Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Why Trump supporters aren’t going to go away

October 12, 2016

Six reasons for Trump’s rise that no-one talks about by David Wong for

The Ecology of Freedom: epilogue

September 30, 2016

THE ECOLOGY OF FREEDOM: The emergence and dissolution of hierarchy by Murray Bookchin (1982, 1991, 2005).  Epilogue.  This concludes my chapter-by-chapter review of Murray Bookchin’s great work, which I began last April.  I could and should have completed this project in a few weeks.   But the exercise was worth doing from my standpoint, and I will be pleased if I have stimulated interest in Bookchin’s ideas.

Western philosophers, from the ancient Greeks to the European Renaissance, maintained that human values should be rooted in nature.  Their problem, according to Murray Bookchin, was that they called upon an external factor—God, Spirit, what Henri Bergson later called the “vital force” to bring them together.

murraybookchin.ecologyoffreedom512T99r4GjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The truth is, according to Bookchin, that no external factor is necessary.   Mutualism, self-organization, freedom and awareness are present in nature, and evidently were latent in the universe from the very beginning.  Matter has self-organizing properties that cause it to become more complex.  Life has self-organizing properties that generate fertility, complexity and interdependence.

The evolution of life is as much a matter of developing new forms that fit in with the whole as it is competition between individuals and species.

Some biologists think that the biosphere itself is like a huge organism, which is able to regulate its internal processes and keep itself in balance.

The cruelty of nature is exaggerated, Bookchin wrote.  Wolves bringing down a sick or aged caribou is part of the cycle of life.  There is nothing in the natural world that is comparable to organized human warfare.


Murray Bookchin: an ecological society

September 29, 2016

This is part of a chapter-by-chapter review of THE ECOLOGY OF FREEDOM: The emergence and dissolution of hierarchy by Murray Bookchin (1982, 1991, 2005).  Doing this has been harder and taken longer than I expected.  The effort is worthwhile for me, but I fear I am not doing justice to the breadth and depth of Bookchin’s thought.  I hope videos and links will partly make up for this lack.

chapter twelve – an ecological society

In previous chapters, Murray Bookchin explained his ideas about humanity’s original organic societies, which were family-based clans in which everyone was valued, everyone contributed what they could and there supposedly was neither coercion nor selfish individualism.

He went on to explain his ideas of how hierarchy arose through priesthoods and warrior bands, and the permutations of hierarchy through human history, and how universal religious and philosophical ideals arose as both a product of hierarchy and a reaction against it.

In this, his final chapter, he outlined his hopes for a future society which embodies the best ideals and practices of the original organic society and the newer universal ideals.

He didn’t provide a detailed outline of an ideal anarchist society not a strategy for bringing such a society into being.

Rather he provided a way of thinking that leads me to question my assumptions about what the world has to be like and to realize that things have to be the way they are now.

A good society rejects the idea that humanity and nature are antagonistic, Bookchin wrote.  Although the idea that humanity is nature made conscious is only a figure of speech, it is the case that individual human nature is rooted in biological nature and human society is rooted in ecological nature.

Down through history, underneath the layers of domination, there have been “layered membranes” of freedom and community, he wrote.  We need a modern vision of freedom that is intentional and not based on tradition and custom, although it will be hard to improve on the virtues of pre-literate societies.

Civilization historically has rested on scarcity, so that the freedom of the elite rested on the labor of the many.   From scarcity arose the notion of contract, so that people could protect themselves from being cheater of their fair share.

Pre-literate societies rejected the idea of contract as the basis of society, Bookchin wrote.  When you live in fear of being short-changed, you short-change others.

He said we should cease to identify freedom with domination.   We should admire Michelangelo, not Gilgamesh, Achilles, Joshua and Julius Caesar.


Should we be intolerant of the intolerant?

September 29, 2016
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a writer and thinker whom I greatly respect, wrote an interesting theoretical explanation of how it is that an intransigent minority can impose its will on an apathetic minority.

