Monday, August 31, 2009

Welcome to your new home


À propos the previous posting, the Washington Examiner's Mark Tapscott has a column today about how your betters in Washington have plans to get you out of your patch in the 'burbs and sacrifice you to the Density God:

If you like living in the suburbs, having your own little piece of God's green Earth, and being part of the community schools, churches and civic groups, well, too bad because the "Smart Growth" progressives in Congress and the National Reseach Council have a new report that shows how much better things would be if instead you and your family lived in an urban high rise. …

Why would living in "denser environments" be better? Well, for you and your family, it wouldn't be, but it would be for Smart Growth progressives in and out of govenment because it would be so much easier for them to control how you and your family live.

Why? Well, just to take the first example that comes to mind, instead of relying upon a private car that can take you wherever you decide to go, you will have to use government-owned mass transit that only takes you where the government thinks you should be able to go.

Yes, you self-centered piece of work, imagining you could have a little land and space for yourself, your version of Yeats's Lake Isle of Innisfree — your masters are going to tell you where to go. And they're going to tell lots of others to go to the very same place. You'll be densified, for your own good and because we're running out of land. Have to fit in all those immigrants your masters are importing in aid of diversity.

Of course, you won't have much diversity in your environment up there on the 29th floor of your eco-cage. But stop your whingeing. The National Research Council thinks maybe "a shift to this type of land use could lessen vehicle use, energy consumption, and CO2 emissions."

Tapscott adds:

Thanks to mass transit, it will be hard to get to those [stores] that do survive, and even when you manage to get there, you won't be able to carry home nearly as many items riding on mass transit than you could in your own private car. So it will be more trips for fewer items, on a daily or every other day basis, just like your great grandmother and great grand father lived back in the 19th century.

And that is what this is all about. You may have read about the 19th century in school. That was when people living in crowded, smelly, crime-ridden big cities like Philly, New York and Cleveland began fleeing to the suburbs. They did so to get some room for their families to grow, to get away from the daily dangers of the big city, and to live the American Dream of better jobs, better schools, more freedom.

Kind of makes you wonder what the Smart Growth progressives have against people living the American Dream in the suburbs, doesn't it?

No, I don't wonder. "Progressives" want people packed together because they believe in Mass Man. Individuals scare them. People who feel in charge of their own lives scare them. People and families with their feet on the ground and their own land aren't as easily manipulated and indoctrinated by the Prog Politburo.

Some people prefer living in high-density cities. They certainly have that option, as they should. No one, however, should be forced into a lifestyle that most Americans are happy to kiss off when they can. But "can" doesn't conjugate in leftist language. We can. There's no you can.


Friday, August 28, 2009

A humane vision of suburban living

Bavaria? Surrey? No, New York City.

Slate has proposed the century-old development Forest Hills Gardens, in Queens, New York City, as something of an ideal — a habitat that enables one to enjoy big-city amenities without being confined in a high-rise, well-appointed cell block.

The writer, Witold Rybczynski, says:

The planned community of 142 acres, which introduced the British Garden City movement to the United States, was intended to demonstrate the latest ideas in town planning, housing, open space, and building construction. It's pretty obvious that in the intervening years, Levittown, N.Y.—not Forest Hills—became the prototype for American planned communities. But in an age of diminishing resources and an interest in walkable neighborhoods, it is worth revisiting Forest Hills. One of the strengths of the Garden City movement was that it dealt with town planning in a comprehensive way, and this 100-year-old piece of New York City remains a model for how the attractions of town and suburbs can be combined.
Part of Forest Hills Gardens's appeal, as the slide show photos attest, is that it's plain traditionalist. It is sincere, exhibiting none of the wink-wink campy "gestures" of the unlamented '80s post-modernism. The Forest Hills development appears to have been designed primarily to please, even if there was a subsidiary motive of promoting a better concept of housing.

Why do we find pleasure, solace even, in such a place? It is beautiful, true, but not pure beauty. Even where modernist architecture has claimed its work to be beautiful — and that isn't often a priority — it aspires to an elegance of form, untainted by supposedly retrograde virtues like a historical bloodline or "useless" decoration. "Form follows function," once supposedly a brilliant new insight, is actually a banal observation; there never was a building whose form wasn't to some degree associated with its function. But modernism went beyond that, assuming function to be the alpha and omega of form. Architecture was henceforth to reject anything but factory-like utilitarianism and a vague, brain-cooked notion of revealing the "essence" of a building.

That doctrine has cast a deadly spell that now clings to large parts of most cities around the world. Other than architects and academics, no one imagines you can give life to a building by turning it inside out to display somebody's cockeyed dream of a Platonic Idea. Run-of-the-mill human beings, like you and me, want to look at things that tickle their fancy, take them on a trip, make them pause a moment to admire.


