Thursday, October 28, 2010

The most forbidden word in politics: triage

Beyond political correctness, beyond sacred cows, there's triage. That's what they do in a battlefield hospital when they get more people than they can treat. So they figure out who's a lost cause and just give them painkillers--palliative care--while they work on the ones they can actually save.

But Democrats believe--as an article of faith not subject to discussion--that we can and must save everyone who happens to be within our borders, and, if possible, everyone else on
Earth as well.

And Republicans believe--equally as an article of faith not subject to discussion--that principles are sacrosanct, and we must adhere to them, regardless of consequence.

Thus Democrats won't let teachers expel "students of color" even if they've got fetal alcohol syndrome (which is untreatable) and are preventing any other students--of color or not--from learning anything in a classroom where they're disruptively present.

And thus Republicans won't vote to legalize Marijuana because it's WRONG--even if it can be proven that doing so would benefit society overall, and even if keeping it illegal while having alcohol legal is and is perceived by marijuana users as total hypocrisy, thus reducing people's respect for our laws and law enforcement people.

Thus both sides reject anything that smacks of triage out of hand. Neither wants to deal with the world as it actually is.

And the social cost of this idea-lism is enormous from both sides.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

People living in the shadows

The American Left constantly harps on the idea of all these people "living in the shadows" of the American economy--how unfair that is, how they should be brought out of the shadows--i.e. given citizenship ahead of the millions of educated, productive individuals patiently waiting in line for visas and green cards.

How about instead eliminate the shadows? We can do this with a universal biometric ID system that current technology enables us to implement, along with requiring Social Security and the IRS to cooperate with ICE.

So the next time someone uses the "living in the shadows" trope on you, say "You're right. No one should be living in the shadows. So let's eliminate the shadows."

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's actually not all about the economy, stupid--even now

My response to Paul Krugman's current editorial in the NYTimes, blaming the coming Democratic Party bloodbath on inadequate economic policy:

To an economist, everything is economics. But it ain't. I agree with Krugman's economic analysis, but he's missing the sociology of this election. The Democratic Party has morphed from the party of the working stiff to the party of the minority and public employee unions, which themselves employ disproportionate numbers of minorities.

What follows from that is support for a social agenda a majority of Americans oppose: support for illegal immigration--despite an actually good record of enforcement--support for the Mexicaniztion of the American Southwest--support for polylingual ballots--opposition to the English language (I'm describing the emotional reality of these things, mind you)--support for secular people like me who have no use for religion--support for homosexuals, including in the military.

I'm not saying all these supports are bad or good. I'm saying they add up to a zeitgeist that Joe Lunchbook sees as being against HIM.

And the Democratic leadership hasn't done much to counter this impression.

And the many millions being spent by secretive agents of the Billionaire's Club pushes putatively economic message, but if you look at the atmospherics of their ad blitz it's about tribe: if you're a white American who isn't a liberal, they want you to think the Republican tribe--it ceased being a political party in the 1970s--is your tribe, and the Democratic Party is the enemy tribe, to be opposed across the board.

That's what's really going on. I believe Professor Krugman is suffering from a corollary of confirmation bias--in this case, the belief that your academic speciality is at the heart of the politics that's going on.

It's not. People talk about it because they can't or wont' speak the tribality they're feeling. But that's like asking a guy why he bought a ticket me yellow Beemer convertible and he talks about resale value and reliability, not that he got it because he thinks it's a chick magnet.

As Gregory House said, "People always lie." Including to themselves.

So if the Democratic Party wants America back, it's going to have to make some terrifically hard decisions about what it wants to accomplish, and whether adopting a race/ethnic/culturally blind platform isn't the best choice today, even if its political correctness was correct back in the 1960s when blacks were murdered for voting across the South. It's not sunshine and flowers today...but the Democratic Party won't be able to do squat for minorities if it's out of office, will it?

Monday, October 11, 2010

local politics

Where I live--and probably where you live--condo complexes are requires to reserve a bunch of units for low income buyers. Here it's 10%. These buyers can get a unit for 1/3 to 1/4 of the price you'll pay.

City governments justify this by saying that otherwise many city employees won't be able to live here. And there's some truth to that where I live, since my town is pretty affluent, with its schools ranked among the top 100 in the country.

Here's a letter I wrote to a local paper about this (I erred on the side of caution in describing how big a break low income buyers get, but since found that they get a much sweeter deal than I'd surmised):

Curse of the BMRs

Dear editor: Every new housing development is required to provide a bunch of Below Market Rate (BMR) units. They may go for half the price of their neighbors’ units. Cities say this enables lower income government workers to live here. And so it may. But it also puts middle class homeowners cheek to jowl with people who may neither recognize nor respect the consideration middle class people commonly accord each other, such as quieting down after 10pm on weekday nights, and following homeowners association rules in general.

