Sunday, February 12, 2017

“It’s not immoral for one human to own another human" ... "Consent isn’t necessary for lawful sex"

The title of this post comes from a recent lecture given by a Muslim professor from Georgetown University, and refer to slavery and rape in Islam.

A fair share of the libertarian intelligentsia seems to share the left's outrage over the temporary moratorium on immigration from seven threat countries.  From Cato, Alex Nowrasteh and David Bier are both on their usual jihads against any immigration controls whatsoever.  FEE has recently had pieces by two economists I respect, Sandy Ikeda and Don Boudreaux, criticizing arguments for restricting immigration.

There's a lot of this material, and it is tedious spending time evaluating arguments point-by-point, so I won't do it.  Suffice it to say there is no sensible argument for restricting productive workers.  But most of the stuff coming out now doesn't deal with this at all, a great deal of it denies there is any problem at all with Muslim immigration, and a fair amount suggests that the threat of terror is way overblown.  Much of it denies we should be concerned about cultural change, and treats us as bigots if we are.

This is madness.

Here's a very "nice" (i.e. horrific) example of why we should be concerned about the cultural attitudes that Islam promotes.  Professor Jonathan A.C. Brown of Georgetown University recently gave an address in which he repeatedly defended both slavery and rape as moral, if conducted in the Islamic way.  You see, worrying about individual autonomy and consent is merely a Western fetish, and once we shed it and understand that Mohammed practiced both of these things, they certainly are moral, since by definition he was the most moral man.

This not some nutty outlier position.  Linda Sarsour, one of the main organizers of the "women's march," has been promoting sharia.  The more I read about her, the clearer it is she is working for the Islamization of the United States. (Read all the way through the 2017 updates.)  Or consider Rep. Keith Ellison (D, MN), a radical Muslim and anti-Semite, and the choice for DNC Chair of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Chuck Schumer.

It's so disconcerting to realize all the women at the "women's march" imagining themselves in solidarity with Sarsour, some donning hijabs to protest Trump's "ban."  They do realize that in Islam most abortion is banned, at least after four months, and that a male's consent is generally needed, right?  They do realize that Sarsour defends the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, and claims it is better than here?  I think they are beyond reason -- it's really madness.  So too with Sanders and co.

At some point, one also must start to wonder if libertarians for completely unrestricted immigration are playing with full decks, or if maybe they really share with leftists a desire to see existing society overthrown at any cost.  Or perhaps some are simply so naive and uninformed on anything other than economics and libertarian philosophy that they are unaware of what they are actually advocating.  (I hope this is the case with Boudreaux and Ikeda; I am fairly sure it's not for Nowrasteh and Bier, since they claim to be immigration experts who study this stuff for a living.)

It's hard to know what to say, other than that this is madness.  Bringing in large numbers of Muslim immigrants from the most fundamentalist and violent parts of the Islamic world is a terrible idea.  They'll not assimilate (leftist dogma these days is that "assimilation" is an exclusivist and racist concept!), they will not become productive citizens, and most importantly they'll promote a foreign culture that is incompatible with liberty.  (See the three charts below from the Pew Research surveys on attitudes of Muslims around the world.

I hope libertarians return to their senses on this soon.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Self, Self Esteem, and Dennis Prager

Lately I've been listening to Dennis Prager (his talk radio program has recently become available here in [redacted]).  He's interesting and makes a number of good points, but I find myself increasingly skeptical of his philosophical underpinnings.  The deeper he goes philosophically, the more I tend to disagree...but more than just disagree, I find myself thinking he's quite confused.  Here's my primary example.

Prager often devotes a certain portion of his show, the third hour, to principles, rather than commentary on current events.  Of late he's been arguing that the aphorism "Be true to yourself" is horribly wrong.  In Prager's view, if one were really true to one's self, one would sleep in when really one should go to work, eat loads of fattening junk food when trying to diet, avoid exercise, and have romantic affairs outside of marriage (all are his examples).  Instead, Prager tells us, we should not be true to our selves but rather true to our values.  Then we'll work diligently, stick to our diets, exercise, and be faithful to our spouses.


