How to Lose an Election with a Strong Governing Record.

Nothing they threw at Pres. Trump seemed to stick and then, they found pictures of crying toddlers. It did not take long before liberal liars affixed the pictures of children to pictures of Auschwitz. The reactions in the liberal media and through the liberal media have been vile and violent. The underlying idea seems to be that as long as you are defending children, you are allowed any ignominy. That would include wishing for the rape of a twelve-year old, as did the old actor Peter Fonda.


In any other country, I would say that the language I have been hearing is of the kind that fuels civil war. It’s amazing that the liberals did not think of it earlier, come to think of it! That one stuck: Separating children from their parents. This from people, many of whom (many, not all) agree that crushing a baby’s skull is OK as long as it’s done inside a woman’s body. This from people who have never given any thought to the fact that children get torn from their mothers every day when the mother is taken to jail. The inconsistencies, the filthy emotionalism don’t matter. I think those pictures are going to lose Republicans the November elections in spite of the tremendous successes of the Trump administration thus far.


It does not help us that the relevant regulatory situation is inherently complicated. Even the Wall Street Journal’s longish explanatory narrative made a big mistake yesterday (6/20/18). It stated that migrants with no proper papers who cross the border all get prosecuted. This is not true. Let me give a try to a simple but not simplistic summary.


Any alien who crosses the border outside of normal crossing points is committing a misdemeanor if it’s the first time he gets caught. The president has decided that all such misdemeanors would be prosecuted. That’s new. That’s a new policy in vigor since April. Before that, only aliens caught a second time (thus committing a felony) were deemed worthy of prosecution. The Trump administration appeared to have begun implementing the new policy without proper planning as to physical facilities and as to personnel such as immigration judges.


Prosecutions take time. But, current law forbids keeping children detained for more than so many days. If prosecution takes more time that the period allowed, the children are placed in centers run by the Health and Human Services Administration (HHS), not by ICE, not by the Border Patrol. This means that they are not technically incarcerated as their parents are. The fact is that they are separated from the latter. It appears (from sources I trust) that there is also a practice of children travelling with adults who not their parents. In case of doubt, it makes sense to separate them so as to avoid child abuse and child trafficking.


Aliens who cross the border at a normal reception point to request asylum do not (NOT) thereby violate American law. They are not charged with anything but their asylum request may take time to process in which case they may also end up separated from children. Of course, aliens requesting asylum are free at any time to change their mind and to turn back, with their children. Many who request asylum are denied. The old practice used to be to allow them in the country against a promise to come back for a hearing. (Few actually showed up, of course.) I don’t know what the current practice is.


As I write, about 2,200 children have been separated from their parents and from their alleged parents and are housed in HHS facilities. Many more are housed in such facilities who arrive in the US unaccompanied. Those are children who were sent alone by their parents. Keep in mind that some or many of those “children” are teenagers.


What’s really new (April/ May2018) is the tough-sounding “zero tolerance policy.” It consists only in prosecuting thousands accused of a mere misdemeanor. Few of those found guilty would be subjected to a severe penalty by any American court anyway. Somebody in the Trump administration should have thought through the practical consequences of such a policy and of the federal government’s lack of preparedness with respect to those consequences. Somebody in Trump’s entourage should have had the brains to foresee the tremendous public relations victory the new policy was going to offer the liberal side. Someone or some ones need to be fired and, the sooner, the better.


Today (4/21/18), Pres. Trump signed an executive order forbidding the separation of children from their parents. Even if the legalities can be fixed – which is not obvious – this is not going to solve the underlying problem of insufficient facilities and insufficient personnel. I think he will easily obtain an injunction from a judge. But then, getting Congress to agree that children can be incarcerated (with their parents ) is not going to go smoothly. Some will sense, rightly in my opinion that this will give the left another public relations victory: “Trump administration puts thousands of children in jail!”


President Trump really has only three options: He can continue the present policy, assuming that the political damage is done of small children ( possibly staged, why not?) behind bars; he can give up and end the zero tolerance policy, which means stopping prosecuting the misdemeanor of crossing the border illegally and getting caught one time; or, thirdly, he can close the border altogether. The last is far fetched but, worth trying, I think. Allow only those with an American passport or a diplomatic passport to come through, plus those with a green card (permanent legal residents of the US). This will create economic havoc and soften the opposition and get the Mexican government interested in helping.

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Israelis Kill Unarmed Palestinians in Gaza

The Israeli Defense Force is killing unarmed demonstrators in Gaza. The Defense Force is on one side of the fence, the demonstrators on the other. What happened is that the ruling political party in Gaza, Hamas, sent the demonstrators to try and breach the fence separating Gaza from Israel. The declared purpose was to have Gaza Palestinians exercise their “right of return.” Hamas means the “right” of Palestinians to return where their forebears used to live, or maybe not, or nearby, etc, right inside present-day Israel. Of course, if Israel allowed this, Israelis might just as well start packing. It would be the end of the Jewish state that already has about 1.85 million Muslim and Christian Arab citizens. Both Palestinians and Israeli Arabs reproduce faster than Israeli Jews, by the way. (It’s the Jews’ fault, of course; they should get busy.) Hamas generously would allow Jews of Middle Eastern origin to remain as second-class, tribute -paying dhimmis. All the others, the majority, would have to leave quickly. Ethnic cleansing it the best scenario if Hamas wins, according to Hamas. The worst? Hamas does not say.

