ever done. What’s crazier, is immediately after Reagan, his party went right back to believing what they believed before he won two landslide elections. That is, they had to be Democrat-lite in order to win elections.

One of the reasons the GOP is in trouble today is their insistence on being a slightly less crazy version of the Democrats. That has its appeals as there are always voters out there afraid to rock the boat. That and it promises to keep the fanatics in the liberal press corp at bay. The trouble is the bulk of the people who would like an alternative to the Liberal Democrats can’t stomach the trimmers and compromisers the GOP is offering up.

Truman said it, I think, when the people get the choice between a Democrat and a Democrat, they pick the Democrat. That’s the dilemma facing the GOP these days and it appears to be what has unmanned the Conservatives in Canada yesterday. Given the choice between something and nothing, the people chose something even though that something is as dumb as a goldfish.

The last time I had any reason to care about a Trudeau, the new Prime Minister’s mother was running around showing her beaver to the public. Margaret Trudeau was good looking piece of tail back in the day, dumb as a plank, but that’s probably why the geezerly Pierre married her. Too bad her son and Canada’s next leader got her brains and his old man’s megalomania.

“We beat fear with hope,” Trudeau said. “We beat cynicism with hard work. We beat negative, divisive politics with a positive vision that brings Canadians together.”

How is it possible for a fully formed adult to say such idiotic things in public? Political speech in the mass media age is aimed at the functionally retarded, but even by that low standard this drivel is embarrassing. Worse, it’s unmanly and mean. You won. Be honorable in victory you sniveling punk. But then again, why should he? The voters just voted in an insipid punk. He’s just giving them what they want.

Nature abhors a vacuum so when the responsible people refuse to be responsible, the irresponsible get to run wild. In this case, the people claiming to represent the sane and sensible Canadian could not be bothered to take the fight to the howling crazies so the howling crazies won. Again, given the choice between something and nothing people always pick something.

This reminds me of something. A few years back I was at an event for a friend and present at the event was the wife of a Canadian official. We talked a bit about politics and she made the comment that in Canada, the conservatives were not extreme like they are in the US. I nearly bust out laughing, thinking of Mitt Romney as extreme, other than extremely dull. But, she made clear that it was very important to Canadian conservative to not be viewed as too far apart form the the rest.

The lesson that will be drawn by the Canadian Conservative party officials is that Harper was too hard edged and he was insufficiently deferential to the Left. The next time, they must beg harder. It’s the same lesson the American Right “learns” after every election, win or lose. No matter the result, they must grovel harder next time.

Today, the little mushroom people of Nova Scotia weep for their country.

Filling The Void

I sent this to my liberal friends mostly because I was bored and I sometimes find pleasure in making them miserable. That does not make me a good person, but on the list of things I have to answer for, it is far down the list. I was also curious to see if they would repeat the same lines they always do when someone points out that their cult is not about to reach the promised land.

Sure enough, the old chestnuts came out right away. “The GOP is in worse shape” was the universal response. “The demographics are on our side so it is just a matter of time” was a close second. Both of those may be true, but it is a strange response when you think about it. A story about the problems with Democrats and the response is to change the subject. Cults are funny like that.

Anyway, Matthew Yglesias, no relation to Julio, is sort of a silly person, but he is worth paying attention to if you follow politics. His analysis is nothing much, but he is a useful indicator of what is being discussed in the fever swamps, away from the public. He and his site are messengers, of sorts, spreading whatever is this the official position at the moment. At least that’s what the Vox boys are hoping.

There’s little doubt that the Democratic Party is shriveling up to be simply the Progressive White People Party with blacks attached to it. The map in the story show just how marginalized the party has become over the last decade. It’s not that the GOP suddenly has a monopoly on commonsense, it’s just that the Democrats have become an ideological party that appeals to about 20% of white people.

What I found hilariously telling is this bit:

In what Democrats should take as a further bleak sign, four of the 11 states where they control both houses of the state legislature — Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Illinois — have a Republican governor. This leaves just seven states under unified Democratic Party control.

 

Republicans have unified control of 25 states. Along with the usual set of tax cuts for high-income individuals and business-friendly regulations, the result has been:

 

  • An unprecedented wave of restrictions on abortion rights
  • The spread of union-hostile “right to work” laws into the Great Lakes states
  • New curbs on voting rights, to further tilt the electorate in a richer, whiter, older direction
  • Large-scale layoffs of teachers and other public sector workers who are likely to support Democrats

You could be forgiven for wondering what in the hell he is talking about with regards to curbs on voting rights and large scale layoffs of teachers. The real howler is the “richer, whiter older” stuff. Pretty much the only white people voting for Democrats these days are old and well off. Normal people can’t afford to be progressive. That’s a rich man’s hobby.

