Sexual Harassment: a Scandalous Re-Telling of an Old Story

This is a longish essay. You may want to pour yourself a drink.

It’s 11:30 am. A young woman leaves the Post Office hurriedly. She manages to fix her lipstick as she crosses the street swiftly. What’s my point, you wonder? Wait, wait I will get to it soon.

Living in the heart of the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz, California for many years, I have learn to discount, discount, discount, the insane things I hear and read day-in and day-out. Why, many of the undergraduate girls I know affirm that they are “bi” (bisexual)! Yet, I often bump into them a couple of years latter looking happy, with their (male) husband, and with their first kid. The University of California at Santa Cruz offers a genuine major in “Feminist Studies.” No, I am not mistaken; it’s not “Women’s Studies,” or even “Feminine Studies,” both just as legitimate fields of inquiry as anything. It’s “Feminist…” Just try to imagine a corresponding major in “Conservative Studies” !

The university is contiguous to the City of Santa Cruz where the presence of radioactive material, including nuclear weapons, is unambiguously prohibited by long standing municipal ordinance. It’s the same city of Santa Cruz where elections are fought largely (not completely) between ex-Trotskists and ex-Maoists. It’s dealing with its large “homeless problem,” in part, by transforming several of its downtown parking meters into donation meters. They are easy to find because they are painted bright red. Want to help without promoting panhandling by the borderline insane and by the substance-induced? Put a quarter in the red meter. The populace, the tax-paying peasantry has not been told how much has been collected after several years. The number of vagrants has not changed. (It has not increased, I think). Their behavior has not been modified for the better (or for the worse, I think). What would be a lovely river walk is still impracticable for all but fast-moving bicycle riders and by well-armed males in their prime, because it’s home to the homeless, precisely.

I chose to live here so, I discount automatically much of what I hear. And, I used to be a university professor. There is not much that the young can proclaim that will scandalize me, or even astonish me. That’s especially true of what the spoiled young whose parent pay all their bills will announce. I am reasonably intelligent (as anyone who reads this blog is more or less forced to admit in the end) but I am not that fast, to tell the truth. So, I just realized that I also assume that other reasonable, rational, intelligent people (my group) also discount, that they discount more or less automatically as I do. I may be tragically wrong on this.

A couple of days ago, a younger man I know pretty well advised me that any comment on a woman’s physical appearance is sexual harassment. Read this again. That was soon after I had told a young woman who has known me casually for a couple of years, “You look elegant, XYZ.” I am quoting myself exactly here. I am quite sure I did not say, “Nice tits,” or anything like that. (A part of me regrets that I am too conservative to have ever said anything of the kind, ever. What a lovely experiment it would be.)

The problem is that my new adviser in the social niceties is not a moron. I have staged him before on this blog. He occupies a position of some responsibility in a flourishing business; he had significant intellectual achievements at the undergraduate level; his choice of major indicated a good deal of intellectual seriousness. I also know him to be quite honest on the whole. “On the whole” because, like most people, he may exaggerate a little, on the margin, or imagine things to be that are not, in order to shore up his argument. In this case, he assured me that the girl had “rolled her eyes” at my compliment. He was positioned in such a way that he could not have seen her expression if she had done it. She had her side to him, somewhat to the back. I, on the other end, was facing her and only four or five feet away. She had smiled brightly exactly as a common sense would tell you she would. In spite of this small wart on his face, my friendly acquaintance cannot be dismissed easily. So, what’s going on? The main thing is that he is about thirty. He represents the first adult generation to grow up in a world shaped by feminist rhetoric. He has never not known feminism. He is the live outcome of a big social experiment.

I have assumed for several years that no one really take extremist feminist pronouncements seriously because they so utterly lack in credibility, because they are so often innocent of a relationship to facts. I assumed that the only believers are those who stand to profit by a feminist worldview if it comes to be widely believed. Two main categories: High-achieving career woman clawing for every small advantage after the manner of careerists of all sexes. The presumption of a “glass ceiling,” although contrary to all market logic, may well constitute such a small advantage in a tight race. Of course, I deny that there is such a thing because of the thorough dishonesty of the arguments advanced in support. If your position is logically sound and factually well based, you don’t need to tell lies or stupid things to support it. (See: “Unequal Pay – For Women Only, Part 1” on equal pay).

The second category that stands to benefit is the large and growing cohort of single mothers. As feminist arguments grew louder, young men were given good reasons to act irresponsibly: “If women are equal, why do I have to support the bitch?” and, “She should have know she could get pregnant.” Many women left in a lurch in the past twenty years or so have been led to believe by liberal propaganda that the Federal Government is their missing husband. Large economic advantages accrue to being a persecuted and officially protected minority of which “single mothers” is now one. (Don’t ask me how I know; I need to protect the guilty. Just do your own welfare homework.) To gain these advantages requires a little action, a little initiative with respect to the bureaucracy. Believing that you are the victim of a gross societal injustice helps motivate single mothers to reach out for these advantages. Using your critical faculties and rejecting obviously flawed feminist stridency will leave you and your children poorer than you all need be. It’s an easy choice any way you look at it. I could be convinced that any single mother that does not take all the necessary steps, including in her own mind, is a bad mother.

In any event, the young woman whom I accused of being elegant is also my neighbor. I am old enough to be her grandfather and I look the part. (No, I don’t look like the buff old guys in the testosterone supplement ads on TV; sorry to disappoint.) I am pretty sure she knew I was not hitting on her. (And, a mischief-loving part of me asks: What if I had been hitting one her in this discreet, courteous manner? But it’s not a good time to go there, not yet.)

