Herman Cain: Things aren’t always as they seem

It’s an old story:  A man and a woman meet at work and they hit it off.  They’re both married, although not to each other.  One lunch turns into two, two into three, and eventually they’ve got a pattern.  For years, they get together two or three times a week as regularly as clockwork, share daily emails, and call each other frequently.  Each makes the other happy because, in many ways, they are kindred spirits.  During their get togethers, they do not worry about their respective spouses.  Pretty sordid, huh?

Except it’s not.  I’ve described my decade-long friendship with my fellow blogger, Don Quixote.  Because we are each deeply committed to our own marriages, our relationship never veers from the enjoyably and respectably platonic.  Indeed, one of my favorite lunch companions is Mrs. Don Quixote, who joins us whenever she’s not at work.  She is a most delightful person, and I’m as pleased to count her among my friends as I am Don Quixote himself.  Don Quixote and I are just best friends, in much the same way two woman or two men share a purely non-sexual friendship.  I know I feel blessed to have this friendship, and I’m pretty sure he does too.

Fortunately, our family and friends know us well, which means that they know our values well, so I don’t believe there’s ever been the breath of suspicion hovering about our friendship.  But were either he or I to enter the public world and face the scrutiny of those who don’t know us, the evidence would be damning:  regular assignations, phone calls, emails.  It’s all there.  Our honest, righteous protestations of innocence would certainly fall on innumerable deaf ears.

As I write these words, I’m aware of very limited solid evidence to support Ginger White’s claim that she had a 13 year long affair with Herman Cain.  She’s pointed to phone calls.  He’s admitted them, but claims that they are innocent.  I also know that Ginger White doesn’t strike me as an exceptionally savory person.  One could take her spotted history to mean that she’d have no compunction about having an affair with a married man, or one could take it to mean that she has a somewhat strained relationship with the truth.  I don’t know.

And that’s the point:  the only two who know based upon the slender evidence available are Ginger White and Herman Cain.  One of them is lying.  I, however, am loath to convict a person based upon what could be, as Cain says, evidence only of friendship.  I happen to know a couple of older men, men in Cain’s age group and socio-economic stratum, who have gone out of their way for younger women, helping them financially or with work.  Both these men adore their wives and there never was evidence (or accusation) of any impropriety.  Both of them, however, clearly enjoyed the role of avuncular helper to an attractive, slightly younger, woman.  It was good for their egos, although it didn’t involve anything sordid.

I haven’t been impressed with the way in which Cain has handled these sexually based allegations — although, if one assumes these attacks are indeed smears (and, absent better evidence, I do), it’s virtually impossible to rebut them in an impressive way.  In the “he said/she said” battle that plays out over the liberal media, the conservative black man is always wrong.

Incidentally, I don’t have a dog in this fight.  Although I briefly considered Cain as a candidate, he simply doesn’t float my boat.  I like some of his ideas, I like his charm, I like his commitment to America, but he’s not the candidate for me.  The one thing I’m not going to do, though, is turn my back on the man because of unsubstantiated allegations that I know, for a fact, can be subject to other, entirely innocent, interpretations.

(Photo of Herman Cain by Gage Skidmore)

Know your priorities and act without hesitation

Suek posted this is an open thread, but I thought it was too good to keep hidden:

Marines are taught:

1) Keep your priorities in order and

2) Know when to act without hesitation.

A MARINE was attending some college courses between assignments. He had completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One of the courses had a professor who was an avowed atheist and a member of the ACLU. One day he shocked the class when he came in, looked to the ceiling, and flatly stated, “God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I’ll give you exactly 15 minutes.” The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. Ten minutes
went by and the professor proclaimed, “Here I am God I’m still waiting.”

It got down to the last couple of minutes when the MARINE got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him; knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold. The MARINE went back to his seat and sat there, silently. The other students were shocked and stunned ! and sat there looking on in silence.

The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the MARINE and asked, “What the hell is the matter with you? Why did you do that?”

The MARINE calmly replied, “God was too busy today taking care of America’s soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid shit and act like an asshole. So, He sent me.”

Whoooooya!

