Clause 61: The Pushback Blog

Because ideas have consequences

Norway!

leave a comment »

For ten years, I have been saying that we would not have anywhere near the uproar over illegal immigration in this country if people were sneaking in here from Norway rather than from Latin America. Last week, Donald Trump proved me right.

In a closed meeting, he is reported to have asked, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He expressed a preference for immigrants from countries such as Norway.

It took until last Friday for the White House communications shop to decide that it was a damn fool thing to have called other nations “shithole countries”. The course of action they selected was to deny Trump ever said it and accuse others in the meeting of lying about what he said. What, you expected him to apologize? Are you new here?

In this article, the New York Times got to the meat of the matter: it might as well be 1918 as far as Trump’s attitude toward immigration is concerned. Historically, nativists did not welcome immigrants from Catholic eastern or southern Europe — Poles, Italians or Irish — much more than they did Hispanics or Asians. The 1924 Johnson-Reed Act restricted immigrants to 2% of the number of persons from the country of origin already living in the US and recorded in the 1890 census. The majority of immigrants from outside the Protestant nations of northwest Europe arrived here after 1890. The act also explicitly closed legal immigration from Asian nations and colonies including China, Japan, Siam and the French and British possessions in Asia.

Edward A. Ross (1866-1951) was a sociologist and proponent of eugenics. He was an early supporter of the idea of “racial suicide”, which asserted that American democracy would collapse because the Anglo-Nordic population would be swamped by immigrants from inferior cultures that could not be effective citizens. He was forced to resign from Stanford in 1900 after he publicly called for prohibition of immigration from China and Japan.

Ross moved on to the University of Wisconsin. In 1914 he published The Old World in the New, a book grading immigrants from various nations in pseudo-scientific terms. Here is some of what he has to say about Sicilians:

Steerage passengers from a Naples boat show a distressing frequency of low foreheads, open mouths, weak chins, poor features, skew faces, small or knobby crania, and backless heads. Such people lack the power to take rational care of themselves; hence their death-rate in New York is twice the general death-rate and thrice that of the Germans. No other immigrants from Europe, unless it be the Portuguese or the half-African Bravas of the Azores, show so low an earning power as the South Italians. In our cities the head of the household earns on an average $390 a year, as against $449 for the North Italian, $552 for the Bohemian, and $630 for the German. In silk-mill and wollen-mill, in iron-ore mining and the clothing trade, no other nationality has so many low-pay workers; nor does this industrial inferiority fade out in the least with the lapse of time. [p. 113]

Ross was not impressed with his encounter with the priorities of the Celtic Irish:

The Irishman still leans on authority and shows little tendency to think for himself. In philosophy and science he is far behind the head of the procession. Even when well-educated, he thinks within the framework formed by certain conventional ideas. Unlike the educated German or Jew, he rarely ventures to dissect the ideas of parental authority, the position of woman, property, success, competition, individual liberty, etc., that lie at the base of commonplace thought. Here, again, this limitation by sentiment and authority derives doubtless from the social history of the Irish rather than from their blood. They have been engrossed with an old-fashioned problem—that of freeing their country. Meanwhile, the luckier peoples have swept on to ripen their thinking about class relations, industrial organization, and social institutions. [p. 40]

Ross characterized Slavs in general as showing “brutality and reckless fecundity” and claimed they were slow to assimilate. He had these choice comments about Jews:

Nevertheless, fair-minded observers agree that certain bad qualities crop out all too often among these eastern Europeans. A school principal remarks that his Jewish pupils are more importunate to get a mark changed than his other pupils. A settlement warden who during the summer entertains hundreds of nursing slum mothers at a country “home” says: “The Jewish mothers are always asking for something extra over the regular kit we provide each guest for her stay.” “The last thing the son of Jacob wants,” observes an eminent sociologist, “is a square deal.” A veteran New York social worker cannot forgive the Ghetto its littering and defiling of the parks. “Look at Tompkins Square,” he exclaimed hotly, “and compare it with what it was twenty-five years ago amid a German population!” As for the caretakers of the parks their comment on this matter is unprintable. Genial settlement residents, who never tire of praising Italian or Greek, testify that no other immigrants are so noisy, pushing and disdainful of the rights of others as the Hebrews. That the worst exploiters of these immigrants are sweaters, landlords, employers and “white slavers” of their own race no one gainsays. [pp. 149-150]

This is not coming from some toothless backwoods hick, but from an influential academic who went on to chair the national committee of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Scientific racism was very much alive one hundred years ago. Madison Grant published The Passing of the Great Race in 1916, followed by Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color against White World-Supremacy in 1920. Ross, Grant and Stoddard did not consider the term “white” as inclusive as we do today. They all made distinctions and considered Nordic peoples to be superior to Slavs, Jews and those from the Mediterranean countries. Stoddard was, in fact, a Klansman.

