Presty the DJ for Dec. 9

Imagine having the opportunity to see Johnny Cash, with Elvis Presley his opening act, in concert at a high school. The concert was at Arkansas High School in Swifton, Ark., today in 1955.

Today in 1961, the Beatles played a concert at the Palais Ballroom in Aldershot, Great Britain. Because the local newspaper wouldn’t accept the promoter’s check for advertising, the concert wasn’t publicized, and attendance totaled 18.

After the concert, the Beatles reportedly were ordered out of town by local police due to their rowdiness.

That, however, doesn’t compare to what happened in New Haven, Conn., today in 1967. Before the Doors concert in the New Haven Arena, a policeman discovered singer Jim Morrison making out in a backstage shower with an 18-year-old girl.

The officer, unaware that he had discovered the lead singer of the concert, told Morrison and the woman to leave. After an argument, in which Morrison told the officer to “eat it,” the officer sprayed Morrison and his new friend with Mace. The concert was delayed one hour while Morrison recovered.

Halfway through the first set, Morrison decided to express his opinion about the New Haven police, daring them to arrest him. They did, on charges of inciting a riot, public obscenity and decency. The charges were later dropped for lack of evidence.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Dec. 9”


Presty the DJ for Dec. 8

Today in 1940, the first NFL championship game was broadcast nationally on Mutual radio. Before long, Mutual announcer Red Barber probably wondered why they’d bothered.

Today in 1963, Frank Sinatra Jr. was kidnapped from a Lake Tahoe hotel. He was released two days later after his father paid $240,000 ransom. The kidnappers were arrested and sentenced to prison.

The top selling 8-track today in 1971:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Dec. 8”

The way out

Bill Huber:

Three days after being fired as the Green Bay Packers’ coach, Mike McCarthy was allowed to return to Lambeau Field to say good-bye.

“He spoke to the team yesterday and that was good,” team President/CEO Mark Murphy told WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee on Thursday. “I think Mike wanted some closure with the players and some of the other coaches to be able to thank them and say good-bye to them, as well.”

McCarthy was fired after Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Murphy had already decided to fire McCarthy, who was in his 13th season on the job, but the listless effort at home against a two-win team spurred Murphy into action.

Joe Philbin, McCarthy’s longtime friend and colleague, was elevated from offensive coordinator to interim head coach for the final four games.

“Mike came by the office, I think Tuesday we all saw him as a staff, which was great,” Philbin said before Thursday’s practice. “Then we talked, and he wanted an opportunity to speak with the team. I was 100 percent, fully supportive of, and he did a fantastic job talking to the team. Not just about football and winning football games, but his passion. His passion for the game, his love for the players was clearly evident. I’m sure it was emotional for him and everybody in the room. It was awesome. I thought he did a great job.”

Philbin left the Packers to become Miami’s coach in 2012. He posted a 24-28 record before being fired four games into the 2015 season. Dan Campbell finished the season. Philbin wasn’t given a chance to say good-bye; he didn’t want that to be the case for McCarthy.

“That’s the Green Bay Packer way, right? This is a first-class organization all the way around. I think it’s been that way for 100 seasons, I would guess. I’m not that old, but I’m guessing it’s been like that for a long time. We do things the right way around here. Mark and Russ (Ball, the executive vice president of football operations) and Brian (Gutekunst, the general manager) were all totally supportive, they think that was the right thing to do, as did I. Hopefully it will help.”

About McCarthy’s firing WTMJ says:

Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy told WTMJ it was a difficult decision, but one he felt needed to be made.

“The way the season had played out, I just felt that we needed a change,” says Murphy. “It wasn’t anything particularly that [McCarthy] did wrong, I just felt that the message had become stale and we needed a new voice.”

Murphy added that he intended to make a change at the end of the season, so he felt it would be better for everyone to do so now rather than wait.

I’m sure in our cynical age no one will believe this:

The worst in the worst

Steven Zeitchik:

Maybe you came to her in “Mechanic: Resurrection.” It could have been “Good Luck Chuck” that gave you your first taste. Or perhaps it was “Valentine’s Day” that hooked you; you’re a romantic that way.

Whatever your access point, if you’ve watched a Jessica Alba movie at pretty much any point in her career, you’ve seen a chain of critical badness unprecedented in the modern era, according to a new report.

Alba leads the rare Hollywood list that nobody wants to be on: actors in the worst-reviewed movies of the past 20 years.

The report, whose results were compiled by the London-based SEO firm Verve on behalf of British comparison-research site Go Compare, aims to offer statistical evidence of something we all sense: there are some actors who just seem to turn out one bust after another. (You can see its results here.)

The report saw Alba average a Metacritic score of 39.0 for the movies she starred in during the preceding two decades. That’s only slightly better than the male performer with the worst-reviewed movies of the modern era: Mike Epps.

The New York native and former comedian averaged just a 38.3 score, a numeric representation of what many people who watched “Resident Evil: Extinction” or “The Hangover Part III,” both Epps-starrers, felt upon seeing those films. (Metacritic is the popular review site that assigns mathematical values first to a critic’s review and then to a movie as a whole.)