He argued that the only way for the majority to protect itself is to refuse to tolerate the intolerant.

I have thought about this issue most of my life.  I came of age in the 1950s, when liberals as well as conservatives said we should outlaw the American Communist Party inasmuch as the Communists themselves rejected freedom of speech and other democratic norms.

One problem with this is: Who decides what intolerant minority should not be tolerated?  Aren’t the deciders likely to be an equal and opposite intolerant minority.

How do you identify the intolerant?  Do you assume an individual is intolerant because of that person’s political affiliation or religious heritage?

If you outlaw the intolerant, they do not necessarily disappear.  How do you identify the hidden intolerant?  Doesn’t it then become necessary to become intolerant of those who are tolerant of the intolerant?

Then, too, effective intolerance of the intolerant is possible only when the allegedly intolerant are a powerless minority.   When the intolerant are powerful enough to actually threaten freedom, they cannot be suppressed.

But I don’t deny that it’s possible for an intolerant minority to impose its will on the majority.  It’s complicated.  I thank Peteybee of Spread an Idea for linking to Taleb’s articles.


Tragedy and hope in Louisiana floods

August 20, 2016
Blue indicates the flooded areas

Blue indicates flooded areas in Baton Rouge

During the past week or so, I’ve been reading about the disastrous floods in south Louisiana, which, according to recent estimates, have left tens of thousands of families homeless and destitute.

Middle-class people, living in places that have never been flooded before, have lose everything and depend for food and shelter on the charity of strangers.

U.S.-declared disaster area

U.S.-declared disaster area

But it is a story not only of disaster, but of hope.  Rod Dreher, a writer for the American Conservative, who lives in that region, tells on his blog how everyone in the community—white, black and Asian, middle-class and poor, Republican and Democrat—have come together to help in the face of the disaster.

Almost everybody in that part of the world owns a boat, and a so-called “Cajun Navy” has rescued many stranded elderly and sick people who otherwise would have lost their lives as well as their property.

The local churches, of many denominations, have been the main organizers of rescue and relief—which is not to say that unbelievers haven’t helped out or that the federal and state governments haven’t done their jobs.

Many people, including Dreher and his wife, have taken strangers into their homes.  Also—

My daughter spent the day at Amite Baptist church preparing meals for people who have no home, while volunteer crews tore out the water-logged carpet and pews.

My boys were part of a crew from their school who have been going out to muck houses of school families who were flooded out. They had to boat in to this one elderly woman’s house (her grandchild goes to the boys’ school) to take out drywall, pull up carpet and floorboards, and suchlike — this, in 91 degree heat, in humidity over 90 percent. While they were there, the elderly lady collapsed with a heat stroke inside the house. My older son called 911, and the crew boated across the water to pick up the paramedics and take them to the house while the others used ice from their coolers to try to keep her alive. They boated her and the paramedics back across the water to the ambulance. The lady made it, thank God, but it was a very close call.

All the boys working on the mucking crew who saved her life learned a valuable lesson today. My boys came home in clothes stinking of sewage water, with aching muscles and stories to tell.

louisiana.flood.eMucking is a dirty job that is necessary to salvage a flooded structure.  It involves getting rid of the filth and mud left by the flood, and everything that is porous, which includes most possessions, and then cleaning up what remains.  Otherwise the building will be destroyed by mildew

And here’s something from the Facebook page of one of Dreher’s friends.


USA is on the brink of …… something

August 19, 2016

A blogger named Fred Reed sees parallels between the United States today and France on the eve of the French Revolution.

I know three young women of exceptional intelligence and talent, all of them mature and disciplined.  They cannot find jobs.  It is not from lack of trying, far from it.  One of them is married to a hard-working man in a highly technical field usually associated with wealth.  He is paid a low hourly wage and forced to work on contract, meaning that he has neither benefits nor retirement.  His employers know that if he leaves, they can easily find another to take his place. They have him where they want him.