This is the money graph:

Winning a presidential election would give Republicans the overwhelming preponderance of political power in the United States — a level of dominance not achieved since the Democrats during the Great Depression, but with a much more ideologically coherent coalition. Nothing lasts forever in American politics, but a hyper-empowered conservative movement would have a significant ability to entrench its position by passing a national right-to-work law and further altering campaign finance rules beyond the Citizens United status quo.

An essential element of the progressive faith is they believe they are in a war with a superior enemy and only through a total commitment to the One True Faith will they defeat Grendel and achieve grace. When no such enemy exist, they invent one. Their claim that the GOP is a “ideologically coherent coalition” sounds insane to normal people, but Progressives believe it, they have to believe it. Otherwise they are just a bunch of meddling weirdos harassing normal people for no reason.

Even so, we live in an interesting time. The GOP is a party of men with the imagination of mid-level bureaucrats at the department of motor vehicles. The Democrats are a bunch of geriatric hippies and radicals that sound like extras from a documentary on the 60’s. The hard part about watching Sanders and Clinton go at it is not laughing. It’s two old farts arguing over bingo at the retirement home, but instead of bingo, they think they will get the chance to rule over the rest of us.

The funny thing about this Vox piece is that Progressives are correct about the condition of their movement. It’s exhausted. They are running around trying to champion trannies and deviants because they have run out victims to exploit. Similarly, the alt-right is correct about the condition of the Conventional Right. It’s a racket for moving books and merchandise to well intentioned Americans thinking they are doing the right thing.

Something is going to fill the void. Donald Trump did not stroll in and become the front runner by accident. When given the choice between something and nothing, people will always pick something, even if it not all that much. At some point, something better than Trump is going to come along. What that is, I don’t know.

The Break Up

Americans, probably like everyone in the West, just assume that the shape of our countries will remain the same forever. Conquest is something you read about, but that’s all in the past so the map will stay the same forever. Similarly, we tend to think that revolution is no longer a part of civilized life. The savages have revolts maybe, but the civilized countries have elections to sort out problems.

Of course, maps are not written in stone. There’s no reason to think that France will stay the same shape forever. The people of Normandy could decide they have had enough of being French and break off to form their own country. The people of Catalan are trying to do just that by voting for independence and then going to court over it.

But, those Spanish are hot blooded and all that. The English speaking countries don’t have those problems, other than in Scotland, Wales and Quebec. Even so, these are more symbolic than anything else. There are protests, votes, court cases, more votes, but that’s it. No tanks in the streets or men with guns preparing for the revolution, because violent revolts are things of the past.

What if they’re not? What if the Scots and English can’t resolve their differences peacefully? What then?

On the other hand, what if the people in charge keep going down the road they are going and the people finally get fed up enough to do something about it? In the US we have protests at the Mall, but never anything serious, at least not for a long time. But what if we’re just overdue and things are slowly coming to a head and revolution is just around the corner?

There’s a new book that argues the US is long overdue for a revolt and the current consensus is breaking apart, suggesting the revolt is right around the corner. James Piereson is a think tank guy at a fancy think tank called the Manhattan Institute. His book is one of those “theory of the world” sort of things where he has this theory that explains parts of the past. He then uses it to make some predictions about what’s coming next.

I’ve never written a book review and I have no intention of starting now, so you can read this one or you can read this one. There’s also a podcast here with the author. As an aside, I suspect the future of book selling is going to be podcasts. A thirty minute discussion of a book is a great way to sell books.

Anyway, I’m not entirely sold on the thesis. My own view of US history is as an extension of the English Civil War. For instance, Piereson argues that a consensus emerged in 1800, but the New England states were ready to split from the Union up until the outbreak of war with Britain. Similarly, those same states would have signed off on the slave states seceding if not for the foolish assault on Fort Sumter.

Putting that aside, one can’t help but wonder if we are headed for a crackup of some sort. If you look at the map of recent presidential elections something jumps out. That is, very few states are actually in play now. In 2016, the fight will be over Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado and Nevada. The rest are firmly in the Roundhead or Cavalier camps. For the candidates, the only reason to campaign in most states is to raise money and put on a show for the folks in the toss-up states.

