Monday, January 31, 2022

The Great Confinement

You may have already figured it out, but I do not go in for political prognostication. Thus, when I read Arthur Herman’s prophecy of massive Republican gains in the 2022 Congressional elections, I am curious, but not entirely persuaded.

Herman’s analysis, impeccable in many ways, draws an analogy between America in 2022 and America in 1932. Since America rejected Republicans in 1932, he suggests that it might well reject Democrats in 2022.


For all I know, he may be right. But, my own crystal ball is somewhat fogged over these days, so I will not offer my own predictions.


I have another, more substantive reason for reporting on Herman’s Wall Street Journal op-ed this morning. In it, he suggests that the populace is turning against the party of government because the Biden administration, coupled with government bureaucrats and scientists has been so singularly inept in dealing with the Covid pandemic.


Perhaps symbolized by the ineptitude of the Biden administration-- that model of diversity, inclusion and equity-- government ineptitude was also on display during the Trump administration effort to deal with the virus.

 

As the Great Depression destroyed the American electorate’s faith in Wall Street and big business, sweeping in a Democrat-dominated political order, so too has the “Great Confinement”—in the form of lockdowns, shutdowns and mandates—wrecked faith in the basic competence of American government. As in 1932, the party out of power stands to benefit.


The policy, from America to Britain to Australia and New Zealand, has been what Herman calls, correctly, the Great Confinement. Governments around the world went into full panic mode and exercised their power to shut down their countries. That is, to shut down business, to shut down schools, to shut down offices and to shut down public meetings. Apparently, they wanted to exercise their own authority and to show who was really in charge.


It was an historical first. Industrialized nations closed down their economies, en masse:


For the first time in history the leading industrialized nations decided to close their economies and order citizens to stay home for months at a time. They shuttered schools and businesses, imposed mask and vaccine mandates, and disrupted virtually every institution on which modern life depends.


They were in panic mode. And they were doing so without any consideration for the fallout. They failed to consider the damage to the mental health of children from school shutdowns. They failed to consider the damage to toddlers from mask mandates. They failed to consider that adolescents would be more depressed and suicidal. And they failed to consider the impact on the economy.


Unfortunately, the Great Confinement didn’t work. It neither failed to stem the spread of Covid nor prevented large numbers of deaths. In many cases—the New York nursing-home horror being only one of the most extreme examples—it may have made the suffering worse. The governments responsible for the Great Confinement managed to do lasting damage to their nations’ economies. According to the consulting firm McKinsey, the global economy could suffer up to $35 trillion in losses by 2025.


It was almost like a Green Wet Dream. The irrational fear that Nature was punishing us for mass industrialization produced a regimen whereby we were being called on to sacrifice our lives, and our children’s lives, in order to atone for our sins-- and, not incidentally, to save the planet.


In the Journal of the American Medical Association, former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Harvard Professor David Cutler called Covid “the greatest threat to prosperity and well-being the U.S. has encountered since the Great Depression.” They estimated the economic cost of the pandemic could run as high as $16 trillion—with barely a quarter ($4.4 trillion) attributed to premature deaths from Covid itself. At the same time, trillions of dollars in government spending to compensate for lost jobs and lost livelihoods has added fuel to another epidemic: inflation—the worst in 40 years.


From the psychological point of view, the government, especially the philosopher king bureaucrats who refuse to accept any opinion that does not correlate with theirs, decided that it was necessary to impose itself on the populace at large. This involved discrediting alternative policy proposals and also forcing people to take vaccines.


While the nation’s pseudo-intelligentsia is all in with the notion that if only we could rid the world of disinformation, all would be well, and people would naturally do the right thing-- see yesterday’s post-- the reality is, people who feel that they are being coerced to do something, by government or by managers, will most often pushback. They will, in the interest of saving face, reject the imposition.


Herman described government overreach:


The pandemic tempted governments and their elite allies to treat citizens as passive objects to be dictated to, bullied and coerced en masse—an attitude not unlike that found in China, Cuba and North Korea—instead of as active thinking subjects with whom government is in partnership. With few exceptions (the Nordic countries are the best examples), governments failed to find ways to affirm that despite the pandemic, citizens were still individuals imbued with inalienable rights and independent moral standing. This is, after all, how most people see themselves in modern society—as free autonomous beings rather than as laboratory rats in a series of social science experiments.


When people recall the pandemic, they will, Herman argues, be less likely to recall the virus and more likely to recall the damage done to their children, from school shutdowns. They will recall the damage done to the careers of parents who had to stay home to help their children with schoolwork.


They will remember that at a time when they needed government to provide leadership and sanity, its officials became hysterical and decided that they needed to take over the country. It was, dare we say, a coup.


What people will remember from this extraordinary episode isn’t the experience of Covid itself, terrible though that’s been. It will be the ineptitude and incompetence of governing institutions that are supposed to protect citizens—and the indifference, as this was happening, of the media and scientific establishment.


And, let’s not forget the spike in urban violent crime. And also, as we have often noted on this blog, the extraordinary dereliction of schoolteachers.