Apparently, to Prager being true to one's self means giving in to any immediate urge one feels, without any regard for anything else, such as principles or consequences.  What kind of conception of "self" is this?  I can make no sense of it.

First, what really are one's values?  If someone tells me they value sobriety above all else, and each day they also drink a bottle of vodka, I won't believe sobriety is one of their values.  Professing sobriety might be one of their values, and sure, many people find moral posturing to be important.  But the hypocrite who engages in moral posturing is true to his values, and reveals them, and his self, in his actions.  The things he professes aren't his real values.  Now  I fully agree with Prager that one should be true to one's values... assuming one's values are worthy, of course (something I've not heard Prager mention).  But why is this inherently contrary to being true to one's self?

Second, what sort of "self'" is it that consists of nothing but immediate primal urges?  Prager seems to be suggesting that our real selves lie entirely within our reptilian brains, the compulsive part that responds only to immediate urges.  Really?  That's not me, and I doubt it is Prager.  My "self" is something much more profound and complex than just my immediate primitive urges.  When I waken early in the morning, I often do feel an urge to stay in bed. But I also am aware of what I think is the importance of the work I do, or the race I will run, or the dog I will feed, or the mountain I will try to climb.  If I were to remain in bed, I would not be true to my self.  I'm much more than a few primal urges.

Consider other scenarios that Prager suggests -- eating a cupcake, taking an exercise break, having an illicit affair, any of these might give immediate pleasure, but is it inconceivable to Prager that it might not be in oneself to do these, that being true to one's self might require that one forgo them?  I can't understand Prager on this point.

In fact, we shape ourselves.  We consciously choose, at least to some extent, our explicit values, and we choose our behaviors and our de facto values.  That's the germ of truth in existentialism, incidentally.

What does this have to do with self-esteem?

Prager also condemns the current fascination with "self-esteem," i.e. feeling good about one's self, and being self-satisfied regardless of whether one has done anything or not.  This pre-occupation has also promoted egalitarianism in, for example, schools, where no can fail and no one can excel -- all outcomes must be regarded as equal, whether they actually are or not... and so too, people.

The contemporary definition of "self esteem" is indeed contemptible.  But what Prager misses is that the originator of the concept of self esteem, Nathaniel Brandon, has also condemned the "self-esteem" movement.  Brandon conceived of self-esteem as comprising two things: 1) acceptance of one's self, acceptance in the sense of dropping pretense and illusion and recognizing and accepting who one is, and 2) then earning one's own self respect by virtue of personal integrity, by identifying and pursuing one's highest values, by doing so rationally, with reason.  That's how one develops real self esteem.

One who develops real self esteem builds personal strength and integrity.  Such a person is genuinely true to himself, and also true to his highest values.  There's no conflict.

This matters for many reasons, most importantly because it is the way one flourishes.  But it also has political consequences.  A person consumed by feelings of guilt is a person who has low self esteem; a person consumed by guilt is a person who can be easily controlled.  "You have no right to decide or to resist because of your guilt" is one of the most brilliant, and evil, control mechanisms ever developed by one human to oppress another.  Similarly, a person consumed by feelings of victimhood is also a person of low self-esteem and is similarly rendered helpless and controllable.

Of course, there are reasons one might properly feel guilt, and reasons one might properly feel a victim.  But a person of strong self esteem will do what he can to rectify the former and not identify himself with the latter.  He won't let these define him, but will act to rise above them.  That's because they do not define him. His self is much more than this, and a fortiori much more than a set of immediate urges.

One of the things that is genuinely odd to me about Prager's position is that Prager seems to have no concept that our values, if we really practice them, become a part of our selves.  His positing of an inherent split between them, and even worse, a conflict, seems entirely unwarranted.  I can't fathom it.  There may be no depths to fathom.

Well, perhaps that's a bit overboard.  His argument has had me thinking for days, and struck me as worth 1,029 words of rebuttal.