Had this Marine been in Berlin in 1925, he might have kept my Dad from becoming a lifelong atheist.  My Dad’s mother always told him that, if he ate leavened bread during Passover, God would strike him dead with a lightening bolt.  When my Dad was six, he decided to put this theory to the test.  He stood on the curb with a piece of leavened bread in his hand.  His plan:  Take a bite of the bread and simultaneously jump off the curb into the street, so that the lightening bolt would miss.  He put the plan into effect, but to no purpose — the lightening bolt never appeared.  With six-year-old logic, rather than concluding that his mother was misinformed, my  Dad gave up on God.

Focusing on Newt’s virtues

The alternative title for this post is “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  Scott Galupo is no Newt Gingrich fan, but he genuinely hates Mitt Romney, whom he describes in the same terms once used to describe Tom Cruise:  “I don’t sense a man there. I sense a bristling mass of ambition.”  He sees Newt as flawed, but with one genuine conservative accomplishment under his belt, while Mitt has done nothing to earn the conservative description but for the fact that he’s placed the “R” after his name:

Still, there’s a way Newt can effectively undermine Romney and get himself back in the good graces of the conservative base. He needs to stay out of the briar patch of Romney’s position on this or that issue, and focus on one thing: his accomplishments as speaker.

If I were Newt Gingrich, I’d dial down the “vision thing” and draw these contrasts:

What has Mitt Romney ever done, while in office, to advance the conservative cause? He got himself elected in a bedrock liberal state and served four unspectacular years. Whoop-de-do. Name one instance where Mitt Romney fought for conservative principles when it didn’t suit his electoral needs.

Newt was the architect of the most significant rightward shift in the politics of the whole nation, not just one state. Domestically, he did more to slow the growth of government than Ronald Reagan did. After he departed, the party beat a retreat from the Contract with America legacy, and, under Rep. Tom DeLay, emitted an ethical stench far more fetid than the overblown controversy over Gingrich’s book deal.

I’ve said before and I’ll say again that I will vote for anything or anybody that opposes Obama. I’ve also conceded that all of the conservative candidates are flawed.  Indeed, the problem with our primary system, not to mention conservatives’ own obsessive quest for candidate perfection, is that we tend to use the primary process to highlight the candidates’ flaws rather than their virtues.  Ultimately, I’m sure it’s a good thing, because the eventual Republican nominee is thoroughly vetted by the time the media savages him (or her) for having the temerity to challenge a member of the Democratic Party.  Nevertheless, it’s a painful and somewhat damaging process, not just for the candidates, but for the voters too.

I will therefore vote for either Mitt or Newt.  I’m not sure which of them will make me most or least happy, but I know that each will be better than Barack.

Hat tip:  Earl Aagaard

Watcher’s Council Thanksgiving edition

Amongst other ways I celebrated Thanksgiving, I confirmed my bridesmaid status at the Watcher’s Council.  By the way, to any who thought last week that I was complaining, I wasn’t.  I tend to be a natural and comfortable second placer.  I’m not a general, but I’m a fairly good junior officer.  In any event, given the consistently high writing and analytical skills every single council member shows week in and week out, I’m incredibly honored that I periodically earn that second spot.

And now . . . the Winners!

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

An article for those of us who are not physically perfect

In my younger days, if buxom wasn’t your thing, I had a figure to die for.  Two children and a few years later and . . . well, I’m trim, but it takes a lot of work.  Given the realities of child bearing, age and gravity, there’s nothing more irksome to me than a picture of some Hollywood woman, slim and smooth in a bikini, boasting about how she went back to her original figure within just three months of having a baby because she did intense workouts and ate a bizarre diet.

The good news is that those ladies can’t lie with impunity anymore.  Two scientists have created a computer program that measures the amount of photoshopping involved in any given image.  I think every single woman and teenager in the land should read this article.  It wouldn’t hurt to have the guys read it either, just so that they too can know how the media manipulates them.

Milton Friedman, wise and witty

John Hawkins has pulled together some excellent Milton Friedman quotations.  I’m embarrassed to admit that, growing up in my Left wing, liberal arts enclave, I’d never heard of Friedman.  I wonder if early exposure to his ideas (and his charm) would have lifted me out of the darkness sooner.