In the U.S., the Great Confinement has left scars on the national psyche comparable to the effects of the Great Depression. This loss of faith has been compounded by government failure to deal with spiking violent-crime rates and the shocking dereliction of duty on the part of the nation’s teachers. Children and families feel as if they’ve been left stranded by the school systems they pay for with their tax dollars.


Sunday, January 30, 2022

The Church of the Liberal Pieties

It’s Sunday morning, as good a time as any to return to the Church of the Liberal Pieties. The felicitous phrase, coined by yours truly several years ago, refers to the degeneration of liberalism into a religious movement, one that promotes dogmas, burns books, denounces heretics and generally tries to shut down public dissent from whatever it considers to be God-given dogma.

Lately, it has targeted Spotify star and Bernie Sanders supporter Joe Rogan. His crime, disseminating what the CLP considers to be heretical opinions. Led by a septuagenarian rocker named Neil Young and a septuagenarian chanteuse named Joni Mitchell, church members have been doing everything in their power to censor Joe Rogan.


Now, in a brilliant riposte to this religious movement, Glenn Greenwald takes out after the censors. As  you know, Greenwald himself is a gay British socialist who lives in Brazil with his husband and children. No crazed right winger he.


And yet, for having committed the crime of appearing on Fox News, he has become persona non grata on CNN.


How does it happen that liberals, whose movement has been based, from the onset, on a love for free debate in the marketplace of ideas, have become chronic scolds, running witch hunts and inquisitions?


Greenwald explains.


American liberals are obsessed with finding ways to silence and censor their adversaries. Every week, if not every day, they have new targets they want de-platformed, banned, silenced, and otherwise prevented from speaking or being heard (by "liberals,” I mean the term of self-description used by the dominant wing of the Democratic Party).


It began with a war against whatever was deemed hate speech:


For years, their preferred censorship tactic was to expand and distort the concept of "hate speech” to mean "views that make us uncomfortable,” and then demand that such “hateful” views be prohibited on that basis. For that reason, it is now common to hear Democrats assert, falsely, that the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech does not protect “hate speech." Their political culture has long inculcated them to believe that they can comfortably silence whatever views they arbitrarily place into this category without being guilty of censorship.


It advanced to a war against disinformation, defining disinformation as any opinion or even facts that countered the opinion of Dr. Fauci:


Constitutional illiteracy to the side, the “hate speech” framework for justifying censorship is now insufficient because liberals are eager to silence a much broader range of voices than those they can credibly accuse of being hateful. That is why the newest, and now most popular, censorship framework is to claim that their targets are guilty of spreading “misinformation” or “disinformation.” These terms, by design, have no clear or concise meaning. Like the term “terrorism,” it is their elasticity that makes them so useful.


To offer us some perspective, Greenwald remarks the massive quantity of disinformation that the mainstream media was purveying about one Donald Trump-- how banned from Twitter and Facebook-- in a gesture that surely signifies a willingness to shut down the speech rights of anyone liberals do not like:


When liberals’ favorite media outlets, from CNN and NBC to The New York Times and The Atlantic, spend four years disseminating one fabricated Russia story after the next — from the Kremlin hacking into Vermont's heating system and Putin's sexual blackmail over Trump to bounties on the heads of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, the Biden email archive being "Russian disinformation,” and a magical mystery weapon that injures American brains with cricket noises — none of that is "disinformation” that requires banishment. Nor are false claims that COVID's origin has proven to be zoonotic rather than a lab leak, the vastly overstated claim that vaccines prevent transmission of COVID, or that Julian Assange stole classified documents and caused people to die. 


What is disinformation?


This "disinformation" term is reserved for those who question liberal pieties, not for those devoted to affirming them. That is the real functional definition of “disinformation” and of its little cousin, “misinformation.” It is not possible to disagree with liberals or see the world differently than they see it. The only two choices are unthinking submission to their dogma or acting as an agent of "disinformation.” Dissent does not exist to them; any deviation from their worldview is inherently dangerous — to the point that it cannot be heard.


Of course, the demonization of Donald Trump, following fast on the demonization of George W. Bush and certain other Republicans, provides the justification for the censorship. The other reason lies in the fact that the political left is filled chock full of the products of America’s educational system, and most of them are too stupid to engage in anything resembling a fair and free debate.


For those who convince themselves that they are not battling mere political opponents with a different ideology but a fascist movement led by a Hitler-like figure bent on imposing totalitarianism — a core, defining belief of modern-day Democratic Party politics — it is virtually inevitable that they will embrace authoritarianism. When a political movement is subsumed by fear — the Orange Hitler will put you in camps and end democracy if he wins again — then it is not only expected but even rational to embrace authoritarian tactics including censorship to stave off this existential threat. Fear always breeds authoritarianism, which is why manipulating and stimulating that human instinct is the favorite tactic of political demagogues.


Of course, the long knives are out for Substack, given that it provides a platform to people like Greenwald and other dangerous radicals like Matt Taibbi, Julie Burchill, Andrew Sullivan and Bari Weiss. Among those leading the charge is one Chelsea Clinton.