I increasingly like Trump.  While he's often uncouth and bombastic, he's also no-nonsense and he's focused on the well-being of Americans.  That's his job, and he's taking it very seriously.  While I don't always agree with him -- we gain from free trade, most notably -- he appears to be intransigent in trying to protect Americans.

He is certainly right on his* temporary moratorium on immigration from seven states with strong anti-American Islamist forces.  Mr. Trump's moratorium is to give the U.S. time to try to get an actual vetting process in place to stop Muslim terrorist groups from infiltrating their forces into the U.S, as "refugees," the way they've done in Europe.  Those who oppose Trump in this fall into two categories (not mutually exclusive): enemies of the Unites States, and damned fools.

First, it is obvious that the President has the authority to block immigrants, by whatever categorization he thinks warranted:

8 U.S. Code § 1182(f): "Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate."

Good grief, how could it be any more clear?  This law was passed in 1952.  (Thanks to Deroy Murdock and National Review Online for this.)

Second, it's obvious that screening verges on non-existent and that people who should not enter the country do so (San Bernardino, anyone?)  Here's a link to a letter from a former State Department official in the Chicago Tribune who argues Trump isn't going far enough.

There's no sense at all in the Ninth Circuit decision.  It is neither in keeping with law nor basic common sense.  It doesn't even reference the applicable law.  So now the federal government will appeal the case to SCOTUS.  I can only hope that among the justices of SCOTUS there are at least five who will rule guided by law, and not ideology (contrary to what WaPo appears to think they should and will do).

Take them to court, Mr. Trump!
*"Trump's" moratorium is actually what Senator Rand Paul proposed last year as an alternative to candidate Donald Trump's proposal to block Muslim immigration.  Trump has adopted Paul's proposal.  No one but the staff at Unforeseen Contingencies seems to have been sufficiently insightful to have noticed this.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

The violent left

Progressives and the rest of the left seem hell bent on civil war.  I haven't time at present to write a substantive post on this, but there's plenty of very good analysis available.  Here's a sampling of pieces I think particularly worthwhile.

Robert Ringer (author of Winning Through Intimidation and Looking Out for Number One, two books which had important impacts on my thinking) believes escalating violence from the left is a virtual certainty.  He considers various outcomes, including the collapse of the Democrat Party and civil war. Ringer's analysis is thoughtful and worth reading.

The editors of National Review call the recent riots in California "Berkeley's Shame" and correctly identify this as terrorism.  A piece by NR's David French also deserves attention, "If We Can't Unite Against Rioting, We Can't Unite at All." French refutes the claim that it was just a few outsiders who rioted, showing that the student mob facilitated the violence and protected the violent.  He also quotes the mayor of Berkeley and governor of California, both of whom refuse to condemn the violence.  A man was beaten into unconsciousness and left in a pool of blood by leftists armed with shovels, other people assaulted, and banks and shops burned...  politicians who tolerate this are enemies of freedom and ought to be removed from office.

Liberty Hangout, a libertarian (largely anarcho-capitalist) site, has two very good pieces, "It's Time to Admit that Leftists Can't be Reasoned With." "If you want to spread the message of liberty, there are millions of conservatives in this country who say they love capitalism, property rights, self-defense, and the Constitution. Their principles are nearly identical to ours, and just need to be taken to their rational conclusions. ... There is no pact to be made with those that shut down dialogue. There is no discussion to be had with those that have violent outbursts in the streets because a man who holds different opinions from them is speaking inside a college building..."

The second Liberty Hangout piece is more chilling: "The Radical Left Declares War on America. When Do We Start Taking it Seriously?"  I think it is correct, and the author is exactly right when he observes "[t]he police must be unleashed upon those who violate private property norms, and restrictions on self-defense must be prohibited."

What to do about all this?  Jack Kerwick of Townhall recommends that if one gets trapped and attacked by leftist rioters, the proper response is violent self defense.  I think there's good chance that violence will spread, not only on college campuses like NYU and Berkeley, but also worksites such as pipeline construction sites.  Americans should not tolerate this and should be ready for it.

