Did Barack Obama just praise slavery? (Probably not, but….)

Muslim slave traders in AfricaPresident Obama and Michelle Obama released a joint statement to commemorate Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. The statement contains a very interesting turn of phrase (emphasis mine):

In the United States, Eid also reminds us of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy. That is why we stand with people of all faiths, here at home and around the world, to protect and advance their rights to prosper, and we welcome their commitment to giving back to their communities.

“President Obama,” I wanted to ask after having read that, “please tell me what contributions Muslim Americans have made to the fabric of our nation?”

Since I didn’t expect to get an answer to that imaginary question, I did a little research on my own. According to the Wikipedia article on Islam in America, Muslims arrived on American shores in three waves: (1) with the slave trade, since approximately 10% of slaves rounded up by Muslim traders in Africa and then sold to English/American ship masters in the triangle trade were Muslim; (2) late 19th and early 20th century Muslims from the former Ottoman Empire (meaning central European, rather than Middle Eastern and North African Muslims); and (3) the steady trickle of Arab Muslims from the 1960s onwards.

All of these Muslims put together have resulted in a modern Muslim presence in America equal to about 0.8% of the population. In other words, in terms of numbers, Muslims have made little dent in the population.  Of course, as Jews have shown, numbers may not necessarily matter if one can affect the culture.  Because of Jewish dominance in Hollywood, on Broadway, on Tin Pan Alley, and, to a certain extent, in the world of literature, American Jews have had a disproportionate affect on American culture.  (See, e.g, Ben Shapiro’s book, Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV, which describes how liberals in Hollywood, almost all of them Jewish, used television in the 1960s and 1970s to tilt the entire country’s popular culture to the Left.)

It’s true that there are numerous Muslims in America who have achieved some degree of fame, but few of them have achieved any great degree of fame. None of the names on the list seem to go back more than fifty years. Moreover, if my own recognition of famous names is anything to go by, some of the most famous Muslims are African-Americans who converted through the Nation of Islam in the 1960s.  A handful of them — Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, etc. — became sufficiently famous to be recognizable outside of African-American circles, but they didn’t change the culture.  (On the other hand, Martin Luther King, a Christian, changed the culture profoundly.)

Aside from a few famous people, I didn’t see on the list the names of any people who significantly changed America. Sure, there are politicians, but each is just one among many. Keith Ellison, for example (another Nation of Islam follower), was the first Muslim elected to Congress, but he’s just been a garden-variety Leftist. The same can be said for all other Muslim journalists and political figures on the list. Put another way, none struck me as people “building the very fabric of our nation.”

Who, then, built the fabric of our nation? Let me go back to those slaves who came in the first wave….

America’s original capital was Philadelphia. It was only in 1790 that Congress passed legislation authorizing the creation of a capital city on the Potomac River. Before this legislation passed, there was little there other than swamps and a few small outposts.

Building a capital city from scratch took labor and, considering that Washington D.C. is in the deep South, it should come as no surprise to learn that much of this labor came from slaves (10% of whom, on average, had Muslim roots and may have practiced their faith in secret despite slave owners’ efforts to quash it). Indeed, slaves had a hand in creating two of the most iconic buildings in our nation’s capital: The U.S. Capitol and the White House.

It wasn’t just those famed buildings, though, that relied upon slaves. It was the whole city that benefited from cheap slave labor:

Historians say slaves were the largest labor pool when Congress in 1790 decided to create a new national capital along the Potomac surrounded by the two slave-owning states of Maryland and Virginia.

Over the next decade, local farmers rented out their slaves for an average of $55 a year to help build the Capitol, the White House, the Treasury Department and the streets laid out by city planner Pierre L’Enfant.

Slaves cut trees on the hill where the Capitol would stand, cleared stumps from the new streets, worked in the stone quarries where sandstone was cut and assisted the masons laying stone for the walls of the new homes of Congress and the president.

They also were involved in the expansion of the Capitol in the late 1850s.

That forced behavior – laboring as slaves on the buildings that lie at the heart of our republic — really is “building the very fabric of our nation.”

Do I honestly believe that Barack Obama was trying to praise Muslim slaves with his Eid-al-Fitr statement? No. I don’t think Barack Obama was trying to say anything at all. These were feel-good buzzwords to a minute segment of the American community, most of whom have led bland and blameless lives for decades. American Muslims have contributed to the fabric of our country only in the way most of us have — simply by being here, holding jobs, and paying taxes.

Obama would be utterly flummoxed if he were actually asked to name any more specific Muslim contributions to the “very fabric” of our country than just being here. Still, though, there is a bizarre history truth to his fatuously uttered (or written) words, and that truth lies in the nature of American slavery.  This slavery couldn’t have happened without Arab Muslim traders in Africa, and it included around 60,000 black Muslim men, women, and children, some of whom almost certainly built the house in which Obama now lives.

Double standards, anyone? Look Left.