[snip]  In numbers that a half century ago would have seemed impossible, the American young live with their parents, being unable to find jobs to support themselves.  Waitressing in a good bar pays better in tips than a woman with a college degree can otherwise earn, assuming that she can earn anything at all.  Employers having learned to hire them as individual contractors, they move into their thirties with no hope of a pension for their old age.

Desperation and hatred are close cousins.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Bezos of Amazon makes spaceships and buys the Washington Post as a toy and the newspapers have reported that a Croesus of Wall Street has bought a Modigliani, it may have been, for $55 million dollars.

[snip]. The homeless in San Francisco are now described as “a plague.”  There seem to be ever more of them.  But not to worry.  Never worry.  The stock market remains exuberant.  In nearby Silicon Valley, a man buys a new Lamborghini every year.


The problem with a woman as President

August 2, 2016


When I look at the lists of women heads of state and women heads of government since World War Two, I see more warrior queens—Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi—than I do motherly social reformers.

The problem with women leaders in a male-dominated society is that, in order to be respected by men, they often repress the so-called feminine weaknesses of compassion and empathy and emphasize the so-called masculine virtues of combativeness and unsentimental moral pragmatism.

I don’t know whether Hillary Clinton became a war hawk in order to earn the respect of powerful men, or whether she had the respect of powerful men because she already was a war hawk, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be a respected part of the political establishment if she were an advocate for peace.  The problem is that a war hawk is not what is needed now.


Nothing new about a woman leading a nation

July 23, 2016
Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel

The possibility of electing the first woman President of the United States is a big deal for many of us Americans.  But the rest of the world may well ask: What took you so long?

Even in the days when women were not eligible to enter the professions or earn university degrees, they still could be queens and empresses.

Rulers such as Queen Elizabeth I of England and Catherine the Great of Russia showed that women could play power politics with the best of them.

Since women in the 20th century received the right to vote and run for office, they’ve had the opportunity to become heads of government on their own merits and not as family dynasties.  Here are some examples.

1969 – Golda Meir (Israeli Labor Party) became Prime Minister of Israel.

1979 – Margaret Thatcher (Conservative) became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

1990 – Jenny Shipley (National Party) became Prime Minister of New Zealand.

1991 – Edith Cresson (Socialist) became Prime Minister of France.

1993 – Kim Campbell (Progressive Conservative) became Prime Minister of Canada.

1993 – Tansu Çiller (True Path Party) became Prime Minister of Turkey. [added later]  (Hat tip to S. Glover)

2005 – Angela Merkel (Christian Democratic Union) became Chancellor of Germany.

2010 – Julia Gillard (Australian Labor Party) became Prime Minister of Australia.

2011 – Dilma Rousseff (Brazilian Labor Party) became President of Brazil

Here are some examples of women who achieved power as members of family dynasties.

1966 – Indira Gandhi, daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, became Prime Minister of India.

1974 – Isabel Peron, widow of Juan Peron, became President of Argentina.

1986 – Corazon Aquino, widow of Benigno Aquino Jr., became President of the Philippines.

1988 – Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulifikar Ali Bhutto, became Prime Minister of Pakistan.

2001 – Magawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Sukarno, became President of Indonesia.  [added later]

It is an interesting question as to whether Hillary Clinton, if elected, belongs on the first list or the second.  She is a successful and effective politician, but would she have been elected Senator from New York or been appointed Secretary of State if she had been Hillary Rodham rather than Hillary Rodham Clinton?

Currently Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Germany, Liberia, Lithuania, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Namibia, Nepal, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom all have women as heads of state, heads of government or both.  Also Burma (sort of).


Why New York state should pass the DREAM Act

June 19, 2016

The proposed New York DREAM Act would allow unauthorized immigrants who’ve earned high school diplomas in New York state to apply for tuition assistance to attend state colleges and universities.

