Category Archives: Culture

The five habits of the highly ineffectual Indian people

The Indian government just held its “Make in India” extravaganza, an effort from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to encourage foreigners to invest in its manufacturing sector.  If you’re considering doing so, despite the country’s notorious business climate, abysmal human capital, horrendous infrastructure, and fetid corruption, then you should beware another drawback:  India’s culture.  It’s ancient spirituality without the inspiration, Asian conformity without the discipline, Arab dishonesty without the guile, and British systematism without the order.

These attributes inflict the national character from individual to institutional.  Beware some of the worst:


5.  Calling you repeatedly

If an Indian wants to reach you on the phone—be it a business contact by mobile or the hotel front desk calling you for no real reason—he will let it ring over and over and over and over, until the phone system cuts him off or you roll over half asleep and yank the phone cord out of the wall in exasperation.

Then, he will call back immediately and repeat the process.  And continue to do so over and over and over and over.  I can’t tell you how many times I have retrieved my phone after being away and seen 14 missed calls in a row from the same number.  I call back and say, “I assume that this is a life-or-death matter?  Has my mother been kidnapped?”  The response is always something like,”I just sent e-mail with quotation.”


4.  Worshipping cows

The cow is not only the sacred symbol in India’s dominant religion, it is a political cudgel for Hindu nationalists.  Modi is trying to spread the ban on slaughtering cows nationwide, largely to whip up support among the peasant mobs.  (Perhaps he has matured as a politician:  as a state-level chief, his preferred method of rallying the base was to facilitate murderous pogroms against Muslims.)

Watching the cows wandering the streets—battling it out with the goats and sheep and dogs to dine on the trash heaps, sauntering down the sidewalk, or simply laying down in the middle of the road—is certainly one of the most fun aspects of traveling in the country.

That the cow is Indians’ earthly representation of the sublime says something about their national spirit.  (Ironically, India is the world’s leading exporter of beef, as well as indentured labor to the Middle East.)  Usually when a group of people chooses an animal as a symbol, it’s because of the animal’s majesty, cunning, or at least exoticism.  Think of the bald eagle, tiger, or elephant.  Cows, however, are a curious choice for reverence.  They are stupid, plodding, and ubiquitous.  (Perhaps that that is an apt metaphor for the Indian state.)


3.  Creating unnecessarily complex processes

Everything in India is needlessly complicated and laughably inefficient, from trivial consumer processes— typing your PIN and signing when using a credit card; having to swipe the key card and then press a button to enter my hotel room in Calcutta—to the indecipherable bureaucratic requirements to operate a business.  State borders in India come with customs control, checkpoints, and protectionist measures imposed on products.

It’s impossible for any visitor not to get caught up in the gauntlet.  Try signing up for a SIM card.  Or buying an Indian Railways ticket.  Or exchanging money; woe to you if you want to change rupees back to your home currency.  Or proceeding through the airport with carry-on luggage.

Many highway toll booths have two attendants, one sitting inside the booth, and another standing outside who takes the money from the driver and hands it to the guy in the booth.  Some elevators have two attendants, one for each bank of buttons.

At one luxury hotel in Hyderabad, there is a metal detector at the gate facing the street, which beeps when you pass through it, though it is not manned.  Then you go through one of those turnstiles like in the subway, with the horizontal slats at one point in the circle to prevent you from going the other direction.  Except that it is not locked:  you must go through the same process in reverse upon exiting.  You then go through another metal detector and hand wand at the door to the building.  I asked what the purpose of the first check was, and was met with only a quizzical look.

At a shop in Cochin, it took four employees to sell me a bottle of hair spray.  I requested the item behind the counter from one individual, paid a cashier and received a receipt, presented the receipt to a different person to receive the item, and had to pass a checker who stamped it on the way out.

Every time I see a woman hunched over sweeping the ground with an eighteen-inch-long “broom” made of twigs thatched together, I am tempted to ask why she doesn’t affix a stick to it so that she can stand up straight while sweeping, thereby increasing productivity and reducing strain considerably.  But I am sure that she wouldn’t understand the question.

At a casino in Goa, they let you use the free-play chips at the roulette table, but only to bet on red or even, not black or odd.  (The odds for these bets are all the same.)  I found this hilarious, and asked what the rationale was, but of course no one could answer.