Harry Reid racismThe more we get contextual information about Cliven Bundy’s comments, the more it’s clear that he was making a valid argument, although doing so in the most painful, inarticulate way, and the way most likely to come back and bite his supporters in the butt.  As best as I can tell, what Bundy was saying is that slavery is slavery, whether you’re enslaved to an individual or a nation.

He’s right, too.  The difference between now and the antebellum era is that blacks have never been masters of their own destiny.  For the vast majority, their status is remarkably indistinguishable from what it once was:  marginal existences; dependency (in the past, they weren’t rewarded for their work; in the present, too many don’t work); and children without fathers.

Today, as an extra fillip to their drab dependency, they get the twin scourges of drugs and crime.  Oh, and there’s one other big difference:  today blacks are directly complicit in their own enslavement.  In the past, starting in Africa, it was other blacks who were complicit in the enslavement process.  Now they do it to themselves.

I’m done with the subject now.  Caleb Howe, however, makes two points worthy of notice:  the way that the RNC chair responded to Bundy versus the way the DNC chair didn’t respond to Pat Quinn’s racist tweets.  The Right instantly tries to distance itself from anything that could smell of racism; the Left does not.

Incidentally, I’m beginning to think that, rather than looking at the RNC’s conduct as virtuous, it’s a huge problem the way conservatives reflexively distance themselves from these things without first investigating.  Having thrown Bundy under the bus, the right cannot resurrect his principled arguments about the way in which government owns people, something antithetical to the principles set out in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  Rather than going into stupid panic mode, it would be infinitely better if the right would first stop and think for a minute — and, in the first instance, say something such as, “If Bundy indeed said what he’s accused of saying, and there’s no contextual excuse, we condemn it.  However, we’re not going to indict someone without investigation, etc.”  As it is, they’re constantly stupidly reactive, instead of intelligently proactive.

My enlightening dinner with Blue State liberals

Dinner party

I had the opportunity the other day to dine with a collection of Blue State liberals.  It was enlightening, not because I actually learned anything from them, but because I learned about them.  It was also a reminder of how far I’ve traveled ideologically, because I used to be one of them.  Looking at them, I don’t regret my journey.

Most of the evening, of course, was idle chitchat, without any political ramifications.  Inevitably, though, politics and ideological issues cropped up.  I’ll just run down a few topics.

Antisemitism in higher education:

I was told in no uncertain terms that Columbia University cannot be antisemitic because it’s in New York.  My offer to produce evidence to support my thesis was rebuffed.  For those of you who, unlike Blue State liberals, feel that facts are valuable, these links support my contention that, New York address notwithstanding, Columbia is in thrall to Palestinian activists and BDS derangement:

100 Columbia professors demand divestment from Israel

Professors preach antisemitism from the Columbia pulpit

Columbia professor Joseph Massad, a one man antisemitism machine

Columbia students delighted at the opportunity to dine with Ahmadinejad

And of course, there’s simply the fact that Columbia is one of the more ideologically Left schools, although that wouldn’t have bothered my dinner companions.

The effect of taxes on investment:

One of my dinner companions is a successful investment analyst.  I asked him if he’d been hearing about any effects flowing from the Obamacare medical device tax.  “No, of course not.  It’s — what?  — a two percent tax.  That’s not going to make a difference to anybody.”  Again, my offer of contrary data was rejected, because it was obviously Fox News propaganda, never mind that it’s not from Fox News.  Stephen Hay, at Power Line, neatly summarizes a Wall Street Journal article predicated on actual investment data:

Today in my Constitutional Law class I’ll be taking up the famous case of McCulloch v. Maryland, the bank case from 1819 in which Chief Justice John Marshall observed that “the power to tax involves the power to destroy,” which immediately set my mind to thinking about . . . Obamacare.  Obamacare’s medical device tax—a tax not on profits remember, but on revenues—is doing its destructive work already.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that “Funding Dries Up for Medical Startups,” noting that “Investment in the medical-device and equipment industry is on pace to fall to $2.14 billion this year, down more than 40% from 2007 and the sharpest drop among the top five industry recipients of venture funding.”  It seems we have to relearn every few years (such as the luxury boat tax of 1990, swiftly repealed when it killed the boat-building industry) the basic lesson that Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan taught us: tax something and you get less of it.  Especially when you tax it like Obamacare, where the tax significantly reduces the after-tax return to investors.

When a 2% tax is on after-tax returns, and it targets a specific industry, surprisingly it does make a big difference to people.  Right now, the difference is at the investment level, but soon it will be at the consumer level, as consumers are less likely than ever before to see life-changing inventions such as the insulin pump or the cochlear implant.

