A New Level In The Rhetoric Of "Our Opponents Are Evil"

A recurring theme here is that, while Republicans think Democrats are wrong in their public policy prescriptions, Democrats think Republicans are evil.  The recent events of Charlottesville and their aftermath have helped move the rhetoric to a whole new level.  Previously, if you advocated that less dependency on "free" government food or healthcare subsidies would be a good thing for the country and even for its poor citizens, you were merely "cruel" or "heartless."  Now, any failure to get on board with each and every policy prescription of the extreme left, let alone any support for President Trump, brands you at the minimum as a "racist," if not a "neo-Nazi" or a "white supremacist."

The deep-thinking Michael Moore gave a good summary of the current talking points in a CNN interview a few days ago:

“If you vote for a racist, what are you then? Because it sure sounds like racism to me,” he told Lemon during the late-night interview, after Moore and Mark Ruffalo protested outside Trump Tower with the audience of his current Broadway show. “He’s absolutely a racist,” Moore added of Trump, saying later in the interview, “If you still support the racist, you are the racist.”

Maybe you thought that Trump's policy prescriptions were, on balance, better for the country than those of Hillary Clinton? Or maybe you thought that Trump would be a more competent steward of U.S. foreign policy?  Sorry, but these possibilities are no longer allowed.  You are evil -- racist evil!  

Or consider the thoughts of Democratic intellect Russ Feingold (recent loser in an attempt to reclaim a Senate seat from Wisconsin) in the Guardian on August 19, "How the Republican Party quietly does the bidding of white supremacists":

Let us finally rip off the veneer that Trump’s affinity for white supremacy is distinct from the Republican agenda. It isn’t. . . .  The lesson from Charlottesville is not how dangerous the neo-Nazis are. It is the unmasking of the Republican party leadership. . . .  Where are the Republican leaders who are willing to call out the wink (and the direct endorsement) from President Trump to the white supremacists and acknowledge their own party’s record and stance on issues important to people of color as the real problem for our country?

John Davidson, in a column at the Federalist commenting on Feingold's piece, captures the concept well:

Finally, finally, someone on the Left just came out and said it. Being a Republican is apparently no different than being a white supremacist. Supporting a lower marginal tax rate puts you in the same company as the Ku Klux Klan. Therefore, punching a Nazi is the same as punching someone wearing a MAGA hat. . . .  This is the logical endpoint of what social justice warriors have been arguing since before Charlottesville. Everyone who opposes their political agenda does so out of hatred and bigotry, and there’s little difference between the GOP establishment and fringe neo-Nazi groups.

OK, I understand the game, but what I can't understand is the lack of much attempt at push-back.  Just breathe the word "racist," with or without any basis, and corporate America runs for the hills.  CEOs abandon President Trump's business councils en masse.  Formerly sane right-side pundits (e.g., Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer) compete to distance themselves from any element of the President's agenda.

Who is left to point out that it is the left-side handouts-for-all agenda that has proved a disaster for everyone who falls into its clutches, and most especially for black Americans?  You literally can't find anything about that in any media source these days, "mainstream" or otherwise.  OK, a little of it persists at a few think tanks.  But mostly it is left to the lonely voice of the Manhattan Contrarian.  A few obvious observations, made repeatedly here over the years:

  • Fifty years of the "War on Poverty," and the poverty rate remains more or less exactly where it was when the "War" started.  Except in Democrat strongholds, like New York, where "anti-poverty" programs are even more generous and pervasive, and therefore the poverty rate is up a full five points since the War on Poverty began, with no reason to believe it will ever go down -- at least until the "anti-poverty" programs are reduced or ended.  So-called "anti-poverty" programs are specifically designed not to lower poverty and reduce dependency, but rather to perpetuate poverty and increase dependency.  The poor are trapped in a lifetime of dependent poverty.  The only beneficiaries of this system are the government functionaries who make a comfortable and secure career without ever accomplishing anything they are supposed to accomplish.  The cost is about $1 trillion per year to accomplish nothing.
  • The moral crusade of "healthcare for all" remains a disaster as an anti-poverty measure, and even worse as a public policy.  By definition, no amount of free or subsidized healthcare will ever raise any poor person out of poverty.  Not only have all attempts to demonstrate better health outcomes among those with free healthcare failed, it is obvious to anyone who looks that areas with pervasive Medicaid participation have dramatically worse health outcomes than areas with less Medicaid participation.  The recent full implementation of Obamacare, expected by all on the left to bring improved health outcomes, has in fact brought noticeably worse health outcomes.  Could it be because expanded Medicaid is paying for opioids for the vulnerable?  That's a very reasonable hypothesis, although there are not yet enough data to prove it.
  • And then there's subsidized "affordable" housing, often characterized here as "the worst possible public policy."  Don't get me started.