But Unforeseen Contingencies suggests that Jeff Sessions be confirmed as Attorney General posthaste and immediately begin investigating and prosecuting perpetrators.  The investigations must go much deeper than the street thugs involved in the rioting, and cover those who organize and fund civil disturbances.  Yes, George, this means you!

I stand with Trump

"Full speed ahead, Mr. President!"

(Unforeseen Contingencies taunts the left...if only they knew!)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trump nominates Gorsuch

Note to GOP senators: go nuclear.

 Everything I have read about Neil Gorsuch leads me to believe he's a worthy choice for SCOTUS. The most cautionary piece (I exclude irrational ravings from the left) was by the president of Gun Owners of America Larry Pratt and attorney Walter Olson, and referred to a case that was somewhat ambiguous. There's no evidence in the decision that Gorsuch has doubts about our right to keep and bear arms.

Donald Trump has made good on yet another campaign promise, and picked for Supreme Court Justice a candidate who believes in individual liberty and the rule of law.  Thank heavens!  The Senate should approve him immediately.

The Democrats in the Senate have vowed to block any nominee that's not theirs.  In doing so, they've announced that they are in rebellion against America's system and the Constitution.  It's of the utmost importance that Mitch McConnell and the Republicans crush this rebellion.  If the Democrats block Gorsuch and attempt to filibuster, it's time to invoke the "nuclear option:" end the 60 vote rule and the filibuster.  The Democrats are trying to destroy Donald Trump's presidency, destroy the Constitutional system, and ultimately destroy republican democracy and the peaceful transition of power.  This is life and death, and it is time to (figuratively) destroy the Democrats.

I greatly enjoyed Mr. Trump's address tonight (this continues to be a shock to me; I find myself actually liking Trump and agreeing with him, on principle), and particularly enjoyed his emphasis that Judge Gorsuch was approved unanimously when nominated to the 10th Circuit Court.  (Thanks for that vote of approval, Sen. Schumer!)

It is high time we all admit that America is in the midst of an attempted coup, a Putsch, by the Democrats, the MSM, and the federal bureaucracy.  We in a kind of civil war.  May the Republican senators nuke them!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Trump's moratorium on immigration from terrorist hotspots -- GOOD!

The hysteria over President Trump's "ban" on immigration from seven countries associated with jihadist terrorism is contrived and a bit bizarre.  First, it's contrived.  The left and progressives were waiting for this.  The professional "demonstrators" were already in waiting for this. Given the craziness of the MSM theme "This Changes American History," I believe the articles were pre-written and cued up.

First, it's clear that Trump's action is nothing new at all.  For example, Jimmy Carter banned immigration from Iran and required Iranians in the United States on visas to report to the federal government.  Trump's action is not a ban on immigration, but a 90 day moratorium on immigration, during which actual vetting is to be put in place.  (Good luck with that.)

Second, checking would-be immigrants with worldviews (Islam) and from regions from which terrorist groups regularly recruit is very sensible.  Why did opposing this become a progressive cause?  ...or, good heavens, a "libertarian" one?  Supposedly, according to the left, these immigrants are escaping from areas held by Daesh and similar groups.  In what kind of insane, suicidal thinking does screening them to make certain they aren't jihadis become even a bit objectionable, never mind the hysterical comparisons to Nazism?

In fact, I think (as do others, it's hardly my original thesis) that the progressives are utterly unwilling to ever accept any presidential election unless they win, and are working to destabilize and overthrow Trump.  They have plenty of useful idiots who can be counted on to howl with outrage on demand at anything Trump does.  This is a good example.  Let's hope the progressive strategy fails miserably and they destroy themselves in the process.

