Phone it in Friday VIII: Coronavirus Conundrum

It’s been another crazy week here in the world of yours portly.  The quarter is coming to a close, and I’ve got a mountain of ungraded quizzes and tests to slog through to appease the gods of higher education admittance.

Ergo, it’s time for a very special coronavirus (or “COVID19,” for your cool kids) edition of Phone it in Friday!

  • Tomorrow’s SubscribeStar Saturday will be a detailed rundown of what I’ve been doing to prepare for the extremely remote possibility that we all get quarantined in our homes and have to practice social distancing to avoid spreading the bug any further.  Here’s the short preview:  I bought a bunch of rice, beans, and spaghetti.
    • On that note, I’m yet again flummoxed by fears of everyday hunger in America.  Ten pounds of rice came to about $7; same with the spaghetti.  Twenty cans of beans cost around $12.  You can eat—maybe not well, but enough to survive and function—for a month for extremely cheaply.  Whining about “hunger” in the United States is a farcical outlier.
    • I am thankful to live in the United States, a country with the best medical system in the world, and the means to treat most diseases.  I’m optimistic that the virus will pass through quickly
  • Was it bat soup, or a Wuhan biological weapon?  Either way, I think we’ve seen the wisdom of the trade war with China, even though we weren’t anticipating something like a Chinese-created pandemic.  The coronavirus exposes the weaknesses and contradictions at the heart of China, and puts lie to the notion that this is a “Chinese century.”  I’ll be glad to be done with such rubbish.  The Chinese have come far, yes, but it turns out a totalitarian regime built on a culture of death and lying (“saving face”) can only snooker people for so long.
    • That doesn’t mean that China will no longer pose a threat.  Indeed, I believe China to be our biggest geopolitical competitor.  All the more reason to relocate industries back to the United States, or at least to friendlier countries like Vietnam, rather than deal with the Chinese.
    • For the best treatment of this subject, read blogger Didact’s essay “Corona-chan Comes for You.”  He spells out the economic threat of the coronavirus, and how the whole thing is likely the result of Chinese incompetence and the insane cultural concept of “face,” in which it’s better to lie (in the Chinese mind) than to risk bringing shame to your family.  Concepts like that make me glad to live in the United States.

My hope is that after all is done, China will be a pariah, no longer vaunted as a power on the rise, but maligned as a malicious, mendacious regime.

That’s it for this brief Phone it in Friday.  Wash your hands, stock up on dry goods, and stay healthy!

—TPP

Corporate Grind II: The Return of Corporate History International

It’s been a golden week for reblogging, as some of my blogosphere buddies continue to generate some amazing content.  It looks like I may have to do another Dissident Write feature soon (here are I and II).  Armistice Day always brings out the best material, too.

As we head into the weekend—mercifully free of professional obligations—I’m pleased to note the revival of my buddy fridrix’s blog, Corporate History International.

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One-Way Cosmopolitanism

A major theme—perhaps clumsily conveyed—of yesterday’s post was that Americans should be able to keep their culture and local identity without shame.  As I noted, struggling rural communities are particularly susceptible to being swept away by large-scale immigration, legal or otherwise.  Thus, we see small South Carolina towns gradually hispanicize, turning into little replicas of various Latin American cultures, rather than the old Southern culture that predominated.

One often hears that Americans should be tolerant and open-minded to other cultures, and to extend maximum understanding and patience.  That is a generous and worthy view:  I don’t expect the Chinese foreign exchange students at our school to speak accent-less English and understand liberty their first day off the plane.  In that instance, we go out of our way to attempt to understand the cultural background from which those students came.

It’s another matter, though, when it involves the permanent or long-term relocation of foreign aliens to our land.  Remember the expression, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do?”  That rule always seems to apply to Americans—who are routinely criticized for being uncouth abroad—but never to any other ethnic group, and especially not to cultures outside of the West.

It’s an enduring frustration of mine:  one-way cosmopolitanism.

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Lazy Sunday XXVIII: World History

Most of my pieces here at The Portly Politico focus on American politics and culture, with some occasional dabbling in British and European affairs.  But contrary to Ron Swanson’s historiographical claim, history did not begin in 1776 (though everything that came before may have been a mistake).

