Category Archives: Ruling Class

No guarantee we can save the country

The unvarnished truth. So much in this article. The urgency for those who love America is great. We need to act. We need to speak. We need to work to keep ours a country of law and the constitution. No other country has ever been as great as the United States of America. I hope we can save the country. mrossol

WSJ 7/31/2020. by Andrew A Michta

Czesław Miłosz, a future Nobel Prize-winning poet who had just defected from Poland, began work in 1951 on a book called “The Captive Mind.” Even as Stalinist totalitarianism tightened its grip on Eastern Europe, many Western European intellectuals lauded the brave new world of Soviet communism as a model for overcoming “bourgeois forces,” which in their view had caused World War II. Living in Paris, Miłosz wrote his book, which was published in 1953, to warn the West of what happens to the human mind and soul in a totalitarian system. 

Miłosz knew from experience, having lived through the Communist takeover, how totalitarianism strips men and women of their liberty, transforming them into “affirmative cogs” in service of the state and obliterating what had taken centuries of Western political development to achieve. Totalitarianism not only enslaved people physically but crippled their spirit. It did so by replacing ordinary human language, in which words signify things in the outside world, with ideologically sanctioned language, in which words signify the dominant party’s ever-changing ideas of what is and is not true.

 

Since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, nationwide protests, which quickly turned to riots, have been hijacked by the neo-Marxist left, morphing into an all-out assault on American cities and institutions. This assault is underpinned by an audacious attempt to rewrite history that turns specific past events into weapons not only to overpower political opponents but also to recast all of American history as a litany of racial transgressions.

The radicals have turned race into a lens through which to view the country’s history, and not simply because they are obsessed with race. They have done so because it allows them to identify and separate those groups that deserve affirmation, in their view, and those that do not. What is taking place is the resegregation of America, the endpoint of which will be the rejection of everything the civil-rights movement stood for. 

What is driving the radical protesters and rioters—who are enabled and manipulated by the “digital intelligentsia” in the press and an expanding segment of the political and business classes—is contempt for the freedom of anyone who fails to comport with their image of a just society. In authoritarian systems those in power seek to proscribe certain forms of political speech and social activity. Totalitarians claim unconditional authority to reach deep into each person’s conscience. They prescribe an interpretation of the world and dictate the language with which citizens are permitted to express that interpretation. Authoritarian regimes leave largely untouched the private civic sphere of human activity; totalitarians destroy traditional value systems and reorder the culture. That is why they are harder to overthrow. 

The ill-named progressivism that has inspired shrill demands to dismantle police forces and destroy statues is only a small manifestation of a massive project aimed at the re-education of the American population. The goal of this project is to negate the story of the American republic and replace it with a tale anchored exclusively in race categories and narratives of oppression. The nature of this exercise, with its sledgehammer rhetoric that obliterates complexities in favor of one-dimensional “correct” interpretations, is as close to Marxist agitprop as one can get. 

Why do American elites, who might be expected to favor preserving the nation that has elevated them, support the effort to dismantle it? Their thinking seems to be that the radicals destroying monuments and issuing wholesale denunciations of America’s past are wreaking destruction on ordinary Americans and their history, not on the elites and their ideology. Today’s elites as a rule do not believe they have any obligation to serve the public, only to rule it, and so they express little or no disapproval of college students toppling statues on federal land or looters raiding supermarkets. To criticize them would open elites to the charges of “populism” and “racism.”

 

Yet the elites are playing a dangerous game. Such “canceling”—of historical and living figures alike—increasingly mirrors what happened under communism in the Soviet bloc, where the accusation of being out of step with the party was enough to end one’s career and nullify one’s reputation. 

This is about more than statues and history. Those who control the symbols of political discourse can dominate the culture and control the collective consciousness. If you doubt this, ask yourself why there has been so little backlash from ordinary, nonelite Americans. Our sense of self has been progressively deconstructed. We feel in our bones the wrongness of the violence being visited on the nation but lack the language to speak against it. 

The resegregation of American society is fundamentally undemocratic and un-American. It envisions a social hierarchy based on DNA. It is also incompatible with individual freedom and constitutional government. Hence the drive to overhaul the U.S. Constitution, rewrite textbooks, and restructure museums by race and sex quotas.

Democracy cannot survive in a society in which winners and losers are adjudicated arbitrarily according to criteria beyond individual control. Any society built around the principle of skin color will become a caste system in which accident, not merit, will allocate value and benefit. Civil society will be buried once and for all. 

