Sunday, May 23, 2010

We Are Out of Money: American governance won’t begin to inch forward until the political class faces basic facts.

In March the federal government created the most expensive new entitlement in four decades, even as the bond rating company Moody’s Investors Service warned that debt levels could soon precipitate a downgrade in U.S. Treasury bonds. The main opposition party fought the bill by decrying “cuts” to Medicare, and it has kept itself at arm’s length from one of the few politicians talking seriously about long-term reform.

Today may be terrible, but tomorrow is going to be much worse, at least as measured by such metrics as deficits, debt, and entitlement spending. In an April speech, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke laid out the misery that awaits us. “The arithmetic is, unfortunately, quite clear,” he said. “To avoid large and unsustainable budget deficits, the nation will ultimately have to choose among higher taxes, modifications to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, less spending on everything else from education to defense, or some combination of the above.”

Yet in the very next paragraph, Bernanke displayed the kind of cowardice that got us into and has helped extend our awful economic mess: “Today the economy continues to operate well below its potential, which implies that a sharp near-term reduction in our fiscal deficit is probably neither practical nor advisable. However, nothing prevents us from beginning now to develop a credible plan for meeting our long-run fiscal challenges.”

States, counties, and municipalities, lacking Bernanke’s ability to print money, do not have the luxury of “beginning now to develop a credible plan” for the future. They are flat out of money in the present. But they too refuse to face reality.



Read the whole thing.

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Bad Moon Rising.

Leadbelly: The House of the Rising Sun.

What Arizona's Immigration Law Really Says.

The reaction from advocates for illegal immigrants to SB 1070 -- which, according to opinion polls, is supported by some 70% of Arizonans -- can only be described as incendiary and irresponsible, not to mention patently inaccurate. Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony invoked images of Nazi Germany and Soviet totalitarianism. Reform Immigration for America, an umbrella coalition of pro-amnesty groups, warned ominously that "it's racial profiling, and it encapsulates the hatred we are fighting." ACORN's Bertha Lewis declared, "If this bill passes, Arizona is declaring itself an apartheid state."

SB 1070 is not a mandate for Arizona police to seek out illegal immigrants. It conforms fully with the Constitution's 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Under the law, Arizona police are prohibited from racially profiling or stopping anybody merely because of appearance or ethnicity. They may inquire about immigration status only if there is justification for the stop under the Constitution -- such as investigating a possible crime -- and there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is in the U.S. illegally.

And what is reasonable suspicion? Reasonable suspicion might include the lack of any sort of valid U.S. identification documents that police officers routinely request from anyone who is lawfully stopped. The law expressly states that race, color or ethnicity does not constitute reasonable suspicion of illegal presence in the U.S. In reality, SB 1070 does nothing more than require police in Arizona to protect the citizenry and uphold responsibilities abrogated by the federal government.

More.

The Abstract Party vs. the Concrete Party.

Sometimes I think the biggest cleave in politics is between the Abstract Party and the Concrete Party. The Abstraction Party is largely, but not entirely, the liberal Democrats, and the Concrete Party is largely, but not entirely, the conservative Republicans.

The Abstract Party thinks, of course, in abstractions, and elevates these abstractions -- often speculative or plain fantastical -- over real-life human lives, the concrete, the real, the demonstrable, the solid. And part of what sustains the Abstract Party is their faith, a religious faith, really, that what they "know" abstractly they know with 100% surety, so if they're told by their priests (their politicians and pundits) that it's better in a the long run that some dirty farmers are bankrupted and die penniless than we allow the delta smelt to die off, then they just believe that, on faith (as it's speculative, and who has anyway of knowing what's best in the long run; in the long run, as they say, we're all dead), and simply push forward with plans that result in catastrophic ruin for real-life people because they are so damn sure their belief in a speculative abstraction trumps any of that.