The inheritors of the mantle of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow and the KKK -- that is, Democrats and progressives -- now purport to claim the moral high ground with a program of handouts designed to keep black America in dependency forever.  How can any sane person concede the moral high ground to them?  Sure, Donald Trump is an imperfect vessel for the other side.  So?

Should The Democratic Party Be Abolished As A Symbol Of Oppression?

Following the events in Charlottesville last weekend, we are now engaged in a national orgy of banishing whatever can be identified as "symbols of oppression" from the past.  Everywhere they exist, statues of Confederate figures are being removed from public spaces.  In Congress, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has called for removal of a dozen or so statues of Confederate figures from the U.S. Capitol.  (Funny, but there didn't seem to be any problem with them when she was Speaker not so long ago.)  Here in New York, we don't have much in the way of symbols honoring Confederate figures, but somebody figured out that two streets in Brooklyn are named after Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, so they have to go.  Governor Cuomo, feeling the politician's desperate need to jump on the bandwagon, has called for removal of a marker in Lower Manhattan noting that the City held a ticker tape parade in 1931 for French World War I military hero Henri Philippe Pétain.  A decade later in the 1940s, Pétain collaborated with the Nazis, so he is also a symbol of oppression and his marker must go.

While we are at this, why don't we do something about the biggest symbol of oppression of all?  I'm talking, of course, about the Democratic Party.  For a century and more, the Democratic Party stood for slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow.  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it proudly marketed itself as the "white man's party," contrasting itself with the Republican Party which it accused of seeking "negro supremacy."  The Democratic Party resisted civil rights legislation well into my lifetime.  Today, the Democratic Party claims to have put that legacy behind it, even as the jurisdictions where it has single-party control -- places like Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis and Detroit -- are cesspools of poverty, violence, and government dependency.   Is there any reason why we should forgive the Democratic Party for its odious history, let alone for its current failures?  None that I can think of.

Let's just assemble a few data points in the racist history of the Democratic Party:

In the late 19th century, the Democratic Party gradually took control of each state in the South from the Republican reconstructionists, and over time proceeded to institute a regime of segregation and disenfranchisement of blacks.  Each state has its own sordid history, but consider this summary of events from North Carolina (from Sean Braswell at The Daily Dose, February 17, 2017, "When the 'White Man's Party' Rocked North Carolina"):  

In the years after the Civil War, Reconstruction Era Republicans in North Carolina were able to expand voting rights and political representation for African-Americans in their state. But, in 1898, the Democrats — then the party of white Southern conservatives — struck back with a “white supremacy” electoral campaign, and subsequent disenfranchisement strategy, that would devastate the state’s democracy for decades to come. . . .  Calling themselves the “white man’s party,” they threw down the gauntlet for the 1898 election, proclaiming “North Carolina is a WHITE MAN’s state and WHITE MEN will rule it " . . .

[After winning the election,] the Democrats immediately set to work on several measures, including a constitutional amendment, to disenfranchise Black voters. . . .  By February 1899, the amendment, containing a literacy requirement and poll tax (as well as a “grandfather clause” to ensure illiterate whites could still vote), had been passed, and was rapidly enforced to disenfranchise most of the state’s Black population.

In the early 20th century, we got that great Democratic and progressive icon Woodrow Wilson as President.  What is his record in the field of race relations?  For starters, Wilson segregated the formerly integrated civil service in the federal government.  From Paul Rahe at FEE, September 17, 2016, "Woodrow Wilson: This So-Called Progressive was a Dedicated Racist":

Prior to the segregation of the civil service in 1913, appointments had been made solely on merit as indicated by the candidate’s performance on the civil-service examination. Thereafter, racial discrimination became the norm. Photographs came to be required at the time of application, and African-Americans knew they would not be hired.  The existing work force was segregated. Many African-Americans were dismissed. In the postal service, others were transferred to the dead-letter office, where they had no contact with the general public. Those who continued to work in municipal post offices labored behind screens — out of sight and out of mind.

