Category Archive 'Victor Davis Hanson'
03 Sep 2019

Student Debt

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That clever old curmudgeon Victor Davis Hanson argues that colleges have been burying young people in student loan debt in return, too often, for worthless degrees in left-wing nonsense.

[T]he modern university has wrought has now outweighed its once positive role.

Let us count the ways higher education had done its part to nearly harm the United States. A new generation owes $1.5 trillion in student debt—a sum that an increasing majority of debtors either cannot pay back or simply will not.

One’s 20s are now redefined as the lost decade, as marriage, child-rearing, and home buying are put off, to the extent they still occur, into one’s 30s.

Bitterness abounds when graduates gradually learn that their liberal anti-capitalist professors and administrators were part of a profit-rigged system by which peasant students became financial cannon fodder. For all the hipster left-wing campus atmospherics, the university operated more or less as a Madoff/Ponzi scheme: for each new admitted class of students, the fed backed another round of usurious loans that could never be paid back by those of little means, and the university upped its prices.

The result was reduced teaching, a bonanza of release time, administrative bloat, Club Med dorms, gyms, and student unions, and epidemics of highly paid but non-teaching careerist advisors, and counselors.

The university was now in loco parentis, a sort of granny that babysat men and women of arrested development and encouraged the idea that they were helpless. The more students were considered “adults” in matters of loud and boisterous protests, obscene speech, binge drinking, common drug use, and hook-up sex, the more they wished to be treated as Victorian children. Suddenly kids were shocked that the inebriated acted dangerously and boorishly, upset that the targets of their attack did not like them, and furious that sexual congress without commitment and love was often manipulative and embedded within male callousness and deceit.

Adolescent-adults were oblivious to changing public attitudes that no longer put up with “college antics” but saw the university and its students and employees as pampered, hypocritical, intolerant, and often obnoxious. Shrill campus protests seemed like Antifa boot camps without the masks and clubs. …

Indebted students, many with largely worthless degrees, and few employment opportunities sufficient to repay their loans, have become a loyal progressive constituency. How odd that an entire generation, in psychologically and financially suspended animation, is seen as useful by the very politicos who created this labyrinth of exploitation in the first place.

RTWT

14 Jan 2019

“Passing” as a Victim

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Victor Davis Hanson marvels at how things have changed. Once upon a time, Americans of immigrant or minority background Americanized their names and whitened their skins and tried hard to pass as members of the American White Anglo-Saxon Protestant majority. Today, Barack Obama’s African identity won him the presidency, the Irish “Beto” O’Rourke pretended to be Hispanic in order to win a seat in the Senate, and Elizabeth Warren leveraged imaginary Cherokee blood into a Harvard professorship.

[I]n a multiracial society like ours no one is usually quite sure of any ancestry that he claims (ancestry companies run TV ads precisely on the notion that we will all be surprised by our DNA results). And when superficial appearance is no guarantee either of minority status (given that we have not yet established DNA badges or quite reestablished Old Confederate racial purity standards), almost anyone can say he is anyone he pleases. Nor is class much help, since thankfully it has become more or less divorced from race and ethnicity. (Most white deplorables and irredeemables did not grow up in upscale neighborhoods nor did they have educated parents like those of Harris and Ocasio-Cortez.)

Is race then becoming a mere construct that we put on and take off as though it were a suit of clothes? In our collective effort to create difference where it does not always exists, we would have to invent an Elizabeth Warren or Ward Churchill if they did not exist—given the perceived advantages of white suburbanites in gaining a part time minority cachet deemed advantageous in terms of career and psychological well-being.

How odd that our establishment insists that being “white” is synonymous with unearned “white privilege,” while millions of whites in job and college applications for decades have been trying to con fake minority-identities and while upscale minorities have no desire—even when intermarried, assimilated, and integrated into the majority culture—of emphasizing the partial white ancestry that is so frequently part of their heritage. The old idea of “passing” now means hoping to be tagged as non-white, not white. The effort is certainly similar to the lunatic racial obsessions of the past, but the conditions under which advantage is measured have flipped completely. ….

