Choice!

The Clintons raise money by peddling their power — selling policy, taxpayer funds and access. A by-the-books fundraiser isn’t so useful in that enterprise.

In this light, Donald Trump — who admits to playing the crony game as a donor and who promises to use government to punish uncooperative companies — looks like a street-level conman.

So there’s your choice America: the kingpin of a corrupt enterprise that sells public power in exchange for crooked contributions, or a scammy developer from Queens who is a client of her dirty game.

McAuliffe is just one of many shady Hillary fundraisers

Ozymandias

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Boarding Houses

During America’s century-long ascent from sleepy colonial backwater to great industrial giant, the urbanization of the country was funneled through a consistent apparatus: the boarding house.

. . .

Cities should move to relax their rules against boarding and SROs, so that the transient might again have grounding stepping stones, and the insolvent might once more be able to obtain footholds. Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighborhood was once, not coincidentally, home to both the lowest homeless population and highest SRO concentration in the area.

The Boarding Houses that Built America

Nowadays, in the Northwest as across North America, most people live in houses or apartments that they own or rent. But not so long ago, other, less-expensive choices were just as common: renting space in a family’s home, for example, or living in a residential hotel.

Rooming houses, with small private bedrooms and shared bathrooms down the hall, were particularly numerous. This affordable, efficient form of basic housing is overdue for a revival, but legal barriers stand in the way. This article recounts the forgotten history of low-rent dwellings. Subsequent articles will detail how to re-legalize these forms of housing.

Rooming Houses: History’s Affordable Quarters: An in-city room of one’s own.

Today the notion of the boardinghouse—a “big house full of strangers,” as Jo [March, in “Little Women”] writes in a letter home, where a variety of people would rent rooms and eat at a common table—seems at best quaint, and at worst unsafe and unsavory, as 19th-century critics had it. In the grand narrative of American home life—farm, small town, suburb, apartment—the boardinghouse feels like a long-vanished footnote.

In places like Boston, however, they were anything but minor: They were a key part of how 19th-century cities grew, and left an imprint that survives even now. Whole neighborhoods teemed with them. Boardinghouses for black, Irish, Jewish, and immigrant Bostonians filled the lower slopes of Beacon Hill, while even genteel landladies on fashionable Beacon Street advertised “rooms with a private family.” As American cities turned into true modern metropolises in the 1830s, boarding became a way of life; social historians estimate that between a third and half of 19th-century urban resident were either boarders themselves, or took boarders into their homes.

. . .

Boston and other urban centers are seeing the development of new and denser housing. Some “micro-apartment” developments echo boardinghouses closely, with small private quarters and common areas in which residents can eat and socialize together.

. . .

Boarding not only saved money and time, but to writers or others who craved exposure to a world beyond small towns, they provided an opportunity for social mixing, privacy, storytelling, and intimacy with strangers. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, and Edgar Allan Poe all lived occasionally as boarders.

Boardinghouses: where the city was born. How a vanished way of living shaped America — and what it might offer us today.

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“Lobbying”

What if you could bet on Wednesday’s NBA game between Golden State and Oklahoma City, and before the game or at least before the final buzzer, you could lobby the referees and the league to change the rules? Maybe you would bet on Oklahoma City and then lobby to abolish the three-point shot.

Hedge funds and other investment firms are playing that very game in Washington, D.C., these days. Recently, Capitol Hill has seen a blitz of lobbying on how Puerto Rico should handle its debt amid fiscal disaster, and how Treasury should deal with private investors in bailed out government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Behind the barrage of lobbying, op-eds and public relations is a handful of hedge funds who have gambled one way or another on GSE stock or Puerto Rican debt, in the hope that they could pull enough strings in Washington to make big bucks.

. . .

Investors allocating capital according to which policy tweaks they think they can win doesn’t sound like the type of capitalism that maximizes economic efficiency. It’s just public-policy profiteering.

