Saturday, January 28, 2012

Upper Middle Class Disconnect

In Charles Murray's new book "Coming Apart: The State of White America" much is being made his concept of the new upper middle class in America. In the past the folks that ultimately reached the upper middle class were still affected by the quintessential American experience. These people created small businesses or fought their way up the corporate ladder and by the sweat of their brow became successful. Murray submits the notion that this is largely gone today, disappearing over the last 50 years as America becomes more socialist, more European.

As the decades since 1960 passed a child from a middle class or an upper middle class family where the traditional patriarchal structure put them through college (or handed them the business outright) never experienced normal rites of passage. From getting one's hands dirty working for minimum wage to partaking in traditional activities like hunting or even fishing are largely foreign to the yuppies of the day.

Personally it's a bit more complicated in my mind than pitting the often liberal, well educated, well off segment of Urbana against the notions of 1960's America. I haven't read the book yet - I don't think it's been officially released yet - and I'm sure Murray treats it as such, but the book's little survey to do just that demands some examination.

Here are the questions (my response and comments in bold red)

1. Have you ever worked on a factory floor? NO
By 1981 when I entered the work force factories were closing on a daily basis, young men need not apply
2. Have you ever held a job that caused a part of your body to hurt at the end of the day? YES
3. Have you seen last year's mega-hit movie, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"? NO
Crap movies are crap movies, this means nothing
4. Can you name this NASCAR champion? NO
NASCAR may be a massive sport, but I've got better things to do with my time, for God's sake there's paint drying and grass growing somewhere
5. In the past five years, have you been fishing or hunting? YES
Not nearly often enough
6. Do you have a close friend who is an evangelical Christian?YES
7. During the past year, have you stocked your own fridge with domestic mass-market beer? NO
My wife and I don't drink. This question is designed to see if you are an import snob. Bogus on the face of it. Mass market beers were all there were in the 60's and 70's, today there are many domestic and import beers that are far better
8. Do you now have a close friend with whom you have strong and wide-ranging political disagreement? YES
Several. This question wants to declare that  hard core liberals will not fraternize with sub-human conservatives. This may be so???
9. Have you eaten at an Applebee's, TGI Friday's, or Outback Steakhouse in the past year? YES
Apparently to the upper class snooty types these restaurants are far too pedestrian. Bogus question
10. Have you or your spouse ever bought a pickup truck? NO
A minivan, yes. A pickup truck is next to mother and apple pie, you are just not American if you don't have one.
11. Have you ever attended a Kiwanis or Rotary Club meeting, or a gathering at a union local? NO 
Fraternal organizations and even unions are waning in America and many think it's because government has stepped in and usurped these functions, there may be truth in that. Clubs in general have diminished and big time sports and sports bars may have had a lot to do with it
12. Have you ever participated in a parade that did not involve global warming, gay rights, or a war protest? NO
Do Tea Party rally's count as parades? I went to one of them
13. Since leaving school, have you worn a uniform as part of your job? YES
I was an installer of voice and data cabling
14. Have you ever ridden on a Greyhound or Trailways bus? NO
I have traveled by Amtrak - buses suck
15. Did you ever watch an "Oprah" show all the way through? GOD, NO
Shouldn't the question have been about Jerry Springer? 
16. Did you or your spouse ever serve in the armed forces? NO
When the Vietnam war ended the draft was long gone and the military had a terrible reputation. Very few of us went that way in the late seventies/early eighties
17. Did you grow up in a family in which the chief breadwinner was not in a managerial position or high-prestige occupation (defined as dentist, physician, architect, attorney, engineer, scientist, or college professor)? YES
If you lived in a home with college educated parents then the expectation to go to college was high, there was no such expectation in my home. Oddly all seven of us attended some college, technical school, or higher education - eventually 
18. Have you ever lived for at least a year as an adult in an American neighborhood in which the majority of your nearest 50 neighbors probably did not have college degrees? YES
Still do
19. Have you ever had a close friend who could seldom get better than Cs in high school even if he or she tried hard? YES
Do not even understand the relevance of this question
20. During the last month, have you voluntarily hung out with people who were smoking cigarettes? YES

One commenter on added these questions which in many ways are more honest and to the point:

