Category Archive 'Victor Davis Hanson'

10 Jun 2022

Much-Suffering, Much-Enduring (πολύτλᾱς ) Californians

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Odysseus and Euryclea.

Going home from the Bay area to his Central Valley farm reminds Victor Davis Hanson of Odysseus’ hardships in returning to Ithaca from Troy.

I drove back from San Francisco not long ago to the rural San Joaquin Valley. It is only 200 miles. But in fact, it can feel like Odysseus trying to get back home to Ithaca from Troy.

Walking to the car in San Francisco was an early morning obstacle course dotted with the occasional human feces and lots of trash. The streets looked like Troy after its sacking. Verbal and physical altercations among the homeless offered background. The sidewalks were sort of like the flotsam and jetsam in the caves of the Cyclopes, with who knows what the ingredients really were. Outbreaks of hepatitis and typhus are now common among the refuse of California’s major cities.

The rules of the road in downtown San Francisco can seem pre-civilizational: the more law-abiding driver is considered timid and someone to be taken advantage of—while the more reckless earns respect and right of way. Pedestrians have achieved the weird deterrent effect of so pouring out onto the street in such numbers that drivers not walkers seemed the more terrified.

The 101 freeway southbound was entirely blocked by traffic—sort of like the ancient doldrums where ships don’t move. About 20 percent of the cars in the carpool lane seemed to be cheating—and were determined not to let in any more of like kind. The problem with talking on the phone and texting while driving is not just cars, but also semi-trucks, whose drivers go over the white line and weave as they please on the theory that no one argues with 20 tons of freight.

The trip can take over three hours in theory and often longer than six hours in practice. …

Remember that you will encounter pre-civilizational Laestrygonians at any moment who can cut you off, ram you from the rear, sideswipe you, slam on the brakes without warning, or as Lotus-eaters simply fall asleep or doze off in a drunken stupor. Recall that you are driving in a state of 40 million with roads designed for 20 million.

RTWT

07 Jun 2022

America’s Been Sovietized

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Victor Davis Hanson marvels at just how Sovietized America and its elite commissariat class have become, and his diagnosis of what’s happened is perfectly right.

One day historians will look back at the period beginning with the COVID lockdowns of spring 2020 through the midterm elections of 2022 to understand how America for over two years lost its collective mind and turned into something unrecognizable and antithetical to its founding principles.

“Sovietization” is perhaps the best diagnosis of the pathology. It refers to the subordination of policy, expression, popular culture, and even thought to ideological mandates. Ultimately such regimentation destroys a state since dogma wars with and defeats meritocracy, creativity, and freedom.

Experts become sycophantic. They mortgage their experience and talent to ideology—to the point where society itself regresses.

The law is no longer blind and disinterested, but adjudicates indictment, prosecution, verdict, and punishment on the ideology of the accused. Eric Holder is held in contempt of Congress and smiles; Peter Navarro is held in contempt of Congress and is hauled off in cuffs and leg-irons. James Clapper and John Brennan lied under oath to Congress—and were rewarded with television contracts; Roger Stone did the same and a SWAT team showed up at his home. Andrew McCabe made false statements to federal investigators and was exempt. A set-up George Papadopoulos went to prison for a similar charge. So goes the new American commissariat.

Examine California and ask a series of simple questions.

Why does the state that formerly served as a model to the nation regarding transportation now suffer inferior freeways while its multibillion-dollar high-speed rail project remains an utter boondoggle and failure?

Why was its safe and critically needed last-remaining nuclear power plant scheduled for shutdown (and only recently reversed) as the state faced summer brownouts?

Why did its forests go up in smoke predictably each summer, as its timber industry and the century-old science of forest management all but disappeared from the state?

Why do the state’s criminals so often evade indictment, and if convicted are often not incarcerated—or are quickly paroled?

Why are its schools’ test scores dismal, its gasoline the nation’s highest-priced, and the streets of its major cities fetid and dangerous—in a fashion not true 50 years ago or elsewhere today?

In a word, the one-party state is Sovietized. Public policy is no longer empirical but subservient to green, diversity, equity, and inclusion dogmas—and detached from the reality of daily middle-class existence. Decline is ensured once ideology governs problem-solving rather than time-tested and successful policymaking.

Entire professions have now nearly been lost to radical progressive ideology. …

Do we remember those stellar economists who swore at a time of Biden’s vast government borrowing, increases in the monetary supply, incentivizing labor non-participation, and supply chain interruptions that there was no threat of inflation? Were they adherents of ideological “modern monetary theory”? Did they ignore their own training and experience in fealty to progressive creeds?

RTWT

23 Aug 2007

Why America Commonly Doesn’t Educate

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Curmudgeon Victor Davis Hanson is appalled at the failures of contemporary American education, and thinks he can identify some of its problems.

Last week I went shopping in our small rural hometown, where my family has attended the same public schools since 1896. Without exception, all six generations of us — whether farmers, housewives, day laborers, business people, writers, lawyers or educators — were given a good, competitive K-12 education.

But after a haircut, I noticed that the 20-something cashier could not count out change. The next day, at the electronic outlet store, another young clerk could not read — much less explain — the basic English of the buyer’s warranty. At the food market, I listened as a young couple argued over the price of a cut of tri-tip — unable to calculate the meat’s real value from its price per pound.

As another school year is set to get under way, it’s worth pondering where this epidemic of ignorance came from. …

Our present ambition to make every American youth college material — in a way our forefathers would have thought ludicrous — ensures that we will both fail in that utopian goal and lack enough literate Americans with critical vocational skills.