The chaos in the GOP primary is mostly due to the fact that no one really represents the sensibilities of the regions that support the GOP. Bush is from Florida, but he may as well be from Boston. Rubio is from Florida, but the part wholly unlike the rest of Florida. The only two candidates that represent the GOP regions are Kasich and Huckabee and both have too many other problems to be serious candidates. Trump is from New York and it has never been in the Roundhead or Cavalier camp. Otherwise, the people running are foreigners to their voters.

Having the country divided into camps is one thing. Having one camp ramming through stuff just to spite the other is where things get dicey. The crazy ObamaCare bill was mostly spite. Homo marriage was entirely spite. The revolt brewing on the Right is really a revolt among the troops over their leaders refusal to fight. Students of the Crisis of the Third Century are familiar with this phenomenon. At some point, there will be a fight, whether it is with these leaders or new, more rambunctious ones.

The thing few notice because the people in charge tend to keep it quiet is the Roundheads would not mind it if the other part of the country seceded. Progressives hate the South and southerners with the intensity of a thousand suns. For a long time now, Progressives have been thinking, if you will, that it is time for the South to leave the Union. For obvious reasons this does not get promoted by the people in charge, but a lot of them hold this opinion.

The assumption, an incorrect one, is that the Old Confederacy along with Texas and Oklahoma would be cut loose, while the rest of the states would make up the slimmer and trimmer United States. Reality is probably something else. Look at that map and the lands of the Roundhead are mostly Yankeedom. The few other blue states would mostly likely go with the red states for practical reasons.

But, maybe the southern states will insist on marching from Worcester Mass to Boston, burning everything along the way, just for old time sake.

The Rise of Russia

One of the stranger things about living in America is the lack of a news media. With a few exceptions, what we call a news media is mostly just the propaganda arm of the Liberal Democrats. The proselytizing is endless. Even sports is larded up with “messages” that have nothing to do with sports. President Obama has been on ESPN more than the coach of the New England Patriots.

Another consequence of this is that big important stuff gets ignored. For instance, the great re-arrangement of the chess board in the Near and Middle East has gone largely ignored mostly because it would be embarrassing to Obama. The Russians are about to rub out ISIS and setup Iran as the regional hegemon.

Syria’s armed forces advanced south of the second city of Aleppo on Friday in a fresh ground offensive backed by Russian warplanes, a monitoring group said.

Since Moscow began its air war in support of Damascus on September 30, the Syrian army has launched assaults against rebels in at least four provinces with Russian aerial support, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Russian air cover is backing offensives by Syria’s army and allied militias in the central provinces of Homs and Hama, as well as Aleppo in the north and Latakia along the coast.

On Friday, the Syrian army pushed south from the provincial capital Aleppo city, where control is divided between regime and rebels forces, as Russian air strikes pounded the villages of Al-Hader and Khan Tuman and nearby localities.

“The Syrian army started a new front on Friday and advanced to take control of the villages of Abteen and Kaddar” about 15 kilometres (12 miles) south of Aleppo city, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said “dozens” of Russian aerial attacks in the past 24 hours had struck the area, which is controlled by a patchwork of groups including rebels, Islamist fighters and Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, Al-Nusra Front.

For a generation, the US ruled over the Middle East through the Saudis and Israelis. It was hardly perfect, but that was the arrangement. The main point of it was to keep the oil flowing and the crazies bottled up in their own lands. Suddenly, the regional hegemon is going to be Iran, backed by Russia, with some support from Syria’s Alawite tribe.

Once the Syrians regain control of the Western cities, the push east to wipe out ISIS comes next. It’s easy to forget that ISIS is a Saudi creation, for the most part, and the US has had some hand in funding them. Once ISIS is gone, the Saudis are out of cards to play and they will find their authority in the region greatly reduced. In the Arab world, might makes right.

That’s not a small thing. The Russians will now control a vital piece of Europe’s energy supplies. By setting up Iran as a Russian client and the bully on the block, the Russians will effectively control Middle East policy and be wired into the complex relationships that transcend the region. A while back, I pointed out that those millions of Arab men marching into Europe will have a lot of Russian friends too.

Another piece on the board is the fact that the Russians have transformed their military under Putin in response to what they have learned from US military involvement in the Arab world. Those little green men who turned up in Crimea should have been an eye-opener to the West. Now it looks like the Russian military success in Syria is getting the attention of Western strategists.