The current radical trends carry the seeds of violence unseen in the U.S. since the Civil War. The activists ascendant in American cities insist on the dominance of their ideological precepts, brooking no alternative. Such absolutism forces Americans away from the realm of political compromise into one of unrelenting axiology, with one side claiming a monopoly on virtue and decency while the other is expected to accept its status as perpetually evil, and thus assume a permanent penitent stance for all its real and imagined misdeeds across history. 

Only when the state creates a space for an unbiased debate over history can a discussion truly take place unhindered by ideology and dogma. Only then can a society move toward a consensus on a shared understanding of its past and how its collective memory should be shaped. The U.S. is roiled by spasms of violence and intolerance today because government at all levels—public education systems, states that allow universities to promulgate speech codes and “safe spaces,” court decisions that define constitutionally protected speech as, in effect, everything but political speech—has abdicated its duty to protect the public space. Children are rampaging through the cities because the adults have left the room.

America is in the throes of a destructive ideological experiment, subjected to a sweeping and increasingly state-sanctioned reordering of its collective memory, with the increasingly totalitarian left given free rein to dominate public discourse. Miłosz, who died in 2004, would see an American mind bloated by a steady diet of identity politics and group grievance served up by ideologues in schools nationwide. These ideologues have nearly succeeded in remaking our politics and culture; ¨, by credentialed bureaucrats, and by politicians shaped in the monochrome factories of intellectual uniformity that are America’s institutions of higher learning. 

 

American society is faced with a stark binary choice. Either we push back against the unrelenting assault of the neo-Marxist narrative, or we yield to the totalitarian impulse now in full view in our politics. It is no longer enough to wait for the next election, or to pin our hopes on a “silent majority” that will eventually stop the madness. There may be no such majority. If there is, its members may no longer be able to articulate what they see unfolding around them. It is hard to call things by their proper names in a society whose elites insist on calling looters and arsonists “protesters,” national monuments “symbols of racism,” and the victims of looting and arson the beneficiaries of “white privilege.” The challenge is massive, but it starts with the simple act of calling things by their proper names.

Mr. Michta is dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-captive-mind-and-americas-resegregation-11596222112?mod=opinion_lead_pos5

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New York’s Cop Out

What a sorry state of liberal politicians. Yes, people (?) continue to vote them into office. As my father often says: “People get what they deserve.” mrossol

WSJ 7/2/2020.

For those wondering where the Defund the Police movement is going, look no further than New York City. On Tuesday the City Council endorsed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s bid to cut $1 billion from the police—roughly 17% of the department’s budget.

New York isn’t the only city moving to defund its police, but it bears particular significance as America’s commercial capital. And its funding cuts are especially striking because it comes in a place that implemented the policing revolution that transformed the Big Apple from a crime-ridden metropolis in the early 1990s into what it was in 2014 when Mr. de Blasio was sworn in: America’s safest big city. Thousands of New Yorkers are alive today because of this policing revolution’s success at reducing the murder rate.

No doubt the City Council was mindful of the protesters gathered outside their building who clashed with police. Far from being happy with the cut, the protesters complained the $1 billion wasn’t nearly enough. It never is.

 

When Mr. de Blasio first ran for mayor, he campaigned against the police and vowed to end a tactic called stop and frisk. Liberals claimed it wasn’t responsible for the reduction in crime, which they attributed to demographics. In 2013 federal Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that stop and frisk was unconstitutional, and eventually the city abandoned it.

 

Now the antipolicing efforts are accelerating. The City Council has eased the laws against such quality-of-life offenses as vagrancy and public urination, and Manhattan’s district attorney is no longer prosecuting them. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s bail reform this year lets even repeat offenders back on the streets immediately. In recent weeks the police department dismantled its plainclothes anti-crime units under political pressure. The head of the police captains association has called for ending the highly successful CompStat system that tracks crimes across the city and helps police focus on high-crime neighborhoods. The union says it encourages too many police interactions with minorities that result in police being blamed.

The result is already more crime. For the first half of 2020, murders in New York City rose 21% over the same period a year ago, shootings are up 46% and shooting victims are up 53%. The victims include a 17-year-old high school basketball star, Brandon Hendricks, who was gunned down Sunday night in the Bronx while attending a barbecue.

“You have a criminal justice system that is imploding,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea told reporters last week. “Imploding. That’s the kindest way to put it.” The New York Post reports that since the George Floyd protests began police retirements are spiking, with 272 cops choosing to leave the force—compared with 183 over the same period last year. They won’t be replaced as the city’s budget cuts will forgo two of the next four classes of NYPD recruits, reducing the headcount by 1,163 uniformed officers (out of some 36,000).

