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Works and Days

Truths We Dare Not Speak

January 13th, 2010 - 9:01 pm

There are a number of things we simply no longer talk about. The silence is partly due to intellectual laziness. Or maybe it is because of political correctness—or even attributable to ignorance and the absence of curiosity.

In no particular order, I list five propositions that simply have become taboo.

1). Illegal Immigration and California

There are dozens of recent exposés on the California mess. The “I accuse” themes—all quite accurate—are well known.

(a) The state propositions have hamstrung the legislature, and resulted in almost no free choices anymore in budgetary decision.

(b) The legislature—due to partisan gerrymandering, the unnecessarily large number of legislators in an unnecessary bicameral system, and term-limits—is inexperienced, captive to special interests, and increasingly incompetent.

(c) State employees have taken over the state: they are paid far above the national average, not accountable, and almost impossible to fire when found to be incompetent. The state pension system is unsustainable. Pay cuts, lay-offs, or furloughs loom.

(d) The nation’s highest income, sales, and gas taxes have driven out the most productive residents—to the tune of 3,500 a week—to no-tax or little-tax neighboring states.

OK— agreed, and I have written all that myself in various articles. But there is another problem never raised in polite company.

California, by most estimates, has somewhere between 40-50% of the nation’s illegal immigrants. That may mean 5-7 million residents here illegally, most without English, documentation, or high-school diplomas. This makes the practice of assimilation into the middle-class a multigenerational process over decades, rather than in the past, when immigrants came in fewer numbers and more often legally.

The state ranks 47-48th in most studies of the achievement levels of the nation’s schools, mostly due to millions of entering students who do not speak English well, if at all.

Of the some $50 billion in remittances that leave the U.S. each year to Latin America, perhaps $20 billion come from California residents, draining the state of capital, and ensuring that the donors will be in need of state health, education, housing and food supplements. California’s taxpayers, in essence, subsidize Oaxaca and Jalisco—that may be humanitarian, and worthy of praise, but it is costly nonetheless, and perhaps beyond the financial resources of the majority of the population.

I’ll pass on increased per capita rates of crime, gangs, etc. that are considered too illiberal to mention. But if studies are correct that anyone who comes north, without English, legality, and education, over his life-cycle will have to draw somewhere between $50,000 and $70,000 more in entitlements than he contributes in various taxes, and if we were to prorate that on an annual basis, and if we were to multiply that by several million, then one can envision an annual outlay of several billion in state expenditures.

Instead, illegal immigration is never much cited as a contributor to California’s fiscal implosion. To mention all this is considered racist. Yet, to take one instance, the cost of incarcerating the state’s illegal aliens alone exceeds the budget of the new UC Merced, a campus intended to serve mostly minority communities of the central valley.

The solution? Allow only legal immigration. Base admittance to the U.S. mostly on skills and our own need for expertise and capital. Trust in merit, and ignore the race and origin of the would-be immigrant.

2) Iraq

We are tired of Iraq and have Trotskyized it out of our existence, given the huge cost and 4,000 dead.

But consider: not a single America died in Iraq in December (38 murdered in Chicago during that period); three have been lost this month (24 murdered so far this month in Chicago).

Some random thoughts. The surge was a brilliant success.

The heroes are relatively ignored. They are U.S. forces who served in Iraq, of course; Gens. Odierno and Petraeus (recall what he endured from Hillary Clinton and MoveOn.org in his Senate inquisition); civilian analysts like Fred Kagan and retired Gen. Keane; and, of course, a demonized George Bush—attacked by most of his former supporters, the majority of pundits and columnists, those Democrats who had voted to authorize the war, many of the Iraq Study Group members; and by a cadre of retired “revolt of the generals” officers.

Yet for some reason, very few senators (cf. the You Tube videos of the debates of October 11-12, 2002) who gave impassioned pleas, authorizing 23 writs to go to war, have ever quite explained why they flipped—and what they think now of both their original support, and their subsequent opposition.

A Harry Reid (“the war is lost”) or Barack Obama (out of Iraq by March 2008 and the surge “is not working”) have never subsequently suggested that they were wrong at a time when our troops desperately were trying against all odds to save the fragile country.

Nor has anyone questioned the conventional dogma that Iraq empowered Iran, supposedly by removing the demonic Saddam. (Yet consider the liberal logic: we were wrong to remove a monster because he was a useful balance-of-power monster [ignore the genocide of the Kurds, Marsh Arabs, etc];  yet we deplore prior administrations for giving the same monster some aid in his war against Iran.)

In fact, mass demonstrations and unrest now take place in an isolated Iran, not so much in a democratic Iraq. The latter is proving more destabilizing by its open broadcasting and word of mouth freedom to Iran than Iran is to Iraq by its savage use of terrorism. (What will happen to conventional wisdom, if there comes a day when Iran is constitutional, along with Iraq and Lebanon?)

No one has officially said they were wrong in alleging “No Blood for Oil.” But we got no oil from Iraq. The price rose after we invaded. The Chinese, Russians, and Europeans got the contracts in free and fair bidding.

(Contrast Saddam’s rigged pre-war, quid-pro-quo oil concessions to the corrupt French). There was no Halliburton conspiracy to steal resources. The left often now, mirabile dictu, accuses us of being naïve in bleeding to give others the resources that they once accused us of wishing to steal. Barack Obama still talks of Iraq as a mistake, even as he quietly ignores his own prescriptions to have gotten out by early 2008, and to have stopped the surge—and continues to follow the Petraeus/Bush plan.

3) Affirmative Action

The concept was noble, but now antiquated and mostly absurd. It requires the logic of the Old Confederacy to determine racial purity among the intermarried citizenry. Jet-black Punjabis get no preferences. Light-skinned Mexican-Americans of the fourth-generation claim privilege. Poor whites from Tulare don’t rank. The children of black dentists do. I see very little logic here.

Asians? We both claim them as minorities, and yet we discriminate against them at the University of California admissions process on the basis of their own superior achievement. (Apparently, the deplorable record of discrimination against Asians is now deemed irrelevant due to the community’s own success. Ponder the ramifications of that for a bit: should Asians have been struggling at UC, they would be considered suffering from the legacy of oppression; since they are excelling, they need to be quietly discriminated against).

As far as I can tell, here is the logic of this Byzantine system: Affirmative action in the 21st century has no logical basis in skin color, actual discrimination, poverty, class, or need. It is predicated on two archaic thoughts: previously discriminated against American minorities shall be defined as only Hispanic, Blacks, and Asians, and thus their children shall receive privilege for decades. BUT that new discrimination will not apply if such minorities on their own have prospered and are successful. (Why that would be so in some cases is again a taboo question.)

So, Japanese-Americans, whose parents were put in camps, don’t quite qualify any more for compensation seemingly because they are successful and are thus “over-represented” in the racial spoils system. But Chilean immigrants do—if they can fraudulently piggy-back upon the Mexican-American experience by virtue of a shared language and last names.

If one is of mixed race, nomenclature trumps all. Bob Wilson, the son of a Mexican-American mother, is liable to get nothing, Roberto Martinez will get quite a lot, if the son of a Mexican-American (or any Spanish-speaking) father. A Barry Soetoro is of mere pedestrian mixed ancestry; Barack Obama is not merely black, but exotically so.

In short, the system is corrupt. In our society of intermarriage, immigration and mixed ancestry, we cannot any longer determine who is and who is not a certified “minority” (cf. the con of mostly white candidates claiming some sort of Native American ancestry).

Class and need are no longer connected with race. Hyphenation only creates cynicism and enhances a professional class of grievance mongers in journalism, politics, academia, and the arts (yet somehow we quietly and unofficially drop affirmative action dictates when it comes to 747 pilots, brain surgeons, or nuclear power plant engineers, but no one sues to disregard competency exams for air-traffic-controllers solely on the basis of undesirable racial results).

So what is left of affirmative action? Cynicism. Mostly it is an easy way for elite whites and Asians to feel good about themselves by helping the “other”—usually at someone else’s expense (cf. the lower-class white applicant from Tulare who is rejected with equal or superior qualifications, without the resources and preparations of the wealthy and connected.) It provides psychological alleviation of guilt, without the  need to be tutoring in the ghetto, sending your kids to a mostly Hispanic school, or living among the lower classes. In that sense, the construction of Barack Obama, the former Barry Soetoro, and his apotheosis by elite whites, is again an unintended paradigm of the times.

For those who find the above illiberal, I’m sorry, but after twenty-one years as a professor I have never quite seen any American institution so corrupt, unfair, and cynical as the practice of affirmative action.

4) The Ivy League is a Naked Emperor

By Ivy League I do not mean just Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, but the entire concept of high-priced elite schools like a Stanford, Duke, or Columbia as well. We know a BA from such institutions does not ipso facto any longer, as it once may well have, guarantee knowledge or competence. We know the race/class/gender craze has watered down the curriculum, and ensured therapy and empathy trump recall of facts and adherence to the inductive method. And we know that one’s first two years will  probably mean instruction largely by graduate students and lecturers.

Had we national exit requirements, I am convinced those leaving a Hillsdale College or St. Thomas Aquinas or St. John’s would do better than the average Yale BA.

A motivated undergraduate student, who picks the right professors and classes, can get as good an undergraduate education at San Jose State as at Stanford. Certainly, the four years are not worth $200,000 in room, board, and tuition— if education is the goal.

But wait! If, in contrast, networks, influence-accumulation, and contacts are the objectives to ensure a child remains, or enters into, the elite class, then the investment in such undergraduate schools is very much worth it—but should be considered analogous to a debutante ball, the social register, or the Grand Tour.

Does anyone believe that the present professional classes of Ivy-League certified technocrats in the administration understand the law, the economy, or the government any better, by virtue of their university educations, than a does a country trial lawyer, a military officer, a CEO, or any of the others who were educated elsewhere, or received training in the rather rougher arena of the real world?

I am fortunate for a wonderful graduate education in the PhD program at Stanford, but I learned more about the way the world works in two months of farming (which saved a wretch like me) than in four years of concentrated study.

In short, the world does not work on a nine-month schedule. It does not recognize concepts like tenure. It does not care for words without action. And brilliance is not measure by vocabulary or SAT scores. Wowing a dean, or repartee into a seminar, or clever put-downs of rivals in the faculty lounge don’t translate into running a railroad—or running the country. One Harry Truman, or Dwight Eisenhower is worth three Bill Clintons or Barack Obamas. If that sounds reductionist, simplistic, or anti-intellectual, it is not meant to—but so be it nonetheless.

5) The “Middle East” is a Fraud

Why do we beat ourselves up over Israel and the Palestinians? Why not occupied Cyprus? Or the Kuriles? Or South Ossetia? Or the divided city of Nicosia?  Is there a “Falklands Question”?

Why are not Germans blowing themselves up in Gdansk, the former East Prussia, the Alsace, or old Silesia to recover “lost” land?

Were there no Israeli-Arab wars before the “occupation” of 1967? Does anyone think that, should the West Bank simply take a 30-year break from the violence, emulate Western business and government, draw in Gulf capital, a few thousands acres here or there would then be still be relevant?

Are the far poorer people of Chad blowing themselves up? Is the world crying for those in the slums of Lima? Does want and famine drive those in rural China to capture the world’s attention by virtue of their terrorist acts? Do we send special envoys to occupied Tibet? Is there a Green Line there?

Sorry—take away three things, and the Mideast “crisis” is relegated to Cypriote status. If there were no oil in the Arab Middle East; if there were no Islamic terrorists; and if there was no endemic global anti-Semitism, we would be as likely to have a “Mideast czar” as we would an “Ossetian Czar.”

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