Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Universal vs. National Rights

In a future post, I will describe a notion of national identity dependent upon cultural antecedents.  However, to do so I need to define a difference between universal and national rights.  In a critique of the alt-right, Cathy Young quotes Steve Pinker on the subject of political equality:  
Political equality is a commitment to universal human rights, and to policies that treat people as individuals rather than as representatives of groups; it is not an empirical claim that people are indistinguishable. Many commentators seem unwilling to grasp these points.
However, if we are going to discuss the preservation of a national culture as a part of national preservation itself, I think we need to distinguish between universal and national rights.  Cathy Young is skewing the terms of the debate because any number of rights might be considered universal, when this is not in fact true.  For example, the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights declares this right that is not recognized by American courts (see welfare reform case law):
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
So, I would say that universal rights are more limited and consist of a very small set of rights:
  • The right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life or property.
  • The right to impartial treatment under the laws of their nation.
  • The right not to be tortured.
There might be a few others, but all of the other rights in the UN Declaration are not universal, because they are not universally acknowledged across all cultures.

This is not to say that there are not other rights.  What of freedom of speech, or religion, you might ask.  Are these not universal rights?  My answer is no, they are American rights, and to some extent the rights of Englishmen.  The rights of Americans derive in no small part from the founders interpretation of the rights of Englishmen.  The failure of the Crown to respect the colonists rights as Englishmen was the key justification for the American Revolution.  However, these rights were expanded and codified into the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments to the Constitution.

So when Cathy Young attempts to the limit the terms of debate to a commitment to "universal rights" she is so altering the terms of the debate about nationhood as to make it meaningless.  We say, with regards to the issue of national culture, if one wishes to be afforded the same national rights on offer as everyone else, then one has to accept membership in our nation.  One's failure to accept membership in the American Nation, uttering G** D*** America as Obama's Reverend Wright famously did, is to also reject the expectation of fair treatment from other citizens as a fellow American.  This is the crux of the alt-right challenge to the national conversation.  To participate in the life of this American culture, one must identify as an American.  If one identifies primarily as an "other," Black or Mexican for example, but not really as American, perhaps because one believes that to do so is to identity with a White nation, then one forfeits credibility and participation in the national debate.  

Our national identity traces back to an Anglo-centric culture that improved upon and built upon the rights of Englishmen.  It has also imported some other aspects of European culture as well.  Most of the peoples who have emigrated to America have joined that vision and added that vision of our national culture.  This national culture values freedom, self-sufficiency, rule of law, and individual responsibility.  It uses the English language and the language of Christianity because they best convey the national culture.  In order to be afforded the right to be treated as an individual requires submission to the national values and treatment of others as individuals.  

The conclusion is clear. Speak our language and share our culture because this is our land.  We are under no obligation to accept those who do not.  Further, we are under no obligation to accept immigrants from lands where our values are not respected.  We will judge who is fit to enter America based on the historical commitment and ability of their country of origin to join our culture.  This is our assertion of our national rights.  Finally, we do not accept that the native born should cut themselves off from the mainstream of American culture that would afford them opportunities for success.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Better Apology for Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan was recently savaged by Social Justice Whoriers in Britain for making the unremarkable remark that “. . . I tend to think of people with penises as men.”  He was attempting to wade into some stupidity within the LGBT community and its eating of its own through consumerist identitarianism.  Of course, being a writer but not really a believer in anything, he issued an apology.  I thought his apology to be rather insincere and pro forma.  As a public service announcement, I offer Mr. McEwan, free of charge, this much improved apology.

I am sorry that your lack of self-awareness caused you to be offended by my common-sense remarks.  As a member of the Western cultural elite, I am sorry that we have failed you.  We have allowed to wallow in childish self-pity over your condition.  I am sorry that we have allowed you to believe that physical and chemical self mutilation are legitimate answers to your mental illness.  I am sorry that we have not provided you with the support to resist your irrational urges of self-harm.  I am sorry that we haven't provided you with the intellectual fortitude to think honestly and handle the truth.  I am sorry that we have allowed our culture to become so debased that we cannot discern mental health from illness.  For all this we are deeply sorry.  I sincerely hope that trannies and your poz sympathizers will cease visiting your deep self-loathing on what remains of healthy society.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Traitors, Cretins and Racism

"Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel," Samuel Johnson famously warned us, inveighing against a false patriotism that is only a cover up. Recently, scoundrels have taken to calling their critics racists as their last refuge.  It's an attack intended to silence debate and to squelch freedom of speech through mob intimidation.  Merely being accused of doing a single racist thing, true or not, can cause an American to lose their job, lose their business, or being assaulted by random strangers on the street.  Mob rule intended to violate Americans' rights runs contrary to our founding principles.