Rude Questions

So, if either of us had the time and the inclination to follow through on the younger man’s lesson in manners, I would ask him only three questions, (compound questions that is):

1 Is there any reason other than display for a woman to wear a tight t-shirt?

Now, now, don’t jump on me. Women have every right to wear whatever they want, even when it hurts me (more on this below; see “camel”). I am not referring to rights but to the inclination to wear a garment that is completely sure to attract attention to a woman’s breasts. I mean everyone’s attention, including other women’s attention. I wonder if anyone will have the effrontery to assert that tight t-shirts are convenient or comfortable. And, you can’t fool me anyway, I have worn tight t-shirts myself. The t-shirt question arises because in our mercifully free societies, every woman has the option to wear loose clothing, as loose as she wishes. Even the tent-like chador is legal.

Speaking of chadors, I am amazed at the number of times I have noticed Muslim women wearing the complete veil – for modesty, presumably – and whose top was adjusted to emphasize their bust. (If you spend ten minutes at the Vista Point next to the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, you will spot a half dozen.) I have to comment because not creating this bust line adjustment is easier and cheaper than creating it. It takes effort to have it. Incidentally, I know I am unusually observant in this connection. The fact that I am a dirty old man is only part of the reason. The other part is that my mother was a talented seamstress who had a big influence on my perceptiveness. (It’s all in my book that you should read: I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography -. It’s available from Amazon and from me at I even know the technical term in French for such topsail adjustments.

The correct answer to the initial question above is that women show their breasts as much as they dare to. A t-shirt is a common way to do it without doing it. The garment also obscures imperfections in that area, including thinness of endowment.

2 Santa Cruz, where we both live, my teacher and I, has a mild climate. It’s a university town, and, as such, pretty informal. People here often wear shorts, both men and women. The men all wear shorts down to the knee or nearby. All the women and girls who wear shorts, without exception, wear short short shorts, pretty much at crotch level. Females who wear shorts display their thighs (even when reason would command no such display, another story, obviously.) If you agree that my description is accurate on the whole, why should this be? Why do young women exhibit their thighs?

If you don’t agree that my description of shorts is accurate, what have you been smoking?

The correct answer to the first question is that all women who think they can afford to want to display their thighs. Those who think they cannot or shouldn’t (not enough to my mind) just refrain from wearing shorts at all…. Not worth it!

For a while, I was puzzled by the uniformity of the actual application of this rule. Since I am a retired guy and a conscientious pop-sociologist, I took the trouble to perform some of the relevant research. I can confirm that Bermuda shorts – now called “walking shorts” – for women are available all year around from Land’s End, for example. They cover the leg down to the vicinity of the knee, just like men’s shorts. So, the exhibition of thigh space is much more likely to be a choice by women than a fashion somehow imposed from above by sadistic (and probably gay) designers. Or by lubricious hetero corporate decision-makers, for that matter.

3 Explain; “pushup bra.” What is it? What is it for?

Correct answer: It’s is an artful device explicitly designed to make women seem to have bigger breasts that they actually have. It serves no other purpose.
Any argument?

The Search for Sperm

“But, but,’patriarchal society,’ blah , blah, blah….” If there were any merit to this line of argument, you would find the following: As patriarchal power in all its manifestations recedes so, should the allure of curve enhancement among women. I am persuaded that precisely the reverse is true: The weaker the patriarchal power, the more the curves in evidence. (I am not complaining, I am describing!)

Here is what used to be obvious about curve enhancement based on everything we see where it’s allowed by law and custom:

All normal women of reproductive age who don’t have children, or who don’t have enough children ( a subjective judgment), place themselves nearly constantly on sexual display when they are in public. I mean anonymous, largely omnidirectional sexual display. The display always begins with those physical traits that best differentiate heterosexual adult women from heterosexual adult men. Those are mostly but not exclusively buttocks, thighs and breasts. Long hair that is also lustrous, fleshy lips and, especially, large eyes, may also serve the purpose but they are mostly useless at a distance. (The girl who was leaving the post office fixing up her lips was making them appear fleshier, just in case someone got close, no doubt, without thinking.)

You will have noticed the escape clause in the beginning sentence of the preceding paragraph: “All normal women…” This means all young women in the reproductive situation I describe except those who are sick in any way. Depressed women, in particular do not display. The relationship is so tight that I speculate that it could be used as a first-cut diagnosis tool: Show me a young, childless woman. who does not engage in any sexual display (and who has not taken Holy Orders) and I will show you a depressed woman!

Incidentally, please, note my moderation. I did not advance as yet another kind of sexual signaling the dozens of ugly camel feet that assault my eyes every time I set my own feet downtown. I credit the camels to simple negligence and bad taste. I also try to avert my eyes from what may be a sign of desperation by increasingly neglected young single women (another story, another hypothesis.)

Young women who have insufficiently reproduced (according to their own instincts) engage in sexual signaling for two related but conceptually distinct reasons. Both are biological imperatives, that is, the women can hardly or seldom escape the compulsion. Women are first seeking good sperm, quality sperm. Second, they are seeking a provider and protector for their offspring to come. Of the two, the first is easily the most straightforward mission. It does not require much discernment:

Is he tall enough? Does he have four limbs, five fingers on each hand? Is his face symmetrical (Is he “cute”) – a sign of genetic integrity? Any bulge? Does he appear mentally normal? Do I have a chance?

The second search, for a provider and protector, by contrast, involves several tricky calculations. Here is an example: Older men are generally better established than young men. They are likely to provide more immediate economic security, all good for my offspring. Yet, they are likely to die sooner than young men so that this superior security may be short lived. And, though young men are less likely to die, they are more likely than older men to desert me and my children because they receive more and better offers than do older men. You see what, I mean? It’s not simple at all.