2.  Dealing poorly with ambiguity

Customer service is generally hapless in India, a symptom of an educational system that focuses on rote learning as opposed to problem solving and, perhaps, endemic low productivity due to the size and quality of the labor pool.  If you get in a taxi in India and tell the driver your destination, he will start driving.  He may or may not have any idea of your destination, but he won’t say that.  Often you can tell by his facial expression (or the fact that he is going completely the wrong way) that he doesn’t know.  You may say, “I think you have to turn left here,” and he may or may not comply.  You may ask, “Are you sure you know the way?” and he won’t reply.

He will keep driving aimlessly, until the car runs out of gas, unless you force a solution to the problem.  “Call the place we’re going and ask them for directions.”  “Pull over and ask this other taxi driver.”  “Refer to the map I gave you.”

My driver in Madras simply pulled over to the side of the road, clueless what to do in the course of searching in vain for an hour for my hotel, and said “We here.”  Uh, no, we’re not.  I remembered a five-star western chain hotel a few miles back, and directed him to go there and ask someone there the way.  This eventually worked.

At a bar in Hyderabad, there was a 1,500 rupee cover charge that came with a 1,000 rupee drink coupon.  When I got the bill for 1,135 rupees, I handed the bartender 200 rupees, and he stood silently for 30 seconds, looking back and forth down at the cash in his hands and then up at my face, over and over again, like a computer program hung up in an endless loop, until I reminded him about the coupon—the same coupon that I had handed to him and he had taken from me two minutes earlier when I placed my order.


1.  The head bob

This is the ubiquitous Indian expression of. . . something or other.  It’s sort of a quick horizontal nod of the head, a few passes in each direction, accompanied by eye contact.  Presumably it is analogous to a nod in America, i.e., an accession, either an affirmative answer to a specific question or a general signal of concurrence—and can also perhaps indicate a sarcastic pseudo-agreement, like “Yeah, sure, whatever.”  Or it can serve as a basic friendly yet amorphous acknowledgement of your presence, like a dog wagging its tail.  Or it can seem to mean “Fuck you.”

But one also frequently encounters the head bob in response to a question that is not yes-or-no.  It could be an answer to “What time does the bus arrive?” or “Why do you keep asking for my goddamn passport again and again and will you please give it back to me one more time?”


By all means, visit India.  Enjoy the fantastic food, gorgeous scenery, and ancient architecture.  Relish the squalor and utter mayhem that characterize everyday life.  But, for cow’s sake, do not stake your fortune on the place!


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Imagine if the races were reversed: Cleveland Cavaliers fire successful white coach, citing need for black former player to “refine the habits and culture”

The NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, under first-year head coach Dave Blatt, won the Eastern Conference title last season (losing to the Golden State Warriors in the finals).  They entered the season as the betting favorites to win in all this year, and have hardly disappointed in amassing a 30-11 record halfway through the season, the best in the East.

None of this stopped Cleveland from firing Blatt yesterday, reports ESPN, and replacing him with former player and assistant coach Tyronn Lue.  No coach had ever been fired during the season with a better record.

Sports Illustrated answers the first question on everyone’s mind:  “Already there are credible reports insisting that James was not directly consulted in the decision to fire Blatt”—note the intriguing use of the word “directly,” also mentioned in the same verbiage in the ESPN article—in an article headlined “LeBron James’s imprint on Cavaliers evident in firing of David Blatt,” referring to the Cavs’ superstar and face of the league.

It seems that Cavaliers’ general manager David Griffin doth protest a lot:  “I didn’t talk to any of the players before this decision” and “LeBron doesn’t run this organization.”  And the media was also quick to pick up the spin.  “A team source told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that Blatt’s firing means ‘everyone is in the crosshairs right now.'”  ESPN published various sympathetic pieces about the firing.

Even with the absurd turnover in the NBA coaching ranks, this seems surprising on its face.  There were vague rumblings about Blatt’s cultural fit (this was his first NBA job after spending most of his playing and coaching career in Israel, though he was born in Boston and graduated from Princeton):

“What I see is that we need to build a collective spirit, a strength of spirit, a collective will,” Griffin said. “Elite teams always have that, and you see it everywhere. To be truly elite, we have to buy into a set of values and principles that we believe in. That becomes our identity.”