My favorite quotation from the Hawkins column is this one, which is the pithiest summary I can imagine for the beauty of a healthy marketplace:

“The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.”

The down side of working alone

I have a home office and have worked alone for a long, long time.  Mostly, I like it.  Despite being a very social person (party! party! party! — only I won’t drink or do drugs, if you don’t mind), I really need my solitude, and a home office definitely provides that.

There are a few things one misses, though, when working alone, one of which is other people’s bon mots.  Thankfully, some bloggers share well with others.

The dangers of rock and roll music — or why we at the Bookworm Room like Madison Rising

A couple of weeks ago, I brought to your attention a rock group called Madison Rising.  It has the distinction of playing classic guitar rock, with conservative, pro-American lyrics.  (Sadly, my 14 year old daughter still prefers LMFAO, but there’s only so much one can do as a mother.)

A conservative cartoonist caught one of Madison Rising’s concerts, and came out with this great cartoon, which manages to capture, in very few words, the generational divide between old hipsters and (thank God) some of the new ones:

That’s right.  Kid’s today:

P.S.  Did I mention that Dave Bray, the lead singer looks a lot like Keanu Reeves?  That may not mean anything to you, but it certainly does to me.

A story that needs to make the rounds: City of Richmond auditing the Tea Party *UPDATED*

Fact:  The Tea Party, when it held three protests in the City of Richmond, applied for permits, and paid $10,000 for permits, potties, police, etc.

Fact:  The OWS protesters in Richmond simply plunked themselves down, paying nothing (and, I’m guessing, incurring significantly greater police and janitorial charges than did the Tea Party crowd).

Fact:  When the Tea Party learned that it had been damaged by disparate treatment from a civic government, it applied to the City of Richmond for a full refund.

Fact:  The City of Richmond has now sent an audit letter to the Tea Party.  I’ll add here a bonus fact:  the city’s mayor is a Democrat.

Fact:  You need to send this story around to as many people as you can.  The City of Richmond needs to be exposed for this abuse of power and, I hope, horribly embarrassed.

And here’s something that’s not a fact, but that is just my opinion:  The City of Richmond’s behavior perfectly illustrates one of the reasons I’ve embraced conservativism.  I am deeply suspicious of consolidating too much power in any one entity.  The City of Richmond is just one city, yet even that modicum of power has corrupted it.  Imagine this kind of thing playing out on a grand, national scale.  No human is sea-green incorruptible, and most humans, when given power, can get dangerously giddy, with a further subset getting malevolently destructive.

UPDATE: Here’s a more detailed story — which includes a great link to VA Right, a member of the Watcher’s Council.

Ken Russell dead at 84

I’m not the artsy type who appreciates movies at a level above and beyond mere entertainment.  Given that fact, you’d think that news of director Ken Russell’s death would pass me by, unnoticed.  His films, after all, are bizarre, twisted, dark and perverse — none of which I find particularly interesting.  And yet….  I have a silly story about a Ken Russell movie and me.

Back in 1988, my friend said to me, “Let’s go see a movie.”  I thought that was a good idea.  She expanded on it.  “There’s a new Kurt [sic] Russell movie called Lair of the White Worm, based on a Bram Stoker book.  Kurt Russell is the guy who was in all those Disney movies, so this should be nice.”

We went, and I think our brains exploded.  Lair of the White Worm was not a Disney-style family friendly Victorian adventure movie.  Instead, it was a hallucinogenic, blood-saturated, really disgusting horror movie.  We should have walked out, but my friend and I were each too polite, as we thought the other might be entertained.  It was only the next day at work that someone enlightened us, explaining the difference between Ken and Kurt Russell.

That movie also marked the first time I’d ever seen Hugh Grant.  He’d already perfected his slightly bumbling, stuttering, upper-class role then, and was, I thought, charming.

In case you were wondering, it can always get worse

Some of us thought, “Yay, Barney Fwank is leaving.”  Sure, we know that his constituents will elect someone equally liberal to fill his old seat, but that person will lack Barney Fwank’s seniority.