I must report that “The Hangover: Part III” is one of the few movies from this piece that I’ve actually seen. Not that I tried to see it — it was on a college basketball team bus ride. That was how I saw its predecessor; this one was, if I remember correctly, set around a wedding in Southeast Asia. If you’ve seen any one of them, you’ve seen all of them.

Epps narrowly edged out longtime character actor Kevin Pollak – average Metacritic score: 38.5 percent — for the top spot.

In fact, only 5 percent of the movies starring Epps, Pollak and Alba were given overall positive reviews. You’d have a higher chance of going on an undersea dive with James Cameron. Verve defined positive reviews as any movie that had a Metacritic score of at least 60 percent.

“You’d think these actors would have a hard time getting work making one badly reviewed movie after another,” said Verve’s James Barnes, who helped conduct the study. “But this shows how hard it is for producers to find veteran actors. And that critics aren’t the end all and be all of casting decisions.”

To conduct the study, Verve looked at every actor who’s had at least 20 live-action roles in the past 20 years. To eliminate bit-parters and day-players, the group included only those who had were billed in the top 10 of a film according to IMDB. Then it crunched their Metacritic scores to come up with an average, landing on Epps on the male side and Alba on the female.

And if you think “well, I’m safe, I like the other Jessica born in the 1980′s,” rest not comfortably: Jessica Biel finished in second behind Alba, thanks to such non-Smithsonian-esque work as “The A-Team,” “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” and “Powder Blue.” You’d have been better off rallying behind Jessica Rabbit.

And while Biel did manage to crack the 40 percent threshold – her average Metacritic score was 41.6 percent – she has a lower percentage of outright positive movies than anyone on the list with just 4 percent.

Rounding out the list of males were a few performers who’ve starred in some not-exactly-stellar romantic comedies or action movies over the years: Josh Duhamel, Robin Williams and Gerard Butler.

Williams, you ask? Robin Williams? Didn’t the late actor win an Oscar for “Good Will Hunting” and was nominated three other times? Yes, the very same. But also the actor who, sadly, scored a Razzie hat trick, for “Jakob the Liar,” “Bicentennial Man” and “Death to Smoochy.” All of the nominations from that ignoble prize came in the 2000′s, within the field of study, while many of the Oscar-decorated works fell before it.

On the actress side, Heather Graham, Radha Mitchell and Kathy Bates took slots three to five. Bates would seem a surprise in her own right: she’s been nominated for an Oscar on three occasions, and even won best actress, for “Misery.” But in recent years she also has acted in a host of…less estimable fare. “You May Not Kiss The Bride.” “The Great Gilly Hopkins.” “P.S. I Love You.”

P.S. Butler was also in that film.

P.P.S. Bates, like Alba and Biel, was in “Valentine’s Day.”

And Butler and Biel themselves co-starred in “Playing for Keeps,” a soccer romantic dramedy with a Metacritic score of 27. Badness is a community.

If you’re wondering, why Alba? Really, why? Well, her movies make it so. She has just a single film, among the dozens she’s made, that was reviewed positively by critics. That was “Sin City,” in 2005. And she has a whole bunch under the low water-mark of 35, including some lesser-remembered fare like “Some kind of Beautiful,” “Idle Hands,” Meet Bill” and “The Love Guru.”

Another movie I’ve seen from this piece is “Idle Hands.” I thought it was reasonably clever, particularly Seth Green as a talking corpse. It’s not “Gone with the Wind,” but it was at least entertaining, particularly this scene:

The lesson is that, while working may be good for the bank account and the acting muscles, it can really drag your average down. (Barnes acknowledged that, since there are generally more badly reviewed movies than good ones, the survey can be punitive to those who work more.)

See Shatner, William.

Of course, an actor can give a good performance in a bad movie too — sometimes their performance looks better in a bad movie, rising above the tripe that surrounds

The study also underlined a gender gap: on the top-15 list of actresses are well-regarded performers including Amanda Seyfried, Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Aniston. That speaks to how hard it can be even for talented actresses to get good roles, Barnes said, and also to the fact that there are more roles for men in general, which allowed A-list male names to be sheltered in ways top females were not.

That said, plenty of men considered at the top of their field don’t fare so well either. “I have to say, I was surprised Robert De Niro wasn’t in the top 15,” said Barnes of the actor who has been known to take a “Dirty Grandpa” or “The Intern” in and around his seven Oscar-nominated turns.

As it turns out, De Niro isn’t on that top-15 list but still doesn’t do great — he finishes in 27th. Ahead of him on are other award-decorated performers with a reputation for making…ecumenical choices: Nicolas Cage in 17th, Bruce Willis in 18th.

And since you’re about to ask: Adam Sandler finishes high (or is it low). He lands in sixth place with a score of 40.1.

