Prelude To A Post About The Florida Shooting – A Growing Leftist Trend

BSO-sheriff-israel-car_656923_ver1.0_1280_720I was writing a post about the possible nexus between the leftist school policies implemented in Broward County Florida prior to February 14, 2018 and the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that occurred on that day. In the process, I realized that I was addressing an item that is part of a much larger set of issues having to do with leftist thinking and policies. I decided that providing a context was in order. This post provides that context for many future, non-sequential posts that will present a case for my hypothesis that the supreme aspiration of a growing swath of leftists is to be considered virtuous by fellow leftist, particularly the glitterati, and that this trend is harmful to society. In short, for these people, virtue signaling, not virtue or good policy, is the goal.

In an odd way it is an incarnation of something Adam Smith, the father of economics, wrote, “Man actually desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely…He naturally dreads, not only to be hated, but to be hateful.”  Imprecise, but handy, substitutes for “lovely” and “hated” in Smith’s claim would be “a virtuous and good person” and “a vile and bad person,” respectively.

That people want to be loved is probably universal among humans—at least until they decide that being loved is an impossibility, at which point they often snap. Smith’s observation that people also want to be lovely is very insightful and generally true. There are, however, people who are not guided by the better angles of our nature. Those people can fairly be considered to be evil whether they are responsible for their state of mind or not. Evil, however, can take many forms. An insidious form of evil is people who desire to be both loved and lovely, but are blind to what is not lovely about what they believe, advocate, and do. (An example of this form of evil will be the subject of the first post in this series having to do with the Broward County School Shooting.)

A vast majority of people in a society desiring to be lovely leads to a good society only in cultures that ascribe to a rational and constructive set of morals, and the culture has a reasonably humane, fair and effective means of maintaining those morals. Cultures that adopt irrational or unconstructive morals are doomed to poor outcomes, if not demise. Cultures that value virtue signaling over virtue are surely doomed to demise.

Despite the serious blows on America’s rational and constructive morals that were inflicted by the early 20th century progressives and mid-20th century communists, the core principles of the America culture remained reasonably intact (held by a large enough majority) until the 1960s. Since the early 1960s, what the American culture considers to be virtuous and good has been changing dramatically and rapidly—for the most part for the worse. (This is not to say “things were better” in the 50s and early 60s, they weren’t. The most of the morals of most Americans in the 50s, however, were better than the morals of today in many respects—despite the fact that some morals are better now than then.)

People of all political persuasions are susceptible to the virtue signaling bug. In my estimation, however, a smaller fraction of other groups are susceptible. Why that is the case may not be identifiable, and the why may be unimportant. For what it is worth, my hunch is that it is driven by a desire to be a member of the “in-crowd,” whatever the in-crowd happens to think and believe from time to time, i.e., they want to be part of the in-crowd regardless of what the cool people think or believe. Clear traces of this phenomenon can be found in all those people who idolized both JFK and Obama, despite the fact that their economic and social policies were radically different.

This phenomenon would not be a problem if the in-crowd always had the best ideas and solutions, but, as it turns out, the phenomenon leads to a disastrous blindness to tradeoffs. If one is blind to the costs of the benefits they seek (a particular bug of leftists generally), the next thing you know, the country is $20 trillion in debt, and has runaway unfunded future liabilities. It is a reason so many leftist policies do more harm than good. Worse, as we saw in the cultures that ushered in Margaret Sanger, Hitler,* Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Il-sung, Castro, Chaves, and many other like-minded (leftist[i]) activists and tyrants, lots of people get killed under leftist regimes.

With this prelude as a backdrop, I will soon post an article on the Parkland, Florida shooting that will be the first of many.


* AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Many leftist will take umbrage at the inclusion of Hitler in the list of leftists above. Many of those will base their feelings on the kind of “analysis” used by Snopes in its article, “Were the Nazis Socialists?” This Snopes article is like so many others that attempt to obscure the issues in order to obscure the facts of the matter. (In a surprising display of scruples, Snopes did not declare whether the answer to the title’s question is yes or no? Those scruples did not, however, prevent them from trying to mislead with respect to the answer.) In this attempt to disassociate leftists from Hitler, Snopes takes the following tact:

Although the terms “left” and “right” as used in American politics can be somewhat less than perspicuous, they are helpful in delineating the basic ideological divide between liberalism/progressivism (as embodied mainly by the Democratic Party) on one side (“the left”), and conservatism/traditionalism (as embodied mainly by the Republican Party) on the other (“the right”). Seen as a spectrum or continuum of ideologies, socialism/communism traditionally falls on the far left end of this scale, nationalism/fascism on the far right.