Sadly, others with Fwank’s seniority remain behind in the House of Representatives.  So it very much looks as if, to fill the Fwankian vacuum on the House Financial Services Committee, the next senior-most member is already in line:  Maxine Waters.  Oh, yeah.  It can always get worse.

If this doesn’t scare the living daylights out of voters, and lead them to turn both Congress and the White House over to the Republicans by very large margins, voters are either dumber or more addicted to risky behavior than I ever expected them to be.

Reminder to self: be profound, as all pundits must be

That post caption is a complete lie.  I can issue as many reminders to myself as I like, but when the spirit doesn’t move me, you could look through my house with a magnifying glass and you still wouldn’t find any profundity.  Heck, today I’m not even sure if I could come up with any decent banality, although this post is a good try.

I’m only grateful that I’m not a paid columnist on deadline.  If I was, I’d suddenly find myself being a Tom Friedman or a David Brooks, mouthing less-than-sweet nothings to a paying audience.  Worse, that audience, having paid and having invested many years in proclaiming its wisdom in reading these “great thinkers,” finds itself in the role the courtiers played in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”  Readers valiantly cheer these pundits’ ponderous prose, which is often quite poorly written, and that varies with pendulum-like rhythm between meaningless and dangerous.

And it’s not just me harshing on them (although I have been known to call Friedman an “idiot”).  Matt Welch, at Reason Magazine, isn’t so thrilled either when he looks at these pundits, complete with large pulpits and small thoughts.  His complaint is that the Friedmans and Brooks of the world (and they’re not the only pundits, of course, just the best known), have a “do something” attitude that demands an immediate government fix to any problem.

By doing this, the pundit crowd reveals so many things:  it’s practical ignorance; it’s need to “make a statement” because each pundit is, after all, paid to do precisely that; and, of course, a world view that’s wedded to proactive government.  The Founders would have been horrified by this last attitude.  In a truly splendid article from National Review, Yuval Levin explains that the Founders, distrustful of both mobs and government, created a system that was intended to make “doing something” extremely difficult:

As the framers saw it, both populist and technocratic politics were expressions of a modern hubris about the capacity of human beings — be it of the experts or of the people as a whole — to make just the right governing decisions. The Constitution is built upon a profound skepticism about the ability of any political arrangement to overcome the limitations of human reason and human nature, and so establishes a system of checks to prevent sudden large mistakes while enabling gradual changes supported by a broad and longstanding consensus. Experts should not govern, nor should the people do so directly, but rather the people’s representatives should govern in a system filled with mediating institutions and opposing interests — a system designed to force us to see problems and proposed solutions from a variety of angles simultaneously and, as Alexander Hamilton puts it in Federalist 73, “to increase the chances in favor of the community against the passing of bad laws through haste, inadvertence, or design.”

All things considered, perhaps it’s a good thing that I’m not up to being profound today.  My sluggish thoughts are right in line with the Founders’ goals.

Why higher taxes are not the answer

Victor Davis Hanson hits it out of the park with his post explaining why higher taxes are not the answer.  Some of his twelve reasons are better than others, but all are worthy of your consideration.  This is my favorite of the twelve, but I think you’ll like them all:

2) Inequality?

Liberals reply that income inequality is worse than ever. (Note here in their own lives they have no problem with other “merit”-based inequality: e.g., Why can’t Johnny Depp turn down a couple of roles so other less fortunate actors could star? Why doesn’t Cornel West at last break up his endowed mega-salaried professorship into three or four lectureships for the struggling part-timers? Why doesn’t Maureen Dowd go down to one column every other week to allow less compensated New York Times op-ed writers a chance to catch up? In other words, why not back off from the trough and let others have a go?) But back to income inequality: some of those figures are not just attributable to the proliferation of $200,000 orthodontists, but to factoring in the mega-fortunes of a Johnny Depp ($50 million last year in income alone) or a Warren Buffett. The onset of a globalized market allowed a new top bracket to make tens of millions of dollars, a world away from the lesser professional. There is no aggregate homogenous group of “the wealthy.” My big-farming near neighbor (500 acres in vineyard plus), who probably nets $300,000 on a rare good raisin year like this one, is a world away from the late Steve Jobs or the thousands of million-dollar-plus incomes in Silicon Valley. This incongruence is not a rhetorical point or special pleading, but evident through the president’s own rhetoric: “Millionaires and billionaires” is a deliberate attempt to weld two disparate groups together — one making 1000 times the other (if the president is talking of annual income), or one worth 1000 times more than the other (if the president is talking about net worth). But is the Menlo Park bungalow owner who teaches at Foothill College and might be “worth” $1 million (given housing inflation) really comparable to Meg Whitman? Mr. Obama knows that there is not enough of the 1% of the 1% to come up with enough revenue to cover his new $4 trillion in debt, but does he think that by going after the top 5% or 10%, well, there just may be?