American healthcare compared to other Western countries:  Everybody agreed that America has the worst health care compared to those countries with socialized medicine.  Britain doesn’t count, my fellow dinners told me, because it’s “chosen” to offer bad health care.  My attempts to talk about freedom of choice, market competition, declining government revenue, cost-based decisions to deny treatment to whole classes of patients, etc., were rudely brushed aside.  “That’s just Fox News propaganda.”  Likewise, the liberals also dismissed as “Fox News propaganda” my statement that the studies they’re relying on have as their metric availability of coverage, rather than quality of outcome. I therefore wasn’t surprised when they equally rudely dismissed me when I said that a recent study showed that America has some of the best cancer survival rates in the world.

Since I know that you’d never be that rude, let me just quote Avik Roy, who actually studies the numbers:

It’s one of the most oft-repeated justifications for socialized medicine: Americans spend more money than other developed countries on health care, but don’t live as long. If we would just hop on the European health-care bandwagon, we’d live longer and healthier lives. The only problem is it’s not true.

[snip]

The problem, of course, is that there are many factors that affect life expectancy. One is wealth. It’s gross domestic product per capita, and not health-care policy, that correlates most strongly to life expectancy. Gapminder has produced many colorful charts that show the strong correlation between wealth and health.

[snip]

If you really want to measure health outcomes, the best way to do it is at the point of medical intervention. If you have a heart attack, how long do you live in the U.S. vs. another country? If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer? In 2008, a group of investigators conducted a worldwide study of cancer survival rates, called CONCORD. They looked at 5-year survival rates for breast cancer, colon and rectal cancer, and prostate cancer. I compiled their data for the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and western Europe. Guess who came out number one?

[chart omitted]

U-S-A! U-S-A! What’s just as interesting is that Japan, the country that tops the overall life expectancy tables, finished in the middle of the pack on cancer survival.

I’m not doing justice Roy’s article with these snippets, so I urge you to read the whole thing.  Suffice to say that my companions were uninterested in data that ran counter to their narrative.

The racist inside every liberal:  My dinner companions did concede that culture is a factor in health care, although they stopped short of admitting (as they should have) that a country as diverse as America will never be able to counter cultural differences with socialized medicine.  (Or, rather, they couldn’t admit that it would take overwhelming government coercion to do so.)

One of the guests described a patient with a treatable disorder — i.e., one that could be controlled with a carefully regimented plan of medicine and treatment — who was too disorganized to follow the treatment.  As a result, this person ended up in the emergency room one to two times a month, at great cost to the system.  The healthcare provider finally hired a minimum wage worker to remind the patient to take the medicines and to drive the patient to the hospital.  Another guests said, “Black, right?”  The person who told the story said, “I can’t tell you that, but probably.”  They snickered companionably over the fact that blacks are just too dumb to care for themselves.

Another way of looking at it, though, was that this patient did fine:  The patient didn’t have to fuss with drugs (and their side-effects), got emergency treatment on an as-needed basis, and ended up having a dedicated employee to detail with the finicky little details of disease maintenance.  Who’s snickering now?

The power that maintains slavery:  One of the people at the dinner was a student studying American history.  The curriculum had reached the Civil War.  The student asked a good question:  “I don’t get how the slaves let themselves stay that way.  After all, they outnumbered the whites.”  Good point.  The liberal dinner guests started mumbling about systems, and complexity, and psychology.  And I do mean mumbling.  They didn’t offer data.  They just mouthed buzzwords such as “it’s complex,” or “you have to understand the system,” or “well, there’s a psychology there.”  I interrupted:  “The slave owners were armed.  The slaves were denied arms.  The side with weapons, even if it’s smaller in number, wins.”  To my surprise, none of the liberals in the room had anything to add.

The food was good and my dinner companions were periodically interesting and charming, so the dinner wasn’t a total loss.  Nevertheless, I found dismaying the arrogant ignorance that powers their engines.  All I could think of was my own blog’s motto:  “Conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts.”  That was my dinner in a nutshell.

Man who lived under a rock for the past 50 years gives positive review to “12 Years A Slave”

The WaPo’s Richard Cohen wants you to know that 12 Years A Slave is an extremely important movie because it gives Americans a surprising new message that they need to hear:  Slavery is bad.

I don’t know under what rock Cohen has been living, but the last major American movie to suggest that slaves didn’t have it all bad was Gone With The Wind, which came out in 1939.  Cohen was born in 1948, nine years after Gone With The Wind hit movie theaters.  He presumably graduated from high school in about 1965, by which time the Civil Rights movement had changed America’s racial paradigm.  His education, moreover, didn’t take place in Ole Miss, or some other bastion of Southern-ness.  Instead, he was educated in New York all the way.

Since leaving college (Hunter College, New York University, and Columbia, none of which are known for their KKK sensibilities), Cohen has lived enveloped in a liberal bubble.  He first worked for UPI and has, for a long time, been affiliated with the Washington Post.

Somehow, though, up until he recently saw 12 Years A Slave, Cohen always believed that slavery was a good thing for American blacks.  No, I’m not kidding.  Yes, that’s what he really said:

I sometimes think I have spent years unlearning what I learned earlier in my life. For instance, it was not George A. Custer who was attacked at the Little Bighorn. It was Custer — in a bad career move — who attacked the Indians.