Of course for every 10 bad movies, there’s a good one raising the stock of a performer. That’s why Verve also looked at the highest-rated actors: Carey Mulligan and Sally Hawkins were tops among women with 72.8 and 69.2 Metacritic scores, no surprise to those who’ve watched them turn out one award-worthy performance after another, from “An Education” to “The Shape of Water.”

The highest-ranked men? Adam Driver and Leonardo DiCaprio, with 71.7 and 69.3.

So the lesson of all this might be: see the movies with those actors. Or that before accepting a role, Jessica Alba and Mike Epps should make sure Adam Driver and Carey Mulligan are reading the scripts too.

Presty the DJ for Dec. 7

The number one British album today in 1963 will be at number one for 21 weeks — “Meet the Beatles”:

The number one single here today in 1963 certainly was not a traditional pop song:

Today in 1967, Otis Redding recorded a song before heading on a concert tour that included Madison:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Dec. 7”

Late night in the Capitol

M.D. Kittle:

After a marathon-and-a-half floor session that extended deep into the new day, Senate Republicans on a party-line vote passed a watered-down version of extraordinary session legislation aimed at protecting the Gov. Scott Walker-era reforms of the past eight years.

The Republican-controlled Assembly continued to debate remaining measures as Wisconsin began the work days but was expected to pass legislation that the GOP majority says will restore balance to the co-equal branches and Democrats breathlessly insist will “subvert the will of the people.”

All eyes — and pressure — now turn to outgoing two-term Gov. Scott Walker, who has signaled he will sign the bills, which include more legislative oversight of the executive branch but also deliver on limited-government reforms and one final round of tax relief.

Democrats and their powerful liberal allies in the media lambasted the legislation and the process as a Republican “power grab” and a slap in the face of last month’s election, which saw Democrat Tony Evers beat two-term incumbent Walker and pushed liberal legal activist Josh Kaul past Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel to head the state Department of Justice.

“Nothing that we’re going to be doing here is about helping the people of Wisconsin. It’s about helping politicians … It’s about politics and self-interest,” Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) declared in the wee hours, as the session slipped past the midnight deadline that Republican leadership set Tuesday afternoon.

Exhibit A of the dubious intelligence of voters is the fact that Hintz represents anyone anywhere.

“The people have spoken,” Democrats blasted.

Winston Churchill is said (probably an erroneous attribution) that “The best argument against Democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” And of course the people who elected Evers were overwhelmingly from Madison and Milwaukee.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) told reporters Tuesday that his constituents and conservatives from around the state have urged him and his Republican colleagues to fight for the tax and regulatory relief the Walker years brought to Wisconsin — to resist, if you will, the liberals who want to wipe out those reforms.

“What I have heard through the fall is, ‘Don’t give in.’ People have said, ‘Do whatever you have to do so the reforms don’t go away,’” Vos said..

Republicans say their bills are about securing the Legislature’s equal powers in what are constitutionally supposed to be the co-equal branches of government.

Democrats argue the legislation robs Evers and Kaul of rightful executive branch powers before they take their oaths of office.

Republicans ultimately scaled back some of the more controversial provisions after long hours of closed door meetings with reluctant caucus members. Measures that had given the Legislature more oversight and review over executive branch decisions were watered-down.

Republicans relented on provisions that would have taken away Evers ability to name the head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., but the incoming governor will have to wait until September to make any changes.

The majority kept a bill that limits early voting to two weeks before the election but offered extended voting hours each of the 14 days. Democrats still hated it and threatened another round of lawsuits. They reminded Republicans that a federal court already had struck down earlier attempts to reign in early voting, but GOP leadership believes the additions in their bill can survive a court challenge.

A measure that would have codified insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions failed as conservatives in the Senate bolted on a messy bill that came out of the Assembly earlier this year.

Legislation that would have moved the 2020 presidential primary from the first Tuesday in April to the second Tuesday in March died on the vine. Changing the date would decouple the partisan presidential election from the nonpartisan spring election. The shift would clearly benefit Republicans’ efforts to retain conservative state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, a Walker appointee, by moving a significant voter draw from the April ballot.

Several measures would provide more legislative oversight of executive branch agencies and the attorney general. It boils down to a matter of trust, and Republicans clearly don’t trust Kaul and Evers to keep liberal activism out of the executive branch. Kaul has pledged to remove Wisconsin from a list of state plaintiff’s in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. Amendments to one provision would give the Legislature a voice in AG lawsuits.

Republicans also want to make sure that welfare reforms, including stricter work requirements and drug testing initiatives, aren’t wiped out by a Democrat who has declared how much he loathes the reforms. The updated versions of the legislation hold onto those protections.

What a horrible thing to try to pass legislation before your term is up. You know, like in 2010, as Matt Batzel posts:

In 2010, Wisconsin Democrats tried to ram a union contract through a lame duck session and they convinced a Judge to release this Guy (Jeff Wood) from jail to get the bill through the Assembly.…/statepolitics/111922624.html

Labor contracts have the force of law, so the 2010 Legislature was in effect passing a law, though the labor contracts ultimately did not pass.