Wilson provides a treasure trove of racist quotations.  Here are a couple from this compilation:

  • “The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self-preservation—until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country.”
  • “Segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen.” 

Yet somehow Wilson remains a respectable figure, with his name all over Princeton University.

Franklin Roosevelt?  He gladly accepted the support of Southern segregationists in his presidential runs, and was the guy who appointed ex-Ku Klux Klansman and Democratic Senator from Alabama Hugo Black to the Supreme Court in 1937.  Black went on to write the Supreme Court opinion in 1944 upholding the confinement of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II.

And is this all ancient history?  Well, how about Robert Byrd?  He served as Democratic Senator from West Virginia from 1959 all the way to 2010, including two stints as Majority Leader in the 1970s and 80s.  In the 1940s he was a Grand Cyclops in the KKK, head of a chapter and active in recruiting.  Here are a couple of quotes from Byrd appearing in his Wikipedia biography:

  • From a letter to Senator Bilbo of Mississippi in December 1944:  "I shall never fight in the armed forces with a negro by my side ... Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."
  • From a 1946 letter to the Grand Wizard of the Klan:  "The Klan is needed today as never before, and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia and in every state in the nation."

In the 1960s, Byrd was a leader of the filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  

Also in my lifetime, we have the likes of Bull Connor -- long-time member of the DNC and Democratic Commissioner of Public Safety for Birmingham, Alabama -- who became famous in the 1950s and 60s for offering no protection to civil rights demonstrators against KKK violence, and then as the guy who jailed Martin Luther King.

Obviously these are just a handful of examples, of which I could come up with hundreds.  The association of the Democratic Party with segregation, racism, and oppression is long and deep.  At this point, there is no way that it can disassociate itself from that history.  If we are abolishing the symbols of oppression from our society, why should this not be the first to go?

Yet More "Diversity" Follies

Even as Google atones for its "diversity" sins by firing its one employee willing to speak honestly about the subject, we have a very similar morality play going on here in the New York legal profession.  We have just learned that New York lawyers or their clients or the judges or somebody have for decades been secretly conspiring to keep women from advancing professionally in the litigation sector.  Something must be done!

In July something called the Commercial & Federal Litigation Section of the New York State Bar Association, through a Task Force on Women's Initiatives, put out a big Report titled "Achieving Equality For Women Attorneys in the Courtroom and in ADR."   The members of the Task Force are all women, headed by one Shira Scheindlin.  

Have you heard of Judge Shira Scheindlin?  Probably you have, but then, you probably also confuse her with Judge Judy Sheindlin, of TV fame, who is no relation.  Shira Scheindlin was a federal judge on the Southern District of New York from 1994 (appointed by Clinton) until last year, when she retired to go to a private law firm.  All federal litigators in New York heaved a collective sigh of relief.  She seemed to have been born angry.  There was no more unpleasant or difficult judge to appear before.  Her biggest claim to fame as a judge was her series of decisions in a case called Zubulake, in which she singlehandedly multiplied the cost of civil discovery nationwide by setting rules making it impossible to put any reasonable limits on retaining and reviewing thousands (sometimes millions) of emails.  She also regularly made highly ideological decisions that got herself reversed by the Second Circuit.  In one notorious opinion, in 2013 she declared the so-called "stop and frisk" program of the New York Police Department to be unconstitutional.  The Second Circuit reversed in a critical decision and, in an unusual move, removed her from the case.  She was unrepentant.  

So in her newfound retirement, Ms. Scheindlin turns her hand to excoriating the New York litigation community for its alleged sins of lack of "diversity," particularly as it concerns women.  The Report collects statistics, both in New York and nationwide, on the under-representation of women as lead litigators appearing in court in trials and appeals.  Examples:

The results of the survey are striking:  Female attorneys represented just 25.2% of the attorneys appearing in commercial and criminal cases in courtrooms across New York; female attorneys accounted for 24.9% of lead counsel roles and 27.6% of additional counsel roles; the most striking disparity in women’s participation appeared in complex commercial cases: women’s representation as lead counsel shrank from 31.6% in one-party cases to 26.4% in two-party cases to 24.8% in three- to-four-party cases and to 19.5% in cases involving five or more parties. In short, the more complex the case, the less likely that a woman appeared as lead counsel.  The percentage of female attorneys appearing in court was nearly identical at the trial level (24.7%) to at the appellate level (25.2%). The problem is slightly worse downstate (24.8%) than upstate (26.2%). 