The sleight of hand lies in this sentence, “Seen as a spectrum or continuum of ideologies, socialism/communism traditionally falls on the far left end of this scale, nationalism/fascism on the far right.” Consider these definitions extracted from Google’s dictionary:

A socialist state is one in which “…the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated [by the state/community].” [Emphasis Added.]

A communist state is one in which is “a society in which all property is publicly owned [by the state/community] and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.” [Emphasis Added.]

An extreme form of a nationalistic state is “…marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.”

A fascist state is a “…regime… that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
As you can see, communism is a form of socialism, i.e., the economies of both are collectivist, which is the essence of socialism. To be a communist, a state must own the means of production, while a state is socialist if it controls the means of production, even if done only with regulations.

By contrast neither nationalist nor fascistic states are defined by their economic systems. A fascistic state can be either collectivist/socialist or capitalist. There are varying degrees to which a state is socialist. Modestly socialistic states need not be nationalistic or fascistic, but being either would not affect their status as a socialist state. Theoretically, very socialist states need not be nationalistic or fascistic either, but rarely, if ever, are they not. In other words, Snopes based its argument on a false and inept comparison of two unlike criteria.

Snopes cited many supposed authorities as to whether Hitler was a socialist. All of the quotes were designed to leave the reader with the impression that Hitler was not a socialist. None of the quotes Snopes used to prop up the proposition that Hitler was not a socialists, however, denied the pivotal fact that Hitler’s government exercised very extensive command and control over business through regulations, i.e., whether or not Hitler was, in his heart, a socialist (i.e., he was lying when he said, “We want to see no more class divisions.”) or a racist nationalist, under Hitler government “…the means of production, distribution, and exchange were regulated [by the state].” As such, the Natzi regime was socialist.

[i] See, “Fascism” by Sheldon Richman “Obama, Hitler, And Exploding The Biggest Lie In History,” which is worth reading for this quote alone, “The label “fascist” has subsequently meant anyone liberals seek to ostracize or discredit.” Or this video, “MYTH BUSTED: Actually, Yes, Hitler Was a Socialist Liberal.”

Who’s the Wiser?

Adam Schiff

Trump’s tweet has at least two problems, but Adam Schiff’s “response” is even worse.

Trump’s Tweet

  1. Trump’s tweet appears to suggest that the money spent by Russians on Facebook was the only money spent by Russians to affect the U.S. election—which was surely not the case, and
  2. That the Russians spent anything, anywhere to affect our election is bad whether or not billions of dollars’ worth of fake news were used in an effort to defeat Trump/elect Hillary, i.e., Trump compared two things that were almost totally unrelated.

Neither of these fumbles, however, undermined the fundamental reasons for Trump’s tweet. On the other hand, it is difficult to identify any substantive or fundemental reason (other than pandering to his followers) for Schiff’s tweet.

Schiff’s Tweet

Schiff’s tweet is even more ridiculous than Trump’s.

  1. The point of Trump’s tweet is to suggest that the effects the Russians had on the election were minuscule compared to effects of billions of billions of dollars of free assistance to Hillary’s campaign supplied by the Main Stream Media news. A relevant or rational response to Trump’s tweet would have pointed out how it is that the effects of Russia’s efforts were not minuscule compared to the efforts of the MSM, or make try to make a case that the MSM news was not fake. Schiff did neither of those things. So his comment missed the point.
  2. Schiff’s tweet is premised on the idea that Trump said what he did because he does not know the difference between fake news and foreign interference. Because nothing in Trump’s tweet supports Schiff’s premise, or abridges anyone’s right to freedom of press, Schiff’s bringing up free press in this context is irrational.
  3. Because calling out the MSM press for its biased, fake news (but I stutter.[i]) reporting in no way abridges anyone’s freedom of the press, Trump was merely exercising his freedom of speech, which is every bit, if not more important, than the freedom of the press. Schiff’s tweet shows that Schiff is probably clueless with respect to this point.

As such, Schiff’s tweet was more irrational than Trump’s.

Obviously both tweets are intended to pander to, and they hope grow, their bases. Note, however, that even if the two tweets were equally irrational, Trump’s tweet has the strategic advantage of driving leftists nuts. The more leftists show the public how nuts they are, the better Trump’s chances of winning a second term. Schiff’s irrationally on the primary point of Trump’s tweet (with its problems only as to details) is more likely to help Trump win his next election in the long run.

Trump’s tweet also showed that whereas the support Hillary got from the MSM press was free to her campaign, it was very costly to Trump’s (he would have won much more biggly had he gotten an equal amount of helpful coverage). Schiff offered nothing to defend the press’s misuse of it special privileges.