And of course there was the Democrats’ reaction to the duly elected new governor and party in control of both houses of the Legislature … Recallarama. I heard no Wisconsin Democrats say that Walker should not have been recalled. None.

It is hardly surprising that Republicans have now discovered the virtues of the legislative branch now that they still control it but are about to lose control of the executive branch. It is also unsurprising that Democrats now think the executive branch should have unlimited control of government; that was their position when Barack Obama was in the White House.

Of course, the fact some people voted for Democrats for statewide office and voted for Republicans in legislative races is evidence to Democrats of the evils of gerrymandering. Brian Westrate takes this lame argument apart:

The truth is that as the Democrat party has turned hard to the left the state of Wisconsin has become a politically conservative state. In order to avoid facing this reality the Democrats have loudly declared it’s redistricting to blame, not them. I have had enough and have decided to share some facts with you that you can use to combat this nonsense we keep hearing out of the left.

First. The election of 2010.

Going into the Election the Democrats held the Governor’s office, both the state assembly and senate, both US Senate seats, and 5 of 8 House seats.

This election happened BEFORE redistricting. In this election, despite Barack Obama having won Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008 here’s what happened.
1. Walker won the Governor’s office. 52-46%
2. Ron Johnson beat an entrenched incumbent US senator 52-47%
3. Republicans picked up two (out of 5) US House seats 55/45 and 53/45
4. Republicans won the State Treasurer’s office 53/47
5. The State Assembly went from 45 Republicans to 60
6. The State Senate went from 15 Republicans to 19

Especially worthy of note is that following the 2010 election BEFORE redistricting the Republicans held 60 Assembly seats, 19 Senate seats, and 5 of 8 US House seats.

We NOW hold 63 Assembly seats, 19 Senate seats, and 5 of 8 House seats.

So, using the liberal logic redistricting at BEST helped us pick up 3 Assembly seats.

Second. We are not a registration state, and 40% of people consider themselves independent.

Why this is relevant is because the claim is that Republicans “drew lines around Democrats”. But since the only indication of party affiliation is an election in the past, there is no way to actually know who is, or is not a Democrat or Republican. With approximately 30% of Wisconsinites self-identifying as Republicans and another 30% self-identifying as Democrats this means that 40% of the people don’t see themselves as either Democrats or Republicans.

Third. We move around, a lot.

– On average 14.2% of Americans move their residence each year.
– The average person will move their household 12 times in their life.
– Of that 14% 58% move within the same county
– 19% move to a different county in the same state
– 19% move to a different state, and
– 3% move out of the country.

What this means is that over the course of the last 8 years, from the election of 2010 to the election of 2018 there is little reason to believe that the people who comprised the newly drawn districts in 2010 are still the same people who comprised the districts in 2018.

So different people are continuing to elect Republicans to the state legislature.

Four: Democrats have packed themselves into tighter geographic areas.

What this means is that while each Assembly/Senate district continues to essentially represent the same number of souls, the Democrats have spent the last 10 years packing themselves into tighter enclaves of liberalism.

Consider as an example. While Dane County’s population increased by only 10% from 2010-2018 in 2010 149,699 people voted for Democrat Tom Barret, but in 2018 220,008 people voted for Democrat Tony Evers. This is a 32% increase in Democrat votes. At the same time the # of Republican votes increased 962 votes , which is less than a 3% increase in Republican votes.

Again, without party registration we can’t say with 100% certainty, but using Dane as an example the numbers strongly suggest that Democrats have moved into Dane county in large numbers while Republicans have moved out.

And while Republicans have moved out, there is no election data that suggests they have similarly built ghettos of political ideology. It would seem if they have stayed in Wisconsin, they have done so by moving to varied counties without considering political environmental factors.

What does this all mean? The executive summary is that overall, Wisconsin became a more conservative state (or as I would argue, the Democrats became a more liberal party) following 2010, and it is because liberals choose to group themselves together geographically that they are able to win state wide elections, without picking up seats in the legislature.

What’s happening in a nutshell is that they are winning the districted elections they win by ever wider margins, while continuing to lose a majority of them due to their self-imposed flocking tendency.

That is why they can win state wide elections, without winning anything like a majority of districted elections.

James Wigderson adds:

1) Democratic protesters booed Governor Scott Walker during the Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. How low and Grinch-like do you have to get when your obsession with politics causes you to boo Christmas?

2) Democratic protesters behaving badly: How does this look good for Democrats when they’re supporters are behaving like an angry mob trying to shut down the legislative process while claiming they’re doing it for “Democracy?” Hey protesters, you use that word but I don’t think you know what it means.

You know what Democracy looks like? Republican majorities passing bills just like they’re supposed to. You don’t want bills passed in December at the end of a term, win the prior election, too.

Part of the “peaceful transfer of power” which Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) claimed was threatened is that government continues right through Inauguration Day and beyond. Nobody is saying Tony Evers can’t be governor. But he isn’t governor yet.

