Thursday, April 26, 2018

California as a Thought Police State

Do you see America’s future in California? When Ross Douthat recently traveled to his home state with his family, he reflected on whether California would become our future.

Those who want it to be so have unleashed a torrent of vitriol against those who oppose their big ideas. They are trying to turn their world into a police state, a state where they have a monopoly in the marketplace of ideas. Douthat calls it a one party state, though it is more accurate to call it a one party thought police state… a state that polices your mind but not behavior.

In the ongoing culture war, tech oligarchs like Jack Dorsey of Twitter want to live in a world where everyone thinks the same thoughts, feels the same feelings and believes the same beliefs. This state has thought police to impose the right ideas on everyone. Its adherents do not want to win territory or even to attain prosperity: they want absolute control over everyone’s minds. That's how they win elections. If that doesn’t scare you, you are not paying attention.

Let’s say that you live in California and do not accept the LBGT agenda. Your children will be taught it and will be indoctrinated in it, whatever you think. Do you want to spare your children such lessons? You have no right to do so.

Todd Starnes reports from California (via Maggie’s Farm):

Parents in Orange County, California may not opt their children out of lessons related to gender identity or sexual orientation, according to a memorandum written by the school district’s general counsel.

“Parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation may not excuse their children from this instruction,” read the memorandum from Ronald Wenkart to the Orange County Board of Education.

A school district spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the memorandum sent to us by a parent.

“However, parents are free to advise their children that they disagree with some or all of the information presented in the instructional program and express their views on these subjects to their children,” the attorney wrote.

The most frightening part of the diktat is that the school district is graciously allowing parents to offer opposing ideas to their own children. Think about it, in what kind of world do parents need to apply to school officials before expressing their views to their children, before providing their children with a moral education?. You know and I know that one of these days some administrator is going to decide that parental authority must not be allowed to make such determinations.

If you like, you can call this liberalism, but it is illiberality on steroids. It is radical leftist ideology. It owes far more to Hegel than to John Stuart Mill.

Why is it happening in California? And why are the tech oligarchs leading the way? It makes some sense. They have established a virtual monopoly over information technology and now they believe that they ought also to have a monopoly over the marketplace of ideas. 

Ironically, they are not the masters of their own minds. They are not independent thinkers, but have been indoctrinated. They believe fervently in the dogmas of the Church of the Liberal Pieties because a band of big thinking academics and media commentators have seduced their minds.

Recall our discussions of how Bill Gates, the world’s richest dupe, was conned by Harvard professor Steven Pinker into embracing a polemic for atheism disguised as a glorification of the Enlightenment.

Douthat comments on the advent of a one-party state in California:

For all its deranging effects, I am always grateful to Twitter for the interesting ideas it surfaces. But rarely does this surfacing happen quite so overtly as it did earlier this month, when Jack Dorsey, the Twitter C.E.O., tweeted out as a “great read” an article series urging national Democrats to seek the kind of final victory they’ve won in California, in which the G.O.P. is reduced to a rump under one-party Democratic rule.

As of now, by all evidence, the 2018 elections will be a blue wave. Republicans have been underperforming in the off-year elections. If the trend continues—a big if—Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives. Whatever power the nation gave to the Republican Party in 2016 seems to have been squandered… in some part because the media has shown such unremitting hostility toward Trump and Republicans that many people are willing to vote Democratic in order to shut down the media vitriol machine….

While Trump has scored some important successes, these are always portrayed as disasters in the making. Trump gets no credit and Congressional Republicans—exception made for tax reform-- do not seem capable of governing. It began when John McCain killed Obamacare reform. Recently an eye surgeon from Kentucky threatened to undermine the nomination of the exceptionally bright and capable Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State for reasons that defied reason.

To understand California, Douthat argues, we must understand that the state has lost its middle class. It is now divided into the hyperrich and the immigrant or minority poor. There is next to nothing in between. The state is beginning to resemble the Central American oligarchies that the new migrants are fleeing. A very rich upper class owns all assets, especially agricultural assets, and the rest get crumbs… or join gangs.

