6.03.2016

Socialism for the Uninformed


By Thomas Sowell

Published May 31, 2016

Socialism sounds great. It has always sounded great. And it will probably always continue to sound great. It is only when you go beyond rhetoric, and start looking at hard facts, that socialism turns out to be a big disappointment, if not a disaster.

While throngs of young people are cheering loudly for avowed socialist Bernie Sanders, socialism has turned oil-rich Venezuela into a place where there are shortages of everything from toilet paper to beer, where electricity keeps shutting down, and where there are long lines of people hoping to get food, people complaining that they cannot feed their families.

With national income going down, and prices going up under triple-digit inflation in Venezuela, these complaints are by no means frivolous. But it is doubtful if the young people cheering for Bernie Sanders have even heard of such things, whether in Venezuela or in other countries around the world that have turned their economies over to politicians and bureaucrats to run.

The anti-capitalist policies in Venezuela have worked so well that the number of companies in Venezuela is now a fraction of what it once was. That should certainly reduce capitalist "exploitation," shouldn't it?

But people who attribute income inequality to capitalists exploiting workers, as Karl Marx claimed, never seem to get around to testing that belief against facts — such as the fact that none of the Marxist regimes around the world has ever had as high a standard of living for working people as there is in many capitalist countries.

Facts are seldom allowed to contaminate the beautiful vision of the left. What matters to the true believers are the ringing slogans, endlessly repeated.

When Senator Sanders cries, "The system is rigged!" no one asks, "Just what specifically does that mean?" or "What facts do you have to back that up?"

In 2015, the 400 richest people in the world had net losses of $19 billion. If they had rigged the system, surely they could have rigged it better than that.

But the very idea of subjecting their pet notions to the test of hard facts will probably not even occur to those who are cheering for socialism and for other bright ideas of the political left.
How many of the people who are demanding an increase in the minimum wage have ever bothered to check what actually happens when higher minimum wages are imposed? More often they just assume what is assumed by like-minded peers — sometimes known as "everybody," with their assumptions being what "everybody knows."

Back in 1948, when inflation had rendered meaningless the minimum wage established a decade earlier, the unemployment rate among 16-17-year-old black males was under 10 percent. But after the minimum wage was raised repeatedly to keep up with inflation, the unemployment rate for black males that age was never under 30 percent for more than 20 consecutive years, from 1971 through 1994. In many of those years, the unemployment rate for black youngsters that age exceeded 40 percent and, for a couple of years, it exceeded 50 percent.

The damage is even greater than these statistics might suggest. Most low-wage jobs are entry-level jobs that young people move up out of, after acquiring work experience and a track record that makes them eligible for better jobs. But you can't move up the ladder if you don't get on the ladder.

The great promise of socialism is something for nothing. It is one of the signs of today's dumbed-down education that so many college students seem to think that the cost of their education should — and will — be paid by raising taxes on "the rich."

Here again, just a little check of the facts would reveal that higher tax rates on upper-income earners do not automatically translate into more tax revenue coming in to the government. Often high tax rates have led to less revenue than lower tax rates.

In a globalized economy, high tax rates may just lead investors to invest in other countries with lower tax rates. That means that jobs created by those investments will be overseas.

None of this is rocket science. But you do have to stop and think — and that is what too many of our schools and colleges are failing to teach their students to do.

5.31.2016

Top 10 Drinks for Men

(Link)


I personally would have included the Manhattan for the "Jack & Coke"  But all good choices.

Oh and a bonus....


(Link)

5.11.2016

The Danger of the “Black Lives Matter” Movement

From IMPRIMUS at Hillsdale College.

The article can be viewed HERE

Heather Mac Donald
Manhattan Institute


Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She earned a B.A. from Yale University, an M.A. in English from Cambridge University, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. She writes for several newspapers and journals, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New Criterion, and Public Interest, and is the author of three books, including Are Cops Racist? and The War on Cops: How The New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe (forthcoming June 2016).

  The following is adapted from a speech delivered on April 27, 2016, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C., as part of the AWC Family Foundation Lecture Series. 


For almost two years, a protest movement known as “Black Lives Matter” has convulsed the nation. Triggered by the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, the Black Lives Matter movement holds that racist police officers are the greatest threat facing young black men today. This belief has triggered riots, “die-ins,” the murder and attempted murder of police officers, a campaign to eliminate traditional grand jury proceedings when police use lethal force, and a presidential task force on policing.

Even though the U.S. Justice Department has resoundingly disproven the lie that a pacific Michael Brown was shot in cold blood while trying to surrender, Brown is still venerated as a martyr. And now police officers are backing off of proactive policing in the face of the relentless venom directed at them on the street and in the media. As a result, violent crime is on the rise.

The need is urgent, therefore, to examine the Black Lives Matter movement’s central thesis—that police pose the greatest threat to young black men. I propose two counter hypotheses: first, that there is no government agency more dedicated to the idea that black lives matter than the police; and second, that we have been talking obsessively about alleged police racism over the last 20 years in order to avoid talking about a far larger problem—black-on-black crime.

Let’s be clear at the outset: police have an indefeasible obligation to treat everyone with courtesy and respect, and to act within the confines of the law. Too often, officers develop a hardened, obnoxious attitude. It is also true that being stopped when you are innocent of any wrongdoing is infuriating, humiliating, and sometimes terrifying. And needless to say, every unjustified police shooting of an unarmed civilian is a stomach-churning tragedy.

Given the history of racism in this country and the complicity of the police in that history, police shootings of black men are particularly and understandably fraught. That history informs how many people view the police. But however intolerable and inexcusable every act of police brutality is, and while we need to make sure that the police are properly trained in the Constitution and in courtesy, there is a larger reality behind the issue of policing, crime, and race that remains a taboo topic. The problem of black-on-black crime is an uncomfortable truth, but unless we acknowledge it, we won’t get very far in understanding patterns of policing.