Do you think New Yorker cartoons are funny? NO
Playboy cartoons are funny
How many different labels of wine have you drank in the last 30 days? NONE
Wine knowledge fascinates me, being a teetotaler I just can't get into it 
How many times have you been to a theme park for vacation? NONE
How many polo matches have you attended in your life? ONE
Was at a work convention and this was one of the planned offsite activities  - it was a blast
Can you find the plumbing section in a Home Depot or Lowe's without asking someone for help? YES
How many quarters of NFL football did you watch last season? A LOT
How many hours of NPR do you listen to each week? SEVERAL
Here's the deal about NPR - once in a while you will be informed if you keep your liberal bullshit filters up. And you won't be assaulted by commercials at 120db's between obnoxious conservative platitudes (yes, conservatives spew bullshit too at times)
Can you identify the architectural style of your home? NO
Have you ever flown in a private jet? YES
A corporate jet w/8 seats, very, very cool.
Have you ever changed a tire? YES
If not your are either non-mechanical or you can afford a service that does it for you  - either way you should be ashamed, right?

I scored 10 of 20 on the first set of 20 which put me on the cusp of this new upper middle class in America (the only thing keeping me out was the "upper" part). I think it's flawed to certain degree because things other than creeping socialism and crony capitalism have changed the landscape - technology being chief among them. It just reinforces the notion that the vast middle class is under assault in America. A robust middle class is the one thing that is absolutely historical about the American experiment. Never before has there been anything like it. I think Charles Murray will pointing that out with this book, looking forward to reading it.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oooh what a lucky man he was

If Barack Obama gets re-elected using the tired old drivel of class warfare in a day and age where the economy is crap and the direction of the so-called recovery is steamroller flat then America will get the government it deserves. Never underestimate the stupidity of the public school/mainstream media educated electorate. The opposition party, the Republicans (aka The Stupid Party) is debating over an unelectable narcissist - a narcissism eclipsed only by the current occupant of the oval office - and a man who can't get out of his own way.

Despite my devotion to many of the same principles expressed by Newt Gingrich I will say this as simply as I can - women hate him. If you think Republicans can win without politics averse, middle of the road women you're deluding yourself. I know that my middle of the road, politics averse wife can't stand the man.

Women may not know or particularly trust Mitt Romney, but they do not hate him. Mitt is a loyal and faithful family man. Newt is a narcissist. Another thing women hate is selfish men who think only about themselves.

I'm not crazy about Mitt for a number of reasons but I have no doubt whatsoever that he will be a "great" President compared to the imposter in office now. Obama is a petulant man who does not even like the United States of America. He treats the job as some kind of rite that doesn't even deserve someone of his caliber. It's disgusting to see him put his damn feet all over that historic furniture in the Oval Office. Show some stinking respect, you turd...

It is amazing to me that thinking people can't see that the Obama campaign and the media is going to put capitalism on trial by pitting millionaires and billionaires - the people they really serve - against the rest of us. Weirder yet, they let him do it without retaliation. Can they really stand up and tell the American people that it's the rich and the ability to get rich that have made America what it is? Probably not. It is not government that makes a great country, it is the act of the government getting out of the way by insuring equal opportunity. The more and more the government steps in with a controlling mentality the less free and the less great this country is. This is simply because a meddling government ultimately serves only millionaires and billionaires.

I defy anyone to deny that Obama's true goal is a poorer nation of government dependents. I long for the day Barack Obama and his apologists are in the rear view mirror and America can move on and move up.

PS: I don't like him

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hardening the heart

I am often moved by the stream of consciousness posts on Bruce Charlton's Miscellany website. Some of his posts soar over my head and I can only hope to learn something, others such the piece he called "Hard and soft hearts - and toughness" really got to me.

One of the hardest things to do in this modern world is to really feel something. We have become so desensitized to human suffering by the real and fake (and manipulated) images we see in the modern media that we are severely jaded. I struggle with this greatly.