To begin with, you can’t understand the political transformation of California without understanding how much it has been shaped by a long-term middle class exodus — the out-migration, across years and decades, of the kind of people who in the Trump era tend to vote Republican, the native-born petit-bourgeoisie. This out-migration has been compensated for by in-migration, but the new arrivals are more likely to be either immigrants or well-educated professionals: Since the 1990s new Californians are disproportionately likely to make around $200,000 a year, ex-Californians are disproportionately likely to make around $45,000.

An interesting point, so we underscore it. Yesterday we were pondering the fact that the blue state outmigration risks sending Democratic voters into Republican tax havens. In California, apparently, many of those who are leaving the state are natural born Republicans… leaving the state with high tech oligarchs who are using their power to promote their ideology and very poor people. After all, over forty percent of California households do not speak English.

If California is a laboratory for today’s progressive liberalism, it is fair to note, as Douthat does, that the leftist utopia is becoming a dystopia:

And ambitious liberals will have to do so while evangelizing on behalf of a social-political model that right now looks nothing like the ideal egalitarian society liberalism claims that it can build. Under one-party liberal rule, California is presently as unequal as a Central American republic, with one of the highest poverty rates in the country once you control for its exorbitant cost of living. Its educational performance is lousy and its racial gaps are stark — which is why it’s not only lower-middle class whites moving back to red America, and why black complaints about white liberal gentrifiers in SoCal or the Bay Area can resemble the complaints of Trump-leaning ex-Californians. As in other enclaves where Democrats are dominant, its ruling party has proved itself pretty good at rentier-friendly environmentalism and kicking social conservatives while they’re down, O.K. enough at redistribution, and completely terrible at figuring how to build an information-age middle class.

Think about it, California has every manner of environmental regulation. Today’s liberal left, ensorcelled by Mother Nature, is happy to shut down industry and even a large amount of agriculture in order to preserve the pristine beauty of the natural world. We note that California’s most important industries, entertainment and technology are pure and clean. They are not like mining and manufacturing, traditionally dirty industries. 

Of course, shutting down industry promotes poverty and unemployment. It forces the middle class out of the state. But, perhaps that is what the thought police want. They want to rid the state of anyone who would dare defy their edicts and pronouncements and would reject their dogmatic beliefs.

Of course, it will be a calamity. Thought control inevitably produces a reaction. At least, we like to think so. The peasants with their pitchforks will eventually see what is happening and will put an end to what Douthat calls:

… the sun-kissed aristocracy that liberals have built … in what was once, but no longer, the proving ground for the American dream.

The Iran Nuclear Treaty

Yesterday, French president Emmanuel Macron bemoaned the fact that President Trump is poised to remove the United States from the Iran Nuclear Deal. Macron declared unequivocally that Iran must never have a nuclear weapon, while saying that America should stay with the deal. He later added that he believed that America will pull out.

One understands that Macron's audience is on the other side of the Atlantic. Seeing the failure of Angela Merkel over migrants, he is seizing the opportunity to make himself the leader of Europe. That is the impetus behind his friendly relations with President Trump. 

There’s so much handwringing and general anguish over the fate of the Iran Nuclear Deal that we forget a simple fact. When Barack Obama called it a deal and not a treaty he invited a future president to repudiate it.

You know and I know that Barack Obama did not call it a treaty because then the senate would have had to ratify it. Obama called it a deal in order to circumvent constitutional checks and balances.

The Iran Nuclear Deal, the JCPOA, was imposed by an autocratic president. The same holds true of the Paris Climate Deal. It will be a good thing for  President Trump to withdraw from it. Though, one wonders, can he relabel it a treaty and submit it to the senate for ratification?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Blue State Blues

None of it should come as a surprise. If you're a New Yorker, you will probably find the news redundant. As the city builds and builds, as it attracts more and more high tech millennials, members of the upper middle class talk ceaselessly about leaving town. The high cost of living, especially but not only of real estate... along with what must surely count among the nation’s highest tax bills… whatever New York offers seems hardly to be worth the price. 

Now, with the new tax reform bill, upper income New Yorkers, especially those who own property, are being hit with an extra tax burden. More and more New Yorkers are deciding that it's time to go.