As a member of the Concrete Party, that gives me great pause. I don't really possess that level of intellectual arrogance. I can't believe in speculation and abstraction enough to think that, when the rubber meets the road, I can choose obliterative poverty for an entire region of the country with the confidence that I'm doing the right thing by basically ending human lives.

The Abstract Party has done an awful lot of evil in the world. I'm going full Godwin here to note that the Nazis were a party of abstraction, fueled by the unproven belief, which they nevertheless were willing to kill for, so sure of it were they, the Jews were somehow responsible for just about every ill in Germany and that some abstract and speculative Utopia would arise if only the lands could be purged of the Jews.

Elevating, again, a belief in some dreamy abstraction over the real and inarguable suffering created by it.


More.

Will California’s Tech Firms Stay?

Measured by per-household state and local government spending, California ranks third-highest in the nation, behind Alaska and New York. The state government is trying desperately to squeeze money out of any profitable activity to meet the crippling costs. Further, California continues to impose onerous regulations on the private sector. High taxes and stifling regulations give companies a strong incentive to move elsewhere. In this increasingly business-hostile environment, will Silicon Valley’s unique entrepreneurial spirit survive?

Read the whole thing.

Why Do Feminists Hate Female Flag Football?

In the NYT Sunday, a few high-powered females slammed high school flag football for girls, which apparently is really popular in Florida and some other states with football cultures. Flag football is even a varsity sport in Florida and Alaska. So, isn't this great? Title IX working at its best? Not for some people.

More.

Duke Ellington’s music and race in America.


More than half a century after the Civil War, the most famous night club in New York was a mock plantation. The bandstand was done up as a white-columned mansion, the backdrop painted with cotton bushes and slave quarters. And the racial fantasy extended well beyond décor: whites who came to Harlem to be entertained were not to be discomfited by the presence of non-entertaining Negroes.

All the performers were black—or, in the case of the chorus girls, café au lait—and all the patrons white, if not by force of law then by force of the thugs at the door. Ellington had to ask permission for friends to see his show. Ironically, it was the Cotton Club that allowed Ellington to expand his talents, by employing him to arrange and compose for a variety of dancers, singers, miscellaneous acts, entr’actes, and theatrical revues.

His most extraordinary talent, however, may have been for making the best of tainted opportunities. For the big revues, with their plots about black savages and threatened maidens, he devised music of sophistication and cheekily exotic allure, under such titles as “Jungle Blues,” “Jungle Night in Harlem,” and—sinister little masterpiece—“The Mooche.” But even before the band sounded a note it delivered a statement: impeccably dressed in matching tuxedos and boutonnières, its members were of a class with the biggest swells in the room. And Ellington was the swellest of all: unfailingly soigné, magisterially presiding over the urban jungle, he stood untouched and never lost his smile.

A Hidden History of Evil: Why doesn’t anyone care about the unread Soviet archives?


In the world’s collective consciousness, the word “Nazi” is synonymous with evil. It is widely understood that the Nazis’ ideology—nationalism, anti-Semitism, the autarkic ethnic state, the Führer principle—led directly to the furnaces of Auschwitz. It is not nearly as well understood that Communism led just as inexorably, everywhere on the globe where it was applied, to starvation, torture, and slave-labor camps. Nor is it widely acknowledged that Communism was responsible for the deaths of some 150 million human beings during the twentieth century. The world remains inexplicably indifferent and uncurious about the deadliest ideology in history.

For evidence of this indifference, consider the unread Soviet archives. Pavel Stroilov, a Russian exile in London, has on his computer 50,000 unpublished, untranslated, top-secret Kremlin documents, mostly dating from the close of the Cold War. He stole them in 2003 and fled Russia. Within living memory, they would have been worth millions to the CIA; they surely tell a story about Communism and its collapse that the world needs to know. Yet he can’t get anyone to house them in a reputable library, publish them, or fund their translation. In fact, he can’t get anyone to take much interest in them at all.



The rest is here.