About whom Greenwald has this to say:


That included Chelsea Clinton, who lamented that Substack is profiting off a “grift.” Apparently, this political heiress — who is one of the world's richest individuals by virtue of winning the birth lottery of being born to rich and powerful parents, who in turn enriched themselves by cashing in on their political influence in exchange for $750,000 paychecks from Goldman Sachs for 45-minute speeches, and who herself somehow was showered with a $600,000 annual contract from NBC News despite no qualifications — believes she is in a position to accuse others of "grifting.” She also appears to believe that — despite welcoming convicted child sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell to her wedding to a hedge fund oligarch whose father was expelled from Congress after his conviction on thirty-one counts of felony fraud — she is entitled to decree who should and should not be allowed to have a writing platform:


No one will suggest that the American right has not wanted to censor on occasion. And yet, the Church of the Liberal Pieties had made it into an article of religious faith:


The goal of liberals with this tactic is to take any disobedient platform and either force it into line or punish it by drenching it with such negative attacks that nobody who craves acceptance in the parlors of Decent Liberal Society will risk being associated with it. 


And that means, the Democratic Party:


Democrats are not only the dominant political faction in Washington, controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, but liberals in particular are clearly the hegemonic culture force in key institutions: media, academia and Hollywood. That is why it is a mistake to assume that we are near the end of their orgy of censorship and de-platforming victories. It is far more likely that we are much closer to the beginning than the end. The power to silence others is intoxicating. Once one gets a taste of its power, they rarely stop on their own.


But, what is the difference between the efforts to remove certain racialist theorizing from public education and the efforts to censor disinformation? Here, Greenwald has the answer:


Liberals often point to the growing fights over public school curricula and particularly the conservative campaign to exclude so-called Critical Race Theory from the public schools as proof that the American Right is also a pro-censorship faction. That is a poor example. Censorship is about what adults can hear, not what children are taught in public schools. Liberals crusaded for decades to have creationism banned from the public schools and largely succeeded, yet few would suggest this was an act of censorship. For the reason I just gave, I certainly would define it that way. Fights over what children should and should not be taught can have a censorship dimension but usually do not, precisely because limits and prohibitions in school curricula are inevitable.


It takes a serious mind to distinguish between what is taught in school and what is offered to adults. Apparently, members of the CLP are not up to the task.


And also, today’s liberalism, a proud product of the European Enlightenment, has become the religion that it hated:


In modern-day American liberalism, however, censorship is a virtual religion. They simply cannot abide the idea that anyone who thinks differently or sees the world differently than they should be heard. That is why there is much more at stake in this campaign to have Rogan removed from Spotify than whether this extremely popular podcast host will continue to be heard there or on another platform. If liberals succeed in pressuring Spotify to abandon their most valuable commodity, it will mean nobody is safe from their petty-tyrant tactics. But if they fail, it can embolden other platforms to similarly defy these bullying tactics, keeping our discourse a bit more free for just awhile longer.


That Bridge in Pittsburgh

President Joe Biden traveled to Pittsburgh, PA to tout his infrastructure spending legislation. To celebrate the occasion a bridge in Pittsburgh collapsed, injuring many.

How could this happen? One Pittsburgh resident explained it in one tweet.

The bridge that just collapsed in the city of Pittsburgh was set to be restored in 2016. Instead of replacing the completely rusted out supports, they diverted the money to bike lanes, green energy programs and lanes for self driving cars.

šŸ…±️LACK (@libertyismetal) January 29, 2022

Q. E. D.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Palestinian Nazis

For reasons we do not quite understand the American left, even its liberal and progressive wings, is all-in for its war against Nazis. By which they mean, Republicans. Strangely, it considers Donald Trump, a president who was strongly pro-Israel and half of whose family was Jewish, to be Hitler incarnate.

And yet, one of Donald Trump’s great achievements, the Abraham Accords, was widely denounced by idiot leftists like John Kerry because it did not have a place for Palestinian terrorists and their cause-- which was, to destroy Israel and to kill Jews.


One understands that Hamas had friends in the Biden administration. Hamas celebrated the advent of Biden by shooting 4,000 rockets into Israel. The New York Times, not willing to miss a chance to display flagrant anti-Semitism, countered with a cover photo array showing the faces of all the Palestinian children that Israel had killed. It used to be called a blood libel, but now, it was acceptable in the house organ of the American left. Link here.


When it comes to real Nazis, the ones you might actually have to fight, the Palestinian cause, from 1933 until today, has been thoroughly intertwined with Nazism. The people who are supporting Palestinian rights and attacking Donald Trump have gotten it precisely wrong. They are fomenting anti-Semitism while pretending to be fighting white supremacist Nazis.


Now, thanks to Adin Haykin, we have a full account of the collusion and connivance between Palestinians and the Third Reich. (via Maggie’s Farm)


I will offer some excerpts, for your interest:


On March 31, 1933, two months after Hitler came to power, Haj Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, called on Heinrich Wolff, head of the German Consulate in Jerusalem. In his report to the Auswartiges Amt (Foreign Ministry), Wolff wrote that Husseini said:


“Muslims inside and outside Palestine welcome the new regime in Germany and hope for the spread of fascist, antidemocratic state leadership to other countries.” In his view, “current Jewish influence on economy and politics” was “damaging everywhere and needed to be fought.”