Increasingly, New York has become a city of the rich and the rest. As the middle class hollows out, we are left with armies of very poor people and a smaller contingent of very rich people. The subway system is an embarrassment. It is ugly and dirty and noisy; it often fails to run on time. New York is not as dangerous as parts of Chicago. It is not as appalling as parts of Los Angeles and San Francisco. And yet, how long before it becomes unlivable, except for those who can lay down heavy money to shield themselves from its underside.

In a column for The Hill, New Yorker Kristen Tate describes living in New York City:

Am I the only one moving through the greater part of New York City boroughs and seeing an inexorable march of urban decay matched with the discomfort of crowding and inexplicable costs? I know I am not.

New York is the most expensive city in America. Its lower-cost neighborhoods are riddled with crime and homelessness. Its public schools, some of which are among the worst in the nation, look more like prisons than places of learning.

For the record, New York’s upper middle class and even many members of its middle class l never send their children to the city’s public schools. The might live in a studio apartment; they might eat ramen noodles three times a day. They will do anything to keep their children out of New York's public schools.

This produces a de facto segregation, to the point that the Economist remarked that only 15% of the city’s public schools are racially integrated. New York is filled with liberal minded progressives who will march in the streets to demand racial justice, but who will never, ever send their children to a racially integrated city public school. Their attitude: for thee, but not for me.

Quality of life is a major problem for many New Yorkers. Bringing up their children is another. And yet, as Tate and many others point out, another major problem is taxes. People leave town to escape punitive taxes. No one knows where all the tax revenue is going, but for sure it is not going into the subway system:

Eventually, city and state taxes, fees, and regulations become so burdensome that people and corporations jump ship. More people are currently fleeing New York than any other metropolitan area in the nation. More than 1 million people have moved out of New York City since 2010 in search of greener pastures, which amounts to a negative net migration rate of 4.4 percent.

The new tax reform has made life more expensive for wealthy New Yorkers, especially those who own high priced condos. As of now, construction is booming. And yet, prices at the high end of the market have been declining.  Repealing the state and local tax deduction will cost people significant amounts of money. And it will make that mass of new condos more difficult to sell. At some point the construction boom will bust. It's inevitable. No one knows when or how bad... but it will come.

Tate explains:

The recently passed tax bill, which repeals the state and local tax (SALT)deduction, will only speed up the exodus. Thanks to the bill’s passage, many New York taxpayers will save little or nothing despite a cut in the federal rate. The state’s highest earners — who have been footing an outsized share of the bill — will pay tens of thousands of dollars more in income taxes in 2018. In New York alone, loss of the SALT deduction will remove $72 billion a year in tax deductions and affect 3.4 million residents.  

Republicans will tell you that the new tax reform ends an injustice. When New Yorkers were allowed to deduct state and local taxes they were paying less federal taxes. Thus, their profligacy was being subsidized by states that did not have their own income taxes. Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore explained it today in the Wall Street Journal:

For years blue states have exported a third or more of their tax burden to residents of other states. In places like California, where the top income-tax rate exceeds 13%, that tax could be deducted on a federal return. Now that deduction for state and local taxes will be capped at $10,000 per family.

Consider what this means if you’re a high-income earner in Silicon Valley or Hollywood. The top tax rate that you actually pay just jumped from about 8.5% to 13%. Similar figures hold if you live in Manhattan, once New York City’s income tax is factored in. If you earn $10 million or more, your taxes might increase a whopping 50%.

And that’s not all, folks. Tate explains that these high tax cities are being mismanaged and poorly governed. It's not just that they collect too much. They waste a great deal of it. In her words:

New York, Los Angeles, Chicago — the places where power and capital have traditionally congregated — have become so over-regulated, so overpriced and mismanaged, and so morally bankrupt and soft on crime that people are leaving in droves. Of course, these high-tax cities are the same places hit hardest by the removal of the SALT deduction.

The situation in California is just as bad:

In fact, in 2016 the Golden State lost almost 143,000 net residents to other states — that figure is an 11 percent increase from 2015. Between 2005 and 2015, Los Angeles and San Francisco alone lost 250,000 residents. The largest socioeconomic segment moving from California is the upper-middle class. The state is home to some of the most burdensome taxes and regulations in the nation. Meanwhile, its social engineering — from green energy to wealth redistribution — have made many working families poorer. As California begins its long decline, the influx outward is picking up in earnest.