“I am more than confident that [Lue] has the pulse of our team and that he can generate the buy-in required to start to refine the habits and culture that we’ve yet to build,” Griffin told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.”

Perhaps the money quote:  “James fondness for Lue and his desire to be coached by a former player were well-known throughout Cleveland’s organization. . .”

We don’t pretend to be qualified to understand the dynamics involved in basketball coaching.  Like any business, leadership and the culture created by management are no doubt as important or more important than employees’ sheer talent.

But this episode strikes us as a bit ugly.  We have one question.  If a team of white players, say in Major League Baseball, were grumbling that their short-tenured, winning black coach was unable to relate to them, or unable to bring out their best “collective spirit” or “principles” or “identity” or “habits and culture” or “buy-in,” and they needed a white former player with no head-coaching experience to instill these values, wouldn’t the likes of ESPN and Sports Illustrated be screaming racism!?  The media is already saturated with complaints that black coaches don’t get a fair chance due to, of course, management’s racism that overrides their desire to win.  They would likely call the bit about needing a “former player” a dog whistle alluding to all of the racist narrative about black coaches’ inability to lead.

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Restricting Muslim immigration is impractical, harms freedom, and is legally dubious, and therefore not worthy of considering even if it improves our safety. Restricting gun ownership, on the other hand. . .

All right-thinking people seem to think that, even if it were practical, banning Muslims from visiting the United States would be at best an ineffective overreaction and at worst, a violation of human rights and abdication of America’s standing as a beacon of liberty in the world.

We—and Donald Trump—concede that banning all foreign Muslims would ensnare some innocent people who only want to visit the U.S. and have no terrorist sympathies at all.  But we are apparently not allowed to consider such trade-offs in debating how best to promote Americans’ safety when it comes to deciding which foreigners to allow the privilege of entering the country.

Meanwhile, President Obama has gone ahead in unveiling various actions to restrict Americans’ access to guns.  “We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people,” the President said, while claiming to support the Second Amendment.  “Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown.”

We understand there are some constraints on our [sic] freedom in order to protect innocent people.  Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — those rights were stripped from Americans serving their country at Fort Hood and in Chattanooga , police officers serving their communities in Philadelphia and New York, and innocent civilians attending a holiday party in San Bernardino, the president did not say.

Banning foreign Muslims from entering the U.S. would create unforeseen problems in our foreign policy, would be difficult to implement, and might entail some legal challenges—so we should not even think about how to overcome these barriers.

Obama’s executive actions on gun control would “present new and unforeseen enforcement problems,” “create untold logistical . . . difficulties,” and be “subject to legal challenge,” according to a White House staffer.  But it’s worth it.

Banning foreign Muslims from the U.S. enjoys majority support in polls, but that is not reason to consider it, according to mainstream media editorialists (most of whom supported the president’s proposals on guns).  According to the Washington Post, majority support is a good reason for Obama to act:  “Obama said gun owners would support his new restrictions. He was right.”

Banning Muslims from entering the U.S. would affect some innocent people, who just want to enjoy their vague “right” to visit the U.S. and are no threat to our safety.  Making it harder to purchase a firearm would affect mostly innocent people, who just want to enjoy their constitutionally-protected right to own a gun and are no threat to our safety.

So are we to conclude that personal freedom, implementation challenges, and public opinion are relevant factors in considering measures to improve public safety only when it comes to some issues?

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Liberals may finally get their wish to eradicate car ownership, but miss the point as usual

Liberals hate cars.  The automobile, made a mass consumption item by American ingenuity, capitalism, and prosperity, is the ultimate symbol of personal freedom.  The car owner can drive wherever he wants, whenever he wants, accompanied by whomever he wants.  The milestone of owning one’s own car is a symbol of success to which many Americans aspire.  They open economic opportunity for commuters.  Cars are, for many enthusiasts, an expression of their individual style.  For many an individual living in a crowded home with a bickering wife and screaming kids, schlepping to a workplace comprised of people he doesn’t like, having to stand in line at the grocery store to pick up ingredients for dinner, those minutes in his car are a welcome respite of solitude in one’s own personal space.