The mid-May 2018 demonstration was presented as a way to commemorate what Palestinians call “the disaster “– meaning the creation of Israel and the wholesale defeat the Arabs suffered in the war they had started against the new state. Initially, it had nothing to do with the inauguration of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem. It was mostly the Amerileft media that created a link with such devices as showing the inauguration in Jerusalem on a split screen with the rioting in Gaza. Many Americans, some of whom can’t place the US on a world map, would have believed that Palestinians were dying while the Americans and Israelis were gaily drinking champagne right next door.

The Israelis had warned early on that they would shoot demonstrators who tried to breach the fence separating Israel from Gaza. They did, killing about 70 Palestinians. That’s harsh but no one can call it unfair: They said it clearly: If you touch our fence, we will kill you. Don’t touch the fence, I would say. Little detour: the magazine Commentary pointed out that the Gaza authorities claim that 1600 Gazans were wounded by real bullets. What’s wrong here is the ratio of wounded to killed, 1600/70. It should be something like 1600/500 . It does not add up or else, the Israelis snipers are real bad at their job. Go figure!

Hamas thinks it’s winning because of the large number of unarmed demonstrators, its youths, wounded and killed. It’s been acting like this forever. Just a week ago, Gazans (who may have been Hamas agents or not) deliberately destroyed the valve to the main pipeline supplying Gaza with diesel fuel. The more misery ordinary residents of Gaza suffer, the happier the Hamas government is because Israeli atrocities gives it standing among the ill-informed and mindless everywhere. I am tempted to feel sorry for Gazans myself because of the terrible government they live under. I can’t quite do this; below is why.

Hamas was elected in proper well observed elections. Although the Hamas government is well overdue for a new election, I would argue that the initial election makes Hamas one of the most legitimate governments in the Middle East. Hamas is explicitly an Islamist party. It does not think well of freedom of religion. It wants to impose sharia but does not feel strong enough yet. Hamas is in favor of polygamy. Young Gaza Palestinians are dying because of actions encouraged by their government, the Hamas government. Their parents properly elected that government. There has been no rebellion against it. The mass of the population seems loyal.

Hamas is insuring an aggravation of a situation in Gaza that is pretty much intolerable already. Israel left Gaza unilaterally 15 years ago but it maintains a partial blockade of the territory. It provides fuel and electricity and most of the water available, on its terms. It allows certain merchandise in but not others. Cement is limited, for example, I read in a source I can’t quote now but that I found credible at the time that Israeli Customs allow in milk and sugar but not instant coffee – which makes life more enjoyable. There is almost no work in Gaza, except working for the Hamas government. Nevertheless, no one there is starving because the territory is largely on welfare. Gaza has one of the highest educational achievement scores in the world although there is malnutrition there.

Gaza is a welfare non-state. It has no industry and very little else by way of earning its living. (That’s in part because of Israeli control over its borders, of course.) It’s an economic ward of the UN and secondarily of the European Union and of the USA. American Jews are thus among those supporting through their taxes riots where the main demand is “Death to the Jews!” The Leftmedia does not seem to be willing to mention, or it actually does not know, that the Israeli blockade of Gaza would be ineffective, almost useless, if Egypt did not join in. Yes, Egypt is also impeding the movement of goods, funds, and especially of people between itself and Gaza. And the PLO, which rules the West Bank, the other part of Palestine, has its own punitive measures against Gaza. Hamas is everyone’s favorite!

Update: The Egyptian government declared today (5/19/19) that it was opening a crossing between Gaza and Egypt for a month in honor of the sacred month of Ramadan. Or maybe, it’s emphasizing its benevolence in contrast with Israeli harshness, I don’t know. I don’t.

If you too feel revolted by the Israeli killings of Gaza demonstrators, and if you don’t think that righteous indignation is its own reward, I invite you to take two minutes to answer the following simple and sensible question:

Suppose you have a chance to advise the Israeli Prime Minister; suppose further that you have reason to believe that he will pay attention to you; what’s your advice to him regarding the present situation in Gaza (mid-May 2018)?

You can be sure that I have answered the question myself.

PS I am not Jewish, never have been, never will be. I am not a fundamentalist Christian either.

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A Confession: I Voted for Trump

A younger friend of mine, an immigrant like me, keeps having trouble understanding why I voted for Pres. Trump, toward whom she drips with hatred. She produces so much hatred of the president you might think she knows him personally. He might even be an ex-husband of hers. This is a little hard for me to understand. Here is my honest reconstruction of how I came to vote for Donald Trump in 2016. May it be useful to her and, if not, to others.

During the 2016 campaign, I was mostly sad and resigned. It looked like the Dems had the wind in their sails. The Rep contest between 16 viable candidates had ended in the victory of the least viable of them, Donald Trump. For the record, my candidate was Marco Rubio, who dropped off early.