Minority identity has become a brand for the upper middle class in the manner of a luxury car. One strives to drive a Mercedes or Jaguar not because it is more reliable or even all that much more drivable than a Toyota or Honda, but because it signals a particular cachet. And so too wealthy suburbanites often find emphasizing non-white identities useful even if it means occasionally constructing them.

Most of the constructed identity movement is deeply embedded within progressive and identity politics of the Left. In our strange society, a Shaun King, who appears to be as white as his birth certificate seems to suggest, is considered a more authentic African-American than a conservative and quite darker Supreme Justice Clarence Thomas, who grew up in poverty and discrimination in the Jim Crow South and yet is often despised by progressives as inauthentic. ….

In the past, immigrants of all classes and backgrounds sought to identify as Americans and did so authentically, on the premise that one left one’s old country for a reason and had no wish to replicate its failures in a new and preferred homeland.

Now many immigrants and natives often wish to distance themselves from the perception of belonging to American majority culture—but many do so as inauthentically as their less well off forefathers once authentically sought to join it.

RTWT

01 Oct 2018

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Victor Davis Hanson sees the old American norms transformed in the Kavanaugh process, and he sees all this as a major milestone on the road of American decline.

The Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and their endless sequelae have ended up as an epitaph for a spent culture for which its remedies are felt to be worse than its diseases. Think 338 B.C., A.D. 476, 1453, or 1939.

The coordinated effort to destroy Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court required the systematic refutation of the entire notion of Western jurisprudence by senators and much of the American legal establishment. And there was no hesitation in doing just that on the part of Senate Democrats, the #MeToo movement, and the press. And I write this at a moment in which conservatives and Republicans still control the majority of governorships, state legislatures, the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court and the presidency—a reminder that culture so often is far more powerful than politics.

So, here we were to be left with a new legal and cultural standard in adjudicating future disagreements and disputes, an utterly anti-Western standard quite befitting for our new relativist age:

    The veracity of accusations will hinge on the particular identity, emotions, and ideology of the accuser;
    Evidence, or lack of it, will be tangential, given the supposed unimpeachable motives of the ideologically correct accuser;
    The burden of proof and evidence will rest with the accused to disprove the preordained assumption of guilt;
    Hearsay will be a valuable narrative and constitute legitimate evidence;
    Truth is not universal, but individualized. Ford’s “truth” is as valid as the “Truth,” given that competing narratives are adjudicated only by access to power. Ford is a victim, therefore her truth trumps “their” truth based on evidence and testimony.
    Questionable and inconsistent testimony are proof of trauma and therefore exactitude; recalling an accusation to someone is proof that the action in the accusation took place.
    Statutes of limitations do not exist; any allegation of decades prior is as valid as any in the present. All of us are subject at any moment to unsubstantiated accusations from decades past that will destroy lives.
    Assertion of an alleged crime is unimpeachable proof. Recall of where, when, why, and how it took place is irrelevant.
    Individual accusations will always be subservient to cosmic causes; individuals are irrelevant if they do not serve ideological aims. All accusations fit universal stereotypes whose rules of finding guilt or innocence trump those of individual cases.
    The accuser establishes the conditions under which charges are investigated; the accused nods assent.

Our cultural traditions are being insidiously rewritten in this new Dark Age. We know now that Euripides’s Phaedra should have been believed, as a female accuser of rape. Perhaps university presses can either reissue properly corrected editions or ban the Hippolytus entirely. No doubt we will ban Racine’s Phèdre as well. Harper Lee’s Tom Robinson deserved his fate because his female accuser should have been believed—and perhaps To Kill a Mockingbird should be rewritten as well. In our time, we have finally and only now belatedly realized that Tawana Brawley’s voice was stifled.

RTWT

VDH is not wrong.

05 Feb 2018

Leaving the Republic, Entering the Age of Caesars and the Proscription of Opponents

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Victor Davis Hanson succinctly sums it up.