Roger Kimball wrote that "it is one of the virtues of the humanist instinct to recognize that the human world is — essentially is — something more than a distillation of essences.

"It is, on the contrary, a world of appearances: of how things look and comport themselves. This is something that our culture, and our architecture, has largely lost sight of, to our very great diminishment. … This is the profound wisdom contained in Oscar Wilde’s apparently flippant remark that only a very shallow person does not judge by appearances."

But if Forest Hills Gardens remains an attractive locale, and an admirable effort to set a good example for the lived-in environment — an example that, as
Rybczynski acknowledges, went pretty much for naught — I take issue with some of the other statements and assumptions in the photo captions.

They touch all the bases of current New Urbanism theory: walkability, density, mixed-use facilities, a direct connection to mass transportation, that kind of thing. For instance:

Walkability, which is the goal of most town planners today, requires smaller lots and more compact houses in order to keep distances short. In the housing terrace at right, 17-foot-wide town homes use land efficiently, but even detached house lots at Forest Hills can be as small as 2,800 square feet (compared with a typical suburban lot size today of 20,000 square feet). Forest Hills has a variety of single-family houses: attached, semidetached, and freestanding. The aim of having many housing types was partly to give more choices to buyers and partly to create the kind of visual variety found in old towns. This is very different from the sort of homogeneity that characterizes most modern suburbs.


The town square faces a station on the Long Island Railroad, which connects Forest Hills to Manhattan, 20 minutes away --an early example of transit-oriented development. The buildings on the square have stores and restaurants at street level and apartments above, just the sort of mixed-use that many developers are promoting today. The tallest building, nine stories, originally housed the Forest Hills Inn, since converted into condominiums.

The first thing we should note is that Forest Hills Gardens is not an urban development, although a hundred years on it finds itself surrounded by an urban landscape. Queens was a suburb in 1909 — much of it still farmland. No development like this could conceivably be created in the New York City of today, property costs being what they are, unless it was marketed to millionaires. So if it's a model for anything, the Gardens are a model for suburbia.


Suburbs aren't what they used to be, however. Rybczynski seems to think they are all tract-house civilian army camps like Levittown. Too many of them, especially older ones, are. But residential architects, who are forced to try to design communities that people will want to buy into, lack the freedom of their celebrity colleagues to launch their most wacko concepts 40 stories into the air.

Many contemporary suburban developments have, in their own way, at least tried for some charm and local or historic flavor. With mixed success, of course: some are slapdash duds, others work. That's life. But if the United States doesn't undergo an Argentina-type economic meltdown, further suburban development looks like adopting many of the principles that Forest Hills Gardens demonstrate.

But a lot of this New Urbanism ideology is crackpot stuff. Does Rybczynski seriously imagine that suburbanites (as opposed to New Yorkers and other hard cases) who can afford a choice want to live in apartments with stores and restaurants beneath them? With a railroad station just down the street? And a nine-story hotel (that, I assume, is what the Forest Hills Inn was) in their midst? Get outta here, as they say in New York.

As for the mixture of types of single family housing — detached, semi-detached, and attached (i.e., row houses) — yup, it adds variety, looks good in a glossy magazine spread. But I have news for our author: People do not move out of the city so they can live in row houses that look like 19th century Liverpool. If developers insist on building attached condos and families can't afford anything else, they'll occupy them and hope that one day they can afford something better. But let's not make a virtue of necessity. Americans want to live in detached houses with some space around them, not shoe boxes sharing walls with neighbors.

Finally, let's talk about this density thing, the Holy Grail of "green," "environmentally sensitive," New Urban head-in-the-ether academics. Density is not good. Density is bad for human beings. It drives them all slightly mental, and can send some around the bend.

John B. Calhoun, M.D., wrote a famous paper published by the august Royal Society of Medicine titled "Death Squared: The Explosive Growth and Demise of a Mouse Population."

In simplified form, what he did was build a mouse Utopia. There were no predators, lots of food, a disease-free environment. The mice not only lived the life of Reilly, but they reproduced at the normal rate — a rate designed by nature to account for a large measure of mortality among the animals. The result was density like you wouldn't believe.

And the mice became "autistic-like creatures, capable only of the most simple behaviours compatible with physiological survival. Their spirit has died … . They are no longer capable of executing the more complex behaviours compatible with species survival." They were only mice, of course; we're different … aren't we? Calhoun didn't think so:

For an animal so complex as man, there is no logical reason why a comparable sequence of events should not also lead to species extinction. If opportunities for role fulfillment fall far short of the demand by those capable of filling roles, and having expectancies to do so, only violence and disruption of social organization can follow. Individuals born under these circumstances will be so out of touch with reality as to be incapable even of alienation.