3) Speaking of Shankland, the people threatening the “peaceful transfer of power” are Madison protesters whom think their mob tactics and temper tantrums should take precedence over the voters’ preferences. The other threat is legislators like Shankland who keep turning up the volume to 11 on political disagreements.

4) Seriously, how does the Capital Times and The Nation put up with John Nichols engaging in partisan activity like leading political rallies? Is there any pretense of journalism on that side of the political divide? And does Nichols hear the self-parody he has become?

Finally, it looks like Evers might sue in court. It’s likely he’ll get a friendly Dane County judge, only to discover that the appeals will be outside of Dane County. Evers could spare the taxpayers a lot of money by not suing, but money is only a concern for liberals when Republicans are spending it.

This shows that Republicans didn’t do nearly enough when they controlled state government. For one thing, as I’ve argued numerous times, they should have put a Taxpayer Bill of Rights up for vote to prevent future non-Republicans from spending and taxing as much as they like. In Act 10 instead of merely forcing government employees to contribute to their benefits, they should have banned government-employee unions and then cut government employment at every level by at least half. What would have happened? Recall attempts?

Republicans forgot to do one thing — pass legislation that ejects metro Madison and the city of Milwaukee from Wisconsin. Their voters elected the most incompetent administrator in the history of this state (Evers), a Barack Obama wannabe (Mandela Barnes), an ambulance chaser (Kaul), a Leslie Knope wannabe (treasurer-elect Sarah Godlewski) and someone who has stolen from the state treasury every paycheck he’s ever received (Douglas La Follette). Or start thinking about moving out of this state.


Brutal Democratic honesty

The Spectator interviews one of my favorite liberals, Camille Paglia:

You’ve been a sharp political prognosticator over the years. So can I start by asking for a prediction. What will happen in 2020 in America? Will Hillary Clinton run again?

If the economy continues strong, Trump will be reelected. The Democrats (my party) have been in chaos since the 2016 election and have no coherent message except Trump hatred. Despite the vast pack of potential candidates, no one yet seems to have the edge. I had high hopes for Kamala Harris, but she missed a huge opportunity to play a moderating, statesmanlike role and has already imprinted an image of herself as a ruthless inquisitor that will make it hard for her to pull voters across party lines.

Screechy Elizabeth Warren has never had a snowball’s chance in hell to appeal beyond upper-middle-class professionals of her glossy stripe. Kirsten Gillibrand is a wobbly mediocrity. Cory Booker has all the gravitas of a cork. Andrew Cuomo is a yapping puppy with a long, muddy bullyboy tail. Both Bernie Sanders (for whom I voted in the 2016 primaries) and Joe Biden (who would have won the election had Obama not cut him off at the knees) are way too old and creaky.

To win in the nation’s broad midsection, the Democratic nominee will need to project steadiness, substance, and warmth. I’ve been looking at Congresswoman Cheri Bustos of Illinois and Governor Steve Bullock of Montana. As for Hillary, she’s pretty much damaged goods, but her perpetual, sniping, pity-me tour shows no signs of abating. She still has a rabidly loyal following, but it’s hard to imagine her winning the nomination again, with her iron grip on the Democratic National Committee now gone. Still, it’s in her best interest to keep the speculation fires burning. Given how thoroughly she has already sabotaged the rising candidates by hogging the media spotlight, I suspect she wants Trump to win again. I don’t see our stumbling, hacking, shop-worn Evita yielding the spotlight willingly to any younger gal.

Has Trump governed erratically?

Yes, that’s a fair description. It’s partly because as a non-politician he arrived in Washington without the battalion of allies, advisors, and party flacks that a senator or governor would normally accumulate on the long road to the White House. Trump’s administration is basically a one-man operation, with him relying on gut instinct and sometimes madcap improvisation. There’s often a gonzo humor to it — not that the US president should be slinging barbs at bottom-feeding celebrities or jackass journalists, much as they may deserve it. It’s like a picaresque novel starring a jaunty rogue who takes to Twitter like Tristram Shandy’s asterisk-strewn diary. Trump’s unpredictability might be giving the nation jitters, but it may have put North Korea, at least, on the back foot.

Most Democrats have wildly underestimated Trump from the get-go. I was certainly surprised at how easily he mowed down 17 other candidates in the GOP primaries. He represents widespread popular dissatisfaction with politics as usual. Both major US parties are in turmoil and metamorphosis, as their various factions war and realign. The mainstream media’s nonstop assault on Trump has certainly backfired by cementing his outsider status. He is basically a pragmatic deal-maker, indifferent to ideology. As with Bolsonaro in Brazil, Trump rose because of decades of failure by the political establishment to address urgent systemic problems, including corruption at high levels. Democrats must hammer out their own image and agenda and stop self-destructively insulting half the electorate by treating Trump like Satan.

Does the ‘deep state’ exist? If so, what is it?