As police retreat from the anti-crime lessons of the last three decades, and even from active policing lest cops be put in the dock, the crime rate in New York will bear close watching. If violence and disorder continue to rise, the fault will lie with the rich liberals who empower criminals and then leave the consequences to be suffered by the most vulnerable.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-yorks-cop-out-11593731047?mod=opinion_lead_pos3

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Welcome to the ‘Hotel Seattle’

And you were thinking about moving west…

WSJ 6/22/2020

Seattle’s City Council prides itself on being an early adopter of new business mandates. Seattle was the first major U.S. city to adopt a $15 minimum wage and one of the first to require businesses to provide paid sick leave. The City Council achieved another first last week, when it unanimously enacted an ordinance requiring food-delivery app companies to provide gig workers “premium pay” for deliveries in the city, on top of their usual compensation, and prohibiting the companies from raising fees or leaving the city in response, even if the new rule causes them to lose money.

Instead of erecting a wall to keep people out, Seattle is attempting to create a legal wall to keep businesses in.

The ordinance was first suggested by Working Washington, a Seattle labor organization backed by the Service Employees International Union. On-demand delivery workers in the city—think Instacart shoppers and DoorDash couriers—must be paid a premium of $2.50 a stop in the city for the duration of the Covid-19 emergency declared by Mayor Jenny Durkan.

With thousands of homebound Seattle residents in need of grocery deliveries, the costs add up. The City Council expects the companies to eat it: The ordinance states that gig companies may not “reduce or otherwise modify the areas in the City that are served,” “reduce a gig worker’s compensation,” or “add customer charges to online orders for delivery of groceries” in response to the new premium. If a company violates the ordinance, the city can pursue it with penalties beyond the city limits.

To understand how unprecedented this is, imagine if Seattle’s $15 minimum-wage law restricted restaurants from closing their doors or adjusting their prices in response, effectively forcing them to continue operating at a loss.

If that sounds illegal, it probably is. In a detailed memo sent in May to Mayor Durkan, the trade group TechNet described how the ordinance would violate the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.  By “forcing a business to continue unprofitable operations, the City would be extracting payments from an unwilling person and thus taking private property without any—let alone just—compensation.”

That isn’t the only problem. The ordinance may also thwart the will of Washington state voters, who in 2018 approved an initiative under which “a local governmental entity may not impose or collect any tax, fee, or other assessment on groceries.” Charges and exactions on the transportation of groceries were specifically precluded.

Seattle’s City Council has a history of legally questionable legislation. In 2017 it passed a “wealth tax” on the income of wealthy households, even though the city attorney had advised that it would be illegal under state law. The courts agreed, and in April the state Supreme Court denied the city’s bid to review the decision. The city also recently walked away from a long legal dispute over a 2015 law that gave Uber and Lyft drivers, who use apps provided by the companies to work as independent contractors, the right to bargain collectively.

Seattle may believe it has the budget to back another costly legal fight, but other municipalities—whose budgets are strained as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis—will think twice before imitating the ordinance.

Even without mandates, gig companies are providing Covid-related benefits to workers who contract with them. Shipt is providing up to two weeks of financial assistance to its shoppers if they get Covid. DoorDash is offering financial assistance to “Dashers” who test positive or are told by a medical professional to self-isolate.

There may be merit to offering additional pay during the current crisis, but it’s a policy best handled voluntarily, in cooperation with gig companies, not in opposition to them.

Mr. Vernuccio is a senior fellow at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Mr. Saltsman is managing director at the Employment Policies Institute

https://www.wsj.com/articles/welcome-to-the-hotel-seattle-11592865795?mod=opinion_lead_pos7

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The Class Struggle

I think Ms. Noonan has been “off” on her thinking as of late, but here she is right on the money. None of the experts are paying anywhere close to the price or feeling close to the amount of pain being felt by the average person. mrossol

WSJ. 5/15/2020 by Peggy Noonan

I think there’s a growing sense that we have to find a way to live with this thing, manage it the best we can, and muddle through. Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon. Summer may give us a break, late fall probably not. Vaccines are likely far off, new therapies and treatments might help a lot, but keeping things closed up tight until there are enough tests isn’t a viable plan. There will never be enough tests, it was botched from the beginning, if we ever catch up it will probably be at the point tests are no longer urgently needed.

Meantime, we must ease up and manage. We should go forward with a new national commitment to masks, social distancing, hand washing. These simple things have proved the most valuable tools in the tool chest. We have to enter each day armored up. At the same time we can’t allow alertness to become exhaustion. We can’t let an appropriate sense of caution turn into an anxiety formation. We can’t become a nation of agoraphobics [inordinate fear of entering open or crowded spaces]. We’ll just have to live, carefully.