In the hope of doing economic damage to the Jews, Husseini opined that “Muslims hope for a boycott of the Jews in Germany because it would then be adopted with enthusiasm in the whole of the Muslim world.” Further, he was willing to spread the boycott message among Muslims travelling through Palestine and to “all Muslims.” He also looked forward to trading with “non-Jewish merchants” dealing in German products.


In 1935 Palestinians formed an Arab Party that was inspired by Hitler and Nazism:


In March 1935 the Husseinis also formed a party, called the Palestinian Arab Party. It was, as its president Jamal Husseini freely boasted, inspired by German Nazism. It included the ‘Al-Futuwwa’ (‘The youth ’), modelled on the Hitler Youth, for a while actually called the ‘Nazi Scouts’. The Mufti was on friendly terms with the German consul in Jerusalem and told him that the Muslims of the world, for whom he apparently felt he was spokesman, hoped for the spread of fascism to other countries and would assist a worldwide anti-Jewish boycott.[2]


Racist Palestinians delighted in the Nuremberg Race Laws. Arabs sent delegations to participate in the Nuremberg rallies.


When Hitler proclaimed the Nuremberg Race Laws in September 1935, a number of Palestinian Arabs sent telegrams congratulating him:


“Delegations from the Arab world participated in the Nuremberg marches of the Nazis, during the 1930s, and expressed their common disgust toward the Jews and their joint accusations of the Jews… Upon the publication of the racist Nuremberg Laws in 1935, Hitler received greetings from the entire Arab world, from Morocco to Palestine, where Nazi propaganda had taken root.” 


In 1936 the Arab Party was recruiting storm troopers, based on the German model:


By 1936 the Palestinian Arab Party was sponsoring the developments of storm troops patterned on the German model. These storm troops, all children and youth, were to be outfitted in black trousers and red shirts… 


The young recruits took the following oath: “Life — my right; independence — my aspiration; Arabism — my country, and there is no room in it for any but Arabs. In this I believe and Allah is my witness.” 


Needless to say, Hitler’s regime opposed the advent of a Jewish state. It wanted Palestinian Arabs to be a counterweight against Jews:


A 1937 report from German General Consulate in Palestine said: “The formation of a Jewish state… is not in Germany’s interest because a (Jewish) Palestinian state would create additional national power bases for international Jewry such as for example the Vatican State for political Catholicism or Moscow for the Communists. Therefore, there is a German interest in strengthening the Arabs as a counter weight against such possible power growth of the Jews.”. 


As it happened, some Arabs enlisted in the British Army and helped to fight against Germany. In the end many of them defected. Palestinian Arabs were few and far between. And then,  far more Palestinian Jews volunteered to fight with Britain:


… many of the Arabs who enlisted were not Palestinians, more than a third of them (3,000 out of 9,000) were Arabs from neighbouring countries who were brought in. By comparison, 136,000 Palestinian Jews volunteered, even though their population was smaller.


“A total of 9,000 Arabs enlisted in the British Army here. Among them are many from across the Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, who came to the recruitment bureaus in Palestine. Many of them enlisted with the intention of acquiring weapons for themselves: indeed, by the end of the war only about half of the Arab soldiers remained, as the rest defected with their weapons from the army. Arab leaders who moved to Germany, led by Haj Amin al-Husseini, a former Mufti of Jerusalem, incited on German radio the Arabs to defect from the British army.


Polls in 1941 showed where Palestinian sympathy lay:


In February 1941, 88% of the Arab Palestinians polled expressed support for Germany, while only 9% supported England


And also:


CIA Report Aug 1942:

A majority of the Palestinian Arabs was fiercely “anti-Jewish” and saw in the approach of Rommel an ideal opportunity to murder all Jews their seize their property.


Nazis were fighting against the Jews and the British. Palestinians were happy to join the fight:


News report of June 1, 1941: Nazis run guns to the Arabs in Palestine. In addition, Nazi war planes taking off from Iraq dropped leaflets inciting the Arabs for a ‘holy war’ against the British and the Jews. The intensive anti-Jewish propaganda campaign conducted by the Nazis is becoming increasingly effective among certain sections of the Arab population.


So, led by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Palestinians signed up to fight with  Italy and Germany:


After the establishment of the “Jewish Brigade”, as part of the British army, the Mufti of Jerusalem announced the establishment of an “Arab Brigade” that would fight alongside Italy and Germany. In early 1944, Haj Amin al-Husseini formed a group of Palestinian paratroopers trained by the Germans in the Netherlands. Arab Germans whose goal was to poison the water wells of Tel Aviv and bring about the elimination of 250,000 Jewish residents


As for Yassir Arafat, the story shows the same level of engagement with Nazism:


Among Arafat’s first instructors in guerrilla warfare was a former Nazi commando officer imported to Egypt by the mufti. Haj Amin himself encouraged Arafat to recruit adherents to his Fatah terror group during the late 1950s. Once Arafat became head of the PLO in 1968, he continued the mufti’s methods and approach. Mein Kampf was required reading in some Fatah training camps; Nazis were recruited for Fatah and for the PLO, including Erich Altern, a key figure in the Jewish affairs section of the Gestapo, and Willy Berner, an SS officer in Mauthausen death camp. Among the neo- Nazis on the PLO payroll were the German Otto Albrecht and two Belgians, Karl van der Put and the secretary of the fascist La Nation EuropĆ©ene, Jean Tireault. 


