Ross Douthat is really determined to prove that he can write just damn anything and still get paid. As an lesson in Advanced Conservative Thinking, let's tackle it in three easy pieces.
In the season of resurrection, it’s fitting that he’s with us once again — bearded, prophetic, moralistic, promising to exalt the humble and cast down the mighty from their thrones.Okay, so there's a new book out that points up what's immediately obvious to the most casual observer: except for the period where the government was injecting huge amounts of capital into infrastructure and research, corporate capitalism has acted as a highly effective system for sucking up wealth and funneling it to a tiny number of hands. Which Douthat doesn't really seem to dispute... except that pointing this out means that leftists are replacing Jesus with Marx! And in this Easter season! Oh, the Douthanity.
Yes, that’s right: Karl Marx is back from the dead. ...
Piketty ... is a social democrat who abjures the Marxist label. But as his title suggests, he is out to rehabilitate and recast one of Marx’s key ideas: that so-called “free markets,” by their nature, tend to enrich the owners of capital at the expense of people who own less of it.
This idea seemed to be disproved in the 20th century, by the emergence of a prosperous, non-revolutionary working class. But Piketty argues that those developments were transitory, made possible mostly by the massive destruction of inherited capital during the long era of world war.
Absent another such disruption, he expects a world in which the returns to capital permanently outstrip — as they have recently — the returns to labor, and inequality rises far beyond even today’s levels. Combine this trend with slowing growth, and we face a future like the 19th-century past, in which vast inherited fortunes bestride the landscape while the middle class fractures, weakens, shrinks.
... even if Piketty’s broad projections are correct, the future he envisions might be much more stable and sustainable than many on the left tend to assume. Even if the income and wealth distributions look more Victorian, that is, the 99 percent may still be doing well enough to be wary of any political movement that seems too radical, too utopian, too inclined to rock the boat.I have to stop there. What Douthat has just said, with apparent seriousness, is that it doesn't matter that the 1% suck up all the wealth, just so long as 99% gets just enough to keep them from rushing the Bastille. So long as the wealthy can keep the poor "too wary" to take any action, things will be "stable." Well, thank goodness.
But wait, wait, wait. This is two thirds of the way through the article, and one not-so-subtle allusion aside, Douthat hasn't yet told us that the real problem is that atheists are wrecking the religious core of American life. What the...
The taproot of agitation in 21st-century politics... may indeed be a Marxian sense of everything solid melting into air. But what’s felt to be evaporating could turn out to be cultural identity — family and faith, sovereignty and community — much more than economic security.Ahhh. There we go.
Honestly. Douthat writes a whole column in which seeing all the wealth go to the 1% is perfectly fine so long as the 99% aren't starving so badly that they are rioting in the streets, and the real threat is that people might attack those institutions that keep people living under the rule of the 1%. Because, you know, that might lead to instability.
And that, friends, is 21st Century Conservatism in one painful lesson.
Let's see if there's any more sanity on other pages...
Dana Milbank extends March Madness into April to examine the big GOP tourney... who can succeed at seceding?
From Wisconsin, cradle of the Progressive movement, comes news that the state Republican Party — the party of La Follette! — has advanced a pro-secession agenda.Maybe we can make a deal. These guys are all so fond of Putin, maybe they'd just like to personally secede to Crimea--cows and all. Then they can try their "sovereign state" arguments on Russia.
The party’s Resolutions Committee voted earlier this month in favor of a platform saying the GOP “supports legislation that upholds Wisconsin’s right, under extreme circumstances, to secede.” The resolution will now get a vote at the state party convention next month, raising the alarming prospect of a breakaway Badger State uniting with Ottawa in a military alliance that could disrupt the fragile balance of power in the Great Lakes.
Called the “state sovereignty” resolution, it is driven by the same sentiment that drives Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy to ignore federal law and court orders on grounds that they do not apply in the “sovereign state of Nevada.” ...
A cattle rancher, Bundy, has been ignoring federal court orders for the better part of two decades. Worse, the state’s Republican governor and its Republican senator have criticized federal efforts to enforce the law. This is where small government becomes no government — where opposition to Washington becomes anarchy.
Bundy has been having his cattle graze on federal lands for decades and has refused to pay grazing fees. He has ignored court orders and lost an appeal. When federal authorities finally moved recently to impound his cattle, Bundy threatened violence, leading the feds to back off.
And what says Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval? “No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans,” he said, objecting to the treatment of Bundy’s armed supporters.
How about Sen. Dean Heller? He called Bundy’s backers “patriots” and said he told the federal Bureau of Land Management “very clearly that law-abiding Nevadans must not be penalized by an overreaching BLM.”
The complaints might make more sense if Bundy himself were “law-abiding.”
The New York Times, when not employing Douthat to tell you about "stability," has something to say on global trade.
Many Americans have watched their neighbors lose good-paying jobs as their employers sent their livelihoods to China. Over the last 20 years, the United States has lost nearly five million manufacturing jobs. In that same time, however, the prices that Americans pay for basic goods like T-shirts and televisions have fallen. The cost of clothing is down 8.2 percent since 1993, as “made in China” and “made in Bangladesh” labels have crowded out “made in U.S.A.” on the shelves of the local mall.It makes absolutely no sense that most Americans would not support allowing companies to dump toxins in their air and water, would not support allowing their kids to be worked like slaves in unsafe conditions for miserable pay, but will completely support allowing companies to ship in products from places where they do all that and worse.