The strikes have involved aircraft never before tested in combat, including the Sukhoi Su-34 strike fighter, which NATO calls the Fullback, and a ship-based cruise missile fired more than 900 miles from the Caspian Sea, which, according to some analysts, surpasses the American equivalent in technological capability.

Russia’s jets have struck in support of Syrian ground troops advancing from areas under the control of the Syrian government, and might soon back an Iranian-led offensive that appeared to be forming in the northern province of Aleppo on Wednesday. That coordination reflects what American officials described as months of meticulous planning behind Russia’s first military campaign outside former Soviet borders since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

From an American perspective, handing the Middle East over to the Russians is not a terrible thing. Americans are far too moralistic to run a proper empire. The Russians are too incompetent to remain a big player in the region in the long run, but in the short run they will be the whip hand that is needed to keep the peace. The Russians will kill everything that moves in eastern Syria, for example, in order to subdue ISIS.

The bigger issue is that the Russians can effectively coordinate a multi-pronged attack on Europe, without triggering a nuclear war. In the east, they can put economic pressure on the Baltics, Ukraine and Poland. They can also put pressure on the Germans through their near monopoly of natural gas flowing into Europe. Then there is the wave of migrants flowing north that Russia can turn on and off as necessary.

The center of gravity in Eurasia is moving east and Americans hardly notice. How much of this is due to Obama’s incompetence and how much is Putin’s skill is hard to know. There’s also the fact that the American foreign policy establishment is exhausted spiritually and intellectually. Even so, the great under reported story of this decade is the rise of Russia as a world player.

Bernie and The New Religion

I was reading the comments of this post on National Review and one exchange caught my attention. Someone calling himself wrote:

Boy I hope you’re right. I’m a Jim Webb Democrat myself, but, at least from my Facebook feed it’s a Bernie Sanders party. I won’t vote Republican, so I’m stuck. The degree to which I wish we were a multiparty system is not small.

To the comment about never voting Republicans someone asks why and the answer was:

Because I’m a liberal. If I were a Mainer, I might, *might*, vote for one of the Maine ladies, but even there, probably not. I don’t want conservatives in charge of the country, and though I know it doesn’t seem so to you, the GOP seems very conservative to me. If you want the specific issues I care about I’m happy to go into them, but I doubt that level of navel gazing is all that interesting.

A common characteristic of all mass movements is that the people in them spend little time talking about their movement to people outside them. Inevitably this results in a bunch of insider jargon and even a redefinition of common words such that they carry special meaning to those inside versus those outside. It’s not deliberate or by design, it just happens and to the people inside it is perfectly logical.

To those on the outside, the people inside the movement seem a bit nutty, maybe even dangerous. If you are not immersed in progressive politics, that guy’s belief that the Republicans are very conservative sounds hysterical. Within my lifetime the ideological center of the country was well to the Right of Ted Cruz, the fringe right wing of the current GOP. Charlie Wilson, the Texas Democrat who got stinger missiles to the Afghans in the 1980’s, was a typical moderate a generation ago.

The fact that the country has moved steadily left over the last 30 years is hardly news. What got my attention about that guy’s comment is that he identifies as a liberal, but he rejects Bernie Sanders. Outside The Hive, people think Sanders is just a concentrated version of a liberal, but inside they see him as an anachronism, a guy whose ideas no longer carry much meaning.

What we’re seeing in the current Democrat primary is how American Progressivism has moved away from economics entirely in favor of the spiritual issues of The New Religion.  The modern Progressive cares more about the feelings of the homosexuals than the cost of living for the working class. In fact, Progressives have embraced the same technocratic corporatism that has infected what we call conservatives.

The singular focus of the modern liberal is scrubbing the sins of western civilization from society. It manifests in different ways, but the overarching impulse is to seek salvation through self-abnegation, with the self being defined narrowly or broadly. President Obama runs around apologizing to the third world for Western colonialism, while TN Coates writes gassy articles about the sins of racism he witnessed at the mall.

When I was in college, Sanders was a common figure on campus. His argument is a math  argument. The math is nutty, but it is still an argument from math. Change the laws in such a way and we get prosperity to such a degree that no one goes without, every need is met. Bernie genuinely believes he can seize the assets of the billionaires and cure poverty.