The deep state is no myth but a sodden, intertwined mass of bloated, self-replicating bureaucracy that constitutes the real power in Washington and that stubbornly outlasts every administration. As government programs have incrementally multiplied, so has their regulatory apparatus, with its intrusive byzantine minutiae. Recently tagged as a source of anti-Trump conspiracy among embedded Democrats, the deep state is probably equally populated by Republicans and apolitical functionaries of Bartleby the Scrivener blandness. Its spreading sclerotic mass is wasteful, redundant, and ultimately tyrannical.

I have been trying for decades to get my fellow Democrats to realize how unchecked bureaucracy, in government or academe, is inherently authoritarian and illiberal. A persistent characteristic of civilizations in decline throughout history has been their self-strangling by slow, swollen, and stupid bureaucracies. The current atrocity of crippling student debt in the US is a direct product of an unholy alliance between college administrations and federal bureaucrats — a scandal that ballooned over two decades with barely a word of protest from our putative academic leftists, lost in their post-structuralist fantasies. Political correctness was not created by administrators, but it is ever-expanding campus bureaucracies that have constructed and currently enforce the oppressively rule-ridden regime of college life.

In the modern world, so wondrously but perilously interconnected, a principle of periodic reduction of bureaucracy should be built into every social organism. Freedom cannot survive otherwise.

What is true multiculturalism?

As I repeatedly argue in Provocations, comparative religion is the true multiculturalism and should be installed as the core curriculum in every undergraduate program. From my perspective as an atheist as well as a career college teacher, secular humanism has been a disastrous failure. Too many young people raised in affluent liberal homes are arriving at elite colleges and universities with skittish, unformed personalities and shockingly narrow views of human existence, confined to inflammatory and divisive identity politics.

Interest in Hinduism and Buddhism was everywhere in the 1960s counterculture, but it gradually dissipated partly because those most drawn to ‘cosmic consciousness’ either disabled themselves by excess drug use or shunned the academic ladder of graduate school. I contend that every educated person should be conversant with the sacred texts, rituals, and symbol systems of the great world religions — Hinduism, Buddhism, Judeo-Christianity, and Islam — and that true global understanding is impossible without such knowledge.

Not least, the juxtaposition of historically evolving spiritual codes tutors the young in ethical reasoning and the creation of meaning. Right now, the campus religion remains nihilist, meaning-destroying post-structuralism, whose pilfering god, the one-note Foucault, had near-zero scholarly knowledge of anything before or beyond the European Enlightenment. (His sparse writing on classical antiquity is risible.) Out with the false idols and in with the true!

There’s a lot of buzz about the ‘intellectual dark web’. One of its leading figures is Jordan Peterson, who is in some ways like you — he provokes, he works in an array of disciplines, he encourages individual responsibility. I saw your podcast with him. What did you make of him? Why is he so popular?

There are astounding parallels between Jordan Peterson’s work and mine. In its anti-ideological, trans-historical view of sex and nature, my first book, Sexual Personae (1990), can be viewed as a companion to Peterson’s first book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (1999). Peterson and I took different routes up the mountain — he via clinical psychology and I via literature and art — but we arrived at exactly the same place. Amazingly, over our decades of copious research, we were drawn to the same book by the same thinker — The Origins and History of Consciousness (1949), by the Jungian analyst Erich Neumann. (My 2005 lecture on Neumann at New York University is reprinted in Provocations.) Peterson’s immense international popularity demonstrates the hunger for meaning among young people today. Defrauded of a genuine humanistic education, they are recognizing the spiritual impoverishment of their crudely politicized culture, choked with jargon, propaganda, and lies.

I met Peterson and his wife Tammy a year ago when they flew to Philadelphia with a Toronto camera crew for our private dialogue at the University of the Arts. (The YouTube video has had to date over a million and a half views.) Peterson was incontrovertibly one of the most brilliant minds I have ever encountered, starting with the British philosopher Stuart Hampshire, whom I heard speak impromptu for a dazzling hour after a lecture in college. In turning psychosocial discourse back toward the syncretistic, multicultural Jung, Peterson is recovering and restoring a peak period in North American thought, when Canada was renowned for pioneering, speculative thinkers like the media analyst Marshall McLuhan and the myth critic Northrop Frye. I have yet to see a single profile of Peterson, even from sympathetic journalists, that accurately portrays the vast scope, tenor, and importance of his work.

Is humanity losing its sense of humor?

As a bumptious adolescent in upstate New York, I stumbled on a British collection of Oscar Wilde’s epigrams in a secondhand bookstore. It was an electrifying revelation, a text that I studied like the bible. What bold, scathing wit, cutting through the sentimental fog of those still rigidly conformist early 1960s, when good girls were expected to simper and defer.

But I never fully understood Wilde’s caustic satire of Victorian philanthropists and humanitarians until the present sludgy tide of political correctness began flooding government, education, and media over the past two decades. Wilde saw the insufferable arrogance and preening sanctimony in his era’s self-appointed guardians of morality.

We’re back to the hypocrisy sweepstakes, where gestures of virtue are as formalized as kabuki. Humor has been assassinated. An off word at work or school will get you booted to the gallows. This is the graveyard of liberalism, whose once noble ideals have turned spectral and vampiric.