These are all mindsets that liberals despise.  They decry the “suburban sprawl,” “gas-guzzling,” “road rage,” conspicuous consumption, luxury,  pollution, and overall selfishness that cars enable.  Liberals would prefer that you took the train or bus—quintessential symbols of collectivism—to travel from where they want you to be to where they want you to go, with the added benefit of being forced to mingle literally toe-to-toe with the rest of humanity.  It’s no coincidence that, unlike Europeans, Americans have not bought into large-scale rail travel.

Liberals have designed entire utopian frameworks, under banners like “smart cities” and “transit-oriented development” to centrally plan the organization of society in the manner that they find morally virtuous.  (Not to mention that liberal politicians love all manner of rail proliferation because it presents copious opportunities for graft, what with the land acquisition along future rail lines, to bloated construction and maintenance contracts and overstuffed union sinecures, to boards and commissions, tax increases, and ribbon cuttings.)

This is apparently the perspective of Dan Neil, writing in Wall Street Journal, whose ideology curtails his ability to analyze the economic implications of self-driving cars in an article entitled “Private car ownership is on the road to becoming a rarity.”

We agree that self-driving cars combined with car sharing have the potential to yield tremendous benefits for society:  reducing costs, allowing people to make better use of their time, allowing more people to be mobile, improving safety, reducing congestion, and, ultimately, allowing people to expand the radii in which they can readily travel, making for great economic benefit.

That’s all well and good, but Mr. Neil can’t help but ooze disdain for the very concept of private car ownership.  He lectures that it makes us “forget the joys of selflessness” in an era of “reckless glut.”

“In 25 years, the only people owning cars will be hobbyists, hot rodders and Flat Earthers,” he gushes, failing to acknowledge any of the benefits of private car ownership other than in these supposed fringes, and barely accepting the existence of a free-market outcome that means that people have the right to express their own preference.  Referring to China, he dismisses cars as nothing more than “status item, as luxury, as totem of personal mastery in a fragile postcolonial mind-set.”  Only a coddled liberal would so glibly dismiss the ability of a Chinese subject to unshackle state control of all aspects of his life in at least one dimension.

He concludes, “The notion that we as consumers will forgo the awesome pleasures of the automobile—the privilege, the mobility, the identity—to share vehicles is, I grant, unfamiliar.”  Mr. Neal, I would respectfully recommend that you familiarize yourself with it before breezily dismissing the benefits of freedom and autonomy that cars bring to so many people.


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Trump would not exist without Jeb Bush

One of the most fun aspects of the Donald Trump phenomenon is the conventional conservative media’s bewilderment as they try to understand his appeal.  (There’s nothing interesting or surprising at all about the way that the elitist, left-wing mainstream media has covered Trump.)

From Fox News, to the Wall Street Journal, to National Review, to leading opinion makers such as George Will, Michael Barone, and Charles Krauthammer, most of the standard-bearers of mainstream conservatism have piled on with increasingly hysterical condemnation.

But he’s not really conservative!  He’s cozied up to Democrats!, they tell us.  He’s flip-flopped his positions on fundamental issues!  He’s not knowledgeable about policy details!, they shriek.  He’s a loudmouth, a loose cannon, a gaffe machine!

Does any devotee of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, or National Review need to be told these things?

Those who do respect their audience enough to present an analysis of why Trump is resonating inevitably focus on three major dimensions of his appeal:  his focus on our immigration crisis; his populist criticism of our political class and their cohorts in big business; and his anti-PC candor.  These are critical, valid stances, on the front lines of the culture war in which our elites are routing the nation.  But they miss the point.

Donald Trump, alpha male

To praise Donald Trump for simply saying what’s on his mind or railing against “political correctness” is to fall far short in the accreditation that he deserves.  Trump is the embodiment of the alpha male, and it is that very alpha-ness that this country needs given the problems that we’re facing at this time—more than any particular ideological stance or policy solution.

Chateau Heartiste, perhaps the leading “manosphere” blogger, has documented this phenomenon every step of the way since the beginning of his candidacy a few months ago.  But do voters really understand what this implies, and will it resonate long-term as such beyond the manosphere?

Social-justice warriors are well on their way to completing the job of emasculating our culture.  We are being overrun by an alien invading force.  We are being trounced by our diplomatic adversaries.  Solutions to these challenges within the American system will be driven partially by ideology, but to a greater extent by principled leadership.  Donald Trump is a uniquely American personality who embodies what it means to lead from a foundation of American values.

