The Night of the Long Knives, New York *

So, right now, it really looks like soon, Governor Mario Cuomo of New York State is going to fall from power and also from grace.

It also looks like what’s going to bring him down will be the complaints of eleven women who worked for him at various times or under his general authority. One alleges her that he grabbed her breast, which is clearly assault, in my book. One woman’s complaint is that he made her feel “uncomfortable.”** The stories reported on NPR, Fox News, and the Wall Street Journal about the governor’s words and actions amount to his being what used to be considered a bad boy.

I know, I know, Cuomo’s female targets – those mentioned in the media accounts and, I guess in the New York Attorney General’s report – were all in some way his subordinates. This makes a difference in the limited sense that this fact alone may have restricted the solution women have been using forever to avoid unwanted advances: moving away. Incidentally, “unwanted advances” is kind of a strange phrase. A man does not know if his advances are wanted or unwanted until he tries. That’s why they are called “advances.” Or, have I fallen so far behind the times that I don’t know that a man is now supposed to ask for permission to make “advances” ? (So confusing!)

So, no, I am not arguing that Mr Cuomo’s behavior toward female subordinates was just fine. I am just astonished at the order of offenses considered to dethrone him. Loutish, rude behavior, invasive behavior toward the other sex would rarely be the top item on my list if I argued for the removal of a duly elected official, for the cancellation of an honest election. (Incidentally, I am a Republican; I have no sympathy for the current Democratic Party, or for Mr Cuomo, that blowhard.)

I am impressed, though with the fact that a couple of short years ago, numerous influential female media commentators – all of whom are liberals, I think- were commenting favorably on Governor’s Cuomo new single status and thus, implicitly celebrating his sex appeal. (I am simply assuming here that when a powerless man in his early sixties separates from his girlfriend, few women media commentators salivate over the event. Tell me I am wrong!)

On 8/7-8 Peggy Noonan, as she often does – brought a little sanity to the endeavor of condemning Cuomo – in her Wall Street Journal Friday opeds. She placed Mr Cuomo’s trespasses in context in such a way that he appears to be not only a man who ignores ordinary boundaries of decency but, frankly, a nut. She even employed the word. By the way, I don’t always agree with Noonan’s opinions but I know her to be intellectually honest and her facts are always well researched.

Removing the governor of one of the largest and economically important states because he has lost touch with reality, that sounds to me like a reasonable thing to do. And this is not limited to governors of states, it goes for every elected official, at every level. But this is not the song the New York Democrat choir is singing. Instead, all the lyrics are about disrespect of women.

Completely aside from disrespect, possible abuse of power, and likely mental health consideration, there is also the small fact that Mr Cuomo is probably responsible for the death of hundreds if not thousands of old people as a result of his callous COVID policies. (For my overseas readers, he ordered to put back into retirement homes old people who were infected with the virus. It’s obvious that there, they had to infect other vulnerable old people, many of whom died.) Then, his administration tried to cover up the number of deaths resulting.

So, this is our contemporary moral order: Governor is responsible for the deaths of many: no big deal; he touched a woman subordinate’s breast, the back of a couple of others, and talked suggestively to even more women: End of the world!

The American women’s movement is demonstrating again that it’s frivolous, mean, and petty. A powerful man’ s groping hands and his loose mouth trigger mountains of vengeful indignation. When millions of Afghan girls are about to be taken out of school because the Taliban can’t stand to live around women who can read; American feminists have hardly a single a word to say in protest or commiseration.

The story of Democratic Governor Cuomo’s swift fall from power is so extraordinarily strange by the standards that prevailed only, say, ten years ago, and for one hundred years before that, that I simply can’t bring myself to believe the liberal media and the Democrats delivering it. I would really like to know what’s really going on. Please, refer back to the title of this short essay.

*If this title does not ring a bell, look it up in Wiki. You will be amazed!

** Once, I was blackballed for a job I wanted by a woman who said she would feel “uncomfortable” working in the same department as I. I had never flirted with her, never told off-color jokes in her presence, never touched her, not even her hand. I was professionally helpful to her a couple of times. She was an exceptionally plain woman. I have a story about this somewhere on my blog. I will link he it here if I remember its title.