Over the last 20 plus years I can think of only a few instances where I was moved to tears and outward appearances of compassion or joy. How sad is that? When my premature son was born and was OK I was genuinely moved with relief and joy for both my son and my wife. There may have been a few times when I was on stage and performing (as a musician) I was moved by the experience, but I can't pin point them today. The attack and tragedy of 9/11 greatly moved me. I was beside my self for many days, welling up with each retelling of personal tragedies and miraculous stories. I know I was profoundly saddened when several good, good friends were leaving the company I worked for, although I wept in private never showing my feelings aloud (what is wrong with me?). There were a few days when my marriage was very rocky before the decision was made to gut it out that made me actually "feel". That's about it. What a sad life if that's all I can remember of sorrow and joy.

Charlton says emphatically nothing ever justifies deliberate hardening of the heart. Deliberately hardening the heart is an act of evil. We see it everyday and sometimes even participate in the exercises that permanently condemn our own hearts to a thoughtless, compassionless life.

He also says: Because to harden the heart is to exclude love, to build a carapace of pride - it is, indeed, an act of cowardice: hard-hearted people are cowards, in the sense that they take the easier and more expedient root of not caring. I perceive many people, many intellectuals in particular, and perhaps especially intellectuals...

This I have found to be true. Many of the people I know who are well above average in intelligence (I put myself at just above average) have hard hearts. They have no time or do they care for people below them in intelligence or social rank - they would not give them the time of day let alone for a minute consider what they have to say. Politically or as a matter of esoteric policy they may have all the compassion in the world for the "underprivileged" but they actually loathe them. Preferring some government program to take care of their issues rather than actually personally engage with the low-life-scum. I have to fight this in my own heart when I deal with people who do dumb things out of ignorance but not malice.

The sin of pride is alive in me, I guess. I'm aware (usually afterwards) of my horses-ass behavior and feel bad about it, and for a while try to change. I pull this on my wife and kids mostly. Proximity will do that. These are the people that deserve it least but see it most often. Sometimes their sorrow and pain makes me angry - and I don't know why. I can say it's because that's what I saw as a child when my Dad dealt with everything with his anger. Surely I know better???

I have noticed that there are couple of songs I found in the last few years that struck a chord with me (pardon the pun). I liked the songs instantly and still listen and sing along because the message speaks to me. One is called "Car Crash" by Matt Nathanson:

I wanna feel the car crash
I wanna feel the capsize
I wanna feel the bomb drop, the earth stop
'Til I'm satisfied
I wanna feel the car crash
'Cause I'm dyin' on the inside
I wanna let go and know
That I'll be alright, alright

The other is self explanatory called "I wanna Feel Something" by Trace Adkins:

But I wanna feel somethin
Somethin thats a real somethin
That moves me, that proves to me Im still alive
I wanna heart that beats and bleeds
A heart thats bustin at the seams
I wanna care, I wanna cry, I wanna scream
I just wanna feel somethin

These songs talk about getting lost in uncaring indifference and knowing it's just not right.


Keystone around his neck

It only makes sense if you are actively trying to kill an American economic resurgence or you plan on approving it after the 2012 election should you win. I refer to President Obama's insane decision to stop the proposed pipeline from Canada to America's oil refineries in the south.

I am not using the word insane in a vacuum. Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post - no bastion of opposition conservative thought - blasts the President in his Jan 19th editorial.

President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is an act of national insanity. It isn’t often that a president makes a decision that has no redeeming virtues and — beyond the symbolism — won’t even advance the goals of the groups that demanded it. All it tells us is that Obama is so obsessed with his reelection that, through some sort of political calculus, he believes that placating his environmental supporters will improve his chances. Aside from the political and public relations victory, environmentalists won’t get much. Stopping the pipeline won’t halt the development of tar sands, to which the Canadian government is committed; therefore, there will be little effect on global-warming emissions. Indeed, Obama’s decision might add to them. If Canada builds a pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific for export to Asia, moving all that oil across the ocean by tanker will create extra emissions. There will also be the risk of added spills. Now consider how Obama’s decision hurts the United States. For starters, it insults and antagonizes a strong ally; getting future Canadian cooperation on other issues will be harder. Next, it threatens a large source of relatively secure oil that, combined with new discoveries in the United States, could reduce (though not eliminate) our dependence on insecure foreign oil.

