They Really Do Hate the Suburbs After All

And have a plan to do something about them too:

The most obvious new element of the president’s regionalist policy initiative is the July 19 publication of a Department of Housing and Urban Development regulation broadening the obligation of recipients of federal aid to “affirmatively further fair housing.” The apparent purpose of this rule change is to force suburban neighborhoods with no record of housing discrimination to build more public housing targeted to ethnic and racial minorities. Several administration critics noticed the change and challenged it, while the mainstream press has simply declined to cover the story…

The new HUD rule is really about changing the way Americans live. It is part of a broader suite of initiatives designed to block suburban development, press Americans into hyper-dense cities, and force us out of our cars. Government-mandated ethnic and racial diversification plays a role in this scheme, yet the broader goal is forced “economic integration.” The ultimate vision is to make all neighborhoods more or less alike, turning traditional cities into ultra-dense Manhattans, while making suburbs look more like cities do now. In this centrally-planned utopia, steadily increasing numbers will live cheek-by-jowl in “stack and pack” high-rises close to public transportation, while automobiles fall into relative disuse. To understand how HUD’s new rule will help enact this vision, we need to turn to a less-well-known example of the Obama administration’s regionalist interventionism.

In response to my recent piece on Paul Krugman’s Moronic Take on Sprawl and Upward Social Mobility I was challenged on characterising the left’s attitude towards the suburbs as hatred.  Part of my response was to refer to the San Francisco Bay Area’s initiative on the subject, which Kurtz’ article goes into more detail about, but that wasn’t enough.

Or was it? Although vitriol is the usual way of measuring hatred, it isn’t the only one.  I prefer to gauge people’s attitudes by their actions.  If people are persistent in their actions, they most be motivated: the more the persistence, the more the motivation.  Whether they opt to make a big public show of their commitment or whether they do so quietly depends upon many factors.

I think that hatred is a fair characterisation of the left’s attitudes towards suburbia.  The original animus dates to the 1960’s, when suburbia was the home of the “repressed” and “bourgeois” attitudes they were revolting against.   But there’s more.  Suburbia is the object for the left’s pushback for two more reasons:

  • Environmental: low-density development takes up more land, requires more energy to run the utilities and commute, and thus is seen to be hard on the environment in many ways.
  • It’s where most of the Republicans live (that’s reason enough for most leftists), the influx of immigrants into the suburbs notwithstanding.

So the Obama regime does what it can to promote pushing people into the fifty square metre apartment (or smaller) and making them straphangers on the tube.  Such a policy will disincentivise upward social mobility.  A big reason Americans work hard to get ahead is to land themselves in suburbia, with its spaciousness and nice neighbourhoods.  By levelling the housing stock in this way, neither will be out there and Americans will, to use an expression I’ve picked up living in the same town the President visited today, lay out.  (Compounding the problem is the fact that most of these policies tend to make housing expensive, which puts it out of reach for ordinary folk).

If that’s what they want to do, then all this talk about helping the middle class–and we heard a lot about this from Obama today–is a lot of rubbish, in an American context.

Kurtz talks about “Manhattanising” the country, but when I think of the kind of development the current regime would like to promote, my thoughts take me back to another great city, old Moscow…

Paul Krugman's Moronic Take on Sprawl and Upward Social Mobility

The Gnome of Princeton is at it again:

So what’s the matter with Atlanta? A new study suggests that the city may just be too spread out, so that job opportunities are literally out of reach for people stranded in the wrong neighborhoods. Sprawl may be killing Horatio Alger.

Let’s start with the key observation: true liberals hate suburbia and the low-density development that is its hallmark worse than they hate the pro-life movement.  So any study that might suggest that a “sprawling” metropolis has low upward social mobility is to be jumped on at the first opportunity.  Why liberals, when placed into elected office, would promote home ownership can only be explained by raw political expediency.  Their real aim is to herd Americans into fifty-square metre apartments, which would meet their environmental goals along with other items on their punch list.

Krugman, however, is showing his ability to leap to conclusions.  If he had taken the time to peruse his own newspaper’s article on the subject, along with the interactive maps, he might not have made the statements he did.

Let’s start with his sweeping generalisation that “Atlanta is the Sultan of Sprawl, even more spread out than other major Sun Belt cities. This would make an effective public transportation system nearly impossible to operate even if politicians were willing to pay for it, which they aren’t.” Let’s then compare this with the real “Sultan of Sprawl”, Houston.  Atlanta developed a metro long before Houston even gave it thought.  More to the point, Houston–and for that matter the other Texas metro areas such as Dallas-Ft. Worth and San Antonio–are more spread out than Atlanta.  Yet these–especially Houston–have better upward social mobility than Atlanta or Charlotte.  Even a closer sprawling metropolitan area such as the Tidewater (Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Hampton-Chesapeake) is ahead of Atlanta in that regard.