Donald Trump was loud and ignorant, and loudly ignorant. His statements about international trade were those of a lazy undergraduate who has barely skimmed the relevant chapter, and got it all wrong. His project for a southern wall struck me as the wrong solution to the wrong problem at the wrong time. Illegal immigration through the Mexican border has been dropping for years. A good wall might even end up trapping more illegal Mexicans wanting to go home than keep illegals out. Besides, no wall would stop visitors from entering legally and then overstaying their visa. Finally, I don’t even think illegal immigration is a pressing problem although it must be stopped for reasons of sovereignty. Mr Trump wanted less immigration of all kinds; I think this country needs more immigration but better regulated.

There is no doubt, (there was none then) that Mr Trump has impossibly bad manners (although that makes part of me smile). I think he has a personality disorder (as I have) which causes him to speak out of turn, to think only after he opens his mouth, and to open his mouth even when his brain tells him he shouldn’t. He gives the cultural elite heartburn. I am not sure how I feel about this though because I know the cultural elite well since I spent thirty years in academia. They are mostly a bunch of half-literate pretenders who  richly deserve the occasional heartburn.

At any rate, it wasn’t obvious I would vote for Mr Trump; I kept looking over the fence. I did this in spite of the fact that the Dems keep enlarging government against civil society, the reverse of what I want to see. I did it in spite of the Democratic Party’s promotion of identity politics which are bad for America, I believe, and bad even for the Democratic Party. (As I write, even African Americans are deserting the party.)

There, on the Dem side, for a while, it looked like Sen. Sanders had a fighting chance. I don’t like socialism – whatever that means – but here was an honest man with a clear record. Sanders is my age. I feel as if we had gone to college together. He has not changed since 1968. Everything about him feels familiar, even his college president wife with the short hair. I thought that if elected, he would only attempt modest reforms that would easily be frozen out by a Republican Congress. The result would be a kind of federal immobility, not the worst scenario, in my book. If Mr Sanders had become the Dem candidate, I would at least have had a serious talk with myself about voting for him. That’s at least.

Mr Sanders was eliminated from the Dem race in a way that revived all my aversion for the Democratic Party as an organization. The thoroughly dishonest manner of his removal would have been enough to ensure that I would not vote for the actual Dem candidate, pretty much whoever that candidate was. The fact that Sanders protested but feebly the gross cheating against him makes cold sweat run down my back because of what it implies about the Dem culture.

The actual candidate was not just anyone (“whoever”). Mrs Clinton was a caricature of the bad candidate. She was a feminist previously elected on her husband’s coattails, and a career politician with no political achievements of her own. Her main contribution as Secretary of State was to get the US militarily involved in the events in Libya. (I was in favor of such involvement myself at the beginning, I must confess.) She ran for president with no economic program – which normally implies the continuation of the predecessor’s program. But Mr Obama’s economics were very bad; what was not bad could be credited to the independent Fed. I did not want more of this. Then, there was the personal issue. It’s a little difficult to explain but I developed the idea in my mind that even her supporters did not like her. So, how could I?

Mrs Clinton’s campaign was naturally an embodiment of the Dem Party’s silly identity politics which I think are bad for American democracy in ways I wont develop here: Vote for me – she said- because I am a woman. So, what? So are 52% of the adult American population; many of those are brilliant. Mrs Clinton is not brilliant, not even close. By contrast, take Prof. Condoleeza Rice, the former Secretary of State, for example. (Plus, she is black; you get a two for one; plus, she is probably a closeted lesbian too, that‘s a three for one!)

Donald Trump throughout his campaign was attacked for being a racist. I saw and heard many imprudent statements, some rude statements, and many goofy declarations but I did not notice racist statements. That’s if “racist” means attributing to a whole class of people negative moral qualities or objectionable behaviors based solely on their race (whatever race is, another story). My common sense also says you can’t live as a prominent New Yorker in various guises for a whole adult lifetime and not be called out for racism if you act like a racist. It’s jut a little late to do it when the man is seventy. It’s ridiculous, in fact. Or, perhaps, I have just stop paying attention to charges of racism coming from the left. Leftists intemperate verbal habits may have trivialized racism the way they trivialized so many serious social problems, including sexual violence.

There was no doubt in my mind though that Donald Trump would be dangerous as president because he is unpredictable, does not readily listen to advice, and does not understand well how our institutions work. So, I was never enthusiastic about voting for him. I even took a detour through the Libertarian campaign. It was based on the assumption that any Dem, including Clinton, would carry California, where I vote, and that I could therefore afford the luxury of a symbolic ballot. However, after a short time, I became convinced that the Libertarian candidate was not even libertarian. So, end of story here.

During the period preceding the campaign, when Clinton was Secretary of State, and during the campaign itself, I paid increasing attention to the goings-on around the Clinton Foundation, including the pattern of donations. I came out convinced that Mrs Clinton’s eagerness to sell the Republic and her disregard for the law (30,000-plus lost emails) made her a political gangster of the same ilk and magnitude as Vladimir Putin.

So, you might say that I voted for Donald Trump because I thought he was unpredictable. Clinton, by contrast, was horribly predictable. It’s fair to add that I did not think my vote would carry the day. Like just about everyone else, I thought my side had lost until about 7 pm, Pacific Time on election day.