Finally, Obama’s decision forgoes all the project’s jobs

Canada throughout the 2000's has acted soberly and with reasoned self interest for it's economic future. The Canadians will build a pipeline to move their abundant oil to market. The question is will it be North American markets or Asian? I think we all know what Obama has decided.

Obama is so stuck on some green utopian vision of the world he is wantonly ignoring reason and facts. At this time in humanity's technological/economic development the pipe dream of sustainable and adequate energy from "green" sources is not ready yet. Almost no one denies that renewable clean energy is ideal, but we didn't replace the horse and buggy until automobiles were economically and reliably sufficient.

By law, Obama’s decision was supposed to reflect “the national interest.” His standard was his political interest. The State Department had spent three years evaluating Keystone and appeared ready to approve the project by year-end 2011. Then the administration, citing opposition to the pipeline’s route in Nebraska, reversed course and postponed a decision to 2013 — after the election.

Now, reacting to a congressional deadline to decide, Obama rejected the proposal. But he also suggested that a new application with a modified Nebraska route — already being negotiated — might be approved, after the election. So the sop tossed to the environmentalists could be temporary. The cynicism is breathtaking.

With this decision Obama is also dissing his union friends who have expressed complete dismay. One has to believe that this will be approved if he is reelected - that is unless the commenter on is correct: The Left wants a crippled, weak, post-prosperity America, it's as simple as that. Everything Obama has done, is doing, will do is modus operandi to that end. No mystery about any of it, really. 

 It could go either way in my mind. President Obama is either a cynical opportunist playing one side of his constituency against the other or he is a destroyer of nations.  


Sunday, January 15, 2012

November Calling

So much has already been written and debated on the 2012 election cycle (and it's only January 15th) that November can't get here soon enough. The Republican Party (the stupid party) doesn't even have a nominee yet. Doesn't matter. I am firmly in the Anybody But Obama camp anyway.

For the life of me I cannot imagine anyone honestly looking at Obama's performance, his demeanor, his leadership style and saying - yes, we need four more years of that. This man never meets with members of congress of either party ahead of the game to work out compromise solutions - what we would call leadership - instead he throws out jabs and heaps on the blame and then issues executive orders to the cheers of the Washington pundits. He advances his agenda this way, not America's agenda. I hear his apologists say "give him a chance" or "he's trying as hard as he can". Blah blah blah. He's failing, and worse he's doing serious damage to the country and the constitution.

If the news media - the Big Media - did it's job Obama would be on trial for impeachment. The stimulus bill of 2009 was executed in a program of criminal acts that should have every taxpayer, every economics professor, every political scholar and every (honest) member of Congress beating the door down to the White House. These programs while not being legally criminal are morally and practically criminal in every way. It's all out there as a matter of public record and it's disgusting. Obama was given a $787 billion blank check (yes - billion with a b) which he used to benefit his benefactors and contributors in a blatant in your face mockery of the system.

When I finish the book "Throw Them All Out" by Peter Schweizer I intend to do an in depth review. Needless to say it's stunning. I'm about 1/3rd through it and I almost can't believe that this corruption inside our government is allowed to go on. Page after page of abuse by our congressmen and senators as they enrich themselves and their friends at the public trough (while nothing new the scale and scope today is unprecedented), but it all dulls in comparison to what Obama pulled off with the 2009 stimulus money.

As you read this book it gets more and more difficult. The legal graft is mind numbing. You find yourself wondering how the American people continue to allow this? The answer is the tried and true Roman concept of Bread and Circuses... As long as the Big Media spoon feeds slanted, incomplete news and there is plenty of junk food to eat as the new American Idol season airs the vast middle of the American landscape will remain clueless. Fox News occasional talks about this and CBS's Sixty Minutes did an expose on the Schweizer book - but there is little followup and nothing like the indignation it deserves.

To hear Obama Administration apologists claim that they didn't understand the depth of the economic downturn as an excuse as to why this poor recovery is eclipsed only by the Great Depression is completely laughable. Besides the 1990's era government policies and the financial industry's reaction to them that destroyed the housing market I contend the depth of the collapse is directly related to the anticipation and then the reality of an Obama presidency. You will hear the evidence of this every single day on the CNBC morning show as business leader after business leader explains why they are holding back on expansion of their businesses.