As you know, and as Laffer and Moore remind us, this has been happening for at least ten years now. States like Texas and Florida have been profiting from the great exodus our of blue states:

Since 2007 Texas and Florida (with no income tax) have gained 1.4 million and 850,000 residents, respectively, from other states. California and New York have jointly lost more than 2.2 million residents. Our analysis of IRS data on tax returns shows that in the past three years alone, Texas and Florida have gained a net $50 billion in income and purchasing power from other states, while California and New York have surrendered a net $23 billion.

And also:

We estimate, based on the historical relationship between tax rates and migration patterns, that the pace of out-migration from California and New York will soon double—with about 800,000 net out-migrants each of the next three years. Our calculations suggest that Connecticut, New Jersey and Minnesota combined will hemorrhage another roughly 500,000 people in the same period.

Of course, there’s a fly in the ointment. When blue state citizens move to red states, will they bring their blue state values with them? Will they cling to their bad attitudes and vote for the same policies they championed in their blue states?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

When Women Give It Away for Free

When you have gotten into the habit of giving it away for free, and someone comes along and offers to pay for what you have been giving away for free, you are going to be tempted. If you are not tempted, you should at least ask yourself why you have been giving it away for free.

Obviously, I am talking about sex. In particular, I am talking about women who give it away for free. They go on dates, they pay their own way, they have sex with their dates and they often do not want to see said dates again, unless for another hookup.

Aimee Lutkin described her own experiences in the New York dating scene for Jezebel:

A series of wasted evenings flash through my mind. Most women who have given dating men a shot have probably experienced what it’s like to date guys they’re not into, without a guarantee those guys will respect their boundaries or personhood, for whom they may have changed some aspect of themselves. And they probably had to cover their own drinks the whole freaking time.

Only a week before attending the summit, I was ranting to a friend about how many men message me on regular apps asking for what amounts to, in my mind, free sex work. They don’t want to spend money on a professional, but they also don’t want to invest the time and energy connecting to a regular date before asking for explicit sexual favors.

Back in the day men who followed the code of gentlemanly behavior would never have treated young women as sex workers who give it away for free. Wherever did they get the idea that they could? Wherever did they get the idea that they could get away with such rude, crude and lewd advances? Could it be that they have had success treating women like sex workers, and that many women consent to being used for sex?

Obviously, I did not recommend that they do it. I am old school. I believe that women who respect themselves do not give it away for free. Other forces in our culture have told women that giving it away for free makes them liberated. They are doing it to make an ideological point. They are compromising their dignity in order to advance what they think of as a cause.

To be fair, feminists promised women that once they became financially self-sufficient men would love them so much more because they would not be needy. It was a big lie. A lot of people bought it. A lot of young women sold themselves for nothing because they wanted to affirm its truth. It was still a colossal lie.

Aimee Lutkin continued:

In the past year, I’ve done a considerable amount of dating and I’m honestly exhausted. Dates are not only frequently disappointing, they’re also expensive—I always insist on paying for myself.

This being the case, she finds the prospect of becoming a Sugar Baby to be strangely enticing:

Well, after being introduced to the world of Sugaring, I may never do that again.

This tells us that giving it away for free makes you a cheap courtesan, one who expects nothing in return, who accepts that she is worth so little that she deserves to receive nothing in return, not even the price of dinner and a movie, certainly not a commitment.

Becoming a Sugar Baby changes the equation. The women who attended the Sugar Baby Summit were not aspiring concubines. They were aspiring entrepreneurs. They were willing to trade an occasional sexual favor— the kinds that they had been giving away for free— for financing and business connections. Compared with giving it away for free, it feels like a better deal.