One year and a half later, I feel no buyer’s remorse; instead, I am pleasantly surprised. Pres. Trump has not really done any of the things I feared – such as dismantle the modern world system of fairly free world trade; he has not built a wall. When he does, I think it will be a small elegant one with viewing balconies over Mexico. Mexican tourists will gladly pay for the privilege of going up its exterior elevator. There will be a lounge and bar with overpriced drinks on the last floor.

Pres. Trump has done a couple of the things I wanted him to do, beginning with the appointment of a conservative Supreme Court Justice. He also instigated and carried out a major tax reform which will fuel good economic growth for years to come. (I am dissatisfied with the current rate. I think anything under 3.5% is not good enough. But, it’s a start.) The tax cut may even make up  for the disastrous spending bill which he signed reluctantly but did sign.

Pres. Trump has also done the deliciously unexpected. I am not holding my breath (writing on 5/8/18 ) but I am amazed and delighted he has gone so far on the road to the denuclearization of North Korea. The fact that the thaw is largely a product of his bullying the North Korean bully makes this even sweeter.

After more than a year of unlimited investigation with limitless resources, the only Russian collusion in sight is that of the Clinton campaign buying from a shady international operative grotesque stories about Trump in Russia. The only shadow on this bright picture is that I am not completely sure that Mr Trump did not have sex with a porn queen several years before running for office. The horror!

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From Petty Crime to Terrorism

I grew up in France. I know the French language inside out. I follow the French media. In that country, France, people with a Muslim first name are 5% or maybe, 7% of the population. No one estimates that they are close to 10%. I use this name designation because French government agencies are forbidden to cooperate in the collection of religious (or ethic, or racial) data. Moreover, I don’t want to be in the theological business of deciding who is a “real Muslim.” Yet, common sense leads me to suspect that French people who are born Muslims are mostly religiously indifferent or lukewarm, like their nominally Christian neighbors. I am not so sure though about recent immigrants from rural areas bathed in a jihadist atmosphere, as occur in Algeria, and in Morocco, for example.

In spite of their small numbers, people with Muslim names commit 100% of massacres of strangers in France. (A country with strict gun laws, incidentally.) This does not prove anything but it certainly calls attention. I am trying to make sense of this while remaining fair.

People with Muslims names (henceforth, “Muslims”) are found in all corners and at all rungs of French society. They are in business, in government, in the hospitals, and in showbiz. Many serve in the armed forces. (The first French soldier who died in the NATO expedition in Bosnia was named, “El Hadji.”) Many are in the police, a traditional ladder of social mobility that my own father climbed seventy years ago. (The cop the terrorists murdered outside Charlie Hebdo had a Muslim name.)

A disproportionate number of Muslims who live in France are recent immigrants, or the children of recent immigrants. Most of those come from underdeveloped areas in north Africa and in sub-Saharan west Africa. Their recent immigration would place them near the bottom of the French economic pyramid. Their rural origins would pretty much guarantee that the quality of their French is poor, a serious impediment to gainful employment. They would be among the most disadvantaged in a society with a chronic 10% unemployment rate.

So, it makes sense, it’s expected, that Muslims would be over-represented among criminals, especially among work-alone, unorganized, opportunistic petty criminals. There is easy money to be made in small-time drug trafficking in France as in any western country. If you are young and fairly enterprising and you can’t find a job, small-time drug selling is a natural vocation. I note in passing that it’s a sin in Islam to use drugs, but perhaps, not much of a sin; I am not sure.

The job almost requires ownership of a gun to fend off rivals and to defend against bold customers. But, one thing leads to another and, on a hard day, the gun may be put to work to rob a passerby, especially one who is an easy target. This seems to be a common pattern. There is a remarkable little book of memoirs by an Algerian who tried for years to live in France illegally and entirely by his wits. (Chetouane, Jaffar. 2011. Donkey Heart, Monkey Mind). He says that he avoided any area with many north African looking men because the petty crime niche there was probably already taken.

So, in this explanation, Muslims are not criminal because they are Muslims but the poor, in general, supply the ranks of petty criminals and many Muslims living in France are poor. This does not, of course, explain the jump to terrorism, the mass murder of civilians, of perfect strangers, that is, in France, the exclusive province of Muslims. This overlap in categories between poor and Muslim also does not explain the rage to commit suicide by cop. Almost all people with a Muslim names die in the act of massacre or shortly afterwards. (That’s true although the perpetrators of the Bataclan nightclub massacre famously escaped, at first.)

This strong pattern of bursting out of obscurity – so to speak – is surprising. Rational criminals live in the shadows; they don’t draw attention to themselves; they develop habits of discretion; and a life of committing petty crimes assigned low police priority approximates rationality. When petty criminals turn into active terrorists, it’s as if a switch had been turned on suddenly. I look for causes in the lives the terrorists lead before they turn to terrorism.

Being a small time drug dealer is very stressful. You have a to worry about customers stealing the merchandise, safe in the knowledge that you won’t go to the police. Rivals for your sales location will assault you routinely or turn you in, or both, to supplant you. Your own suppliers will turn on you brutally if you are even slightly late in your payments. Other petty criminals know that you must carry at least some cash, making you an attractive target. Ironically, the drug addicts among them, the desperate drug addicts present a special danger to your safety.