Every year, approximately 6,000 blacks are murdered. This is a number greater than white and Hispanic homicide victims combined, even though blacks are only 13 percent of the national population. Blacks are killed at six times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined. In Los Angeles, blacks between the ages of 20 and 24 die at a rate 20 to 30 times the national mean. Who is killing them? Not the police, and not white civilians, but other blacks. The astronomical black death-by-homicide rate is a function of the black crime rate. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic male teens combined. Blacks of all ages commit homicide at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined, and at eleven times the rate of whites alone.

The police could end all lethal uses of force tomorrow and it would have at most a trivial effect on the black death-by-homicide rate. The nation’s police killed 987 civilians in 2015, according to a database compiled by The Washington Post. Whites were 50 percent—or 493—of those victims, and blacks were 26 percent—or 258. Most of those victims of police shootings, white and black, were armed or otherwise threatening the officer with potentially lethal force.

The black violent crime rate would actually predict that more than 26 percent of police victims would be black. Officer use of force will occur where the police interact most often with violent criminals, armed suspects, and those resisting arrest, and that is in black neighborhoods. In America’s 75 largest counties in 2009, for example, blacks constituted 62 percent of all robbery defendants, 57 percent of all murder defendants, 45 percent of all assault defendants—but only 15 percent of the population.
Moreover, 40 percent of all cop killers have been black over the last decade. And a larger proportion of white and Hispanic homicide deaths are a result of police killings than black homicide deaths—but don’t expect to hear that from the media or from the political enablers of the Black Lives Matter movement. Twelve percent of all white and Hispanic homicide victims are killed by police officers, compared to four percent of all black homicide victims. If we’re going to have a “Lives Matter” anti-police movement, it would be more appropriately named “White and Hispanic Lives Matter.”

Standard anti-cop ideology, whether emanating from the ACLU or the academy, holds that law enforcement actions are racist if they don’t mirror population data. New York City illustrates why that expectation is so misguided. Blacks make up 23 percent of New York City’s population, but they commit 75 percent of all shootings, 70 percent of all robberies, and 66 percent of all violent crime, according to victims and witnesses. Add Hispanic shootings and you account for 98 percent of all illegal gunfire in the city. Whites are 33 percent of the city’s population, but they commit fewer than two percent of all shootings, four percent of all robberies, and five percent of all violent crime. These disparities mean that virtually every time the police in New York are called out on a gun run—meaning that someone has just been shot—they are being summoned to minority neighborhoods looking for minority suspects.

Officers hope against hope that they will receive descriptions of white shooting suspects, but it almost never happens. This incidence of crime means that innocent black men have a much higher chance than innocent white men of being stopped by the police because they match the description of a suspect. This is not something the police choose. It is a reality forced on them by the facts of crime.
The geographic disparities are also huge. In Brownsville, Brooklyn, the per capita shooting rate is 81 times higher than in nearby Bay Ridge, Brooklyn—the first neighborhood predominantly black, the second neighborhood predominantly white and Asian. As a result, police presence and use of proactive tactics are much higher in Brownsville than in Bay Ridge. Every time there is a shooting, the police will flood the area looking to make stops in order to avert a retaliatory shooting. They are in Brownsville not because of racism, but because they want to provide protection to its many law-abiding residents who deserve safety.


Who are some of the victims of elevated urban crime? On March 11, 2015, as protesters were once again converging on the Ferguson police headquarters demanding the resignation of the entire department, a six-year-old boy named Marcus Johnson was killed a few miles away in a St. Louis park, the victim of a drive-by shooting. No one protested his killing. Al Sharpton did not demand a federal investigation. Few people outside of his immediate community know his name.

Ten children under the age of ten were killed in Baltimore last year. In Cleveland, three children five and younger were killed in September. A seven-year-old boy was killed in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend by a bullet intended for his father. In November, a nine-year-old in Chicago was lured into an alley and killed by his father’s gang enemies; the father refused to cooperate with the police. In August, a nine-year-old girl was doing her homework on her mother’s bed in Ferguson when a bullet fired into the house killed her. In Cincinnati in July, a four-year-old girl was shot in the head and a six-year-old girl was left paralyzed and partially blind from two separate drive-by shootings.

This mindless violence seems almost to be regarded as normal, given the lack of attention it receives from the same people who would be out in droves if any of these had been police shootings. As horrific as such stories are, crime rates were much higher 20 years ago. In New York City in 1990, for example, there were 2,245 homicides. In 2014 there were 333—a decrease of 85 percent. The drop in New York’s crime rate is the steepest in the nation, but crime has fallen at a historic rate nationwide as well—by about 40 percent—since the early 1990s. The greatest beneficiaries of these declining rates have been minorities. Over 10,000 minority males alive today in New York would be dead if the city’s homicide rate had remained at its early 1990s level.

What is behind this historic crime drop? A policing revolution that began in New York and spread nationally, and that is now being threatened. Starting in 1994, the top brass of the NYPD embraced the then-radical idea that the police can actually prevent crime, not just respond to it. They started gathering and analyzing crime data on a daily and then hourly basis. They looked for patterns, and strategized on tactics to try to quell crime outbreaks as they were emerging. Equally important, they held commanders accountable for crime in their jurisdictions. Department leaders started meeting weekly with precinct commanders to grill them on crime patterns on their watch. These weekly accountability sessions came to be known as Compstat. They were ruthless, high tension affairs. If a commander was not fully informed about every local crime outbreak and ready with a strategy to combat it, his career was in jeopardy.

Compstat created a sense of urgency about fighting crime that has never left the NYPD. For decades, the rap against the police was that they ignored crime in minority neighborhoods. Compstat keeps New York commanders focused like a laser beam on where people are being victimized most, and that is in minority communities. Compstat spread nationwide. Departments across the country now send officers to emerging crime hot spots to try to interrupt criminal behavior before it happens.
In terms of economic stimulus alone, no other government program has come close to the success of data-driven policing. In New York City, businesses that had shunned previously drug-infested areas now set up shop there, offering residents a choice in shopping and creating a demand for workers. Senior citizens felt safe to go to the store or to the post office to pick up their Social Security checks. Children could ride their bikes on city sidewalks without their mothers worrying that they would be shot. But the crime victories of the last two decades, and the moral support on which law and order depends, are now in jeopardy thanks to the falsehoods of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Police operating in inner-city neighborhoods now find themselves routinely surrounded by cursing, jeering crowds when they make a pedestrian stop or try to arrest a suspect. Sometimes bottles and rocks are thrown. Bystanders stick cell phones in the officers’ faces, daring them to proceed with their duties. Officers are worried about becoming the next racist cop of the week and possibly losing their livelihood thanks to an incomplete cell phone video that inevitably fails to show the antecedents to their use of force. Officer use of force is never pretty, but the public is clueless about how hard it is to subdue a suspect who is determined to resist arrest.

As a result of the anti-cop campaign of the last two years and the resulting push-back in the streets, officers in urban areas are cutting back on precisely the kind of policing that led to the crime decline of the 1990s and 2000s. Arrests and summons are down, particularly for low-level offenses. Police officers continue to rush to 911 calls when there is already a victim. But when it comes to making discretionary stops—such as getting out of their cars and questioning people hanging out on drug corners at 1:00 a.m.—many cops worry that doing so could put their careers on the line. Police officers are, after all, human. When they are repeatedly called racist for stopping and questioning suspicious individuals in high-crime areas, they will perform less of those stops. That is not only understandable—in a sense, it is how things should work. Policing is political. If a powerful political block has denied the legitimacy of assertive policing, we will get less of it.

On the other hand, the people demanding that the police back off are by no means representative of the entire black community. Go to any police-neighborhood meeting in Harlem, the South Bronx, or South Central Los Angeles, and you will invariably hear variants of the following: “We want the dealers off the corner.” “You arrest them and they’re back the next day.” “There are kids hanging out on my stoop. Why can’t you arrest them for loitering?” “I smell weed in my hallway. Can’t you do something?” I met an elderly cancer amputee in the Mount Hope section of the Bronx who was terrified to go to her lobby mailbox because of the young men trespassing there and selling drugs. The only time she felt safe was when the police were there. “Please, Jesus,” she said to me, “send more police!” The irony is that the police cannot respond to these heartfelt requests for order without generating the racially disproportionate statistics that will be used against them in an ACLU or Justice Department lawsuit.

Unfortunately, when officers back off in high crime neighborhoods, crime shoots through the roof. Our country is in the midst of the first sustained violent crime spike in two decades. Murders rose nearly 17 percent in the nation’s 50 largest cities in 2015, and it was in cities with large black populations where the violence increased the most. Baltimore’s per capita homicide rate last year was the highest in its history. Milwaukee had its deadliest year in a decade, with a 72 percent increase in homicides. Homicides in Cleveland increased 90 percent over the previous year. Murders rose 83 percent in Nashville, 54 percent in Washington, D.C., and 61 percent in Minneapolis. In Chicago, where pedestrian stops are down by 90 percent, shootings were up 80 percent through March 2016.

I first identified the increase in violent crime in May 2015 and dubbed it “the Ferguson effect.” My diagnosis set off a firestorm of controversy on the anti-cop Left and in criminology circles. Despite that furor, FBI Director James Comey confirmed the Ferguson effect in a speech at the University of Chicago Law School last October. Comey decried the “chill wind” that had been blowing through law enforcement over the previous year, and attributed the sharp rise in homicides and shootings to the campaign against cops. Several days later, President Obama had the temerity to rebuke Comey, accusing him (while leaving him unnamed) of “cherry-pick[ing] data” and using “anecdotal evidence to drive policy [and] feed political agendas.” The idea that President Obama knows more about crime and policing than his FBI director is of course ludicrous. But the President thought it necessary to take Comey down, because to recognize the connection between proactive policing and public safety undermines the entire premise of the anti-cop Left: that the police oppress minority communities rather than bring them surcease from disorder.

As crime rates continue to rise, the overwhelming majority of victims are, as usual, black—as are their assailants. But police officers are coming under attack as well. In August 2015, an officer in Birmingham, Alabama, was beaten unconscious by a convicted felon after a car stop. The suspect had grabbed the officer’s gun, as Michael Brown had tried to do in Ferguson, but the officer hesitated to use force against him for fear of being charged with racism. Such incidents will likely multiply as the media continues to amplify the Black Lives Matter activists’ poisonous slander against the nation’s police forces.

The number of police officers killed in shootings more than doubled during the first three months of 2016. In fact, officers are at much greater risk from blacks than unarmed blacks are from the police. Over the last decade, an officer’s chance of getting killed by a black has been 18.5 times higher than the chance of an unarmed black getting killed by a cop.

The favorite conceit of the Black Lives Matter movement is, of course, the racist white officer gunning down a black man. According to available studies, it is a canard. A March 2015 Justice Department report on the Philadelphia Police Department found that black and Hispanic officers were much more likely than white officers to shoot blacks based on “threat misperception,” i.e., the incorrect belief that a civilian is armed. A study by University of Pennsylvania criminologist Greg Ridgeway, formerly acting director of the National Institute of Justice, has found that black officers in the NYPD were 3.3 times more likely to fire their weapons at shooting scenes than other officers present. The April 2015 death of drug dealer Freddie Gray in Baltimore has been slotted into the Black Lives Matter master narrative, even though the three most consequential officers in Gray’s arrest and transport are black. There is no evidence that a white drug dealer in Gray’s circumstances, with a similar history of faking injuries, would have been treated any differently.

We have been here before. In the 1960s and early 1970s, black and white radicals directed hatred and occasional violence against the police. The difference today is that anti-cop ideology is embraced at the highest reaches of the establishment: by the President, by his Attorney General, by college presidents, by foundation heads, and by the press. The presidential candidates of one party are competing to see who can out-demagogue President Obama’s persistent race-based calumnies against the criminal justice system, while those of the other party have not emphasized the issue as they might have.

I don’t know what will end the current frenzy against the police. What I do know is that we are playing with fire, and if it keeps spreading, it will be hard to put out.



4.04.2016

Please ladies.....

Do not presume to make your own definition a reality.  Your opinion is exactly that.  Anything beyond the definition is opinion.  Exactly as mine.



gent·le·man
ˈjen(t)lmən/
noun
noun: gentleman; plural noun: gentlemen
  1. 1.
    a chivalrous, courteous, or honorable man.

    "he behaved like a perfect gentleman"
    • a man of good social position, especially one of wealth and leisure.
    • (in the UK) a man of noble birth attached to a royal household.
      synonyms:man; More
      informalgent;
      archaiccavalier

      "a fine steed suitable for a gentleman such as yourself"
  2. 2.
    a polite or formal way of referring to a man.

    "opposite her an old gentleman sat reading"




    Webster:
    1. 1 a :  a man of noble or gentle birth b :  a man belonging to the landed gentry c (1) :  a man who combines gentle birth or rank with chivalrous qualities (2) :  a man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior d (1) :  a man of independent means who does not engage in any occupation or profession for gain (2) :  a man who does not engage in a menial occupation or in manual labor for gain
    2. 2 :  valet —often used in the phrase gentleman's gentleman
    3. 3 :  a man of any social class or condition —often used in a courteous reference <show this gentleman to a seat> or usually in the plural in address <ladies and gentlemen

3.24.2016

Black and White, Left and Right

By Thomas Sowell


Much is made of the fact that liberals and conservatives see racial issues differently, which they do. But these differences have too often been seen as simply those on the right being racist and those on the left not.

You can cherry-pick the evidence to reach that conclusion. But you can also cherry-pick the evidence to reach the opposite conclusion.

During the heyday of the Progressive movement in the early 20th century, people on the left were in the forefront of those promoting doctrines of innate, genetic inferiority of not only blacks but also of people from Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, as compared to people from Western Europe.

Liberals today tend to either glide over the undeniable racism of Progressive President Woodrow Wilson or else treat it as an anomaly of some sort. But racism on the left at that time was not an anomaly, either for President Wilson or for numerous other stalwarts of the Progressive movement.

An influential 1916 best-seller, "The Passing of the Great Race" — celebrating Nordic Europeans — was written by Madison Grant, a staunch activist for Progressive causes such as endangered species, municipal reform, conservation and the creation of national parks.

He was a member of an exclusive social club founded by Republican Progressive Theodore Roosevelt, and Grant and Franklin D. Roosevelt became friends in the 1920s, addressing one another in letters as "My dear Frank" and "My dear Madison." Grant's book was translated into German, and Adolf Hitler called it his Bible.

Progressives spearheaded the eugenics movement, dedicated to reducing the reproduction of supposedly "inferior" individuals and races. The eugenics movement spawned Planned Parenthood, among other groups. In academia, there were 376 courses devoted to eugenics in 1920.

Progressive intellectuals who crusaded against the admission of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, branding them as genetically inferior, included many prominent academic scholars — such as heads of such scholarly organizations as the American Economic Association and the American Sociological Association.

Southern segregationists who railed against blacks were often also Progressives who railed against Wall Street. Back in those days, blacks voted for Republicans as automatically as they vote for Democrats today.
Where the Democrats' President Woodrow Wilson introduced racial segregation into those government agencies in Washington where it did not exist at the time, Republican President Calvin Coolidge's wife invited the wives of black Congressmen to the White House. As late as 1957, civil rights legislation was sponsored in Congress by Republicans and opposed by Democrats.

Later, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was sponsored by Democrats, a higher percentage of Congressional Republicans voted for it than did Congressional Democrats. Revisionist histories tell a different story. But, as Casey Stengel used to say, "You could look it up" — in the Congressional Record, in this case.

Conservatives who took part in the civil rights marches, or who were otherwise for equal rights for blacks, have not made nearly as much noise about it as liberals do. The first time I saw a white professor, at a white university, with a black secretary, it was Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago in 1960 — four years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

She was still his secretary when he died in 2006. But, in all those years, I never once heard Professor Friedman mention, in public or in private, that he had a black secretary. By all accounts, she was an outstanding secretary, and that was what mattered.

The biggest difference between the left and right today, when it comes to racial issues, is that liberals tend to take the side of those blacks who are doing the wrong things — hoodlums the left depicts as martyrs, while the right defends those blacks more likely to be the victims of those hoodlums.

Rudolph Giuliani, when he was the Republican mayor of New York, probably saved more black lives than any other human being, by promoting aggressive policing against hoodlums, which brought the murder rate down to a fraction of what it was before.

A lot depends on whether you judge by ringing words or judge by actual consequences.

1.19.2016

What Are Elections For?


By Thomas Sowell
Published Jan. 19, 2016


After months of watching all sorts of political polls, we are finally just a few weeks away from actually beginning to see some voting in primary elections. Polls let people vent their emotions. But elections are held to actually accomplish something.

The big question is whether the voters themselves will see elections as very different from polls.
If Republican voters have consistently delivered a message through all the fluctuating polls over the past months, that message is those voters' anger at the Republican establishment, which has grossly betrayed the promises that got a Republican Congress elected.

Whether the issue has been securing the borders, Obamacare, runaway government spending or innumerable other concerns, Republican candidates have promised to fight the Obama administration's policies— and then caved when crunch time came for Congress to vote.

The spectacular rise, and persistence, of Republican voter support for Donald Trump in the polls ought to be a wake-up call for the Republican establishment. But smug know-it-alls can be hard to wake up.

Even valid criticisms of Trump can miss the larger point that Republican voters' turning to such a man is a sign of desperation and a telling indictment of what the Republican establishment has been doing for years— which they show pathetically few signs of changing.

Seldom have the Republicans seemed to have a better chance of winning a presidential election. The Democrats' front-runner is a former member of an unpopular administration whose record of foreign policy failures as Secretary of State is blatant, whose personal charm is minimal and whose personal integrity is under criminal investigation by the FBI.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have fielded a stronger set of presidential aspirants than they have had in years. Yet it is by no means out of the question that the Republicans will manage to blow this year's opportunity and lose at the polls this November.

In other times, this might just be the Republicans' political problem. But these are not other times. After seven disastrous years of Barack Obama, at home and overseas, the United States of America may be approaching a point of no return, especially in a new age of a nuclear Iran with long-range missiles.

The next President of the United States will have monumental problems to untangle. The big question is not which party's candidate wins the election but whether either party will choose a candidate that is up to the job.

That ultimate question is in the hands of Republicans who will soon begin voting in the primaries.
Their anger may be justified, but anger is not a sufficient reason for choosing a candidate in a desperate time for the future of this nation. And there is such a thing as a point of no return.

Voters need to consider what elections are for. Elections are not held to allow voters to vent their emotions. They are held to choose who shall hold in their hands the fate of hundreds of millions of Americans today and of generations yet unborn.

Too many nations, in desperate times, especially after the established authorities have discredited themselves and forfeited the trust of the people, have turned to some new and charismatic leader, who ended up turning a dire situation into an utter catastrophe.

The history of the 20th century provides all too many examples, whether on a small scale that led to the massacre in Jonestown in 1978 or the earlier succession of totalitarian movements that took power in Russia in 1917, Italy in 1922 and Germany a decade later.

Eric Hoffer's shrewd insight into the success of charismatic leaders was that the "quality of ideas seems to play a minor role," What matters, he pointed out, "is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world."

Is that the emotional release that Republican voters will be seeking when they begin voting in the primaries? If so, Donald Trump will be their man. But if the sobering realities of life and the need for mature and wise leadership in dangerous times is uppermost in their minds, they will have to look elsewhere.

12.28.2015

Cafe Diablo

(Link)

This showy drink combines spiced brandy, Grand Marnier, and a strong African roast such as Kenyan or Sumatran. Mason's Restaurant used to create this popular drink tableside, using a saucepan and igniting the brandy before ladling the potent drink into a demitasse cup. It is no longer available at the restaurant (for the obvious fire-hazard reasons), but can certainly be recreated in your own home for special guests. The proportions have been changed to accommodate a coffee mug.


* 1-12-ounce coffeemug, preheated

Serves 1
* 2 cubes sugar
* 1 1/2 jiggers brandy
* 1/2 jigger Grand Marnier
* 5-8 whole cloves
* 1 strip orange peel
* 1 strip lemon peel
* 8 ounces Kenyan or Sumatran brewed coffee

Gently heat all of the ingredients except the coffee in a chafing dish or, if one is not available, a saucepan. Pour the hot coffee into coffeemug. The brandy should begin to release its aroma after a few minutes. At this point, ignite the brandy and allow the flames to burn for 15-20 seconds, then ladle the brandy mixture over the hot coffee. Mix the coffee and brandy together.


Serve in a Trader Vic Cafe Diablo mug (Above) & contemplate what a great evening last night was.

11.19.2015

Open Season on the Police


 Thomas Sowell

By Thomas Sowell

Published Oct. 20, 2015

In recent months there have been a series of cases reported in the media, where some teenage thug — white, black or Hispanic in different cases — has been stopped by a policeman for some routine violation of the law and, instead of complying with lawful instructions, such as "show me your driver's license," chooses instead to defy the policeman, resist arrest and finally ends up physically assaulting the cop.

In the most recent case, the teenager happened to be white, but the story doesn't seem to change much, whatever the complexion of the guy who violated the law. Nor does the sad ending change, with the young wise guy shot dead. Nor do the reactions of the media and the parents vary much.

"He was only a kid" is an almost automatic reaction of the parents and the media. "He didn't deserve to be killed" over a traffic violation, or because he didn't drop a toy gun when ordered to, or some other minor infraction.

Are we so addicted to talking points and sound bites that we can't be bothered to use common sense? If you are killed by a teenager, you are just as dead as if you had been killed by the oldest man in the world.

It doesn't matter how minor the law violation was that caused the young guy to be stopped. He wasn't shot for the violation — which could have been jay-walking, for all the difference it makes. He was shot for attacking the police, after having foolishly escalated a routine encounter into a personal confrontation.

Irrational statements by the young man's parents may be understandable when they discover that their son is dead. But for media people to make such mindless statements to a nationwide audience is just grossly irresponsible.