Given these different degree of complexity, I am guessing that young women probably spend more energy and more time on the first pursuit than on the second. Studying the Victoria’s Secret catalog is more fun that studying insurance companies’ actuarial tables, for sure!

Culture Channels

The link between sexual display, as described above, and the search for good sperm is very tight and quite visible in some cultures, less so in others. Among humans, culture always constrains the expression of biology, of course. We are fully animals but we are exceptionally culturally inclined animals . In the US, the relationship between curve bolding and sperm seeking is blatant. I take my granddaughter to many lessons during the day. This makes me an honorary “Mom,” of course or, at least, it puts me in a good position to observe large numbers of women who have reproduced and who may not be looking for sperm anymore, or not actively. On the average, with extremely few exceptions, these late twenties and early thirties mothers with toddlers and kindergarteners look unkempt, often borderline unclean, almost always flabby. There is no pushup bra in sight, not even the suspicion of one and their thighs are completely absent from view.

If I did not know any better, I would guess that the young women with toddlers are from a different tribe or even from a different race than the young women who amble only a few blocks away, in tight, low-cut t-shirts worn over a pushup bra ( the “Triple Punch”!) In fact, of course, they are sisters and not even years apart, more like high school mates. Together, they project an exemplary “before” and “after”picture: Not enough sperm: Boost curves; enough and more than enough: Don’t bother.

I can already hear the outraged reaction from where I sit quietly: The old bastard lacks compassion with respect to the unavoidable ravages of pregnancy and childbirth. Maybe I do because I do not think they are unavoidable. French women experience pregnancy too; they give birth too. Yet you never see in France even close to this degree of absence of sexual attractiveness. Young French mothers are back on the beach three or four months after delivery. American mothers, often never. It’s avoidable. (Note in passing that this counterexample may subtly undermine my own thesis.)

And no, I am not likely to be unwittingly looking at different social classes, or not in a direction that would help criticize my view. Taking small children to lessons in this and lessons in that is a sure mark of middle-class status. While they wait for a ballet class to end, the moms are not gainfully employed, in most cases. (I know, I know: Many work from the laptop in their van. Bullshit! It only happens in some women’s magazines. Taking care of even one small child is stressful; it does not allow one to focus on work.)

I brought up culture. Recognizing the existence of overwhelming biological imperatives is not denying the force of culture: Biology gives the speed and the power; cultures channel the ensuing course of action. Reproduction must happen, so mating must happen; so, there is sperm seeking behavior. Children must also be brought up until they can more or less stand on their own and fend for themselves. That’s all. How either is done is left to culture. Many different, culturally determined strategies exist. They involve widely different degrees of sexual signaling and also, curiously of indirect signaling (another story; ask me). So, pay attention, I am going to unravel this bird nest of knots with a straightforward scientific hypothesis. Don’t miss it.

In some cultures, no direct sexual signaling is permitted at all, at least, in some social classes. Under those conditions, mating must be arranged, of course. In those societies, it would be difficult to figure out what Mother Nature really intended because Mother Nature is kept outside the wall and will be likely stoned to death if she enters. I note, however, that in the most restrictive cultures, young women may take extraordinary risks to signal anyway. Or, they may signal with extraordinary ingenuity within the harsh boundaries imposed on them. (See my old story in Liberty Unbound: “On the Beach in an Arab CityLiberty. 22-8: 27-28, 34 (September) 2008.)

Some cultures allow a fair amount of displaying but its extent and kind is strictly regulated and the displays are limited to specific occasions. I spent time in a Bolivian village a long time ago where unmarried peasant girls were allowed to show a fair amount of bosom at weddings and at dances occasioned by certain patron saint days. Curiously, they seemed to all display almost exactly the same amount of breast real estate as if precise measurement had been involved. (I was already an attentive social scientist then, you bet!) The connection to mating was almost indecently clear in its modest, moderate way:

“The boys are idled today, and they are a little loosened up by drink. Show them what they are missing. This is your last chance for five weeks. To-morrow, everyone will be back at work. Go for it, now; don’t dawdle!”

In earlier days, in America and in some of Europe, there was formal, decorous courting which occasioned few direct female displays. Fortunately for our race, courting was fully complemented by formal dancing, a veritable intense mimicry of the sex act. The Victorian dress code required that this act should be performed by women with necklines down to the areola and strongly protruding bottoms fortified by falsies. Unmarried women participated but their chest tops were pretend-covered by a transparent cloth and their false derrieres protruded a little less. The prospective donors must have gotten the idea anyway, I am sure.

I could go on telling you several more pleasant true stories on the same theme but, one, writing soft core is not my purpose here and, two, you get my point. Instead, here is a testable proposition:

The fewer and the less stringent the cultural strictures imposed on sexual display, the closer to the underlying biological imperative is the sexual signaling behavior.

In other words, sexual behavior in California should be nearer to what Mother Nature commands than sexual behavior is in most other places at most times. What I see on the streets of Santa Cruz is real close to the real, animal thing! This, by the way, would explain why this state of California boasts some of the most angry feminists “spokespersons.” If positive sexual signaling by young women, and almost entirely by young women, is an integral, normal, necessary, unavoidable part of normal life, those who insist that there is little or no difference between men and women are bound to be frequently frustrated.

Two more digressions. First, I am aware of the fact that the behavior the sperm search characteristically involves may interfere with the behavior required by the provider search: Too much breast swinging will probably sometimes act as a signal of excessive sexual availability. Such a disposition in its turn implies the danger for the provider of bearing the cost of rearing offspring unrelated to himself. (Yes, you read this right: not “unrelated to themselves:” bad grammar is a form of lying.) Second, dress choices that enhance sperm search may often be at odds with the search for “chic” because this ineffable quality often requires understatement including the understatement of womanly curves. I cannot go into this interesting issue here. It complicates but does not nullify anything I state. If I had time, I would speculate that the search for chic involves competition between women for men who have become inured to sperm donation invitations through a surfeit of this particular currency. I mean competition, among others such, for rich men from traditional elites.