So if you are calling someone racist, I am going to just assume you're lying.  Second, I'm going to assume you're a traitor because you want to deny an American their rights.  And I'm going to call you what on your treachery and betrayal.  

You've been warned.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Longest Ovation

Dick Cheney is disliked by the left and the right alike.  The left sees him as some sort of Darth Vader to Bush's Emperor Palpatine, leading us into unnecessary war and torture.  The right sees him as part of the larger failings of the Bush administration that gave us Obama and Medicare Part D.  But he was the recipient of the longest standing ovation I have ever witnessed.  Allow me to explain.

In October 1991 (approximately) I was nearing the end of 18 months of study at Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey after 8 years of sea duty.  The first Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, had ended that February with the unexpectedly complete and swift expulsion of Saddam's forces from Kuwait. When the war had started, no one knew how long it would take or if it was even a wise move.  At the time, I was ambivalent about the war, worried that that it would unleash instability in the Middle East.  But victory so complete and total tends to wipe away such doubts.

Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense at the time, and he had come to Monterey to deliver a talk about some new strategy that I frankly can't remember.  I was in the military a long time and have seen my share VIPs, including the President.  It is customary for members of the military to come to attention (i.e. stand up, with an erect bearing) at the arrival of the VIP.  Later, when he is formally introduced, there is some polite applause to welcome him.  This day would be different.  When Cheney was introduced, the clapping started, and we stood.  We clapped and we clapped and we clapped.  Then we clapped some more.  It went on like that for well over 15 minutes, maybe more.  If that doesn't sound like much, try it yourself.  No one wanted to stop.  Every time I think of that moment in time, I tear up.

I am speaking for myself, because I have never discussed it with anyone who was there.  But here is the context.  I joined the United States Navy under the long shadow of the Vietnam War.  The greatest country on earth lost that war, and it stung.  Then we were humiliated by our inability to rescue hostages from students and ayatollahs in Iran; then Marines were blown up by the hundreds in Beirut.  And in my heart of hearts, I knew that we were better than that.  I knew at least that my force, the submarine force, was ready, willing, and able to deliver nuclear punishment to our nation's enemies if called upon.  But we still looked like losers.

Then, in 1991, we won total and undeniable victory. The Gulf War was vindication.  It was vindication of the billions that Reagan had spent restoring our capability.  It was vindication of our fighting spirit.  It was vindication of our belief that we were the greatest fighting force on the planet.  Even though the President is Commander in Chief, the SecDef is the leader of all of the armed forces, without other duties.  We were really clapping for ourselves, for the sacrifices we all had made, and for the belief that we were successfully serving a great republic.  It was a day to be proud of what we had accomplished.  So we just kept applauding.  It was a good day.

. . .

Many of my friends question my support for Donald Trump.  I can only say that he taps into my deep loathing of being on the losing side and my deep sense of nationalism and identity as an American.  It may be that he is a charlatan; but no other candidate seems genuinely interested in restoring our pride as a nation.  Not as a conservative nation, but as a nation, period.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why Immigration Is THE Issue - Again

I was challenged on Twitter yesterday as to why immigration is my number one issue.  So I thought that a little recap is in order.

1. It's about fairness and the rule of law.  The culture of this country is sliding towards conditions that foster dictatorship.  Specifically, how one is treated before the law depends on one's circumstances.  Whether it is Hillary getting away with blatantly illegal activity on her server or Obama unlawfully granting amnesty to millions of illegals; were on a path where consequences for illegal activity is determined by a political elite ruled by a donor class.

2. The public wants the border enforced and the politicians won't do it.  The failure to control illegal immigration is indisputable evidence that our system of government has become rigged against the interests of the people as a whole.  Unlike the courts ramming through gay marriage, which never won any popular votes; there is not even a fig leaf of constitutionality in this question.  The Congress has the power to set immigration policy and the President the duty to enforce it.