Notice the casual insertion into the statistics of value judgments about the results, tossed out without explanation and with the pervasive assumption that no reasonable person could possibly disagree.  The under-representation (presumably meaning anything less than 50%) of women in these roles is a "problem."  There is a need for "solutions."  Any lower representation is "worse."  Any somewhat higher representation is a "bright spot."  And so on.

Meanwhile, do you notice that the percentage of women in these lead litigation roles in court in New York seems to be right in the same range as the percentage of women in technical jobs at Google?  Check the stats at my post yesterday.  But there is this difference:  Google is one company.  Everybody reports to the same top management.  Therefore, it is at least a plausible hypothesis that a systematic under-representation of women in Google's ranks could be the result of centrally-directed discriminatory intent.  

Now try applying the analogy to the legal profession.  There are hundreds upon hundreds of law firms, and in New York City there are many dozens of quite large law firms (100 lawyers and up).  Could they really all be systematically discriminating against women?  Go to any of the large ones, and you will find that without exception they have some kind of internal "diversity" initiative dedicated to advancing women and various other minority groups within the firm.  Are all of those diversity initiatives in hundreds of firms simultaneously just a hoax to fool outsiders while systematic discrimination continues?  Moreover, clients don't typically hire the firm by brand name and then accept the lawyer that the firm happens to assign them.  Rather, clients pick the individual lawyer that they want to represent them as lead counsel.  Collectively, the number of clients in any given year is in the tens or hundreds of thousands.  Literally all of them -- and certainly every single one of the corporate law departments -- will say if asked that they do not discriminate in choice of counsel, and are doing everything they can to increase "diversity."  Could it really all be a sham?

Remarkably, among the large law firms, essentially all of them have gender diversity statistics that are nearly identical, or within a very narrow range.  All hire approximately 50% women and 50% men at the entry level.  All have about 30 to 40% women in the overall ranks.  And all have about 20% women in the partnership.  Within the partnership, almost always there will be more women in certain fields (e.g., trusts and estates, pension law, employment law) and fewer in other fields (e.g, corporate mergers and acquisitions, litigation).

Can you view these statistics and still believe that the cause of universal under-representation of women in certain areas is some kind of pervasive concealed bias, let alone a grand conspiracy?  Judge Scheindlin does not say in her Report, but she gave an interview that appeared in the New York Law Journal on August 10.  Excerpt:

Women are 50 percent of the graduating class at law school. They're getting offers at the big firms at the same rate as men, but then come the problems: Women are not getting the same opportunities to actually talk on their feet, to appear at courtrooms, to take or defend depositions. Something goes wrong once women arrive at law firms, and it's probably because the higher-ranking positions at firms are held by men and people tend to, unconsciously, work with people who look like them. Young men don't have to be more active or progressive. But for young women that isn't the case. Unless law firms make a conscious effort to bring them in and meet clients, go to court, take depositions, promote them and eventually make them partner, the gap is going to be hard to change.

Somehow, she seems to be unaware that those "conscious efforts" she talks about have been going on for decades.

For myself, I don't claim to have perfect knowledge of all the causes of "gender disparity" in the legal profession.  However, as a long time law firm partner, I did have the experience of working with many dozens of female associates (as well as an equivalent number of male associates) over the course of three decades.  It would have been hard not to notice the higher attrition rate among women over the years from the higher-pressure and longer-hour areas of the practice, of which litigation is one.  More than anything else, this attrition for women was associated with having children.  I have spent many, many fruitless hours in my life trying hopelessly to convince highly talented female associates that they really wanted to come back from maternity leave to the 12 hour days and over-the-weekend injunction motions and four weeks on trial in Kansas and leave their little kids at home with a babysitter.  It never worked once.  The number of women with children who stick with the high-end litigation business for a long term career is very few.  What I don't understand is why anybody feels guilty about that or thinks that it is important to change.    

The "Diversity" Follies, Gender Edition

It's been a while since I've waded into the circus known as "diversity."  (One of my most popular all-time posts is one from June 2014 titled "Is Lack Of 'Diversity' At Big Law Firms A Crisis?")  But with the recent affair at Google all over the news, I can't resist returning to the topic.

