Not Our Kind, Dear

Victor Davis Hanson, in an interview with Tucker Carlson, explains why he longer works for the magazine of William F. Buckley:

I think there were certain people in the Republican movement, or establishment, who felt it is their duty to internally police their own, and that’s kind of a virtue signal to the left.

We are just part of your class, we share the same values as you do, and we keep our crazies. And they are not empirical.

Empiricism is hardly a growth industry, but clinging to tradition has its charms, especially if doing so allows you to strike down your rivals. There’s a long history of keeping crazies at National Review. During his long reign at NR, Buckley famously put paid to the Birchers and anarcho-capitalists like Murray Rothbard, casting them to the outer darkness. Later on, Buckley cast out writers he had championed, including Joseph Sobran and Pat Buchanan, both for anti-Semitism. My father subscribed to NR and I would read it cover to cover in my youth. Once I set up my own household, I subscribed for over a decade, but after a while the value proposition wasn’t there.  

Buckley has been gone for over a decade now, and while his beloved NR is still in operation, it hasn’t been a serious enterprise for a long time. Back in 2016, NR tried to cast the Bad Orange Man to the outer darkness, marshaling dozens of arguments against the Dread Pirate Drumpf, but all their sound and fury signified, well, nothing. Why was that? No one really took NR seriously any more.

While Victor Davis Hanson doesn’t need a particular platform to be heard, his departure from NR means the cupboard is bare. It’s not surprising, truth be told — Republicanism generally signifies nothing. Hanson knows why:

I think there’s an image that a lot of Republicans have, both in politics and they sort of represent a sober and judicious way of looking at the world, and we are the adults in the room.

And it’s more about a culture than it is an ideology.

I’m not convinced it’s even a culture. From our perch in flyoverland, the conservative movement NR embodies is a pose rather than an attempt at understanding, let alone defending, a culture. Back to Hanson:

The original Republican conservative movement, I thought, was going to go back and look at the Constitution, when Jefferson said it won’t work if you pile up everybody in the cities because they will be subject to mass hysteria. Or de Tocqueville, and you look at certain ideas, I thought that’s what we were.

I thought they would be champions of the middle class, but I don’t think they were. I don’t think they wanted to be.

Hanson is clearly disillusioned, but he had to know the truth — any classicist of his erudition understands that grandeur and the trappings of the elite are powerful intoxicants. And currying favor with our betters is lucrative. 

This Is What “Building Back Better” Looks Like

Black unemployment, after hitting historic lows under “the most racist president ever”, is bouncing back up under Corn Pop’s pal:

Of course, the last jobs report produced about 1/3 the jobs expected. l

But at least things are going swimmingly along the Mexico border and in Afghanistan…

Dreaming, American Style

Need to hear someone not dragging on America, on this anniversary of the beginning of the American experience?

Well, here you go:

I am the product of the American Dream.

There was a time when that notion wasn’t soaked in cynicism and meant something to people. It must have meant something to my father, who left a budding career as an oral surgeon in the Dominican Republic and, rather than start dental school all over again, quickly got a technician’s license here so he could support us. It must have also meant something to my mother, who left the only home she’d ever known to emigrate to New York City, where she would give birth to me: their first-generation American son, born the day my father secured his visa to join us for good.

I was an infant when we lived in someone’s attic and my parents worked to make ends meet. I was two when we moved into a New York City apartment and my father ran a dental laboratory out of the spare bedroom. I was five when he opened his business in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan. And I was seven when we moved into a house in a New Jersey suburb, where we would enjoy a quiet street, a backyard pool, and endless possibility. Over the next twenty years, my father’s business thrived. My mother became a schoolteacher with a master’s in bilingual education. My siblings and I lived comfortable lives, privileged enough to entertain creative pursuits without worry. Things were far from perfect, but on just about anybody’s scorecard, my parents had won.