As government gets involved in more parts of the economy, hedge funds will increasingly engage in this public-policy profiteering. This will make lobbying on these arcane issues more common and more intense.

So maybe it’s a good time to be long on K Street.

Puerto Rico’s debt, Fannie Mae’s stock, and public-policy profiteering

Ozymandias

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Lord, have mercy on them. And on us.

What exactly has birthed the Pajama Boy aristocracy — our overclass of pretentious, inexperienced, and smug 30-something masters of the universe?

Prolonged adolescence? Affluence? The disappearance of physical chores and muscular labor? The collapse of traditional liberal education and the triumph of the therapeutic mindset? Disdain for or ignorance of life outside the Boston–New York–Washington corridor? Political correctness as a sort of careerist indemnity that allows one to live a sheltered and apartheid existence? The shift in collective values and status from production, agriculture, and manufacturing to government, law, finance, and media? The reinvention of the university as a social-awareness retreat rather than a place to learn?

. . .

Ben Rhodes gloats over misleading the American people about the conditions that led to the Iranian nuclear negotiations, and how the Obama administration sold the “We drove them crazy” deal as a non-treaty that could be rerouted around Senate approval. But after Rhodes follows other 30-something Obama speechwriters to Hollywood, who cleans up the mess of an Iran blackmailing the Middle East with nuclear-tipped missiles?

The Pajama Boy White House

Moral preening. Narcissism. Ozymandias. Enough Caesaropapism!

Continue reading ‘Lord, have mercy on them. And on us.’ »

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Statolatry, Ancient and Modern

Ancient regimes were intellectually and morally self contained. They themselves were their own frame of reference for good and evil, better and worse. Their gods were the gods of the city or of the empire. When they worshiped those gods, they essentially worshiped themselves. There was no difference between politics, religion, and society. Hence, there was no basis for individual freedom. The closest to ancient polities in our time, prior to, say, the last forth years or so, was Japan—the world’s largest tribe.

Christianity, which gave medieval regimes their character, which character endured in the Western world up until recent decades, revolutionized life by recognizing each individual’s direct relationship to God—the creator of the universe, the essence of goodness, and hence the one and only standard of right and wrong. This, including Jesus’s mandate to separate duties to God and to Caesar, made it possible for life in the West to be lived on several independent levels. This is (or was) our charter of freedom. As Luther put it: “Be on you knees before God, that you may stand on your feet before men.”

Modern regimes, by denying the existence of God and his laws have, once again, placed their own human authority beyond any challenge but by power. Collapsing the distinction between freedom and power quite simply destroys the autonomy of individuals and of society—hence of freedom.

. . .

In today’s America, right and wrong, better and worse, have become mere appurtenances of partisanship and power.

Politics, Religion, and the Ruling Class

A culture of death. Ozymandias

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Trump is “a lobbyist dream.”

Trump is ultimately a dealmaker, who feels unrestrained by any underlying beliefs, constitutional limits on executive power, or a sense of propriety. He’s a lobbyist dream.

Wall Streeters willing to get in bed with a President Trump may foresee their loyalty being rewarded via presidential power. This no doubt will be part of Mnuchin’s pitch to potential donors. Also, Trump has made it very clear that he punishes his enemies and will target companies who displease him — another incentive to donate.

Clinton, the all-but-certain Democratic nominee, will be more corporatist, cronyist, Wall-Street-funded, K-Street-connected than any nominee in the history of U.S. politics. But at least nobody ever believed she was anything other than that.

Trump, however, conned millions of Americans into thinking he’ll battle the system. Instead he’ll just make a corrupt system even more corrupt.

Donald Trump builds his K Street and Wall Street Gang

Ozymandias

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Things that can’t go on forever, won’t.

How do bureaucracies get so big they can’t pay themselves? Assertions that it “can’t possible happen” are refuted by history in instances ranging from Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1536, which turned thousands of clergy starving into the streets to recent examples like the collapse of Soviet pensions or the debasement of the Greek pension system.