We had liked to think that the racial attitudes of that time were dead and buried. Evidently not.

 

 

Advertisements

Written by srojak

January 21, 2018 at 11:01 am

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , , ,

Unalienable Rights

leave a comment »

Spare some critical thought for this famous passage from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In order for them to be unalienable rights, they have to be endowed by God. They can’t come from human society, or else human society would have the power to revoke them. Without endowment from God, they would only be privileges that the state allowed for its own purposes and could claw back any time it was expedient.

This is what President Eisenhower was talking about when he said:

Our government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.

Here is the full quote, from a 1952 speech:

And this is how they [the Founding Fathers in 1776] explained those: ‘we hold that all men are endowed by their Creator…’ not by the accident of their birth, not by the color of their skins or by anything else, but ‘all men are endowed by their Creator.’ In other words, our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is. With us of course it is the Judeo-Christian concept, but it must be a religion with all men are created equal.

He wasn’t being superficial about faith, and he wasn’t advocating being spiritual but not religious. He was encompassing all persons of faith in a Deity of revealed truth, but offering wide latitude to the varieties of belief in that Deity.

The twentieth century has exposed the fact that there is nothing self-evident about these truths. Some of us believe them; others don’t. They are fundamental and derived from faith, but hardly self-evident.

Written by srojak

December 17, 2017 at 9:27 pm

Stories of Sex and Power

leave a comment »

Is American society really changing? After Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, John Conyers and all the others, are we really getting to a milestone of cultural change?

I don’t think it is the beginning of the end, but I hope it is the end of the beginning.

Principles

Here is the ideal situation: nobody has to hate going to work because she expects to be groped, fondled or otherwise intruded upon by someone whom she is afraid to confront because he has situational or institutional power. Obviously, we are not there yet.

I would like the current crop of public shamings to lead to the above ideal situation. I don’t believe we are going to wake up on 1 January 2018 and magically be in that place, but we can make substantial progress.

Establishment of Guilt

Roy Moore is our first serious test case. He is accused of making sexual advances on underage girls some decades ago. He has hunkered down and is denying the charges all the way. One America News wants him to have the benefit of due process and be considered innocent until proven guilty.

I completely understand their objection. However, since I wasn’t born yesterday, I also know that he would have been able to exempt himself from due process as a DA and a judge.

One of his accusers claims:

 “I was terrified. He was also trying to pull my shirt off. I thought he was going to rape me. I was twisting, I was struggling, and I was begging him to stop,” she said. “At some point, he gave up. He then looked at me and he told me, he said, ‘You’re just a child,’ and he said, ‘I am the district attorney of Etowah County, and if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.'”

— Source: NBC News

Even if that didn’t actually happen, how would we ever get to the bottom of it? There have been so many predators who said, “I am ____, and if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.” And they have been right for all these years. This is not OK.

So a sexual predator with power and influence is not ,likely to be brought to account by normal due process. Now what are we left with? Put up with it?

I am sure that many of Moore’s defenders think he is being picked on because he is hated by both Democrats and establishment Republicans. So what? Did he do the deeds or didn’t he?

We are not going to ever get this into a court and get resolution; certainly not the same way as if a common Alabama plumber or mechanic had been accused of the same offense. Until we can, maybe persons with power and influence have to be brought down under these conditions.

If Moore really didn’t do what he is accused of, I regret the damage of the accusations. We are going to see some excesses before this is over. We are going to see people being falsely accused.

However, if there is no formal venue where such people can be brought to account, then there has to be a messy and informal venue. Allowing this behavior to continue is not acceptable.

People get wrongly accused of crimes all the time. Some of them do not have the power, influence and means to fight the accusations effectively. Take a moment to think about them.

The Appropriate Punishment

Another aspect we have to work out is what the appropriate punishment is for various offenses. In the past, the appropriate punishment was none, and we are not OK with that anymore. So we effectively have no precedent.

Is one incident of a man in a position of power forcing himself on a woman a hanging offense? If not, how many incidents establish a pattern? Does contrition matter? Does the amount of time between then and now enter into consideration?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. We will, as a society, have to answer them.

Written by srojak

November 29, 2017 at 11:13 pm

Not Following the Logic

leave a comment »

The whole flap over pro football players kneeling during the national anthem has gone to a new level this week. Let’s sort it out.