Consider this a curated selection of the information collected by Haykin. At the least, it shows where the real Nazi sympathizers lie. It also shows that the Palestinians' Nazi sympathies, their collaboration with the Third Reich and their lust to kill Jews does not date to yesterday. It is the basis for their movement.

A Wet Sock Puppet in Human Form

In principle, the President of the United States is the president of the United States. He is the leader who joins together the disparate factions that form the nation. He should represent America, not just one part of America.

Of course, Joe Biden has missed the point. He has held meetings with American car manufacturers to tout the advent of electric vehicles. And yet, somehow, the Biden administration did not invite the nation’s leading producer of electric vehicles. 


The Daily Mail has the story:


Tesla produced nearly 1million electric vehicles this year and made $17billion in sales in its fourth quarter.  


The Biden administration had shut Tesla out of a meeting in August and again shut them out of a meeting last Wednesday.


When CNBC reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin asked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg why this had happened, the hapless secretary ignored the question and recited some talking points.


Tesla’s sin, of course, was that its workforce had not been unionized. The Biden administration supports unions and will punish anyone who does not unionize. Biden is president of the unions, by the unions, for the unions. We saw what happened when Biden and other Democratic politicians sided with the teachers’ unions and shut down public education. 


As it happens, for the record, a mere 6% of the private sector workforce is unionized. The strength and influence of unions lies in the public, not the private sector. So, Biden has been alienating American workers. playing to his base and stiffing American industry.


Anyway, Elon Musk was not taking the insult lying down.


The billionaire Tesla CEO, 50, called President Joe Biden, 79, a 'damp sock puppet' after he wasn't invited to president's Build Back Better meeting that focused on producing electric vehicles in the US on Wednesday. 


Biden praised General Motors and Ford in a tweet on Wednesday for 'building more electric vehicles here at home than ever before.' 


'I meant it when I said the future was going to be made right here in America,' Biden wrote on Twitter. 'Companies like GM and Ford are building more electric vehicles here at home than ever before.'  


Musk, whose billion-dollar company makes its vehicles in California and is now headquartered in Austin, Texas, didn't take the snub lightly, replying to the tweet: 'Starts with a T, Ends with an A, ESL in the middle.' 


He later replied again: 'Biden is a wet [sock] puppet in human form.'  


It was not the first time.


Musk was also snubbed in August when he was omitted as an attendee to the electric vehicle summit. 


At that summit, Biden stood by the CEOs of Ford, GM and Stellantis when he announced his executive order that half the US cars sales will be zero emissions by 2030. 


The moral of the story is that the Biden administration does not see itself leading the United States of America. It plays to its supporters and has no problem dividing the nation against itself. 


Friday, January 28, 2022

The Insurrection Comes to New York City

You will be happy to hear that the Insurrection is alive and well in New York City. You know about the Insurrection, the revolt of the downtrodden masses against white supremacists. It began in the summer of 2020 with the George Floyd/BLM riots and has continued unabated in America’s great blue cities. 

In the previous post we reported from San Francisco, which has been destroyed by people who claim their rightful reparations by stealing from boutiques, department stores and drug stores. 


The same story is apparently being played out in New York City. We understood that the pathetic Bill deBlasio, our previous mayor, was all-in for the Insurrection. We had hoped that the current mayor Eric Adams would tamp things down, and, to be fair, he has advanced a program designed to do just that. And yet, two police officers were gunned down last week in Harlem and smash and grab robberies are becoming more common.


Obviously, the national Democratic Party is scared of the electoral repercussions. They do not want to be shown to be completely incompetent or to sympathize actively with the Insurrectionists. So, New York’s new governess, Kathy Hochul has declared that she wants to rein New York’s pro-criminal district attorney, Alvin Bragg, and Joe Biden himself is going to come to New York next week to appear to be doing something.


And now, for a few scenes from the Insurrection, beginning with smash and grab attacks on drug stores. The Daily Mail reports:


Brazen thieves have been hitting the same Upper East Side Rite Aid for months, forcing it to close - and now, numerous small businesses in the upscale Manhattan neighborhood, where residents say they are on high alert because of rising crime, are worried they will soon suffer the same fate after a string of thefts.  


Shelves are already bare in the Rite Aid store, located at the corner of 80th Street and 2nd Avenue because it will shut its doors for good on February 15, the manager told DailyMail.com, a day after a thief was caught on video boldly sauntering out with shopping bags full of stolen goods. 


Effectively, businesses have no choice but to close up shop. Certain neighborhoods are just too dangerous.