Through all of this, neither of them ever spoke a word about the American Dream, but they didn’t have to; they lived it with every move they made. Despite the struggle and the risk, they chose to try their luck because they believed in the possibility of building something better—and they succeeded.

I’m living proof of that.

And that’s just the introduction.

All is not lost.

Hope I Die Before I Get…Young

Roger Daltrey, lead singer of The Who for the past 57 years or so, tees off on the “Woke” generation:

“The woke generation — it’s terrifying, the miserable world they’re going to create for themselves,” the rocker said in a recent interview with DJ Zane Lowe on Apple Music.

“I mean, anyone who’s lived a life — and you see what they’re doing — you just know that it’s a route to nowhere, especially when you’ve lived through the periods of a life that we’ve had the privilege to,” Daltrey added. “I mean, we’ve had the golden era. There’s no doubt about that.”

The English rock legend went on to point out the differences between “the woke generation” and generations of the past, noting, “we came out of a war,” and have actually “seen the communist system fail” firsthand.

“But we came out of a war, we came out of a leveled society, completely flattened bomb sites and everything,” Daltrey said. “And we’ve been through socialist governments. We’ve seen the communist system fail in the Soviet Union. I’ve been in those communist countries while they were communist.”

“I’ve seen how ‘wonderful’ — really? — it was,” the rocker added, sarcastically.

People today forget, or never knew, that after UK went full-bore Labour at the end of World War 2, it subsequently took them nine years to end war-time food rationing. And while the food situation gradually improved, once “rebuilding” ended, the rest of the economy went in the tank.

Also – not bad for a guy that’s gonna be eighty in the next few years.

Pondering

Being a conservative is traditionally a fairly solitary thing. We tend to have higher priorities in our lives than politics.

With that in mind – know what I miss the. most from blogging’s brief, ephemeral “Glory Days?”
The social life. It’s a little ironic that “social media” cut the heart out of the actual social life that built up around blogging.

And by “social life”, I don’t mean *just* the MOB parties – although those were pretty epic, in their heyday. And not the crowd of really awesome people I met via blogging, back then – some of whom are still the core of my social circle, 17 years later.

What I – and society, I think, misses today – was the hard edge to that little home-made social network we built back then.

Back then, when somebody – a reporter or columnist, a politician, a bureaucrat – said or did something ignorant, harmful, defamatory or stupid, the answer would be a “crowdsourced” response from several, maybe dozens, of people who had some knowledge of the issue, directing the energy of dozens, sometimes hundreds, occasionally many more, to respond in a way that even the high and mighty couldn’t ignore.

The ultimate example, of course, was Rathergate; when Dan Rather tried to defame President Bush using a “letter” from a Texas Air Guard general as evidence. My friends and, at the time, cohosts at Power Line led a horde of thousands of people who pointed out facts about the “letter” that meant it could have been nothing but a forgery, and a really clumsy one at that. Dan Rather and Mary Mapes paid with their careers – and almost two decades later, and even after Hollywood put out a scabrous fabulist movie to try to rewrite the history, they remain disgraced.

And that was one of many such episodes, both earth-shaking (my friend and former co-host Ed Morrissey’s reporting leading to the toppling of the Chretien government in Canada) and minor league (me and an army other other lilliputian bloggers, bit by bit, showing the Star Tribune that Nick Coleman’s hackery was going to hurt them more than it helped).

I wouldn’t say that “Big Left” [1] created “Social Media” to divert energy, talent and effort from the DIY world of blogging. But if they had intended that, I don’t know how they could have done it better.

And I think it’s important; back when conservative blogs (and our other alternate media) *were* a major social medium, then there existed a powerful counterbalance to “cancel culture”. Now, the counterbalance has all but evaporated.

And we see the results. “Cancel Culture” is a cancer that is gutting American intellectual, social and even vocational life.

Glenn Reynolds points out that the way to fight cancel culture is “never apologize, punch back, and bring friends”. I suggest that one can’t skimp on any of the three. Which means you need friends.

