One Thing & Another

Delray Beach, FL

Notes From My Journal: Is This Really a Problem?

American children are in grave danger of going to bed hungry. At least that’s the conclusion of two university professors writing in the NYT. The issue is a new regulation that tightens the requirements for receiving food stamps.

I didn’t know this but, according to the professors, food stamps are practically a constitutional right. US taxpayers have been providing them to lower-income people since the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The first program (1939-1943) was credited to FDR’s Secretary of Agriculture, Henry Wallace.

One of Bill Clinton’s welfare reforms in 1996 was a requirement for adults without dependent children to either work or do 20 hours a week of work study to qualify for food stamps. And now, the same prerequisite is being made for parents of school children.

The authors characterized this as dangerous and damaging. They cited the oft-repeated “fact” that 1 in 8 Americans “go to bed hungry.”

Two questions for anyone opposed to stricter regulations for food stamps:

  1. If you ask someone to do something – like work or develop a skill – in return for food, is that a bad thing? Is it dumb? Is it futile? Is it unethical? Or is it proper and respectful? Giving that person the opportunity to earn what he/she is given?

If there is one thing I’ve learned from my charitable activities at Fun Limon in Nicaragua, it’s that one should never give away anything for free. Giving away stuff for free – except in emergency cases – creates dependency and feelings of entitlement.

2. When you say that people are going to bed hungry, what, exactly, do you mean?

I’m assuming you mean hungry as in the person hasn’t had sufficient calories to maintain health. And if that’s the case, how you do you explain the fact  that as many as 40% of food stamp recipients are obese. One study found that food stamp recipients were actually twice as likely to be obese as eligible non-recipients.

This tells me that the whole idea of “going to bed hungry” is an idiotic myth. We are talking about obese people that are probably poorly nourished because the food they buy with their food stamps – for themselves and their children – is junk.

So if we required food stamps to be used only to buy nutritionally healthy food, would that be a bad thing?

I realize that some of my readers are going to say, “What right have you to dictate what people on food stamps eat?”

My answer: I have the right because I am responsible for how my tax dollars are spent.


Today’s Word: concupiscent (adjective)

Concupiscent (kon-kyoo-PIH-sunt) means lustful or sensual, filled with strong sexual desire. As used by David McCullough in Truman, his book about our 33rdpresident: “To the writer Edward Dahlberg everything about the Kansas City of 1905 was redolent of sex and temptation… a wild, concupiscent city.”


Fun Fact

There are more than a million animal species on earth.


From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

The Myth of Positive Thinking

One of the most popular myths about success is the power of positive thinking. The idea, in a nutshell, is that you can change your life by changing the way you think.

Promotors of positive thinking are everywhere, and the message has appeared and reappeared in countless books, seminars, and speeches. Its appeal is easy to understand: If success depends merely on the way you think, it is both easily and instantly possible. If I want to be a better father or negotiator or basketball player, all I have to do is put the right thoughts in my head. Then, presto! I am what I wish to be.

This is an idea that was popularized in the 20thcentury, but it actually dates back at least 2500 years.

Some people – perhaps some of the Sophists – were making the case for positive thinking in ancient Greece. If not, why would Aristotle have found it necessary to point out that we are what we repeatedly do? That excellence is not an act, but a habit?

Aristotle was right. In my experience, successful people do the things that success requires:


* They dream about being successful.

* They set goals.

* They get to work early.

* They do important rather than busy work.

* They network.

* They have a bias for action.


And what do failures do?


* They dream about goofing off.

* They try to do as little work as possible.

* They shirk responsibility.

* They watch a lot of television.

* They blame their failings on others.


The secret to success is action, not attitude. It doesn’t matter what your attitude is. What matters is what you do with your time. If you do the right things, you will be successful regardless of your emotional condition or mental attitude. If you do the wrong things, no amount of positive thinking will save you.

If you want to succeed in life, don’t spend any time looking at yourself in the mirror and shouting affirmations. Don’t bother singing happy songs or walking on coals. Don’t even spend much time reading about positive thinking. Instead, start doing something positive.

Set some goals. Break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily objectives. Then get to work.