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had some alpha characteristics, but they were still creatures of our corrupt political machine.  Trump is inviting us to vote for the man who is completely independent, and therefore sets his own rules; with trust in how he identifies with fellow Americans, managerial competence, and strong personality as more important than his stances on the issues.

We can gain hope from the fact that his persona stands so athwart our zeitgeist, so outside what our SJW-owned degenerate popular culture considers acceptable, yet he is resonating with the public.  Trump brings to life the strong worldview of what a leader should be and how, specifically, that definition ought to manifest itself in our political leaders vis-à-vis their rivals (more on that later).

We are being treated to a clinic on the type of leadership that America needs at this time, and voters are responding.

  • He is perceived to be, and in fact is, completely independent.  Though he has business partners and customers like anyone who earns an income, he obviously is not beholden to any of them.  When a few pusillanimous companies severed ties with him, he laughed and declared the impact immaterial.
  • By setting the agenda with, remarkably, a single issue, he has gotten other candidates tied in knots.
  • He has demonstrated extreme self-confidence, parried ridiculous shit testsagreed and amplified putative insults, and refused to apologize to a stung snowflake who tried to embarrass him.
  • He has asserted his authority in subtle ways, making multiple interviewers and the Republican chairman come groveling to his office, unlike most candidates.  He’s set another agenda and put CNN on the spot by cleverly suggesting that the profits from their debate be donated to charity.
  • He has sucked oxygen out of other contenders’ spheres, most notably Scott Walker, who was in the top tier before Trump entered and is now subject to the “not ready for prime time” grumblings, and Marco Rubio, whose weakness on immigration has become a major liability thanks to Trump’s raising of the issue.  He also likely caused Rick Perry to drop out of the race.

However, Trump’s greatest asset—the flood lights illuminating his alpha attributes and behaviors, the neon flowing through the signboard at his campaign headquarters, the unobtanium fueling his rocket ship to the nomination—is Jeb Bush.

Jeb Bush, the quintessential cuckservative beta male

Should he win the nomination, Jeb Bush would probably be the most extreme beta male ever nominated for president by a major party—quite an accomplishment for a country that has recently had Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, and of course Barack Obama as standard bearers.  (To be bipartisan, one can acknowledge that George H.W. Bush came across as rather beta in his 1992 re-election bid, in contrast to his previous record; perhaps he lost his hunger for the job.)

Bush’s softness has been evident since his formative years.  Despite his pedigree and good looks, he infamously married a Mexican peasant, apparently the first girl who ever paid attention to him.  He jumped in, as he cringingly recounts as the first paragraph in his biography, even though she is not beautiful and possibly too stupid—and/or too selfish and/or too lacking in self-awareness, given that her husband comes from a prominent political family and would likely be in the public eye someday—to learn English in her decades in the U.S.  Not to mention that Bush didn’t cajole her to do so, apparently even speaking Spanish with the family at home.  We know who wears the pantalones in that household.

Bush’s political career has been defined by cuckservatism.  He isn’t the only cuckservative major politician, the underlying idea didn’t just become relevant this summer, and of course Trump didn’t coin the term.  However, this word would not exist if Trump did not enter the race against Jeb Bush.  The concept arguably arises as the intersection of Trump’s focus on the immigration issue with Bush’s whole life story.  Jeb Bush is the embodiment of the cuckservative and Donald Trump is the antithesis of it.

Donald Trump as the leading candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nominee would not exist without Jeb Bush.

After Trump referred to Bush as “low-energy”—a devastatingly salient, parsimonious insult if ever there was one—Bush felt the need to pathetically qualify himself with language right off of the beta male’s Facebook missives to his friend-zone crush:  “The low-energy candidate this week has only been six days, 16 hours a day, campaigning with joy in my heart.”  He prefaces any criticism of President Obama, “with all due respect. . .”

Perhaps he took a cue from Heidi Klum, who also felt the need to reply to Trump’s gentle mocking.  This was a few weeks after Bush white-knighted for Megyn Kelly while Trump was doubling down.

The contrast between them could not be starker.

