Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Donald Trump's Speech

This was the best speech I have heard from an American president at least since Ronald Reagan.

It was long, and I won't go into detailed analysis, but I agreed with most of what Trump said, and I was pleased by the tone.  I have been waiting for 26 years to hear a President speak who wasn't leftist,  mealy-mouthed, or just plain disingenuous.  I thought this was great stuff.

The few MSM commentators I've heard seemed disoriented.  I suppose they wanted to pick it apart and attack Trump as outrageous, but that's hard to do with this.  Commentators also focused on Mrs. Owens as the emotional highlight, and I suppose it was, but what really struck me emotionally was Trump's earlier emphasis on education.  America's government education is a catastrophe, and arguably the worst threat to or nation, because ignorant people who can neither think nor learn can't defend freedom, and will lose it.  Trump's call for freedom for people to choose among all kinds of education had me cheering.  Freedom!  That's exactly what people both need and deserve.  I cheered.
Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, Nancy Pelosi, and similar scoundrels seemed particularly incensed by this.  Freedom for citizens to choose their own way is so far from what they believe that they could only glare in hatred...which pretty much sums up the platform of the Democrat party these days, the party of hate.

I also appreciated the presence of the Jamiel Shaw, the gentleman whose son was murdered by illegal alien gang members.  I suppose in the next few days Alex Nowrasteh, the Bier brothers,  Ben Powell, Bryan Caplan, and Alex Tabarrok will try to explain why it's actually a good thing that Shaw's murderer, or the twice deported felon who murdered the husbands of Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver weren't prevented from entering the country.  But no sensible or decent person will buy such vicious madness.

And I especially loved it when Trump made this point: "My job is not to represent the world, it's to represent the United States of America."  Until recently, I can't imagine this would have made sense as a statement; it would have been as non-controversial as saying there are two sexes.  But in these Crazy Years its now dogma that sex and "gender" are fluid and infinite, and the idea that the President is supposed to be concerned with serving Americans, rather than foreigners or the "international community" is no doubt considered Nationalist, Fascist, Racist, and Authoritarian.  Well, that's ridiculous.

Trump's comments on international trade were interesting.  I am an advocate of free trade.  But I noticed what Trump explicitly condemned in trade is not trade itself, but other countries applying high tariffs in cases where we have none.  What he called for, I think, was pressure to make other countries drop their trade barriers.  Adam Smith himself suggested this, and the principle of WTO enforcement is built on such retaliatory tariffs.  If so, it's not an inherently objectionable idea.

There was much more, but in short, Trump laid out good principles and, by and large, a good agenda.  I hope he sticks to it, and I hope Congress gets to work.

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!)

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