The Rite Aid's closure is just one of many in the city. On February 8, a Hell's Kitchen store which has been rife with robberies in recent months will close, and on the Upper West Side, another store which experienced daily thefts shut down in November. Just this week, there was news that a Rite Aid located at Clinton Joralemon Streets in the Brooklyn Heights is also set to close next month. 


The chain announced last year that it was shutting down about 63 stores across the US in the next few years, citing cost-cutting measures to save $25 million a year - but workers say that the thefts are part of the reason for the closures as inventory dwindles. 


Here are some statistics:


Robbery in New York City has spiked by about 33 percent in the week ending on January 23, according to the NYPD's most recent data, with 944 incidents compared to 709 incidents reported during the same timeframe last year. Overall crime has gone up by nearly 39 percent, with 7,230 incidents this year as compared to last year's 5,211. 


It’s not just the drug stores. All businesses are feeling the strain of living during the Insurrection. Owners all point out that the police are simply AWOL:


Meanwhile, small business owners and workers in the Upper East Side - once one of America's wealthiest zip codes - say no one is stopping the thefts and they are also being targeted on a daily basis. 

  

Sayed Imam, the store manager of Wine Emporium, for 15 years said there is little to no support from the police - and even if they call 911, by the time the cops show up, the thieves are gone.  


'For us, every inventory counts,' he said. 'Since the beginning of the pandemic, these thefts just keep happening. And we don't have the support from police.' 


If the Upper East Side is bad, downtown’s Soho neighborhood seems to be worse. You may or may not know it, but Soho is very trendy, very expensive and very high class. 


This makes it a perfect target for Insurrectionists who are extracting reparations from white supremacist residents.


The New York Post reports:


Open fires burning on the street. Dangerous vagrants. Fear after dark.


This is life these days in SoHo — one of Manhattan’s ritziest neighborhoods, with home costs that soar into the millions.


Late Wednesday night, video emerged of an open fire burning on Canal Street and people who live and work in the neighborhood told The Post that crime and chaos has gotten so far out of control, they no longer feel safe.


“I used to be more comfortable letting my children, especially the two older kids, travel by themselves to school and now I don’t,” Maud Maron, a mother of four who’s lived in SoHo for over a decade, told The Post Thursday.


“It doesn’t matter if it’s the most expensive neighborhood or the least expensive neighborhood in New York City. Every single New Yorker deserves safety and the ability to walk down the street without open fires.”


Maron, a New Yorker for 32 years, said she used to allow her kids to walk down Canal Street and take the subway to school but these days, she opts to drive them.


The Post journalists interviewed Soho residents:


The Post spoke with a half dozen New Yorkers who live and work in SoHo who all said there is a noticeable change in the neighborhood compared to a few years ago.


In the first precinct, which covers SoHo, crime has soared 52.6 percent over the last 28 days compared to last year and year to date, it’s up 48.4 percent, NYPD data show. The numbers mimic citywide crime trends that show an overall increase of about 40 percent so far this year compared to 2021.


Luxury boutiques are especially targeted:


John Constantine, who manages a luxury boutique on Prince Street, moved out of the neighborhood a year ago and said he hasn’t looked back since.


“This neighborhood is awful,” Constantine, 34, said.


“I saw a homeless man with a machete fighting with another man with rebar. You can kill someone with that. That was two months ago.”


Recently, a mentally ill man with no shirt came into his store and started dancing, forcing Constantine to “evacuate” his customers.


How has this impacted sales:


“With the crime and the cold weather, we have a dip in sales. We used to do as much as $10,000 a day. Now we do $1,000. This is the worst I’ve ever seen it. It’s exacerbated by how the neighborhood is going down.”


There you have it, New York’s underprivileged masses, having been allowed to do as they please by a weak administration and by weak public prosecutors, are now rebelling against the rich and the powerful, making everyone's lives miserable and forcing the tax base out of the city. 

Deconstructing San Francisco

As we all know by now, San Francisco is being destroyed. It is being destroyed by poverty, by drug addiction, by homelessness, but especially it is being destroyed by weak public prosecutors. These latter, led by the pathetic Chesa Boudin, gave a green light to crime in the city. The results should have been predictable.

As you know, the city’s mayor, London Breed, has changed her stance and is now favoring more vigorous prosecution and enforcement. We will see how that one works out.


Now, we have a nicely squishy account of life in San Fran, by Financial Times columnist Hannah Murphy.


She reports:


During the pandemic, preexisting wealth disparities have been exacerbated. In 2020, drug overdoses outnumbered Covid deaths by more than double. Homeless encampments line up alongside rows of the city’s famous colourful town houses.


Crime is the issue, more so since the forces of order seem largely to be ignoring it:


Both organised and opportunistic crime is rampant, particularly property and auto theft. A colleague who came to film in the city said her team had to hire security guards after a spate of robberies targeted camera crews at gunpoint. Last month, footage emerged of residents leaving car doors open so burglars would not smash their windows. “The real epidemic is poverty,” a friend offers, in one of many conversations about the state of the city.


One notes that squishy minded San Fransicans are afraid to let the police do their job. They think that the problem is a lack of social programs.