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Awareness of Racism and Singing to the Choir

In the past few months, I have been exposed to more works by African Americans and to more documents about the black condition in America than usual. So far, I haven’t learned anything really new, perhaps because I am a sociologist by trade with an interest in slavery going back fifty years. All the same, I appreciate the refresher. This is a good point to warn that I am at odds with many of my fellow conservatives about the debt, if any the US, owes in connection with slavery and in connection with Jim Crow. (See: Systemic Racism: a Rationalist Take | Notes On Liberty ; and also, my shorter: The Great American Racial Awakening: A Conservative Approach (Part One) | FACTS MATTER (wordpress.com) I also insist that mine – insisting on the recognition of some sort of debt – is the true conservative position. This position in no way entails accepting passively everything the woke movement is telling us about current racism in America.

Recently, I watched almost all of the good PBS documentary “Driving while Black.” The first part illustrates well, with both many historical documents and the memories of older people, how African Americans used to travel with the help of special guidebooks designed to ensure they did not inadvertently find themselves in hostile territory. It was worse than traveling in a foreign country whose language you don’t know, it seems. (I did this myself in Croatia, in 1962, before mass tourism spread far and wide some knowledge of English.) It was a concerted collective effort to escape the consequences of explicit deliberate racist policies (as well as of widespread racist sentiment).

Then, the emphasis of the documentary shifts to the creation of the Interstate Freeway system. The narration comments on the fact that the development of the freeways involved the clearing out, the destruction of many local black communities, including their many Mom-and-Pop businesses. I am guessing there is no doubt it did. But the commentator keeps the topic closed as if the last had been said thus giving the impression that black communities were targeted for destruction out of racial prejudice (in thematic continuity with the first part of the documentary). Some may have been so targeted, or even all, but there is another explanation that makes racial prejudice a superfluous explanation.

One of the considerable, but variable costs of public way construction (roads and railways) is the expropriation of the land on which the public way is to stand. In many cases – that, I think, have rational technical explanations – the land to be expropriated is occupied by structures with commercial value. It’s common practice, and I would argue, good practice, to try as much as is possible to find a path that minimizes the cost of the relevant expropriations. (In the US, in the past 80 years, public pathways have been financed by the taxpayers. As a taxpayer, I wouldn’t want planners to deviate from this practice.) An unintended consequence of this rational practice is that black-owned and black-leased building are over-represented among those destroyed on the occasion of freeway building. No racism has to be involved though it may be.

This is just a prominent instance of a general, diffuse problem: Authors, journalists, politicians impute authoritatively a racist cause to inferior black outcomes where racism may or may not be involved. There is often not even a pretense of causal analysis, not even of merely mental analysis. The simply plausible magically becomes reality. Yet, it’s true that African Americans, more often than whites, often end up with the some of the worst jobs, some the worst commercial services, and as of lately (2021), even with some of the worst health outcomes.

It should be obvious that any of the above, and many other noxious outcomes, may be the pure products of mere poverty or of inferior education, or of both. African Americans are, in fact, poorer than average. So, before claiming that racism, or a systemically racist policy is at work, it would be logical to figure out if the bad outcomes may not be entirely explained by poverty. Saying the same thing in a different way: If whites in similar economic circumstances experience the same bad outcomes, or worse ones, the racial explanations are superfluous. Incidentally, racism could still be at work but it would appear much less self-evident to the general sympathetic public. It would happen like this: African Americans have the same high rate of diabetes as whites at the same education and economic level but, for the latter, diabetes is a product of poverty and ignorance, and for African Americans, it comes from poverty, ignorance, plus something else. See how credible such a statement would be. Or this: Poor whites lag in vaccinations because they also tend to be uneducated but equally poor and equally uneducated African Americans lag in vaccinations because of the racist treatment to which they are subjected.

Exploring this kind of issue, the relative weight of self evident factors in determining bad outcomes is comparatively easy. Such quest would rely on fairly available public data and on methods (multivariate analysis with econometric evaluation) that were already not new when I was pursuing a doctorate in the 1970s. There must be hundreds of sociologists and of economists equipped to conduct this kind of research in the USA. I am following multiple media in a haphazard manner, it’s true, though with a conservative bias, from the Wall Street Journal to internet trash. I do this every day for hours. Yet, I never bump into the fruits of such reasonably principled research. Of course, Stanford and Hoover Institution black economist Thomas Sowell has conducted just such analysis for many years but he is never cited by anyone to the left of dead center. Instead, his existence is sometimes acknowledged as that of beloved but slightly screwy old uncle who may even have passed on. In my book, the seeming absence in the public arena of reasoning guided or influenced by such obvious research should be enough to make one suspicious. I think this stream of public reasoning is being suppressed. (Please, go ahead and show me that it’s abundantly represented, via any media, contrary to my impression.)