The documentary film profiles six hard-working young people who might benefit from the new law.

State law doesn’t not protect them from deportation, but it gives them the same right to attend public school as citizens and legal immigrants. The proposed law would give them an equal right to apply for financial aid.

An estimated 4,500 undocumented students graduate from New York high schools each year.  An estimated 90 to 95 percent of them do not pursue higher education.


Where political change comes from

May 19, 2016

Keenanga-Yamahhta Taylor, a Bernie Sanders supporter, wrote this for the Boston Review:

When activists recall a Democratic Party that cared about ordinary people, what they really have in mind are the social movements and revolts that forced the party to respond to the needs and demands of those on the streets. 

RTW_protestThere would have been no New Deal without the Hoovervilles, rent riots, sit-down strikes, and Communist Party activism of the 1930s. 

There would have been no Great Society without Civil Rights protests in the South and rebellions in more than two hundred cities across the country during the 1960s. 

Even Richard Nixon, who won office appealing to a racist “silent majority,” waited out his first term before he began dismantling Lyndon Johnson’s welfare state, lest he provoke protests.

As the great activist and historian Howard Zinn put it, “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but ‘who is sitting in’—and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.”  He didn’t mean that elections are irrelevant, but he emphasized what citizens do to shape their world. 

The anger about inequality and injustice in the United States, which has been given some voice by the Sanders campaign and most certainly by the Black Lives Matter movement, should not be stifled by the pressure to organize through the Democratic Party.  It can’t be done.

Source: Boston Review

Sometimes the art of compromise is necessary, but nobody is going to compromise with you unless you represent something powerful enough that the other person feels they have to compromise.


Nations of immigrants and the future

May 17, 2016


Hat tip to Jim Rose.

I’ve always thought of the United States as a nation particularly welcoming to immigrants, but the chart shows many other nations have proportionately larger immigrant populations than the USA.

I’m less surprised at the high ranking of Australia, New Zealand and Canada as at nations such as Switzerland, Austria, Sweden and Ireland, which I’ve always thought of as ethnically and culturally homogeneous.

I’d be interested in the figures for Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American countries.

[Update 2016/5/19.  I came across an interesting interactive graphic, Origins and Destinations of the World’s Migrants, 1990-2015, from Pew Research Center that answers my question.  Also, I forgot about peoplemovin- A visualization of migrant flows, an interactive graphic to which I linked previously.]


The seeds of America’s culture wars

April 29, 2016

David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America is a ground-breaking 946-page book I never got around to reading, and probably won’t.  But I think I got the gist of it by reading a review by Scott Alexander on his Slate Star Codex blog.

Fischer’s argument is that basic patterns of American culture were set by migrations of four very different groups of migrants from the British Isles:

  • Albion'sSeedhek32xef_largePuritans to New England in the 1620s.
  • Cavaliers to Virginia in the 1640s.
  • Quakers to Pennsylvania in the 1670s.
  • Borderers (aka Scots-Irish) to the Appalachians in the 1700s.

Those who came after, he said, had to adapt to social systems established by these four groups—the moralistic Puritans, the aristocratic Cavaliers, the tolerant Quakers and the warlike Borderers—even though the biological descendants of these groups ceased to be in the majority.

It’s interesting and, I think, at least partly true.   Alexander’s review is long for a blog post, but much shorter than the book, and even those uninterested in his basic theme will enjoy reading his lists of fun facts about each group.


Murray Bookchin: the emergence of hierarchy

April 26, 2016

This is part of a chapter-by-chapter review of THE ECOLOGY OF FREEDOM: The emergence and dissolution of hierarchy by Murray Bookchin (1982, 1991, 2005)


chapter three: the emergence of hierarchy

At the dawn of recorded history, the human race was in the midst of a social, political and technological revolution.  Agriculture had started to replace hunting and gathering.  New technologies such as the wheel, the pottery kiln, the metal smelter and the loom generated increased wealth, making possible societies with much larger populations than villages and hunting clans.