Brutal Numbers and their Implications for Action

Young women have forever been caught on he horns (if I may use this word) of a dilemma: The fear that men will treat them a sex objects and the fear that men will not treat them as sex objects. It’s a tight, narrow path to walk. Perhaps, it used to be easier than it is under contemporary conditions.

The non directionality of much sexual signaling related to sperm search may make the search more frustrating to women today than it was until amazingly recently. In 1815, most Europeans and most Americans lived in small villages. (Before, that and as far back as we can go, they mostly lived in even smaller groups.) This fact is relevant to the idea of harassment.

In the average village, there may have been seven or eight males of age appropriate to mating. Of those, maybe two or three individuals were unsuitable mating material for one reason or another. The excess load of women’s undifferentiated sexual display was thus light. Today’s young woman is not really seeking a much greater number of appropriate sperm donors than her great-grandmas did because women can only be pregnant a small number of time in their lifetime, not many more than ten. In theory, each woman has access to hundred, or even thousands of sperm donors but 90% or more are superfluous; most are unsuitable for different reasons. To get to the useful ones, she may have to sift through hundreds of bad or very bad potential mating partners. This is a classical issue of poor yield: One has to go through tons and tons of garbage rock to find a handful of gems. This could easily become uncomfortable, “harassment.” The future solution of course is not for women to cease the biologically mandated sperm search but to take it largely out of the public arena with the help of pairing software and of the wonders of Internet photographic (and sound) transmission. Electronic sperm providing triage looks to have a bright future.

There is not much that’s new in anything I have stated above except the numbers. Those are very new on the scale of human evolution. Our biology and our physiology evolved over tens of thousands of years in a steady context of small numbers. In the blink of an eye (100-150 years), the processes formed under these conditions had to deal with huge numbers. The transition is bound to be rocky. One other thing is a little new on the mating front but its’ not exactly news. It’s the fact that recent research keeps spitting out new findings that confirm that inherited traits are very important and lasting, and first and foremost the sexual division of humanity. (That’s notwithstanding the natural existence of boy-girls, girl-boys and persons in transition. Mother Nature is not a very precise engineer. She cares about large numbers, “on the whole.”)

In this perspective, complimenting a woman for enacting well biological imperatives over which she has little control is as necessary as applauding a concert pianist. That’s except that the pianist has an easier task, having been trained and generally following a musical score.

Women invest large amounts of energy, treasures of inventiveness, often genuine artfulness in their signaling. To not comment is often simply rude. Same as failing to let your neighbor know that her well-tended flower garden livens up the neighborhood. Women not poisoned by feminism will readily confess that they are able to bring up their own morale by simply walking where men are likely to notice them. As I finish this essay, a Facebook “friend” of mine posts the following: “The solution to a bad hair day is a low cut blouse.” (My friend is no spring chicken; she may be too unsophisticated to be much troubled by feminist complaints. She may well read this essay. I hope she will tell us.) To deny this simple observation is to be a liar. To ignore it is to be abysmally ignorant. To argue that sexual signaling is all the fruit of cultural conditioning – conditioning that just happens to be the same across all cultures – is dishonest, ignorant, and it’s become really, really boring.

And a part of me fears that after I pass on, there will not be a single male voice to assert that the queen is half naked!

Not well covered here is the possibility that many women are strongly irritated by the poor quality of the expressions of curve recognition they garner. Perhaps, importing tens of thousands of Italian men to teach adjunct classes in American high schools (or even Frenchmen, if I say so myself)… Just an idea.

How about my honest manners adviser you may ask, the guy who believes that all comments about a woman’s physical appearance constitute sexual harassment? As I have told you, he is neither lacking in intelligence nor standing especially low on the information ladder. My wife of 38 years helped me a great deal with that one. (She is probably more intelligent than I am but she is not as well informed and she is not as wise as I am, in general. Sometimes, she is though. She also tends to be quicker.) She asked me this simple question:

“Isn’t it true that you are treating silly feminist dogma as if it were software? What if it’s really hardware?”

My wife question corresponds quite well with what contemporary brain science tells us. The brain rewires itself unceasingly; it rewires itself on the basis of the stimuli it receives. In this view, ideas that are repeated over and over may become permanently wired, or solidly wired, in the brain. That is, they become hardware and difficult to un-install. Thus lodged, they are almost impervious to arguments, to observation, and to reasoning, in other words. This may be what “dogma” really means from the standpoint of individual belief.

By the way, I have often wondered how intelligent, cultured, often creative Western Communists could retain their belief faced by mountains of communist atrocities, faced by the ordure of the Gulag piling up on their doorstep. The brain wiring hypothesis would go a long way toward dissipating the mystery. Like Communists in non-communist countries, my manners teacher may well has been exposed without stop to the same comparatively well articulated feminist doctrine with no, zero, exposure to any contrary viewpoint.

Oh, and yes, my manners teacher may be correct from a strictly legal standpoint because feminist insanity has penetrated far into our legal system. That does not make it true in any other sense.

And, by the way, did you hear the clamor of American feminists demanding that our country take action to stop the sex slave trade in little girls in Syria and in Iraq just as soon as we extinguish the criminal custom of wolf-whistling?

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We Must Have Order!

I sometimes think that the small daily vexations of government do more to wake up regular people than the really big abuses of government. Below is a relevant anecdote.