Technical note: I hate to break the hearts of my possible liberal – and even progressive – readers but the following is correct: If proper analysis demonstrated that income level, level of wealth, and educational status together are not sufficient to account for inferior black outcomes, that would not be enough to pin the blame on racism, be it of a personal or systemic nature. This is another issue that’s being kept in the dark as far as I know.

The end of the documentary, “Driving While Black,” mentions briefly the possibility that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also destroyed thriving black communities. It did so by suddenly giving black shoppers attractive alternatives such as (then) Safeway. I am not sure how I would bet about this right now, as I write, but it’s possible to imagine that the Civil Rights Act was more destructive in this respect than the construction of the Interstate Freeway system. The documentary had the opportunity to raise the question. It did not. This good document would have gained immeasurably in intellectual credibility if it had. My impression is that currently, there are few critics of any race that would have the intestinal fortitude to do so. (Again, please, show me that my impression is wrong.)

I am concurrently reading a novel by a prolific African American author: The Son of Mr. Suleman, by Eric Jerome Dikey. First, it’s delightful novel and I enjoy every minute of it. The writing is effervescent even if it often verges on being in a language I don’t quite understand. (For me, it’s a bit like reading Portuguese, a language I have not studied but that is close enough to my own native French and to the Spanish that I have studied that I can usually make it out.) The reading is also a bit jarring for one strange, specific reason. The novel accomplishes with ease what good novels do: through action, dialogues, monologues, and disquisitions, they transport the reader into a world that he would otherwise likely not discover. In this case, the hero is a vigorous black man in his thirties plying his ill-defined trade in the second-rate academic venues of Memphis, Tennessee. Except for the academic setting, this is pretty far from this California old white man’s experience.

The jarring starts in the first few pages with a Trumpdetestation statement that appears utterly unrelated to anything beginning in the story. Thereafter, every so many pages, appears a politically, cliched affirmation about racism that ads nothing to the story. It’s as if the author felt like – or had been ordered to – assert with an imposed frequency, his membership in the mainstream of conventional African American struggle against racism. These interruptions are all the more ludicrous because, again, the normal course of the novel does a talented job of describing racism from the inside, so to speak. Bizarrely, the hero is being periodically sexually exploited by a rich, powerful, attractive, white, and, you guessed it, blonde woman. And, as one might almost expect, the hero blames his troubles mainly on racism. But the fact that he is an adjunct professor would be enough to explain his misery. Let me explain for my overseas readers: That’s a category of university faculty members who carry full course loads but are slated to never get tenure. (Yes, in American universities, tenure, “titularisation” is neither automatic nor a function of years taught. It’s competitive. It’s an “up-or-out” process. A teacher who does not win tenure has to find a job somewhere else.) In the last school were I taught, there were dozens of such adjunct personnel. They were all white. At any rate, in spite of all this, I warmly recommend this book.

At this point in the year, I am pleased to have been exposed to material on race relations that would normally not have been on my menu; nevertheless, I am struck by the many failures to take advantage of the situation to gain intellectual heft with other than whining and guilt-devoured white liberals. I suspect there is a convergent attempt, a cultural movement of the left, to remain vague in order to avoid revealing or admitting the obvious: that the past 60 years have seen enormous progress toward racial equality and justice in America. There was a chance to sing to other than the choir and it’s being largely wasted.

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My Pick-Up Truck and the Quality of Global Warming Reports

The struggle against climate change is making fast policy progress in the civilized world. It’s got to the point where I can foresee the authorities confiscating my good Toyota pick-up truck that has given me good service for eight years and continues to act just right. In California, they make no mystery of their intent to force me to replace it with a small electric sedan I won’t be able to afford. In the meantime, the same California is not able to guarantee enough electric power to keep my light bulbs lit 24/24; another story, obviously, a good one.