Since blogging, as Brad Carlson notes, has gone pretty passé in the past ten years or so, it’s time – and imperative – for the good guys to recapture, if not the organic media we all built (although that’d be great, too), then at least the strength in numbers that allowed the Army of Davids to punch upward, and do it effectively, back in the day.

Something – an organic social group, a club, whatever – to bring some raw, motivated numbers to the fight. (And it is a fight, like it or not).

It’d be a shame to lose the culture war because nobody showed up where it mattered.

Thinking…

[1] You got Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Steel? You got Big Left.

Been Travelin’

I just got back from North Dakota. I had to take care of some family business. Other than driving on roads made greasier than Kamala Harris’s ethics by a spring snowstorm, it was a lot of fun.

Mostly observing the differences between government in a free state, and Minnesota.

There is no mask mandate. Some businesses will suggest a mask; in those, about half the people comply.

One enduring memory of growing up there: I was 16 before I met a black person. The ethnic mix has changed considerably – at the Walmart in Minot, I ran into pretty much the same assortment of people one runs into in any Twin Cities suburb. But “more ethnic minorities” doesn’t seem to have translated into “crappier politics”, because unlike Twin Cities suburbs, the place seems to have gotten more conservative over time, judging by Presidential and Gubernatorial results.

And yet the place is prosperous – “Help Wanted” signs were all over the place even though the oil boom is long past and I wasn’t in “oil country” anyway. There are some Democrats in Fargo who try to wave the class and race grievance flags, but generally “new” residents seem to be fitting in – including, in one highly unexpected case, a fairly prominent transgendered person who’s moved to a very unlikely place – which I bring up not to post PC points (about which I don’t care) but to point out that this move, along with most of the above, which would be called unthinkable by your CNN clacque, has gone over without any noticable social muss and fuss in this most utterly conservative place.

Why, it’s almost as if conservatism breeds tolerance, and a focus on what matters in life?

I come home to notice I’m not the only one who’s noticed it.

Ideas

Monday, I linked to an article by Glenn Reynolds about how to deal with the attack-wokies.

To wit – never apologize, bring your friends, and punch back twice as hard.

I’ll come back to that.

One of conservatism’s great mistakes was forsaking the small, independent blogs that dominated (along with, naturally, conservative talk radio) the alternative media scene in the 2000s.

During the heyday of the independent blog, there was a natural, organic network of supporters that would rally – almost always online – when one of the left’s droogs started dishing what was, at the time, almost always some pretty pathetic smack.

Since then, two things have happened:

  1. Altogether too many conservative content producers took their game to Twitter and Facebook – and either got censored into nothing, or just atrophied.
  2. Big Left invested in turning their attack machine from a pack of chancred losers into a pack of chancred losers with venal, dull but constantly practiced teeth. Cancel culture has become the norm across swathes of society that were still fairly open and healthy a decade ago when Andrew Breitbart warned us about losing the culture war.

So – how do the good guys ‘n gals start to organize, to fight the dirty part of the culture war again?

Ten years ago, when it was still good, clean fun, we had it down. Today, the jackals are running rings around the good guys.

It’s two-minute warning time at the state cuture war finals, and we’re down by two touchdowns.

How do the good guys get back in the game with the game that matters – organization, organic institutions that fight these battles, and the will to fight and win?

(While I run an open discussion at all times, lefties are urged to sit this one out).

Where The Buck Stops

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails re Kristi Noem’s much-attacked decision on trans athletes in SoDak high school sports:

Conservatives are throwing her under the bus for failing to sign virtue-signaling legislation that would have subjected her state to crippling litigation. The Keyboard Warriors excoriating her in the comments are not footing the bill, and none of their sons or daughters will lose the opportunity to play college sports if she stands up to NCAA.

Her decision is correct: do something smart, or don’t do it at all. If only we could get other governors to think that way.

Joe Doakes

If you’re a conservative, be careful over what you let wedge you. Or, us.