The New Religion, as I’m fond of calling it, is indifferent to these issues.They see poor people as fat and lazy, stuffing their fat faces with Big Macs while watching daytime TV. That’s what the new Progressive cares about, the soul of that poor slob, not his food budget. The post-scarcity liberal wants to use the state to put the poor on treadmills and Prozac so they can be slim and beautiful, in communion with the brotherhood of man.

The beauty of the spiritual path over the economic path for the Left is that there are no pesky facts in the spiritual fight. Once the poor start getting fat, there’s no real need to rob the rich on their behalf. But there are always souls to be saved, sinners to be harassed, witches to be burned.

The Religion of Open Borders

I’m fond of pointing out that the main reason Progressives win every fight is that their opponents make the mistake of thinking it is a debate over facts and reasons. The people calling themselves conservative right now are sure that all they have to do is round up the facts and present them to the other side and the Left will throw down their weapons and embrace them as brothers.

Reality is completely different. Progressives are religious fanatics and no amount of reality will shake them from their beliefs. Their religion does not have a superior being anymore, but it has lots of supernatural components. Most important, it has a moral component. The adherent is there to receive grace and that comes through social activism. They act locally because they think eternally.

We’re seeing a similar thing with open borders. It’s common to blame the greedy cheap labor lobbies for buying off pols in both parties, but there’s not a ton of evidence for it. The guys doing most of the hiring of illegals are small businesses with no lobbying power. Amnesty actually harms the cheap labor lobbies because it would end the under the table hiring. Yeah, there are cheap labor lobbies, but they are not the bogeymen many imagine.

Steve Sailer has different theories. In this post about Paul Ryan, he blames lazy black people.

In the early 1990s I visited the Milwaukee fairgrounds on the lakefront a couple of times for various festivals. I recall being struck by how African Americans made up a large percentage of the partiers at the festivals, but a small percentage of the workers. Most of the work seemed to be getting done by Mexicans.

A continuing theme here at iSteve is that Milwaukee and Madison have, on average, close to the worst blacks in the country. Most Northern cities’ blacks are the descendants of people who left the South in the 1940s and 1950s for jobs in the North. But Wisconsin’s blacks tend to be the descendants of people who left Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s for welfare in social democratic Wisconsin.

It’s only natural for Wisconsin whites like Paul Ryan to see Mexicans as better than blacks and thus want more of them in order to demographically swamp the African-Americans who have made life miserable for Wisconsin whites. But it’s also natural for Republicans further from the Canadian Border to be less naive about the poorly thought-through social engineering emotions of Wisconsin politicians.

Steve is fond of this sort of reductionist argument. It sounds good at first, but when you think about how it must work, it starts to sound implausible when you scale up from one guy at the state fair. Imagine Ryan meeting with his team and saying, “We have to do something about our bad blacks and I think we should import a bunch of Mexicans!”

I don’t know. Maybe that’s happening at secret meetings of The Deep State™ and I’m terribly naive, but my sense is exactly no one in Wisconsin thinks like this. I get around a lot and what you always hear from amnesty advocates is one of two talking points. One is that Hispanics are wonderful hardworking additions to the country. The other is they are a necessary part of the labor market.

Frankly, I don’t know if anyone that says these things thinks much about it. They just say these things because that’s what you do. If you are a Democrat, you are for amnesty so you pick from one of the Democrat talking points. The same is true for most Republicans. Libertarians, of course, have their fantasies about the free flow of good and people in a world without government.

My hunch is what lies at the core of the Religion of Open Borders is morality. It’s a manifestation of Public Protestantism. In a prior age, the Yankee religious impulse was focused on the salvation of society, not of the individual. You had men in black clothes making sure you were observant of the Sabbath and not having too much fun. Once God faded from the picture and the world got smaller, this impulse folded into what we call social activism. The moonbat woman next door with the Prius really does think she is saving the planet.

The Religion of Open Borders is the next great cause or perhaps the globalization of Yankee Public Protestantism. Take a look at this article by Tyler Cowen’s flunky, Alex Tabarrok.

Not every place in the world is equally well-suited to mass economic activity. Nature’s bounty is divided unevenly. Variations in wealth and income created by these differences are magnified by governments that suppress entrepreneurship and promote religious intolerance, gender discrimination, or other bigotry. Closed borders compound these injustices, cementing inequality into place and sentencing their victims to a life of penury.