In each of these cases the impossible happened, just as it’s happening in Venezuela, where Joel Hirst describes the collapse of a whole system. “I never expected to witness the slow suicide of a country, a civilization. I suppose nobody does.”

. . .

Unsustainable bureaucratic behemoths turn out to be what Churchill described: “a cut flower in a vase, fair to see yet bound to die.” They are not invincible, but quite the contrary have the distressing propensity to die. The irony is that the gigantism voters often associate with safety is in itself a risk factor. The bloat isn’t protection, but a heart attack waiting to happen. Economists have long known that being “too big to fail” is actually a source of moral hazard.

The Surprising Weakness of Invincible Institutions

Ozymandias

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The DC Imperial Economy

In no place in America are the abrupt changes in the nation’s security posture so keenly reflected in real estate and lifestyle than the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. In the decade after 9/11, it has grown into a sprawling, pretentious representation of the federal government’s growth, vices and prosperity, encompassing the wealthiest counties, the best schools, and some of the highest rates of income inequality in the country.

. . .

For [Mike] Lofgren, “Beltwayland” is perhaps best described as analogous to the Victorian novel the Picture of Dorian Gray—a rich, shimmering ecosystem in which all of the ugly, twisted aberrations are hidden away in an attic somewhere, or rather sadly, in the poverty-blighted wards and low income zip codes of “the DMV” (The District, Maryland, and Virginia).

Oscar Wilde might have seen a bit of his Victorian England in Washington’s self-indulgent elite, but unlike the gentry of Dorian Gray, men and women here see not leisure, but amassing personal wealth through workaholism, as a virtue of the ruling class. For them, a two-front war and Washington’s newly enlarged national-security state, much of which is hidden in plain sight, have ushered in a 21st-century gilded age only replicated in America’s few, most privileged enclaves.

. . .

“The federal government is a $3.6 trillion beast in the district’s backyard that keeps the lights burning and the paychecks printing from government office buildings on Capitol Hill down along the Dulles Toll Road to the tech consulting firms in Virginia,” wrote Derek Thompson in The Atlantic in 2011, when the area was growing at three times the rate of the rest of the country in its post-recession years.

“Uncle Sam directly employs one-sixth of the district’s workforce and indirectly pays for much more.” It is the “much more” that Lofgren likes to focus on, pointing out that government workers, who might enjoy more job security and pensions, actually have a cap on annual salaries and benefits. It’s the private class that has remade the landscape, the worst characterized by “the K Street lawyers, political consultants, Beltway fixers and war on terrorism profiteers who run a permanent shadow government in the nation’s capital,” he writes.

How Wartime Washington Lives in Luxury

Continue reading ‘The DC Imperial Economy’ »

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Men of action!

These men were men of action; they were hustlers; they were full of vim and pep and snap and zip. In other words, they were deaf and blind and partly mad, and rather like American millionaires. And because they were men of action, and men of the moment, all that they did has vanished from the earth like a vapour; and nothing remains out of all that period but the little pictures and the little gardens made by the pottering little monks.

The New Dark Ages, by G.K. Chesterton

Continue reading ‘Men of action!’ »

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Lawyer Joke

A father told his 3 sons when he sent them to the university: “I feel it’s my duty to provide you with the best possible education, and you do not owe me anything for that. However, I want you to appreciate it. As a token, please each put $1,000 into my coffin when I die.”

And so it happened. His sons became a doctor, a lawyer, and a financial planner, each very successful financially. When their father’s time had come and they saw their father in the coffin, they remembered his wish.

First, it was the doctor who put 10 $100 bills onto the chest of the deceased.

Then, came the financial planner, who also put $1,000 there.

Finally, it was the heartbroken lawyer’s turn. He dipped into his pocket, took out his checkbook, wrote a check for $3,000, put it into his father’s coffin, and took the $2,000 cash.

He later went on to become a member of Congress. . . .

No Sympathy for Spendthrift Politicians in Fairfax County

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