Pick your battles.

Facts Leaking Through

While this article bends over backward to sandbag Florida’s perfomance (pointing out that if California had Florida’s per capita death rate that its death toll would be lower, without accounting for the radically different per capita ages and population densities), it’s hard to get around the fact that Florida, run by conservative Ron DeSantis, is doing much better than its “competitors” in Covid resonse, California, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Tipping Point

As an American, I not only have no innate concept of “aristocracy” as a natural part of the social order, but I think it’s an anachronism at best.

As a conservative, I can see the value to a culture with a history of monarchy keeping some vestigial, ceremonial, constitutionally-innocuous version of a monarchy around. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Spain and others use their monarchies sort of like cultural museums, means of transmitting their nations pasts to their presents and futures.

Which is why Big Left has always wanted to tear monarchies down.

Speaking of Big Left’s attempts to destroy traditions like the monarchy: could someone make these two hamsters go away?

Voting With Our Dollars

Conservative calls for boycotts are a little frustrating. Partly because boycotts rarely do much good. And largely because conservative calls for boycotts usually involve companies I’ve never patrionized, goods I’ve never bought, services that have never served me at all.

Recent example: last month’s call to boycott Disney Plus and The Mandalorian over the politically-motivated and largely counterfactual firing of Gina Carano. But I’ve never subscribed to Disney, I’ve never watched Mandalorian (the last, “first” Lucas episodes of Star Wars put me off the entire franchise – I’ve literally watched not one second of Star Wars since…er, the one where Anakin became Darth, whatever that was called), and I can’t be bothered.

With that in mind?

I’ve never really been a big fan of online shopping.

No, it’s not because I’m a technology-averse middle-aged guy. I work in tech. I not only use technology, I design it (and, avocationally, spend a lot of time critiquing bad design). It’s hard to stay near the absolute bleeding edge…

…but then, shopping on line is not the bleeding edge of technology. It’s pretty much a commonplace these days.

I’ve just never liked buying things sight-unseen.

Oh, I’ve adapted a bit – I’ll buy USB cables and printer ink off of Amazon, once in a while – convenience is truly seductive.

But perhaps not seductive enough, anymore.

No pullquote. The whole thing is worth a read.

Feniks > Penzey’s

A Michigan ammo company vows not to sell ammunition to Biden voters…

…and puts its marketing where its mouth is:

“Are you really willing to walk away from a paying customer simply because they voted for Joe Biden?” the company asked rhetorically. “Yes, yes we are. We’re dead serious.”

“We don’t want your money, and you shouldn’t want us to have it because we’re going to use it to make more ammo, sell it to the citizenry, and do everything in our power to prevent Joe Biden’s administration from usurping the rights of Americans,” the company wrote.

Not just its marketing, but its sales portal:

As a way to weed out the unwanted customers, the company reportedly inserted a questionnaire into its purchasing process that asks whether prospective customers voted for Biden in the 2020 presidential election. If they did, it’s no sale for them.

Some “progressive” companies led the way with partisan-based marketing after Trump’s election – Penzey’s very publicly told conservatives (not just Trump voters) to stop patronizing them (a request I could not comply with, as I’ve never shopped there before, either – which makes sense; I suspect their demographics, well-to-do white urbanites with lots of disposable income, overlaps with GOP voters only incidentally).

TL:dr – The good news: fighting cancel culture is a good thing, and I applaud Feniks.

The bad-ish news? Feniks is just as sold out of all stock as every other ammo shop.

Of Consequence

I’ll just commend to you this thread by John Hayward – perhaps the thing most worth reading on the misbegotten morass that is Twitter in a long, long time – without further comment:

Other than urging you to drill in and read the whole thing.

