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Cover Art from the Woke Bookshelf

If you’re running an independent bookstore in the San Francisco Bay Area, what sort of window displays will bring in foot traffic? Conversely, what sort of window displays will not invite ideologically driven vandalism? Here, based on a colleagues recent trip to “Book Passage – The Bay Areas Liveliest Bookstore,” are a sampling of what you may expect.

To fully appreciate the politicization of the leftist literati, you have to view these cover photos. In this first example, notice the use of socialist realism in the cover art. Published by Simon and Schuster, the cover of “Kamala Harris, Rooted in Justice,” portrays a heroic profile. It uses bold, primary colors and incorporates patriotic images. From Britannica.com, consider this definition of socialist realism in art:

“Socialist Realism was also the officially sponsored Marxist aesthetic in the visual arts, which fulfilled the same propagandistic and ideological functions as did literature. Socialist Realist paintings and sculptures used naturalistic idealization to portray workers and farmers as dauntless, purposeful, well-muscled, and youthful.”

Well, dauntless and purposeful, anyway.

Where Kamala Harris got her own book, Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi, and others, are part of a series, “Queens of the Resistance,” brought to you by Penguin Random House. Might these books be fulfilling “propagandistic and ideological functions?”

One might also wonder why Elizabeth Warren is pictured raising a clenched fist, whereas Pelosi is merely crossing her arms. But in both cases, their countenance is dauntless, purposeful. […] Read More

Unheralded Flavors of Socialism

The mantra of socialists, and the rallying cry that generates populist support for socialist movements, is the desire to make life better for ordinary citizens. The calls for a mandatory “living wage,” “universal health care,” housing and utilities as a “human right,” free education; the entire apparatus of the expanding welfare state are all manifestations of this goal.

To what extent the state provides services and entitlements to its citizens is an endless and necessary debate. It’s a debate that can’t be waged without also considering what citizenship itself ought to mean. What the state can afford for its own citizens is greater than what the state can afford if citizenship is secondary to mere residency. But lost in the question of what the state should offer, and who should be the rightful recipients, is a question that is too easily dismissed by partisans on both sides: when does state spending result in less authoritarian regulations and a lower cost-of-living?

If there were such a thing, and there is, then it might be possible to unite otherwise partisan factions behind certain projects that rely on state spending. This notion, anathema to libertarians and many conservatives, is in fact a way to fulfill libertarian and conservative goals. There is no better example than with respect to infrastructure.

In today’s political environment, of course, it is necessary to clarify the meaning of “infrastructure,” which has been corrupted beyond recognition. Infrastructure, properly defined, are the projects – primarily relating to delivering energy, water, […] Read More

It’s Not a “Republican Recall,” Mr. Hastings

Consumers of broadcast television were treated to a barrage of ads over the past week lambasting the “Republican Recall.” Revealed at the close of these ads was the source of major funding for the ads, Netflix founder and billionaire Reed Hastings. Compared to other Silicon Valley notables such as Mark Zuckerberg, who spent $400 million to tilt the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, Hastings flies mostly under the radar. But that’s changing fast.

Last year, Hastings contributed nearly two million to a dirty campaign that got George Gascon elected to Los Angeles County District Attorney not by extolling his virtues and qualifications, but by maliciously maligning the incumbent. Angelenos are paying an awful price, as Gascon implements a crime friendly regime that has aroused open rebellion among his subordinates and enraged so many residents that the vast county teeters on the precipice of political realignment.

Not content with supporting the problematic Gascon, Hastings now has his eyes on the whole state. But what motivates him to do this? Why is keeping Newsom in office so important to Reed Hastings that he’s willing to throw additional millions into a statewide political campaign? Hastings, like dozens of his progressive billionaire counterparts in the Silicon Valley, is not stupid. So what part of Newsom’s legacy is he so determined to protect, and what is it about the recall movement that he consider so toxic?

It’s fair to wonder the rhetoric you’ll hear from the fringes of any […] Read More

Cry the Beloved California

Back in the waning days of the apartheid era, South African Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi made an observation that echoes across the centuries. “We cannot have freedom if we don’t have bread.”