If all this is not a scandal — then the following protocols are now considered permissible in American electoral practice and constitutional jurisprudence: An incumbent administration can freely use the FBI and the DOJ to favor one side in a presidential election, by buying its opposition research against the other candidate, using its own prestige to authenticate such a third-party oppositional dossier, and then using it to obtain court-ordered wiretaps on American citizens employed by a candidate’s campaign — and do so by deliberately misleading the court about the origins and authors of the dossier that was used to obtain the warrants.

RTWT

25 Nov 2017

VDH Remembers the Old Breed

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William G. Zincavage, 1945.

At Thanksgiving, Victor Davis Hanson is grateful for our parents’ generation, the generation that won the War, particularly those like my own father who served in the Marine Corps.

Much has been written about the disappearance of these members of the Greatest Generation—there are now over 1,000 veterans passing away per day. Of the 16 million who at one time served in the American military during World War II, only about a half-million are still alive. …

More worrisome, however, is that the collective ethos of the World War II generation is fading. It may not have been fully absorbed by the Baby Boomer generation and has not been fully passed on to today’s young adults, the so-called Millennials. While U.S. soldiers proved heroic and lethal in Afghanistan and Iraq, their sacrifices were never commensurately appreciated by the larger culture.

The generation that came of age in the 1940s had survived the poverty of the Great Depression to win a global war that cost 60 million lives, while participating in the most profound economic and technological transformation in human history as a once rural America metamorphosed into a largely urban and suburban culture of vast wealth and leisure.

Their achievement from 1941 to 1945 remains unprecedented. The United States on the eve of World War II had an army smaller than Portugal’s. It finished the conflict with a global navy larger than all of the fleets of the world put together. By 1945, America had a GDP equal to those of Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the British Empire combined. With a population 50 million people smaller than that of the USSR, the United States fielded a military of roughly the same size.

America almost uniquely fought at once in the Pacific, Asia, the Mediterranean, and Europe, on and beneath the seas, in the skies, and on land. On the eve of the war, America’s military and political leaders, still traumatized by the Great Depression, fought bitterly over modest military appropriations, unsure of whether the country could afford even a single additional aircraft carrier or another small squadron of B-17s. Yet four years later, civilians had built 120 carriers of various types and were producing a B-24 bomber at the rate of one an hour at the Willow Run factory in Michigan. Such vast changes are still difficult to appreciate.

Certainly, what was learned through poverty and mayhem by those Americans born in the 1920s became invaluable in the decades following the war. The World War II cohort was a can-do generation who believed that they did not need to be perfect to be good enough. The strategic and operational disasters of World War II—the calamitous daylight bombing campaign of Europe in 1942-43, the quagmire of the Heurtgen Forest, or being surprised at the Battle of Bulge—hardly demoralized these men and women.

Miscalculations and follies were not blame-gamed or endlessly litigated, but were instead seen as tragic setbacks on the otherwise inevitable trajectory to victory. When we review their postwar technological achievements—from the interstate highway system and California Water Project to the Apollo missions and the Lockheed SR-71 flights—it is difficult to detect comparable confidence and audacity in subsequent generations. To paraphrase Nietzsche, anything that did not kill those of the Old Breed generation made them stronger and more assured.

As an ignorant teenager, I once asked my father whether the war had been worth it. After all, I smugly pointed out, the “victory” had ensured the postwar empowerment and global ascendance of the Soviet Union. My father had been a combat veteran during the war, flying nearly 40 missions over Japan as the central fire control gunner in a B-29. He replied in an instant, “You win the battle in front of you and then just go on to the next.”

I wondered where his assurance came. Fourteen of 16 planes—each holding eleven crewmen—in his initial squadron of bombers were lost to enemy action or mechanical problems. The planes were gargantuan, problem-plagued, and still experimental—and some of them also simply vanished on the 3,000-mile nocturnal flight over the empty Pacific from Tinian to Tokyo and back.

As a college student, I once pressed him about my cousin and his closest male relative, Victor Hanson, a corporal of the Sixth Marine Division who was killed on the last day of the assault on Sugar Loaf Hill on Okinawa. Wasn’t the unimaginative Marine tactic of plowing straight ahead through entrenched and fortified Japanese positions insane? He answered dryly, “Maybe, maybe not. But the enemy was in the way, then Marines took them out, and they were no longer in the way.”

