Thursday, February 28, 2013

A few words at this late hour

1. American "Progressives" have as much in common with progress as "People's Democracies" had with democracy.

2. Prime-minister of Turkey recently compared Zionism (a movement which supports the self-determination of the Jewish people) with anti-Semitism and fascism. For those who are not following the Turkish politics - Erdogan a big friend of Hamas, an Islamic terrorist group. In case you are wondering, Obama considers Erdogan to be among his top 5 closest foreign world leaders.

3. There are relatively few articles about the Kurdish war for independence in Turkey, and the media apparently don't want to give their struggle any publicity - as well as the Turkish military campaign against the Kurdish freedom fighters. The media and liberal academia clearly treat the Kurdish fighters much worse than, say, the PLO or Hezbollah. Is it because the Kurds do not target Jewish women and children?

4. According to liberal lobbyist, "The bad news is, the world doesn’t end March 2 [The first day of sequester]. The worst-case scenario for us is the sequester hits and nothing bad really happens." Even before the sequester took effect, Obama's administration grounded a US aircraft career, and freed thousands of criminals from jail. Moreover, Obama and his people promise numerous hardships for the American people if the sequester is not stopped. The sequester "cuts" federal budget by 45 billion dollars in 2013, which amounts to about 1% of the federal budget. Even this datum is rather optimistic on the cuts - the actual federal budget in 2013 will be larger than in 2012 according to experts. One of the arguments against the sequester is that the cuts are "dumb" and the Obama administration will be forced to cut essential services - and yet, when the GOP proposed a legislation that would give Obama more flexibility in the budget cuts, he promised to veto it. It is projected by many that the Obama administration will most likely use the sequester cuts in the ways most painful to the American citizens. This brought to my mind a dictionary definition of "sabotage":

sabotage (ˈsæbəˌtɑːʒ) [Click for IPA pronunciation guide]
the deliberate destruction, disruption, or damage of equipment, a public service, etc, as by enemy agents, dissatisfied employees, etc

I am curious if Obama can be impeached for deliberate destruction of  public service for political gain. Would it qualify as "high crimes and misdemeanors"?

5. The Democrat party is determined to introduce a bill that would require "universal background check for gun purchases". I presume that the buyers would need to show their photo IDs, and the FBI would check their records for criminal activity and mental illness. Yet same Democrat party decried as draconian and racist the Republican proposals for voter IDs. I am curious if some gun activist will file a lawsuit against the background checks on the basis on their disparate impact on poor and minorities. Moreover, I would want to know why we allow mentally ill people to vote in presidential elections if they cannot be trusted to own guns. After all, votes do matter in this country, and voting for a wrong person may be more dangerous than a gun crime.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Let's talk about racism, Part 1

The topic of race and racism is one of the most dangerous in American public discussion. As Eric Holder, a highly controversial Attorney General said, "Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and we, I believe continue to be in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.” He also added:

If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us...
"If we're going to ever make progress, we're going to have to have the guts, we have to have the determination, to be honest with each other. It also means we have to be able to accept criticism where that is justified," Holder told reporters after the speech.

I believe that Mr.Holder is right, and I will try to be brave and honest when discussing race in America. I promise to my reader that I will not be cowed by race mongers hurling insults at me for telling the truth to power.

Exhibit 1. Race resentment from the NYT and the academia

I was reading this article from the NYT, and its fallacies became immediately apparent to me. The article is called "How Much Does Race Still Matter?" and it purports to examine the effects of Obama's election on the racial resentment in America. The first obvious flaw of the article is that all the research quoted by the author examines exclusively the attitude of White Americans versus Black Americans. The article itself concedes that there are 32% more Hispanics than Blacks - and yet, the author fails to find any research articles that examine the racial resentment between Blacks and Hispanics, let alone Asians and Blacks (and vice verse). The author also does not even attempt to discuss the racial prejudice towards White people in America - and given the ubiquity of institutional racism in universities and employment (the so-called "affirmative action"), this blindness to the obvious is unexplainable.

But what bothered me most is the article's discussion of a set of questions (put together by Tesler and Sears) which purportedly showed (if answered "incorrectly") a person's "explicit anti-black attitudes". The author conceded that not everyone agreed with these questions, but apparently, a lot of scientists did agree with Tesler.

I believe it would be educational for my readers to answer these questions (and read my own replies) and then debate which answers could be judged as demonstrating "explicitly anti-black attitudes".