I’m actually sensitive to this comparison issue, because Marin skews things. In most other parts of America (other than the other rich liberal enclaves scattered about America), we’d be rich. In Marin, we’re squarely in the middle. Because prices here are so ridiculously high, we live in a middle house, drive middle cars, shop at middle stores, and send our kids to public schools. If we had the same income in Kansas or Texas, we’d be much more comfortably situated — and in Texas, we wouldn’t be turning more than 50% of our money over to the government (state, federal and local).

Of course, we could move, but I like it here:  our house is near my aged mother who is too old to be relocated; the temperate climate suits me, because I’m a wuss; and our neighborhood is unique by any standards, providing a truly perfect backdrop to raising decent, honest, nice children.

The problem with introducing freedom into industrial societies — or the tyranny of fossil fuels

Two things happened on November 26, two entirely unrelated things, that nevertheless ended up merging into a single thought in my mind:  In the modern world, fossil fuels equal liberty.  If you cannot assure the people the former, forget about trying to foist upon them the latter.  Let me walk you through my thought processes.

The first thing that impinged onto my awareness was a conversation I had with a most delightful 85-year-old Jewish man who, except for WWII and the Israeli War of Independence, has always lived and worked in South Africa.  During a wide-ranging conversation, I asked him what the situation was like today in post-apartheid South Africa. “Horrible,” he said, “just horrible.”  According to him, the moment Nelson Mandela left office, the new ANC government began to be as racist as the old apartheid government, only with the benefits flowing to the blacks, this time, not the whites.  It’s not Zimbabwe, yet, but he sees it coming.

What was most fascinating to me was this man’s claim that the black people are deeply unhappy with the status quo.  Yes, ostensibly they have civil rights that were denied them under the old regime.  The problem, though, is that the country is so horribly mismanaged under the current government that, while they have civil rights, they lack electricity, clean water, food and transportation.  The blacks he speaks to therefore look back longingly on apartheid.  While their lives then were demeaning and economically marginal, the old government was stable and efficient.  Excepting those who lived in the most abysmal poverty, apartheid-era blacks could rely on what we in the modern era consider to be the basics for sustaining life:  not just the bare minimum of food and water, but also electricity, reliable long-distance transportation, and plumbing — all of which are dependent upon a modern fossil fuel economy.

The second thing that happened on November 26 was that Danny Lemieux put up a post commenting on Bruce Bawer’s Thanksgiving article examining the possibly naive American notion that all people crave freedom.  Danny had this to say:

I believe that I can understand the pull of serfdom for many people. Just think of all of the difficult life decisions that are taken away from the individual serf: as wards of the state, they don’t have to worry about where they will get their food (of course, they can forget about shopping at Whole Foods as well), whether they will meet their financial needs (albeit at a subsistence level), understanding politics, moral values, education, finding a job…etc. It is, in other words, regression to the mind of a child. They can simply exist for the moment of the day: no responsibilities but, also, no hope. Like vegetables, if you think about it.

I agree with Danny (and Bruce Bawer), but I I’d like to add to what both say, by dragging in fossil fuels.