The overwhelming majority of would-be immigrants want little more than to make a better life for themselves and their families by moving to economic opportunity and participating in peaceful, voluntary trade. But lawmakers and heads of state quash these dreams with state-sanctioned violence—forced repatriation, involuntary detention, or worse—often while paying lip service to “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

That is a purely moral argument. He couches it a little in economic terms, but he is not shying away from the moral claims he is making in favor of mass immigration.

What moral theory justifies using wire, wall, and weapon to prevent people from moving to opportunity? What moral theory justifies using tools of exclusion to prevent people from exercising their right to vote with their feet?

No standard moral framework, be it utilitarian, libertarian, egalitarian, Rawlsian, Christian, or any other well-developed perspective, regards people from foreign lands as less entitled to exercise their rights—or as inherently possessing less moral worth—than people lucky to have been born in the right place at the right time. Nationalism, of course, discounts the rights, interests, and moral value of “the Other, but this disposition is inconsistent with our fundamental moral teachings and beliefs.

The language used here is right out of the Abolitionist Movement. It is right from the Civil Rights Movement. It’s right out of John Winthrop’s A Model of Christian Charity. God does not make an appearance, but clearly Alex believes that the path to grace is through creating a world where “every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knit more nearly together in the bonds of brotherly affection.”

Crime & Society

The big hobbyhorse issue for libertarians is America’s incarceration rate. They love the issue because they get to prattle on about weed, while sucking up to the liberals, who are always looking for an excuse to release felons into middle-class neighborhoods. In other words, they get to sound butch about small government in a way that is entirely safe.

While I think our prison system is a mess, my response to libertarians over the issue is always the same. “How many current inmates would you like released into your neighborhood? On which corner of your block should we put the halfway house?” It’s a fun bit because no has yet provide an answer. Just as it is easy to be generous with other people’s money, it’s easy to be kind to convicts from a great distance.

It’s even easier if you are insane. This story I saw posted on twitter was getting passed around by the usual suspects, suggesting that maybe I’m too soft on libertarians.

What Lind doesn’t talk about is the way that the vast, vastly profitable private prison industry created and lobbied for legislation that criminalized more conduct and set out longer sentences for violations, operating in opaque secrecy, running forced-labor camps, profiteering from prisoners and their families, bribing judges to send black kids to jail, and producing a system where the rich can launder billions for drug cartels without a single criminal prosecution, but poor people caught with minute amounts of weed go to jail for long stretches.

In other words: that hockey-stick growth isn’t an accident.

If you follow the links, you find the Alex Jones type paranoia that has always been a part of the modern Left. Instead of secret government agencies in league with space aliens, you have secret corporate agents in league with aliens. It’s The Deep State™ run out of a corporate boardroom instead of Langley.

Putting all of that aside, it does raise an important question and that is how were we able to have relatively low crime rates, adjusting for race, age and sex, while having a stable prison population. Something changed in the 50’s and 60’s that led to the sudden upward turn in crime.

The obvious candidate for what changed preceding the spike in murder rates is the Civil Rights Movement. The greatly diminished status of blacks would have suppressed crime rates in two ways. First, the fear of white retaliation would have resulted in high levels of self-policing among blacks. Second, white indifference to black life would have artificially reduced the crime stats.

The trouble with this explanation is that white murder rates did tick up in the 60’s, just off a much smaller base so it was less obvious.

Black-White-Homicide-Victims-1950-2010

The trouble here is getting good data of crime rates by race from before 1980 is surprisingly difficult. I’ve been searching and this is the best I was able to find. Crime rates by race are slowly becoming forbidden knowledge. Even so, it’s hard to honestly tie the spike in black crime to the Civil Rights Movement without better data showing a bigger spike than we saw in white crime rates.

The more politically correct answer is the proliferation of street drugs and the drug trade. Libertarians love this one, but so does the Left because it conveniently avoids talking about race. The trouble with this explanation is that it assumes people suddenly went insane and started taking massive amounts of street drugs. This is one step away from blaming evil spirits.

The Old Right answer is that general assault on traditional culture that started in the late 50’s and accelerated into the 70’s eventually broke down the traditional ways of controlling crime and other social pathologies like drug taking. The result was a rise in social anarchy. Eventually, we evolved a new way to deal with the problem, which was mass incarceration.

The crime issue is a good example of how public policy is always about trade-offs, Swing the wrecking ball through a social institution and something replaces it. It’s also an example showing how American Liberalism will inevitably end in authoritarianism. As traditional institutions are destroyed, the state flows into the void. The existing organic institutions grow weaker relative to the state, making them easier to knock over.