Seven or eight years ago, the City of Santa Cruz forbade me from cutting the tree figuring in the picture below. It’s a redwood tree. It’s in my tiny front yard. Its invasion of a sewer line cost me $10,000 before I asked humbly for permission to remove the tree. Now, the tree roots are destroying the foundations of my house as well as the sidewalk in front of it. The city says that I am responsible for fixing the sidewalk, indefinitely, apparently because redwood tress grow at least for several hundred years.

redwood in santa cruz

Now, to be fair, the City arborist told me a few months ago privately that if I asked for permission to cut the tree again now, it would probably be approved. It does not do me much good now. She said no when I could afford to cut it now, I can’t afford it. Besides, the city insists that I have to pay for a permit to remove the tree I did not want in the first place. This is more offensive than the much higher cost of taking the tree down which involves real work, at least. (It’s true that I bought the property with the tree on it. I had no idea then that I could even be denied the permission to cut a forest tree.) I am quite insensitive to the need of my city to have redwood trees, specifically, within its boundaries.

First, everyone knows that redwoods are destructive. Moreover, they sterilize the area where they grow. Second, it’s not as if our citizens were deprived of trees, as people might be, say, in Arizona. In fact, there is a large forest a four minute drive from my house, seven minutes by bicycle, tops. It’s a 90% redwood forest. It’s not clear to me that I must recognize a duty to subsidize the redwood viewing of residents and visitors who are too lazy to drive or bike there.

Note my delicateness of mind: I admit that many of my fellow Santa Cruzans would be morally torn between the desire to commune with redwood trees, on the one hand and their fervent wish to not contribute to global warming by driving four minutes, on the other hand. But I think they can just bike there, or walk. I also admit that there are people in Santa Cruz who don’t own a car and who are physically unable to bike or walk to the forest. I would be in favor of a city-sponsored collection to bus them to the redwood forest four times each year. I would gladly contribute, voluntarily, that is.

Two deeply different views of the world are at odds here. Now, let me assure you that although I am a conservative, I like trees. I like cherry trees and apple trees mostly, for obvious reasons, but redwoods are OK because they give high grade lumber. And, yes, they look wonderful. That is, they look wonderful where they belong, in a forest, with their brothers and sisters and all the cousins around. My own redwood tree (the tree that my family and the City apparently jointly own) is a object of shame. It’s so bad, that I never use it to give directions to my house although it stands right out. It’s an object of shame because PGE, the publicly regulated monopoly, has the right to shape it in any way it chooses. I am sure there are technicalities that escape me here but the shape it prefers makes my redwood tree look like an old, overused toilet brush. Sorry for the vision, I call them as I see them!

Well, I planted a yellow rose bush nearby and the bush found the spot attractive. It grew and grew under my firm benign neglect. Eventually, it had to discover that the nearby redwood tree makes a good ladder to the sun. The result is in the photo above. Well, I think you are not going to believe this but a member of the leftist and left-liberal city council complained about the rose bush on the tree. She says it looks unkempt. Here you have it – not left-wing thought, there is no thinking involved here – but the leftist temperament in a nutshell: Things have to be neat; personal preferences do not matter; bureaucracies give you predictability even if at stupendous cost, the market is inherently messy. We must have order even if it impoverishes our lives.

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Mexican immigration and the Open Border: Mexicans Go Home and Mexican Kindness

I just returned from a two-plus weeks stay in Mexico for the second time in less than five months. A couple of comments to add to my previous essay on Mexican underdevelopment. Plus, some unrelated political sociology comments.

In 2009, my friend Sergey Nikiforov and I published a long piece on Mexican emigration to the US in the libertarian periodical The Independent Review. (Nikiforov and I are both immigrants to the United States.) The article is entitled, “If Mexicans and Americans Could Cross the Border Freely,” and the full text is available through a link on this blog. In that article, we argued that we would all be better off if the southern American border were open to crossing by citizens of both countries with no expectation of a change in citizenship for either.

Well, the politicians did not listen to us then and their inattention led to the recent Republican fiasco whereas, President Obama used an executive order to more or less legalize five million  illegal aliens, most of them Mexicans whereas, the Republican Senate called him out and ended up caving piteously. (Do you remember or have you already forgotten? Stupidly, Republicans tried to use the threat to de-fund Homeland Security at a time when aggravated terrorism news fill the airwaves.) As often happens, the Republican leadership confused the issue of constitutional principle with the substantive issue of limiting immigration. Myself, I would chose total firmness on the first and flexibility on the second, for fear of ending up the A.H., no matter what the outcome. The Republican leadership lost the constitutional arm wrestling and still ended up the A. H. Congratulations, guys!

Our article was long and intricate as is normal for a scholarly piece. Here are two highlights from that piece on which I wish to comment after my two recent stays in Mexico:

A We argued that Mexicans – who constitute the largest immigrant group to the US – should be given special treatment over other aliens. Several reasons for this: They are our close neighbors; they have been joined to us through NAFTA for now 23 years, insuring that our lives are tightly enmeshed economically. Then, because of a long series of past interactions some may find deplorable, Mexicans tend to make very good immigrants. Two reasons for this superiority, in turn. First, nearly everyone agree that Mexicans (in the US) tend to be very hard workers. Even their direct competitors in the work place tend to assent to this judgment. Second, sociologically, Mexicans make good immigrants because they are astonishingly familiar with our society, including with our institutions, before they set foot on American soil. In particular, Mexicans don’t find perplexing our fundamental constitutional principle of separation of religion and government. (That’s, as opposed to immigrants from other areas I could name.)