RTWT

09 Mar 2017

Hubris in High Places

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Victor Davis Hanson has a fine rant contending that, in today’s America, a hankering to order the stars in their courses and reform everything in the world from the bottom up tends to go hand in had with complete incompetence and a total inability to deal with basic responsibilities.

The recent Academy Awards ceremony turned into a monotony of hate. Many of the stars who mounted the stage ranted on cue about the evils of President Donald Trump.

Such cheap rhetoric is easy. But first, accusers should guarantee that their own ceremony is well run. Instead, utter bedlam ruined the event, as no one on the Oscar stage even knew who had won the Best Picture award.

Stars issued lots of rants about Trump, but were apparently unaware that one of the ceremony’s impromptu invited guests was a recent parolee and registered sex offender.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg used to offer all sorts of cosmic advice on the evils of smoking and the dangers of fatty foods and sugary soft drinks. Bloomberg also frequently pontificated on abortion and global warming, earning him a progressive audience that transcended the boroughs of New York.

But in the near-record December 2010 blizzard, Bloomberg proved utterly incompetent in the elemental tasks for which he was elected: ensuring that New Yorkers were not trapped in their homes by snowdrifts in their streets that went unplowed for days.

The Bloomberg syndrome is a characteristic of contemporary government officials. When they are unwilling or unable to address premodern problems in their jurisdictions — crime, crumbling infrastructure, inadequate transportation — they compensate by posing as philosopher kings who cheaply lecture on existential challenges over which they have no control.

In this regard, think of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recent promises to nullify federal immigration law — even as he did little to mitigate the epidemic of murders in his own city.

Former President Barack Obama nearly doubled the national debt, never achieved 3 percent economic growth in any of his eight years in office, and left the health care system in crisis. But he did manage to lecture Americans about the evils of the Crusades, and promise to lower the seas and cool the planet.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, likewise ran up record debt during his tenure, culminating in a $25 billion deficit his last year in office. Schwarzenegger liked to hector state residents on global warming and green energy, and brag about his commitment to wind and solar power.

Meanwhile, one of the state’s chief roadways, California State Route 99, earned the moniker “Highway of Death” for its potholes, bumper-to-bumper traffic, narrow lanes and archaic on- and off-ramps. During California’s early-February storms, the state’s decrepit road system all but collapsed. A main access to Yosemite National Park was shut down by mudslides. Big Sur was inaccessible. Highway 17, which connects Monterey Bay to Silicon Valley, was a daily disaster.

Schwarzenegger’s successor, Jerry Brown, warned of climate change and permanent drought and did not authorize the construction of a single reservoir. Now, California is experiencing near-record rain and snowfall. Had the state simply completed its half-century-old water master plan, dozens of new reservoirs would now be storing the runoff, ensuring that the state could be drought-proof for years.

Instead, more than 20 million acre-feet of precious water have already been released to the sea. There is nowhere to put it, given that California has not build a major reservoir in nearly 40 years.

The crumbling spillways of the landmark Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the United States, threaten to erode it. Warnings of needed maintenance went unheeded for years, despite the fact that some 20 million more Californians live in the state (often in floodplains) than when the dam was built. Meanwhile, the state legislature has enacted new laws regarding plastic bags and transgender restrooms.

We have become an arrogant generation that virtue-signals that we can change the universe when in reality we cannot even run an awards ceremony, plow snow, fix potholes, build a road or dam, or stop inner-city youths from murdering each other.

Do our smug politicians promise utopia because they cannot cope with reality?

28 Feb 2017

VDH On the 2016 Populist Revolt

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Victor Davis Hanson explains the 2016 Populist Revolt to his professional associates in elite Coastal California.

What America watches on television and on the silver screen is created either in Los Angeles or New York. The nation’s world-ranked Ivy League and West Coast universities are almost all in blue America. Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the preeminent financial institutions are likewise centered in urban corridors. The federal government operates in the progressive culture of Washington, D.C. The reasons for this lopsided concentration are part historical and part geographical, but not necessarily a referendum on either contemporary competency or character.

