Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Revolution Comes to Silicon Valley

California is the poorest state in the nation. Yet, it is chockablock with very wealthy people, many of whom work in the High Tech havens in Silicon Valley.

All of the wealthy tech workers do not live in the Valley. Many of them prefer to camp out in overpriced abodes in San Francisco. Naturally, this creates a commuting problem. Companies like Google and Apply have addressed the problem by providing luxury bus service between San Francisco and their headquarters in Mountain View and Cupertino.

As it happens, some of those less fortunate resent these spoiled brats. They are not happy that they can no longer afford to live in the city because the rich kids from the tech world have priced them out of the market. Is it surprising, Tyler Durden writes on the Zero Hedge blog, that the peasants and peons and proles are now rebelling… by shooting at the tech buses?

Could the revolution be at hand?

The last week has seen six charter buses, ferrying Google and Apple employees from Silicon Valley to San Francisco, have been attacked on the freeway, smashing windows with rocks and BB guns.

Notably, there are no signifiers on the vehicles for the average passerby to really know for what and who they are used, but CHP Officer Art Montiel, who is investigating the matter with other law enforcement officials, says “it appears that they’re going after the unmarked tech buses,” according to SFGate.

The tech giants are on the case. They are now rerouting the buses. Surely, that will work:

Due to the potential targeting, the two tech giants decided to alter the usual routes, causing “an additional 30-45 minutes of commute time in each direction,” according to an email from “The Apple Commute Team” obtained by Mashable.

Tech firms operate free shuttle services between San Francisco and their offices in the Silicon Valley. The service, which is available only to the employees, has long been seen as a symbol of division between the tech workers and everyone else.

At least, these firms support diversity… except in their own ranks.

If the Sky Is Not Falling...

If you have entered the Chicken Little stage of human development and spend your time running around warning people that the sky is falling… you have a vested interest in calamity. If you predict that the sky will fall and the sky doesn’t fall, you look like a fool or a liar or a fraud. If you, a seasoned and somewhat dotty politician, announce that a specific tax reform bill will bring about Armageddon… you have an interest in precipitating the arrival of Armageddon.

At a time when the news on the economy seems very good indeed, and where the worst predictions about the Trump presidency have not come to pass, you can understand why Senate Democrats are trying to change the narrative… by shutting down the government. If their action can help bring about an economic collapse, they will happily rush out to the microphones and blame Trump. They will happily announce that they were right all along.

This morning Bret Stephens, having found sobriety, points out that the Democratic Party strategy of indulging in rhetorical hyperbole while predicting the imminent end of the world is a gamble on catstrophe.

In December this column warned that hysterical opposition to the Republican tax bill was a fool’s game for Democrats that could only help Donald Trump. Yes, there were things to dislike in the legislation, from both a liberal and a conservative perspective.

But it was not the moral and fiscal apocalypse its critics claimed. And its central achievement — a dramatic cut in corporate rates to 21 percent from 35 percent — was an economic no-brainer that many Democrats, including President Obama, had supported (albeit less steeply) just a few years ago.

Apple will not be the only multinational that will soon bring back gigantic profits to take advantage of new low repatriation rates. Microsoft holds $146 billion in overseas earnings, Pfizer $178 billion, General Electric $82 billion, Alphabet $78 billion, and Cisco $71 billion, according to estimates from the Zion Research Group. The total stash is about $3 trillion — by one measure nearly three times what it was just a decade ago.

Assume that just half of that money comes home to the United States. It’s still the equivalent of Canada’s entire gross domestic product. Not too shabby, especially considering all the hyperbolic predictions of economic doom that went with Trump’s election.

Democrats, Stephens continues, did not realize that the Obama economic recovery was anemic. They tried to run on prosperity at a time when the nation was not enjoying prosperity. Normally, they would have assumed that they could manipulate American minds to make them think that the economy was better than it was. Somehow or other, the propaganda machine failed. They seem to believe that they were outwitted by Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. A strange idea, indeed.