What may have made the extraordinary American experiment in individual liberty possible was that it happened right at the start of the industrial era, before people’s expectations were raised by the industrial and post-industrial era.  At the end of the 18th century, people’s material expectations were limited by the technology of the time (electricity was a lightening bolt; clean water was the creek behind your house; transportation could be found in the bones and muscles reaching from your hips down to your feet).  Fortunately for America’s future, she was rich, not only in space, but in the natural resources that would become so necessary in the next two centuries, including fossil fuel and the drive to put that fossil fuel to work.  Put another way, at the moment our nation was born, our material expectations were low, but the possibilities proved to be almost endless.  The exquisite historic timing that brought together our new freedoms and the nascent industrial revolution made the American miracle possible.

Nowadays, the source of all physical comfort is fossil fuel.  Except for those people who still live a virtually stone age existence (whether in Indian, Africa, Latin America or Asia), every single person in the world benefits from fossil fuels.  They give us light, water treatment plants for clean water, food in the fields and in the marketplace, transportation, clothing, housing, every bit of our technology, everything.   Nothing in our modern world would be possible without them.  Fossil fuels drove Hitler’s maniacal push to the Soviet Union and ended the Japanese ability to fight a war.  (If you’re interested in more on oil’s central role in WWII, check out The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power.)  No wonder the global warmists, with their anti-Western mindset, are so determined to destroy fossil fuel.

In a modern world, one that premised upon expectations of fossil fuel’s blessings (an abundance of food, clean water, ready transportation, technical, etc.), giving people freedom without meeting those expectations — which are, by now, the minimal expectations for creature comfort — is doomed to failure.  It is no longer enough to couple free speech with a horse, a plow, and some seeds.  Nor will people be excited about freedom of worship if they have only a small flame to light the night-time darkness.  Today, America’s famous four freedoms will satisfy people only if they are coupled with the riches flowing from modern energy.

What all this means in practical terms is that, if you invade Iraq and destroy a tyrant, but simultaneously knock out the power supply, you will not have a happy population.  Post-industrial people would rather have tyranny and electricity (and the food, water, transportation and other things flowing from that electricity), than freedom in a world limited to stone age energy sources.  Proverbs 15:17 therefore got it wrong.  As you recall, that proverb says “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”  Our modern experience with trying to bring people to the American model shows that most would say, “Better a stalled ox and a well-lighted barn where tyranny is, than starvation and the darkness of night where freedom lives.”

 

I may not know much about history, but I don’t mess with it either

Whew!  That was a long drive home.  We got caught in traffic jams caused by two accidents, so we got to spend an extra couple of hours in the car.  Still, better to sit around because of an accident than to be in an accident.  I’ve done both and prefer the former.

While we were driving, we let the kids watch “Miracle on 34th Street,” which is always charming.  We spent most of the drive though, listening to a book on CD: Kenneth C. Davis’ Don’t Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned.

It was an interesting book, in that it was honest about the facts (although Davis did buy the story about smallpox infected blankets, a story I understand to be a Howard Zinn fraud), but he couldn’t resist Left-wing editorializing, even when his editorial asides didn’t mesh with the facts.  For example, in the section about why the British lost the colonies, his set-up was that they lost it for precisely the same reason that the Americans lost in Vietnam.  In some respects, he was correct — a far-away enemy making logistics challenging, weak support at home, and the fact that the enemy used new tactics while the larger force (Britain/America) was still using its successful tactics from the previous war.

However, what Davis also tried to do was imply that, as was the case with Britain and the American colonies, America in Vietnam was trying to enforce imperial control on a small nation.  He also implies that the Soviet Union in the 20th century, as did France in the 18th century, came in after the conflict started to aid the underdog and humiliate an old enemy.  In that, Davis is completely dishonest.  Vietnam was not a part of the American empire, nor was America trying to squeeze it into that role.  And unlike France, the Soviet Union was not initially a disinterested bystander that only came in to aid an underdog and humiliate an old enemy at the same time.  Instead, Vietnam always was a proxy war between superpowers.  More than that, our aim was to prevent Vietnam from being subjugated to a colonizing power, rather than to subjugate it to our own power.

So, not only was Davis biased, he was historically wrong.  Still, he gets points for presenting the facts (even if he didn’t understand their import) and the kids did get more brain food than they would have if they’d just watch an endless series of mindless movies while we drove.

On the road again, open thread

We’re back in the car today, so my blogging will be on hold for several hundred miles. When I get back to my computer, I’ll tell you about two fascinating people I met yesterday.