My problem is that I have not changed my stance on the credibility of the climate change narrative since I bought the truck. So, I feel tyrannized.

Recently, there was a long lasting, intense heat wave in the western United States where several people died of heat stroke. As I write, severe flooding seems to be ending in Germany in Belgium and in France. In the first country, at least one hundred people drowned.

Being a retired old guy, I listen to the media, or watch it, or read from it a good portion of the day. I do this daily, in at least, two languages, English and French. There isn’t a day in my life when I don’t hear heat waves, or floods, or this and that blamed on “climate change.” The media personalities and journalists who assert those links all have one thing in common: None possesses the credentials to judge whether such a link exists at all. Climate change ideology has spread so successfully that every Dick, Tom, and Harry with a B.A. in Communications (or less) feels free to pronounce on such causal relationships as if they were simply mentioning that the sun rises in the east. Well, it’s not like this at all, not by a long shot.

Before I go on, we need a reminder: I mean by “climate change: the narrative that includes all three statements below:

1 the climate is changing significantly in ways that affect people adversely;

2 this change is due to human activity and specifically the release of so-called “greenhouse gases,” (Human activity includes such things as manufacturing, reliance internal combustion engines, including in cars;cattle raising);

3 the adverse effects are such that we, collectively, need to address them right now.

Baselines Climate Change Advocates endlessly publicize: hottest year in 37 years, or most hurricanes in a period of two years since 1920, or highest tide since 1882. All such announcements are worthless and therefore misleading. There is no evidence of change without a baseline and the baseline has to make sense. It cannot be picked opportunistically, of course (as was done on the occasion of the “hockey stick” scandal; look it up). It cannot be selected mindlessly. Let me give you areal example. It may well be that the Greenland glaciers are melting unusually fast. And, of course, it could be a result of human caused global warming (oops, climate change). But, we know – because a noted environmentalist told us (Jared Diamond) – that the Norse inhabitants of Greenland were raising cattle there around 1100. You can’t do this today in Greenland because it’s too cold. So, if it was warmer there a thousand years ago, what’s left of the inference that it’s what happened in only the past 150 years of Industrial Revolution, etc (make it 160, 200, no matter) that produces the heat that melts glaciers? My point here is that what you infer from change observed from a bad d baseline is not only a little off; it’s simply wrong. Climate Change enthusiasts and passive believers alike do this all the time. They also don’t accept corrections based on a more reasonable baseline.

Measurements The Climate Change narrative is chronically plagued with measurement issues and downright falsehoods. If you want to tell me anything about the condition of my house and you begin with a statement to the effect that one wall has sunk by 240 inches without my noticing, you are done; I have no reason to listen to anything else you have to say. Be gone!

I don’t normally read scholarly research supporting the climate change narrative. I shouldn’t have to. I am just a citizen. If you want me to alter my life drastically, it’s up to you to give me good reasons in a language I can grasp without two or three doctorates (additional doctorates, in my case). I do read the reports made of it by non-scholarly sources that I think intellectually respectable. The Wall Street Journal is one. (More on this below.)

Here, there are two nested problems with ways to assess climate events commonly found in the media. People have a tendency to confirm what they hear by saying, Yes, it’s never been so hot, ever. The first problem is that when this is said, the reference is almost always to the person’s personal experience. That can seldom exceed 90 years, a period insufficient to cover anything blamed on the 150-plus years since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The second problem is that, obviously, almost everyone has bad memory and forgets events at random. Here is an example: When I was a small child, I remember distinctly newspaper photographs of the sea frozen in the English channel, together with one radio comment to the same effect. My siblings living at the same time in the same place, remember no such thing. They have forgotten or I have produced a fabricated memory. Either way….

Today’s Wall Street journal takes apart a more sophisticated kind of measurement fallacy, one committed by a fairly respected federal agency. ( Roger Pielke Jr, WSJ ; 7/17/-18/ 21; p. C4) The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that natural disasters causing one billion dollars of damage or more were seven times more numerous in 2020 than they were in 1980. The NOAA adjusted for inflation, of course. It did not compare 1980 dollars with 2020 dollar. Good enough, right? Not so. How much damage a given disaster causes depends on its severity but it also depends on how much is available to be damaged. There is incomparably more value to be obliterated today in American than there was in 1980. The same tornado occurring on the same day in the middle of the Sonora desert will cause much less damage than it would in Time Square, perhaps a million times less. That’s not a small error. The NOAA mistake is monumentally misleading. If you corrected for the amount available to be damaged, you migth find that there was actually seven times more destruction in 1980 than in 2020. (I am not accusing anyone, except of gross incompetence. It’s not all bad faith.)

