Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fixing California: The Green Gentry’s Class Warfare. By Joel Kotkin.

Fixing California: The Green Gentry’s Class Warfare. By Joel Kotkin. New Geography, October 28, 2013. Also at

The Rise of Tory America. By Joel Kotkin. NJBR, March 25, 2013. With related articles.

Joel Kotkin Vs. California’s Green Gentry. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, November 6, 2013.


Historically, progressives were seen as partisans for the people, eager to help the working and middle classes achieve upward mobility even at expense of the ultrarich. But in California, and much of the country, progressivism has morphed into a political movement that, more often than not, effectively squelches the aspirations of the majority, in large part to serve the interests of the wealthiest.
Primarily, this modern-day program of class warfare is carried out under the banner of green politics. The environmental movement has always been primarily dominated by the wealthy, and overwhelmingly white, donors and activists. But in the past, early progressives focused on such useful things as public parks and open space that enhance the lives of the middle and working classes. Today, green politics seem to be focused primarily on making life worse for these same people.
In this sense, today’s green progressives, notes historian Fred Siegel, are most akin to late 19th century Tory radicals such as William Wordsworth, William Morris and John Ruskin, who objected to the ecological devastation of modern capitalism, and sought to preserve the glories of the British countryside. In the process, they also opposed the “leveling” effects of a market economy that sometimes allowed the less-educated, less well-bred to supplant the old aristocracies with their supposedly more enlightened tastes.
The green gentry today often refer not to sentiment but science — notably climate change — to advance their agenda. But their effect on the lower orders is much the same. Particularly damaging are steps to impose mandates for renewable energy that have made electricity prices in California among the highest in the nation and others that make building the single-family housing preferred by most Californians either impossible or, anywhere remotely close to the coast, absurdly expensive.
The gentry, of course, care little about artificially inflated housing prices in large part because they already own theirs — often the very large type they wish to curtail. But the story is less sanguine for minorities and the poor, who now must compete for space with middle-class families traditionally able to buy homes. Renters are particularly hard hit; according to one recent study, 39 percent of working households in the Los Angeles metropolitan area spend more than half their income on housing, as do 35 percent in the San Francisco metro area — well above the national rate of 24 percent.
Similarly, high energy prices may not be much of a problem for the affluent gentry most heavily concentrated along the coast, where a temperate climate reduces the need for air-conditioning. In contrast, most working- and middle-class Californians who live further inland, where summers can often be extremely hot, and often dread their monthly energy bills.
The gentry are also spared the consequences of policies that hit activities — manufacturing, logistics, agriculture, oil and gas — most directly impacted by higher energy prices. People with inherited money or Stanford degrees have not suffered much because since 2001 the state has created roughly half the number of mid-skilled jobs — those that generally require two years of training after high-school — as quickly as the national average and one-tenth as fast as similar jobs in archrival Texas.
In the past, greens and industry battled over such matters, which led often to reasonable compromises preserving our valuable natural resources while allowing for broad-based economic expansion. During good economic times, the regulatory vise tended to tighten, as people worried more about the quality of their environment and less about jobs. But when things got tough — as in the early 1990s — efforts were made to loosen up in order to produce desperately needed economic growth.
But in today’s gentry-dominated era, traditional industries are increasingly outspent and out maneuvered by the gentry and their allies. Even amid tough times in much of the state since the 2007 recession — we are still down nearly a half-million jobs — the gentry, and their allies, have been able to tighten regulations. Attempts even by Gov. Jerry Brown to reform the California Environmental Quality Act have floundered due in part to fierce gentry and green opposition.
The green gentry’s power has been enhanced by changes in the state’s legendary tech sector. Traditional tech firms — manufacturers such as Intel and Hewlett-Packard — shared common concerns about infrastructure and energy costs with other industries. But today tech manufacturing has shrunk, and much of the action in the tech world has shifted away from building things, dependent on energy, to software-dominated social media, whose primary profits increasingly stem from selling off the private information of users. Servers critical to these operations — the one potential energy drain — can easily be placed in Utah, Oregon or Washington where energy costs are far lower.
Even more critical, billionaires such as Google’s Eric Schmidt, hedge fund manager Thomas Steyer and venture firms like Kleiner Perkins have developed an economic stake in “green” energy policies. These interests have sought out cozy deals on renewable energy ventures dependent on regulations mandating their use and guaranteeing their prices.
Most of these gentry no doubt think what they are doing is noble. Few concern themselves with the impact these policies have on more traditional industries, and the large numbers of working- and middle-class people dependent on them. Like their Tory predecessors, they are blithely unconcerned about the role these policies are playing in accelerating California’s devolution into an ever more feudal society, divided between the ultrarich and a rapidly shrinking middle class.
Ironically, the biggest losers in this shift are the very ethnic minorities who also constitute a reliable voter block for Democratic greens. Even amid the current Silicon Valley boom, incomes for local Hispanics and African-Americans, who together account for one-third of the population, have actually declined — 18 percent for blacks and 5 percent for Latinos between 2009 and 2011, prompting one local booster to admit that “Silicon Valley is two valleys. There is a valley of haves, and a valley of have-nots.”
Sadly, the opposition to these policies is very weak. The California Chamber of Commerce is a fading force and the state Republican Party has degenerated into a political rump. Business Democrats, tied to the traditional industrial and agricultural base, have become nearly extinct, as the social media oligarchs and other parts of the green gentry, along with the public employee lobby, increasingly dominate the party of the people. Some recent efforts to tighten the regulatory knot in Sacramento have been resisted, helped by the governor and assisted by the GOP, but the basic rule-making structure remains, and the government apparat remains highly committed to an ever more expansive planning regime.
Due to the rise of the green gentry, California is becoming divided between a largely white and Asian affluent coast, and a rapidly proletarianized, heavily Hispanic and African-American interior. Palo Alto and Malibu may thrive under the current green regime, and feel good about themselves in the process, but south Los Angeles, Oakland, Fresno and the Inland Empire are threatened with becoming vast favelas.
This may constitute an ideal green future — with lower emissions, population growth and family formation — for whose wealth and privilege allow them to place a bigger priority on nature than humanity. But it also means the effective end of the California dream that brought multitudes to our state, but who now may have to choose between permanent serfdom or leaving for less ideal, but more promising, pastures.