Until then, I hope you have fun with this open thread.

Dissin’ Liberty

Bruce Bawer, American expat extraordinaire, posted an especially insightful post over this weekend, in which he notes that the peculiarly American assumption that all people want to be free just may be a tad naive.

He cites Jewish writer Tuvia Tenenbom’s (“I Sleep in Hitler’s Room”) observation, upon traversing the former East Germany, that most of the people Tenenbom encountered longed for the “good times” living under the East German dictatorship. In the Middle East, we see peoples offered the light of freedom only to turn further toward the darkness. As Bawer points out, we should know that not all people want to be free: after all, the masses that marched in support of the Nazis and Communists hardly marched for the cause of freedom. Read it all…Bawer makes excellent points in support of his thesis.

We, as a nation, have existed on the premise that all people (like our forefathers) want to be free. This (false?) premise has driven much of American foreign policy. It may also blind us to what is really going on in our own country with regard to the Liberal/Left, the Democrat party and the OWS movement.

I believe that I can understand the pull of serfdom for many people. Just think of all of the difficult life decisions that are taken away from the individual serf: as wards of the state, they don’t have to worry about where they will get their food (of course, they can forget about shopping at Whole Foods as well), whether they will meet their financial needs (albeit at a subsistence level), understanding politics, moral values, education, finding a job…etc. It is, in other words, regression to the mind of a child. They can simply exist for the moment of the day: no responsibilities but, also, no hope. Like vegetables, if you think about it.

So, what do you think? Is what is happening today a defining struggle between those of us that want to be free and those that seek a return to childhood? Is it as simple as this? Because, if it is, then we really are witnessing the final death struggle of the American Republic.

The other one percent

The OWS people have made much of their pathetic status compared to the “wealthy 1%.” As I’ve mentioned before, this is a completely spurious argument, because it makes the 99% sound like a single homogenous lump all similarly situated to medieval serfs. Nothing could be further from the truth. In America, that 99% is a continuum, with subtle gradations from percentage to percentage.

The one thing America doesn’t have is a true bottom 1%. Yes, we have some homeless people, but they are not an economic block. Most are there because of brain damage, either organically or chemically caused.

This video shows what the real 1% looks like. It follows two young people in rural India with cleft lips and cleft palettes. The poverty is overwhelming and almost incomprehensible — yet there is hope, and love, and gratitude. It is an incredibly uplifting video. As you watch it, please consider something the OWSers don’t know or would prefer to forget: to the extent these damaged children in the bottom 1% in the back of nowhere are being offered normalcy and hope, it is the top 1% in America (plus the “evil” corporations), that provides the money that makes hope happen:

Smile Pinki from asg on Vimeo.

If this video doesn’t show, you can watch it here.

Minority employees and “making it” in America

Mr. Bookworm works for a very large corporation.  While we were in the car with the kids, the conversation turned to the exquisite sensitivity the corporation has to show when it’s faced with firing a minority employee. The process is arduous, requiring huge HR involvement, dozens of staff interviews and a lengthy paper trail.  

The reason for this labor intensive firing is the unfortunate fact that minorities tend to be less satisfactory employees. As Mr. Bookworm was at great pains to point out to the children (and correctly so), this is a group trend and has nothing to do with the merits of any individual minority employee. It’s just that, if you look at a bell curve of minority employees versus a bell curve of white employees, you’ll find more white employees than minority employees in the segment denoting “good worker.” No modern corporation, however, wants a reputation as a “firer of minorities.”

The above are facts. What fascinated me was the different spin Mr. Bookworm and I put on those facts. Mr. Bookworm sent twenty minutes explaining to the children that, to the extent blacks were poorer employees, it was because their culture made them incapable of working. (This was not meant as an insult. He was talking, of course, about the culture of poverty.). 

Mr. Bookworm painted a picture of a black child living in a ghetto, with a single mother who gave birth to him when she was 14, with several siblings from different fathers, with a terrible school, surrounded by illiterates, hungry all the time, etc.  No wonder, he said, that this child doesn’t bring to a corporation the same work ethic as a middle class white kid.