If you haven't read the now-famous memo by Google engineer James Damore that ultimately got him fired, it is here.  Try reading it and see if you can figure out what he said that was so offensive.  The statement from Google CEO Sundar Pichai asserted that Damore had crossed “the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”  OK, can you quote which words of Damore you say crossed that line?  Not that I can find, either in that statement or anywhere else.

Damore's central point is that the proportionate under-representation of women in the ranks of Google employees could be explained by some combination of lower average population-wide aptitude and/or interest in what Google does among women than among men, as opposed to the accepted hypothesis of some combination of discrimination and/or oppression:  

I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men
and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why
we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. 

Is that statement really so beyond the pale that it absolutely cannot be said in politically-correct Silicon Valley?  Those with long memories may notice the remarkable resemblance of Damore's hypothesis to the remarks of then-Harvard President Larry Summers that got him fired from that job back in 2005.  Here's an excerpt from Summers:

It does appear that on many, many different human attributes -- height, weight, propensity for criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability -- there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means -- which can be debated -- there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population. And that is true with respect to attributes that are and are not plausibly, culturally determined.

Or maybe Damore's even bigger sin was pointing out that Google, in its efforts to increase "diversity," was engaging in systematic overt gender and racial discrimination:

[T]o achieve a more equal gender and race representation, Google has created several
discriminatory practices:
● Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race.
● A high priority queue and special treatment for “diversity” candidates. . . .  

Not to mention that Google has an entire department dedicated to increasing the "diversity" in its work force.  And with all that, what are the results?  Here is a summary of Google's own "Diversity Report" for 2016.  Women as a percentage of the workforce are 31%, but in "technical roles" only 20%.  Blacks are only 2% of the Google work force, and Latinos 4%.  (Wow -- no major law firm could get away with those numbers!)  Asians, of course, are way over-represented at 35% of the work force.

I for one am completely prepared to believe that the reason for Google's failure to hire and retain women and minorities is systematic racial and gender discrimination and oppression.  After all, there must be some good reason for the widespread sense of guilt and self-loathing among Google's executives.

On the other hand, one might look to circumstances where no one is doing any "hiring," and women and men are completely free to choose what they want to do without any force or coercion.  How about selection of college majors?  In an August 15 piece at Front Page, Walter Williams cites a few data points from a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York:

[T]hough women and men are equally represented in the population at large, women make up only 17 percent of engineering degrees conferred compared to 83 percent conferred to men. . . .   Seventy-seven percent of education majors are women and so are 64 percent of social sciences majors.

How exactly is Google -- or any other tech company -- supposed to get to 50% of its software engineers being women, when the percentage of women in the engineering major in college is less than 20%?

On a similar note, Megan McArdle of Bloomberg tells a personal story of her own exit from a high-tech job.  The bottom line is that she recognized that she just wasn't interested enough to be able to compete at the highest level:

I came into work one Monday morning and joined the guys at our work table, and one of them said “What did you do this weekend?”  I was in the throes of a brief, doomed romance. I had attended a concert that Saturday night. I answered the question with an account of both. The guys stared blankly. Then silence. Then one of them said: “I built a fiber-channel network in my basement,” and our co-workers fell all over themselves asking him to describe every step in loving detail.  At that moment I realized that fundamentally, these are not my people. I liked the work. But I was never going to like it enough to blow a weekend doing more of it for free. Which meant that I was never going to be as good at that job as the guys around me.

I'm not claiming to have the complete explanation for why women are such a small percentage of the technical staff at tech companies.  There can be many different factors at play.  But I do know that we're never going to get a better understanding of the reasons if reasonable hypotheses are arbitrarily excluded from the discussion on the basis of ideology.  

The Greatest Scientific Fraud Of All Time -- Part XVII

Just keep your eyes open for more and more examples of tampering with and manipulation of the world temperature record to enhance the "global warming" narrative, and it seems that you will have no problem coming up with an endless supply.  One of the best recent examples comes from Australia.  

Australia is blessed with a small band of sharp-eyed skeptics who have made a mission out of trying to keep their crooked government bureaucrats honest.  Two of the leading lights are Jennifer Marohasy and Joanne Nova.  As Marohasy states in a recent post, "I suffer . . . from a propensity to always check things."  So back in early July, Marohasy was checking on some very cold readings recorded in the mountains of Australia -- readings colder than -10 deg C, which is the same as 14 deg F.  (Remember that July is winter in Australia,)  And she stumbled on the fact that, somewhere along the line, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology had put in place some supposed "quality control" technology in their weather stations that would automatically reject valid low temperature readings as spurious.  As reported by Marohasy on July 5:

[W]hen the weather station at Goulburn recorded -10.4 on Sunday morning – the Bureau’s ‘quality control system’, ‘designed to filter out spurious low or high values’ reset this value to -10.0.  To be clear, the actual measured value of -10.4 was ‘automatically adjusted’ so that it recorded as -10.0 in the key CDO dataset.