One thing that differentiates the Texas cities from those further east is the simple fact that the former are more efficiently laid out.  Places like Atlanta and Charlotte are laid out like they do in the old country–following existing paths that meander to suit the terrain.  (Think New York vs. London).

The old country–or old countries, to be more precise–is where we find the best explanation of the problem.  If we look at the places were upward social mobility is the worst, we see the “plantation belt” that stretches from eastern Arkansas to southern Virginia.  It was here that cotton was king before the Civil War and which took the greatest economic hit in its aftermath.  Starting with that, there are several historical characteristics of the region that combine to work against upward social mobility:

  • The usual problems of the Scots-Irish.  It’s interesting to note that some of the more upward moving regions, like West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and northwest Arkansas, are Scots-Irish bastions, but a lot of the upward movement here is linked to the outward movement of people.
  • The legacy of slavery.  Slavery is an economically regressive institution; with its cheap, static labour force, it encourages things to go nowhere, which is one reason ancient economies dependent upon it stalled.  That not only affects the slaves and their descendants, but everyone else involved.
  • The legacy of British colonialism.  The Southern colonies were more reflective of the mother country than the rest, right down to the established Church of England.  That included a deferential, socially stratified system that went right along with slavery.

If go back to Texas, we find another differentiating factor–German settlement.  Had Germany been a unified country in the 1840’s, Texas could have well been its first colony and not those it acquired in Africa.  That has given a different cast to Texas vs. its eastern neighbours.

So to find solutions to problems we are better off looking at historical factors than trying to stick it to sprawl as the culprit.

As for Krugman, he’s like the Episcopalians who pine for social justice: he needs to start by reforming himself.  He needs to cut the commute from Princeton and move to New York, where he can vote for Anthony Weiner and get the shaft himself and not giving it to the rest of us.

Iron Women and Wooden Ships, A Winning Combination

The tyranny of GPS and synthetic materials is broken on the Pacific:

It took a thousand or so miles of sailing with the long, powerful waves of the Pacific Ocean for Hannah Jenner, a rising star in ocean racing, to get comfortable in this year’s Transpacific Yacht Race. Jenner, a 31-year-old from Britain, is used to racing ultralight 40-footers across oceans. But in the Transpac this month, Jenner was sailing Dorade, a 52-foot wooden sailboat from 1930 that is trimmed in varnished mahogany and adorned with polished bronze hardware…

Dorade, considered the forebear of modern ocean racing yachts, won the 2,225-nautical-mile Transpac race from Los Angeles to Honolulu in 1936. And 77 years later, the slender white hull with tall spruce masts rolled to victory again, beating the most modern carbon-fiber ocean racers to win its division and the overall King Kalakaua Trophy.

Readers of the blog know that my family has a long-time heritage on the sea and in yachting, running from the 1880’s to the 1960’s (and bleeding on both ends, too).  Although most of our time was spent under power (steam and diesel) we had some success in sail and were involved in the early years of the Canada’s Cup races.  Boats made from mahogany, although even then under threat by the fibreglass kind, were the way we made many of our trips to the Bahamas in the 1960’s.  (And they were certainly capable of rolling, as my mother and cat found out the hard way).

It’s easy these days, with all the computer simulations we have out there (and I’m getting my PhD in that) to minimise the value of old stuff made from “old” materials.  But ultimately design consists of taking the materials and analytic capabilities we have and, combined with a good “feel” for the application, to produce a superior product.  That was what the Dorade was all about, and the value of an internalised understanding of the art–something that both my great-grandfather and Olin Stephens had–is crucial for success, both when the boats were designed and built and now.

And, although not an event today, we should note that this victory was won by a woman.  True to its conservative traditions, seafaring was slow to put women at the helm.  This is in contrast to, say, aviation, where women became pilots much more quickly.  With the family’s yachting era in suspension, in 1934 my grandfather feted Laura Ingalls after she flew from the U.S. to South America and back.  We should have done this sooner, not only for the skill such as Hanna Jenner exhibited, but this: one of the interesting rules of the 1898 Canada’s Cup race was that “…crews shall be limited to six men, whose total weight shall not exceed 1,050 pounds”, or an average of 175 pounds per man.

It’s good to know that some of the “old stuff” still has the “right stuff”, particularly those of us who have been involved with the old stuff for a long time.