November can't get here soon enough.


Saturday, January 07, 2012

Morning Joe on MS(nob)NBC

I get up early every morning mainly because I take at least 2 hours to "wake up" before I can actually function. Others I know get up singing, all full of joy and hope for the coming day. These people rattle off fifteen things I need to do or check on today before I've even poured my first cup of essential juice - coffee. They are lucky to get two words out of me, namely, uh and huh.

So, as you might imagine I plop down in front of the TV with the clicker and rotate through the cable news channels. I'll start with Fox and Friends if I'm in the mood for goofy. I'll pop over to CNN and to see which oh so serious news program they are airing this month. CNN has some sort of revolving door in their studio A because the host(s) never seem to last very long. It's very odd.

I then swing over to CNBC for the business news which I often find the most informative news I'll see all day. Plus, I love the daily Obama bashing from the business leaders, it's very cathartic. If I'm in the mood for beauty I'll hit Headline News and watch Robin for a while. Oddly I never really take notice of the news... Eventually I'll punch 70 on the remote. That's where we find Morning Joe up in these parts.

MSNBC is the anti-Fox channel. Everyone knows this. Those who hate Fox generally love MSNBC. In order for the operators of the anti-Fox network to feign balance they put up a show that features an ex-republican congressman, Joe Scarborough. It takes roughly 2 minutes of listening to him to invoke nausea. I am quite certain the phrase "are you still taking" was coined because of him. He's an impolite blowhard that talks and talks but says absolutely nothing. Even when he says something you might agree with you still feel like slugging the guy. 

His co-host Mika Brzezinski, a liberal apologist and Democratic Party stooge, barely gets a word in edgewise. Believe me you're not missing much - she rarely says anything even slightly off script, but she is a human being deserving of respect and the time to have her say. Joe, however, talks over her continuously to the point where you see the wind taken out of sails and she gives up. I often wonder if she's there for atheistic value only as she is quite good looking. Occasionally she gets 20 seconds to complete a sentence (because Joe is momentarily distracted) and her political shallowness and in-the-know snobbery is revealed.

As bad as these two are it's the rotation of regulars that starts to get to you after a while. The anti-Fox crowd really thinks this show is sophisticated and thoughtful as opposed to the knuckle dragging and mouth breathing over on Fox. What they are is a cadre of snobs. Even the so-called conservatives they allow in the studio are there because they will mock or denigrate conservative, religious or fly-over country values. If these conservatives stray from the allowed guidelines they are summarily banished.

We never see Patrick Buchanan on the show anymore. Buchanan served his purpose during the Bush years because he was highly critical of the Bushes - Sr. and Jr. At some point he strayed, said something that roiled the waters and he is gone. Mark Halprin, a left leaning journalist (aren't they all) once said something slightly critical of Obama when he believed they were off the air and he was banished for months.

It isn't even what is actually discussed, dissected and beaten to death on the show that betrays the snobbish devotion to leftist elitism, it's also what is ignored. Rarely have I heard a word about the serious scandals this administration is involved in even in passing. The gun running scandal called Fast and Furious would put Watergate to shame in scale and outcome. If it had happened under Bush it would have been a daily topic. The apologetic devotion to liberal sensibilities even when all evidence would indicate failure is jaw dropping. Then Joe himself gets to riffing on one of these subjects (it is his show after all) and in slightly over 2 minutes you feel like throwing up.

There are three regulars that if I see any of them I instantly hit the back button on the remote. As nauseating as Joe Scarborough is these three make me convulse uncontrollably. Al Sharpton is obvious, even his mother is repulsed. It is Donny Deutsch and Eugene Robinson that literally make me sick. Robinson in particular is an abhorrent little man so blinded by his leftist elitism and race-bating ideology that every word from his lips is 180 degrees out of whack.

To be fair, every once in a while - particularly when Joe and Mika are out - that the show is actually informative. They do have interesting guests that are allowed to stray form the liberal elitist playbook. Of course these same guests show up at Fox too. It can be fun to gauge the mood of the liberals by watching them say slightly critical of - actually it is confusion over - Obama administration foibles. Make no mistake, by the time November 2012 comes around Barack Obama will again be walking on water on the Morning Joe show!