As such, I’ve written a few pieces about events, current and historical, that take place in more exotic locales.  While I am a parochial homebody, I appreciate travel and the contributions of other cultures (I still wish I’d seen London and Paris before they became part of the Caliphate).  I wish I had the time to do more of it (on that note, stay tuned for details of my trip to the Yemassee Shrimp Festival).

So, here’s some worldly pieces for your Lazy Sunday:

  • North Korea Reflections” – I wrote this little piece on the occasion of President Trump’s historic summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Singapore.  My interpretation of the summit was cautiously optimistic.  It’s still unclear what the future holds for US-Nork relations, but the gambit seemed to work—North Korea is a still a bloodthirsty, repressive, totalitarian regime, but they aren’t lobbing missiles around constantly anymore.
  • The Impermanence of Knowledge and Culture:  The Great Library and Notre Dame” – this post was a synthesis of two events—the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria, and the burning of a substantial portion of the Notre Dame Cathedral.  The fire at the latter riled up conservatives and traditionalists because the structure had endured for so long as a symbol of Christianity and of France’s faithfulness.  France is not a very faithful country now, but Notre Dame remains a powerful symbol of man’s capacity for focusing on the greatness of God.  The major point of this piece was to drive home how even great edifices eventually crumble, and that knowledge and culture must be preserved actively if they are to endure.
  • Sri Lankan Church Bombings” – coming on the heels of the catastrophic Notre Dame fire, the island nation of Sri Lanka was shaken on Easter Sunday of this year with Islamic terrorist attacks on churches.  Democrats referred to the slain Christians as “Easter worshippers” in what appeared to be a concerted effort to appear politically-correct.  Yeesh.
  • America’s Roman Roots” – I wrote this piece earlier in the week, based on an excellent op-ed a colleague sent my way.  Commentators often fixate on the similarities between the United States today and the Roman Empire, but often miss the parallels to the Roman Republic.  Those parallels exist because the Framers of the Constitution pulled heavily from Roman tradition, even naming key institutions like the Senate after their Roman counterparts.  The Roman Republic holds valuable lessons for Americans for how to craft a robust society that enables citizens to live worthwhile lives.

That wraps up this little tour around the globe.  Rome, France, Sri Lanka and North Korea—not a bad start, though I’d better get Africa and Latin America into the mix soon, lest I catch flack from the SJWs for lack of inclusion.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT: Global Poverty in Decline

Yesterday I wrote about homelessness, particularly the sense that many “homeless” panhandlers are simply shakedown artists well-versed in emotional manipulation, guilt-trips, and implied violence or mental instability.

The United States enjoys incredible prosperity, unprecedented in history.  That prosperity doesn’t necessarily give our lives meaning—a key critique of traditionalists like my intellectual hero, Richard Weaver—but it’s probably a moral good to not have to worry about your ability to feed and shelter yourself.

But the United States is not the only beneficiary of wealth and abundance.  The rest of the world has enjoyed huge increases in quality of life since the end of the Second World War, and especially since the end of the Cold War.

So, contrary to Leftist myth-making, the United States has not kept the rest of the world down (and, by implication, is therefore morally responsible for taking in its impoverished, unassimilable hordes).  Instead, capitalism has lifted the world out of poverty.

That is the subject of this TBT feature, August 2018’s “Global Poverty in Decline“:

Regular readers know that I frequently cite pollster Scott Rasmussen’s #Number of the Day series from Ballotpedia.  I do so because a.) his numbers often reveal some interesting truths about our world and b.) blogging is, at bottom, the art of making secondary or tertiary commentary on what other, smarter, harder-working people have thought, written, and done.

Yesterday’s #Number of the Day dealt with global poverty; specifically, Americans’ ignorance to the fact that global poverty has declined substantially over the last twenty years.  Indeed, global poverty has been reduced by half in that time.

I’ll confess I was ignorant of the extent of this decline, too, although it makes sense that poverty has decreased, especially when you consider the rise of post-Soviet market economies in Eastern Europe and China’s meteoric rise since the 1980s.