In an atmosphere where second-guessing policemen has become a popular sport in the media, as well as among politicians, there is always someone to say that there must have been "some other way" for the policeman to handle the situation.

Utter ignorance of what it is like to be in such situations does not seem to make the second-guessers hesitate. On the contrary, ignorance seems to be liberating, so that "excessive force" has become an almost automatic comment from people who have no basis whatever for determining how much force is necessary in such situations. You can't measure out force with a teaspoon.

The truly tragic cases involve some really young kid — maybe ten years old or so — who has a very realistic-looking toy gun, and has removed the red plastic attachment that is supposed to show that it is not a real gun. When he turns his realistic-looking toy gun on a policeman, and refuses to drop it, that can turn out to be the last mistake of his young life.

Someone in the media recently complained that a policeman shot a boy who had a toy gun "within seconds" of arriving on the scene. When someone has a gun, and refuses to drop it, a policeman can be killed within seconds. A dialogue under these conditions can be a fatal luxury he cannot afford.
There is something grotesque about people sitting in safety and comfort, blithely second-guessing at their leisure what a policeman did when he had a split second to make a decision that could cost him his life, leaving behind a widow and orphans.

You cannot have law without law enforcement. If cops are supposed to back down whenever they are confronted by some brassy young thug, that may indeed save a few lives among the thugs. But that just means that a lot of other lives will be lost under "kinder, gentler" policing.

After this year's widespread indulgences in anti-police rhetoric by politicians, the media and race hustlers, how surprised should we be by the dramatic upsurge in murders after law enforcement had been undermined?

Laws without law enforcement are just suggestions. Imagine if highway speed signs are replaced by signs that say, "We suggest you not drive faster than 65 m.p.h., please." Do you doubt that many more lives will be lost on the highways?

Maybe the parents who are so bitter over the loss of a son in a wholly unnecessary confrontation with a policeman doing his job might ask themselves if they did their job, when they raised a child without teaching him either common sense or common decency.

9.28.2015

Hello I'm Special

Book Review: Hello, I’m Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity by Hal Niedzviecki