As with all high-stress occupation, you would expect small dealers frequently to blow a fuse -which looks a lot like turning on a switch but in reverse. Here, I expect bifurcations. People react to overwhelming stress in a variety of ways that are partly culturally predetermined. In general, we don’t know how, in what manner most dealers react to losing control, to blowing a fuse. Mostly, it’s probably in individual private acts, including retiring from the business, running away to places where one is not known, even allowing oneself to be caught and sentenced to jail for a rest. Most responses to the extreme stress of the occupation probably don’t conform to any particular pattern, they are enacted privately, they probably do not attract much attention; we know little about them.

Now, for a minority of drug dealers, a minority of a minority, it turns out that there exists a way out with multiple benefits. Islam is not very explicit about how to gain one’s seat in Paradise although, paradoxically, it describes wonderfully its irresistible attractions. The good Muslim, the observant Muslims knows well what his moral obligations are and the spirit in which they must be enacted. He is assured repeatedly that God is merciful. It seems to me – and I am attentive but not an expert- that it’s not clear how merciful the Merciful actually is. The genuinely good Muslim never knows thus how close he is to the head of the heavenly line. There is one, and only one licit shortcut though. To die a martyr is to see the Gates open wide to let you in. That much is unambiguous.

Mohamed, the law giver and the prophet was also a very successful war leader. Here is a painful story about him. You decide whether it’s relevant to my query.

Mohamed and his followers, the first Muslims, were chased from his native Mecca. They fled to the town of Medina which they gradually took over, by various means including expelling into the desert two of the resident tribes. The Muslims had to complete their domination of Medina while fighting off the Meccans. After a famous victory against the Meccans right outside Medina, the Battle of the Trench, the Prophet used the battle readiness of his army to attack the last powerful tribe of Medina. Once they had surrendered, he executed all the men by decapitation. The women and children just became war booty.

This story is told in one of the hadith (the Acts of the Prophet) narrated by Aicha, 4-52-208.

Two questions present themselves. First, do ordinary Muslims recognize this story of cruelty as true? Second how likely is a rank-and-file Muslim of little formal education to be familiar with the story?

The answers to these questions matter. They have to do with the probability that some Muslims find in the history of their faith themes of violence absent, or less prominent, in other religious traditions. If the story is true and many Muslims know it, it would help explain why among petty criminals who blow a fuse, a small number of Muslims deal with it by turning spectacularly to terrorism. It’s permitted; it’s more than permitted since the Prophet did it; and it may be a shortcut to Heaven. (“May” be because waging war on women and children is supposed to be forbidden.)

Don’t misunderstand me. There is plenty of violence historically associated with Christianity, to be sure, included and not limited to the Wars of Religion, and the Crusades, of course. The First Crusade slaughtered the whole population of Jerusalem. In the Fourth Crusade, the western Christians murdered much of the population of Constantinople, their eastern Christian brethren and their allies. My point is that none of those violent episodes had religious sanction. None was ever cited approvingly afterwards. One French chronicler even notes that the Crusaders went to confession after the Jerusalem bloodbath to gain forgiveness for that sin, specifically.

The Old Testament, supposedly common to Jews and Christians, is fairly rife with massacres, especially within the context of ethnic cleansing. I may be naive but I doubt that this aspect of the Old Testament has much traction on Christians. I suspect that few Christians know anything of the Old Testament beyond Genesis and the Book of Moses. (I may just be here parading my Catholic parochialism. There may be breeds of Protestants who live by it.) I don’t know about the Old Testament’s continued influence on the Jews. As far as I can tell exemplary violence occurs neither in Buddhism, nor in Hinduism. Although the later depicts plenty of legendary battles, those are treated abstractly, in an almost choreographed manner that does not lend itself to be taken as exemplary

Let me recapitulate here. In France only members of the Muslim minority broadly defined engage in acts of terrorism. Many French terrorists have a background in petty crime. Individuals at the bottom rungs of society are more likely to become petty criminals than others. Muslims are over-represented at the lower rungs of French society. A life of petty crime is stressful. Breaking down under the stress leads to a variety of outcomes, most of them unknown. Some Muslim petty criminals, a minority of a minority, find in their religion an ethical justification of sorts as well as practical inspiration to transform themselves into terrorists.

Here is another story I think relevant. Please, don’t look too hard for consistency. I am just trying to piece together disparate elements, here.

About five years ago, I watched a longish interview on French television. It was of a man who had been a ISIS hostage for nine months. (He had no doubt been bought back by the French government although the latter denied it, of course.) He was a journalist and evidently a man of culture. Before being kidnapped by ISIS, he had lived in the Middle East for ten years, as a correspondent for major newspapers. He said he knew Arabic. I can’t tell you how or why but I thought he was not one of the many people who claim knowledge of a language because they can ask for directions to the restroom. Please, trust me on this, his Arabic was probably good I am guessing although I on’t know Arabic.

Anyway, the man was generally credible, I thought. Amid concrete descriptions of his sufferings as a guest of the violent jihadists, he made a startling statement. He declared that -contrary to the custom in all Muslim countries – you never heard invocations to God, formal or otherwise among caliphate soldiers. The fairly mechanical “Inch’Allah” pronounced several times a day by pious, and even by not so pious Muslims, in particular, were lacking, he asserted. He also described vividly the caliphate soldiers’ lively interested in spoils whenever spoils were to be had. That man, who had a professional interest in being a good observer, did not think the violent jihadists who had taken him were pious Muslims. He evidently thought of them as mostly hoodlums.