I suspect that the perennial culprit of the Mainstream Media is to blame, in part, for this ignorance, coupled as it is with progressive politicians.  The rise of “democratic socialist” candidates—as well as the lingering effects of the Great Recession—would have Americans believe that the global economy is in terrible shape, and that “underprivileged” parts of the world labor in ever-worsening poverty (so, let’s just move them all here—that’ll solve poverty!).

It’s refreshing to see that capitalism is working its economic magic, and people all over the globe are lifting themselves out of poverty.  If representative republicanism and strong civil societies can take root and flourish in more places, the ingredients will be in place for continued economic and cultural growth.

Global Poverty in Decline

Regular readers know that I frequently cite pollster Scott Rasmussen’s #Number of the Day series from Ballotpedia.  I do so because a.) his numbers often reveal some interesting truths about our world and b.) blogging is, at bottom, the art of making secondary or tertiary commentary on what other, smarter, harder-working people have thought, written, and done.

Yesterday’s #Number of the Day dealt with global poverty; specifically, Americans’ ignorance to the fact that global poverty has declined substantially over the last twenty years.  Indeed, global poverty has been reduced by half in that time.

I’ll confess I was ignorant of the extent of this decline, too, although it makes sense that poverty has decreased, especially when you consider the rise of post-Soviet market economies in Eastern Europe and China’s meteoric rise since the 1980s.

I suspect that the perennial culprit of the Mainstream Media is to blame, in part, for this ignorance, coupled as it is with progressive politicians.  The rise of “democratic socialist” candidates—as well as the lingering effects of the Great Recession—would have Americans believe that the global economy is in terrible shape, and that “underprivileged” parts of the world labor in ever-worsening poverty (so, let’s just move them all here—that’ll solve poverty!).

It’s refreshing to see that capitalism is working its economic magic, and people all over the globe are lifting themselves out of poverty.  If representative republicanism and strong civil societies can take root and flourish in more places, the ingredients will be in place for continued economic and cultural growth.

North Korea Reflections

Wow, what a week.  President Trump met in Singapore with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, an historical meeting the effects of which we still don’t fully know or understand.  Will Kim stick to his pledge to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula?  Can we trust him?  Is President Trump playing another masterful round of 4-D chess, or simply legitimizing a brutal regime and its evil leader?

Questions abound, as do interpretations.  Ben Shapiro at The Daily Wire (video below) argues that conservatives are getting too excited, too soon, and purely on a partisan basis.  While I do think we should proceed with caution—the Kim family has promised denuclearization eight times before—there is reason for optimism.

Historically, I would point to Mikhail Gorbachev’s 1988 visit to the United States, in which he fell in love with the country.  The same criticisms abounded then—“human rights abuses!,” “gulags!,” etc.—and, while those criticisms were as true for the Soviet Union as they are—and even more so!—for the Kim regime, the door was opened for diplomacy, leading to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty.  Ultimately, the Soviet Union collapsed, largely peacefully.

Kim seems to have some similarities to Gorbie, and some key differences from other authoritarian and totalitarian regimes in the world today.  For example, Kim seems genuinely to love Western culture—he hangs out with Dennis Rodman, he eats McDonald’s (clearly).

I keep hearing the usual objections from the Left—“conservatives criticized Obama for negotiating with Iran!  How is this different!”  For one, Trump didn’t load up palettes full of cash without congressional approval and fly it into the regime while it was under intense sanctions.  He also didn’t give Kim everything he wanted so he could destabilize an entire region based on an AP Comparative Government-level of understanding of the nation’s political system.

Further, Iran is a regime based on a radical ideology—Shi’a Islamism—that doesn’t acknowledge the existence of Israel and is actively, if covertly, at war with its Sunni neighborsIran is the leading state-sponsor of terrorism.

North Korea is certainly a terrible, totalitarian place, but the old ideology of Juche seems quaint.  No one is going to blow themselves up to wear coveralls made from refined clay.

Cuba, too, is an old-school Cold War frontier, but the Obama administration got nothing from Cuba when it lifted the embargo—not even the release of political dissidents!  The Cuba analogy fails, too, because we’ve already defanged Cuba, and have nothing to gain from opening up relations.  Keep grinding out the sanctions there, for the sake of Cubans.