Thumbing Your Nose

Kneeling during the national anthem is thumbing your nose at the entire country. It is a posture, an affectation. People who do it are poseurs. Where else could they go to make this kind of money doing what they do?

A football player does not get to tell us how to interpret his disrespect to the nation. Yes, I am talking to you, Richard Sherman. Kneeling during the national anthem is an act of disrespect to the entire country, including most of us who have no influence over how the criminal justice system treats black people in the inner city. Sherman is too intelligent not to know that.

Having a Complaint

Do black people have a complaint regarding the way they are treated by the criminal justice system? Hell, yes. Many people, not just black people, have a legitimate beef. The shenanigans in Ferguson, Missouri, for example, should offend every voter in this country. Municipalities and counties using law enforcement as a revenue center should offend every voter in this country.

The number of persons under correctional supervision (in prison, on probation or on parole) is appalling. According to a 2012 article by Adam Gopnik, there were more black men under correctional supervision at that time than there were in slavery in 1850; the total population of America that is under correctional supervision was over six million and growing. Contrary to popular lore, many of the people in prison are there for drug offenses or offenses against “public order”. Since black people are in prison at a disproportionately higher rate than Americans in general, yes, there is a genuine issue.

Taking Action

So what should a politically aware black football player do? How about taking some of that large NFL salary and putting it to work in community action? How about sponsoring court appeals on behalf of people who are being exploited by municipalities? Put your money where your mouth is.

White House Invitations

Back in 2011, the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup and were invited to the White House. Goalie Tim Thomas declined the invitation. This writer maintained that Tim Thomas had no business declining the invitation.  I disagree. Similarly, Stephon Curry has every right to decline an invitation to the White House, given that he disagrees with the politics of the President.

The President is the Chief Executive, the Head of State and a high profile political figure. If a person disagrees vehemently with the political viewpoint of the President, by all means, do not accept his invitation to the White House.

Donald Trump’s Statements

Yes, Donald Trump made inflammatory and provocative statements on this subject. In other news, Lindy made it!

Really, who reasonably expected that, if this issue made it to Trump’s radar at all, he would make a nuanced, empathetic statement that would uphold respect for the nation as a whole while recognizing the real problems that people have encountered at the hands of governments? Did anyone really think Trump would call for national reflection on the issues that black athletes are raising while asserting that the nation deserves respect even if specific people in positions of authority have abused their power?

And there was every reason to expect Trump to weigh in on this issue. It is red meat to his base, many of whom a) love America and b) watch football. Trump has demonstrated that he has a laser focus on his core constituency, his political “investors”.

Trump’s statements are off the table for purposes of this discussion. There is nothing new here. The themes have not changed at all during the year. There really is not anything else to say.

Donald Trump is my President, in that he was duly elected through the recognized Electoral College process, just like Barack Obama was. Trump does not represent my viewpoint, and I would have wanted a more nuanced response. However, I recognize that Trump doesn’t do nuance. There is no point in flogging this horse anymore. He is what he is, and he is not going to change.

 

Written by srojak

September 24, 2017 at 11:22 pm

Loaves and Babies

leave a comment »

Peter Drucker wrote describing the importance of knowing when to compromise and when not to. He compared dividing a loaf of bread to dividing a baby.  When you divide a loaf in half, you get a compromise; when you divide a baby in half, you get a corpse.

The modern western state, seeking to placate everyone and avoid conflict, does not have a conceptual category for baby. Everything is a loaf, divisible by two or 20 million, as necessary, to preserve political equilibrium and prevent disruption. Any threat can be bought off; any dissent can be co-opted. But there are some things that are not amenable to compromise.

In the rest of the world, there are many people who see the West as not only weak but morally aimless. They look at us and conclude that we think we can buy our way out of any predicament, that we won’t stand and fight for anything. The Islamic State comes to mind immediately as an example, but many people in Russia, Turkey and China also believe this about the West.

The Islamic State, in its current form, is too nihilistic to survive, but it may yet morph into something else. Whatever becomes of it, the threat it represents to Western civilization is not unique to it. This threat will be made manifest by other people and cultures.

We need to decide what about our civilization is worth defending. Other people have already decided what about our civilization is worth attacking.

Written by srojak

September 19, 2017 at 6:25 pm

Posted in Ethics, Politics

Tagged with ,

Contempt of Cop

leave a comment »

The BBC has posted video showing Alex Wubbels, a nurse in Salt Lake City, being arrested for refusing to turn over a blood sample of an unconscious person to police. According to reports, there are three conditions under which hospital policy allows police to have a blood sample:

  • The person in question authorizes the sample;
  • The person in question is under arrest;
  • The police have a court order to obtain the blood sample.