There is no doubt that some of Trump’s support comes from people who recognize this contrast, though perhaps they can’t quite put their finger on it.  They see Bush, and the disaster of President Obama, then look at Trump, and say, yeah, that’s the kind of guy I want as president; it doesn’t really matter where he stands on the issues as long as he’s not a leftist.  It is similar to how the girl in the bar gets weak-kneed from the alpha male based on how he carries himself, without needing to know the details of his biography or his preferences.

The Trump phenomenon parallels that of Rudy Giuliani when he was first elected mayor of New York.  No one mistook him for a hard-core conservative, but the quality-of-life problems in the city, especially crime, made him practically a one-issue candidate—especially versus David Dinkins, who embodied all that was wrong with New York.  Combined with his toughness and self-confidence, he offered exactly what New York needed in 1993, just as Trump offers to the nation now.

What next for Trump?

There exists gossip about feuds between Trump and the Bush family predating the campaign, and media reports about Trump’s antipathy for Jeb in particular.  It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which Trump looked at the race, in which Bush was the front runner—especially in the coastal elite circles in which Trump travels—and said to himself, This guy?!?  Anyone but him! 

Trump has a big ego, and history with Bush, but it isn’t plausible that he entered the race primarily to throw a monkey wrench into Bush’s plans just out of spite:  that would be way too beta for Trump.  More likely, knowing Bush—i.e., the reason why he despises him in the first place—he knew that he could, and would be motivated to, present a perfect personality contrast.  Combine that with the immigration issue, on which Bush would be vulnerable and on which no other candidate was representing most Americans’ views, and, voila, he has the ingredients for a viable challenge.

Trump will eventually need to be more disciplined on the stump and stake out a handful of coherent positions in major areas.  One in which he will likely focus, which will serve to contrast him well with his beta opponents as well as the feckless appeaser currently in the White House, will be his strength in negotiating with adversaries, based on his immensely successful business record.  “Never, ever, ever in my life have I seen any transaction so incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran,” he declared at a rally recently.  He will likely make similar references to President Obama’s “negotiations” with the Castros, with the Taliban over the deserter Bowe Bergdahl, and with others.  This will be a winning issue among voters who agree with Trump’s views about America’s place in the world and see him as a strong negotiator.  It will also naturally play into his alpha male bona fides.

Above all, though, Trump should continue to do what he has been doing.  His persona, while turning off the pajama-boy beta lisp voting bloc, has a chance to expand the share of the electorate that will vote Republican.  Not only will his personality resonate with women, but it could attract blacks, which would certainly doom the Democrats if they were to receive less than 80% of their vote.

The 2016 Republican primary is a great opportunity for the nation to apply leadership lessons beyond our own respective work, social, and dating lives—to connect the dots in an actionable way between the characteristics that we seek in our leaders and the larger culture war.  This is not to advocate an Obama-style cult of personality, and there are certainly legitimate reasons for a conservative or libertarian to hesitate to support Trump.  But all Americans of principle should reflect on the real challenges that the U.S. is facing and what they would look for in a representative to face those challenges.


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Can we please stop using “birthright” citizenship as a synonym for jus soli citizenship?

One can basically become a citizen of a country in one of two ways:  by virtue of birth, or birthright, in which case he is known as a natural-born citizen; or by being granted citizenship after birth, in which case he is known as a naturalized citizen.

The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world which grants birthright citizenship automatically to individuals born on U.S. soil (under most circumstances), known as the jus soli concept (jus soli is Latin for “right of the soil”).  There are ways for one to be a birthright citizen other than being born on U.S. soil, namely, to be born abroad if both parents are U.S. citizens or, in some circumstances, if one parent is a U.S. citizen.  The State Department summarizes the law here.

We can have a legitimate debate about the merits of the jus soli concept, and also whether this practice is actually mandated by the constitution:  there is a constitutional argument that a child born of illegal immigrants on U.S. soil need not automatically be granted U.S. citizenship.

What Donald Trump is really talking about is ending the jus soli principle, at least in some cases.  He should clarify his language, for even though no one (as far as we are aware) is talking about ending birthright citizenship as such, our politicians and pundits are muddying the waters—often deliberately.  It would be useful for presidential candidates to state whether they oppose jus soli citizenship in all cases, in some cases (such as when the mother or both parents are in the U.S. illegally), or not at all.  Trump’s immigration policy paper mentions “the children of illegal immigrants” in passing, but does not fully explain his position.