Nikiforov and I argued that Mexican citizens should enjoy unimpeded passage into the US, and the freedom to take any job for which they qualify, all without any path to American citizenship because, Mexicans already have a citizenship, that of Mexico. We point out that the European Union has used this model for more than twenty years and experienced few downsides. (The current ferment in Europe about and opposition to immigration does not involve neighbors from the EU, with one single exception I will discuss if someone asks me.)

B We proposed that many Americans would find it comfortable to spend their last years in Mexico because of a specific aspect of Mexican culture, to wit, contemporary Mexicans tend to be sweet in general and considerate to older people in particular.

This is what I found in twice two and half weeks in Puerto Vallarta in the pas five months that is relevant to these issues.

First, on the matter of Mexicans wanting to work in the US but not necessarily wishing to live there, we were much more right than we thought when we wrote about this. The anecdotal evidence is overwhelming that this would work. Everywhere I went in Puerto Vallarta , I bumped into people who knew some English that they had learned in the US, mostly as illegal immigrants here working at undesirable jobs. None of those people had been expelled, deported. All had returned to Mexico under their own power after saving some money. Thus, they had chosen to go home because it’s home, just as we predicted in the article.

One middle-aged man sticks to my mind, a taxi driver. He had stayed in the US (illegally) for several years. He had refrained from visiting with his family in Mexico for stretches of two or three years at a time to avoid being unable to return to the US. You might say that he was trapped in the US for longer periods than he wished because of our immigration laws. He finally decided to go back to Mexico and to his family for good after he had saved enough money to build a house for each of his three daughters. He specified that only one of the daughters was of marriageable age by the time he had the three houses standing. To my mind, this is an exemplary story of emigration/immigration. On my query, the man declared himself satisfied with his choice and with his life since his return from the US.

He was earning, driving a taxi, about 1/5 or less of what he earned in the US doing unpleasant work. He liked his job; he enjoyed returning to his family every evening; he liked the schools; paradoxically, he liked Mexican schools. (This is paradoxical because daily life in Puerto Vallarta, including in the schools is much more relaxed, much more genteel than what prevails in the US except in the most elite neighborhoods. In that part of Mexico, the bloody drug traffic-based blood-thirsty banditry is found strictly in the newspapers. It is not at all apparent in daily life. The quality of this daily life is at the antipodes of the impression of Mexico reaching us through the US media. Gangs are not in the school unlike in Salinas, California, for example.)

On point B, the attractiveness of Mexico to older Americans, I find that I tend to censor myself anytime I write about the topic because I fear appearing to be gushing like a teenage girl. During my last stay, of two and half weeks, I did not mean a single Mexican man, woman or child who was not completely pleasant except two. One was a taxi driver and he was morose but, that’s because he was drunk. (Nobody is perfect.) The second was a female merchant who acted displeased because I tried to bargain down an item in which I was interested. Another merchant – from whom I actually bought and whom I befriended – told me later that my bargaining had been reasonable and that the woman was undergoing a painful divorce. Mexico is not perfect and I may have looked like the woman’s soon-to-be ex-husband. You never know; these things happen.

Absolutely everywhere, my gray beard drew the kind of respectful behavior I don’t expect in the US. (And that I don’t deserve, to be honest!)

I can hear the snickering from here: “Of course, he stays in a tourist ghetto were everyone is occupationally obligated to appear nice.” No, I did not spend all my time there; I was forced to go out and I liked to go out. I found that everyone smiles a lot, including at each other, even among perfect strangers, that everybody ceded passage, that waiting lines are always orderly. Being a formerly great social scientist, I yielded, of course, to the temptation to conduct verbal experiment. Unfailingly, I made everyone I wanted to laugh at the drop of a hat. I mean small children, old ladies and adults of all sexes. (Yes, my Spanish is that good. Eat your heart out or learn to conjugate irregular verbs! Those are your choices. There are no others.)

Issue A and B are joined in the strangest way within my latest short stay in Mexico. Puerto Vallarta in the winter is swarming with Canadians. Their flight from the cold may have a great deal to do with this fact but it has a virtuous side-effect. I suspect many flew in to warm up and ended up warmly loving Mexicans for the reasons I depicted above. They beat Americans at it, in that city, at least. Oh, and the only sullen faces around Puerto Vallarat all belong to them. It became a game of pop-sociology for me: guessing from afar who was American and who was Canadian. It soon become embarrassingly easy: The Americans are the loud ones who say hello and who laugh easily. (Besides, I think the presence of Canadians explains much of the bad food there.)

After this last experience, I am very tempted to start a new racist fad: Speaking ill of and persecuting Canadians. It could be fun and they are not (yet) a federally protected minority.

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More on Radiations

Here is what I found on Wikipedia under “Bikini Atoll.” My showing this here does not mean I am in favor of bombarding the human body with radiations. I am just against panics in general. I am hoping to help some people develop their BS detector, or build it from scratch. I am not very successful overall but I am grateful for two or three improvements in sanity.

“Between 1946 and 1958, 23 nuclear devices were detonated by the United States at seven test sites located on the reef, inside the atoll, in the air, or underwater.[4] They had a combined fission yield of 42.2 Mt. “….
Bikini Lagoon diving
To provide an economic base for future resettlement of the atoll, the Bikini Council organized the Bikini Atoll Divers to host divers in June 1996.[55] Because the lagoon has remained undisturbed for so long, it contains a larger amount of sea life than usual, including sharks, which increases divers’ interest in the area. Visibility depth is over 100 feet (30 m). The lagoon is immensely popular with divers, and is regarded as among the top 10 diving locations in the world. ” (Bolding mine.)
It costs $4,000 a week.
Although the atomic blasts obliterated three islands and contaminated much of the atoll, after 50 years the coral reefs had recovered. The reefs attracted reef fish and their predators: 30 pounds (14 kg) dogtooth tuna, 20 pounds (9.1 kg) barracuda, and bluefin trevally as big as 50 pounds (23 kg). Given the long-term absence of humans, the Bikini lagoon offers sportsmen one of the most pristine fishing environments in the world.[25]” (Bolding mine.)