Much more importantly, slavery was not a benign institution in which mostly benevolent whites owned innocent and grateful blacks. Slavery was a lifetime’s condemnation to an often violent hell in which people were deprived of life, liberty and, too often, their own children. Happiness could not be pursued after that.

Steve McQueen’s stunning movie “12 Years a Slave” is one of those unlearning experiences. I had to wonder why I could not recall another time when I was so shockingly confronted by the sheer barbarity of American slavery.

Instead, beginning with school, I got a gauzy version. I learned that slavery was wrong, yes, that it was evil, no doubt, but really, that many blacks were sort of content.

Slave owners were mostly nice people — fellow Americans, after all — and the sadistic Simon Legree was the concoction of that demented propagandist, Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Her “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was a lie and she never — and this I remember clearly being told — had ventured south to see slavery for herself. I felt some relief at that because it meant that Tom had not been flogged to death. But in the novel, he had.

I have no idea whether 12 Years A Slave is a good movie or a bad movie.  Aside from the fact that I almost never set foot in movie theaters, going only when I need to chaperone children or when friends want a Mom’s night out, I have sworn off most movies, especially Hollywood history movies.

Sure Hollywood occasionally gets history right.  Mostly, though, Hollywood gets it wrong, with the wrongness ranging from Oliver Stone’s delusional JFK, to the old-time biopics that had Cole Porter as a nice straight guy (Night and Day), to the saccharine anti-war stuff of Tom Hank’s war movie Band of Brothers.  Hollywood is never interested in truth and never has been.  It’s selling entertainment with an undercurrent of propaganda.  In the old days, it sold entertainment with a wholesome, moralistic twist.  Since the 1960s, Hollywood’s entertaining versions of history simply hate America, and that’s true whether Hollywood expresses that hatred in booming Technicolor or small nuances in Indy pictures.

Without having seen 12 Years A Slave, I willingly concede that slavery is a bad thing.  It was a bad thing when Pharaoh enslaved the Jews and it was a bad thing when the British and, later, the Americans enslaved the blacks.  It’s still a bad thing throughout the Muslim world where devout Qu’ran followers enslave Filipinos, Christians, blacks, and anyone else unlucky enough to end up in their clutches.

But unlike Cohen, I’ve actually paid attention, not just in school, but in subsequent years, so I don’t need to have Hollywood preach the obvious to me.

The Democrats’ prescription for slavery has always been the same: “Get over it. It’s the law.”

Obamacare fails at so many levels it’s hard to count them. It fails because it’s the only piece of significant legislation in American history to be passed on strict partisan lines, using procedural tricks and bribes, and with a majority of American people disapproving of it. It fails because its implementation violates American religious freedom insofar as it forces people of faith to fund abortion and birth control. It fails because the administration knowingly used lies to pass it, a tactic that has a legal name: fraud.

Obamacare fails because it turns people into slaves to the government, making its opponents the new abolitionists. It fails because tens of millions of Americans will lose the insurance they were promised they could keep. It fails because it raises insurance costs for millions of Americans who believed Obama’s blatant lie that their average annual costs would decrease substantially. And of course, it fails because the Obamacare exchanges are so dysfunctional that the only parts that work are the routine breaches of privacy.

Right now, owing to all those failures, Americans are not happy with either Obama or Obamacare. Democrats are unsympathetic. Rep. Steve Cohen (D., Tenn.) sloughed off American concerns. According to the National Journal, he had a simple message for Americans: “Change is hard. Get over it. Barack Obama is president, and the Affordable Care Act is the law.”

Actually, this is not a new Democrat message. In the years preceding the Civil War, they kept telling Americans to “get used to” slavery, because “it’s the law.” And in the post-Civil War era, when Jim Crow laws depriving blacks of their civil rights were enacted throughout the South, the Democrats had the same message: “Get over it. It’s the law.”

Put another way, whenever slavery is at issue — and this is true whether it shows itself straightforwardly as “slavery,” or masquerades under such euphemisms as “Jim Crow” or “Obamacare” — the Democrat message has been the same for 160 years: “Get over it. It’s the law.”

(I originally wrote this post for Mr. Conservative.)

Found it on Facebook: Republicans are the party of slavery and Jim Crow

I don’t even know where to begin addressing this one:

Would any of you care to have it? A good start would probably be the fact that blacks are returning to the South because economic conditions are better there and they are better integrated, rather than being consigned to vast, dangerous urban ghettos in the Blue States.  We could also talk about the more conservative values southerners, including blacks, have that have nothing to do with slavery or racism.

UPDATE:  A map that shows votes by county reveals that the election split wasn’t slave versus free or north versus south or black versus white. It was, instead, cities versus suburbs and rural areas:  http://s3.amazonaws.com/content.newsok.com/documents/eln.pdf

Newt Gingrich, poor children, and work habits

One of the reasons a lot of people, myself included, like Newt is because he says politically incorrect things that ordinary people think.  In other words, his politically correct utterances aren’t out of the KKK playbook, they’re out of “the reasonable common-sense before 1960s Leftist education took over” playbook.