Moreover, for people in the press to deserve the special protections (“freedoms”) afforded to the press, the press should at least attempt to present the whole story about a new item (opinion pieces excepted).[ii] Trump’s tweet reiterates that the MSM news is not earning its freedoms.

One of the reasons Schiff vehemently opposes Trump is that he feels Trump is dumb. Yet Schiff’s responses to Trump’s tweets help Trump more than it helps Democrats. Which of the two comes off as the wiser in this skirmish?

[i] See “What is Fake News?

[ii] See, “The Truth Is Hard For The New York Times.”

“Trickle Down”

This morning Facebook prompted me to share a “memory” (one of my posts I had forgotten) from February 9, 2014. Because it gives a timeless lesson about how “trickle down” works, I thought it appropriate to post a slightly edited version of the post here.

“In 1991, the equipment and services to do what an iPhone today can do (not counting it camera, motion detectors, ease of use, brilliant display, or the endless array of available apps) would have cost over $3.5 million and it would have been bigger than a refrigerator.[i] Only the top 1% could afford such equipment in 1991. Today (2014), half of Americans own smartphones. [That percentage was 77% in 2017.][ii]

A consequence (unintended by some, intended by others, and opposed by too few) of many of today’s most popular economic policies is that they impede the pace of innovation.

“Innovation blindness . . . is a key obstacle to sound economic and policy thinking. And this is a perfect example. When we make policy based on today’s technology, we don’t just operate mildly sub-optimally. No, we often close off entire pathways to amazing innovation.” Brett Swanson[iii]

All things that impede innovation, entrepreneurship, free trade, and the profitability of doing business slow the speed with which more and better things become affordable by the vast majority of people.

Innovation creates new valuable things. Entrepreneurship produces and delivers the new things. Free trade ensures that the raw materials and component parts needed for the new things come from the lowest price source, and profitability is not the only reason, but is usually the sine qua non of why humans go to the trouble of doing all of the above. (Eliminate any of the parts of this process and process slows or comes to a halt.)

Even the poorest among us benefit from the cornucopia of benefits that are made possible by innovations, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation. A simple example is that the poorest Americans today can walk into an emergency room (or be hauled there in an ambulance) and receive world class medical treatment. The faster those processes proceed, the faster the rise in standards living of essentially everyone occurs. Note also that lower prices and higher quality also provides more bang for every welfare dollar.

The fostering or pursuit of innovations, entrepreneurship, free trade, and wealth creation should be limited when the sum of the “externalities” (negative consequences) of a business that would produce cheaper and better things exceed the sum of its benefits. It is impossible, however, to attempt such an analysis if the benefits are ignored or overstated or the negative consequences are ignored or overstated.

All too often in the U.S. today the benefits of innovations, entrepreneurship, free trade, and wealth creation are largely ignored, and their negative consequences are overblown. That sadly ubiquitous approach to policy proposals unnecessarily slows the rise in standards of living of all Americans, especially the poor who need such rise the most. It also slows the rise in standards of living of everyone else in the world (whose progress largely depends on American innovations, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation, whose defense is largely provided by the U.S., and who rely on U.S. foreign aid—which is possible only because of the vast wealth created in the U.S.).[iv]

[i] See “How much would an iPhone have cost in 1991?

[ii] See “10 facts about smartphones as the iPhone turns 10

[iii] See endnote i.

[iv] See “Wealth.”

Prosecution of Steele – Small Potatoes?

What follows is will, at least initially, likely appear to many to be small potatoes compared to the impropriety of the FBI and Justice Dept. with respect to the FISA application (which was ostensibly to surveil for evidence of possible Russian tampering with US election, but more likely to surveil Carter Page to get dirt on Trump). What is done about these potatoes, however, will reveal much about whether 1) Washington elites are circling the wagons to defend their positions, their perks, and the perception that they are working for the public good and in the interest of the people, and 2) the FBI can be trusted to investigate matters that could reveal the FBI’s own misconduct.

Senators have called for that investigation, but little has been said about it since.

The House Intelligence Committee Memo on FISA Abuse says, “…Steele improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI about those contacts.”

Lying to the FBI is a crime. Steele’s alleged crimes are vastly more consequential than the process crime for which Scooter Libby was convicted, and any process crime Mueller is likely to come up with. Steele’s crimes, described in the report, led (if we are to give the FBI the benefit of the doubt that FBI would not have used the report even if the FBI knew the report’s allegations were fabricated) directly to the FBI using an unverified set of assertions in Steele’s dossier to support a FISA application, the violation of an American citizen’s Constitutional rights, the disrepute of the FBI and Justice, and the fiasco known as the Mueller Russian investigation.