Michael Bloomberg: Society Will Be Demanding More Than the Average Person Can Learn.

Michael Bloomberg on the past and future of New York. Interviewed by Fareed Zakaria. GPS. CNN, November 3, 2013. Video at the Internet Archive. Bloomberg interview starts at clip 36:00.

In Conversation: Michael Bloomberg. By Chris Smith. New York Magazine, September 7, 2013.

Michael Bloomberg: Higher Education Demands More Resources. Video. Time, September 20, 2013. YouTube.

Tyler Cowen’s Future Shock: No More Average People. By Michael Barone. NJBR, October 8, 2013. With related articles.

Average Is Over. By Tyler Cowen. NJBR, September 7, 2013. With related articles and video.

Was America’s Prosperity an Accident of History? By Benjamin Wallace-Wells. NJBR, July 22, 2013. With related articles and videos.

Bloomberg/Zakaria Transcript:

ZAKARIA: How do you make a city thrive and survive in today’s economy?
With all the challenges that the economy has today, what do you think the key to the success of a city is?
BLOOMBERG: It has to be open to everyone. A very diverse population really makes a big difference. You have to have a raison d’etre. The city has got to have a spirit and a reason why people want to go there and live there.
And one of the problems with Washington, DC is everybody lives there, but they look out. They never think they're going to stay there for the rest of their lives. They’re always waiting to go home.
New York City or other great cities, people want to come there. And today, there are many people that are moving to New York City than leaving for the first time in decades. We have more tourists than ever before. More people have jobs than ever before.
And that creates a dynamic place where the best and the brightest want to be.
And if the best and the brightest want to be there, they’ll create and generate a tax base so that you can take care of the less fortunate.
But the real key – and it’s not a populist thing to say – not popular to say, because it’s not populist, but you have to have the wherewithal, those people who are willing to think out of the box try new things, start new businesses, take risks, if you're ever going to have a future.
Otherwise, you do the same thing. And if you do the same thing, we know where that ends, not prettily.
ZAKARIA: You’ve also talked about how it’s very important for a city like New York to have a bunch of very rich people so you could tax them . . .
BLOOMBERG: Sure. Sure.
ZAKARIA: You are . . .
BLOOMBERG: A very small . . .
ZAKARIA: – unapologetic about that.
BLOOMBERG: No, very small – well, the fact of the matter is a very small percentage of the people pay the preponderance of the taxes. And if you don’t want the tax revenue, then you can lose those people. But if you want to have the ability to go and invest in infrastructure, invest in cultural institutions, have social programs that can really help people who are less fortunate, you have to have the dynamic drive, the people that are creative and the revenue. and that comes from people who do well. And in our city, the poor actually are a little bit better than the poor in other big cities. But the real reason for this great inequality, as people describe it, or gap in income, is we have been very successful in attracting the very, very wealthy. Those come here and they spend money and they create businesses.
And they can go elsewhere, as they are very mobile. They’re the one group that has the resources to go.
But interestingly enough, if you were to take the top 20 percent out and look at just the 80 percent that’s left, the income or net worth is 100 percent correlated to academic achievement. And more and more, we are going to be facing the fact that the demands for society are greater and perhaps greater than we can teach or the average person can learn.
And how that works out, I don’t know. But it is – it is clear that if you have a better education and if you can be more creative, you will do better. And if you don’t, then, unfortunately, well – you’re going to be struggling.
ZAKARIA: What are you worried about when you look at New York after Bloomberg?
What are you worried about being undone or a legacy that, you know, of government that will be perhaps eroded or atrophied?
What . . .
BLOOMBERG: Well, I think most of the things we've done, hopefully, if we’ve done a good job, will stay in place. Yesterday, I was in London. The weather was nice, so you think better of any city when the sun is shining. But London is a real competitor to New York.
And we’ve got to understand if I we were to stop improving, stop diversifying, stop investing, we will get pushed back and other places will take over. I was in Paris the day before and I had dinner with some people, all of whom talked about all their friends moving out of – out of Paris and out of France because the tax rates are so high.
Those are the people who are going to create the jobs and pay the taxes down the road.
You can’t – you can’t hold the waves from coming in. You’ve got to keep making your society open and you’ve got to keep providing opportunities.
But if you start to focus on equal results rather than equal opportunity, unfortunately, you start to dumb everything down. And if you do that, you’re going to get hopelessly left behind.