Huh?  By the way, if 0.4 deg C does not sound like a lot to you, remember that our temperature overlords regularly declare with the loudest possible megaphone that new world temperature records have been set by amounts well less than 0.1 deg C.

When pressed by Marohasy, the BoM acknowledged that it had installed an automated system that rejected temperatures at that location as spurious whenever they went below -10 deg C, even though temperatures below that level had previously been recorded at that location on multiple occasions.  Here is the text of an email received by Marohasy from the BoM:

The correct minimum temperature for Goulburn on 2 July, 2017 is -10.4 recorded at 6.30am at Goulburn Airport AWS… The Bureau’s quality control system, designed to filter out spurious low or high values was set at -10 minimum for Goulburn which is why the record automatically adjusted.   

Do you think that they would then promptly fix things?  Wrong.  A couple of weeks later, on July 16, Marohasy caught another example of the same thing at a station called Thredbo.  Again, a reading of -10.4 deg C (of which Marohasy took a screen shot that you can see at the link) had been caused to disappear within a couple of days, this time replaced with a new supposed minimum reading for July 2017 0f -9.6 deg C.

Joanne Nova -- who has partnered with Marohasy and others to form a BoM "audit team" -- asked a series of pertinent questions in a July 5 post:

[T]his opens a whole can of worms in so many ways — what are these “limits”, do they apply equally to the high side records, who set them, how long has this being going on, and where are they published? Are the limits on the high temperatures set this close to previously recorded temperatures? How many times have raw records been automatically truncated? 

Now almost a month has passed, and there are no answers coming out of the BoM.  Oh, except for one thing.  In a press release on August 1, the BoM reported July 2017 to be the "warmest" on record in several respects:

  • Record warmth in northern Australia, dry in much of the south
  • Warmest July maximum temperatures on record nationally, and for Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia

I guess it's easy to make each month successively the "warmest" if you get to eliminate all the coldest recorded temperatures from the average.  As usual, their press release contains no mention whatsoever of the controversy over elimination of the coldest temperatures, let alone any explanation of justification for what they are doing.  These people have no shame at all. 

To read the sixteen prior posts in this series, go to this link.

To The Progressive, Everything That Happens In Urban America Is Bad

After my post from Tuesday ("How Progressives See New York"), I was hoping that the New York Times would immediately realize how laughable it appears to rational people when it discusses these issues.  But no, as if in complete ignorance of my ridicule of their world view (admittedly as expressed in an article in the New Republic), they immediately came back with a piece in yesterday's print edition titled "A Revival Comes to Newark, but Some Worry It’s ‘Not for Us.’"  The piece is about a big new Whole Foods market that recently opened in New Jersey's formerly most economically-depressed place, Newark.  

Before this, probably for the last decade or more, you probably have read a few dozen or so articles, many of them in the Times, bemoaning that poor black neighborhoods and cities had become "food deserts," where supermarkets had disappeared, and thus it was impossible to obtain anything nutritious to eat.  The residents were forced to eat some combination of fast food and chips and sugared sodas and their health got ruined.  Usually, the overarching narrative was that this was all part of the oppression of the low income minority groups by the dominant white culture, or something like that.  So therefore, surely the arrival of a Whole Foods must be good news for Newark?  Don't be ridiculous!

I would write my own take down of the Times piece, but fortunately Kyle Smith, writing at National Review, already did it for me.  Excerpt:

[A] New York Times piece this week headlined with a lament from one [Newark] resident that Whole Foods, which opened its Newark branch in late winter, is “not for us.”  Newark’s population is only one-fourth white, and it seems obvious that the sentiment being expressed here, as well as the use of the word “gentrification,” are what in other contexts might be called “racial dog whistles" . . . .