A week ago, he said that child labor laws are stupid insofar as they prevent children from getting paying jobs (including janitorial jobs) that would help them to maintain their own schools — at less cost, incidentally, than using unionized janitors.  His most recent utterance, expanding on this point, was that poor children have no work ethic:

“Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up on Monday,” Gingrich claimed.

“They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of I do this and you give me cash unless it is illegal,” he added.

All the usual suspects are up in arms.  I haven’t bothered to hunt down quotations from the unions that keep schools supplied with janitors, but I’m sure they’re not happy.  More than that, though, Newt’s statements have been interpreted to mean that he advocates a return to 19th Century child labor, complete with seven-day work weeks, 12 of which are spent laboring in a coal mine.  Take a gander, for example, at this screen shot from YouTube after I searched up “Newt Gingrich poor children”:

Charles Blowhard, New York Times opinion columnist, is horrified that Newt might look at the way in which the poor behave and conclude that their learned behavior contributes to their poverty.  He also comes back with reams of statistics about the fact that the poor do work:

This statement isn’t only cruel and, broadly speaking, incorrect, it’s mind-numbingly tone-deaf at a time when poverty is rising in this country. He comes across as a callous Dickensian character in his attitude toward America’s most vulnerable — our poor children. This is the kind of statement that shines light on the soul of a man and shows how dark it is.

Gingrich wants to start with the facts? O.K.

First, as I’ve pointed out before, three out of four poor working-aged adults — ages 18 to 64 — work. Half of them have full-time jobs and a quarter work part time.

Furthermore, according to an analysis of census data by Andrew A. Beveridge, a sociologist at Queens College, most poor children live in a household where at least one parent is employed. And even among children who live in extreme poverty — defined here as a household with income less than 50 percent of the poverty level — a third have at least one working parent. And even among extremely poor children who live in extremely poor areas — those in which 30 percent or more of the population is poor — nearly a third live with at least one working parent.

I’ll accept as true the fact that the poor work, but that’s too facile.  We also need to look at their attitude towards work.  As Shakespeare would say, there’s the rub.  Let me quote from a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, describing the way in which a white liberal tried desperately to explain away the fact that large corporations find it extremely difficult to keep minority employees:

Mr. Bookworm works for a very large corporation.  While we were in the car with the kids, the conversation turned to the exquisite sensitivity the corporation has to show when it’s faced with firing a minority employee. The process is arduous, requiring huge HR involvement, dozens of staff interviews and a lengthy paper trail.

The reason for this labor intensive firing is the unfortunate fact that minorities tend to be less satisfactory employees. As Mr. Bookworm was at great pains to point out to the children (and correctly so), this is a group trend and has nothing to do with the merits of any individual minority employee. It’s just that, if you look at a bell curve of minority employees versus a bell curve of white employees, you’ll find more white employees than minority employees in the segment denoting “good worker.” No modern corporation, however, wants a reputation as a “firer of minorities.”

The above are facts. What fascinated me was the different spin Mr. Bookworm and I put on those facts. Mr. Bookworm sent twenty minutes explaining to the children that, to the extent blacks were poorer employees, it was because their culture made them incapable of working. (This was not meant as an insult. He was talking, of course, about the culture of poverty.).

Mr. Bookworm painted a picture of a black child living in a ghetto, with a single mother who gave birth to him when she was 14, with several siblings from different fathers, with a terrible school, surrounded by illiterates, hungry all the time, etc.  No wonder, he said, that this child doesn’t bring to a corporation the same work ethic as a middle class white kid.

This creates big problems for corporations.  A modern corporation truly wants to hire minorities.  Once it’s hired them, though, according to my liberal husband, it ends up with workers who are incapable of functioning in a white collar, corporate environment. The corporation therefore finds itself forced to fire it’s minority hires more frequently than white or Asian employees, with the result that it’s accused of racism. Its response to that accusation is to proceed with excessive caution and extreme due diligence whenever a black employee fails at the job.

My suggestion to the children was that minority employees, aware that it’s almost impossible to fire them, might be disinclined to put out their best efforts on the job.  Why should they?  Logic and energy conservation both dictate that a smart person should do the bare minimum to get a job done.  In this case, for the black employees, the job their doing isn’t what’s in the job description.  Instead, their job is simply to keep their job.

Amusingly Newt thinks exactly the same as my liberal husband does.  They both blame black culture for poor black employment habits.  The difference is that, while Newt thinks it’s a fixable situation, starting with the children and their attitude toward labor, my husband, like Mr. Blowhard, thinks that all one can do is accept that minorities are going to be lousy employees.