Lewis Mumford agreed:

No small part of this ugly urban barbarization has been due to sheer physical congestion: a diagnosis now partly confirmed by scientific experiments with rats — for when they are placed in equally congested quarters, they exhibit the same symptoms of stress, alienation, hostility, sexual perversion, parental incompetence, and rabid violence that we now find in Megalopolis.
Naturally, Calhoun's and Mumford's interpretations do not sit well with apologists for overpopulation, such as open borders advocates and business interests. I'm inclined to think Dr. Calhoun and Mumford were a scrap smarter than their critics. We'll let that alone now. But while there is undoubtedly plenty to appreciate in Forest Hills Gardens, density is not one of them.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hard times will be over when everyone is a federal employee


Economic crisis? What crisis? Just ask a U.S. federal government employee.

According to Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute (tip of the hat: The Tax Lawyer's Blog), federales are living in the land of milk and honey.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released its annual data on compensation levels by industry … . The data show that the pay advantage enjoyed by federal civilian workers over private-sector workers continues to expand.

The George W. Bush years were very lucrative for federal workers. In 2000, the average compensation (wages and benefits) of federal workers was 66 percent higher than the average compensation in the U.S. private sector. The new data show that average federal compensation is now more than double the average in the private sector.

The difference looks like this:


Edwards remarks:

What is going on here? Members of Congress who have large numbers of federal workers in their districts relentlessly push for expanding federal worker compensation. Also, the Bush administration had little interest in fiscal restraint, and it usually got rolled by the federal unions. The result has been an increasingly overpaid elite of government workers, who are insulated from the economic reality of recessions and from the tough competitive climate of the private sector.

Now, I recall President for Life Obama banging on about spreading the wealth around. He wants the rich — any family earning more than $1 million a year — to pay a surtax to help finance his government annexation of the citizens' health.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (itself staffed by federales), "With more than 1.8 million civilian employees, the Federal Government, excluding the Postal Service is the Nation’s largest employer."

Pass the equality, please.

The average income differential between government workers and those in what remains of the private sphere is $60,073. Multiply that by 1.8 million and you're looking at $108,131,400,000. No more than a generous tip by Washington standards (in the news today is a prediction that the federal deficit will grow by another $9 trillion over the next decade), but it could pay for a few hip replacements and cornea transplants.

I know our federal workers, 99.44 percent Obama backers, would be happy to smoke a leaf or two from his book and donate their excess income to spread the wealth around.

But I don't recommend waiting to exhale until they do.


Monday, August 24, 2009

$1 billion "Utopian" housing project — but where are the bars on the windows?


"Utopia is a hard sell in Jordan Downs," reports the LA Times. Jordan Downs is a housing project in Watts, Los Angeles. It is planned for a complete makeover:
The new Jordan Downs will cost more than $1 billion and take more than five years to complete. Current project residents will be moved into temporary housing across the street while their old homes are torn down and rebuilt. Then, if things go according to the master plan, they will move back into a new complex with middle-class neighbors, a bank of shops and businesses, and a cutting-edge high school campus next door.
Ronald Perkins, a longtime resident of Jordan Downs, was skeptical.
"I think," Perkins said, taking pains to be polite, "that I would feel better with bars of some type."
Assuming that he meant window bars, and not boozeterias serving beer and tequila shots, it appears that Perkins is more realistic about change in the project environment than the "consultants and architects" who showed up to deliver a pitch to the Jordan Downs population that they would be better off in the billion dollar development from dreamland.

He probably understands what the planners do not. (Or maybe they do, knowing perfectly well that the real beneficiaries will be contractors and vendors receiving juicy political payoffs). Perkins perhaps realizes that even after the billion dollar rethink of Jordan Downs, he and his family will need bars on the windows for the same reason they always have. The culture of the place, as distinct from the architecture and various designed-in amenities, won't change much.


Housing projects have proved an abject failure time and again, because dignity and self-respect can't be imposed from above. You could move every resident of Jordan Downs into Buckingham Palace and within a few years it would feel like the project does today. People would be demanding triple locks on the doors with gold leaf moldings.

Individuals and communities create their environment through their values and way of life. It's not just a matter of crime — I don't doubt that there are many Jordan Downs residents who deplore drug dealing, theft, and criminal gangs. But attitudes that hold people back keep them in projects, whether of the seedy variety or the deluxe model. Attitudes: willingness to be dependent on government handouts; irresponsible breeding; an entitlement mentality; alienation from the larger society that can reach paranoid dimensions.
Only about a dozen of Jordan Downs' 700 families turn out consistently at architects' planning sessions. "The projects ain't feeling this right now," explained longtime resident Fred "Scorpio" Smith.