For an example of the obfuscation, see James Taranto eviscerate a misleading tweet, which claimed that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is a hypocrite for attacking “birthright” citizenship even though he is a “birthright” citizen.  Wrong:  Cruz is indeed a birthright citizen, because his birth abroad to a U.S. citizen mother fulfilled the requirements of birthright citizenship, but he is clearly opposing granting birthright citizenship to people born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants.  Cruz is opposing at least one application of the jus soli principle, and he is not a jus soli citizen—much less one born to illegal immigrants—which of course is not hypocritical at all.  Donald Trump is also a birthright citizen, but he is also not a hypocrite for opposing a certain type of birthright citizenship.

In defense of the tweeter, the article to which he linked does cite Ted Cruz’s opposition to “birthright citizenship” multiple times, including in the headline, and it appears that Cruz used those two words in the radio interview that was the subject of the article.  However, Cruz was talking about birthright citizenship when the parents are in the U.S. illegally, which is a special case that provides necessary context to any discussion of the subject—and which the headline, from CBS Dallas, also deliberately, or negligently, failed to represent.

Jeb Bush recently referred to “a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship” in attacking Donald Trump’s calls to end it.  Presumably he was thinking of jus soli as the noble concept.  Are politicians and the media avoiding the proper, precise Latin term for simplicity, or because “birthright citizenship” is a euphemism that is hard to argue against?

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How long will it be before the Fourteenth Amendment is deemed to prohibit “hate speech”?

Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges finding a Constitutional right to gay marriage doesn’t really bother to cite a legal justification, instead relying on florid exaltations of “love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family” and an aw-shucks conclusion that laws against gay marriage “burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality.”  His nominal Constitutional reference point is the Fourteenth Amendment, that contemporary cannon in which all manner of federally-provided goodies are loaded and splayed about the populace.

Suppose a future Congress were to pass a law criminalizing “hate speech.”  Such a law would, contrary to the willful understanding of much of our popular culture, be unconstitutional, at least as of June 25, 2015.  However, if a respondent (say, a future Democratic Solicitor General) defending such a law were to assert that “hate speech” uttered by a hateful hater effectively prevented the victim from enjoying her civil rights, or from fully participating in society—which is the position of many universities, the NAACP, and plenty of others on the mainstream left—then couldn’t the Supreme Court uphold the law under the same principles as the Obergefell decision?

If the First Amendment to the Constitution protects hate speech, Justice Kennedy might hold, then the First Amendment itself “burdens the liberty of minorities subjected to hate speech, and it must be further acknowledged that it abridges central precepts of equality.”

Consider another passage from the Obergefell decision:

The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.

Unlike in the case of the desire among gay people to get married, our founders did understand the concept of speech that would offend people and explicitly decided that the value of free speech outweighs the consequences of hurt feelings.  First Amendment rights in the U.S. are generally not subject to the left’s beloved concept of “balancing tests” (issues related to national security are an exception), but Kennedy’s fuzzy language leaves much to the imagination as to how a future Court might decide to construe liberty.

Other countries that have historically cherished free speech have carved out exceptions, such as the criminalization of “racism” in the U.K. or of denial of the Holocaust in France.  The fact that America’s democratically-elected representatives have attempted many abridgments of free speech over the years certainly proves that there exist ongoing differences of opinion on “the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions.”

Now that the Supreme Court has again interpreted “a claim to liberty” as the right to receive benefits from the government as a married gay couple—as opposed to the founders’ notions of liberty as freedom from coercion by the government—it does not seem too much of a stretch to think that a future Court acting on this precedent would discover that an American in a protected class demanding protection from hateful speech is entitled to rectification of a similar “claim to liberty” that must be balanced with free speech rights.

Such a purported victim need only claim that his Fourteenth Amendment Due Process and/or Equal Protection rights have been violated in some vague manner to assert the primacy of that Amendment over the speaker’s rights to free speech.  After all, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed subsequently to the First, so there is no reason why the former could not be deemed to supersede the latter.

Justice Thomas notes in his dissent, “inversion of the original meaning of liberty will likely cause collateral damage to other aspects of our constitutional order that protect liberty.”