America’s black poverty culture (as opposed to the Asian or East Indian) poverty culture is handicapped by a terrible, false syllogism:

  • Slavery was work
  • Slavery is evil
  • All work is evil

Even when they’re getting paid, too many African-Americans seem to feel they’ve sold out — that any work involving the white establishment is tantamount to slavery and that they can participate in this system by participating least.   It’s a principled stand, but it’s a principle that’s in thrall to terribly flawed logic and that ensures generational poverty and despair.  As far as I’m concerned, Newt gets serious kudos for his willingness to state what is, to the working class, quite obvious:  learn how to work well when you’re young, and you’ll be able to support yourself when you’re old.

China’s economy is rosy only if you don’t mind that it’s shrinking, corrupt and sometimes deadly

Andy Stern, who led the SEIU to its current status as a statist political powerhouse, has a lengthy op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, touting the wonders of China’s economic model.  His basic point:  China’s recent economic surge shows that government should control the economy.  To support this premise, he points, not to China’s current economic status, but to its wondrous five year plan:

I was part of a U.S.-China dialogue—a trip organized by the China-United States Exchange Foundation and the Center for American Progress—with high-ranking Chinese government officials, both past and present. For me, the tension resulting from the chorus of American criticism paled in significance compared to reading the emerging outline of China’s 12th five-year plan. The aims: a 7% annual economic growth rate; a $640 billion investment in renewable energy; construction of six million homes; and expanding next-generation IT, clean-energy vehicles, biotechnology, high-end manufacturing and environmental protection—all while promoting social equity and rural development.

Gosh!  Propaganda really sounds good when it’s read out loud to an adoring, credulous audience.

Andy Stern

I’d like to introduce Mr. Stern to another article about the Chinese economy, this one by Gordon Chang, a veteran China watcher who’s actually paying attention to the details.  Mr. Chang’s take, which is premised upon actual facts, not wishful thinking is a little different.  With a wealth of detail, he points out that, as with all socialist experiments, China is running out of economic gas:

On Wednesday, HSBC roiled markets around the world by releasing its Flash China Purchasing Managers’ Index for November. The widely followed indicator dropped from 51.0 to 48.1, crossing the crucial line of 50 that divides expansion from contraction. Most worrisome, it appears that the factory sector is shrinking due to weakness in domestic, as opposed to export, orders.

The drop in the HSBC Index, which normally moves only tenths of a point at a time, is just another sign that the world’s second-largest economy is contracting from one month to the next. The troubling news follows October numbers, which also pointed toward a rapid falloff. There was, for instance, a sharp decline in inflation, collapsing real estate prices, and a big decrease in bellwether car sales. The wheels are coming off the Chinese economy, with indicators dropping faster than virtually all analysts—including me—predicted.

Chinese technocrats have already started to react, applying monetary measures. The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, this month cut its required reserve ratio for 20 co-operative banks to 16.0%, a reduction of a half point. Officials maintained that this move did not represent a change in their tightening policy, but, as Tom Holland of the South China Morning Post points out, the denial “stretches credulity.” PBOC watchers, therefore, see the limited relaxation as a hint that the institution will soon cut reserve requirements, now at historic highs, for all banks.

You can — and should — read the whole thing here, and then go back and compare it’s tight focus on real world economic facts and figures with Stern’s airy-fairy press release on behalf of Communism.

Let me toss one more thing into the mix here, which is James’ Taranto’s masterful take-down of Eugene Robinson’s love letter to China’s heavy-handed economic management:

You Say Tomato, I Say ‘the Usually Large Rounded Typically Red or Yellow Pulpy Berry of an Herb (Genus Lycopersicon) of the Nightshade Family’

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson is in Red China, where his shoe-leather reporting has turned up evidence that . . . Republicans are stupid. Seriously, that’s the subject of the first of what he promises will be several columns filed from Beijing. Let’s examine his closing argument, which responds to a quote from Rick Perry:

But this ignores the big picture. Yes, China is governed–in an authoritarian, repressive, at times shockingly brutal manner–by a regime that calls itself communist. But communism self-immolated two decades ago. Walk down any commercial street in Beijing and you see storefronts, venders and hawkers selling anything under the sun. Communism is no longer a system in China. It’s just a brand name that officials haven’t figured out how to ditch.

I’m aware, of course, of the shameful human rights violations that the Chinese government commits every day–and of the government’s selfish, corrupt insistence on maintaining a monopoly of power. These atrocities can never be forgotten.

But I’m betting that the burgeoning middle class will find a way to cast off these shackles. The correct response would be to cheer them on.So, to recap: China’s Communist Party has already abandoned communist economics for something that looks very much like American commercialism. Politically, however, it remains a brutal and corrupt one-party state. But that can’t last. Robinson both thinks and hopes that the Chinese people will rise up and change the regime.

OK, now here’s the Perry quote: “I happen to think that the Communist Chinese government will end up on the ash heap of history.”

Perry said the same thing Robinson did, only much more pithily and memorably. How does that make Robinson the smart one?