To aggravate again the severity of my judgment is the fact that real scientists with real credentials almost never step out of the ivory tower to condemn publicly the thousands of false statements made in their name every day.

Things have not changed much in eight years with respect to credibility. I don’t have any reason to change my mind and to consider the narrative favorably because it has not improved in rigor or in accuracy. They may be able to tear me off the seat of my pick-up truck but that will not alter my judgment that the repression is based on snake oil merchandising and on primitive superstitions. Yes, you can quote me.

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Still here!

Folks, friends and enemies: I am neither dead nor incapacitated, I mean, no more than usual. It’s just that it’s summer; the beach is a mile away (right, no view.) I am working at putting together a collection of stories. The volume will be entitled: “Astonishing Women.” It’s all about women, a man’s view of women. Both meanings of the title apply to the contents. It’s an all clean book. (My wife and my mother are in it.) I have another collection of stories called “Indecent Stories for Decent Women” It’s under a pseudonym for the reasons you can imagine. Ask me.

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The Harem Pants

Here is a short short story. I plan to include it in a new book: “Astonishing Women.” Tell me what you think if you are so moved. You can’t make me cry by criticizing harshly. I am a married man and thus, immune.

It was market day. If you are a serious traveler, you never miss open air markets. They are invariably pleasurable as well as educational. All the female merchants there in that Turkish market, all from the interior of the country, were wearing broad, long, flowing, so-called “harem pants.” An older lady with gray hair showing crossed our path wearing such pants, silky ones, with a black on gray subtle motif my wife immediately liked. You know what to do, I told my wife. (A long time earlier, I had demonstrated to her that it was possible to buy a woman’ clothes off of her ten minutes after meeting her. That story is told elsewhere.) At first, she demurred.

I saluted the gray-haired lady and I expressed to her with gestures that my wife admired her pants. She took us to a stall that sold an inferior version of the same item. No, I insisted with a smile, she wants yours. To tell all, I was a little concerned that she might misunderstand me to be proposing to her that the three of us perform exotic acts together. But what we wanted soon seemed to dawn on her. I guessed she was a bit shocked but also intrigued. Soon, several other market women joined us, plus a little girl who had a bit of school English. When the female passel disappeared behind a truck, I discreetly walked away.

I walked around the market; I bought a brass pepper grinder to waste time. Then, I guessed to myself that my wife understood men well enough to find me, eventually. I made my way to the tea stall in the middle of the market. Soon, several wide-eyed boys surrounded me. Then, one at a time, older men joined me on the benches set out in the open. Each one of them offered me a cigarette and each tried to buy me a glass of tea. Seeing no toilet anywhere, I declined the tea each time with a big smile and a hand on my heart.

Are you married? One asked. How many children? Do you have pictures? Here are mine. And, finally: How old are you? I told the truth, as usual. One by one, they felt my biceps, then my thighs. I asked each politely one by one how old he was. As it happens, older Turkish men are all terrific liars, no exception. Men obviously in their early sixties would announce on their fingers: I am 83. I am 86. One said, I will be 95 next year. Then, they took turns blustering, I thought, I guessed, I imagined, about how good they looked for their age. It took all my willpower to refrain from challenging each and every one of the old bastards to an arm-wrestling match to teach them a little humility.

Subsequently, for the remainder of my stay, every mature Turkish man I met who was not trying to sell me a rug displayed precisely the same kind of loud vanity. I am suppose it keeps them young. It certainly beats the despicable Western custom of old geezers casually competing with each other about who has the worse health problems. Give me a braggart every time over a whiner!

Anyway, at some point, we got into the meat of things: American, yes? Yes, I confirmed. Bush? The oldest man asked with a raised eyebrow. I lifted my conservative thumb up. He replied immediately: Bush, good! Saddam… He drew his hand across his throat. Exactly! I confirmed eagerly. The American intervention in Iraq was about three months old then. Saddam Hussein was hiding in a dirt hole at the time. There were smiles all around.