This creates big problems for corporations.  A modern corporation truly wants to hire minorities.  Once it’s hired them, though, according to my liberal husband, it ends up with workers who are incapable of functioning in a white collar, corporate environment. The corporation therefore finds itself forced to fire it’s minority hires more frequently than white or Asian employees, with the result that it’s accused of racism. Its response to that accusation is to proceed with excessive caution and extreme due diligence whenever a black employee fails at the job. 

I suggested to the children that something different than downtrodden black culture might be going on. Past generations of immigrants in America labored under the same handicap as the current generation of blacks (and, I guess, Hispanics).  Irish Catholics, Jews, Italians, Poles — no matter the label, you could spell out for them the same sorry tale Mr. Bookworm told about the hypothetical black kid, a story of poverty, parental illiteracy, poor schools, hunger, etc.

The difference, I told the kids, was that, back in the day, neither laws nor popular culture affirmatively protected these people. They were barred from the universities, banks, and law firms. Their response was to be better and work harder.  They carved out new industries (e.g., Hollywood.)  They made themselves more American than all the other Americans put together. They made their entrance into the mainstream a fait accompli.  

At this point, I interrupted myself to ask the kids a question:  You’re taking a class that you don’t really like, but you want to get an “A”.  Do you work as hard as you possibly can, or do you do the bare minimum to get by?  I got a resounding “Duh!” from both kids. “Of course you do the bare minimum.”

“Okay, then. Why don’t we give blacks credit for being smart, not helpless. Since they know that, once they’re through the door, it’s virtually impossible to fire them, why should they do more work than they have to?  Just as you wouldn’t work any harder for an ‘A’ than you need to in a class you don’t particularly like, why should they work any harder for job security in a job they don’t particularly like?  That’s not helpless thinking; that’s smart-allocation-of-personal-resources thinking.” 

And no, that doesn’t mean that all blacks are bad employees. There are a gazillion blacks out there who work hard because they want to, because they like to, or because it’s the right thing to do — which is precisely why whites work hard.  But there are clearly also a lot of blacks out there who neither like nor want to work hard, and they’ve figured out that a toxic combination of white guilt and fear of liability for workplace discrimination creates an out for them.  This doesn’t make blacks helpless and stupid. It makes them savvy marketplace consumers. 

The above discussion revealed another interesting difference in the way Mr. Bookworm and I look at the world. When I gave my Catholics, Jews, Irish, Italian, etc., example, Mr. Bookworm said that I was describing incrementalism, which has no validity today. 

What is “incrementalism”?  It’s the notion that success in Americ may be the work of several generations. This was the old pattern:  You, the immigrant, arrive at Ellis Island, illiterate, unable to speak English,  and a foreigner to the culture.  Unsurprisingly, you end up in a ghetto. Your children go to school.  They do not become CEOs, but they move into the working class — something that could never have happened in your own class-stratified, antisemitic or anti-Catholic or anti-Irish or anti-whatever home country. Your grandchildren thrn move into the lower middle class, or even the middle- or upper-middle class. In two or three, or maybe four, generations, your family has made it in America. 

Mr. Bookworm’s view is that this slow, upward trajectory is wrong. In today’s world, welfare, social policies and PC hiring practices should ensure that, not only is there a chicken in every pot, but every family should have a high level white collar worker just one generation out from poverty. I happen to believe that, while there will always be young people with drive and initiative who can make this leap, expecting it from the big part of the bell curve is ridiculous and impossible. Wrapping our educational, economic and social policies around this goal is a recipe for wasted money, ungainly government programs, personal failures, and class disappointment. In other words, it’s how we ended up with OWS. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

If I can, I’ll post a bit today. If I can’t, this will have to do:

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! As I say with truth every year, my blog and the friends I’ve made through blogging are two things that are always at the top of my “I’m thankful for…” list.

Is this the best half time show ever?

There’s a distinct possibility that this is the best half time show ever, combining heartfelt patriotism, pitch perfect music, and marching the likes of which most of us haven’t seen outside of a Busby Berkeley movie.  Even better — no wardrobe malfunctions.

(If the video doesn’t show, go here to watch it.)