And just in case anyone has forgotten that the Chinese economy also runs on slave labor (a peculiar thing for a former SEIU head to laud) and criminal corruption, the links I just gave you ought to refresh your recollection.

My bottom line:  Feudal, slave and communist economies all function the same way, which is to have a powerful central controls system over labor.  It enriches a few, and impoverishes the many, both physically and spiritually.  Even if it looks good on paper, it’s bad for the soul.

(Chinese factory photo by High Contrast.)

Slouching into slavery

What the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protestors don’t realize (yet) is that they have been suckered into becoming the agents of their own enslavement.

Orwell had it so right in defining the Left because he was a man of the Left. The term “Orwellian” now refers to the Left’s use of terms to mean the direct opposite of the intention of an idea or act (“war is peace”, for example). Orwell also noted the need for the State to invent enemies as a means of deflecting attention away from its own actions. It’s all about deflection away from true agendas.

Let me explain. Granted that the OWS movement is defined by many grievances, one underlying theme of  the OWS protests is the onerous debt assumed by students. I have sympathy for this because, as many commentators have already pointed out, these students were sold a bill of goods. The idea was that, whether qualified or motivated or not, kids could simply participate in the university experience, supported with “generous” (i.e., taxpayer-funded) government aid, and exit with a paper degree and guaranteed, high-paying job bereft of drudgery. This is the siren song that led to the inevitable crash upon the rocks of debt slavery.

Universities, those bastions of entitlement, have made out like bandits, taking the students money in exchange for worthless promises and worthless degrees. The government financed this process using “free” taxpayers’ monies and, in the end, developed a class of dependents that will spend the rest of their lives working their way out of indentured servitude at the behest their government masters (the Golden Rule is those that own the gold, rule!). For, as these students are slowly realizing, government debt and dependency is forever…there is no escaping their obligations.

It used to be that students could tap loans from private lending institutions that assumed the risk of a student borrower’s success or failure. If the student went bankrupt, the bank suffered. That is how capitalism and free markets should work. Not so with Liberal government. When the Obama administration took over these lending services, it took away failure as an option. Today, neither students nor their parents can escape their student debt obligations and the total student debt outstanding has been estimated to approach $1.0 trillion.

Many of these OWS students are now answerable to their government masters for the foreseeable future and during their most formative years… a period when they should be free to work toward satisfying careers, saving to purchase their own homes, preparing to raise families and, eventually, achieving financial independence. Instead, as long as the government holds their debt, it can now dictate how these students will lead their lives in service to their government’s regime goals (as in, “we will forgive x-amount of your debt if you “agree” to work in only certain prescribed professions or government-approved public works programs under certain given conditions dictated by us, your master) Or, let’s try the Chicago Way: “as long as we hold your debt, you will only believe certain things, work for certain causes, and vote in certain ways” . Their indentured servitude has taken away their freedom to think, to act and to build their own futures. Even more sadly, for many of these students, their expensive college educations amounted to little more than indoctrination whereby to accept these circumstances as a good thing: witness the large number whose goal in life is simply to work for “non-profits”.

The especially egregious aspect of this is that it is poorer students that have so been hooked into government dependency. But then, that has pretty much been par for the course for Liberal government, hasn’t it? Government did this before, with poor blacks and the War on Poverty. Government programs enslave the poor through indentured dependency.  Rich or talented kids don’t have to worry about this: they have parents, scholarships or trust funds to ensure that they never become indentured government debt pawns. The especially pathetic part of these events is that these indebted students and graduates have been led to believe, through Orwellian deflection, that the agents of their servitude are banks, conservatism, political and economic liberty, and capitalism – the very agents that could yet free them – rather than the government and academia that shackled them.

I suspect that, deep down in their hearts, many of the OWS protestors are slowly coming to realize their predicament. They’ve been had. Eventually, I expect, they will come to learn the truth about their servitude. I hope that they will still have the strength to resist.

I think that it is safe to say that slavery, not democracy, has been a defining condition for the great majority of human history. This may not be a point stressed in the Orwellian halls of academia that groomed this new government slave class at these students’ own expense, but it is a historical truism, none the less. It would truly be sad if what we are observing at the various OWS rallies around the country and world is simply an age-old historical evil reasserting itself in modern drag. What we are now seeing as the product of the college experience is the emergence of two classes: a wealthy, highly educated ruling class and a subservient, dependent, servant class that got suckered into paying the Liberal/Left ruling class to deprive it of intellectual and economic choices under the Orwellian guise of “freedom”. The Liberal/Left has done a bang-up job of severely crippling a generation of our children. I would be hard-pressed to conceive of  a more gross corruption of the American ideal.

I hope that I am wrong. What do you think?