With allegations against top level FBI and Justice Dept. people (that they used their awesome powers to tamper with the presidential election for partisan political advantage) are serious. (I’ve heard that the “seriousness of the charge” is a sufficient basis on which to investigate.) Specifically the allegations are that top FBI and Justice personnel conspired with the Hillary campaign and the DNC to protect the country from Trump being elected. If such is true, failing to prosecute the criminality of a central player in this melodrama (Steele) cannot be justified.

The likes of this horrible abuse of authority are becoming standard procedure. The stated reason for not prosecuting Hillary for her failure to protect top secret information as required by law was that she did not intend to do anything wrong. That, however, is not exculpatory because intent was not an element of the crime she committed. (The fact that the FBI relied on this bogus excuse supports the allegation that the top FBI people were protecting Hillary.) That similar abuse of power occurred in the IRS scandal is undeniable, yet no one was prosecuted. (There are many more instances of partisan abuse of authority, but these are sufficient to establish the point.)

That government officials can abuse their powers to achieve their political objectives, attempt to conceal their wrongdoing (drag their feet and stonewall), and not prosecute governmental wrongdoing when it comes to light is ruinous to good governance and essential to a well-functioning country. That the press provides cover for such misconduct (if a Democrat commits the acts) shows why Benjamin Franklin was correct to doubt that America could keep the republic the founders bestowed on the country.



In FDR – PART I: Is FDR Still a Big Deal?  claimed that (1) leftist[i] believe that the success of what FDR did in the 1930s validates leftists’ modern policy prescriptions, and (2) that myths have been created about FDR and his deeds to gin up support for and allegiance to those policies.[ii] For the leftist story to be valid, what they believe FDR did needs to be true and those deeds need to have been successful.

To put FDR’s deeds in context let’s first sort out the leftists’ beliefs that they believe (or that they say they believe)[iii] FDR’s deeds validate. Those beliefs include: 1) If something is not good about society, government can and should ameliorate it, 2) Government spending is good, 3) Government deficits and debt are unimportant (except as a means of bashing (as hypocritical) supposedly fiscally conservative non-leftists who support spending on things leftists oppose)[iv], 4) The scope of government authority to do good, as they define “good,” should not be limited (e.g., by a constitution), 5) Citizens have a right to economic “security and independence,” an “adequate”[v] standard of living[vi] (which operationally is nearly the opposite of a “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”), 6) achieving “social justice” for all citizens is both possible and a proper goal and role of government, [vii] and 7) another proper role of government is to take from the rich and give to the poor. [viii] An important aspect of the seventh belief is that if someone is poor, government should help that person regardless of her culpability in being poor or unwillingness to work to become less poor (as distinguished from “the deserving poor,” a concept leftists have all but banished in the U.S.).

It is illustrative to contrast those beliefs with the beliefs Ronald Reagan enunciated in his first inaugural address[ix] (e.g., “…government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” “We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth,” and “For decades we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children’s future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.”)

FDR believed in most, but as we shall see in a future post, not all of those seven things. Things that today’s leftist believe that FDR opposed are typically left out of the leftist FDR mythologies.

The gist of the FDR myth is that Hoover fiddled while America was going up in smoke on account of the recession following the 1928 stock market crash that was caused by Harding’s, Coolidge’s and Hoover’s belief in laisse faire economics. The myth continues with a story that America was on the eve of destruction when FDR took office, and FDR saved America with his 1) command and control of the economy, 2) spending with abandon on welfare, infrastructure and jobs, and growth of government, 3) support of labor unions,[x] 4) indifference to debt,[xi] 5) quickly abandoning “austerity” when it did not “work,”[xii] and 6) advancement of a change of America’s culture from one that revered equality of opportunity for all to a culture that revered equality of outcomes.[xiii] In short, FDR began the Era of Big Government[xiv] (the thing Bill Clinton falsely claimed was over in his The 1996 State of Union address).