Let’s recap the slate of urban worries on the left. “Food deserts,” meaning a lack of availability of fresh food (or a lack of market demand for it), are bad. The opening of a gigantic store dedicated to selling healthy comestibles and produce, though, is also bad. When large corporations don’t invest in urban communities, that’s shameful. Investment? Also shameful. White flight by people moving to suburbs in the 1960s? Racist. Their grandchildren’s return? Also racist. Increased disorder that leads to garbage-strewn vacant lots, abandoned buildings, and declining property values is troubling, but increased order that leads to refilled buildings, cleaned-up neighborhoods, and rising rents is also troubling. Segregation? Bad. Integration? Bad.

So literally everything is bad, and its opposite is also bad.  And not just any kind of bad.  As Smith correctly points out, everything is the worst kind of bad -- racist!  And its opposite is also racist.  Try to not be a racist by following progressive prescriptions and doing the opposite of what you were previously doing, and you've just become an even worse racist.  The more you consider how people can hold all of these conflicting beliefs at the same time, the more you realize that rational thought has nothing to do with it.  My own leading hypothesis is that the phenomenon stems from an all-consuming irrational sense of guilt.  Or, as one commenter on my previous piece called it, "self-loathing."

For myself, I marvel every day at how much better things have become here in New York City in the 40+ years since I moved here in 1975.  And that goes for all races and ethnic groups.  I've been compiling a short list, which could be expanded to as long as you would like:

  • In 1975 there were 1645 murders in New York City (about 22 per 100,000).  In 2016 there were 335 murders with a bigger population (less than 4 per 100,000).  Declines in other crimes have been comparable.
  • In 1975, the City's population was in rapid and alarming decline.  (It fell by about 800,000, or about 10%, between the 1970 and 1980 censuses, to barely over 7 million.)  Today the population is about 8.5 million and growing nicely.  People have an optimistic sense that this is a good place to make a living.
  • As a corollary of the declining population, big parts of the City in 1975 were experiencing abandonment, arson, and destruction of the housing stock.  It was the time of "Fort Apache, the Bronx."  Today, all of the areas that saw abandonment and destruction then are having new construction, mostly not subsidized.
  • In 1975 if you walked around the streets of Greenwich Village in the morning, you would see several piles of little beads of automobile glass, where someone had smashed a car window in the middle of the night to steal the radio or other equipment out of the car.  I haven't seen any of that for a decade or more.
  • In 1975 there were signs at the housing office at NYU warning students not to try living east of First Avenue.  More broadly, wide swaths of North Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Harlem and the East Village in Manhattan, were widely known as places where white people just should not go.  That broad fear is now long gone.
  • In 1975 the Greenwich Village waterfront was abandoned and decrepit.  Today it is a beautiful park.
  • In 1975, all but a few residential buildings in Greenwich Village were rent-controlled apartments.  The buildings clearly had once been beautiful, but most of them were run-down.  No owner would invest a dime in them, because the rents did not justify investment, and could not be raised.  And if you went looking for an apartment, literally nothing was available.  (I later learned that you had to go building-to-building and offer bribes to the superintendents, and suddenly there would be availability.  But I never did that myself.)  Today, there are many more owner-occupied buildings (townhouses, condos, co-ops) and about half of the remaining rental apartments have been freed from the rent-regulation system.  Yes, it's expensive, but there is plenty of availability at market prices.  Every block has multiple renovation and upgrade projects going on.
  • In 1975 subway ridership was declining alarmingly, reaching barely over 1 billion annual riders that year, which was less than half of the peak in the late 1940s.  Today, subway ridership is over 1.8 billion per year and approaching that 1940s peak (which is not completely comparable because some elevated lines were taken down in the interim).
  • In 1975, as a young associate at a law firm, I regularly went home on the subway in the late evening, sometimes midnight or later.  It was extremely noticeable that there were no, and I mean no, women riding the subway after about 8 PM.  Today, you find women on the subway at all hours.
  • In 1975 there was literally no new construction going on in Greenwich Village, and similarly in almost all of the rest of the City.  (The Upper East Side was a limited exception.)  Today, we have many new high-end condos going up.  Most of my neighbors are horrified.  I cannot figure out why.
  • With more ownership and more people having a stake in the neighborhood, today we have far more in the way of gardens, flowers, well-cared-for trees, and other beautification of the streets and the environment than we had back in the 70s.  The parks are in far better condition -- a consequence of the City government having more revenue, resulting from the influx of new businesses and wealthier residents.

And this could go on.  We get to choose whether we enjoy our new and greatly improved circumstances, or whether we wallow in irrational self-loathing.  I know where I come down.