The result nonetheless is an abyss, in which power brokers who shape the way America is entertained, educated, financed and governed are often unaware of how half the country lives — or the effects of their own tastes and policies upon them. Yet the hinterland is no cul-de-sac, but rather the proud generator of most of the nation’s fuel, food and manufactured goods — the traditional stuff of civilization.

The Trump revolt was also a push back against winner-take-all globalization that enriched the populated coasts far more than the open spaces in between — that made London spiritually closer to Manhattan than to upstate New York, and Tokyo or Bangalore more attuned to the Bay Area than to the Central Valley a hundred miles away.

People outside of New York and San Francisco seemed to have the strange idea that the wheat they grew or the oil they fracked were just as important to Facebook and Goldman Sachs employees as the latter’s social media pages and stock portfolios were to farmers and oil drillers.

In part, the rural backlash was fueled by a sense that half the country — the quieter and more hidden half — did not like the cultural and economic trajectories on which the cities were taking the country. It was not just that they saw a $20 trillion debt, the slowest economic growth since the Hoover administration, a federal takeover of the health care system, offshoring, outsourcing and open borders as part of their plight.

Rather, they cited these as symptoms of a blinkered elite that had lost its bearings and was insulated from the reality that governs life elsewhere: debt really does have to be paid back rather than doubled in eight years. Something like the Affordable Care Act that is sold as offering more and costing less simply cannot be true. The cyberworld still does not bring food to the table, put fuel in the gas tank or produce wood floors and stainless steel appliances.

Urban elites seldom experience the full and often negative consequences of their own ideologies. And identifying people first by race, tribe or gender — by their allegiance to their appearance rather than to the content of their characters — has rarely led anywhere but to tribalism and eventual sectarian violence.

The result was that when Trump, the outsider without political experience, appeared as a hammer, rural America apparently was more than happy to throw him into the glass of the bicoastal establishment, without worrying too much about the shards that scattered.

Read the whole thing.

13 Jan 2015

The Multicultural Neurosis

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multicultural-cartoon

Victor Davis Hanson explores the contradictions of the multiculturalist ideology.

For the useful idiot, multiculturalism is supposedly aimed at ecumenicalism and hopes to diminish difference by inclusiveness and non-judgmentalism. But mostly it is a narcissistic fit, in which the multiculturalist offers a cheap rationalization of non-Western pathologies, and thereby anoints himself both the moral superior to his own less critical Western peers and, in condescending fashion, the self-appointed advocate of the mostly incapable non-Westerner. …

[M]ulticulturalism is the twin of appeasement. Once Americans and Europeans declare all cultures as equal, those hostile to the West should logically desist from their aggression, in gratitude to the good will and introspection of liberal Westerners. Apologizing for the Bush war on terror, promising to close down Guantanamo, deriding the war in Iraq, reminding the world of the president’s Islamic family roots — all that is supposed to persuade the Hasans, Tsarnaevs, and Kouachis in the West that we see no differences between their cultural pedigrees and the Western paradigm they have chosen to emigrate to and at least superficially embrace. Thus the violence should cease.

At its worst, multiculturalism becomes a cheap tool in careerist fashion to both bash the West and simultaneously offer oneself as a necessary intermediary to rectify Western sins, whether as a -studies professor in the university, an activist journalist or politician, or some sort of community or social organizer.

It is always helpful to turn to Al Sharpton for an illustration of the bastardized form of almost any contemporary fad, and thus here is what he once formulated as the multicultural critique of the West: “White folks was in the caves while we [blacks] was building empires. … We built pyramids before Donald Trump ever knew what architecture was … we taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.” Note that Sharpton was not calling for new mathematics academies in the inner city to reclaim lost African arts of superior computation. Note also that Sharpton himself did not dream up these supposed non-Western superior African achievements.

Read the whole thing.

02 Dec 2014

Global Warming as Metonymy

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IceAgeEnding

Victor Davis Hanson describes Global Warming as one example of the intellectual bankruptcy of liberalism.