Here’s something we should stop. There’s a class element in the public debate. It’s been there the whole time but it’s getting worse, and few in public life are acting as if they’re sensitive to it. Our news professionals the past three months have made plenty of room for medical and professionals warning of the illness. Good, we needed it, it was news. They are not now paying an equal degree of sympathetic attention to those living the economic story, such as the Dallas woman who pushed back, opened her hair salon, and was thrown in jail by a preening judge. He wanted an apology. She said she couldn’t apologize for trying to feed her family.

There is a class divide between those who are hard-line on lockdowns and those who are pushing back. We see the professionals on one side—those James Burnham called the managerial elite, and Michael Lind, in “The New Class War,” calls “the overclass”—and regular people on the other. The overclass are highly educated and exert outsize influence as managers and leaders of important institutions—hospitals, companies, statehouses. The normal people aren’t connected through professional or social lines to power structures, and they have regular jobs—service worker, small-business owner.

Since the pandemic began, the overclass has been in charge—scientists, doctors, political figures, consultants—calling the shots for the average people. But personally they have less skin in the game. The National Institutes of Health scientist won’t lose his livelihood over what’s happened. Neither will the midday anchor.

I’ve called this divide the protected versus the unprotected. There is an aspect of it that is not much discussed but bears on current arguments. How you have experienced life has a lot to do with how you experience the pandemic and its strictures. I think it’s fair to say citizens of red states have been pushing back harder than those of blue states.

It’s not that those in red states don’t think there’s a pandemic. They’ve heard all about it! They realize it will continue, they know they may get sick themselves. But they also figure this way: Hundreds of thousands could die and the American economy taken down, which would mean millions of other casualties, economic ones. Or, hundreds of thousands could die and the American economy is damaged but still stands, in which case there will be fewer economic casualties—fewer bankruptcies and foreclosures, fewer unemployed and ruined.

They’ll take the latter. It’s a loss either way but one loss is worse than the other. They know the politicians and scientists can’t really weigh all this on a scale with any precision because life is a messy thing that doesn’t want to be quantified.

Here’s a generalization based on a lifetime of experience and observation. The working-class people who are pushing back have had harder lives than those now determining their fate. They haven’t had familial or economic ease. No one sent them to Yale. They often come from considerable family dysfunction. This has left them tougher or harder, you choose the word.

They’re more fatalistic about life because life has taught them to be fatalistic. And they look at these scientists and reporters making their warnings about how tough it’s going to be if we lift shutdowns and they don’t think, “Oh what informed, caring observers.” They think, “You have no idea what tough is. You don’t know what painful is.” And if you don’t know, why should you have so much say?

The overclass says, “Wait three months before we’re safe.” They reply, “There’s no such thing as safe.”

Something else is true about those pushing back. They live life closer to the ground and pick up other damage. Everyone knows the societal costs in the abstract—“domestic violence,” “child abuse.” Here’s something concrete. In Dallas this week police received a tip and found a 6-year-old boy tied up by his grandmother and living in a shed. The child told police he’d been sleeping there since school ended “for this corona thing.” According to the arrest affidavit, he was found “standing alone in a pitch-black shed in a blue storage bin with his hands tied behind his back.” The grandmother and her lover were arrested on felony child-endangerment charges. The Texas Department of Family Protective Service said calls to its abuse hotline have gone down since the lockdowns because teachers and other professionals aren’t regularly seeing children.

A lot of bad things happen behind America’s closed doors. The pandemic has made those doors thicker.

Meanwhile some governors are playing into every stereotype of “the overclass.” On Tuesday Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf said in a press briefing that those pushing against the shutdown are cowards. Local officials who “cave in to this coronavirus” will pay a price in state funding. “These folks are choosing to desert in the face of the enemy. In the middle of a war.” He said he’ll pull state certificates such as liquor licenses for any businesses that open. He must have thought he sounded uncompromising, like Gen. George Patton. He seemed more like Patton slapping the soldier. No sympathy, no respect, only judgment.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called anti-lockdown demonstrations “racist and misogynistic.” She called the entire movement “political.” It was, in part—there have been plenty of Trump signs, and she’s a possible Democratic vice presidential nominee. But the clamor in her state is real, and serious. People are in economic distress and worry that the foundations of their lives are being swept away. How does name-calling help? She might as well have called them “deplorables.” She said the protests may only make the lockdowns last longer, which sounded less like irony than a threat.

When you are reasonable with people and show them respect, they will want to respond in kind. But when they feel those calling the shots are being disrespectful, they will push back hard and rebel even in ways that hurt them.

This is no time to make our divisions worse. The pandemic is a story not only about our health but our humanity.

Source: Scenes From the Class Struggle in Lockdown – WSJ

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