The following is a partial list of FDR’s mythologized deeds that are actually true:

  1. FDR’s administration exercised “Unprecedented Power” over the country’s business and economic affairs.” [xv]
  2. FDR spent more than any other president before or after. In the words of Henry Morgenthau, FDR’s Treasury Secretary, “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before….”[xvi]
  3. “The tremendous gains labor unions experienced in the 1930s resulted, in part, from the pro-union stance of the Roosevelt administration and from legislation enacted by Congress during the early New Deal.”[xvii]
  4. “[Of all the presidents ever] President Roosevelt increased the debt the most percentage-wise.”[xviii]
  5. “In early 1937, Roosevelt still sought to submit a balanced budget (defined the old-fashioned way) for the next fiscal year. The objective seemed reachable without undue strain. After all, 1936 had been a good year, the best since 1929, and the momentum of recovery appeared solidly established. That upbeat mood was rudely punctured in August 1937, when the economy went into an unanticipated tailspin.”[xix] FDR then saw the “wisdom” of eschewing balanced budgets.
  6. FDR founded America’s welfare system. “By 1935, a national welfare system had been established for the first time in American history.[xx]
  7. The US became a superpower soon after FDR’s administration. “[T]he Roosevelt years had witnessed the most profound social revolution in the country since the Civil War – nothing less than the creation of modern America.”[xxi]

While these factoids about FDR are true, they neither tell the whole story about whether FDR’s beliefs support modern day leftist’s policies nor mean that what FDR did caused more good than harm overall or vice versa. Nevertheless, because leftists believe FDR’s actions 1) improved America’s economy (e.g., those policies were what enabled America to become both more collectivist and a superpower),[xxii] 2) changed for the better the relationships between the people and their government, and 3) changed for the better the country’s societal norms and mores, they assume that FDR was a net force for good. Because of that, they believe FDR’s “success” validate doing more of what he did. On the strength of that belief, they find it useful to constantly repeat the positives and ignore or reject the negatives of what he did, and to glorify FDR as the great savior and leader all good people should follow. In other words, they mythologize FDR and his deeds so the credulous do not dig too deep into the story.

If only these myths and beliefs were on balance true….

[i] Of course there are leftists who do not subscribe to every belief I attribute to “leftists.” I am here identifying the salient beliefs of the group as opposed to every individual whose beliefs generally align with the group as a whole. That there are exceptions does not invalidate the generalization.

[ii] Research for this post lead me to an additional confirmation by Doris Kearns Goodwin of my earlier claim that FDR is still a big deal: “ECHOES OF FDR.” An excerpt: “Gone for half a century now, Franklin Roosevelt has yet to relinquish his hold on American politics. When Bill Clinton-who was born a year after Roosevelt died tries to enlist the support of a doubting public, he echoes FDR, calling for ‘bold, persistent experimentation.’”

[iii] Some extreme leftists and anarchists will mouth anything (including that they believe something they do not believe) that might accelerate the decimation or destruction of America and “The American Experiment.”

[iv] Some leftists surely have a conception of an amount of national debt that would be “too much,” but the sum of the costs of all the programs they advocate and the increases in spending on most of the current social programs reveal that debt is of little concern. On the other hand, high debt is seen by many leftists to be advantageous because it creates more pressure to increase taxes (only on the rich, of course). Raising taxes without a general fear that the debt is too high is harder to do than when there is such fear.

[v] A discussion of the absurd elasticity of this concept is explored in “’You will always have the poor among you. . . .’

[vi] See “Roosevelt’s argument was that the “political rights” guaranteed by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights had “proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.” FDR called for a “Second Bill of Rights.” id.

[vii] Some aspects of the futility of this belief were discussed in “You will always have the poor among you. . . .

[viii] See FDR’s “Message to Congress on Tax Revision.” “Our revenue laws have operated in many ways to the unfair advantage of the few, and they have done little to prevent an unjust concentration of wealth and economic power…. The individual does not create the product of his industry with his own hands; he utilizes the many processes and forces of mass production to meet the demands of a national and international market…. Therefore, the duty rests upon the Government to restrict [vast personal] incomes by very high taxes.”

[ix] Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Address

[x] See “Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945

[xi] See “[Of all the presidents ever] President Roosevelt increased the debt the most percentage-wise.”

[xii] See “Repeating Our Mistakes: The “Roosevelt Recession” and the Danger of Austerity

[xiii] See FDR’s “The Second Bill of Rights.”

[xiv] See “FDR’s Big Government Legacy.”

[xv] See “Unprecedented Power” and “FDR’s Big Government Legacy.”

[xvi]Guess Who?” BTW: Morgenthau went on to say, “…and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong . . . somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. . . . I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot.”

[xvii] See “Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945

[xviii] See “U.S. Debt by President: By Dollar and Percent.”

[xix] See “FDR’s Big Government Legacy.”

[xx] See “How Welfare Began in the United States.”

[xxi] See “FDR: The President Who Made America Into a Superpower

[xxii] A recent example was discussed in “Non Sequiturs on Parade – PART VIII.