Aside from 13 years in the penitentiary, Smith, 37, has lived in Jordan Downs his whole life. He ticked off a string of tenants evicted for penny-ante transgressions, like elderly "Miss Lewis," kicked out after 53 years, Smith said, when a project employee saw a set of clothes belonging to her 47-year-old son.

"He lives in Riverside. Showed them his address." Still, Lewis was accused of violating her lease by harboring a tenant not on the lease, Smith said. "It's like they got a secret list. You blink twice and you're out."
Maybe 13 years in the pen gives you nostalgia for barred windows.

Anyway, if "Miss Lewis's" 47-year-old son lived in Riverside, why was he in Jordan Downs? I can't help thinking we're not getting the whole story from "Scorpio." I find it hard to believe elderly "Miss Lewis" was kicked out of her digs because her son dropped in for a few days. It's more likely he was up to no good.


Even if Mr. Lewis was an angel visiting earth, though, there are perfectly good reasons why managers of places like Jordan Downs have to be strict about unauthorized residents. I presume that leaseholders are vetted to determine if they are likely to be responsible tenants. If a unit can become a crash pad for any number of supernumeraries, the environment is on the way downhill fast.

"Miss Lewis" knew the rules — how could she not after 53 years? But punishing her is not the point. In a place like the project, everybody knows everybody else's business. Once it was common knowledge that one person flouted the terms of her lease and got away with it, a chain reaction of similar stories was sure to follow.


What to do about the persistent culture of poverty, seemingly resistant to amelioration, that plagues most American urban centers? Pumping tax money into it offers little hope for improvement, and may even be counterproductive by encouraging the toxic mentality that holds people in projects. They must be encouraged to take responsibility for themselves and drop their self-defeating attitudes.

Also, it would be useful if the country would quit merrily importing poverty from beyond its borders. "Blacks … have watched the population in the project shift from virtually all-black 40 years ago to more than two-thirds Latino today," the story says.


Friday, August 21, 2009

And now, from the playpen of the President of the United States ...

President's Advisory Council on Health Care Reform
in a relaxed moment.

What's that, neighbor? You thought nothing the Messiah said could surprise you? He is, after all, the greatest megalomaniac in the history of the U.S. presidency — the man who wants to add to the existing 134,723 pages in the Code of Federal Regulations, which requires a 19-foot shelf to hold it all, another regulatory Mount Everest to take charge of the health care of 300 million citizens plus 20 million illegal aliens.

Winner of federally sponsored contest to select
a new image to replace the Bald Eagle.

If you had any remaining capacity for being startled by this mountebank, though, you might have wondered if your hearing was going rogue on you when the President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief declared:

"There's something about August going into September where everybody in Washington gets all wee-weed up."

There's something about his plans for government keeping the bodies of the entire country in working order (or not) going haywire that seems to send the head of state back to his childhood in Kenya or Indonesia or wherever it was in a search for the metaphor that will freeze the mongoose in its tracks.

Or maybe by "wee-weed up" he is hinting that he has met his Waterloo.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Muslim impatience: France's only hope for saving its own culture?


The battle of the Marne stopped the German army from taking Paris in 1914, but since then France hasn't shown good form in resisting foreign invasion. Not just in 1940, but now.

Today's invasion is demographic rather than military. Tiberge at GalliaWatch quotes an economist,
Gérard Pince:
… Pince demonstrated through his own calculations, which were in turn based on a handful of givens furnished by leading research institutes, that the official figures on immigration are not only too low, but deliberately skewed so as to fool the general population.

According to Pince, by the year 2060 (50 years from now, but in fact much sooner than that, since for certain age groups, the tipping point is about to be reached), the ethnic French people will be a minority in their own land. Furthermore, he demonstrates that the number of North and sub-Saharan Africans and Asians in France today is at least 9 million. (The figure bandied about by many news sources is still 5 million, based on data from the Interior Ministry from several years ago. But time has passed, and inevitably the numbers have doubl
Pince — like Tiberge, in her commentary — thinks the indigenous French are so apathetic, spineless and soaked in cultural Marxism that they'll go quietly into dhimmitude. That may not be true for the majority of citoyens, but it certainly seems to be spot on for government officials and EU puppets. According to the New York Times, Marseille is now "Sahara on the sea." (Typically, the Times celebrates a French city being annexed to North Africa.)

The French people who are conscious of the peril haven't the slightest chance of convincing the majority, conditioned by propaganda from childhood," Pince says. "We can expect nothing from public opinion or from elections that direct the life of a democracy."

All that French Muslims have to do is wait while their wombs keep up the production of Muslims. Game over.

Ironically, only young Muslims impatient to get on with turning France into Dar-al-Islam can change the population replacement scenario, Pince thinks.
At the opposite pole of our bleeding heart liberalism, this youth dreams of fighting it out as quickly as possible, and the smallest spark could, therefore, ignite a general conflagration.