The American Middle Class: Broke, Busted and Disgusted

Well, it’s not quite down to my pastor’s favourite mantra, but it’s close:

We are number 1 right? USA! USA! No one can beat our wealth creation machine, our economic dynamism, our level playing field and our bastions of higher education. We have a middle class that is the envy of the world, right?

Well, like so much of the “American dream” we have been force fed for a generation or more, this perception is not based in reality whatsoever. Sure it may have been the case for a couple of decades immediately after World War 2. Before the military-industrial-Wall Street complex fully took over the political process, but it certainly isn’t true any longer. Myths die hard and this one is particularly pernicious because it prevents people from changing things.

The statistic that led to this justified rant is that this country’s middle class is 27th in accumulated average net worth.

Why is this?  Many explanations are tendered but the middle class’ greatest enemy–rivalling the breakdown of the family–is ridiculously easy access to credit, which includes both home equity and unsecured loans such as credit cards.  Today most people price anything much more expensive than a toothbrush in terms of monthly payments as opposed to sale price; access to credit has replaced net worth or even income as a measure of wealth and success.  Coupled with the nearly zero return savings have as a result of the Fed’s “zombie economy” policies, and it’s little wonder our net worths have gone into the toilet.

The result of this is that we have shifted from a society of owners to a society of renters, a trend accelerated by the real estate crash.  Even though we hold the title to such things as our home and our car, our equity in same is minimal, thus what we pay is de facto rent.  That has changed our whole social and political dynamic in ways many of us have failed to grasp, especially on the right.  When you “owe your soul to the company store” or more accurately stores, the idea of being aspirational or benefiting from business friendly policies doesn’t resonate very well.

One concept that has died in all of this is deferred gratification.  That extends to just about every aspect of American life.  People who practice it in any form are considered ridiculous.

How we’re supposed to remain a great country in the face of this for most of our people is hard to understand.  Maybe impossible.

Forty Years Out, Watergate Still Matters–and Gets Repeated

Forty years ago this past summer, this country was riveted by the hearings of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, better known as the Watergate Hearings.  Although they did not directly lead to Richard Nixon’s exit from office, they were an important step in that process.

I’ve discussed Watergate many times on this blog.  I listened to most of it across the room from what you see at the right, drafting away at the family business at our West Palm Beach facility.  I recorded some of the proceedings on 25 and 26 July 1973; you can hear that here and here, forty years ago today.

And it’s still relevant, more so now than in most of the recent past:

  • We have an administration with powers to spy on enemy and friend alike–and the will to use the power of the government to punish opponents–that Nixon could only dream of.  The only reason why we don’t have the media hue and cry now we had then is that the media is so deep in the tank with this administration, which is a stark contrast in many ways to what we had then.
  • Hillary Clinton is still out there.  She’s the “safe bet” in 2016 for President (but then again she was in 2008 and look what happened).  And she still has this in her record:
    • His (Sen. Sam Ervin’s) solicitousness of these rights would be sorely missed the following year, when the House Impeachment Committee’s legal staff–including Bernard Nussbaum and Hillary Clinton–would construct rules of procedure such as:
      • Denying the President representation by legal counsel;
        Prohibiting impeachment committee members from hearing live testimony or cross-examining witnesses (such as took place in these hearings,)
        Obtaining gag orders to prevent committee members from disclosing contents of documentary evidence (leak plugging, which was Nixon’s own obsession and got him into more trouble than anything else);
        Denying committee members the power to draft impeachment articles.
    • One of the things that Watergate was supposed to be “about” was the need for openness in government as opposed to the secrecy that Nixon, his staff and the “Plumbers” operated in.  But already we see that Nixon’s opponents were–and are–not opposed to secrecy when it suits their own purpose.

Why conservatives prefer her to Barack Obama is beyond me; they are both Saul Alinsky radicals.

As for me, I found the Watergate business disheartening.  Coupled with the many other adverse events of the time, I felt that the left, against which we were ostensibly fighting the Cold War to keep away, was moving in for the kill.  I looked elsewhere for inspiration and wrote the first version of this.  But ultimately the answer came from God, and that’s made the difference ever since.

Today we’re in a bad way once again.  Many want to repeat the 1980’s, when the left stumbled and we had “morning in America”, in spite of stuff like this.  But they’re not coming back, not this time.  We have only one true country, and we need to pursue the path to it whether the one we’re in makes it or not.

Barack Obama's Strange Visit to Chattanooga

Yes, he’s coming to the epicentre of the bitter people with their Bibles and guns after all:

President Obama plans a visit to Chattanooga next week.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he will visit the Amazon fulfilment centre at the Enterprise South Industrial Park on Tuesday.