 Recommended Reading

 The Worship of Jackals by Jackasses

By Christopher DeGroot in Taki’s Magazine

American democracy, said H.L. Mencken, is “the worship of jackals by jackasses.” This definition is as harsh as it is colorful, but Mencken was a kind of philosopher, and his judgment is consistent with philosophy’s tradition of profound skepticism about the value of democracy.

That skepticism is quite justified, recent events suggest. Consider, for instance, the immigration question. It is intractable, and the reason appears to be the human mind itself. For plainly there are many Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, who are either unable or unwilling to entertain two conflicting ideas at once: a sense of duty to needful immigrants, and the need to enforce the southern border and protect the national good generally.

Immensely complicated, the first idea comes into conflict with other goods, and therefore must be negotiated. For however much pity we may feel for the peoples of Mexico, Honduras, and elsewhere, the reality is that excessive low-skill immigration is not good for our own working class or Americans in general. There are only so many jobs in landscaping, construction, and other blue-collar industries, so it’s undesirable for there to be millions of people who will work for wages that don’t meet the expectations of 21st-century Americans, because the presence of such persons entails fewer jobs and lower wages for native citizens.

It’s estimated that around 50,000 illegal aliens enter the country each month. Sixty-two percent of all illegals receive welfare. Needless to say, this is not a sustainable situation. Nor is it fair. “The Trump administration,” according to Bloomberg, “plans to pay a Texas nonprofit nearly half a billion dollars this year to care for immigrant children who were detained crossing the U.S. border illegally.” Says Ilana Mercer:

The profits from the immigration industry, material and political, are privatized; the costs are socialized.

In exchange for throwing America open to The World, Americans get crime, poverty, unemployment, depressed wages; environmental despoliation; overburdened public services, and zero comity and harmony across their communities.

So, the sense of duty many feel toward needful immigrants, if acted on, must be limited. The value of this endeavor needs to be weighed against other, conflicting ends. Arriving at a compromise won’t be easy, and any reasonable compromise shall be reached only through cold, rational analysis: Taking account of the context and all the ends to be considered, we can come to the best set of trade-offs.

The problem here is that cold, rational analysis is something at which most people are dreadful. Learning of “separated families,” jackasses like Maxine Waters immediately become hysterical. Far from recognizing the need for national sovereignty, and the need to weigh moral duty against other interests, such persons cant about racism, xenophobia, and the like moralistic delusions. Indeed, Waters even went so far as to urge the mob to harass Trump administration officials. Not that such encouragement was needed – Americans are reliably zealous vigilantes, as Kirstjen Nielsen and Sarah Sanders, both heckled while out to dinner, found.

As H.L. Mencken understood, the jackasses are symbiotic with the jackals, who profit tremendously from them. For indeed, not everyone who supports open borders and doing whatever it takes to keep illegal-immigrant families together is motivated by altruistic feelings. There are corporate jackals who want cheap labor, and Democrat jackals who want more voters, especially when it comes to turning red states into blue ones. Above all, ignorant support of cynical and unaccountable politicians allows them to live cushy lifestyles, which are insulated from the destructive consequences of their bad policies.

Of course, American jackasses are also helpful to jackals outside the U.S. For its next president, Mexico [elected] Andrés Manuel López Obrador. An unscrupulous demagogue, Obrador has told Mexicans that they have “a human right” to “leave their towns and find a life in the United States,” a right Obrador says Mexico “will defend.” What is the purpose of such loony rhetoric? Money, of course. Mexican illegal immigrants in the U.S. send roughly $30 billion in remittances back to Mexico each year, the country’s largest source of Mexican foreign exchange. This when Mexico already runs a $70 billion trade surplus with the U.S. Out of all our trade partners, only China’s trade surplus is larger.

Shortly after issuing his executive order on June 20, President Trump ordered U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stop referring illegal-immigrant families to the Department of Justice. So for now, anyway, we are back to the catch-and-release policy of the Obama and Bush administrations.

What’s the lesson here? That by letting policy be determined by blind pity, we reward people for invading our country. We are not going to prosecute these families, because children being separated from their parents is a hurtful experience. Now, common sense tells us that belligerent violating of a nation’s border should have hurtful consequences. Crime deserves punishment. Nor is this changed by the fact that some of the immigrants are in flight from horrible conditions. That is true in just the same way that being in an abusive relationship does not give you the right to break into your neighbor’s home and take up residence in it. Such punishment could serve as a deterrent, but for that to happen far more people would have to see the issue for what it is. And that is evidently asking too much of democratic man, who rejects thorny reality and demands sentimental delusion in its place.