3. It is an assault on the standard of living and even the lives of the working class.  Kurt Schlichter said it best:
Amnesty was a great idea for bubble people who think illegal immigration satisfies some sort of libertarian ideal, or who only experience its impact by being able to hire a cheaper nanny. It’s a pretty great idea for the illegals too. But leave your nice neighborhood and go where a high school grad who was born here can’t get a job as a roofer since any general contractor who doesn’t hire illegals is going to go broke because his competition will. Tell somebody whose daughter is shot dead in front of him by an illegal who got arrested five times but never got deported that it’s an act of love.
. . .
Immigration and free trade are generally good, but they impose real costs and our base is getting handed the bill. These folks have been asking us for help, and what was our response? Shut up, stupid racists.
4. We have a right to expect assimilation of our culture and ideals.  The current failure to enforce the border is leading to a ghettoization of Spanish speaking illegals who are not assimilating. We have lost the national will to demand assimilation of sub-cultures within our society as a prerequisite to group success.  Until this changes, we have the right to call for an end even to legal immigration if we so desire, in order to ensure that new immigrants share our dedication to freedom, limited government and rule of law.  Further, it is our right to restrict immigration to countries that cherish those values, so that we might preserve our own.

5.  Unlimited Immigration Does Not Benefit AMERICANS as a whole.  I keep having to say this.  We are demanding that the government of the United States operate in a manner that benefits all Americans, not just the few who benefit from illegal competition for wages.

You may view my long history of discussing this topic.  It is comprehensive.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Why Nationalism Trumps Conservatism

The conservative critique of Donald Trump is that he is not a conservative.  This tautology begs the question of why it is necessary to be a conservative to secure the Republican nomination and the Presidency.  Americans care little for ideology but care a great deal about putting the interests of all Americans first, so conservatism isn't a winning electoral strategy.  The people are looking for a system to ensure that they are provided a level playing field and the opportunity to better their lives.  The unexpected popularity of Trump and Sanders suggests that Americans think that neither conservatism nor liberalism achieves those ends.  In theory, both philosophies claim to do so, but in practice, not so much.  When a nationalist candidate comes along and tells Americans they are getting a raw deal from their government; it resonates, and for the socialist as well.

Both parties talk to a tough line about helping the average American, but the selective application of their principles results in benefits redounding to special interests which destroys trust in the system.  For example, Republicans had the opportunity, with big majorities under George W. Bush and a reasonable excuse, the war on terror, to put an end to illegal immigration.  Illegal immigration puts downward pressure on the salaries of the lower middle class.  Later, when Obama, supposedly the champion of these same folks, made the problem worse; conservatives beat their chests but did nothing practical to stop his extra-legal executive orders.  There could have been hard-nosed negotiations that put money for extending a wall or other effective measures to deter illegal immigration, but the conservative party just resigned itself to defeat.  Meanwhile, abuse of the H1B visa program by employers such as Disney and big tech firms goes uninvestigated.  Employees, that is average Americans, lack the ability to easily move between jobs, which is well documented.  Allowing foreigners to compete for jobs inside this country, either because of illegal immigration or visa abuse is an unfair tilt of power to employers; but the conservative party cares not.

Meanwhile, Republicans seem willing to push for policies that help large corporations and Wall Street while claiming to do so in the name of the free market.  But we end up with a battle to end just one egregious program, the Export-Import Bank, which many Republicans fought with a zeal we wanted applied in opposition to Obama's illegal amnesty programs.  Further, conservatism has resulted in budgets that just continue the status quo, because it suits the big money backers of the GOP just fine.  Name a single program killed by the GOP when they held legislative majority over the last 30 years?  They are happy to talk a good game and collect rents from big business.

On the left, the ACA (Obamacare) was purportedly intended to help the uninsured.  It's only real effect has been to provide a few new customers to insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industries, who effectively wrote much of the legislation.  80% of those who were uninsured prior to the ACA's passage remain uninsured; 20% is usually a failing grade on any scale.  It is so bad, that Bernie Sanders can truthfully run a campaign to end the problem of the uninsured.  A second example: The financial crisis of 2008 swept the Democrats into power in D.C. In response, they passed the Dodd-Frank so called financial reform measure.  Rather than addressing the problems causing the crisis, they essentially promise to bail out big financial institutions by enshrining the "too big to fail" doctrine into law.  The bad lending and the perverse incentives will continue to enrich the banking class, while the liberals claim to be fighting Wall Street for the common man.