He said President Obama will give the first in a series of policy speeches on the theme of a better bargain for the middle class.

He stated, “Tuesday’s speech will focus on manufacturing and high wage jobs for durable economic growth, and the President will discuss proposals he has laid out to jumpstart private sector job growth and make America more competitive.

Although I like, would someone explain to me why the Occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would go to a distribution centre and talk about manufacturing jobs when such a speech would be more à propos across the street at the Volkswagen plant?

And we wonder why our economy has stalled these last few years…

The Most Sensible Response of the Churches to Same-Sex Civil Marriage

It is to pitch officiating civil marriages altogether, as the Sikhs in the UK are being advised:

Sikh temples have been advised to halt all civil marriage ceremonies on their premises to protect them from possible legal challenges for refusing to conduct same-sex weddings.

It is the first example of a religious group altering its marriage practices to avoid potential litigation based on equalities or human rights law.

Although there are many protections in the new UK law for churches which do not perform same-sex unions, Sikh advisor Harmander Singh observed:

We are concerned that the quadruple lock (the protections of the act) isn’t going to be worth the paper it is written on.

In the longer term, as soon as there is an issue and it goes to the European Court of Human Rights, no one can be sure, because the quadruple lock means nothing under subsidiarity.

He’s doubtless right, and the Christian churches are simply doing the ostrich thing.  In this country the legal situation is different, but given that this is an outcomes-based judicial campaign, the results will be the same.  Here the issue will be this: since ministers become agents of the state when they solemnise civil marriages, and agents of the state shouldn’t discriminate, thus they must perform same-sex civil marriages.

The alternative is this:

If Sikh places of worship deregister, it would lead to a situation similar to that in France, where couples have a civil wedding at the town hall with a church service as an optional extra.

“Doing marriage twice” is a pain, but as long as the state insists on discriminating against cohabiters with marriage, there’s no evidence that our brothers and sisters in countries where it’s required have more difficulty than we do in stable Christian marriages.  And, of course, there’s the next step, i.e., dispensing with the state business…

Mr. Singh is a man after my own heart with his comment on civil marriage: “Civil marriage is, with respect, a paper exercise.”  And when you get a divorce lawyer involved, there’s a lot of paper…

As David “Spengler” Goldman pointed out: “Christians should learn from the Jews how to be a minority.”  Maybe the Sikhs can help us too.

High Church is One Thing, but Trashing the Nautilus is a Mistake

It would make sense that a Reformed person such as Steven Wedgeworth would pan an article on the revival of “high church”.  After all, who else to trash “high church” but the people who pitched the liturgy to start with?

It would move the debate forward if a definition of “high church” would be agreed on by everyone.  Conscientious sticking with a liturgical form of worship is one thing; the Anglo-Catholic ideal of “smells and bells” in expensive Gothic facilities like this one is another.  And yet both could be called “high church” especially when compared what passes for “low church” (in more ways than one) these days.

Wedgeworth invokes Roman Catholic Walker Percy (a sure sign of desperation for any Reformed writer) to the effect that Roman Catholics can celebrate their liturgy in more informal ways because of the substance of the sacrament.  He’s right about that; it’s something I picked up on during my Tiber swimming four decades ago:

Bethesda wasn’t quite an Anglo-Catholic church then, but the undertow was there: very formal liturgy (and trained acolytes to help with it,) paid youth and adult choirs to make sure they got it right, and very long (~1 hr 30 min) Holy Communions with all of Cramner’s antique prose topped off by the 1928 Prayer Book’s prayer for the dead.  And everyone dressed up for the occasion.

St. Edward’s was a whole different story: modern liturgy (the Novus Ordo Missae had only been official for two years,) no music at many Masses, no intonations of “Gawd” from the altar like the Episcopalians did.  Without music and with the right celebrant, thirty-five minutes and the sacred mysteries were done, at which point all of the men stampeded out in their golf shirts, presumably having made a tee time at the Everglades Club or the Breakers.  (Catholics’ way of dressing down for Mass was way ahead of its time.)

Anglo-Catholicism always liked a “frillier” form of Christianity, presumably because it looked and felt good and because it helped to drive home the sacredness of what they were doing.  Roman Catholicism can certainly do the ceremonial when the occasion calls for it, but the efficacy of the sacraments is driven by the nature of the church, not because of how elaborately the sacred mysteries are celebrated.

Then Percy informs us of this:

The Catholic is content to practice his faith in a dumpy church in York, while the tourists gape at the great nacreous pile of the York minster, an artifact of a former Catholic culture, as beautiful as the shell of a chambered nautilus and as empty.