Plutocrats vs. Populists. By Chrystia Freeland.

Plutocrats vs. Populists. By Chrystia Freeland. New York Times, November 1, 2013.

Why is Chrystia Freeland leaving journalism to run for office? By Ezra Klein. Washington Post, August 16, 2013. Also here.

Retooling capitalism for the social good. By Chrystia Freeland. Reuters, July 19, 2013.

Mysteries of the middle class. By Chrystia Freeland. Reuters, June 28, 2013.

The Rise of the New Global Elite and the Crisis of the Middle Class. NJBR, February 14, 2013. Articles by Freeland and others.

Jeremy Lin, Superstar Economics, and the Culture of Aspiration. NJBR, February 19, 2013. Articles by Freeland and others.

Freeland (Plutocrats):

Plutocratic politics have much to recommend them. They are pure, smart and focused. But at a time when society as a whole is riven by an ever widening economic chasm, policy delivered from on high can get you only so far. Voters on both the right and the left are suspicious of whether the plutocrats and the technocrats they employ understand their real needs, and whether they truly have their best interests at heart. That rift means we should all brace ourselves for more extremist politics and a more rancorous political debate.
Where does that leave smart centrists with their clever, fact-based policies designed to fine-tune 21st century capitalism and make it work better for everyone?
Part of the problem is that no one has yet come up with a fully convincing answer to the question of how you harness the power of the technology revolution and globalization without hollowing out middle-class jobs. Liberal nanny-state paternalism, as it has been brilliantly described and practiced by Cass R. Sunstein and like-minded thinkers, can help, as can shoring up the welfare state. But neither is enough, and voters are smart enough to appreciate that. Even multiple nudges won’t make 21st-century capitalism work for everyone. Plutocrats, as well as the rest of us, need to rise to this larger challenge, to find solutions that work on the global scale at which business already operates.
The other task is to fully engage in retail, bottom-up politics — not just to sell those carefully thought-through, data-based technocratic solutions but to figure out what they should be in the first place. The Tea Party was able to steer the Republican Party away from its traditional country-club base because its anti-establishment rage resonated better with all of the grass-roots Republican voters who are part of the squeezed middle class. Mr. de Blasio will be the next mayor of New York because he built a constituency among those who are losing out and those who sympathize with them. Politics in the winner-take-all economy don’t have to be extremist and nasty, but they have to grow out of, and speak for, the 99 percent. The pop-up political movements that come so naturally to the plutocrats won’t be enough.

Law of the Jungle Not Good Enough. By Fareed Zakaria.

Law of the jungle not good enough. By Fareed Zakaria. GPS. CNN, November 2, 2013.

The Postmodern State and the World Order. By Robert Cooper. Demos, January 2000. Also here.

Re-ordering the World: The Long-Term Implications of September 11. Edited by Mark Leonard. The Foreign Policy Centre, March 2002. Also here.

Netanyahu: Palestinian Denial of Jews’ Right to Statehood Is Core of Conflict. By Herb Keinon.

Netanyahu: Palestinian denial of Jews’ right to statehood is core of conflict. By Herb Keinon. Jerusalem Post, November 3, 2013. YouTube.

The Balfour Declaration and the Holocaust. By Dmitry Shumsky. Haaretz, November 3, 2013.

Balfour Declaration crime against humanity. By Mohammed Mar’i. Saudi Gazette, November 3, 2013.