Planet Of The Humans, Part 0

I spent a lot of time thinking about this scene last week:

I first started paying serious attention to politics in about 1980. Like a lot of high school kids, then and now, I was somewhere out on what would be called “the left”; I wrote a platform for North Dakota Boys State (a statewide mock government program put on by the decidedly conservative American Legion) that called for systematic redistribution of wealth, abolishing nuclear energy and nuclear disarmament, and a whole bunch of stuff that would be pretty mainstream among the Bernie Bros today.

Three years later, due to the good graces of my English professor, Dr. Jim Blake, I had re-evaluated most of my assumptions. I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984, and never really looked back.

And I had no reason to. None of us did. Although the history books, all being written from the perspective of the Left, will never admit it, the two decades from 1980 to 2000 were, objectively, the last American Golden Age. I’ll squeak out an optimistic coda and add “so far”, but I’ll be honest – I haven’t been feeling it, but I’m a firm believer in acting like you want to feel, and so there is is. “So far”.

I’ll come back to that.

There’s no denying it was one of the high points of American history. We led an economic surge that brought more wealth to more people than any in history. We, as a nation, led a political surge that led to the collapse of one of the most evil regimes in history (although not the other one – so far).

Maybe it’s just the perspective of one guy’s lifetime – but I suspect you’d have to look long and hard to find a place and time when it was generally better to be a human.

Not just in material terms, but in terms of the tension between freedom and order, one of the hardest things about running a self-governing society, being in relative balance – and, more importantly, the general commitment to the system and process that kept all those moving parts in balance.

And it’s been downhill from there.

The arc from Morning in America in 1980 to last week’s skirmish at the Capitol – which, loathe as I am to come even close to Democrat chanting points, was a form of coup, not against President-Elect Biden, but against the states’ constitutional power to select electors – peaked…somewhere in the late ’90s – when one of the glories of the American system, gridlocked government, combined with a Peace Dividend brought about by the end of the Cold War (thanks, President Reagan), led to an outburst of technological, entrepreneurial and market power that brought so much wealth, and security, and general well-being, to so many people that it may have been as close to a uptopia, in some ways, as humanity can get. Because of the gridlock in government.

Somewhere between 1998 and 2005, things started to turn back south again. It’d be easy to point to the polarization of American politics, starting with the various Clinton scandals, through the fiasco of the 2000 election, the near-decade of squabbling over the War on Terror and the 2008 government-caused financial meltdown, as the cause – but it went in parallel with a lot of other changes in our nation’s political, moral and social lives that have led to their…

…I was going to say “culmination” last week at the Capitol. But of course, that’s not true. Last week’s sorry episode was, like last summer’s riots, and the social back and forth that gave us Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Trump himself, and the movements that supported them all in a way that was increasingly “un-American” (I’m still claiming a meaning for that term), and if you think that was the peak, or trough, or any sort of ending to the story, you just haven’t paid attention to 20,000 years of human nature.

So let’s not call it a culmination. Let’s call it a checkpoint, on a path that may be going up, or down, but control over which We The People need to take before the phrase “We The People” is forever relegated to the museum.

How have we gotten from the peak of Western Civilization to…this, in my adult lifetime?

Let’s talk about it.

We’ll start with President Trump, next.

But we’re damn sure not going to finish with him.

Rebellious

Jack Posobiec started the thread on modern ways to be a rebel.

I’m going to keep going:

  • Get a job
  • Don’t whine
  • Save money
  • Learn to protect yourself and your family
  • Learn what the scientific method actually is.
  • Learn logic
  • Learn to be a critical thinker, and practice it.
  • Read the Federalist Papers.
  • Become educated (as opposed to getting one or more degrees).
  • Learn why Western Civilization matters.
  • Learn your opponents’ arguments.

What am I missing, here?

“Julia”

Anyone remember “Julia”?

The Obama campaign’s infantiolization of the American voter?

This video from Kamala Harris makes “Julia” look like John Galt:

This is what Joe Biden is a delivery system for.

Orwell Was A Pollyanna, Part MCLXII

Freedom is slavery.

Truth is lies.