Worse yet, BMR homeowners oppose doing anything that costs money. Right now, for example, condo complexes around the Bay Area need earthquake retrofits—especially ones with condos built over garages. The retrofits typically cost around $10,000 per unit. And since such expenditures must be approved by a 2/3 majority, BMR homeowners are often able to block such projects, thus endangering the investments and even the lives of their neighbors.

In our complex this is further complicated by the fact that many BMRs are owned by folks who grew up in the Soviet Union—and they brought with them the kind of anti-authoritarian paranoia that was a survival trait there. They’ve mounted a frenzied campaign against our earthquake retrofit project, and may well prevent us from getting the needed supermajority vote.

I just wish the geniuses who invented the BMR regulations had to live here and personally experience the consequences of their social engineering.


That was several weeks ago. Then I attended a meeting in our complex of a homeowners' group promoting us getting an earthquake retrofit and discovered that several low-income and Russian homeowners had complained to members of the board of directors about my letter.

But I hold no position--elected or otherwise--in our complex's government, though my spouse is on the board. And you can see that nowhere in the letter did I even name the complex, or claim that I spoke for anyone but myself.

And one of the other people on the committee took the occasion to read me the riot act about the letter you just read, going so far as to call me a racist. She was practically sputtering. I said "Racist? Just how would that work?" And she realized at least that she couldn't call me that, since "Russian" isn't a race. And neither is "poor."

The incident reminded me that an unspoken liberal doctrine holds that we're all the same, regardless of ethnicity or class. We all hold the same values, we all have the same crime rate, And if we don't, it's the fault of white middle class people--and cops who arrest nonwhites disproportionately.

This isn't a sociological observation--it's an article of faith. And I dared to violate that article by stating what anyone with eyes and a functioning brain can easily observe.

And in accordance with this being an article of faith, this lady showed no interest in debating my points. She Knew I was Wrong, and her only obligation was to read me the riot act for being Wrong.

As always, I point out that the other side is no better. A guy at church I've known for decades snorted derisively when I stated that Obama's a centrist. He Knows that Obama is a Socialist. That this guy has a college degree. But again these doctrinaire views of both sides' partisans are articles of faith, and thus not to be questioned or debated.

Side note: I just spent three weeks camping around the Southwest with a small group that included three people who were ethnically Russian. The only Russians I have something against are the lower class ones who got visas, I suspect, through bribery of Russian officials.

If you don't live in a condo complex, or live somewhere where they don't require BMRs, and/or don't have many neighbors whose ethnic/class background leads to them being less than wonderful neighbors, this is less relevant, of course. But even so if you dare to express yourself independently you may well get people shouting at you angrily--and treating your ideas with such contempt as to preclude deigning to even discuss them with you.

So it behooves you to prepare yourself for this mentally, because it's hard to anyone to think well when someone's shouting at you. Do your thinking beforehand.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


This weekend I was treated to another example of the extreme--yet unacknowledged--cognitive dissonance between the average Republican party member and that party's leaders and patrons.

Today I've been watching the Mormon church's 180th General Conference. As you should know, Mormons are overwhelmingly Republican, and Utah possibly the most conservative state in the union.

General Conference is a biannual telecast from Salt Lake City, in which a succession of church officials offer advice as to what Mormons should do and not do.

The current head of the church is President Monson. In his Sunday AM talk he quoted the Roman stoic philosopher Epictetus, saying basically that we shouldn't gripe about bad luck but should be grateful for good luck.

On the other hand, yesterday I listened to a PBS radio show called "This American Life"--an episode titled "Crybabies." Its prologue dealt with manufactured outrage, a staple of right wing politics (and of left wing politics, to be sure--but wielded far less effectively). Then the first chapter investigated why Wall Street's movers and shakers--almost uniformly Republican--feel exactly zero gratitude for we taxpayers bailing them out, such that while we deal with over 10% unemployment (more if you include underemployed and discouraged workers), Wall Streeters have enjoyed record profits and bonuses.

The Wall Street workers interviewed stated uniformly that their success was due entirely to their superior intelligence and drive--it had nothing whatsoever to do with any supposed bailout--and, moreover, that President Obama was out to destroy American Business, and they were promoting any and all efforts to demolish him.

The segment went on to note that the wealthy of Haiti had exactly the same attitude about Haiti's travails and the elites' successes.

It appears that the fabulously wealthy almost invariably ascribe their success to their genius--not luck or corporate welfare--and they were the quickest and loudest to protest if anyone did anything to reduce their profits by the slightest increment.

Hence Christ's comment about a rich man having the same chance of getting into heaven as a camel of getting through the eye of a needle.

Anyone can do a few minutes' research and find rich people who are the very souls of virtue, and who came by their fortunes honestly. But I'm making a sociological observation, and statistically I'm right.

Which takes me back to President Monson's talk. I know many Mormons who live by the precepts church leaders like him have laid down. Yet they vigorously support party leaders who have nothing but the heartiest contempt for them and their principles.

Why don't they demand that their political leaders live by the principles they themselves live by?