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I am back and able to blog again but not really up to it yet. Besides, my blog has just about as many visits in my absence as when I am working my back off (speaking of “back”) !

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In December 2014, NATO ended its combat mission in Afghanistan. Pretty much everyone knows that the mission was a failure and the ending premature. Military experts, both in service and retired can’t help frowning when they are answering simple press questions about the situation in that unhappy country Hardly anyone in public life wants to say it aloud because we are all more or less tired of war, of that war in particular.

The bulk of US forces is slated to leave we don’t really know when. There are conversations going on to decide how much of a residual force is to be left behind and in what roles. It could be any number from 10,000 down to four or five. The US and NATO are acting in this respect as if they had won the war and the residual force issue was mainly a formality. Strange! Between the successful invasion and today, about 3,000 (1,800 military KIA and 1200 contractors) Americans lost their lives in Afghanistan, all volunteers thinking they were doing something positive. In the same period about 500,000 people died on American roads, most of them not volunteers.

The war fatigue  about Afghanistan tells us much about ourselves that is deplorable because there hardly ever was a war more justified than this Afghan war. Americans have lost the memory of the still fairly recent events that led to our military engagement there, and of NATO’s. Or else, they are pretending not to remember because it’s convenient not to. Let me be a little inconvenient for a short while. Below is a brief reminder.

On September 11 2001 in a well-planned, superbly executed and inexpensive terrorist attack, unknown assailants assassinated almost 3,000 Americans and foreign residents of the US in three different places. US intelligence agencies quickly identified Al Qaeda as the perpetrator. The leader of this terrorist jihadist organization, the late Osama Bin Laden obliged a short time later by bragging about the attack on video. Bin Laden was then known to be operating in Afghanistan with several hundred, or several thousand Arab and other non-Afghan jihadists.

Afghanistan was then largely ruled by one of several military organizations, the retrograde, reactionary Taliban (“students of theology” many of whom could barely read though they could recite the Koran in a foreign language – Arabic.) The US requested that the Taliban government – with which we had yet no quarrel in spite of its inhumane treatment of women- turn over Bin Laden to the US for trial. I mean by “inhumane,” such things as forbidding little girls from going to school and forbidding male doctors from examining female patients, in a country where there were only a handful of female doctors. (Note that it you put the two prohibitions together, you have a recipe for the extinction of women over time.) There was also the occasional shooting of female adulterers at the half-time of soccer games.

The Taliban government refused to turn over Bin Laden for trial. On October 7th, the US and the UK invaded Afghanistan with the express purpose of overthrowing the Taliban. The war was conducted with an alliance of anti-Taliban Afghan fighters with a more or less secular ideology. It involved US and UK aerial forces and handful of special forces from both countries. It only lasted a couple of weeks. The Taliban fled Kabul and other big Afghan cities.

Other NATO countries quickly joined the US and the UK as was their legal obligation. They contributed to varying degrees, some of them to a shamefully weak extent. Flagging resolve was visible from the start. Belgium had 33 personnel there, NATO member Greece had 8 (eight). Other NATO countries contribute significant contingents but they were often hemmed in by severe restrictions. The Germans, for example, brought in as many as 5,300 personnel but they operated under a long list of “don’t” that could be fairly summarized as : “Don’t fight unless you have to.” Reading the stories of military participation by other countries is like discovering a narrative of allegedly military forces elbowing one another out of the way to serve in non-military roles, including offering dental services, airport guard and, of course, the ever-popular training of others….The Turks, whose presence in a Muslim country could have been invaluable let it be known that they did not really wish to be involved. (Reminder: Turkey is a founding member of NATO. For forty years, it was protected from Soviet invasion by American bombers.)

After this initial military triumph, the American/ NATO effort went awry. What began as a punitive expedition morphed into a mission to win hearts and minds, just like in Vietnam where it did so much good! The president we installed in Afghanistan turned against us. As I write, Afghanistan has experienced a more or les democratic transition with the two top winners of the last elections sharing power, an unstable arrangement in most cases. Little girls still go to school in the cities but teachers, even in Kabul, the capital, express fear for the future of girl schooling. It appears from press pictures that there are no Afghan women in public places not wearing the all-covering shador. The country is still called the “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.” (Imagine the “Christian United States of America.”)

The US, NATO, the whole Western Democratic world, democratic nations elsewhere are leaving behind a fiasco. The country was not secured militarily against a return of the Taliban, who now have even better reasons to shelter terrorists bent on spilling American and Western blood. The hearts and minds of Afghans were not won.. It’s not even clear what separates the Taliban from those supposed friends we leave behind except for a thin Westernized elite, the product of student exchange programs joined by returnees from emigration. There have just been too many assassinations of NATO personnel and other terrorists acts by men in “Afghan government uniforms” to allow any confidence that there will be a stable Afghan government not hostile to our world.

I even wonder if the execution of adulterous women is not still on the book there. I am pretty sure blasphemy is. (I don’t know with what penalty. It may be less than capital punishment.) Apostasy – changing one’s religion – is at least illegal, if not worse. I doubt the leopard changed its spot. Perhaps, there are two leopards in Afghanistan as a result of 14 years of our intervention, and one is allowing us to feed it, at least for a while. I think no lesson was learned by us or by other democracies. The US is even providing a permanent war chest for any future dictatorship, secular or religious in the form of artificially high opium prices: Let the US legalize drugs and the price of opium in Afghanistan (where most opium in the world is grown) will plummet to the level of the price of broccoli immediately. It’s not going to happen. That one is entirely our fault, not the Afghans’.