And, to Los Angeles Democrats – in this case, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti – homelessness is prosperity:

Babylon Bee can’t keep up anymore.

Labor Day

It’s Labor Day – a transfer of wealth in the form of about .004% of most companies’ payroll to workers, given as a sop to organized unions at the height of their powers – a transfer I happily accept, like most of you, every year.

I’ll pay homage to the date with my own sojourn through the world of organized labor; my semester teaching at a local MNSCU university.

When I signed up, I was given a choice – pay $120 to the MNSCU faculty union, the “Inter-Faculty Organization” (IFO), or pay $108 for “Fair Share”, ostensibly my portion of the union’s negotiation efforts. I figured eight dollars was a worthwhile trade for a lifetime of being able to virtue-signal my DFL friends about being “a union guy”, and I paid it gladly.

As part of on-boarding, I had to attend a union orientation session.

There, the school’s shop steward – an English professor who as I recall was actually in a classroom 3-6 hours a week gave us an update on the concessions he’d wrung from the – I’m not making this up – “bosses” at MNSCU, his tone growing more impassioned, his face turning just a little bit red, a vein starting to bulge on his neck, like he was a Wobbly talking to iron miners in the 1910s about putting a safety cage on their elevator.

So – with all due respect to the union organizers who actually did make a difference with workers back when life actually was nasty, brutish and short (as opposed to some of the efforts we see today), enjoy the day.

Let’s Set The Record Straight, Here

Since the topic of political “extremism” is on everyone’s mind, I may as well get this out there.

I’m an extremist.

I’m an extremist for Western Civilization.

I’m an extremist for the legacy of the value of the individual that comes from the Judeo-Christian tradition.

I am a zealot for that civilization’s rejection of group guilt for the sins of the individual.

I am a full blown foot soldier for the idea that rights – freedom of expression, conscience, innocence until proof of guilt, and defending my life, family, home, freedom and community – are all indivisible parts of being human, not “privileges” granted to you by a benevolent government (and taken away by a less-benevolent one).

I am a militant (intellectually speaking, and here’s hoping it can stay that way) for the notion that “citizenship” means having all the powers, rights and responsibilities of government, allowing me (and you!) to govern a society together, regardless of (indeed, ignoring completely) the rest of our various identities.

I’m a howling berserker (again, purely intellectually, here) for the free markets of ideas as well as goods, which has made this civilization the most humane human system in all of history.

I am a full-blown crusader for the tolerance of dissent, and indeed exaltation of informed criticism of and dissent from our rulers, our laws, and indeed the imperfections of Western Civilization itself that our civilization, pretty much alone among all the world’s cultures through history, invented – as well as for the ability to tolerate, learn from, and co-exist with other cultures as equals in the eyes of God and the law…

…while keeping, living by, and proselytizing the parts of our civilization that have made it the system in human history that has most effectively and systematically upheld the dignity and value of human life, even with all its (amply studied) imperfections.
I’m a stormtrooper for the ideal that these freedoms, exaltations, values and traditions are not zero sum propositions; that taking freedom away from someone doesn’t give you more.

I’m a flag-waving militiaman for the imperative to spread those freedoms to as many people in the world as want them – and, if needed, defend them from those who don’t.
For those things, I’m an extremist. A peaceful one, one that welcomes both agreement and civil disagreement.

But I’m absolutely an extremist. You can have my Western Civilization when you pry it from my cold, hand – and you will spend an eternity trying to pry it from my hot, living soul, and failing.

“Extremism in the defense of freedom is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue”
— Barry Goldwater.

The Line That Needs To Be Drawn In The Sand. Stat.

Republicans agreed to police reform bills in the second special session.  This is a mistake.

There should be NO legislative action, on ANY proposal, until Dictator Walz relinquishes his totalitarian control over the entire state back to the peoples’ elected representatives in the legislature.

Otherwise, it never ends.  Ever.  And in that case, why do we need the Legislature at all?