I briefly attended a panel on the main stage called “Sugar For Entrepreneurs,” where both Babies and Daddies answer questions from moderator Alexis Germany, who hosts a podcast dedicated to the lifestyle called Let’s Talk Sugar, and is PR manager for Seeking Arrangements. A speaker asked audience members to raise their hands if they’re interested in starting their own businesses. Arms shoot up across the room. This was my first moment of surprise—the scope of the Sugar Baby ambition. I thought it stopped at cocktails and Louboutins, but some hopefuls want a Daddy to provide seed money for a whole company. Both a branding specialist and Baby, panelist Christina Friscia built her business with the assistance of her Daddy. She told the assembly it’s important to see your Daddy as a partner, not a wallet, and that frequently, older successful men have more to share than cash, like experience and connections. In a way, that sounds much harder to find than someone with money.

Of course, the first thought that pops into your dirty mind is this: if many women are willing to trade sex for professional advancement, how’s a man to know whether or not the women who work for him, who have not signed up with Seeking Arrangements, will make the same deal? He doesn't. That's the problem. Too many women seem to think that they can exchange sexual favors for career advancement and then they cannot understand why men do not treat them as respectable professionals.

What does a Sugar Daddy offer? At the least, he offers respect. Apparently, modern men, especially those who are woke, have been taught that it is bad to respect women:

Sugar Daddies are at least recognizing that what they’re asking for has value. Women’s time has value. Looking good costs money, far more money for women than men. If you want a woman who looks good to you, help her the fuck out with that. And if you can’t afford it? Then you better be a damn good listener! I’m usually paying to dye my hair in a salon, using fancy skin cream, and waxing my legs to be smooth to the touch just to sit across from some guy who could as easily be talking to a sack of potatoes, given the amount of interest he has in my responses.

Lutkin seems slightly turned off by the prospect of becoming a Sugar Baby. Or else, she feels the need to tell the world that she’s not that kind of girl. And yet, she gets the appeal:

Still, it clearly works for some people. I respect the Sugar Babies who figure out how to use the effort they put into finding love to a secondary purpose, whether it’s paying for college applications, travel, a new handbag, starting a business, or just finding someone who can afford to show them more of the world than a split bill at a dive bar. As one Sugar Baby told me, “I’d never had oysters until a Sugar Daddy introduced me to them. Now I order oysters for myself all the time.”

That’s it: oysters all the time! You’ve come a long way, baby!

Ethnic Cleansing of Jews in France

Meanwhile, back in Paris, a group of 300 thought leaders have declared that French Jews are being ethnically cleansed by radical Islamists. By their lights, nation’s political elites have been largely complicit. 

To my knowledge the American press has ignored the story. We read the account from the Times of London (via Maggie’s Farm):

More than 300 political leaders, intellectuals and celebrities have signed a manifesto claiming that French Jews have fallen victim to a form of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by radical Islamists, amid the indifference of the country’s elite.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, Manuel Valls, the former prime minister, Charles Aznavour, the singer, and GĂ©rard Depardieu, the actor, are among those who have thrown their weight behind the document.

It says that France has become “the theatre of murderous antisemitism” with 11 Jews having been “assassinated” because of their religion since 2006.

“French Jews are 25 times more at risk of being attacked than their Muslim counterparts,” it adds. “Ten per cent of the Jewish citizens of the Paris region . . . have recently been forced to move because they were no longer secure in certain council estates. This is a quiet ethnic cleansing.”

Note the fact, French Jews are 25 times more likely to be attacked than their Muslim counterparts. Presumably, that’s why elites are more concerned with Islamophobia than anti-Semitism.

The signatories claim that the French media has been silent and the French political establishment has merely paid lip service to the problem:

France has Europe’s biggest Jewish community, with more than 500,000 people, and the biggest Muslim population, with about eight million people. More than 3,300 Jews left France for Israel last year, more than from any other western country.

The signatories say that radical Islamists are being allowed to act without restriction by the political establishment in France, thanks in part to the “silence of the media”. In a denunciation reminiscent of the criticism facing Jeremy Corbyn in Britain, the manifesto claims that historical far-right French antisemitism has been joined by that “of a part of the radical left which has found in anti-Zionism an alibi for transforming the executioners of the Jews into the victims of society”.