Having featured the York Minister on my 1662 Book of Common Prayer cover, this is hard to take.  And trashing the poor nautilus not only makes matters worse, but ultimately does Percy no credit.  The nautilus, more than York Minster, is a testament to the genius of its Creator and his long-term governance of the creation.

The nautilus (right) is a living creature, not very pretty when living, but having changed little in the half billion years or so it has been swimming in the seas.  It’s biological configuration isn’t very complicated but it has survived tumultuous swings in the earth’s environment.  This is because its design is simple and durable, having outlasted many more “sophisticated” counterparts both on land, in the seas and in the air.

But like all creatures it dies, and when it does the chambers Percy refers to can be seen.  The nautilus’ shell geometry is what is called a logarithmic spiral, and that appears in nature over and over again.  We see it in the shape of galaxies, the arms from tropical disturbances such as hurricanes, and the failure surface of shallow foundations.  Without going into the math, the basic “shape” of the spiral is unaltered as it progresses away from the centre.

What Christianity–and just about everything else–needs is neither gratuitous simplicity or complexity, but like the nautilus simplicity that embodies the ability to survive in its complex and changing environment.  My guess is that our Creator is more pleased with the way the nautilus is doing its job than the Church.

Look at the wild birds–they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns; and yet your heavenly Father feeds them! And are not you more precious than they? But which of you, by being anxious, can prolong his life a single moment? And why be anxious about clothing? Study the wild lilies, and how they grow. They neither toil nor spin; Yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his splendor was not robed like one of these. If God so clothes even the grass of the field, which is living to-day and to-morrow will be thrown into the oven, will not he much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Do not then ask anxiously ‘What can we get to eat?’ or ‘What can we get to drink?’ or ‘What can we get to wear?’ All these are the things for which the nations are seeking, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But first seek his Kingdom and the righteousness that he requires, and then all these things shall be added for you.  (Matthew 6:26-33)

The Southern Joy Quartet: The Lighthouse

Mark Five SJ-4272

Although I am not positive, I think this is their first album as Southern Joy, having been known before as the Cavaliers Quartet.  From Greenville, SC, this album (probably from the early 1970’s) is a solid Southern Gospel album, probably no worse (and in some cases better) than more widely known groups of the era.

We also feature their other albums In the Valley and Over the Next Hill.

The musicians:

  • Vocalists:
    • Don Forrester, lead vocalist
    • Don Pilgrim
    • Frank Hopkins, Bass
    • Dovie Foister Hopkins, Alto
  • Instrumentalists:
    • Sybil Stafford, Piano and Organ
    • Jess Stafford, Jr., Bass
    • Don Hopkins, Drums
    • Adger Hardrick, Guitar

The songs:

  1. Living in Canaan
  2. The Lighthouse
  3. Sweeter Gets the Journey
  4. Redemption Draweth Nigh
  5. Eastern Gate
  6. My Lord I Want to See
  7. I’m Longing for Home
  8. Then I Met Jesus
  9. He Will Not Fail Me Now
  10. Oh What a Happy Day
  11. I’ll Have a New Live (Medley)
  12. I’ll Be in the Rapture

More Music

For Once, Jimmy Carter is Right

About time:

Former president Jimmy Carter condemned the effect U.S. intelligence programs had on U.S. moral authority in the wake of NSA revelations brought to light by leaker Edward Snowden, Der Spiegel reports.

“America has no functioning democracy,” Carter said  at a meeting of The Atlantic Bridge in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday.

I’ve never been a fan of this man, from the time he was inaugurated (when I was actually working for a defence contractor) forward.  Neither were some of my co-workers; one put a plastic peanut with grinning teeth in his cubicle, but was forced to take it down.  Many evangelicals were thrilled when he, a Southern Baptist, was elected, but unlike Chris Mathews the thrill up the leg quickly dissipated as they realised what he was about.

Since he left office, he’s promoted Habitat for Humanity (a good thing, although it usually builds single family dwellings instead of the 50 square metre apartments leftists long for) and made many stupid statements.  But this time he’s right, we don’t have a functioning democracy.  We have an élite driven system where those at the top of the system spend billions in candidate donations, PAC’s, lobbying efforts and what not to insure that the rest of us have no substantive voice, but we think that, just because we have an occasional election, we have popular rule and can be pompously moralistic to everyone else whose system doesn’t meet our fancy.

But even Carter knows this is a lie, and the Snowden affair has made this obvious both here and elsewhere.

Like any other problem, the first step to a solution is to admit the problem exists in the first place.  (Like the sin problem…) The oldest former president has done so; hopefully those who have come after him, along with the rest of us, will do likewise.