The market was in a pretty seaside town. There were no American tourists in sight in the Near-East that summer. One old guy said to me, Tell the Americans to come back, please; these fucking European come here with three hundred Euros and they think they are kings. No, I don’t know any Turkish but I certainly caught the words “Americans,” “Europeans,” “Euros,” and,”sultan.” How do I know he used the expletive? Well, I can read faces.

An hour had passed pleasantly but I was vaguely, and only very slightly, worried about my wife. I did not think there was any danger, but was not like her to stay away because she is the kind of woman who gets periodically lost between our house, where we have lived for ten years, and the grocery store where she shops every week. I called over a couple of twelve year-old (who may have been really twenty-five, according to Turkish males’ general apprehension of temporal reality).

I borrowed a gold-plated fountain pen from one of the old men. On a paper bag, I drew a chesty female silhouette and pounded my own (flat) chest. Wife of mine, I said. My wife is from India. Hindi! I added. Everyone murmured favorably about my artistic talent.

One of many wonders of globalization is that all around the less-developed world many people know and love Bollywood movies. “Hindi” struck a chord. I gave the boys one million liras each and sent them searching, paper bag drawing in hand. (What with inflation, a million liras does not buy nearly as much as it used to!) I wished them well in my heart, hoping they would not get into trouble inspecting too closely the bosoms of all and every woman at the market.

I located my wife, eventually. She had traded the old lady’s used but beautiful harem pants against two new ones, plus one for each of three other women present at the negotiation, plus a whole outfit for the little girl who had acted as an interpreter. But the pants she had acquired were truly magnificent! (My wife has many wonderful qualities and enormous artistic talent but a wily bargainer, she is not.)

The transaction completed at last, she had failed to find me, she said. This, although I was right in the middle of the market, surrounded by a small but loud crowd. Instead, guided by some obscure female atavism, something probably hard-wired, against all precedents in her life, she had decided to walk back to the hotel by herself. She was in her fifties at the time. She has luxuriant gray hair but she was tall and thin, yet curvy. With the gray and black, silky harem pants streaming around her long legs and her narrow hips, she must have cut a striking figure in the eyes of dozens of appreciative Turkish male spectators on the way. If this was her last huzzah, she could not have chosen a better venue; bless her occasionally exhibitionist little heart!

This is just a story; there is no deep meaning to it (as far as I now).

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Three Astonishing Women

I leave my newspaper on the table outside as I dart inside the coffee shop to get more sugar. When I return, four or five seconds later, a middle-aged woman is walking briskly across the street holding my newspaper in her hand.

Hey, I shout fairly amicably, I was not finished with my paper!

She turns around and throws the paper on the table near me.

I don’t want your stupid paper, she says. What would I do with it? I am legally blind.

Fact is that she is wearing unusually thick glasses. Point well taken. What do I know?

————————————-

I drive into an unevenly paved parking lot behind a woman in a big van. As she makes a right-hand turn, I spot a blue handicapped placard hanging from her rear-view mirror. Just as she is about to position her van in the reserved handicapped space, its engine stops. After several useless attempts to re-start it, she steps out of the vehicle and begins pushing.

I am a real sweetheart and also an old-fashioned guy so, my first reflex is to get out and give her a hand. I abstain because I soon judge her efforts to be useless. She is pushing that heavy van up a significant bump. I think there is no way the two of us can vanquish gravity and place the van in its right spot.

Then, the woman braces herself; the back of her dress rises and her big calves become like hard river stones; she harrumphs once and the van ends up perfectly parked in the handicapped space. I learned another lesson: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

—————————————-

Speaking of parking makes me think of the last time I went to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). I just wanted a copy of a trailer permit. I had duly paid for the original when I had obtained it. As is normal, I was in a foul mood much before I reached there. Less logically, my irritation grew as I advanced up the line, as I got nearer the end of my ordeal.

The employee to whose window I am directed is a plump young Latina with thick eyelashes and a pleasant yet officious face. I explain my request. She goes tick, tick, tick on her computer and, quickly enough, she hands me the copy I want.

It’s $16.75, she says.

That’s ridiculous, I explode. That fee for a simple copy is an abuse of power. I changed my mind; I don’t want it anymore. Keep it!

Well, I will just have to give it to you, says the DMV employee with a big smile.