Not only did we fail in extirpating terrorism in Afghanistan, the world is much more propitious to it than it was on the eve of 9/11. In the west, there are unending insurgencies in Mali and in Niger. There, they burn books and destroy tombs whenever they get a chance. It seems that the small French armed forces, with several African allies, are holding the line. Take note: Military interventions sometimes work, even with small forces. In Nigeria, next door, an insurrection that calls itself ” Non-Islamic Education is Forbidden” burns alive whole villages (in addition to books and schools). North of Niger, a violent civil war is tearing Libya into a non-state where Islamists seem to be winning or, at least holding their own. They feel safe enough there to produce a short movie of the ritual assassination of 21 men chosen for being Christians. The assassins said it was specifically because they were Christians. They also bragged that they were now almost at the gates of Rome. (In their sick, ignorant seventh century minds, Rome is the center of Western civilization.) Egypt, itself, next door, has returned to the familiar safety of military rule. There is not much protest there from local democrats about this development. I think it’s because they now realize that they are only a handful, in two cities, in danger of being engulfed by a sea of religious fanatics. The Egyptian government is asking the US for technical help in running the military hardware we sold the country over a period of years. The American president is thinking on it, saying neither yes or no. Perhaps, his administration is considering the implications for global warming.

The monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula seem stable but it’s not completely clear what the deep pillars of their stability might be, or if they even exist, or, if they do, how deep they are now that the oil manna is drying up. The US and other Western countries have now fled the Republic of Yemen where two different kinds of jihadists are fighting it out. Both hate America. Utter barbarism has returned to eastern Syria and northern Iraq, complete with religiously sanctioned slavery and child rape. Jordan is barely hanging on. Its government is begging for gasoline and bullets. We are thinking on it because the cost could be as high as one tenth of New Hampshire’s budget. Lebanon is holding its breath and Israel wisely keeps its counsel. Perhaps, the Israeli political class figures that religious fanatics are not worse as neighbors than the secular Arab terrorists of the sixties and seventies, or only by a matter of degree. I am confident that Israelis have their several contingency plans, should things turn even uglier. Everyone one knows that Israel has nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

Moving NNE, beyond Afghanistan itself, we have the perennially failing state of Pakistan, perennially propped up by US aid. This does not prevent it from having nuclear weapons. No cause for worry, right? Pakistan is where religious fanatics frequently firebomb mosques during Friday services. Brave warriors of their religion machine gunned more than one hundred school children there recently.

Largely ignored by the mass media: the tremendous economic dislocation violent jihadists impose on others at little cost to themselves. In Nigeria alone, there are 1.5 million refugees created by Bokom Haram atrocities (WSJ02/16/15). Pakistan was split from India in 1949 to provide a specifc home for Muslims. The experiment failed. The average Muslim in India is much freer in every way, including religious, than the average Muslim in Pakistan. When Pakistan falls apart further, perhaps its military leadership will make the wrong move, the area will be re-absorbed by India. (Dream on!)

Fortunately, there is an island of stability in that horrible region. It’s the theocratic, authoritarian and corrupt Islamic Republic of Iran. Perhaps, as a result of Mr Obama’s efforts, the mullahs will turn nice. Perhaps, they will abstain from sponsoring further conventional terrorism; perhaps, they will abstain from nuking Israel; and if they do nuke Israel, perhaps they will refrain from setting one of our cities on fire with one of their new long range, missiles capable of carrying nuclear heads.

Yes, I am a little alarmed. Shoot me!

Now, for the cause of these horrors: If you follow my mental journey on a map, from Mali NNE, you will soon notice that all the countries I mention have camels.Camels generate, or at least, they encourage terrorist practices, the killing, maiming, and enslaving of non-combatants. I am being careful enough here, I hope. I assume that camels are not on the list of “word alerts” of political correctness. I don’t want a visit from the FBI, or from the campus police either.

In a little corner of this burning region, the out-manned, out-gunned Kurds do what they have always done: They defend themselves against all aggressors, at any cost, with or without external help. Note that the Kurds also have camels but they don’t burn prisoners alive

“We can’t be the policeman of the world,” they say. Watch what happens when there is no policeman because the US quit. I hate to admit the obvious as much as anyone but it’s the obvious.

Sure enough, we are not responsible for the whole world but we are certainly responsible for our own safety. Everything else is shameful, that simple.

A generation ago, we defeated decisively the 10,000 tanks, the thousands of bombers, the countless intercontinental missiles of the communist Soviet Empire. Now, we have become frightened of amateurs in flip-flops equipped with looted military supplies.

Afterword: The following Muslim-majority countries are reasonably peaceful, each under it own brand of more or less secular despotism:
Burkina Fasso, Mauritania, Chad, Algeria, Turkey, Azerbaidjan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, and Bangladesh. The Maldives, Indonesia, and Malaysia are neither aflame nor despotic. In the later country, a ten-year legal process ended up recently in the confirmation of a former Prime Minister’s conviction on sodomy charges. A little earlier, the highest court in the land confirmed that the word “Allah” – which simply means “God” in Arabic – can only be used by Muslims. Arabic is no one’s language in Malaysia. (Would I make this up?)

And then, there are the small miracles of Senegal and Morocco. The first is a poor but real democracy on the west coast of Africa. The second is an old-style theoretically absolute monarchy that runs a limited but quite real democracy. The sultan or Morocco is also its formal religious leader, “Commander of the Faithful.” Food for thought

And the greatest miracle of all is little Tunisia, where the Arab Spring started and its only real survivor. What happened?

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This a test.

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