Take also global warming — for Secretary of State John Kerry, the world’s greatest challenge.Once the planet did not heat up in the last 18 years, and once the ice of the polar caps did not melt away, global warming begat climate change. The new nomenclature was a clever effort to link all occasional weather extremities to some underlying and fundamental climate disruption. Brilliant though the strategy was — the opposites of cold/hot, drought/deluges, and calm/storms could now all be used as proof of permanent climate change — global warming finally was hoist on its own petard: If it caused everything, then it caused nothing.

So, in the end, what was global warming? It seems to have grown up largely as a late-20th-century critique of global market capitalism by elites who had done so well by it that they had won the luxury of caricaturing the very source of their privilege. Global warming proved a near secular religion that filled a deep psychological longing for some sort of transcendent meaning among mostly secular Western grandees. In reality, the global-warming creed had scant effect on the lifestyles of the high priests who promulgated it. Al Gore did not cut back on his jet-fueled and lucrative proselytizing. Obama did not become the first president who, on principle, traveled with a reduced and green entourage. Solyndra did not run a model transparent company as proof of the nobility of the cause. As in the case of illegal immigration, the losers from the global-warming fad are the working and middle classes, who do not have the capital to be unharmed by the restrictions on cheap, carbon-based fuels.

Read the whole thing.

28 Aug 2014

Don’t Know Much About History

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ObamaDeepThinker

Victor Davis Hanson is a real historian, so he is understandably indignant about the characteristic ways in which Barack Obama misstates and mangles history.

In Obama’s hazy sense of the end of history, things always must get better in the manner that updated models of iPhones and iPads are glitzier than the last. In fact, history is morally cyclical. Even technological progress is ethically neutral. It is a way either to bring more good things to more people or to facilitate evil all that much more quickly and effectively.

In the viciously modern 20th century — when more lives may have been lost to war than in all prior centuries combined — some 6 million Jews were put to death through high technology in a way well beyond the savagery of Attila the Hun or Tamerlane. Beheading in the Islamic world is as common in the 21st century as it was in the eighth century — and as it will probably be in the 22nd. The carnage of the Somme and Dresden trumped anything that the Greeks, Romans, Franks, Turks, or Venetians could have imagined.

What explains Obama’s confusion?

A lack of knowledge of basic history explains a lot. Obama or his speechwriters have often seemed confused about the liberation of Auschwitz, “Polish death camps,” the political history of Texas, or the linguistic relationship between Austria and Germany. Obama reassured us during the Bowe Bergdahl affair that George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt all similarly got American prisoners back when their wars ended — except that none of them were in office when the Revolutionary War, Civil War, or World War II officially ended.

Contrary to Obama’s assertion, President Rutherford B. Hayes never dismissed the potential of the telephone. Obama once praised the city of Cordoba as part of a proud Islamic tradition of tolerance during the brutal Spanish Inquisition — forgetting that by the beginning of the Inquisition an almost exclusively Christian Cordoba had few Muslims left.

A Pollyannaish belief in historical predetermination seems to substitute for action. If Obama believes that evil should be absent in the 21st century, or that the arc of the moral universe must always bend toward justice, or that being on the wrong side of history has consequences, then he may think inanimate forces can take care of things as we need merely watch.

In truth, history is messier. Unfortunately, only force will stop seventh-century monsters like the Islamic State from killing thousands more innocents. Obama may think that reminding Putin that he is now in the 21st century will so embarrass the dictator that he will back off from Ukraine. But the brutish Putin may think that not being labeled a 21st-century civilized sophisticate is a compliment.

In 1935, French foreign minister Pierre Laval warned Joseph Stalin that the Pope would admonish him to go easy on Catholics — as if such moral lectures worked in the supposedly civilized 20th century. Stalin quickly disabused Laval of that naiveté. “The Pope?” Stalin asked, “How many divisions has he got?”

There is little evidence that human nature has changed over the centuries, despite massive government efforts to make us think and act nicer. What drives Putin, Boko Haram, or ISIS are the same age-old passions, fears, and sense of honor that over the centuries also moved Genghis Khan, the Sudanese Mahdists, and the Barbary pirates.