I practically fall on my butt in the midst of dozens of still pissed-off but unbelieving customers.

I guess I don’t know everything about women, as I often think, just many things.

This is just a story; it has no deeper meaning, as far as I know.

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Shame on Us!

I am so angry, I have trouble typing.

The United States, my country by choice, is preparing a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. The government of the rational people who have been our friends there for twenty years is melting before the ferocity of the cruel, obtuse, semi-literate Taliban. Soon, executions of “adulterous women” at half-time of soccer games will resume. (Do you think I am exaggerating? Look it up. One such episode was televised.) Sooner, perhaps, little girls will be forbidden to go to school. Sick adult women will only be able to see a doctor whenever a female MD is available. If none is available, some will simply die. And of course, anyone – mostly men – who was an official in the democratic government will face summary execution or a long prison term.

Everyone in American ruling circles knows what’s going on: We lost that war and we are abandoning our local allies. We are leaving because we lack the collective tenacity to do the obvious right thing. The forthcoming horrors will be a joint production of the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations. We are all mixed up in this. There is no place to hide.

Some Americans are too young to be well aware of the reason for the American and NATO and other allies’ invasion of Afghanistan. Others have forgotten. Many more pretend to have forgotten. We did not go into Afghanistan seeking adventure; we did not go to corner the Afghan production of dried apricots for American corporations. We went in to clean out a nest of vipers who had murdered in cold blood three thousands American civilians. We did not clean it out. Al Quaida is still there and now, ISIS also is. (Yes, the same people who burned alive and crucified civilians in Syria not long ago.)

According to both leftish National Public Radio (a few days ago) and an oped in the Wall Street Journal (Matt Watters, 26-27, A17) the US is taking years to bring in Afghan interpreters who accompanied American soldiers and Marines right into the battlefield, into the thick of combat. Many are being targeted and murdered by the Taliban while they wait for five years or more for their special “visa.” In the meantime the Biden administration is releasing every week into the country thousands of Central Americans to whom we owe absolutely nothing. (And screw the visas in their case; we will take of those when we have time and if they come back for a resolution of their case! We know that most won’t. Does not matter.) The juxtaposition of the two kinds of visa seekers demonstrates a government incompetence that can only be born out of moral indifference, of callousness, and of an absence of concern for ethics, and, yes, for equity.

I know, I know, I sound as if I made light of American military losses in that long war. I don’t but I can’t help notice that all American military are volunteers. Those who engage in active combat, those most at risk, belong to units that make them twice volunteers. The mention of American casualties nearly always involves a kind of blackmail: Don’t you care that Americans die over there? How can I say that I don’t? I also care about future American deaths though. (See below.) Those who bring this up almost never have any realistic appreciation of the numbers involved. In point of fact, over the whole period of the American intervention in Afghanistan, the death rate of our military there has been about 1/10th of the occupational death rate for farmers and ranchers, less than than 1/20th of the rate for loggers. That’s not nothing but it puts things in perspective.

The military and moral fiasco in Afghanistan does not belong to the left or to the right. It’s an expression of the same stubborn, mindless American isolationism that gave us Pearl Harbor and hundreds of thousands of American deaths. A Communist China armed to the teeth is watching our fecklessness, our cowardice. I fear that we will one day face their fast tanks, their advanced warplanes, and their capable missile-launching navies because we failed to defeat some flip-flop wearing, illiterate fanatical guerillas. How I hope I am wrong!

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A Big Falsehood about Black Renters

On Thursday June 14th I heard the same terse announcement on NPR News four times. (Yes, four times; yes, I am a glutton for punishment.) :

Black renters are twice more likely to face eviction than white renters.

(I don’t use quote marks because there is a slight chance that the sentence above is not word-for-word but only in a way that does not affect its meaning.)

I ask myself, what does the average listener retain from this repeated message? I mean the normal person who has ten different things on his/her mind at any one time, the mother who is on her way to picking up her child a daycare before going to the supermarket with a mask on. OK, I know there is no such thing as an “average listener” so, to go more concrete, I ask myself what information my granddaughter’s teacher thinks she has received. I assume that the teacher is not a probabilities or a statistics expert. Is this a bold assumption? Having taught for 25 years in an expensive university, I believe this is a modest assumption.So, what is my granddaughter’s teacher thinks she has heard? Seems to me to ask the question is almost to answer it.