For some privileged inhabitants, unable to cope with the desperation and lawlessness, the answer may have been to flee. This month, Silicon Valley executives began sharing statistics showing that the proportion of staff they hire in the city and the surrounding Bay Area has shrunk dramatically in recent years. Coinbase chief executive Brian Armstrong notes that in the first quarter of 2019, 30 per cent of the company’s hiring was outside the Bay Area; in the last quarter of 2021, it was 89 per cent.


Murphy soft-pedals the responsibility that should be borne by Chesa Boudin.


Some blame the ultra-permissive policies of district attorney Chesa Boudin, who came to power in 2020 on pledges to reduce prison sentences and decriminalise poverty. His perceived failure to guarantee public safety is now being seized upon by Republicans, and he faces a recall in June. The democratic mayor, London Breed, has switched from preaching “compassion” to “tough love”; from defunding to refunding the police.


The problem lies with those who do not understand the problem and who think that it can be solved by more social programs:


What is missing is a thoughtful attempt to tackle the root issues of the “poverty epidemic”. Margot Kushel, who leads the University of California San Francisco’s Center for Vulnerable Populations, argues that the first step is to tackle a crippling need for affordable housing. “Low-income housing has just disappeared from our landscape. Every day, we see people spilling into homelessness,” she says. “It is a huge policy crisis at every level of government.”


Resilience in times of crisis is vital. But if the city wants its tech crown back, unlike the evening crowds in the Mission, it cannot afford to just continue as normal.


Is it an accident that the women in charge seem viscerally to avoid a tough law enforcement approach? 


Thursday, January 27, 2022

Why Ukraine?

One has hesitated to weigh in on the current  showdown over Ukraine. You remember Ukraine. Joe Biden entered into a quid pro quo with the Ukrainian government, in order to shield his grifter son from prosecution, and the American Congress decided to impeach Donald Trump for entering into a quid pro quo with Ukraine.

Somehow, somewhere America can no longer think straight.


But, then again, when it comes to Ukraine, or, more specifically, to Russia, Western Europe is reaping what it sowed. After all, the green leftists in Europe have been shutting down coal generating plants in favor of natural gas. And the sainted former German Chancellor Merkel shut down Germany’s nuclear facilities, in order to be greener than thou.


So, Europe now depends on Russia for its energy requirements. This means that however much the Biden administration is thumping its chest in order to pretend to be tough and resolute, it is doomed to be a leader without very many followers. 


Given that the Biden presidency has been circling the drain, and given the appalling show of weakness that Biden showed in surrendering Afghanistan, one understands that the Ukraine crisis appears to be a wag the dog moment, a distraction and a chance for our enfeebled president to show that he still has some backbone left.


And yet, Republicans are all-in for war over Ukraine. One will not offer any more explanation than their wish to show how tough and resolute they are, but still, is Ukraine worth a military confrontation with Russia? To that we must add that those on the right, like Tucker Carlson and Tulsi Gabbard, who oppose military conflict with Russia are  now being branded Russian stooges, or some such. 


One has a right to be somewhat confused. One also has a right to think that the American mind, whatever portion remains, has seen better days. The stupidification of America proceeds apace. Public debate about consequential political issues has been reduced to chest thumping and macho posturing. It is not a good thing. If you were Vladimir Putin would  you be quaking in your shoes?


Speaking of the American mind, one of our leading intellectuals, one Francis Fukuyama, he of the end of history fame, has weighed in on the issue. You recall that the reconstructed Hegelian once imagined that history would end when the world entire decided that liberal democracy was the best form of government.


When Fukuyama pronounced this dopey idea in 1989, the world took notice. It seemed prescient, a perfect summation of German idealism. Of course, Hegel himself did not see history ending with a spasm of liberal democracy, but that is for another day. One still finds it passing strange that a supposed conservative thinker would be promoting something called liberal democracy in the name of the godfather of Marxism.


As I said, the American mind has seen better days.


And yet, failed prophets do not give up easily. And, however much the world has been moving away from liberal democracy, Fukuyama believes that it is ascendant, and that we need to fight for it, in Ukraine. 


This shows that he is a true idealist. True idealists only credit facts that make them appear to be right. The rest they dismiss as static.


Anyway, here is Fukuyama’s reasoning about Ukraine. Read it and weep:


There is one fundamental reason why the United States and the rest of the democratic world should support Ukraine in its current fight with Putin’s Russia: Ukraine is a real, but struggling, liberal democracy. People are free in Ukraine in a way they are not in Russia: they can protest, criticize, mobilize, and vote. In 2017 they voted for a complete outsider to be president, and turned over a majority of their parliament. On two occasions, during the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, Ukrainian civil society came into the streets in massive numbers to protest corrupt and unrepresentative governments.


Stirring, don’t you think? Now, Putin might be playing his Ukraine card because he is happy to make the United States look feeble and decadent.


Fukuyama is more sophisticated:


This is the real reason that Vladimir Putin is preparing to further invade Ukraine. He sees Ukraine as an integral part of a greater Russia, as he indicated in a long article last summer. But the deeper problem for him is Ukrainian democracy. He is heavily invested in the idea that Slavic peoples are culturally attuned to authoritarian government, and the idea that another Slavic state could successfully transition to democracy undermines his own claims for ruling Russia. Ukraine presents zero military threat to Moscow; it does, however, pose an alternative ideological model that erodes Putin’s own legitimacy.