Hardly any of this, however, went to improve the overall human material standard of living.  Instead the increased means of power and wealth went to support emperors, priesthoods, aristocracies and the armies and merchants who served them.

Human beings gained both increased power over nature and increased power over other human beings.

Studies of grave sites indicate that the average human in ancient civilizations was in poorer health and was more poorly nourished that the so-called savages living in hunting and gathering societies on their borders.

Most historians, including Marxist historians, recognize this, but they think it was a good thing, not a bad thing.

If the increased wealth had been spread among the populace, they say, it would have resulted only in a moderately prosperous mediocrity.  The concentration of wealth made it possible to create science, philosophy, literature, the fine arts and more new technologies, which is turn allowed humanity to advance through stages to the good life we enjoy today—or, according to the Marxists, create the material basis for a utopian society yet to come.

Murray Bookchin disagreed.  For one thing, he did not believe that history proceeds in pre-ordained stages.  He believed that the different periods of history offered choices of roads to take, some good, some bad, most of them mixtures of the two.

The rejection of hierarchy would have been a good choice, he wrote.  There are many non-Western societies in which people, in Gandhi’s words, have enough for their need, but not their greed.  Such societies are rich in tradition and culture, and their people are at least as happy as modern Americans and Europeans.

I am not as sure as Bookchin that such a choice was feasible.  Once one civilization devotes itself to militarism and acquisition, the rest must submit or find a method of defense, and the most obvious method of defense is to become militaristic and acquisitive themselves.

This is a dilemma that still exists today, which thinkers such as Gene Sharp have tried to find answers for.


Murray Bookchin: the outlook of organic society

April 23, 2016

This is part of a chapter-by-chapter review of THE ECOLOGY OF FREEDOM: The emergence and dissolution of hierarchy by Murray Bookchin (1982, 1991, 2005)

chapter two: the outlook of organic society

Drawing on archeological evidence, mainly from the Near East, and anthropological research, mainly among American Indians in the Southwest, Murray Bookchin constructed a picture of human society before the emergence of hierarchy.

murraybookchin.ecologyoffreedom512T99r4GjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_He saw primal human societies as “organic”—one in which everybody shared, nobody gave orders and all regarded themselves as members of an extended family.

He gave the example of the Kintu Indians, who lacked words for “have,” “take” or “rule.”  A Kintu mother does not “take” a baby with her, she “goes with” it.  A Kintu husband does not “have” a wife, he “lives with” her.  A Kintu leader does not rule, he “stands with” his people.

People in organic societies typically saw plants and animals as living things like themselves, Bookchin wrote; they saw themselves as part of the natural world and not separated from it or dominating it.

They had private property in that each person had personal tools and other possessions.  But they typically had usufruct—the right to take anything you need for survival.

Nobody in an organic society would deny anyone food, clothing or shelter, no matter what their work contribution.  In a community living close to the margin of survival, this would be the equivalent of a death sentence.

Bookchin wrote that organic societies did have a sexual division of labor.  Women bore children and raised them.  Because of this, they had less mobility than the male hunters and warriors.  Instead they were gardeners, potters and keepers of the hearth.

Kinship was based on descent from common mothers.  Bookchin did not believe that organic societies were  matriarchal, in the sense that women gave orders to the men, but he did believe they were matricentric, in their unity was based on kinship, and because they honored the values associated with hearth and home.

Organic societies extended their sympathies by extending family ties—by intermarrying with other kin groups, or by adopting strangers into their own kin group


Murray Bookchin: the concept of social ecology

April 20, 2016

This is part of a chapter by chapter review of THE ECOLOGY OF FREEDOM: The emergence and dissolution of hierarchy by Murray Bookchin (1982, 1991, 2005)

chapter one: the concept of social ecology.