Why is this happening? Simple, the Muslim population offers far more votes than the Jewish population. It’s the democracy, stupid:

Politicians have made the “lowly electoral calculation that the Muslim vote is ten times bigger than the Jewish vote”, they say.

The Case of Travis Reinking: Failing to Treat Mental Illness

The most depressing coda on Travis Reinking— the Waffle House shooter— comes to us from James Freeman of the Wall Street Journal. To Freeman, it was:

... another story involving years of red flags on mental health that did not result in necessary treatment. 

Ought we not to ask ourselves what our licensed credentialed mental health professionals are doing with their time? If something in the culture prevents them from doing a good job, we ought to know about it. At a time when psychiatry possesses a veritable pharmacopeia to treat mental illness, why did its practitioners fail to treat Travis Reinking?

Reinking’s history shows clear signs of mental illness. TheWall Street Journal reports:

Mr. Reinking had an extensive history of mental issues, according to law enforcement in Tennessee and the Illinois county where he lived before moving to the Nashville area.

Federal and local law-enforcement agents said Mr. Reinking was arrested near the White House grounds last July, after entering a restricted area in hopes of getting an appointment with the president and refusing to leave. He said that he was a “sovereign citizen” and had a right to inspect the grounds, court records show.

And also,

In May 2016, he was convinced that singer Taylor Swift was stalking him and hacking his phone, and that his family was in on it, according to reports from the sheriff’s office in Tazewell County, obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

His family informed officials that he’d been having such delusions since 2014, according to the reports. Ms. Swift’s publicist didn’t respond to a request for comment.

When sheriff’s deputies in Illinois tried to get him to a nearby hospital for evaluation, Mr. Reinking resisted until he was told that he didn’t have a choice.

A spokesman for the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department said it was unclear if he was diagnosed with a mental illness.

And there were the auditory hallucinations:

In August, Mr. Reinking approached the sheriff’s office, saying he believed 20 to 30 people were tapping his phone and that he was hearing people “outside his residence barking like dogs,” according to the report from August 2017.

It ought to have been enough. Apparently, it was not.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Happy Tenth Anniversary

I'm a bit belated, but I do want to celebrate the fact that this blog has just reached its tenth anniversary. Think of it… ten years of posts… some good, some bad, and some ugly. Some have even been readable. As for the number, I am approaching 6,000 posts.

To celebrate the occasion, I will repost my first post, a short philosophical disquisition about lying. It might not seem to be a blinding insight, but, take it for what it’s worth.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride, regardless of when you hopped on the train. I am deeply appreciative of those who have kept up with the blog and who have contributed to the lively discussions in the comments section.

Expressions of support, in the form of donations, are always welcome, even more so on this anniversary. Please use the Donate button tot he left of this post.

Here is my first post, reprinted verbatim, called: Why Lie?

I cannot guarantee that this story really happened. Call it apocryphal, if you like.

A student walks into a philosophy final exam and looks up at the blackboard to read the question he is going to answer. That question is: Why?

While he is considering his answer another student walks up to the professor, turns in his bluebook, and walks out of the room.

The professor opens it and instantly judges that the student should receive an A. The bluebook contains two words: Why not?

So, ask yourself this: Why not lie? This might help us to understand the recent incident where a much-admired politician got caught in a whopper of a lie.

Some people lie to gain an advantage. Some tell small lies to avoid offending friends and family. Others lie because they are afraid of the truth. Still others lie because they can get away with it.

Finally, there are people who lie because they are rewarded for it.

In that case, why not lie?

Imagine that you get caught in a lie. Some people are appalled, but others come forth to defend you. They say that it was only a minor distortion, that it was not relevant or germane, that you were in touch with a higher truth, and that those who denounce you have a darker purpose.

And besides, who is to say that lying is not therapeutic. Isn't a liar merely rewriting his or her life story. Isn't that what therapy is all about?

Of course, you might have to own up to your lies. If your supporters have been properly acculturated they will see this as a challenge to their capacity to offer unconditional love.

As you bask in the glow of this impassioned defense, you might say to yourself that lying is not so bad after all. Perhaps fiction is closer to the truth than mere facts. Besides, if lying has brought you fame, fortune, and power... why not lie?

Why not, indeed?