 

By George! I think she’s got it

Don Surber draws our attention to a Wall Street protestor who has a sign that actually makes sense:  “Debt = Slavery.”  Of course, we know that this Leftist dingbat, when she speaks of debt, is talking about the large credit card bill she doesn’t want to pay, and the mortgage she thinks it’s so unfair the bank would impose on the property in which she wants to live for free.  But unwittingly, as Surber explains at greater length, she’s absolutely right:  government debt does make us slaves.

I’m in the process of reading Mark Blitz’s Conserving Liberty (they sent me — me! — a review copy), and his point, as the title indicates is, freedom (or liberty), not from banks, but from GOVERNMENT!  A debt-ridden government, armed with all the power of the state, holds its citizens in chains.  I’ll tell you more about the book as I go along or when I’ve finished it.  Blitz is not a scintillating writer, but he’s a thoughtful and interesting one.  It makes for slightly slower reader, but I’m not bored.

Republicans = slavery lovers (or so saith an article in the NYT)

Every summer for the past several years, we’ve gone to a local (and wonderful) Civil War reenactment.  Without exception, the people who have chosen to reenact the Southern side will tell one, quite earnestly, that the Southern side was about states’ rights, not about slavery.  Even 145 years after the war ended (or perhaps I should say, especially 145 years after the war ended) there is no other line to take to justify dressing up in the gray, even for the fun of playing with fake guns and cannon on a large field on a hot, sunny day.

In Saturday’s New York Times, there is an opinion piece saying that this modern-day point of view is a mythological revision, and that the Southern secession and the subsequent war arose solely from slavery, and had nothing to do with states’ rights.  In other words, says the author, Edward Ball, all those who seek to dress the South’s side in the Civil War as a 10th Amendment issue are lying, to themselves and to everyone else.  To prove this, Ball quotes from the secession documents themselves:

But a look through the declaration of causes written by South Carolina and four of the 10 states that followed it out of the Union — which, taken together, paint a kind of self-portrait of the Confederacy — reveals a different story. From Georgia to Texas, each state said the reason it was getting out was that the awful Northern states were threatening to do away with slavery.

South Carolina: “The non-slaveholding states … have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery” and “have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes.”

Mississippi: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world. … There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union.”

Georgia: “A brief history of the rise, progress, and policy of anti-slavery and the political organization into whose hands the administration of the Federal Government has been committed will fully justify the pronounced verdict of the people of Georgia.”

Several states single out a special culprit, Abraham Lincoln, “an obscure and illiterate man” whose “opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.” Lincoln’s election to the White House meant, for South Carolina, that “the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.”

Up to a point, I don’t quibble at all with Ball — the South wanted to keep its slaves.  Its entire economic structure was built on slavery, and it did not want to experiment with a true capitalist system based on freely exchanged labor.  Feudalism is addictive for those in the power seat.

The fact, though, that the Southerners had morally nefarious ends doesn’t mean that they were wrong about their means.  Constitutionally, under the 10th Amendment, the federal government probably didn’t have the right, unilaterally, to do away with slavery.  The only way to do that would have been through an Amendment — and that’s precisely what the federal government ultimately did.  It ended slavery, not by fighting the South, but by enacted the 13th Amendment and then, through brute force, dragging a protesting Confederacy back into the Union, only subject now to the 13th Amendment.  The 13th Amendment, in other words, was a tacit admission that the slaveholders’ procedural argument was the correct one.

What this means is that, if reenactors want to hide behind states’ rights to justify their gray uniforms in the 21st Century — that is, if they want to say that they believe in the 10th Amendment — they are free to do so.  That is partly honest.  Total honesty, however, would require them to acknowledge that way too many in the Confederacy used states’ rights — that is, they used a legitimate constitutional measure — to justify a heinous institution.  The two are separate — slavery and states’ rights — despite being combined to a malevolent end in the mid-19th Century.

This last distinction is a significant one because Ball, having made a good historical point (that slavery was a driving force behind secession, with states’ rights as the procedural vehicle), then uses it to launch a cheap and false low blow at Republicans.  Because modern-day conservatives believe in the 10ths Amendment’s literal meaning (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”), Ball implies that they must also somehow be allied with slavery:

It’s peculiar, because “states’ rights” has become a popular refrain in Republican circles lately. Last year Gov. Rick Perry of Texas wondered aloud whether secession was his state’s right in the aftermath of laws out of Congress that he disliked.

As I said, this is a cheap shot.  That the Confederacy used the 10th Amendment (which occupies a significant position as the last amendment in the Bill of Rights) to justify an evil institution does not invalidate the Amendment itself.  To hold otherwise degrades both the Constitution itself and political debate with the United States.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

A bizarre historic fact about slavery

According to List Universe, the first official slave owner in Virginia — the one who brought a lawsuit that made slavery a recognized practice in that state in 1654 — was a black man who contended that his black indentured servant was, in fact a slave.

This tidbit shouldn’t really be that surprising.  First, slavery seems to be as old as humankind itself and, second, according to the same list, Africa has as old a history of slavery as any other nation (and sadly, it’s also home to a significant number of the world’s modern slaves).