Monday, January 02, 2012

The Golden Age

Are we living in the Golden Age?

For those of us living in the West, America, Canada, Europe, Australia and Japan, it's not hard to imagine that we have reached the pinnacle of our societal development. If nothing else demographics will soon push us into a different paradigm. The West has stopped having babies and without babies there is no future.

If we think about how nice we have it as compared to all the peoples that have ever lived on this earth we should be amazed, but we aren't. We take it for granted. Worse, we condemn ourselves for the marvels we now enjoy that were forged by the sweat of our brow and of those who came before us. In that selfish condemnation we deny the next generation any choices at all since we are choosing this generation over theirs.

Think about it... We live in a world with instant communication between any 2 points on the planet. We have information, the collective knowledge of recorded history at our fingertips by virtue of the Internet. We have but to climb into a self-powered car with all it's luxury appointments and drive on super highways to any supermarket or mall and find just about any foodstuff or creature comfort we can imagine. A mere hundred years ago this would've been a fantasy. Our poor eat better, live better, enjoy better health and have better entertainment than all the princes and kings of a century ago. For all the griping by the Occupy movement it is never considered that the vast middle experiences life closer to the top 1% than at anytime in history. Do the ultra-rich watch better TV shows or movies than the rest of us? Do they have better music? Do their Ipods sound better, their Ipads look better? Is their food more nutritious? Are their cars more reliable or have better air conditioning than ours?

If we accept that we in the West, collectively, live a life of comfort and ease compared to those just a few short generations ago we have to ask; how long can it all last?

We are seeing the financial system begin to crumble globally. Japan, Europe and the U.S. have serious debt issues that are interconnected in a fashion that resembles a game of dominoes just before the first one topples. If or when the global financial system collapses the demand for oil - the principal product of the Middle East, North Africa and Russia - will take a dive, and likely trigger chaos in those politically unstable regions. Likewise, the demand for consumer goods from China and southeast Asia will plummet along with their economies - which might force a new military hegemony waiting in wings in Beijing.

Worse yet is the specter of apocalyptic religious zealots in Tehran possessing nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. Regardless of which comes first, the collapse of the global economic system or a first strike (likely on Tel Aviv) by Iran, chaos will consume the world.

How bad can it get? No one knows. The world of fiction is rife with post-apocalyptic tales that frankly depict a world I wouldn't want to live in.

When the electricity fails and the supermarkets run out of food anarchy will prevail. Don't think the government - Federal or local - will save the day. It is the government (particularly Congress) that is destroying everything now - before the fall. In addition the current President is actively promoting the decline of America. These crony's are busy feathering their own nests and destroying the country in the process. There will be no help from the government when this all breaks down.

Does it have to end this way? Probably not, but simple hope is pale substitute for the cruelness of reality. Indeed, Europe(Germany) and Japan were thoroughly devastated after WWII and they came roaring back economically. But this collapse would be quite different. For one, Europe and Japan had the United States to help them rebuild. Do we suppose China would be in any shape to foster the rebuilding of the global economy this time? What would the world be rebuilding from? An economic collapse or nuclear war? I would not bet against either of these things happening if something isn't done soon.

I've read that it's already too late for Europe to avoid some of it's members from defaulting on their debts. America has unfunded liabilities in the trillions coming due over the next 20 years. Japan may simply be a lost cause. As Japan's population collapses they continue to maintain a closed door policy on immigration. Bold action is needed because the only thing that will turn the tide is confidence in the future. Confidence is the only thing that holds up the economic system as it is.The Western world had confidence after WWII because of the power of the United States. Restoring confidence is going to take bold action and like it or not it will have to come from the United States. Is China or India ready to step up and usher the world into the next era? I wouldn't bet on it.

So here we are a the precipice of collapse and the one nation with a chance at staving it off is led by a man actively directing a program of decline - and apologizing to the world on our behalf. This is not building confidence. Wanting the world to love us is a fool's game, especially when the world is seeking leadership.

When the history of this era is written generations from now will they lament the fact that when the world had such a benevolent hegemon in the United States of America it let itself be tore down from within, with the malice of forethought? Are we really ready to give up? Is this the beginning of the end of the Golden Age?