Joe Doakes

Couldn’t agree more.

Not one bill.

And if the GOP caves on the bonding bill – or any bill while the emergency is in effect – I’m going to have to reconsider why I vote GOP at all.

Spectrum

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Political scientists love to talk about the Spectrum, left-wing parties versus right-wing parties.
I look at it more from the point of view of government control. Anarchists are on one end, no government control it all. Totalitarians are on the other end, government control of everything.
Pure Liberty is pure license. It’s the right to do anything you want at anytime to anybody. We saw that during the riots. That’s anarchy. Nobody wants that.
Which means that in order to have real Liberty, there must be order. And ordered Liberty requires restrictions on what people can do. And restrictions require someone to enforce them, with force if necessary. Which means police.
If Minneapolis seriously goes forward with the plan to abolish the police, they are intentionally heading toward Anarchy territory. It’s no wonder businesses are uninterested in rebuilding there, and residents are talking about fleeing.
Joe Doakes

WIthout order, prosperity is impossible.

WIthout prosperity, liberty is pretty much academic.

Without liberty, prosperity is pretty much a “ruling clicque” thing.

The tension between liberty and order is what kept the founding fathers up all night writing the Constitution.

Never Waste A Crisis – Libertarian Edition

I pointed out with a bit of mindly tart surprise last month that California, after voting in lock step with the statist agenda for the past thirty years, had rediscovered the virtues of federalism via the current public health crisis, and the (to progressives) greater crisis of Hillary losing the election.

That was a tad sarcastic – but as José Niño at the Mises Institute points out, after quite a few policians romping and playing in power like Scrooge McDuck bathing in his coin vault…:

Amusingly, the COVID-19 saga has been host to some of the most flagrant political posturing in recent memory. Early in March (which feels like eons ago in today’s frenetic media cycle) New York City mayor de Blasio was telling people to go to the movies and have fun. Now, he’s done a complete 180, shutting down most private businesses and even calling for the nationalization of certain industries and begging the federal government for military aid to combat the epidemic.

…there’ve been some object lessons show, and learned, on the value of federalism coming out of this crisis:

We are indeed living in the strangest of times when LA Times columnists are expressing sentiments that better belong in a passage of Human Action. The jury is still out on whether this is merely oppositional posturing from the Left, but any kind of conversation entailing the restoration of federalism is a welcome surprise.

The “authorized” right can generally be counted on to disappoint its constituents who genuinely believe in small government principles. To their credit, there have been some bright spots on their side in the present pandemic. States like Texas have gone out of their way to declare gun stores essential businesses and to deregulate several parts of its economy at a time where bureaucracy is impeding various vital economic functions.

Elected officials like State Representative Matt Gurtler in Georgia have raised the stakes by floating a proposal that would allow law-abiding Georgians to concealed carry anywhere. South Dakota governor Kristi Noem projected a stark contrast in her relatively lax approach to handling the pandemic. Jeff Deist used her example as the basis for several pragmatic measures that state governments can take to reopen their economies without throwing civil liberties into the wood chipper. No doubt there is much work to be done, but we can find glimmering signs of promise every now and then.

The example I like to use – after Katrina, gun rights groups noticed the speed at which Louisiana and New Orleans’ layers of incompetent Democrat governments turned to confiscating the firearms of law-abiding citizens. In 2015, Minnesota’s gun rights groups pushed a law in Minnesota barring the state from confiscating guns from law-abiding citizens under states of emergency, or shutting down gun stores before every other store in the state was closed. The bills passed, with bipartisan majorities in both chambers powerful enough to scare Governor Dayton’s handlers away from telling him to sign a veto.

We – the good guys – need to do that with every other civil right.

Starting in November.

Blue Fragility, Part VI: Lysenkoism Vs. Actual Science!

Those of us who favor a safe, science-driven re-opening of the economy are frequently derided by the “shut down until ______” (fill in the blank du jour) crowd as either callous or ignorant.