As someone who has always defined herself as a non-conformist, I’ve noticed something recently. It used to be, being a non-conformist put you outside the norm, outside the cool, outside the places where things really happen. Now, though, it seems like everyone I meet is an iconoclast. Non-conformity is everywhere. What does it mean when everyone is a non-conformist? That’s what I was hoping Hal Niedzviecki would explain in Hello, I’m Special.
For Niedzviecki, the epiphany came when he got a mass-produced birthday card declaring “Happy Birthday to a non-conformist.” If you’re on Hallmark’s radar, Niedzviecki wondered, could you still be an outsider? That’s when Niedzviecki realized that being a non-conformist had become the norm. Everyone wanted a piece of the outsider action; everyone was special.
Just ask reality show contestants. These people, searching for their 15 minutes of fame, are the poster children for conforming non-conformity. During his research, Niedzviecki visits the Canadian Idol tryouts, where thousands of young people lined up overnight, every aspiring Idol convinced that this was the beginning of their fame. This was the stuff that pop dreams are made of.
At the Canadian Idol tryouts, I find thousands of bright, funny, interesting, horribly deluded people, new conformists every single one of them. They all share the same dream and pursue it in exactly the same way. Coincidence? Human nature? I don’t think so.
Therein lies the essence of the book: We are all looking for our own equivalent of an Idol moment, when the apparatus of pop culture will validate us by turning its attention our way. Being different is the way for us to get that attention. Being different gives our lives meaning, makes us more than worker drones in some hive world. Or, to put it into a journalistic maxim: Dog bites man isn’t a story. Man bites dog, on the other hand…
The reference is both flip and apt, encapsulating as it does what special means (extraordinary — outside the norm) and who the ultimate arbiter of specialness is. As a modern society, we are defined by the media; the media is what we use to know who we are. This, perhaps, was always the purview of art, to reflect back what it means to be human; but now, instead of looking for an everyman, we are looking for what makes us special, our thing, so to speak.
This desire to be special has implications, of course.
The compulsion to be noticed often translates into confusion and even a certain degree of sadness. Do we really want to quit our jobs, abandon our responsibilities, seize the day, break the record? Silly, of course we do. Who doesn’t? But, all too often, seizing the day is not so easy. It’s not clear what ambition we harbour, what world-changing activity we might embark on. Too often, we end up feeling depressed and devalued as we carry on through lives that have become all the more ordinary because glamorous pop stars are urging us to just do it.
Niedzviecki, who writes with a mainstream non-conformist’s informality, seems torn about the despondency that the I’m Special phenomenon can elicit. He is empathetic to people who are broken down by their failure to successfully fit in by standing out. He recognizes that it is almost impossible for a person to escape the zeitgeist of their times:
Force-fed the fattening syrup of self-esteem, we are nevertheless starving, hungry to graze amid the pastures of fame. To give up would be to admit that pop dream that is so much a part of our lives is a lie. For an ever-growing number of people, life has come to mean achieving the pop dream. In the schools, they call it self-esteem; in leftist cliques, they call it hedonism; and in New Age circles, they call it personal spirituality. What it amounts to is the new conformity—the search for a way in.
Still, Niedzviecki seems to see himself, for the most part, as outside this phenomenon. Sometimes, it seems as if he sees himself as a real non-conformist, bitter about the interlopers with questionable credibility. He has a tendency to treat his subjects with the kind of hipster detachment that flirts with derision. This is, perhaps, most evident when he cites the fat acceptance movement as an example of the absurd degree of acceptance for deviations from the norm:
In the age of individuality, you can be beautiful any way you are, never mind that [Dimensions Plus modeling’s DeLores] Pressley’s message of “self empowerment” is also one of mass delusion: In an age of unnaturally bloated bellies, in a country leading the way with 65 percent of its residents overweight, Pressley just might be doing a bit too good a job convincing us that it’s okay to be chunky.
Activism itself is a symptom of the I’m Special society, or at least a microcosm of it. Niedzviecki notes that activists aren’t that different from Idol contestants or Trekkies in their motivations.
I’ve observed first-hand the way activist communities provide a niche and a recognition that is not unlike that of pop-culture communities. I’ve seen youths arrested for taking over an abandoned building—action they ostensibly took to protest a lack of affordable housing#8212;hugging and high-fiving each other as they emerged from jail. They were clearly exuberant. Why? They achieved nothing except a paragraph in the paper and legal hassles. But in their minds they had also accrued real evidence of their personal commitment to rebellion, to the cause. While waiting for their accused offspring to be released, I watched annoyed liberal parents wring their hands in frustration. How to yell at your kid for wanting to do something to help others? And yet the parents all seemed to sense that altruism was not the sole motive behind their children’s actions. The line between the pop-culture-infused desire for individualistic adventure and commitment to the cause becomes blurred.
This observation articulates some of my own ambivalence towards activist causes. Anyone who has ever been involved in an activist group can tell you about power struggles that seem at odds with the altruistic mission statements of many of these groups. And it is not unusual for the groups themselves to become commodified. It’s a marketing trifecta when a product can sell us individuality, self-esteem, and do-gooder points. How could anyone resist something that promises all that? Again, Niedzviecki cites the fat acceptance movement to make his point:
What begins with an empowering not-for-profit indie magazine or support group ends, invariably, with a glossy magazine, a website, a consultant, and a whole new language of “curvy” and “plus-size”—all meant to make the overweight feel happy and represented. And, of course, they are encouraged to keep buying.
So who is to blame for the Special society? As mentioned earlier, Niedzviecki recognizes that it would be hard for anyone to resist buying into the mythology. After all, the media is constantly telling us just how special we are…or at least, how special we could be. Yes, the media and its need for consumers is the culprit here.
Pop culture, and especially its gift of “free TV,” gives us access to a world we will otherwise never know. From the Amazon rain forest to the operating room to Michael Jackson’s mansion to the mysterious life of a Mafia drug lord, we can enter into places far more exciting and seemingly real than our own everyday existence. At the same time, this process instills in us the desire to find similar intensity and excitement in our own lives. We don’t just want to watch the movie, listen to the song and play the video game, we try to replicate the scenario in our daily lives. Consumer-culture critic Juliet Schor has discovered in her research that the more time a person spends watching TV, the more money that person spends.
Meanwhile, our television gurus (and the pop culture tabloids), have a mantra that tells us that we too could grow up to be a Mafia drug lord, or a skin-disordered exile pop star, or any of a million other special things.
In preaching the self-esteem you-can-do-anything pop myth, most therapists—be they popular speakers and TV personalities (think Dr. Phil and Oprah) or accredited professionals—aim to create good little individualists who at once believe they can do anything, but don’t actually upset the ratio of one superstar to every million people by successfully managing to do anything.
Who wouldn’t need anti-depressants after a life-long force-feeding of messages of promise and almost no way to get any substance?
So, the culture of Specialness can be blamed for our rampant consumerism and our dissatisfaction with our lives. Other than anomie, what are the consequences? Well, for one, violence. Niedzviecki repeatedly references the Columbine shootings as a case where people, denied acknowledgment for their specialness, sought out a way to be sure they would be recognized. Niedzviecki posits that if Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had had other channels through which to communicate, the tragedy would have been averted. And, Niedzviecki warns, it will get worse, not better.
With even our sanctioned mass culture becoming ever more violent and extreme, what is left to do that will shock and horrify and thereby proclaim I’m-Specialness? If you go to work like a good boy, you are labeled boring. But how far does the good boy need to go to shake off the aura off Corporate Ken and achieve the status of bad?
(We Need to Talk About Kevin, a fictional tale of school violence, also touches on the idea that eventually, even school shootings can become ho-hum.)
If we are so exposed to I’m Special stories that we have no other way to find meaning and to frame our lives, it is inevitable that we will look for the things that characterize a good story to also characterize our personal narratives. Just like everyone else, we are compelled to find the element in our lives that will make us stand out. For an increasing number of people, that storytelling is not just an internalized act, but also a deliberate, public one. That’s where the blog comes in. (What discussion of current sociological trends would be complete without blogs?)
Niedzviecki notes that online journals reflect:
Our desire to be noted (or at least footnoted) in the electronic mass community. In a culture where it is common to obsess over other people’s problems as a kind of entertainment—from the trials of the stars as chronicled in People and Star Weekly to the agonies of boy-toy doctors on the boob tube—it really isn’t much of a stretch for someone to decide, “Well, my problems can be entertaining, too.” And though there’s a problem of access to the airwaves of radio and television, no one has yet figured out how to keep us from chipping away at the entertainment monoculture via the net.
To Niedzviecki, blogs are a subversive way for individuals to seize a tiny patch of media estate to declare their own specialness. Bloggers, do you feel ready for your non-conformist birthday cards? In addition to blogging, Niedzviecki cites other instances where individuals try to recreate popular culture for themselves; backyard wrestling and Elvis impersonators are two meme that appear throughout the book. Blogging is a little different, though, because it doesn’t just appropriate a piece of pop culture for home use but rather allows the blogger to appropriate a bit of media and brand themselves however they see fit.
The question is where does all this specialness lead? Niedzviecki wonders if conformity might not be the new non-conformity. He offers up his brother’s dedication to Orthodox Judaism and John Walker Lindh embrace of the Taliban’s restrictive policies as two examples of people non-conforming by absolving themselves of much of the freedom considered the foremost perk of modern Western life.
As conforming specialness spreads, our problems as a society change. No longer are we trying to escape the confinement of restrictive parents, religions, and communities. Instead, growing numbers of us are trying to find situations in which we can replicate a sense of belonging in non-restrictive ways. We want to be noticed for being who we are and we want to be told, gently, who we should be.
People who move from big cities to small towns, even off the grid, are doing the same thing, says Niedzviecki.
The pressure of needing to constantly justify and give notice of your existence is ameliorated by living in a (comparatively) closed society… The clock is turned back. The nobody can be somebody just by existing. The roles—town drunk, town loon, town rabble-rouser, town gossip, town genius—provide identities that would otherwise have to be carefully maintained and retooled and projected. Perhaps this is why small towns always seem so sleepy and nonchalant. They are protected from the perpetual necessity of narrative reinvention.
In the end, Niedzviecki doesn’t have an explanation for how we came to be such a Special-centric society. He blames the media and notes that the non-conforming ideal tends to breed good “citizen consumers…passive, focused on the self, willing to work hard to buy the stuff that will make him stand out” rather than forcing us to acknowledge that it is statistically impossible for every one of us to be special, when special is by definition not the normal state of affairs. Nor does Niedzviecki offer an answer as to how we can get off this green screen scenery treadmill life and back to real dirt, in real woods, complete with the unpredictability of the outdoors. After all, there is no escaping culture.
Few can force themselves to suffer. We can’t choose to leave home still a boy, wander the backwoods, work as a logger in the days when logging meant heading off to the forest and cutting down trees by hand—a dangerous business, you could easily lose a life or a leg. Maybe that’s why most of the professional creators working in Western countries today seem to lack gravitas, seem to be complaining just for something to do, just because it’s the next move in playing the game.
In other words, I’m Special has us destined to mediocrity. It’s not the kind of message that will inspire you to go out and conquer the world, but maybe, just maybe, if we stopped thinking quite so much about how we as individuals are special and more about what we have in common with others, maybe the conformity could be revolutionary.