At least, it’s almost to answer it for most people, almost all people, I am tempted to believe. Here it is: Landlords are more likely to evict their black tenants than their white tenants. This is, of course more evidence of racism, even if only of “systemic racism.” It’s no such thing. Common sense would tell you that not paying one’s rent is the major reason for eviction of renters. The probability that a renter does not pay his/her rent in turn must depend mostly on two types of factors. The first is inability to pay. The second type of factors is a batch of cultural attitudes I don’t wish to go into here. Black residents of the US are on the average poorer than whites. Black renters are probably, on the average, poorer than white renters. If the latter is correct, the higher probability of black renters being evicted is simply a direct consequence of their inferior economic standing. No racial discrimination, no racism are needed. Those are added on gratuitously, to sound good, to add again to the burden of white guilt, to pile on to the false idea that America is STILL an unjust society.

Those who make those comments are stupid or evil. The thought is irresistible that they are both stupid and evil, a common liberal combination. Ask yourself: How many times have you been subjected to the implication that an action or a policy is racist just because African Americans perform less well in relation to it than do whites (or worse, Asians) ? This is one of the biggest intellectual swindles of our time.

It seems to me that white conservatives are too timid to ridicule the practice. Think about it: Whites are much underrepresented in the NBA (National Basketball Association, for my overseas friends). Does this demonstrate that the NBA has racist policies against white people?

Tech. note: If black renters are not poorer than white renters the reasoning that follows is vacuous.

PS I said nothing here about the reasons black Americans are poorer than white Americans, on the average. It’s another question altogether. I have dealt with this issue recently on this blog and in Notes on Liberty.

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A Really Stupid Liberal Belief

I am listening to National Public Radio (again). There is a discussion of how to different levels to skills (broadly defined) correspond different levels of eagerness or of capacity to keep working from home. Good topic in general.

But the discussion is nearly entirely centered on inequality. It reminds me of the fact that liberals have managed in a few years to present as unquestionable the belief that inequality is a major social problem.It’s not obvious to me why it should be so.

Suppose, we both earned $50,000 in 2021. If your income triples next year while mine only doubles, income inequality between us has increased a great deal.

In this scenario am I:

a worse off;

b as well off as before;

c better off in 2022 than I was in 2021?

Yes, that simple!

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Another Jihadist Victory!

The French government announced last week that it was terminating its military operations in the Sahel region of Africa. This is after more than seven years trying to contain Islamist terrorists there on a territory several times larger that France itself. The area of concern involves, west to east, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, a slice of Burkina Faso and, Chad. All are former French colonies: all have majority-Muslim populations.

Those countries are of unequal concern. It appears that Mauritania barely belongs to the group as it is an “Islamic Republic” pretty well ordered, with a fair degree of internal peace. Th easternmost country, Chad, is fairly turbulent but it has the good grace of providing to the common force one thousand-plus much esteemed soldiers. I think the last straw for the French government was that there was a second coup d’état in Mali in less than two years. In the background is French impatience with the associated states’ military participation.

Those five countries together contribute a fair minority of violent jihadists plying their trade in France itself. More importantly, they are pretty correctly perceived as weak states, ripe for being taken over, at least portions of them. The different brands of jihadists even compete there. They make no mystery of their view that those countries are the location of the next Caliphate.

The weakest link of this weak chain is Mali. It’s an extremely poor country that has never known peace since independence in 1960. It’s rent by multi-directional ethnic strife: Too many well demarcated groups are competing for the same scarce resources. The continued existence of the Tuareg group in the North – who feel they are quite different from the others – keeps the pot boiling although they are less than 10% of the population. Several years ago, some Tuareg groups even allied with jihadist gangs to gain their independence. The jihadist quickly pushed them out of power. By the way, practically all Malians are Sunni Muslims.

The French announcement about the cessation of the military operation mentioned 52 deadly casualties among the French military. In the same period France (which does comparatively well on this issue) experienced about 22,000 road deaths.

The French retreat is another Afghanistan, I think. The jihadists are not going to change their minds and make nice. If you don’t fight them in faraway countries, you will end up fighting them at home, on the Jersey Shore, or in Nice (Well it’s already happened there, in 2016, when 80 people were: slaughtered I.)

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