A day after the Palestinian Authority called the Balfour Declaration “a crime against humanity” and called upon Britain to apologize for it, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish people’s right to a homeland is the root of the ongoing conflict.
The Balfour declaration, a letter written 96 years ago on November 2 by British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Rothschild, called for the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.
“That declaration recognized the right of the Jewish people to its own homeland in Israel,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “There is no doubt that international recognition of the Jewish people’s right to its own state in its historic homeland is important; the refusal to recognize us is the root of the conflict.”
Netanyahu said that in order for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, they needed to recognize the Jewish people's right to a state in its homeland. This means that in a final status agreement they will need to relinquish their so-called right of return and all other claims on Israel, he added.
The Saudi Gazette reported that on Saturday, the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the Palestinian Ministry of Information issued a statement saying the Palestinian people were “paying the price of the biggest political crime in contemporary history,” and that the  declaration was “a mark of shame on humanity.”
The ministry said that the declaration “began the Zionists’ process of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians from their homeland, which continues until today.”
It added that “Britain and the entire world must recognize the usurped Palestinian rights because everything that has befallen Palestine – it’s partition, the aggression, the suppression, the settlements, the arrests, the separation wall, the siege on Gaza, and the millions of Palestinians living in exile – was made possible because of the Balfour Declaration.”
The Palestinian Ministry of Information’s English website on Thursday wrote that Balfour Declaration “continues to serve as the bases for a racial discrimination system forcibly inflicted on Palestine and the Palestinians putting former South Africa Apartheid regime to shame.
“To add injury to the insult,” the statement continued, “many of the superpowers continue supporting the Israeli occupation to the cradle of Christianity and sacred shrines of Islam, an occupation disgraced with flagrant violations to human rights and democracy.” No mention was made of Israel's importance to Judaism.
Netanyahu did not refer to the Palestinian statement during his comments Sunday to the cabinet. He did stress, however, that any agreement with the Palestinians would necessitate the Jordan River remaining Israel’s “security border.” Israel’s demand that the IDF retain a security presence along the Jordan River is believed to be one of the major sticking points in the current negotiations with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu also related to Iran during his comments, saying the Islamic Republic continues calling for Israel's destruction. He pointed out that Monday marks the 34th anniversary to the Iranians taking over the US embassy in Teheran, a day marked in Iran as “Death to America Day.”
“This makes clear that what needs to be done is to continue the pressure on Iran,” he said. “The pressure is what brought them to the negotiations, and I am convinced that if the pressure is sustained, and not weakened, Iran will dismantle its military nuclear capability, but if the pressure is weakened, Iran will progress toward that goal.”
Netanyahu stressed that Israel was committed to preventing Iran from achieving their goal of nuclear weapons.

Gideon Levi: I Hate “Settlers,” and I’m Proud of It. By David Lev.

Gideon Levi: I Hate “Settlers,” and I’m Proud of It. By David Lev. Arutz Sheva 7, November 8, 2012.


In an interview with business daily Globes, veteran Ha’aretz editor Gideon Levi talks about his feelings regarding Jews who have made their homes in Judea and Samaria. Bottom line: Levi hates them.
“It’s not just that they bother me. I actually have feelings of hatred towards them,” Levi proudly told Globes. “I am a very emotional person. They embarrass me, they mock me, they devalue me with the things they do, with their very presence.”
In the interview, Levi discussed his work as one of the most leftwing journalists at Israel’s leftwing daily, who has made a career of writing negative articles targeting Jews who embrace Zionism and the Land of Israel. “I was a good boy who did everything properly. In high school I was the most well-behaved kid in the world. But in my travels I began to write about the occupied territories and what I saw there,” said Levi, describing Judea and Samaria as some sort of far-off colony, instead of just a few miles away from his Tel Aviv home. “Over the years I have seen many terrible things, that have made me the journalist I am today.”
Levi said that, traveling through Judea and Samaria, that “something big” was happening – and he didn’t like it. “There was something dramatic and serious going on, and nobody was writing about it,” Levi said. “There grew up a phenomenon in Israel of sweeping things under the rug. Nobody was covering the occupation. Since I do not see myself as part of the choir and do not like to do what others do, I said to myself that if there is something major going on that no one else is covering, that is where I should be.”
Ironically, despite his protestations of anti-establishment independence, Levi has been employed for decades at Ha’aretz, the epitome of Israeli establishment journalism, and has won three European and international journalism awards.
And despite claims of being an objective journalist, Levi said that his attitude to Jews living in Judea and Samaria, and the way he writes about them, “is obviously a personal reaction. There are many things that I detest, and I do not hide it. I believe that they are immoral. There is no way I can find a way to communicate with them, to come to a meeting of the minds.”

Jewish and Democratic Is the Way for Israel. By Shaul Arieli.

Jewish and democratic is indeed the way. By Shaul Arieli. Haaretz, November 1, 2013.

Jewish and then democratic. By Roni Schocken. Haaretz, August 27, 2013.