The Ecology of Freedom begins with an account of Norse mythology and how the Vikings saw the world’s precarious balance.  There was Asgaard, the celestial domain of the gods above; Midgard, where human beings lived on the earth; and Niffleheim, the dark, icy domain of giants, dwarves and the dead.

murraybookchin.ecologyoffreedom512T99r4GjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_These domains were linked by the great World Tree, which was sustained by a magic fountain that infused it continually with life.  Odin, the god of wisdom, and his mighty son Thor kept the great wolf Fenris, and the great serpent of Midgard and the hostile giants at bay.   They enforced the keeping of oaths and treaties and invited the bravest of warriors to dine with them in Valhalla.

Odin attained wisdom from drinking of the waters of the World Tree, but the price he had to pay was the sacrifice of an eye.  So his wisdom was a one-eyed wisdom, like that of modern science, which reveals the scientific laws that govern the world, but blinds us to the uniqueness of each individual thing, especially living things.

Order began to break down when the gods tortured the witch Gullveig, the maker of gold, to make her reveal her secrets.  Corruption, treachery and greed began to rule the world.  Warriors sought gold and forgot their blood oaths.

The end will be Ragnarok, a war in which the giants, Fenris the wold and the great serpent will destroy humanity and the gods and make the universe a void of cold and darkness.

In one version, that is the end.  In another, gods and humans will regenerate, learn from their mistakes and live in joy.

Modern scientific knowledge, according to Bookchin, gives us the possibilities both of Ragnarok or a world of joy.  It depends on whether we have a one-eyed or a two-eyed wisdom.


The geography of Donald Trump’s support

April 6, 2016



Winners by county: Trump, turquoise; Cruz, gold; Kasich, green; Rubio, red

Source: Wikipedia.


Source: The New York Times.

The two maps above show the support for Donald Trump versus other Republican candidates in primaries so far.   The next chart shows support for Trump based on public opinion polls.


Source: The New York Times.

None of this has any significance in deciding who to vote for, and little significance in predicting who will win.  It just reflects my addiction to looking at data on maps.

Below are some more maps with information that might help explain these three maps.  First, two maps showing American regional cultures, and then some more demographic information.  I leave it to you to find the correlations (if any).


Why nihilism is worse than hypocrisy

March 7, 2016
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate in Detroit

Donald Trump (Reuters)

Donald Trump’s assertions that he would require American military officers to practice torture and other war crimes stirred up a strong backlash, and he backed down.

Others point out that the U.S. government has long been doing things that Trump is only talking about.

That’s true, but I still think indignation is justified.  Advocating crimes against humanity is just as bad, and in some ways worse, than practicing crimes against humanity.

It is better to be a hypocrite than a nihilist.  The hypocrite, even if lying to others or to self, has a road back to human decency.  The frankly sociopathic nihilist has burned his bridges.


Ian Welsh on the culture of meanness

February 23, 2016

One of the most striking things about much culture in America is the simple meanness of it.  The cruelty.  Most of this seems to come down to three feelings.

  • Yukon raven by gavatronMy life sucks.  I have to work a terrible job I hate in order to survive.  I have to bow and scrape and do shit I don’t want to do.  You should have to as well.
  • Anyone who doesn’t make it must not be willing to suffer as I do, therefore anyone who doesn’t make it deserves to be homeless, go without food and so on.
  • Anybody who is against us needs to be hurt and humiliated, because that’s how I see my superiors deal with people who go against them. [snip]

This appears to be a result of something simple: at every stage of American life, it’s a zero or negative sum game, and who gets ahead is decided by authority figures.

Source: Ian Welsh

Not 100 percent true, I know of many exceptions, but becoming more and more true.  Welsh’s whole post is well worth reading.

An interesting public opinion poll

February 8, 2016

political revolution

A recent public opinion poll found that a majority are willing to consider a “political revolution” to redistribute income from the richest Americans to the middle class.