I don’t know where we go from there. I am sure though that we cannot either think that Muslims are terrorists or that there is no earthly connection between current terrorism and Islam. I mean Islam the real thing, the practice. We shouldn’t have to be theologians to learn to protect ourselves. (“Ourselves” includes Muslims, of course; world-wide, violent jihadists massacre mostly Muslims.)

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I am largely absent from this blog because I have been busy writing a big essay on immigration, legal immigration into the US. I will keep you informed. I will be back soon.

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West Coast Hillbillies

    Also posted on Notes on Liberty

A long time ago, after moving from San Francisco, I bought a beautiful Labrador puppy from a woman named Brigid Blodgett, in the hills above Santa Cruz California. (I think she won’t mind the free advertising in the unlikely case that she reads Notes on Liberty or my blog.) Her house was an older conventional California so-called “ranch house,” with low roofs and a sprawling house plan. The pup she had in mind for me was playing with his ten siblings in a concrete backyard when I arrived. There was one new litter, lying with Mom on some rags in the living room, and another in the kitchen, that I could see and smell. The lady, the breeder, told me there was yet another litter in the garage.

To get my new dog, I had not gone to just anybody since most dogs last longer than most cars. I had gathered recommendations in Santa Cruz (pop. 60,000) and its suburbs. Brigid Blodgett’s name kept coming up. Other things being more or less equal, (“et cetibus….” as they say in Latin) I believe in the predictive power of redundancy. I purchased the pup, “Max” (for the German sociologist Max Weber. My previous dog was “Lenin,” another story, obviously). He was a wonderful animal, big, sturdy, healthy, smart, and with a physique that turned heads. I never saw Ms Blodgett a gain. She asked me once by phone to enter Max in a show but I thought it would inflate his ego and I declined. Her name came up a couple of times when perfect strangers stopped me to ask if Max was one of “Brigid’s dogs.”

The meeting with Ms Blodgett marked the first time I became aware of a minority living close by and in our midst, an invisible minority for most of us in Central California. They live mostly in the chain of hills that separates Silicon Valley from the coastal strip where Santa Cruz and Monterey are located. They are white, they speak English, they speak it without an accent; they dress normally; they attend rock concerts. They all have English names, like Ms Blodgett, or sometimes, Scottish names. They are all Protestants, mainly of the non-practicing denomination. Their children go to public school, K-12 and they are usually well behaved. If you pay a lot of attention though (retrospective attention, in my case) you might notice that the kids don’t sweat their grades all that much.

The giveaway is vacation plans. When normal white Anglos from Santa Cruz and Monterey, and from Silicon Valley, go to Italy, or to England, or even to Hawaii; those other people “fly back” to Oklahoma to see their relatives. They are the great-grandchildren of the Joads in John Steinbeck’s superbly crafted Communist propaganda The Grapes of Wrath. They are the transplanted hillbillies. They even call themselves hillbillies sometimes. Others who are annoyed at one of them for any variety of reasons call them “Oakies” under their breath, just like in Steinbeck. Incidentally, many claim American Indian ancestry. It turns out that – unlike say, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s trying to gain advantage in academia via affirmative action – those claims might be legitimate. Those people often do come from Oklahoma which, for a period in the 19th century, was officially called “Indian Territory.” During that period, Indians had easier access to land than whites which, in the great American land hunger, was a good reason to tie the knot.

The Central California hillbillies make their living in a variety of unskilled and semi-skilled occupations. In the old days, a job changing oil in a car repair shop would allow some to pick up some mechanical knowledge and, from there to work their way up to well-paid positions as car mechanics. It seems to me that road is closing fast because of young second generation Mexicans with a more a conventional work ethic. I don’t know as much about the women although it’s obvious (in a manner I may not be able to describe) that many work as restaurant waitresses and as receptionists in doctors’ offices. Many of the men and some of the women have served in the military. They don’t seem to mind working as law enforcement officers but they meet with an obstacle on that path that is closely associated with their defining feature (described below). For a few, a police career leads to political office.

The hillbillies’ defining characteristic is very hard to notice because it’s not something but the lack of something. It took me a long time to see this clearly: They never complete a four-year college degree. There was one guy I was able to observe reasonably closely for twenty years because of our children. He worked in law enforcement. He was good at it because, at first, he seemed to progress rapidly. His intelligence was obviously above average. The strange thing about that cop is that he was always taking some course or other at the community college, studying one damned thing after another. He dawned on me after several years (I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, I admit) that the man must have accumulated many more units than a college degree at a regular university would require. I realized that he was deliberately avoiding the college degree that would have helped him significantly in his career. We were not personally close enough for me to make inquiries. His own children also did not go to college. Once I was thinking clearly about that particular man I began seeing a pattern, men like him all around me, people who could have easily achieved the modest scholarly standards honored by my own students for example.