1) Irish, Italian, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors.

For some undisclosed reason, the questioners decided to ignore the multiple non-White minorities that were able to over-come the prejudice and work their way up in the American society. These, of course, include the Chinese, Koreans, Indians, and Japanese, Arabs, Persians, Thai, Malaysians and Vietnamese. If anything, the people from these minorities can claim higher median income than the White people. It is also quite well-known, that all minorities suffered discrimination's (and many of them are still discriminated in university admissions and job applications) both by the government and the private business. Indeed, discrimination against Asians is legal today, and is even openly promoted by the federal, state and local governments. And yet, in spite of that, these groups are extremely successful in the US. Based on this undeniable evidence, I am forced to conclude that the Blacks can and should achieve success in this country without any "special favors". I would even contend that any "special favors" would prove to be disastrous to the Blacks and the race relations.

2) Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class.

Tens of millions of poor, illiterate minority immigrants came to the US in the 20th century, and in spite of continuous discrimination were able to achieve the living standards far above the level of the White Americans. There is absolutely no reason to presume that American Blacks cannot achieve the same success.

 3) Over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve.

Given the wide-spread usage of "affirmative action" which explicitly discriminates against White and Asian workers and applicants, and given the fact that the US economy is mostly free, there is no evidence to suggest that the Blacks "got less than they deserve." In fact, the opposite may actually be quite true.

4) It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.

Given the history of minority empowerment in America, it is beyond any doubt that the Blacks may achieve much more than the Whites if they demonstrate the same level of dedication to success as Asian-Americans and Jewish-Americans have in the 20th century.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Liberty and justice for all: Continued

As man is free, we say he exists for his own sake and not for another's
Aristotle, "Metaphysics"

My previous article on liberty and justice (which I also re-posted on a popular political website Alexandria) received a number of responses - including a post specifically written as a direct criticism of my letter.  I will try to write a response to this post as soon as the time permits - but as a quick summary I must confess to be astonished that a post so verbose, and which clearly required some effort from the author was amazingly brilliant at completely missing the point of my original post.

But the most confused and therefore more delightful response to my article was produced by the Wired Sisters, a regular writer (or a group of writers) at Alexandria, and I decided to reproduce it here in its entirety (see below):

Whose freedom? Must the Catholic church be “free” to keep its employees from getting contraceptives on their employer’s health insurance, or should those employees be “free” to spend their health care dollars any way they deem appropriate? Should the slave owners in the antebellum South have been “free” to own their slaves, or should the slaves have been free to choose their own work and homes? Should Lester Maddox have been “free” to decide who all got to eat in his fried chicken place, or should African-American citizens of the state of Georgia have been free to decide where to eat lunch? There is no such thing as absolute freedom. Everybody’s freedom can conceivably, at some point, intersect with and impede somebody else’s. Justice lies in the balancing act between them.
At first I thought that Wired Sisters was rather confused in her discussion of liberty, that she refused to discuss "liberty" as a term with an actual meaning and instead attempted to build an emotional argument against my article. But then I thought about it some more, and reached a different conclusion - while somewhat confused, Wired Sister's did follow a certain pattern, which will become obvious when her reply is put in the proper context. In order to trace the roots of Wired Sister's thinking, I will reach into the past and seek enlightenment from our great forefathers. For example, Abraham Lincoln, the founder of the Republican Party, addressed the very question of liberty in 1864, and had this to say:

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatable things, called by the same name———liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatable names———liberty and tyranny.

It is known which definition of liberty Lincoln and his Republican Party believed in 1864, while it's also apparent what the pro-slavery party, the DNC chose as their version of "liberty". The most remarkable thing is that in spite of all the amazing changes that we have seen in our nation during the last 150 years, the demarcation line between the main political parties remains largely unaltered.

It's beyond any doubt today which party believes that liberty is "for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor", and which party thinks that liberty is "for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor." As if to demonstrate the first line of thinking, Friedrich Hayek, an intellectual leader of modern day conservatism who influenced such major historical figures as Churchill, Goldwater, Thatcher and Reagan, defines liberty as:  "The state in which a man is not subject to coercion by the arbitrary will of another or others". He continues: "Freedom thus presupposes that the individual has some assured private sphere, that there is some set of circumstances in his environment with which others cannot interfere".