But looking at examples of states that have managed to combine generally good public health outcomes with a relatively sane course on economic re-opening, two patterns emerge:

1) those paths tend to be steered by governors with experience in the private sector – the likes of Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Doug Burgum of North Dakota and especially Ron DeSantis of Florida) treat science as a way of finding the truth, as opposed it being a tool to coerce compliance.

2) The success tends to follow a parade of calumny in the “blue” media – followed by the media moving on to another story when none of the predictions pans out.

The response to Governor DeSantis’s plans early in the epidemic (the sky was going to fall!) and now (it didn’t!) is illustrative:

An irony of the national coverage of the coronavirus crisis is that at the same time DeSantis was being made into a villain, New York governor Andrew Cuomo was being elevated as a hero, even though the DeSantis approach to nursing homes was obviously superior to that of Cuomo. Florida went out of its way to get COVID-19-positive people out of nursing homes, while New York went out of its way to get them in, a policy now widely acknowledged to have been a debacle.

The media didn’t exactly have their eyes on the ball. “The day that the media had their first big freakout about Florida was March 15th,” DeSantis recalls, “which was, there were people on Clearwater Beach, and it was this big deal. That same day is when we signed the executive order to, one, ban visitation in the nursing homes, and two, ban the reintroduction of a COVID-positive patient back into a nursing home.”

DeSantis is bemused by the obsession with Florida’s beaches. When they opened in Jacksonville, it was a big national story, usually relayed with a dire tone. “Jacksonville has almost no COVID activity outside of a nursing-home context,” he says. “Their hospitalizations are down, ICU down since the beaches opened a month ago. And yet, nobody talks about it. It’s just like, ‘Okay, we just move on to the next target.’”

Perhaps more understandably, The Villages, the iconic senior community, was a focus of media worries. According to DeSantis, as of last weekend there hadn’t been a single resident of The Villages in the hospital for COVID-19 for about a week. At one point, the infection rate in The Villages was so low that state officials were worried that they were missing something. “So I got the University of Florida to do a study,” he says. “They did 1,200 asymptomatic seniors at The Villages, and not one of them came back positive, which was really incredible.”

So how did DeSantis go about responding to the epidemic? It began with the data, and trying to learn the lessons of other countries.

The “Red” states’ approaches (and to be fair, California’s) spared their states the carnage that befell New York’s nursing homes (and Minnesota’s, as well); a dispassionate, scientific approach to the data (as opposed to the governor’s desired conclusions, as in Minnesota) led them to protect their most vulnerable – in stark contrast to the policies of New York’s governor (and increasingly, Minnesota’s).

I’ve been calling this response “Blue Fragility” – the tendency of our society’s “gatekeepers” to lash out in anger and frustration at the realization that their version of “science” is as much about browbeating and logrolling people into submission as it is about systematic inquiry leading to knowledge. It helps deflect away from several fairly inescapable conclusions one might get from observing this pandemic:

  1. High density “blue city” urban lifestyles – like the Met Council is mandating in the Twin Cities – are not “resilient” against pandemics. High density living, transit-centered lifestyles, open plan offices, bars and restaurants are all hotbeds of contagion in a way that, at least anecdotally, lower-density areas – even as in Los Angeles as compared to New York – just don’t.
  2. When you mix science and politics, you don’t get scientific politics. You get politicized science – better known as “propaganda” and “logrolling”.

Blue Fragility is causing some shutdown proponents to “kill the messenger”; I had a prominent Saint Paul political operative tell me “small towns are going to get the s**t kicked out of them”, with an almost evangelical glee, like he was looking forward to watching all those MAGA-hatted bitter clingers’ suffereing.

And it prompts people to deflect away from the success story to, frankly, “dog bites dog” stories like this – where a “covid denier” who is quite visibly high risk of contracting the disease…contracts the disease. Surprise, surprise.

It’s easier to mock and taunt one’s opponent than engage them – when that’s all you’ve got.