Such a predicament does not exactly repeat itself in California today, but there are echoes aplenty. Californians are oppressed, in different ways, for different reasons, than the blacks of South Africa during the apartheid years. But instead of demanding the equivalent of bread, in the form of affordable and reliable water, energy, and housing, Californians are divided into two warring tribes, with one side demanding pedagogy and policies oriented to critical race theory, and the other side rising up to stop them.

Meanwhile, in California today, water is rationed, energy is expensive and unreliable, and the prices of homes and rentals consume the incomes of all but the most fortunate.

It might be forgivable to obsess over issues of race and gender if California’s people of color, women, and gays were subject to anything remotely akin to the brutal regime of the Afrikaner. But California is the most tolerant state in the most tolerant nation in the most tolerant era in the history of the world. The hardships that members of California’s so-called protected status groups endure are indeed the result of systemic oppression. But this oppression is not the product of discrimination. It is caused by a ruling oligarchy and its retainers making the calculated decision that there is power and profit in denying economic opportunities […] Read More

CAGOP Should Not Burn Up the Recall Jungle

The latest hot rumor, circulating among the disaffected rebels, the insiders, and the wanna-be insiders (guilty), is that the California State GOP is going to endorse Kevin Faulconer as the official Republican candidate in the upcoming Newsom recall election.

Officials at CAGOP have dismissed this rumor as unfounded, claiming the process has just begun and the outcome is uncertain. Apparently the party’s rules committee will convene later this week, and then the party’s executive committee will meet over the weekend. If these committees approve an endorsement process, then candidates will be asked to each collect 200 endorsements from among the roughly 1,400 party delegates. Since party delegates will be permitted to endorse more than one candidate, this was represented as a reasonable requirement.

But coming at the last minute, this is not reasonable. It’s also a flawed strategy. GOP voters who feel burned may stay home on September 14.

Candidates with strong ties to the state party organization and established relationships with party delegates will have a decisive advantage acquiring delegate signatures, especially since the petitions themselves, apparently, won’t be available until the party decides they’re going forward with an endorsement selection process. Therefore, if they’re only given a week or two to go track down delegates, it is possible that candidates that have already invested a lot in this contest will be froze out of even being considered.

One of the things that may elude officials at CAGOP is that in order for the recall ballot’s question one (should […] Read More

Fixing California, Part Nine – The Prosperity Economy

The policy topics considered in this series—energy, water, transportation, housing, law enforcement and the homeless, forestry, and education—have all been hijacked by ideologues.

Because of this, and regardless of the relevance, climate change and racism are the two broad and urgent themes that dominate policy discussions and decisions on these issues. And in all cases, these alleged crises are used to distort policies and derail projects. They become the primary focus, limiting options, enabling impractical and expensive schemes, and always with a pessimistic outlook. This series has offered a different set of perspectives through which to view these topics: abundance, pragmatism, and optimism.

There are other big challenges that dominate the political dialogue in California and throughout America. It is a broad and diverse list. But the seven topics chosen, if properly addressed, fulfill a practical goal. They give back to Californians—all Californians—something that’s been missing for decades: a prosperity economy where anyone willing to work hard can afford to live a secure life.

The governing ideology in California today is corporate socialism hiding behind the moral imperatives of fighting climate change and combating racism. California today is run by an alliance of special interests—tech monopolies, public-sector unions, leftist billionaires, extreme environmentalists, and social justice warriors—who are crushing the middle class. Their motivations differ, and their intentions may not be so explicit, but their actions share the same goal. Environmentalists believe the middle-class lifestyle is ecologically unsustainable. Social justice warriors believe the middle […] Read More

Fixing California – Part Eight, Restoring Quality Education

Pragmatism. Abundance. Optimism. If these are the principles that should guide public policy in California—and they are—what the public schools offer is the exact opposite.

Instead of pragmatism, they offer partisan ideology.

Instead of emphasizing the ability, indeed, the obligation, for a modern and prosperous society to deliver abundance, the message is that we must ration everything we use, and treat employment as a zero-sum game, where jobs and opportunities are allocated by race and gender instead of in recognition of merit and passion.

And instead of an optimistic view of the future, the mandated curricula are steeped in pessimism: the climate emergency, the crisis of systemic racism, the catastrophe of capitalist enslavement, a sordid national history., and an oppressive, exploitative society.

It isn’t necessary to engage in yet another in-depth recitation of how California’s public schools have devolved into indoctrination chambers, failing low-income students most in need of a decent education. Rebellion is in the air.