28 Nov 2013

A Modest Proposal

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Victor Davis Hanson is tired of all our national policy decisions being made by a coastal elite resident in urban bubbles of like-mindedness, far removed from the lives of ordinary Americans.

The problem is not just that the coasts determine how everyone else is to lead their lives, but that those living in our elite corridors have no idea about how life is lived just a short distance away in the interior — much less about the sometimes tragic consequences of their own therapeutic ideology on the distant, less influential majority.

In a fantasy world, I would move Washington, D.C., to Kansas City, Missouri. That transfer would not only make the capital more accessible to the American people and equalize travel requirements for our legislators, but also expose an out-of-touch government to a reality outside its Beltway.

I would transfer the United Nations to Salt Lake City, where foreign diplomats would live in a different sort of cocoon.

I would ask billionaires like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and the Koch Brothers to endow with their riches a few Midwestern or Southern universities. Perhaps we could create a new Ivy League in the nation’s center.

I would suggest to Facebook and Apple that they relocate operations to North Dakota to expose their geeky entrepreneurs to those who drive trucks and plow snow. Who knows — they might be able to afford a house, get married before 35, and have three rather than zero kids.

America is said to be divided by red and blue states, rich and poor, white and non-white, Christian and non-Christian, old and new.

I think the real divide is between those who make our decisions on the coasts and the anonymous others who live with the consequences somewhere else.

22 Oct 2013

Silicon Valley’s Illiberal Liberals

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Silicon Valley

Native Californian Victor Davis Hanson takes a look at the bizarre lifestyle (big money, crappy housing) and even stranger politics of his own state’s technological elite.

Strip away the veneer of Silicon Valley, and it is mostly a paradox. Almost nothing is what it is professed to be. Ostensibly, communities like Menlo Park and Palo Alto are elite enclaves, where power couples can easily make $300,000 to $700,000 a year as mid-level dot.com managers.

But often these 1 percenter communities are façades of sorts. Beneath veneers of high-end living, there are lives of quiet 1-percent desperation. With new federal and California tax hikes, aggregate income-tax rates on dot.commers can easily exceed 50 percent of their gross income. And hip California 1 percenters do not enjoy superb roads and schools or a low-crime state in exchange for forking over half their income.

Housing gobbles much of the rest of their pay. A 1,300-square-foot cottage in Mountain View or Atherton can easily sell for $1.5 million, leaving the owners paying $5,000 to $6,000 on their mortgage and another $1,500 to $2,000 in property taxes each month. Add in the de rigueur Mercedes, BMW, or Lexus and the private-school tuition, and the apparently affluent turn out to have not all that much disposable income. A visitor from Mars might look at their relatively tiny houses, frenzied go-getter lifestyle, and leased BMWs, and deem them no better off materially than middle-class state employees three hours away in supposedly dismal Merced, who earn 20 percent as much, but live in a home twice as large, with only 10 percent of the monthly mortgage and tax costs.

Given exorbitant taxes and housing prices, obviously it is not just the high salaries that draw so many to the San Francisco Bay Area. The “ambiance” of year-round temperate weather, the collective confidence rippling out from new technology, the spinoff from great universities like UC Berkeley and Stanford, and the hip culture of fine eating and entertainment all tend to convince Silicon Valley denizens that they are enviable even though they must work long hours to pay high taxes and to buy tiny and often old homes.

Silicon Valley liberal politics are equally paradoxical, reflect this quiet desperation, and mask hyper-self-interest, old-fashioned rat-race competition, and 21st-century suburban versions of keeping up with the Joneses. The latter may be green, support gay marriage, and oppose restrictions on abortion, but they still are the Joneses of old who define their success by showing off to neighbors what they have, whether high-performance cars or hyper-achieving kids.

In the South Bay counties, Democratic registration outnumbers Republican often 2 to 1. If liberals like Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, and Nancy Pelosi did not represent the Bay Area, others like them would have to be invented. Yet, most Northern California liberal politics are abstractions that apparently provide some sort of psychological compensation for otherwise living lives that are illiberal to the core.

Read the whole thing.

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