Here you have it, an ethnic marker. Resisting with great energy something that everyone else is doing or trying to do, or claiming to want to do, is enough to keep you apart. It’s like the Jews’ avoidance of pork: It does not stop you from functioning but it puts a damper on assimilation. Or it did for the centuries when Europeans ate nearly only pig meat or no meat at all: Can’t have Sam for diner, we’re having pig knuckles tonight.

To have a conventional ethnic group, you only need to add to a systematic obstacle to assimilation the fairly faithful practice of endogamy, the practice of marrying within the group. The two facts are not completely independent of each other in this case. Those who have gone to college, are going to college, or see themselves as college bound, don’t readily marry those who do and are none of the above. I think hillbillies only marry, and divorce, and marry, and divorce one another, with one puzzling exception. Hillbillies with straightforward English names fairly often link up with people who have Portuguese last names and who are Catholic. The latter are descendants of a small but continuing immigration from the Azores. My first guess about the puzzle is this: If I looked into it, I would find that this of breed of Luso-Americans don’t go to college either. Just guessing, really.

I suppose, it’s high time that I, an immigrant, describe my credentials to discourse at all about the white people who have stayed on the boundaries of American society for three hundred years straight. For thirty years, my own life intersected with theirs in two places. First, I fish in the ocean and I have a boat in the harbor to serve this purpose. Although I was a college professor for thirty years, I clean fish with my own hands. This is enough to open some doors. Boat owners, don’t just go to harbor, go out to fish, return to harbor, and then go home. They fuss about their boat, they hang out; when you hang out in the harbor, people talk a little about themselves. They will open a window on their lives. Hillbillies don’t swim, don’t go to the beach, but they fish, including in the ocean.

Here is the second hillbilly intersection with my life. Over time, I purchased two houses in Santa Cruz County, both on the needy side (the houses, I mean). If you live away from California, or overseas, you should know that most Californians live in individual houses and that those houses are mostly made of wood. Now, there is nothing wrong with wood as a building material, it’s cheap, it’s forgiving, and it’s easy to fix. Yet many things go a little wrong over time with wooden houses, and even when nothing goes wrong, they must be painted every five years or so.

My second house was/is a lovely Victorian. It was built in 1906. Now, as I said, it’s lovely but there is no miracle. Almost everything goes wrong in a hundred years in a house built of wood in a maritime climate, in an area subject to earthquakes. Some of it goes wrong while you own the place and you have to fix it. Ten years ago, my water evacuation plumbing begun acting disastrously. After a little expensive digging, it was determined that the used water main leading from my house into the town sewer was made of baked clay and that it was broken. It dated back to the 1880s, according to municipal maps.

Some of the things that don’t go wrong with older houses you don’t want to live with anyway, the original heating system for example. So, you will need carpenters, electricians, plumbers, appliance installers, etc. plus painters and more. Moreover, tree branches will fall on your house in big storms and they will have to be removed. And then, things you don’t want anymore somehow accumulate and must be taken to the dump periodically. (I know, no need to tell me, I am a married man; I could do all of this myself, and I do some actually.) I have described a myriad of jobs that can be done by any healthy, reasonably intelligent person. The hillbillies often have multiple skills gleaned from doing repairs on their and on their own parents’ house. Some gained more in the military. I have hired people to do that kind of work multiple times.

Over the past thirty years though, I have seen Mexican immigrants compete more and more successfully with hillbillies, in informal carpentry, in house painting, in plumbing, in electrical and appliance repairs, even in floor installation. The locals hold fast in two areas of work: trash hauling and tree trimming. I suspect there is a good reason for this. Both supply very irregular work, you might says work that you have to look for. I think both activities are like second jobs to a person with a regular 9 to 5, or 10 to 3. Fortunately, my friends now have a main economic activity, one that puts food on the table in large amounts. I need to make a detour to persuade you of what that new occupation might be.

In the nineties, after a bad storm, I called around to find someone to finally set straight a tree problem that had been plaguing my property. The big local companies that advertised on radio were all busy. Their bids were so high anyway that accepting them would have forced me to teach at least one quarter of summer school. Somehow, I whined to my car mechanic who offered to send me somebody he knew. Sure enough, the next morning around 11 – and the time may matter – these two guys in their forties showed up in an old truck. We discussed what had to be done, trimming off some big branches, and hauling them away. They offered to do the job for a price I could live with.

One of them put on the clamps; the other guy was going to be his ground crew, sharpening the power-saw and handing it in a safe way, bringing down the cut limbs with a rope, and so forth. While I was talking to this second guy, a big beautiful pit-bull emerged from some blankets in the cab. I don’t like the breed much because they are like a loaded gun but that dog was a beaut.

I complimented the man and asked him if I could go in the house to get the dog a treat, a piece of sausage. He had this astounding response: Don’t bother, he said, he won’t take anything from you. I have trained him to be a vegetarian. A vegetarian pit-bull! Isn’t it going a little far by way of political correctness, I first thought to myself? At the time, I was pretty much surrounded by prissy middle-class vegetarians in progressive, virtue-aggressive Santa Cruz. On second thought however I realized there was not political correctness involved, not with those guys. You think about it: Why would anyone own a formidable looking, potentially dangerous guard dog that is also a vegetarian? What’s the only likely reason? So, in any case, the hillbillies always rented and bought property in the hills because, at any level of forever soaring California real estate prices, it was less expensive than either Silicon Valley or areas near the ocean.