9.24.2015

Why Have Elections?


Thomas Sowell

By Thomas Sowell

Published Sept. 17, 2015

Article HERE

 
In a country with more than 300 million people, it is remarkable how obsessed the media have become with just one — Donald Trump. What is even more remarkable is that, after six years of repeated disasters, both domestically and internationally, under a glib egomaniac in the White House, so many potential voters are turning to another glib egomaniac to be his successor.

No doubt much of the stampede of Republican voters toward Mr. Trump is based on their disgust with the Republican establishment. The fact that the next two biggest vote-getters in the polls are also complete outsiders — Dr. Ben Carson and Ms. Carly Fiorina — reinforces the idea that this is a protest.

It is easy to understand why there would be pent-up resentments among Republican voters. But are elections held for the purpose of venting emotions?

No national leader ever aroused more fervent emotions than Adolf Hitler did in the 1930s. Watch some old newsreels of German crowds delirious with joy at the sight of him. The only things at all comparable in more recent times were the ecstatic crowds that greeted Barack Obama when he burst upon the political scene in 2008.

Elections, however, have far more lasting, and far more serious — or even grim — consequences than emotional venting. The actual track record of crowd-pleasers, whether Juan Peron in Argentina, Obama in America or Hitler in Germany, is very sobering, if not painfully depressing.

The media seem to think that participation in elections is a big deal. But turnout often approaches 100 percent in countries so torn by bitter polarization that everyone is scared to death of what will happen if the other side wins. But times and places with low voter turnout are often times and places when there are no such fears aroused by having an opposing party win.

Despite many people who urge us all to vote, as a civic duty, the purpose of elections is not participation. The purpose is to select individuals for offices, including President of the United States. Whoever has that office has our lives, the lives of our loved ones and the fate of the entire nation in his or her hands.


An election is not a popularity contest, or an award for showmanship. If you want to fulfill your duty as a citizen, then you need to become an informed voter. And if you are not informed, then the most patriotic thing you can do on election day is stay home. Otherwise your vote, based on whims or emotions, is playing Russian roulette with the fate of this nation.

All the hoopla over Donald Trump is distracting attention from a large field of other candidates, some of whom have outstanding track records as governors, where they demonstrated courage, character and intelligence. Others have rhetorical skills like Trump or a serious mastery of issues, unlike Trump.

Even if Trump himself does not end up as the Republican nominee for the presidency, he will have done a major disservice to both his party and the country if his grandstanding has cost us a chance to explore in depth others who may include someone far better prepared for the complex challenges of this juncture in history.

After the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran, we are entering an era when people alive at this moment may live to see a day when American cities are left in radioactive ruins. We need all the wisdom, courage and dedication in the next president — and his or her successors — to save us and our children from such a catastrophe.

Rhetoric and showmanship will certainly not save us.

Donald Trump is not the only obstacle to finding leaders of such character. The ultimate danger lies in the voting public themselves. All too many signs point to an electorate including many people who are grossly uninformed or, worse yet, misinformed.

The very fact that the voting age was lowered to 18 shows the triumph of the vision of elections as participatory rituals, rather than times for fateful choices. If anything, the age might have been raised to 30, since today millions of people in their 20s have never even had the responsibility of being self-supporting, to give them some sense of reality.

We can only hope that the months still remaining before the first primary elections next year will allow voters to get over their emotional responses and concentrate on the life and death implications of choosing the next President of the United States.