By the way, it is not that difficult to imagine extending the same argument to require a balancing of Fourteenth Amendment rights with those protected by the Second Amendment.  E.J. Dionne, writing presciently in the Washington Post on June 24, wants a new campaign “protecting the rights of Americans who do not want to be anywhere near guns.”  One wonders if he had dinner with Justice Kennedy a couple of weeks ago to trade notes?

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Out of the mouths of babes. . . Touching stories of Somali integration

In Lewiston, Me., of all places, the concept of free-market economics is illustrated nicely:  “Many Somalis originally came as refugees to larger cities, Atlanta in particular, but then moved to Maine after hearing that it had a wider array of subsidized housing available and also was easier to get on the welfare rolls.”

From the same article:  “‘People were thinking, to be a police officer, you have to be born in the U.S. … you have to be white,’ Libah [a recent Somali arrival] told the news agency. ‘They never thought they could be a police officer.'”

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Non sequitur of the day: lack of black Republicans elected in swing districts

Republican political junkies know that most blacks elected to the House of Representatives in majority-white or and/or swing districts are Republicans, e.g., Gary Franks (Conn.), J.C. Watts (Okla.), Allen West (Fla.), and, most recently, Mia Love (Utah).  Nearly all black Democrats come from heavily black, heavily Democratic districts.  Ann Coulter and the National Journal have discussed this recently.

This history doesn’t prevent a Washington Post article, “Texan Will Hurd defies the odds for House Republicans. Can he last?” from reverting to the usual liberal trope:  “Moreover, House Republicans have never been able to retain a black lawmaker in a true swing district for more than a couple terms, suggesting broad appeal across ideological and racial lines.”

Besides being a sloppily-formed sentence, as well as a tautology—either party would have trouble retaining a member of any race long-term in a “true swing district”—this passage’s principal implication that it is the Republicans, and not the Democrats, who don’t elect blacks from swing districts is false.

Despite the fact that black Democrats outnumber black Republicans in Congress considerably, it isn’t the case that Democrats come from swing districts.  In the current Congress, there are 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus—42 Democrats and Rep. Love.  Of these 43 Representatives, 42 c0me from districts that were rated as “safe Democrat” or “safe Republican” by a consensus of political forecasters in the 2014 elections, and one comes from a district that was not unanimously rated “safe.”  We’ll give you one guess as to the identity of the outlier.

(Rep. Hurd, the subject of the article, also comes from a swing district—which was in fact rated “Lean Democratic” by all of the forecasters cited in the linked article.)

True, the Republicans have not yet been able to “retain [Love and Hurd] for more than a couple terms”—and it’s not surprising that most of their minority members of Congress representing majority-white and/or swing districts become the top targets for defeat by Democrats and the media—but that doesn’t make the Post‘s false implications anything other than lazy and biased.

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Why does the mainstream media refer to “the Prophet Muhammud”?

Virtually every mention in the Western mainstream media of the seventh-century historical figure Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim, who founded Islam toward the end of his life and whom the religion regards as the final prophet, refers to him as “Prophet Muhammad” or “the Prophet Muhammad,” complete with capital “P.”  (The name Muhammad is sometimes spelled differently due to transliteration from the Arabic; even the New York Times apparently doesn’t have a consistent spelling in its style guide.)

The uncritical assignment of the title “the Prophet” seems rather normative given the media’s neutrality on, or disdain for, religious belief.  They refer to Cardinal and Pope, but those are official titles granted by a recognized sovereign state, akin to Duke or King.

Use of “the Prophet” seems more analogous to “Jesus the Christ” (which means something like “Jesus the messiah”), which would also editorially confer a religious imprimatur to a historical figure—which the mainstream media’s news pages rarely, if ever, do when it comes to Jesus.  Mainstream newspapers rightfully discuss Jesus as a historical figure, of course in the context of his place in religion, but one doesn’t find many examples of a reporter assenting to the views of the faithful through his use of default language.

One would think that the mainstream media, committed to objectivity, would use language like “the Muslim historical figure Muhammad” or “Muhammad, the founder of Islam” or “Muhammad, whom Muslims regard as the final prophet.”  Do the editors of the New York Times think that prophets exist?

P.S.  In the Muslim world, the press always refers to him as “Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)” and “Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)” or “the Prophet (pbuh)” in subsequent references.  How long before the Western press feels compelled to adopt this usage as well?

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