Suffice to say, classroom discipline is replaced with “restorative justice.” Teacher accountability, now more than ever, gives way to “tenure” and a job for life. Measuring academic achievement with standardized tests has become racist, and as redress, the University of California will no longer consider applicants’ SAT scores. Learning multiplication tables and other practical quantitative skills gave way to “Common Core.” Timeless classics may alienate or even threaten young readers, so reading material is selected based on the race and gender of the authors. Lessons in basic concepts of […] Read More

The Future of the American Right is Bright

The biggest weapon the so-called right-wing has in America is their innate optimism. It derives not only from a faith in the power of individual agency, or the faith in a divine and benevolent power that is far greater than ourselves. It also derives from its contrast to the American Left. Our leftist opponents are stricken with a pessimistic outlook in literally every aspect of life. They believe the planet itself faces imminent environmental catastrophe. They believe Americans are either villainous oppressors that carry collective guilt, or helpless victims of historical and systemic oppression. They are unhappy with the default setting for male and female, and despite eons of natural evolution that validates this default, they are determined to reinvent sex and gender.

In the future, the American Right will coopt many of the new buzzwords of the Left, not as a tactic, but because the most practical and realistic pathways to “equity, inclusion and diversity” come from the Right. Equity can only be achieved by the Left through government tyranny and universal economic misery. To the extent it is attainable in a free and prosperous society, equity depends on freedom of opportunity and merit-based, competitive free enterprise. Inclusion according to the Left has devolved into segregated “safe spaces” and mandated racial quotas. This is a recipe for tension and tribalism. True inclusion is colorblind, which today is a concept embraced by the Right, and stigmatized by the Left. As for diversity, the Left ruthlessly attacks anyone whose thoughts and […] Read More

Fixing California – Part Seven, Forest Management

Nobody knew how the fire started. It took hold in the dry chaparral and grasslands and quickly spread up the sides of the canyon. Propelled by winds gusting over 40 miles per hour and extremely dry air (humidity below 25 percent), the fire spread over the ridge and into the town below. Overwhelmed firefighters could not contain the blaze as it swept through the streets, immolating homes by the hundreds. Even brick homes with slate roofs were not spared. Before it finally was brought under control, 640 structures including 584 homes had been reduced to ashes. Over 4,000 people were left homeless.

Does this sound like the “new normal?” Maybe so, but this description is of the Berkeley fire of 1923. In its time, with barely 4 million people living in California, the Berkeley fire was a catastrophe on par with the fires we see today.

When evaluating what has happened nearly a century since the Berkeley fire, two stories emerge. The story coming from California’s politicians emphasizes climate change. The other story, which comes from professional foresters, stresses how different forest management practices might have made many of the recent fires far less severe—and perhaps avoided entirely.

Specifically, California’s misguided forest management practices included several decades of successful fire suppression, combined with a failure to remove all the undergrowth that results when natural fires aren’t allowed to burn.

Back in 1923, tactics to suppress forest fires were in their infancy. But techniques and technologies improved apace with firefighting […] Read More

Fixing California – Part Six, Homeless and Law Enforcement

The homeless population in California now tops 160,000, concentrated in Los Angeles County, but growing in every major city and in smaller towns up and down the state. Despite throwing tens of billions of federal, state, and local spending at the problem, the number of homeless increases every year. Expensive housing is part of the problem, and increasing the supply and lowering the cost of homes might help.

It is a huge mistake, however, to claim that a shortage of housing is the primary cause of homelessness in the Golden State. After all, during 2021 an estimated 103,000 new housing units were built in California, slightly more than half of them homes and the rest apartments. Meanwhile, California’s total population actually declined by 182,000 people, the first time that’s happened in over a century.

There must be more to this puzzle than housing, and there is: California’s homeless problem is caused by the inability of law enforcement and health professionals to deal effectively with criminals, substance abusers, and the mentally ill. If these people were taken off the streets and treated appropriately, the remaining homeless could easily be accommodated by existing shelter programs. Solving the homeless crisis requires reassessing the underlying assumptions informing the policies of recent years, rethinking the nature and meaning of compassion, and recalibrating where tolerance ends and law enforcement begins.

As it is, the so-called “housing first” policy has been a disaster. It has spawned a Homeless Industrial Complex of developers, […] Read More