Consider, too, President Richard Nixon’s “opening” of China in the 1972.  He met with the bloodiest dictator of the 20th century, Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong, which caught the ire of conservatives and anti-Communists in the West.  While Mao’s atrocities and lethal policies were devastating to human life and contributed to the annals of misery Communism has inflicted upon humanity, Nixon and Henry Kissinger realized the diplomatic opportunity that presented itself, and took the plunge.  China is still authoritarian and aggressive, but it’s beginning to fit in with the respectable, stable nations of the world.

Similarly, North Korea must be a liability to China, which is surely fed up with its tin-pottery.  While China dreads seeing a unified Korean Peninsula, that might be better than dealing with a client-state that is becoming less of a strategic asset and more of a liability.  Trump’s “war of words” last summer—including the hilarious “my button is bigger” tweet—played the game that Kim and the ChiComs understand.  That’s why the President and Kim met, and why Kim will come to the United States.

That brings us back to Gorbie’s 1988 visit—just as he was enamored by the USA, I predict that Kim will be similarly blown away (and not via assassination, as Ben Shapiro mused about in one of his recent podcasts [Note:  I watch Shapiro’s podcast, The Ben Shapiro Show, daily, and at the time of writing I could not find in which recent podcast he talked about assassinating foreign leaders, but he quipped that he disagreed with the Carter-era prohibition on taking out particularly wicked heads of state; I’m just not willing to go back through hours of video to find it]).

Have you ever seen recent immigrants from other countries that have this really one-dimensional idea of America?  They think it’s all fast cars, hot babes, overweight cowboys, New York City, and rap music—and they eat it up, assimilating whole-hog in the most cartoonish way possible.  I would not be surprised if Kim took the same route.  He’s already chillin’ with Dennis Rodman.  Homeboy’s going to be wearing a Chance the Rapper ballcap and eating French fries by the end of his first round of golf at Mar-a-Lago.

And what of Dennis Rodman?  My earliest memory of D-Rod was a picture of him sporting bright green hair and a bunch of piercings—keep in mind, this was probably the 1990s, when the average person didn’t color his hair and get covered in tattoos (“this one represents my individuality”)—and I always assumed he was a crazy attention hog.  When I heard he was hanging out with Kim Jong-un, I figured he’d gone full Jane Fonda.

But… maybe he really was trying to create understanding between the United States and North Korea.  Maybe he was trying to bridge a gap across political systems and cultures.  And—maybe it worked.

I’ve watched Rodman’s interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo (video below)—the one in which Rodman is sporting a “Make America Great Again” hat—and I don’t think his tears are fake.  When I saw the clip originally on The Ben Shapiro Show, I was in awe.  Here was a guy whose heart was open for all to see on national television.  When he said (paraphrasing) “Even when no one would believe and no one would listen, I kept going, because I believed we could work out our differences,” my jaw dropped.

How many times, as a conservative in a progressive culture, have you felt alone, but you kept soldiering on, knowing that there was hope, that what you believed was right, even when you couldn’t articulate it in the face of overwhelming opposition?  I doubt I’ll ever write this again, but in that moment, I identified with Dennis Rodman.  I understood him.

Do not take anything I’ve written here as a trivialization of North Korea or the Kim family’s decades of atrocities.  The people of North Korea are brainwashed and abused, put to death for exchanging James Bond DVDs, starving because their terrible government doesn’t function properly, and their leaders have purposefully isolated them from the world.  It’s an hellacious place, and we shouldn’t legitimize an evil, totalitarian despot.

BUT—if President Trump can sway Kim Jong-un, and begin the liberalization of North Korea—if not the reunification of the Korean Peninsula—it will do the most since the opening of China in 1972 to improve the lives of millions of people.  The North Korean people will be brought out of the darkness and into the community of nations.

Yes, China is still authoritarian, and denies its people their basic political and civil rights, but North Korea can have the chance to forge its own path forward.  South Korea was under a military dictatorship until the 1980s; it’s now one of the freest, most prosperous nations in the world (and really good at Starcraft).

Only time will tell.  My prayers go out to the people of North Korea, and I urge my readers to pray for them, as well—and that President Trump and Kim Jong-un have the wisdom and discretion to act in the best interest of liberty.