Posted below is a snapshot of bizarre email I received from ACLU on 8 December of last year; I think it nicely illustrates my point.  The left has been preparing for this.  Also, "the truly terrifying prospect" of actually checking immigrants to see if they are sympathetic to or connected with Daesh and similar groups is not terrifying at all.  It's simply good sense.  What is truly terrifying is that ACLU and progressives in general want unrestricted immigration are quite willing to admit homicidal terrorists into the country.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Running in Michigan

Who could ever have predicted?! (Minimum wage in Seattle)

Sign at a Seattle coffee house, courtesy of one of my students:

Hahahahaha!  (Thanks, Katie!)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Trump's inaugural address -- brilliant, on target... and not populist

"Populism" is an empty term.

Trump's victory is widely declared to be a victory for "populism."  So is Brexit.  Trump's speech has been called "populist."  I reject this, and I think the analysis is based on deep conceptual confusion.  There was a Populist party and movement in the 1800's in America, with William Jennings Bryan as its head (or figurehead, perhaps).  Today's political phenomena are different.

Western countries tend to have a distinct political class that runs their respective countries and international organizations, largely for their own benefit.  Donald Trump's inaugural speech began by acknowledging this, and then continued to say his election was bringing it to an end, and that government would become a servant of the people.  This isn't populism.  Enlightenment political thought, e.g. John Locke's Two Treatises on Government, overturned the traditional relation between ruler and ruled -- that is, that the citizen is a subject, a servant of the ruler -- and replaced it with the radical idea that government exists only to benefit the people.  Or as Thomas Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence, 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Compare with this excerpt from Donald Trump's inauguration speech,

For too long, a small group in our nation's Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished -- but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered -- but the jobs left, and the factories closed.
The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.
That all changes -- starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.
It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country.
What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. 

Calling this "populism" is terrifically confused.  It simply is not "populism."  Today's federal government is run by the political class, for the benefit of the political class.    Government, as it's done today, is firstly a means of accumulating power and siphoning wealth from those who create it.  It certainly does not act as a servant to the typical citizen.

Here's a good example.  America's economic recovery, trumpeted by Obama as one of his achievements, is concentrated in a minority of American counties -- maybe ten percent, while the rest of the country has not recovered.  Of the six American counties with the highest average income, five are in the DC beltway.  Hence Trump's observation, "...a small group in our nation's Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished -- but the people did not share in its wealth."

The political class has thrived while much of the country has not.  Another indicator of this is the dreadful performance of America's government schools.  Despite having expenditures per pupil which are among the highest in the world, American students tend to be quite poorly educated by developed world standards.  Teacher's unions prosper, administrative positions multiply, political indoctrination on behalf of all this grows.  Hence "for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists... an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge..." 

There are other examples, but I've made my point.  There's nothing populist about this.  A largely parasitical political class has gamed the system for its own benefit.  The entire purpose of the system is to serve citizens' needs.  That's not populism.  It's a rejection of the divine right of kings, or other elites, to rule.  

Another charge directed at the speech is that it is "nativist."  This is even more ridiculous.  The President of the United States is empowered only to faithfully execute federal laws, command the military, negotiate treaties, and a few other things, all on behalf of the United States.  He's not empowered to represent Mexican immigrants, "Syrian" refugees, or anything else that isn't American.  When Trump said "The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans" he showed an entirely correct understanding of what he is undertaking.  He was similarly correct in saying "From this moment on, it's going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength."  

The only thing I contest is his economic analysis.  American does not lose from free trade; no country does.  OTOH, it is certainly true that Chinese industrial espionage and violation of intellectual property has harmed American firms, workers, and even consumers.  (I will provide details iff anyone asks; I am not a big fan of patent and copyright.  I am certainly an advocate of trademark.  And the Chinese, led by the national government, regularly violate all three.)  But the president's job is to be concerned with the well-being of America, not the rest of the world.  Trump's emphasis is correct, even if his economics is flawed.

Given the cabinet he is appointing, there's good reason to be hopeful about all this.  I am sure "we" at Unforeseen Contingencies will suffer disappointments during the Trump years, but things could be much, much worse, and things are surprisingly good.  I expect Trump to fight the political class (Go Trump!) and in the space created we defenders of liberty have the chance to take the offensive.

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