Society having evolved as it has, now, they are finding themselves in a good situation to resume the scratchy agricultural lives of their near ancestors. Even the couple of miles from the sea insure a warmer climate than you find on the coast; many have a little bit more land that needed for a house. The population density is low. You don’t have to meet your neighbors, or strangers, unless you want to. There are few eyes in the hills. It’s easy to turn a large vegetable garden into a small plantation of anything. You just need a good dog to keep the deer away. If the animal is vegetarian, so much the better; he will also be pretty much incorruptible and he will keep away most trespassers including midnight harvesters.

Things look good again, mighty good, for the hillbilly hidden minority.

© Jacques Delacroix 2018

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Blaming the Victim

A White House secretary whose name no one knew a week ago resigns. He is accused of wife beating. It’s Pres. Trump’s fault, of course. The accusers are two ex-wives. That’s a first, I guess, I mean this joint effort. One of the two immediately loses her credibility with me because she accuses the man, Porter, of “emotional” abuse. Sorry, that ‘s what you say when you have nothing else, when you have nothing, in fact.

What did he do? Tell that ex-wife that this pair of jeans made her look fat? Besides, all the women I know except one routinely practice emotional abuse, often, multi-directional emotional abuse. (No, the exception is not my wife!) They are emotionally abusive toward one another first, toward their children, often. Of course, they emotionally abuse the men in their lives, to get them to comply, or for the fun of it.

What does an accusation of abuse directed by a woman at a man, specifically, imply? I think it’s that women are un-adults who need protection, that they are not capable of agency. That’s both troubling and confusing for those of us who have been paying attention to the feminist message of female equality. OK, it’s not confusing to me. I always thought women were equal (Read my book of memoirs of growing up: I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography – Excerpts on this blog – It’s available on Amazon.) And, I discounted feminist propaganda from the beginning. I have a fine ear for ungrounded ideology because I grew up around French leftists.

I am not sure why physical abuse of a spouse is a public matter the way this kind of story has routinely become. Brutality against a spouse is either a conjugal matter and it’s none of my business, or it’s a legal matter. In that case, it should be dealt with in the context of strict judicial rules that are the product of centuries of experience. It should be dealt with far from the tumult of popular prejudice and fads. Note that whether a conjugal issue becomes a legal issue is almost entirely in the hands of  the injured party. That’s different from zero protection for women. This is no a sharia country. (I know, I know, sharia gives women some protection, not much. Tell us, please.)

It turns out, the secretary who resigned was (is) currently in a relationship with the second most glamorous woman in the White House.(The first is the First Lady, of course.) That woman is also quite beautiful according to my well-exercised eye. She must not be a dummy to have been appointed Director of Communication, a sensitive, important post. Porter, the man who resigned, has been married at least twice. Washington DC being the incestuous swamp that it is, there must have been rumors about his personality.

Didn’t stop the glamorous lady. Have we seen this movie before? The alleged wife-beater has enough charisma with women that one with many choices chooses him over all others. Intellectually honest women will ask themselves in the secret of their hearts why and how this could happen. I don’t expect a public report because the New Puritanism does not permit the exploration of many interesting matters, including the sexuality of women. Younger people who read me – almost all of you – take my word for it or do your own research: There was more freedom of thought and more freedom of speech in 1978 a than there is is 2018.

What happened?

Under the current avalanche of accusations against men, some too exotic for me to really believe, there lies the blanket assumption that one should never, never blame the victim. Incidentally, the accusations I have trouble dealing with concern the legion of men who supposedly exposed themselves. I thought that was a far-outlayer specialty, not an ordinary practice. I am as much of the pervert as the next guy, I hope a little more, or I used to be, but it never crossed my mind to do this. (Except for a laugh, at a well-attended party,  in a fully lit room ,of course, perhaps, on the occasion of a context with an all-female jury.) Never blame the victim. Why never?

My neighbor is one of Mrs Clinton’s “deplorables.” He spends the weekends in his undershirt, drinking beer from a can and playing with his several guns. One Sunday morning, he is cleaning his high-power rifle. While holding the stock with his bare foot, he opens the breach and looks down into the barrel to make sure there is not bullet inside. The stock slips, his big toe catches the trigger and he blows his head up. (Yes, there was a round in the barre; it was loaded for bear) Who to blame, deuh?

One night after dark, I am driving home peacefully, below the speed limit. I am not especially tired and I am wearing my glasses. I am travelling the steep downward slope close to my house where there is no street lighting. A skateboarder running down the same slope at high speed weaves in front of me. When I see him, I brake as hard as I can but I am too late. I partly run over him and my truck fractures his skull and his spine. He was wearing all black; there was no light on him; he was in the middle of the street. He is 23. I am heartbroken. Who is to blame?

I am going to be accused of major crimes for shouting through the current concert of feminist piousness so, let me be clear: I do NOT believe that women who wear short skirts deserve to be raped. And, by the way, I am against domestic violence and especially against wife beating specifically. That’s because men are much stronger than women, not a little bit, something like twice stronger. So, for a man, beating a woman is cowardly. And, by the way, it’s also one of the reason why I support the Second Amendment. Women who are armed rarely get beaten more than once.

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