On [June 26], in a narrow 5–4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the president ’s so-called travel ban. The current version levels travel restrictions against five majority-Muslim countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen – and also North Korea and Venezuela. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion: “The Proclamation is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices.”

In a dissenting opinion, in which she was predictably joined by Justice Ginsburg, Justice Sotomayor wrote:

Despite several opportunities to do so, President Trump has never disavowed any of his prior statements about Islam.

Taking all the relevant evidence together, a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was driven primarily by anti-Muslim animus, rather than by the Government’s asserted national-security justifications.

Given President Trump’s failure to correct the reasonable perception of his apparent hostility toward the Islamic faith, it is unsurprising that the President’s lawyers have, at every step in the lower courts, failed in their attempts to launder the Proclamation of its discriminatory taint.

Rather bizarrely, Sotomayor takes pains to list numerous statements and tweets by the president, on the belief that these demonstrate “apparent hostility toward the Islamic faith.” Well, then, let’s grant for argument’s sake that she’s right. Logically, such hostility, however wrong in a moral sense, is not incompatible with “national-security justifications.” You can feel a deep animus for Muslims, but this in itself does not show that your policy exists for that purpose, or for that purpose only. Nor does it follow that your policy is not sound, that is, not warranted by the circumstances. The only way to know whether it’s sound is to examine the policy as it relates to them.

The crucial circumstance Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted: “We are at war with… Islam and must act accordingly to protect our nation.” Regarding Trump’s travel restrictions, this is the most important thing to know. And it is quite foolish of Sotomayor, in her schoolmarmish concern about the president’s “anti-Muslim animus,” to discount the gravity of this. According to Sotomayor, Trump’s “policy now masquerades behind a facade of national-security concerns.” In other words, the purpose of the policy is to discriminate against Muslims, and the national-security stuff is just a pretext for that.

Sotomayor’s interpretation here suggests that in order for the “national-security concerns” to be legitimate, it would have to be the case that Trump doesn’t have an “anti-Muslim animus.” For she is so focused on Trump’s offensive remarks that she seems unwilling to consider that his policy could be justified independent of them. But there are either legitimate “national-security concerns” or there are not; we either have adequate ways of vetting persons who want to come to our country or we do not: and in regard to all this, Trump’s “animus” or “hostility” is a sheer non sequitur.

Besides, contra Justice Sotomayor, it is not the function of the judiciary to police the president’s past statements, and as Chief Justice Roberts wrote, the judiciary “cannot substitute our own assessment for the Executive’s predictive judgments on such matters [as national-security policies], all of which are delicate, complex, and involve large elements of prophecy.”

It would behoove Sotomayor to realize that, if the traveling restrictions seem to “target” majority-Muslim countries, the reason is that it’s Muslims who are trying to destroy the West as we know it and bring it under the rule of sharia law. And though the jihadists make up only a small proportion of Muslims, we don’t have some psychic power by which to distinguish “good Muslims” from “bad Muslims.” Hence the prudent travel restrictions, which inevitably affect many people who do not wish to harm us. This is a simple trade-off: Either we assign primacy to national security or we almost certainly admit terrorists into the country.

It is a terrible problem that so many American jackasses either cannot or will not view things with rational detachment. Like Sotomayor, they are forever seeking to apply moral or merely sentimental considerations to situations in which these either obscure the facts or preclude doing what must be done. Illegal aliens who break the law are not criminals but victims, the jackasses think in their blind pity. For Sotomayor, majority-Muslim countries should not be subject to travel restrictions, because such a practice is “discriminatory.” Ah, good news for the jackals of Islam! As Jean-Francois Revel put it, “Democratic civilization is the first in history to blame itself because another power is working to destroy it.”

This irrational perspective stems from what motivates so many people’s thinking: affect-driven delusion. In a democracy, it happens inexorably over time that these persons vastly preponderate the minority of people who perceive clearly and think well. So, whether it’s the southern border or travel restrictions, we find that where democracy needs citizens to take an unflinching look at their common problems and make judgments accordingly, what they often do is assert opinions about the phantasmal world they want to inhabit, the actual world being  too painful, too tragic.