What evidence does he present?


My view has been shaped by the young Ukrainians I have met and worked with over the past few years. There is a younger generation coming up that does not want to be part of the old corrupt system, that believes in European values, and that wants nothing more than for Ukraine to become part of Europe. These Ukrainians are extremely well educated and highly motivated. They are the ones who have led the Maidan Revolution and who are at the forefront of the effort to make Ukraine part of Europe. Their generation will gradually come to power, and will hopefully exercise power more democratically than their predecessors.


Anyway, Fukuyama is a big picture thinker. He sees Ukraine as a frontline state in the conflict between liberal democracy and authoritarianism. Thus, we should prepare to go to war over it:


Ukraine today is the frontline state in the global geopolitical struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. Europeans who value liberal democracy for themselves need to understand that they cannot be bystanders in this conflict. Putin has ambitions well beyond Ukraine; he has made clear in recent weeks that he would like to reverse the gains to European democracy since 1991 and create a Russian sphere of influence throughout the territory of the former Warsaw Pact. Beyond Europe, the Chinese are watching how the West responds in this crisis very closely, as they calculate their prospects for reincorporating Taiwan. This is why the defense of Ukraine should be of urgent importance to anyone who cares about global democracy.


So, do you care about democracy? It's a big idea and we must care about big ideas. We might note that the best way to sell the world on democracy is to make it work in America. That point seems less salient than the chance to fight a war with Russia. What the fuck?


A more important issue would be whether you care about the stature and the  influence of the United States-- which is not the same thing. 


Anyway, one is happy to juxtapose Fukuyama’s deliria about liberal democracy with a few facts. One David Goldman has offered them for your delectation.


You will note that the Ukraine Goldman describes has nothing to do with Fukuyama’s airy fantasy world. Goldman sees Ukraine in a decline-- it’s almost as though it is willing itself out of existence:


Ukraine is disappearing, for two reasons. It has one of the world’s lowest birth rates at just 1.23 children per female, and one of the world’s highest rates of out-migration. No other country has willed itself out of existence so decisively.


Ukraine’s demographic decline is so pronounced that it should be high on the list of strategic considerations. For what, and for whom, might NATO and Russia go to war?


In any event, Germany will never support a war with Ukraine, so this puts something of a kibosh on the notion that NATO is ready for war. As it happens, Goldman continues, Ukrainians have been leaving the country in droves:


Ukrainians vote with their feet. Nine million have work abroad, according to the National Security and Defense Council of the Ukraine, and 3.2 million have full-time jobs in other countries. There are only 21 million Ukrainians between the ages of 20 and 55, which suggests that more than two-fifths of prime working-age Ukrainians earn their living elsewhere.


I do not know whether this estimate includes half a million Ukrainian prostitutes working abroad since independence, according to one scholarly estimate.


How does Goldman see Ukraine’s future? Not very brightly, I fear:


Ukraine in a few decades won’t be a sovereign nation, let alone a democracy; it will be a geriatric ward supported by a dwindling flow of remittances.


Remittances from overseas workers already comprise 11% of Ukraine’s GDP, according to the World Bank, by far the highest proportion in Eastern Europe with the exception of tiny Moldova.


And then, in another analysis of the geopolitical chess game, Goldman offers this (via Maggie's Farm):


NATO is weak, China is ascendant, and the U.S. is confused; Russia is well-armed and prepared. That’s why Putin is making his move now.


As though to answer Fukuyama, Goldman writes:


Why do we do this? To defend the brave little democracy in Ukraine against totalitarian oppression? Puh-leeze. The Kiev kleptocracy is an embarrassment to itself as well as everyone else. Since the Soviet Union fell, the White Whale of the liberal internationalists (like Antony Blinken) and neocons (like Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland) has been to export democracy to Russia. The regime-change fantasy has dominated U.S. policy since we sponsored the 2004 “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine, through the 2014 Maidan Square coup.


Is it all about turning Russia into a liberal democracy? That would belong to the theatre of the absurd, but then again, where else did we find our current cohort of political leaders:


China meanwhile is watching this unfold with a bucket of popcorn. From guancha.cn (hawkish website close to the State Council): “Everyone is studying the experience of history. The United States is studying how to avoid the decline of empires, China is studying how to avoid Thucydides’ trap. Russia is studying how to plug leaks. And Europe is studying how to eat melons. What is Ukraine studying? The most important thing to study is the historical experience of neighboring Poland.” Of course, guancha.cn is referring to the repeated partition of Poland.


I make no excuses for Putin. But it’s worth asking when Russia has ever been governed by the sort of enlightened liberal that our Wilsonians and neo-cons prefer. No-one in Russia talks about Ivan the Reasonable. Russia’s tragedy is not ours to fix.


The comparison between Fukuyama’s vision and Goldman’s reality could not be more stark.


Have a nice day!