There is a national ambivalence about our trade of goods and services with the rest of the world, which has more than doubled in the last two decades. Americans want the benefits of trade — and they are potentially big and quite real, including opening up new markets to American cars and software — but they’re increasingly anxious about the downside, which includes closed factories and lower wages. The country needs to pursue new trade agreements, but this time we need to get the agreements right.
To gain the support of a divided Congress and public, the administration must ensure that new agreements are much stronger than Nafta and other pacts. President Obama, who criticized the agreement with Canada and Mexico as a candidate in 2008, promised that his negotiations would avoid a race to lower costs and standards by requiring that countries adhere to common regulations in areas like labor rights, environmental protection and patents. Living up to that promise should be one of his highest priorities.
Freddie Wilkinson looks at some people who are on top of the world... but not celebrating.
On Friday, about 6:30 in the morning, another avalanche rumbled down Everest. This one caught a group of 25 climbers at 19,000 feet near the top of the notorious Khumbu Icefall, a frightful jumble of seracs and crevasses, killing at least 12 as of Friday in the worst reported disaster in the mountain’s history.This is your read-it-all-and-be-glad-you're-safe-at-home choice of the morning.
Although commercially organized groups make up the overwhelming majority of Everest expeditions today, not a single international client or guide was caught in the avalanche. The victims were Nepalese. They were carrying supplies to aid their employer’s clients, who pay commercial outfitters tens of thousands of dollars to get to the top of the world’s tallest mountain.
... it is these professional climbing Sherpas who bear a disproportionate amount of the risk of Himalayan climbing. In fact, the odds may be worse for them than they were in the days of those grand British expeditions. ...
Most Sherpas work on a day-on, day-off rotation, and can make a dozen or more round trips through the icefall over the course of a 10-week season. Most clients pass through it twice or three times at most.
The math simply doesn’t work out in the Sherpas’ favor. For bearing such risk, a typical climbing Sherpa can expect to bring home approximately $3,000 to $6,000 at the end of the season — perhaps more, if their English skills are good or they climb with a big-tipping client, according to an article last year in Outside magazine by the journalist Grayson Schaffer. If it’s an unlucky season, they or their families can fall back on government-mandated accident and life insurance policies. The payout was recently raised from $4,600 to $11,000...
Ruth Marcus gives a hurrah to a speech by Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon.
“Dartmouth’s promise is being hijacked by extreme behavior, masked by its perpetrators as acceptable fun,” warned Hanlon, who arrived on campus just last year. He cited sexual assaults, “a culture where dangerous drinking has become the rule and not the exception” and “a general disregard for human dignity as exemplified by hazing, parties with racist and sexist undertones, disgusting and sometimes threatening insults hurled on the Internet.”It's an interesting piece, if only because it's one of the few that made me give several moments of "yeah, but" and about as many "I guess so" points. We all want the freedom and growth that comes with being independent for the first time, but surely it can be delivered without alcohol poisoning and certainly without sexual assault.
Hanson noted “a grave disconnect between our culture in the classroom and the behaviors outside of it — behaviors which too often seek not to elevate the human spirit, but debase it.” Dartmouth, he said, cannot “be held back by the few who wrongly hide harmful behaviors behind the illusion of youthful exuberance. Routinized excessive drinking, sexual misconduct and blatant disregard of social norms have no place at Dartmouth. Enough is enough.”
Jon Healey wonders if the latest Keystone XL delay will actually be good for Democrats in the election.
On Friday, the State Department disclosed that it would give eight federal agencies more time to weigh in on the application. How much more? As much as they want, evidently.And... I think this may get the award for Worst Strategy of the Week.
"The permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents," the State Department intoned. "The department will give the agencies sufficient time to submit their views."
Remember, the feds have spent more than five years considering the pipeline. The State Department issued a final supplemental environmental impact statement in January. The public comment period closed almost six weeks ago. The agencies had been given 90 days, or three times as many as the public had, to offer their views. How much more time could the agencies need?
And so we have another delay that, by Lauter and Mascaro's estimate, should push any decision on Keystone XL past the November election. And for vulnerable Senate Democrats, that's the perfect scenario. With President Obama having turned into a political albatross, Democrats in red and swing states are doing everything they can to distance themselves from the administration on high-profile issues. That includes introducing bills to change unpopular parts of the 2010 healthcare law and blasting the administration for dragging its feet on Keystone XL.
Yogi Patel watches people torture each other... with voodoo dolls.
By studying 107 married couples for 21 consecutive days, the scientists were able to assess the correlation between blood glucose level and the amount of self-control an individual can exert.So when you're feeling murderous toward family this Easter, remember -- eat more candy.
Each subject (total of 214) was provided a voodoo doll that represented his or her spouse. The subjects were instructed to stick between 0 and 51 pins into the voodoo doll, with the number of pins representing the number of aggressive impulses they had toward their spouse. As expected, the lower the level of glucose in the blood, the greater number of pins participants stuck into their voodoo doll. The scientists also noted that women tended to stick more pins into the voodoo doll than men did.