Barack Obama famously counters this with "You did not build that" and "I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money". Rawls, a famous liberal philosopher argued (as summarized by Richard Posner) that "no one should be allowed to keep more of his earnings than necessary to 'incentivize' him to exert himself in a way that will maximize the social product."

It is quite obvious that the definition that Hayek and Lincoln used -  could not or would not resolve ALL the issues that society may need to confront in regards to individual liberty, but it is undeniable that we can use it as a guiding star in our discussion. For example, it's easy to see that freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of association are obvious components of the general freedom that we are discussing, while "freedom to handouts" is clearly not.

And this brings me back to the series of questions asked by the Wired Sisters - and it becomes apparent that it can be easily answered based on the values and views of the Republican Party of Lincoln and Hayek.

Of course, freedom is a gift for everyone. And yes, Catholic Church may choose which medical insurance plans it offers to its employees for obvious reasons. No one is forced to become an employee of the Catholic Church, and no one has a right to force Catholic Church to buy any particular insurance for their employees. Anyone who does not like the insurance which is provided by the Catholic Church is free to seek other employment. This is the only policy that would protect the freedom of the Catholic Church and its employees.

When the government is prescribing the type of medical insurance or payment that Catholic Church provides to its employees, it is clearly violating the freedom of association. It's quite obvious that employees have no inherent right to be provided with a specific (or any) type of insurance as a reward for their work - because that would clearly violate the rights of the Catholic Church.

The alternative to freedom of association is to have someone to coerce Catholic Church at gun point to buy an insurance chosen by a third party - which is clearly morally wrong and unjust. And let's not forget, this is exactly what the Lincoln enemies in 1864 believed in - "for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor."

In order to underline the contrast between the Lincoln's Party and the Party of slavers, let me quote two significant economists from each camp. Frank Hyneman, a famous conservative economist and supporter of individual liberty said: "The primary function of government is to prevent coercion and so guarantee to every man the right to live his own life on terms of free association with his fellows".

Paul Krugman, a liberal icon had this to say: "“I believe in a relatively equal society, supported by institutions that limit extremes of wealth and poverty. I believe in democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law. That makes me a liberal, and I’m proud of it.” 

While it's relatively clear how a legal system can built in accordance with ideas of Frank Hyneman, Krugman's "rule of law" clearly cannot coexist with the ill-defined institutions "that limit extremes of wealth and poverty", since neither can be defined, and the government will be operating based on the whims of the electorate.

Wired Sisters' questions about the slavery are actually quite peculiar. It is true that some White people in the South (and the North) believed that Black people were inherently inferior, and thus could not be trusted to attend to his own affairs, and required the elite to be their "keepers". Moreover, freeing the slaves was supposed to be detrimental to the economy, and the "common good", and the blacks were better off as being a property of the  kind-hearted white elites than being free people competing for employment  with evil non-feeling capitalists. Apparently, it was preferable being an actual slave than being a "wage slave" (a term popular with Democrat slavers 150 years ago and Democrat liberals of today).  It's quite uncanny how DNC arguments against freedom for slaves  in the 19th century shown here and here were preserved to become the arguments against individual liberty in the 20th century.

The most amazing thing is that Lincoln's arguments targeting the Democrat Party could be used today when debating individual liberty. For example this passage from Lincoln's speech would make any supporter of individual liberty smile, because it perfectly explains why left-wing belief in anointed elites running the lives of hoi polloi is silly:
You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own.

Wired's Sisters issues with Lester Maddox can too be easily resolved if we follow Lincoln and Hayek. While Maddox bigotry against Black customers is shameful, he has a right to refuse service to anyone. While I surely sympathise with the people who are upset about his behavior, it's undeniable that no one, Black or White has an inherent right to demand someone to work for them - and this includes cooking food at the restaurant. You simply cannot force other people to associate with you - your freedom ends exactly where other man's freedom begins. No one can have a claim on other people's labor - and Lester Maddox may be an evil man, but he is no one's slave.

Wired Sisters is, of course, correct that no one's freedom is absolute, and we may think of many different situations where the definition of liberty used in this article may prove to be insufficient. And yet, the words of Lincoln and Hayek must be our guarding light, and it is quite clear that all the situations that Wired Sisters was able to conjure are easily resolved without any conflict between the freedoms of different people.

In conclusion, I want to emphasize that contrary to liberal view, there is also no inherent conflict between justice and liberty, and justice may only exist in a free society, where people are free to choose. One may also claim that  liberty and justice are inseparable...