Presty the DJ for Dec. 6

The number one British single today in 1967:

Today in 1968, the Nelson Riddle Orchestra backed The Doors for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on CBS:

The number one single today in 1969:

On that day, a free festival in Altamont, Calif., featured the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Crosby Stills Nash & Young.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Dec. 6”

Work and the politics thereof

Jason Willick:

Since election night 2016, liberal pundits have debated whether Donald Trump won because of “economic anxiety” or “cultural resentment.” According to Oren Cass, “these aren’t different things.” The real issue, the Manhattan Institute scholar says, is work. Whether and how people are employed—what their role is in society’s productive system—“is both an economic and cultural question.”

Karl Marx speculated that workers with leisure time would “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner.” He was wrong. People out of the labor force—especially men—are more likely to be “sleeping and watching TV” than hunting or fishing, Mr. Cass says. Unemployment, more than any of life’s other rough patches, leads to unhappiness and family breakdown. People want to “know what our obligations are, and feel that we’re fulfilling them,” he adds. When this foundation of society starts to crumble, political upheaval tends to follow.

Those who pin Mr. Trump’s victory on “economic anxiety” often advocate directing more government spending to people the economy has left behind. But, says Mr. Cass, the “further down the income ladder you go, generally speaking, the less enthusiasm there is for redistribution as a solution. People will tell you they want to work.” He adds: “It’s when you get to the top of the income distribution that you find a whole lot of people are basically like, ‘Why can’t I just write a check?’ ”

The most extreme version of this impulse is the idea of a universal basic income—a regular government outlay for every citizen, whether they are working or not. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign workshopped a version of the UBI, and California Sen. Kamala Harris has proposed an expansion of the earned-income tax credit that would have a similar effect. Mr. Cass expects more policy proposals along these lines “once the bidding war among the 2020 Democrats heats up.” He says the UBI trend reflects an ideology that has gained traction in Silicon Valley and among the “technocratic elite” generally, which professes that “we can engineer away all our problems” without political choices that may be uncomfortable for the upper-middle class.

Mr. Cass, 35, has spent most of his life among that technocratic elite. He started as a junior consultant at Bain & Company out of Williams College. A few years later he took a six-month leave to work on Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Afterward, Mr. Cass enrolled in Harvard Law School to deepen his understanding of public policy. “Law school is a lot of fun if you’re not there to be a lawyer,” he quips. He worked for the next Romney operation in 2011 between his second and third years at Harvard, and ended up with so much in his portfolio that at the end of the summer “they sort of said, well, you have to stay.” He became domestic-policy director while still in law school.

Returning to Bain after the election, Mr. Cass started writing on environmental and labor policy for National Review. His work caught the attention of the Manhattan Institute, which hired him as a senior fellow in 2015. His new book, “The Once and Future Worker,” grew out of responses to Mr. Trump’s 2016 victory.

Many public-policy experts, Mr. Cass said, saw the defeat of both party establishments as a marketing issue: “Maybe we haven’t done a good enough job explaining how great everything is.” Mr. Cass disagrees. Can working-class Americans “buy more cheap stuff? Absolutely. And do we now transfer more money to them, so they can buy even more cheap stuff? Yes,” he says. “But their ability to participate meaningfully in the labor market, and to become self-sufficient supporters of families has eroded badly.”

Mr. Cass believes the problems of wage stagnation and low labor-force participation “predate the slow growth” of the Obama years. Since the 1970s, he argues, both parties have shifted away from prioritizing work and adopted a “grow and redistribute” economic model that leaves low-skilled Americans with fewer opportunities and incentives to secure well-paid jobs.

And no, it isn’t because all the jobs are becoming automated. “In almost all cases, technology is a complement” to work, not a substitute—in fact, it increases workers’ value. Cases like toll collectors, where machines obviate the need for a human worker, “turn out to be really hard to come up with.” Moreover, new technologies may take decades to be adopted widely. Computers were first developed in the 1940s, he notes, and yet “we’re just now figuring out how to actually deploy them effectively in, like, your local HR organization.”

Nor is the decline of less-skilled work a result of the “knowledge economy” and “service economy” crowding out demand for physical goods. “We can see what the richest Americans consume,” Mr. Cass says, “and that marginal income doesn’t go to digital downloads and yoga lessons.” Or at least, it “also goes to bigger houses and bigger cars, and more furniture, and more clothes, and more electronic devices.” As society gets wealthier, there will still be demand for physical things. In health care, for example, there has been a well-publicized growth in services, Mr. Cass says, “but there’s also a tremendous amount in complex devices, in new and more complex drugs that are more difficult to manufacture.”

Mr. Cass thinks the idea that immutable forces are hollowing out the labor market is meant in part to “absolve the economists and policy makers of any blame” for reducing the viability of less-skilled work. Take environmental policy. “The trade-off that you would strike between environmental quality and industrial activity, if you’re earning $200K in an office,” Mr. Cass says, “is very, very different from the balance that you would strike if you were earning $35K, and trying to make ends meet in the industrial economy.” Environmental Protection Agency regulations have grown so tight “that Brussels, the capital of the EU, would be the single dirtiest city in the U.S., if it were here,” he says.