In this way the adversary becomes an ally. In truth, general and long-lasting riots would modify the behavior of our countrymen. In a former life, I used to go to Gabon where I visited a couple of leftist expats. One day in 1964, the president of the country was overthrown and right away the populace spilled out into the streets shouting "Dirty whites! We're going to bust your heads!" You can imagine my surprise when I discovered my left-wing friend on her knees praying "My God, send the parachutists as quickly as possible!"

This comical volte-face means that fear can disconnect even the most conditioned opinions. People recover their normal behavior patterns, as if a spell were suddenly lifted. In the event of major disturbances, the majority of Frenchmen would demand the intervention of the armed forces, the application of martial law and the installing of a provisional dictatorship under Article 16.

Martial law. Provisional dictatorship. Those are chilling words to anyone who believes in a free society. But no more threatening than a country under sharia law.

Naturally, one would hope instead for France to wake from its multi-culti trance and break the Left's intellectual grip on its society. A peaceful de-Islamization based on acknowledging that Islam is an all-encompassing politico-religious system that can't be assimilated, but only surrendered to, would be preferable for everyone (including French Muslims) to the civil war that may otherwise lie in wait.

In Gérard Pince's view, though, the indigenous French have ceded the initiative to their ever-growing Muslim faction.

Individuals are sometimes wise; nations, rarely. So nations end up paying a dear price for what, with foresight, they could have obtained at minimal cost.


Monday, August 17, 2009

PBS decelebrates '50s pop in pledge week special


When I saw a promo for "Magic Moments: The Best of 50s Pop," I knew it had to be pledge week. It's the kind of programming our tax money/foundation grant/begging–supported public TV network would schedule only because they thought it would pay. Pop music from the '50s, after all, mostly appeals to a demographic otherwise ignored by the brainrot box. The PBS development squad no doubt figured that people who were nostalgic for long-ago idols would be too, too thrilled to send in their contribution.

I'm not of that generation, but I like some pre-rock '50s music and tuned in. The show was spectacularly depressing.

Not for the reason you might think, to wit, seeing once-youthful "Lads" and "-ettes" now old and past their prime. Actually, most of them looked well maintained (of course, survivorship bias influenced the sample on view). Debbie Reynolds and the McGuire Sisters still had their looks.


No, what was depressing was the cynicism of PBS's presentation. And it wasn't just the interminable pledge breaks, offering '50s greatest hits CD sets in return for substantial contribution pledges, although the salesmanship was like late-night commercials on cable TV telling you to order now, and we'll include a free lunchbox for your dog, and that's not all!

PBS's crassness was in its attitude toward the music and performers they were supposedly celebrating. One of the pitchmen was Nick Clooney, presumably a relative (son?) of Rosemary Clooney, to whom an alleged tribute was dedicated.

The conventional wisdom about Rosemary Clooney is that she was forced by the record marketers to sing pop material, but as her initial stardom faded she finally became the great jazz vocalist she was always meant to be. I think this is dead backward. Clooney was a fine pop talent who later turned into a conscientiously dull jazz performer.


In either case, Nick Clooney did her no favors. Introducing film clips of her in '50s hits like "Mambo Italiano," he delivered an insulting line of nonsense. I didn't write down the actual words, but they can be paraphrased accurately: "Rosemary Clooney sang about a wonderful time and country that didn't really exist, but everyone wanted to believe in it, so they believed in her."

That, of course, is exactly the attitude of the leftist dimwits in the saddle at PBS. A few years ago they produced a series about the 1950s which I deliberately didn't watch, knowing what to expect, and which was confirmed by accounts I read. The period (according to the show) was all about dreary conformity, middle class narrow mindedness, tailfinned cars, and racism. Its only redeeming events were the birth of rock and roll and teenage rebellion plus, naturally, the civil rights movement.

Well, my memories of the time are the memories of a child and adolescent, and so incomplete, but from what I recall it was neither the era of goofy innocence it's now generally taken for (not in my schools) nor was there an all-around starched blandness. For most people — no, not for oppressed blacks — it was a pretty happy time, and popular music reflected that.


One other thing about "Magic Moments." The sound recording was disgraceful; at any volume level above mezzo forte, the tape was saturated and the sound broke up. Did the producer (who was introduced on stage and given great plaudits for bringing this music back) hire some kid who didn't know how to do a sound check or read a VU meter as the engineer? What was he thinking? I'll bet it was something like, "Ah, it's just a bunch of old people watching. They won't be able to hear it very well anyway."

PBS often botches even productions it believes in. This show illustrated the depths it can sink to when it programs what it considers junk to meet a fund raising quota.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

How would you like your Death of America cocktail prepared, madam?

Slate, an online "magazine," asked its readers: how is America going to end?

Unfortunately, it was a closed-ended rather than open-ended query. Slate chose the possibilities and invited respondents to rank them. That might make statistical tabulation easier, but it channels what should be an invitation to thought into preconceived categories. No black swans are permitted on the grounds, and (more seriously, in my view) the methodology discourages considering underlying principles in favor of what might be called journalistic topics:
Your task was simple: Browse through a list of 144 potential apocalypses and choose up to five that seem most likely to wipe the United States off the map. As of Wednesday night, 60,020 readers had submitted their visions of the end of America. … We've tallied the ballots and analyzed the data. Out of the 144 scenarios in the apocalypse grid, here are the five you believe are the biggest threat to America's continued existence …

You can read the explanations and rationales here.

If the writers mean "most likely to wipe the United States off the map" literally, then "loose nukes" is a reasonable answer as the most likely. (Even there, it's hard to imagine that any number of nukes would leave nothing but a hole where the U.S. used to be.) But they obviously do not mean it literally, since they then amend that to "the end of America" and "the biggest threat to America's existence." Presumably, they are on about the collapse of our government, society, or way of life.


But none of those top-five collective bad hair days, catastrophic as they might be, would necessarily be the end of America, our political system, or values. They are mostly events, and events can ultimately be overcome. Here's what I mean about the false journalistic assumption that America, or the idea of America, will crack up because of the kind of occurrences that make headlines.

Although they are not on Slate's menu, my nominations for what is most likely to see off the country are these (not in any order of likelihood, and there is some crossover among them):

1. The loss of a common culture. Individual differences are a fine thing and often a source of national strength. But to function smoothly, a country has to have a reasonable degree of agreement or shared values among its constituent groups about history, language, manners, arts, ethics, and other aspects of life summed up by "culture." Our federal government is presently doing all it can to destroy whatever remains of a common culture (as opposed to a vaporous idea of "freedom") through mass third world immigration. International businesses are helping the process along by acting as though our country, or any country, is irrelevant; the world is simply a gigantic marketplace.


2. The replacement of tools of thought by technology. Thinking clearly and even imaginatively demands skill with language; knowledge of history, a catalogue of what has worked and what has led to untold misery; a philosophical sense. As recently as a century ago, all those were considered essentials of civilized life. Today they are largely thought irrelevant, to such a degree that no one even bothers anymore to proclaim them irrelevant. People believe that all problems will be solved by technology, or that progress means more and better you-name-it, as long as it's something that works through manipulation of the material world.


3. Death by systematization, rules, and laws. The other day, passengers were stranded for five and a half hours aboard an airplane going nowhere, only the latest of many such incidents. It will no doubt renew calls for a legal "passenger's bill of rights." Were such a law to be passed, it might help, but it would not end an essential causal factor, which is the same as for many other problems that seem to defy solution. We are being undone by overorganization that stifles individual responsibility.

I'm sure the pilots felt bad about holding their passengers hostage, but they knew that if they asked to return to the gate, they would get grief from ground control, and later from their airline. Almost surely there were airline and airport managers who would have liked to find a sensible and humane solution, but they too were hog-tied by innumberable rules and lines of authority.


As people, we can scarcely draw breath without consulting voluminous tracts of law, regulations, company procedures, speech codes, codes of conduct, best practices, organizational flow charts, expert opinion, and helpful hints. As a society, we have decided to leave nothing to chance or personal, ad hoc problem solving. Most passengers would like to get out of their aluminum coffin after a couple of hours even if they're further delayed, and some airline representatives on the scene know that, even know that they are creating hatred for the carrier. But there are too many rules to adhere to, too many sign-offs needed.

Philip K. Howard is a lawyer who has written several books on this theme. I'm reading the most recent, Life Without Lawyers, and have read his earlier ones (they all make similar points). Howard is mostly an off-the-shelf liberal, but he has broken free of the pack in one way.

He recognizes that in trying to make every action that affects anyone "fair," we have built a roadblock against sensible, creative responses to problems. A massive superstructure of laws and rules has almost killed individual responsibility. The only "correct" response anyone in a government agency or corporation (except for a few at the very top) can make is to find the applicable directive and follow it. Initiative is strangled at birth.


Of course there are a few areas that concern health and safety that necessitate following strict procedures. But as Howard says, and eloquently, far larger fields exist where we need to empower individuals to make on-the-spot decisions based on their own experience and judgment, not a priori rules that can't take into account particular situations.

Supposedly our forward-thinking corporations have gotten the message and are trying to spread responsibility around. I hope so. But judging from employees I come into contact with, mainly sales and customer service representatives, the New Jerusalem hasn't percolated down to those levels yet.

Hardening of the arteries, eventually leading to a lack of nourishment for the heart and brain, is as dangerous to America as it is to Americans.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Black dogs face pattern of discrimination

Doggedly struggling for equal rights.

Black dogs need an affirmative action program, says a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Christie Keith writes:
Black may be beautiful, but when it comes to dogs of a darker hue, potential adopters often overlook them -- especially if they're big. … When, an online database of more than 300,000 adoptable pets, declared August 12 national "Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Day," they discovered that finding homes for black dogs, particularly larger ones, was a real problem for their 12,681 member shelters and rescue groups.
Not only color discrimination, but breedism and sizeism!

I have nothing against dogs of any color or size, so long as they have a good disposition. Of course it isn't "fair" to black dogs if adopters prefer blondes. But hang on. The pool of adopters is pretty much fixed in size. For every dog that is taken in petship, another is rejected. So this campaign probably won't issue in more dogs finding homes, which would be worth supporting; it will (if successful) just mean more black dogs being taken in, and more dogs of other colors being left in the shelter.

Dogs don't believe in group rights. They don't understand quotas. They care only about their own situation, and this is a zero-sum game. There is no net benefit to the total corps of dogs awaiting adoption.

So what we have here is social engineering applied to the pet owning population. Score another point for the soft totalitarian state. People can live where they choose (and can afford), but the government can forcibly settle 25 families from Baluchistan, or thousands of "victim" group members, in their midst. If they want or need to rent out part of their house, they cannot choose who they rent to on the basis of … well, anything, really, except maybe the applicant's credit rating, but if the ones with poor credit rating are part of some "protected" group, that may not be a good enough reason.

As of now, there aren't any laws about what color of dog you select for an animal companion, but when there are, California will lead the way. Not because it's good for dogs in general, but because it's good for the power of the government. You need reminding constantly that in statist America, your life choices are not yours to make.
Hendrickson, who had adopted two black dogs before learning about "black dog syndrome," decided to add Cobie to her "black pack."

"They say in your life you will have one dog who is 'the one,'" she told me. "Cobie is my 'one.' He's four years old and a certified therapy dog, and we spend our days helping disadvantaged children learn to read at schools, shelters, youth detention centers. Goes to show what a great dog you can be missing out on by passing up a black dog."

A certified therapy dog?

I never knew there was such a thing. But if some dogs can teach children how to read, they have earned a professional certification. Perhaps we need more dogs and fewer humans leading classes in our public schools.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Next census will count illegals


The U.S. government, tired of taking orders from its citizens — many of whom have bad habits like opposition — continues to recruit a new country to rule. Time was, a nation had to go on a conquest binge outside its own borders to bulk up its power. That's so 19th century. Now in the era of soft tyrrany, the central government just throws out a dragnet for a new nation-within-a-nation of subservient clients.

Even the immigration pimps at the Wall Street Journal seem to find something a little unsettling (or illegally settling) about congressional representation being skewed by counting los illegals.
Next year’s census will determine the apportionment of House members and Electoral College votes for each state. To accomplish these vital constitutional purposes, the enumeration should count only citizens and persons who are legal, permanent residents. But it won’t.

Instead, the U.S. Census Bureau is set to count all persons physically present in the country—including large numbers who are here illegally. The result will unconstitutionally increase the number of representatives in some states and deprive some other states of their rightful political representation.
It's hard to credit such a position from the Journal, which trumpets in season and out the need for vast armies of dead-end-job peons and HB-1 visa brainiacs — the former to turn the minimum-wage mills, the latter to grind out computer code in lieu of Americans with their peculiar salary expectations. Maybe even the cheap labor gang leaders have a twinge of constitutional conscience once per blue moon.

According to the latest American Community Survey, California has 5,622,422 noncitizens in its population of 36,264,467. Based on our round-number projection of a decade-end population in that state of 37,000,000 (including 5,750,000 noncitizens), California would have 57 members in the newly reapportioned U.S. House of Representatives.

However, with noncitizens not included for purposes of reapportionment, California would have 48 House seats (based on an estimated 308 million total population in 2010 with 283 million citizens, or 650,000 citizens per House seat). Using a similar projection, Texas would have 38 House members with noncitizens included. With only citizens counted, it would be entitled to 34 members.

See how it works? The more illegals, the more representatives the state has, and very likely the more votes in Congress for federal support of the Third World colonists and their extended families. States and districts prefer someone else to pick up the check.

America, you are being suckered. But you knew that already. "The census has drifted far from its constitutional roots, and the 2010 enumeration will result in a malapportionment of Congress," the Journal says. I agree with everything in that sentence except "drifted." This is an act of control, not drift.


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Signs of the times

During the past two or three months on my daily commuting route (which is on city streets, not a freeway), handmade or cheaply printed signs have been appearing like mushrooms after the rain. They are attached to light or telephone poles, or stuck in the ground with wires, similar to those that real estate agents put up to announce a house they hope to sell you.

Most of them are for personal services (Reflexology Massage $39 1 hour, U Call I Haul, Music Lessons), and I have some sympathy for the advertisers, many of whom have probably lost their jobs and are trying to keep body and soul together however they can. Other signs are for small businesses — driveway pavers, lawn care, that sort of thing — and it's understandable that print ads in newspapers are not cost-effective for them. I'm sympathetic to people running small businesses and trying to stay above water, too.


Other signs are from stores, though. Some of the el cheapo signs from stores are especially excessive, like those of a furniture outlet that put up about 50, separated from one another by 10 feet or so. I would pay something for this merchant to go out of business. And then there are the "sucker" come-ons that you always get in a depression: EARN WHILE YOU LEARN REAL ESTATE — UP TO $2000 A WEEK!

Almost all of these signs are on public property, such as medians, or on landscaping near the street that obviously doesn't belong to the advertisers. I expect there are local ordinances against this practice — billboards are prohibited in the area — but if so, obviously no one is enforcing them.


A batch of crummy little signs may seem like a minor annoyance in the larger scheme of things, and as I say, they may help some people whom the economy has roughed up. The trouble is, what might be acceptable in very limited numbers becomes a real eyesore when they multiply as they have lately. They add to the existing visual clutter of the environment, which already has plenty of commercial and traffic signs.

It's another example of the "tragedy of the commons," a phenomenon identified so brilliantly by Garrett Hardin some 40 years ago. To wit: each individual acts in a way that offers an attractive cost-benefit ratio for himself, but the collective result is negative for the community, eventually possibly even for the individuals. (If they arouse distaste in the majority of viewers, they could backfire on the advertisers. Shoot, even the cities might decide too much is too much and order them removed forthwith, or fine the signage perps.)


The failure of the cities involved to set limits on this sign posting also creates a kind of "broken windows" situation of the sort that has been identified as a precursor to more serious misbehavior. It symbolizes a rupture in the social contract. People are using property that belongs to everyone for their own selfish ends, in ways that degrade the shared environment, and getting away with it. Behind the messages printed on the signs, there is a larger message, that civic pride and aesthetic considerations have taken another blow, with the likelihood of more and worse in the future.


Monday, August 03, 2009

The new law for the New Order


These are policewomen.

Not in Pakistan, mind you. In England.

Saith the Daily Mail:

Three female police officers were ordered to dress up as Muslim women for the day just to see what it felt like.

They wore traditional burkhas as part of a scheme designed to help police interact better with the Islamic community. Two covered their faces with hijab headscarves and niqab veils, leaving only narrow slits to see through, and another wore Muslim dress and a headscarf showing her face.

Yes, they'd better see what it feels like. The day is not far off when they will have no choice about wearing Muslim clobber while writing traffic tickets or busting college kids for joking that a horse is gay.

Sergeant Deb Leonard - who wore one of the burkhas, said: "I have gained an appreciation and understanding of what Muslim females experience when they walk out in public in clothing appropriate to their beliefs.

'We are keen to gain a better understanding of issues which our communities face.'

Sergeant, your desire to understand your communities' "issues" does you proud. May I suggest that in your next cross-cultural venture you dress up as an indigenous Englishwoman. Walk through a council estate. Walk in the central city when the pubs close and blind drunk customers take over the street. Empathize with the feelings of the declining native British majority who are afraid to go out at night because the U.K. is the most violent country in Europe and probably in the Western world.

Or not. Soon enough you'll be enforcing sharia law and there won't be any pubs and there won't be any Englishwomen walking alone. You won't have to endure the bother of policing "Behead the Infidels" demonstrations, because those who are now demonstrating will be in charge and they'll have the law to back them up.

Meanwhile, and I hope you won't think this is just flattery, may I say your Muslim-for-a-Day uniforms really suit you.


Seed money

From the Contra Costa (California) Times, this:

To supplement his income at Your Black Muslim Bakery, founder Yusuf Bey hid his paternity of some of his 42 children so their mothers could collect welfare benefits, said three of his women during sworn depositions they gave in a civil lawsuit in 2005. At various times the benefits included medical care, federal housing vouchers, food stamps and cash assistance that the women had to immediately turn over to him, they said.

Bey hid his paternity by keeping his name off of some of his children's birth certificates, a survey of county birth records shows, even though he openly acknowledged them as his children in the daily life of the bakery. Bey also offered to raise other people's children, and in at least three cases he had one of his women made their guardians. Then he collected welfare benefits for those children, too. And when they became old enough to bear his children, the new generation was also added to the welfare rolls, the women testified.

You know why I don't have a great deal of sympathy for California's budget crisis?

Yes, you know.