But enough of the failures of liberalism as practiced by the modern day Democratic party.  The second reason that nationalism wins is identity.  When I am at work, out shopping or watching a football game; I think of myself as an American, a Christian, and a San Diegan.  (Californian? Not so much anymore.)  My identity as an American is much stronger than my merely political identity as a conservative, and I am a very political person.  For the average voter, the national identity is even more dominant.  Identity trumps ideology, always.  I am an American long before I think about being a conservative or Republican.  Further, nationalism serves as a glue that binds us together across classes.  The overlooked story of the last two decades is the extent to which American elites no longer see themselves as Americans per se, but as part of a global elite.  Zuckerberg of Facebook is seen in Germany undermining nationalism there, by suppressing anti-immigrant sentiment.     The average person sees this and sees a political system where the establishment of both parties is in league with internationalists to the detriment of their own interests.  How else to combat the tilted playing field than to embrace that our identity as Americans and the candidate who most explicitly makes the case to work for our interests, not the interests of the elite and not the interests of the poor and oppressed around the globe.   Conservatism is the answer to a situation of low trust across our society; Nationalism is a glue to engender greater trust.

The other reason for nationalism is that we are again at war with a global ideology.  Communism, fascism and Radical Islamism (by which I mean the current Wahabbist strain of Islam) were and are ideologies intent on remaking the world.  Fascism wasn't defeated by democracy, but by nations acting in their own self-interest; intending to maintain their own identities.  Ditto for communism.  The Soviet Empire crumbled from within because its constituent nations successfully achieved autonomy for their own peoples.  That autonomy didn't usually take the form of democracy, but powerfully destroyed a communist empire nevertheless. Right now, Radical Islamism is attractive because the boundaries of the Middle East have not been drawn to align tribes and peoples into true nations.  Nationalism will be needed to eventually defeat this form of Islam and allow Islam to recede to a  religion and shed its identity as a political movement.  Ultimately, we need nationalism to secure the peace, with each tribe to its own country, secure within its own borders.

P.S. Just after I published this, I saw a link to a John Derbyshire article on the meaning of nationalism that highlights and amplifies some of what I have said; alas more eloquently.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Unlimited Immigration is the Enemy of Freedom and Prosperity

The most recent winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics is Angus Deaton, a British-American Princeton economist known for his focus on data to explain sources of economic growth.  In his book, The Great Escape, he attempts to explain why some nations escaped the grinding poverty that has been the condition of most of mankind since the dawn of history.  In my opinion, part of the trick is asking the question properly, not "Why are so many nations so poor?" but "What sets the rich nations apart that they escaped poverty?"  In The Great Escape he summarizes the answer:
Perhaps the best answer is that poor countries lack the institutions—government capacity, a functioning legal and tax system, security of property rights, and traditions of trust—that are a necessary background for growth to take place.
Ronald Bailey notes in his review that this explanation, while well supported by the facts, doesn't explain why some countries have these institutions; just that they are important.  I believe that the European culture which combined both Greek and Christian tradition provided the societal stability and freedom of inquiry to produce a stable society that valued the innovation adequately to reap its benefits.  Whether or not I am correct, we can still look at the world and see which countries have adopted or are adopting similar cultural values to ours which allowed us to escape poverty.

This matters to the immigration and refugee questions.  As a nation, it is our right to ask for and the duty of our leaders to implement policies that benefit the citizens of our nation.  Unrestricted immigration from countries that don't share our values undermines our prosperity.  When I look at the so-called "Syrian" refugee crisis; I see two key sets of facts.  First, the refugees seem to be neither Syrian nor refugees, in large part.  Second, even when legitimate, they come from a society that doesn't share our values.  Contra Obama, there are no shared universal values.  If there were, there would be democracies all over the Arab world.

With regards to immigration from Latin America; the main sources of migrants continue to be from countries with little respect for the rule of law.  It is not coincidental, that as Mexico has improved its internal governance through reform, the number of migrants from Mexico has declined.  Now, dictatorships trans-shipping people through Mexico are increasingly the problem.

On twitter, someone compared the so-called Syrian refugees to the Jews we admitted during World War II.  For brevity, my response was that the Jews were culturally European and therefor worthy of admission.  In other words, they were ready to support and understand our institutions, security of property rights and "traditions of trust" in ways that Syrians are sadly incapable of.

We should limit immigration based on country of origin in order to not dilute the cultural underpinnings of our society.