This includes a majority of Tea Party supporters, of independents and of people who didn’t vote in 2012.

The poll found majorities in favor of raising taxes on the wealthy, raising taxes on corporations, single-payer health care and free college tuition.

But it also found that a majority of Americans think big government is a more serious problem than big business.  Majorities of whites, of blacks and of Hispanics agree on this.


Silicon Valley’s agenda for the Democrats

January 27, 2016

The kinds of Democrats who go to college, get an entrepreneurial career or move to a big city — those who embrace a relatively unpredictable life — want an entirely different role for the federal government: they want the state to invest in modernization, with more high-skilled immigration, expansive free trade agreements, and performance-based charter schools.

Source: The Ferenstein Wire.

Startup founders and college-educated liberals fundamentally reject an atomistic conception of Society: government should be involved in personal decisions, such as finishing school or eating healthy, because they believe that personal decisions ripple out and significantly affect most people in Society.

Source: The Ferenstein Wire

Economically, the technology industry exacerbates inequality between the rich and middle-class, but eradicates poverty by making essential goods freely accessible.  Ultimately, this will trend toward a two-class society of extremely wealthy workaholics who create technologies that allow the rest of society to enjoy leisurely prosperity.  The cost for this prosperity will be inequality of influence

Source: The Ferenstein Wire.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

A San Francisco journalist named Gary Ferenstein says the Democratic Party is no longer the party of factory workers and organized labor.  It is the party of college-educated professionals and high-tech companies, he says, and this is a good thing.

He has published a manifesto on behalf of the Silicon Valley Democrats—which include Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton—and against “protectocrats” such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

While not all Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and professionals think alike, any more than labor union members, white people or any other large category of people do, I think that Ferenstein does speak for many people from that background, and that his ideas are worth discussing.

His basic idea is that the government should give free rein to creative entrepreneurs, while trying to change individual behavior so as to make people more productive.  The high-tech start-up corporation is his model for all the institutions of society.

Unlike the typical neo-liberal, he does not advocate allowing people to fend for themselves.  Government should assure everyone an adequate education, adequate medical care and everything else they need to be economically productive.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

He believes that the key to better education and better public health services is internal competition.  He therefore favors Obamacare over a universal single-payer system, and charter schools over universal public education.

This is a form of radicalism that has appeared time and again in modern history—a radicalism that would revolutionize the way people live, yet leave the structure of political and economic power unchanged.

Ferenstein asserts that change is always good, there are no fundamental conflicts in society and education is the solution to all problems.  Nobody struggling to survive in today’s harsh economy would believe any such thing, but I’m sure that there is a constituency that does.

He deserves credit for making that constituency’s assumptions explicit, and showing how they influence the Democratic Party leadership.

What follows is more of Ferenstein’s Silicon Valley manifesto, my comments and links to the full text of his writings.


What is killing Southern white women?

January 26, 2016


Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Two researchers at Princeton University published a study last November indicating that the death rate for middle-aged white Americans was on the increase.

Statistical blogger Andrew Gelman analyzed the figures and concluded that the increase is concentrated among white women in the South.

Double click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

One thing he did was to adjust the figures according to age.  Not everybody in an age group, such as 55 to 64, is the same age, and changes in age distribution can skew the figures over time.

The top chart shows the results of Gelman’s adjustment and analysis.

The Princeton study said the main causes for the increased death rate were drug-related (overdoses), alcohol related (liver disease) and suicide—all indicators of despair.   An earlier study said higher mortality among white women was correlated with lack of education and heavy smoking.

Why would this affect Southerners, whites or women more than other Americans?  I don’t know.  I’m pretty sure, however, that southern white women, like other Americans, would be healthier and happier in a high-wage, full-employment economy.


Walking in New York City as a woman in a hijab

January 12, 2016

Hat tip to The Vineyard of the Saker.