The disintegration of the American nuclear family is also at fault. Too many students don’t have two parents reminding them of the value of both abstract and practical learning.

What then can our elementary and secondary schools do, when many of their students’ problems begin at home or arise from our warped popular culture?

We should first scrap the popular therapeutic curriculum that in the scarce hours of the school day crams in sermons on race, class, gender, drugs, sex, self-esteem or environmentalism. These are well-intentioned efforts to make a kinder and gentler generation more sensitive to our nation’s supposed past and present sins. But they only squeeze out far more important subjects.

17 Dec 2006

Surging Troops

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Victor Davis Hanson points out that “surging,” i.e., significantly increasing, US troop strength in Iraq needs to be accompanied by new rules of engagement and a more aggressive approach.

Putting Iran and Syria on notice that we will bomb terrorists flocking across their borders.

Give an ultimatum to militia heads, especially Moqtadar Sadr, to disband or face annihilation from the United States.

Expand the rules of engagement in all matters dealing with IEDs, with a shoot on sight rule concerning anyone found implanting or aiding such efforts.

Enlarge the planned Iraqi security forces to near 400,000, and embed far more Americans in those units.

Recalibrate the ratio of support to combat troops, so that we don’t simply create bigger compounds to facilitate larger troop levels to end up with more stationary and more numerous targets—and ever more enclaves of Americans behind thousands of acres of bermed reserves.

So spell out the mission, the new rules of engagement, and then, and only then, surge—if need be— more troops.

01 Nov 2006

Who’s Worse Off, California or Iraq?

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Back in April, Victor Davis Hansen published an editorial titled Eye of the Beholder which really puts the MSM’s reporting on the level of disaster in Iraq into perspective. With the Fall election approaching, I think more potential voters need to read it.

War-torn Iraq has about 26 million residents, a peaceful California perhaps now 35 million. The former is a violent and impoverished landscape, the latter said to be paradise on Earth. But how you envision either place to some degree depends on the eye of the beholder and is predicated on what the daily media appear to make of each.

As a fifth-generation Californian, I deeply love this state, but still imagine what the reaction would be if the world awoke each morning to be told that once again there were six more murders, 27 rapes, 38 arsons, 180 robberies, and 360 instances of assault in California — yesterday, today, tomorrow, and every day. I wonder if the headlines would scream about “Nearly 200 poor Californians butchered again this month!”

How about a monthly media dose of “600 women raped in February alone!” Or try, “Over 600 violent robberies and assaults in March, with no end in sight!” Those do not even make up all of the state’s yearly 200,000 violent acts that law enforcement knows about.

Iraq’s judicial system seems a mess. On the eve of the war, Saddam let out 100,000 inmates from his vast prison archipelago. He himself still sits in the dock months after his trial began. But imagine an Iraq with a penal system like California’s with 170,000 criminals — an inmate population larger than those of Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Singapore combined.

Just to house such a shadow population costs our state nearly $7 billion a year — or about the same price of keeping 40,000 Army personnel per year in Iraq. What would be the image of our Golden State if we were reminded each morning, “Another $20 million spent today on housing our criminals”?

Some of California’s most recent prison scandals would be easy to sensationalize: “Guards watch as inmates are raped!” Or “Correction officer accused of having sex with underaged detainee!” And apropos of Saddam’s sluggish trial, remember that our home state multiple murderer, Tookie Williams, was finally executed in December 2005 — 26 years after he was originally sentenced.

Much is made of the inability to patrol Iraq’s borders with Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey. But California has only a single border with a foreign nation, not six. Yet over 3 million foreigners who snuck in illegally now live in our state. Worse, there are about 15,000 convicted alien felons incarcerated in our penal system, costing about $500 million a year. Imagine the potential tabloid headlines: “Illegal aliens in state comprise population larger than San Francisco!” or “Drugs, criminals, and smugglers given free pass into California!”

Every year, over 4,000 Californians die in car crashes — nearly twice the number of Americans lost so far in three years of combat operations in Iraq. In some sense, then, our badly maintained roads, and often poorly trained and sometimes intoxicated drivers, are even more lethal than Improvised Explosive Devices. Perhaps tomorrow’s headline might scream out at us: “300 Californians to perish this month on state highways! Hundreds more will be maimed and crippled!”

In 2001, California had 32 days of power outages, despite paying nearly the highest rates for electricity in the United States. Before complaining about the smoke in Baghdad rising from private generators, think back to the run on generators in California when they were contemplated as a future part of every household’s line of defense.

We’re told that Iraq’s finances are a mess. Yet until recently, so were California’s. Two years ago, Governor Schwarzenegger inherited a $38 billion annual budget shortfall. That could have made for strong morning newscast teasers: “Another $100 million borrowed today — $3 billion more in red ink to pile up by month’s end!”

So is California comparable to Iraq? Hardly. Yet it could easily be sketched by a reporter intent on doing so as a bank rupt, crime-ridden den with murderous highways, tens of thousands of inmates, with wide-open borders.

I myself recently returned home to California, without incident, from a visit to Iraq’s notorious Sunni Triangle. While I was gone, a drug-addicted criminal with a long list of convictions broke into our kitchen at 4 a.m., was surprised by my wife and daughter, and fled with our credit cards, cash, keys, and cell phones.

Sometimes I wonder who really was safer that week.


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