None of these were true. Instead, the detective ordered the nurse to procure the sample. When she refused on policy grounds, he arrested her. There is no evidence of her having copped a ‘tude or being in the detective’s face. Instead, she explained the policy in a clear, adult manner.

Absent any contradictory information, which we have not seen to date, this is an example of a contempt of cop arrest. There really are no legal grounds for arresting a person under contempt of cop. People who can’t defend themselves and don’t have a large institution behind them get treated like this all the time.

I am hopeful that this incident will make contempt of cop real to people, so that we can stamp out this practice. Watch the video so it will be real to you.

Written by srojak

September 2, 2017 at 10:04 am

Cycles of History: Can You Force Them?

leave a comment »

Earlier this year, there was some discussion of Steve Bannon and his intellectual debt to The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe.  This began with an article last November in Time, and has resulted in intermittent discussion since. Howe himself wrote an article in The Washington Post last February, citing some of the high-pitched articles that had been written about what Bannon had learned from the book. The New York Times followed up in April with a piece that, while not a exactly a hatchet job, takes on specific excepts from the book in the light of the viewpoint of the cultivated Times audience (“Conform, or Else”).

Politico simply dismissed the book as “The Crackpot Theories of Stephen Bannon’s Favorite Authors.” Another putdown I have seen: “pop” historians. Anything not from a suitably pedigreed academic source is “pop.”

I had read The Fourth Turning shortly after it came out. I don’t consider the book to have “crackpot theories”, but I don’t see Strauss and Howe having attempted to be the next Nostradamus, either. Despite the subtitle of the book — An American Prophecy — the authors don’t provide any specific who, when or how. They were attempting to analyze history in terms of patterns and project them into the future. They examined Anglo-American history back to the 1450s. They say more about moving forces than how those forces will necessarily be directed, and avoid “see, I told you” political interpretations.

Nevertheless, their analysis of history has political implications. A cyclical pattern of history has a far different future than a linearly expansive pattern of history. Could the United States return to an era of deference to authority and high levels of social conformity? It is neither inevitable nor desirable, but it could happen. The current condition of the public square does remind me of the late 1850, when the nation became increasingly polarized. In 1856, when Representative Preston Brooks beat Senator Charles Sumner unconscious with his cane in the Senate chamber, Brooks became a hero in South Carolina.

Whatever the size of a person’s group, he or she is more likely to feel fairly treated in a High, where a shame ethos fosters togetherness and gratitude — and victimized in an Unraveling, where a guilt ethos fosters separation and blame.
The Fourth Turning, p. 112

I found the model of a shift back and forth between shame and guilt cultures particularly interesting, and having some degree of explanatory power. I can see why such a model might bother the people over at The New York Times; are we going to have to fight to defend our hard-won social gains?

Nevertheless, Strauss and Howe are not promoting a rigid pattern. There is no guarantee of what will happen, when it will happen or how it will all turn out. For example, the Civil War period broke the pattern; there was no Hero generation produced.

In the Civil War Saeculum, the Third and Fourth Turnings together covered the span of just one generation and produced no Hero archetype. By the usual pattern of history, the Civil War Crisis catalyst occurred four or five years ahead of schedule and its resolution nearly a generation too soon. This prompts the question: What would have happened if tempers had cooled for a few years, postponing the Crisis for another presidential election and slowing it down thereafter? … Imagine what might have happened differently in the South (which was devastated), in race relations (which reverted to Jim Crow), in the women’s movement (which collapsed), and to the Gilded and Progressive Generations (both heavily damaged by war).
The Fourth Turning, p. 262.

Here the authors directly address variations in the patterns. This also provides a cautionary note to those who would attempt to accelerate change in the hope of bringing about an earlier resolution. The requisite conditions for a satisfactory outcome may not be there.

This is where Bannon’s obsession with this book should cause concern. He believes that, for the new world order to rise, there must be a massive reckoning. That we will soon reach our climax conflict. In the White House, he has shown that he is willing to advise Trump to enact policies that will disrupt our current order to bring about what he perceives as a necessary new one. He encourages breaking down political and economic alliances and turning away from traditional American principles to cause chaos.
— Linette Lopez, “Steve Bannon’s Obsession with a Dark Theory of History Should Be Worrisome“, Business Insider, 2 Feb 2017.

So if Steve Bannon does believe that he should create disruption to accelerate the coming crisis, he needs to go back and re-read the book.

Written by srojak

August 6, 2017 at 7:30 pm