Draconian environmental policies are the result of a cost-benefit analysis that discounts the interests of workers. “Environmentalists have essentially consumerized air quality,” Mr. Cass says. “We now monetize the value of clean air as something that you essentially get to consume.” For less well-off households, “the EPA is claiming that the air quality that it is delivering is worth almost as much as all of the market income a household has.”

This is the same thinking that has led some policy makers to believe UBI can be a substitute for work; in both cases, the emphasis is on people’s well-being as consumers, not the well-being that comes from having a job and doing it well.

As a result, Mr. Cass says, regulations severely undermine employment in “the segments of society that can least bear them.” Such interventions “may very well have been perfectly appropriate for the situation in the 1970s,” when the Clean Air Act was passed, but they haven’t been adapted to America’s current social challenges.

Mr. Cass thinks a consumerist bias has similarly led U.S. trade policy with China astray. Policy makers rightly judge that Chinese trade boosts Americans’ consumption power, but they haven’t dealt with the harm to the labor market as China systematically steals intellectual property and subsidizes key industries. The Trump administration is right to make Chinese mercantilism an issue, Mr. Cass says, but its response has been ineffectual. Washington needs an international coalition to confront Beijing’s bad behavior effectively, “but that becomes very hard to do when you have a Trump administration that’s pulling out of the [Trans-Pacific Partnership] and then haphazardly slapping tariffs on Europe and Canada.”

Labor policy also is out of sync with a pro-work agenda. Today, “organized labor is primarily a political force, not an economic one,” Mr. Cass says. From Democrats’ perspective, the purpose of unions is “to take the dues payments from a heterogeneous population—unionized workers are only a few points to the left of the general population—and convert it into completely homogeneous donations to Democrats.”

Yet Mr. Cass’s belief that private-sector unions ought to play a greater role is out of step with most conservatives’ views. One reason organized labor has faded in significance, he says, is that “we make all the rules in Washington.” One-size-fits all regulation leaves little room for workers to negotiate. But revamped labor organizations could set their own terms with employers, using the federal law as a default. For example, “a retailer and retail workers might agree, overtime doesn’t get paid at time-and-a-half, but also, no more mandatory overtime, and no just-in-time scheduling.” This would reduce the burden of federal regulations that stealthily increase the costs of employing people.

But even with such reforms, Mr. Cass says, “there is nothing in economic theory that says that when labor markets settle, we’re going to be at a place where we’re happy with what the outcomes look like.” That’s why he advocates a larger wage subsidy to increase workforce participation and low-end wages.

Unlike programs such as unemployment insurance, wage subsidies don’t reduce the incentive to work. His imagined subsidy would add a percentage of workers’ earnings to each paycheck up to a target amount, boosting the return on their labor. Mr. Cass would pay for this $200 billion program mostly by redirecting funds from work-replacing safety-net programs. One source of revenue might be Medicaid, which “appears to be worth maybe 25 cents to the recipient” for every dollar the government spends.

Government benefits “can start to get pretty close to what a low-wage job provides in the market,” Mr. Cass says. In contrast, a wage subsidy increases the difference in value between social programs and work so that more people choose the latter. He argues that this widened economic gap between idleness and work should be paired with a cultural one, where idleness is stigmatized and work of all kinds is valued and celebrated. Today, he says, “being an employer of less-skilled workers is sort of a straight ticket to the exposé about how your workers don’t earn enough money.”

Mr. Cass’s critics say his laserlike focus on the labor market reflects a hostility to the creative destruction that is inherent in capitalism and necessary for growth. Why is it the government’s business if the wages or employability of a certain class of workers decline? Work determines “whether we feel that we’re respected and admired,” Mr. Cass says, “and whether we have something that we’re good at.” Technocrats haven’t yet figured out how to redistribute self-esteem.

Presty the DJ for Dec. 5

The number one album today in 1960 was Elvis Presley’s “G.I. Blues” …

… which is probably unrelated to what Beatles Paul McCartney and Pete Best did in West Germany that day: They were arrested for pinning a condom to a brick wall and igniting it. Their sentence was deportation.

The number one single today in 1964 (really):

The number one single today in 1965 wasn’t a single:

The number one British single today in 1981:

The number one British single today in 2004 …

… was a remake of the original:

The number one British album today in 2004 was U2’s “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”:

So who shares a birthday with our youngest son? “Little Richard” Penniman:

Eduardo Delgado of ? and the Mysterians:

Jim Messina of Buffalo Springfield and Loggins and Messina:

Jack Russell of Great White …

… was born the same day as Les Nemes of Haircut 100:

Two deaths of note today: Doug Hopkins, cofounder of the Gin Blossoms, in 1993 …

… and in 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:

%d bloggers like this: