Sunday, April 29, 2012

Remembering the Titans

Papua New Guinea, 1982. I'm in a training camp with my wife and toddler. Among the other campers is a single German woman, very plain, half a head taller than I am, not the stuff of daydreams. Perhaps twice during the two months of the course, we're within conversational distance, but both times she makes it surprisingly and memorably plain that she's not interested in conversing.

Eugene, Oregon, 1987. I see the same woman at a bulletin board in the dormitory we're living in during the summer. She sees me, lights up, introduces me to her husband, asks all sorts of questions about the intervening five years, and generally treats me like a long-lost friend.

In my grammar class that same summer is a single German woman who owns what looks to me like a really nifty computer. She answers my questions about it with as few words as possible and makes it plain that she's not interested in conversing.

Papua New Guinea, 1990-something. The woman from the grammar class sees me at the market, lights up, introduces me to her husband, asks all sorts of questions . . . .

My conclusion: while respectable single US women can be freindly (as defined by a US man) with married men, respectable German women can't, but they can once they are married.

People are different, and not all of their differences sit well with their neighbors.

One of the subplots of the movie Remember the Titans involves a white high school football player who takes his two friends, one white and one black, into a restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, circa 1970. The owner firmly, though civilly, informs the white boys that the black boy is not welcome in the restaurant and tells them to leave. The boys do leave, but at the end of the movie they return; when the restaurant owner again tells them to leave, the white boy says that his father works for the feds and can sue the owner for a daunting list of civil rights violations. The restauranteur backs down, the black high schoolers get to sit in the restaurant, and everything is hunky-dory.

The message is clear: the restauranteur was a bad guy, and the kids were made heroes by the government. Government good: entrepreneurship bad.

I'd like to play devil's advocate here and take the side of the restaurant owner in the movie because I think he was acting rationally and within his rights even though I would have wanted to see the black boy seated. Furthermore, he was not nearly as evil as those the movie portrays as heroes.

So here I am. I've worked at jobs I don't particularly like for years, saving my money instead of spending it on things I would like to have, like nice clothes, a nice car, season tickets for the Senators or Redskins, whatever. Maybe I've taken out a sizable loan to buy the stoves, refrigerators, freezers, flatware, plates, etc., I need to run my restaurant. I've rented or taken out a mortgage on the building and paid for the structural changes and signage. I've advertised in the Yellow Pages, in the newspaper, maybe even on the radio and TV.

All this before the first customer walks through the door.

When I open the door, I have no guarantee that customers will come in. I probably had a grand opening discount deal for the first week, but there was no guarantee those who took advantage of the low prices then will come back and pay full fare. But let's assume I got over the hump and have been in business for a few years.

Who are my customers? They are the people of Alexandria. I grew up with them. I know their names, where they live, and how they think.

Tillamook, Oregon, August, 1972. I'm riding my bicycle up the Oregon coast. I pull into Tillamook at sunset with no idea where I'll be sleeping, and it looks like it might rain. I ride around the town a bit and don't see anyplace tolerable. So I stop at a low-end Mom and Pop motel and ask if they've got a bit of floor I can sleep on.

They reply that they have a room that has just been painted and they'll let me have it for half price. Oh, joy!

It even has a bed in it!

A few minutes later Mom and Pop surprise me by inviting me to dinner: fried chicken, potatoes, and I can't remember what else, but I was hungry and probably ate like a bear. And we get to talking. They ask about me and really seem interested in my world, which at that point was leftist politics. Eventually—I don't remember when, but it makes the story better if I say it was after thirds on fried chicken and halfway through dessert—I ask about them. They tell me they're from Louisiana.

"Oh. So why did you move up here?"

"Too many niggers down there."

Generous, loving people can be racist.

I know that my people don't choose to have anything to do with blacks. But they're not bad people.

Like my aunt who gave me my first bicycle, my neighbor who taught me to repair lawn mowers, or my father who worked two jobs and paid for the sign on my restaurant. But these are the people in my world, Alexandria, Virginia, circa 1970.

Maybe I'd like to leave someday, maybe not, but I can't yet, so I do the best with what I've got. But leaving my people I love so that I can spend more time with black people isn't a high priority for me now.

Meantime, the success of my restaurant, and my ability to earn a living, depends on the good will of white people who, whether I like it or not, choose not to associate with black people.

So now a black boy comes into my restaurant with his two white friends. Most of my clientele is adults, so they're already somewhat out of place, but if kids that age behave themselves properly, they're welcome.

But what do I do about that black boy?

If I choose to open my main dining room to him, the whites now here will leave, never to return, and tell their friends not to patronize me. So almost overnight my entire clientele will be black. There are [I'm having to guess here—QP] only half as many blacks as whites in Alexandria, and their earning power is also about half that of whites. So we're looking at a reduction in my gross revenue somewhere near 75% if I seat this fellow.

I could open a separate dining room for blacks, but it wouldn't be as nice as the white dining room for the same reason Chock Full o' Nuts isn't as nice as the Waldorf: the offering has to be tailored to the prospective buyers. And if the blacks are going to be offended that their room isn't as nice as the whites' room [I'm probably bringing in an anachronistic bit of twenty-first-century entitlement mentality—QP]; I also, not being black and not usually associating with them, run the risk of making mistakes based on my unfamiliarity with black culture. So why should I risk the resources to open a separate dining room? Why not save my money and do my best to serve the people I can serve best and leave the opportunity open for a black entrepreneur to better his lot by opening a restaurant that blacks will enjoy going to?

It's my property. It's my capital and living on the line. "I'm sorry, boys, but you can't eat here."

The "good news" we all heard about is that before long all restauranteurs had to open their doors to black and white, so now blacks and whites eat in the same restaurants, sleep in the same motels, go to the same schools, ride in the same airplanes, and so on. As my Yankee upbringing (since repudiated) would have me expect, I've never heard of any white folks getting cooties from the experience.

But has getting what we wanted gotten us where we wanted to go?

Years ago I read (in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, but I don't remember which one) a lament that in racially integrated schools the black kids sit on one side of the lunchroom and the white kids on the other. And why not? If Germans and Yankees have different expectations and customs and preferences, we would expect the same of black and white kids thrown together by government decree, ¿nĂ³?

What do the closing of beaches in Milwaukee and Chicago because of interracial violence, and the rancor over the killing of Trayvon Martin, tell us, if not that government can put black and white in the same room but can't make them like each other?

More importantly, we should also remember that those Titans are my contemporaries, who voted for the Bushes, Clinton, and Obama, and so share the guilt for depradations of those monsters. Compared to the mega death dealt by those "heroes," a restauranteur defending his livelihood seems like pretty small potatoes.

I would even go so far as to say that someone whose response was less civil than that of the restauranteur in the movie is small potatoes. Consider Lester Maddox, who famously ran an erstwhile black customer off his property with a gun and a club.

Photo source

Compare that with this achievement of the Titans, a scene from Afghanistan that is matched by many in Vietnam, Kosovo, Iraq, and now Yemen and Pakistan.

Photo source

Loving, generous people can be racist. They can also be litterbugs and road hogs. In the case of Bush Republicans and Obama Democrats, they can be proponents of mass murder.

Yankees celebrated the desegregation of restaurants and put their (I should say our, since I did at the time) trust in government to do what was right and make the world a better place, morally as well as economically. Today little protest is raised against government attempts to stamp out every evil from racism to distracted driving to substance abuse to to prostitution to terrorism, even where it involves invasions into what any reasonable person would consider one's private life (like the bathroom and bedroom). Even when it involves the mass killing of innocent people.

But I would suggest that where government has failed to stamp out these vices, accepting its right to do so has involved us in much greater evil.

Jesus nowhere tells us to regulate others' views on race. We are to pursue justice for all, the safety of all people and their property from violence and fraud, and we are to be hospitable, a city on a hill that welcomes those outside the main stream. I can castigate Lester Maddox and try to change the thinking of his society all I want, but if I'm not willing to say, "Mr. Negro [That was the polite term in those days—QP], you don't need Lester Maddox's restaurant. Come to my house for a barbecue," I'm not doing my job, plain and simple. And, as is most likely the case, if Mr. Negro says no, he'd prefer to be with his people, he's within his rights as well.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Christian Nudists? (Part 3)

— How goes it?

— Well, I will admit that I wasn't looking forward to seing you here today.

— Thanks a lot! How so?

— I found out that my son has been looking at pornography on the Internet.

— And you expected me to what, be glad about it?

— Well, you're such a fan of nudism . . .

— Wait. I said that every argument that can be advanced against nudism can be applied to the wars overseas, and I said that every argument in support of what the TSA does at airports can be applied to nudism, but if you remember, that was my way of saying that the wars and the TSA are immoral, not that nudism is moral. If either of us was saying that nudism is a good thing, it was you, by rejecting my argument.

— Well whatver, I don't think looking at pornography is good.

— I might surprise you and think it's not good too. But is there anything to be thankful for here?

— What?

— We're supposed to rejoice evermore and in everything give thanks. So what's there to rejoice and give thanks about?

— Help me here.

— No, seriously. Could he have been looking at anything worse than what you think he was looking at, or doing something even worse?

— Oh, yeah. I'm sure there's worse out there.

— Can you tell what his favorite stuff is?

— Yeah, he'd fit in with you. He says he doesn't want to see sex. Just nudity.

— Be careful what you accuse me of. So he's into chicks, but nothing kinky.

— Right.

— Well, see there's something to be thankful for. He could be looking at baseball.

— I wish he had been looking at baseball.

— What I meant was it would be worse if he were looking at baseball.

— Looking at baseball is worse than looking at naked women? You're out of your mind. Wait. Don't tell me. Let's see if I remember. Doctors and TSA agents look at naked women all the time, so they're inured to it, so it's not a sin, and if my son looks at enough naked women he'll get inured and everything will be hunky-dory. I'm supposed to believe that?

— If he were inured to it, he wouldn't do it for fun, would he?

— No, he'd move on to other things. But those other things might be worse. Like kinky sex. Like sadomasochsim. Like mass murder, the way Ted Bundy went. Bundy said he started out with pornography and went on to mass murder. I don't want my son to go that way.

— I don't want your son to end up a mass murderer either. That's why I say you don't want him watching baseball.

— The blogger from hell won't have a post until you tell my why, so I'll be a good straight man here. How is it that baseball leads to mass murder?

— It does perhaps more often than pornography, but not always.

— And the connection is . . .

— It's right here. The San Diego Padres' Sunday home uniforms. That is a stylized combat outfit, right?

— It is. So what?

— Professional baseball players are glorifying people who go off and murder innocent people.

— You're assuming what you need to prove, that the US Army is guilty of murder.

— Ever heard of My Lai? Or Najibian? And if Eisenhower and MacArthur were right, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were mass murder on a scale Ted Bundy wouldn't have undertaken if you'd offered it to him. Do you think Jesus is a hundred percent OK with how the west was won, or Sherman's march through Georgia, or the killing of a quarter million Filipinos after the Spanish left?

— Those were exceptions.

— So was Ted Bundy. The number of people looking at naked women is greater than the grains of sand on the seashore, but we can pretty much count the people who have gone from there to becoming mass murderers. The number of people involved in those wholesale slaughters runs into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

— Sheesh. Even if you're right, that still doesn't involve baseball.

— So you don't think that the Padres and Major League Baseball are at all complicit in the "collateral damage" our military is creating overseas.

— It's up to you to prove that they are.

— How about if I show you that baseball is an arm of the government? Would that help make my point?

— Yeah. Like drinking extract of peach pits "helps support" good health.

— So what would convince you?

— I don't know what would, but I can't seem to shut you up. How is baseball an arm of the government?

— Of the thirty stadiums in the major leagues, twenty-nine were built with government money. Every Little League I know of plays on government property, either a government school yard or a park. Almost every baseball program between Little League and the major leagues is played on government property, the exceptions being private schools that have baseball programs. How'm I doin'?

— So the government generously provides these things. So what?

— The government generously takes my money against my will and provides these things.

— That's just "sour grapes." Besides, that's local government, not the feds.

— Taking my money to build baseball stadiums is of a piece with taking my money to kill innocent people.

— Says you.

— Why do you think Congress has held hearings to prodsecute the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens for steroid use?

— Because those men are in a position of influence, and what they do to their bodies can influence children, and protecting children is the government's business.

— So the government needs to control them.

— Right.

— Who controls this arm?

— Oh, so because the government controls it, it's an arm of the government.

— Who else's arm would it be?

— I'm still not convinced. And I still would rather have my son watching baseball than looking at pornography.

— Depending on your definition of pornography, I would too. If pornography is the graphic representation of extramarital sexual activity, I certainly would say he's better off with baseball. But you said that's not where he's at.

— Do you really think it's better for him to be looking at naked women than watching a baseball game?

— I've never heard of nudists blowing up innocent people and then being proud of it the way the people who unfurl the flag, sing the national anthem, and salute the military flyovers at baseball games are proud of those who kill thousands of people overseas and then deny their victims' humanity by calling them collateral damage. There's something to be said for having the goal of living in peace and asking only to be left alone.

— But—good grief!—they run around naked!

— But—good grief!—baseball players steal other people's money to build their stadiums! I don't know how accomplished you are at taking other people's property, but I suspect you've been naked with no one objecting. You might even have been naked in the presence of other people who didn't object. When was the last time you heard of someone taking other people's property against their will without those people being unhappy about it, let alone bombing their houses or killing their family members?

— These are just the tragedies of war. They can't be helped.

— Who would you rather have fora neighbot? Someone who runs around naked, or someone who would blow up your house and kill your family with no regrets if he thought it were the best way to protect his interests?

— Nudism is just wrong. And besides, these people get kids hooked into that system.

— Collateral damage includes children dead and maimed. Do you think flyovers and honor guards and other connections of baseball with the military, and government in general, has no influence on getting kids to join the military, let alone to accept government programs like schools and parks that are financed by theft?

— Come on, those stadiums were built with bond issues, or through the decisions of elected officials. That's not stealing!

— So if five people decide to take what belongs to one other person, or four other people, it's not stealing?

— Not if it's government.

— So if a government agency were to open a nudist resort, it would be OK for them to tax you to support it?

— No, it wouldn't. Nudist resorts are inherently immoral. Schools and hospitals and baseball stadiums aren't inherently immoral.

— And neither is killing innocent people?

— Not if we aren't targeting them. Bad things happen in war. That's why it's so important to fight them over there: so we don't have to fight them over here.

— Is there any limit to the number of innocent people you can collaterally damage before it becomes immoral?

— Not if the alternative is that we lose the war.

— And it's also OK to tax people to build baseball stadiums, but not nudist resorts.

— Right.

— And there's no moral limit to the amount of taxation as long as people benefit from what the government does with the revenue.

— Right.

— If the end of a nudist resort can disqualify taxation as a means for acquiring revenue, doesn't that mean the the end of a baseball stadium, or even a school or hospital, justifies that same means of taxation? Aren't you giving me an end-justifies-the-means argument for all taxation?

— No.

— So when does the end justify the means and when does it not?

— The end never justifies the means, but it can disqualify it.

— So if the end is good, taxation is OK, but if the end is bad, it's not.

— Right.

— But that doesn't mean that the end justifies the means.

— Right. Look, this hasn't been any help at all. I think there are better things my son can be doing with his time than looking at naked women.

Really? Like what?

— Like reading the Bible, or the classics, or praying, or meditating on Scripture, or getting in touch with people who need company, or volunteering somewhere. Or learning a musical instrument or a foreign language, or woodworking, or painting, or writing poetry or hymns.

— I notice that . . .

Or watching baseball. You can look at naked women all you want, but I don't want him doing that.

— I don't want me doing that either. Everything on your list is better.

— Even the baseball?

— No, but since I still watch it occasionally, I guess I'd better shut up.

— It's about time.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Five Reasons Barack Obama Is Bad News for Black People

The Trayvon Martin case has sparked a loud response from "the black community" (as though blacks are so many chocolate bunnies out of the same mold), one of the loudest of which belongs to President Barack Obama. While I don't know what transpired before the shooting of Mr. Martin, that Mr. Obama would speak so loudly tells me that things are not as he would like me to believe them. Despite his rhetoric, Mr. Obama is no friend of black people, and if he says one thing, people should consider the possibility that its opposite is actually true. This is especially true for blacks, who arguably comprise the most vulnerable ethnic group in our country.

Why should no self-respecting black person trust Barack Obama?


Mr. Obama has presided over a huge increase in the supply of digital dollars, "money" backed by nothing but "the full faith and credit of the United States government." Why does this hurt blacks?

Whenever anyone creates "money" out of thin air, either by counterfeiting paper bills, clipping or debasing the metal in coins, or declaring the money into existence using a computer keyboard, the effect is the same: those with immediate access to the new "money" have increased buying power: they can buy goods and services at the old prices. But the more money there is in circulation, the more those at the front of the line can bid prices up, and those at the end of the line, who have to wait for the "money" to trickle down pay higher prices, as do those who do not have access to it at all. Those in the inner circle benefit; everyone else suffers.

Blacks as a group are underrepresented in the inner circle and overrepresented at the end of the line, so they are more likely than whites to face the higher prices caused by inflation with little or no additional new "money" to pay them. Think gasoline: how many blacks are earning today three times what they were earning ten years ago? Yet the price of gasoline has more than tripled, as have the prices of such things as groceries, clothing, and highway tolls.


Much of the money that Mr. Obama has allowed to be created has gone directly into the coffers of the elite bankers, the richest people the world has ever seen. As I've just explained, this money has esentially been taken out of the pockets of blacks and given to whites.

While this is the most blatant example of cronyism, innumerable other examples abound, such as defense contractors and educational institutions. As with everything else government does, whatever the wording of the policies, what actually comes to pass is a product not of justice but of expediency: the powerful will do whatever they consider most beneficial. And while the powerful are not black, those who pay for cronyism are.

Unionization and the Minimum Wage

The banksters aren't the only privileged whites to benefit at the expense of blacks under Mr. Obamma's rule. While walking to work shortly after the election, I saw a headline on the Public Record, a union tabloid: "Obama Owes Unions Bigtime." Barry, Barry, he's their man.

While union rhetoric is intended to portray unions as the friends of the poor, the opposite is true, unless "friends don't let friends take low-paying jobs." The first law of the marketplace is that the higher the price for a good or service, the less of it will be demanded. An employer willing to hire X number of employees at five dollars per hour will hire fewer if forced to pay ten dollars per hour. This is good for those who get hired, of course, but not for those who can find no work.

Similarly, a worker might be willing to shuffle papers for five dollars an hour in a comfortable, friendly environment, but refuse to engage in heavy lifting in the cold and damp or scorching heat for the same wage. If it's fair for workers to refuse to work too long or too hard for low pay, it's fair for employers to refuse to hire at high mandated wages.

Like it or not, blacks are less likely to be hired than whites, and they have the same right to refuse work that demands too much for too little pay. The result is a higher unemployment rate for blacks.

The second law (or is it really the first?) is that only the worker can decide whether he is better off giving his time and effort for the money or looking for a more favorable exchange, and only the employer can decide whether to risk his capital on a given worker. Government-mandated wage scales, which includes both unions and minimum wages, take that choice from the workers and employers. Since lack of freedom to choose is the common definition of slavery, it is fair to say that Mr. Obama prefers a slave system to a free market. Given that whites disproportionately occupy positions of power relative to blacks, who is more likely to be the slave?

While it is true that some union members and minimum wage workers who are employed receive higher wages than they otherwise would, these benefit at the expense not only of workers whose skills will not attract a buyer at the minimum wage rate, but also those whose labor is worth more than the mandated union rate. The former, as I have said, are disproportionately black.

However, one would expect that the latter are also, since blacks generally have to be better workers than their white counterparts to overcome prejudice and be hired for the same job; also, employers have incentive to lower the wages of newer and better workers when they are forced to hire less-profitable workers. This is especially true when older workers, who would be disproportionately white, cannot be fired because of union tenure laws.

So privileged groups benefit from unionization and the minimum wage by pricing under-privileged workers, disproportionately blacks, out of the market and penalizing the hard workers who do break into the better jobs.

The War on Drugs

Candidate Obama dared his detractors to use his past marijuana use against him by looking them in the eye and saying, "Of course I inhaled. That's the whole point." He might as well have added, "What are you going to do about it?"

Though he was trying to appear sincere by distancing himself from Bill Clinton's and George W. Bush's dissembling about their drug use, he thereby proved himself a breathtaking hypocrite: he admits to having used marijuana himself and has paid no penalty for it, but he has no compunction about jailing others who do so. Similarly, he is willing to play the race card in the Trayvon Martin case but shows no remorse over murdering Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, who was guilty of no crime, nor of presiding over a system in which the majority of violators of drug laws are white but the majority of those in jail for violating drug laws are black; furthermore, they serve longer sentences than whites.

Drug-law conviction bars these "criminals" from good jobs, making them vulnerable to the hardships of unionization and the minimum wage. And again, as a group, this hurts blacks more than whites.

The Wars Overseas

The military, like the rest of society, is disproportionately white at the top and black at the bottom. Those who direct the war from their air-conditioned quarters are white; those out in the battle fields getting killed and maimed are black. These "volunteers" come from outside the inner circle and are driven into the killing business by the unemployment that follows unionization and the minimum wage, to say nothing of schools that do not teach and a welfare system that encourages single motherhood. These are the "heroes" honored by flyovers at football games and "Veterans Memorial Highway" signs. Maybe they think these honors make the risk and trauma worthwhile—as I say, only they can decide—but I suspect most don't. I wouldn't.

So there you have it.

Many blacks trust Mr. Obama because he has dark skin and frizzy hair, and their hearts are in it because he is the "President of the United States of America." With the office comes trust. But is he, as president, worthy of that trust? Should blacks want their president to be that man, or someone else?

If I were black, I would want a president who promotes honest money and the rights of prospective employers and employees to interact, and who will end cronyism, the war on drugs and the wars overseas. There is someone in the political arena who has been working hard to do do all that for thirty years, and it's not Barack Obama. If you don't know who it is, you need to find out.