An attractive woman walked the streets of New York City for five hours attired in a T-shirt, tight jeans and a cardigan.  She was the target of constant unwanted remarks and propositions.

The same woman walked the streets of New York City for five hours in a hijab, traditional Muslim dress.  She was ignored or treated with respect.

Modesty in dress is a good thing, not a bad thing.

What we were afraid of in 2015

December 30, 2015

topfears2D6BC74000000578-3273130-image-m-74_1444858317411Source: Chapman Survey of American Fears.

The healthy Hispanic life style

December 19, 2015


Hispanics in the United States are nearly as poor, on average, as African Americans.  Yet they live longer, on average, than non-Hispanic whites.  What’s their secret?

Jasmine Aquilera, writing for Yes! magazine, says it is a combination of close community and family bonds, a healthier diet and la cuarentena, a Latin American tradition in which a new mother rests for the first 40 days after giving birth, not lifting a finger except to breastfeed and bond with her child.

A life in which community and family take priority would certainly be less stressful than a life in which priority is given to climbing the ladder of success—particularly in an economy in which so many people are moving down the ladder rather than up.

The traditional Mexican diet, based on corn, beans and rice, is indeed a healthy one.  It should not be confused with the Tex-Mex diet, with its big gobs of ground meat and melted cheese.   I think that the Tex-Mex diet may be a big reason Hispanics suffer disproportionately from obesity and diabetes.

I was especially interested in Aquilera’s report on the custom of cuartena. It reflects a culture that is profoundly pro-life in a way that goes beyond mere opposition to abortion and contraception.

I’ve read international surveys of happiness, which in general is proportional to the level of material well-being in various countries.  The exceptions are the former Communist countries of eastern Europe, where people are less happy than the statistics would indicate, and the Latin American countries, where people are more happy than the statistics would indicate.

I think Latin Americans have something to teach us Anglo Americans about how to live.


Latinos Live Longest Despite Poverty.  Here’s Their Secret by Jasmine Aquilera for Yes!

The tide of illegal Mexican immigration ebbs

November 20, 2015

PH_2015-11-19_mexican-immigration-01These days more Mexicans are leaving the United States than entering.  As Mitt Romney might say, they are “self-deporting.”

Immigration, both legal and illegal, peaked in 2007.  Pew Research reported that in that year, the U.S. resident population included:

  • 5.9 million legal immigrants from Mexico
  • 6.9 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico.
  • 5.3 million unauthorized immigrants from other countries.

By 2014, the figures were:

  • 6.1 million legal immigrants from Mexico
  • 5.6 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico
  • 5.7 million unauthorized immigrants from other countries.

Overall, according to Pew, there are just under 59 million foreign-born residents and citizens of the United States, comprising a near-record 14 percent of the population.

Pew Research said one reason for the net out-migration of Mexicans is that the U.S. economy is less of a magnet than it once was.  Increasing numbers of Mexicans tell pollsters that they are just as well off staying in Mexico as they would be going to the United States.

Another factor is increased immigration enforcement.  Even though the number of unauthorized immigrants being stopped at the border is down, the number of deportations is up.

There are still 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the USA, and even if the unauthorized immigrant population continues to shrink at the rate it did from 2007 to 2014, it would still take more than 87 years before they were all gone.

As I’ve written before, I’m of two minds as to what to do about this.  I don’t think immigrants who break the rules should get a place in line ahead of those who obey the rules.   At the same time, I can’t much blame people for breaking rules to  better their lives and the lives of their families.

My bottom line is that it is better to offer a path to citizenship, as President Obama proposes, than to have an exploitable underclass in the United States outside the protection of U.S. law.


More Mexicans Are Leaving Than Coming to the U.S. by Ana Gonzalez-Barrera for Pew Research.

5 facts about illegal immigration in the U. S. by Jens Manuel Krogstad and Jeffrey S. Passel for Pew Research.

Modern Immigration Wave Brings 59 Million to U.S. by Pew Research.