Democrats entered the 2016 election cycle on what they thought was the back of a strong economy. It wasn’t. Barack Obama presided over the weakest expansion in postwar history. The economy grew by 15.5 percent from the second quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2016. During the (slightly longer) Reagan boom of 1982-90, it grew by more than 38 percent. The failure to understand this meant a failure to appreciate the depth of American discontent. It helps explain how Hillary Clinton lost her unlosable election to a man whose central claim to office was that he understood business.

If the economy has improved under Trump, the Democrats have been running around saying that it’s all because of Obama. Considering that one major impetus of economic growth has been Trump’s dismantling of the regulatory state that Obama empowered, it’s a difficult case to make:

More recently, Democrats have convinced themselves that Trump is merely the beneficiary of Obama’s economic legacy. But how can the critics who previously assured us that Trump’s election would cause certain calamity now explain that he’s nothing but a lucky bystander to forces beyond his control? Had the economy tumbled over the past year his critics would surely have blamed him. It’s ill grace to deny him all credit when it’s doing so well.

“ill grace”… whatever would have made anyone imagine that the Democratic Party lacks grace or graciousness.

Apparently, Democrats are hoping that they can derail the economy and the stock market by shutting down the government. And yet, they have dug in their heels and hope to damange the economy in order to protect illegal aliens. It seems like a bad wager, especially since illegal immigrants themselves do significant damage to the economy:

Yet one gets a distinct sense that Trump’s relentless critics would rather bury the Apple news or look for the cloud within the silver lining. This is not a good look. If making confident but lousy predictions is one form of political malpractice, wanting things to fail is another.

The same goes for the looming government shutdown, which may have begun by the time you read this column. Democrats are placing a large bet that it’s a political showdown they can win. But what they are mainly doing is wrecking their chances of retaking the House or Senate by appearing to put the interests of DACA’s immigrant “Dreamers” ahead of the rest of America.

And, of course, rooting for the president to fail is also rooting for America to fail. Most Americans still have enough patriotism to revile anyone who seems to be trying to make America fail again:

… normal Americans — that is, those who hold the outcome of the next election in their hands — do not want him to fail. They want statesmanship, not schadenfreude.

Wouldn’t it be smart of all of Trump’s opponents to show they are superior to him in the former? And wouldn’t a good way of doing that be to abjure the latter, even if it sometimes means giving him some credit?

To be fair and balanced, Democrats and progressives do not really care about how the economy fares, this quarter or next quarter. They are playing a longer game. Their arena is not the marketplace of goods and services but the marketplace of ideas. They are fighting to control the American mind and to undermine traditional American culture. They are fighting for diversity. They worship the gods of multiculturalism. 

To their minds, victory consists in the election of a transgender state legislator in Virginia. They have declared war on merit and want people to be judged, not on the content of their character, but on their race, gender, ethnicity and sexual preferences. Then they go to war against any American who uses derogatory language. They will give you the economy if you let them control your mind and your speech.

Think about it. The economy is moving ahead. The stock market is moving ahead smartly. The Democratic Party thinks that the world is about to come to an end because Trump called a few nations shitholes.

Friday, January 19, 2018

New York Times Readers for Trump

It feels momentous, not least because it has never happened before. At least, it's worth a blog post. The New York Times, leader of the anti-Trump Resistance gave all of its editorial page to letters from Trump supporters. It will do the same for those who are disillusioned with Trump and with those who despise Trump. Fair and balanced… bring it on.

You might have noticed that the New York Times is now under new management. The reign of Pinch Sulzberger is over. His son, A. G. Sulzberger is now running the show. Perhaps he prevailed upon the editorial board to open itself up to those who favor Trump. Perhaps he thought it was bad business to be so negative all the time… not just in the editorials—which no one reads anyway—but in the way the Times slants the news.

Or perhaps, it is showing a sign of humility. After all, the Times’s leading polemicist, sometime economist Paul Krugman famously predicted, during the night of November 8, 2016 that the stock market, having sold off on the news of the Trump victory, would never recover. Perhaps it’s too much for PK to show some shame, but the Times seems to want to be out in front of the issue.

The higher truth—I know you wanted to know the higher truth—is that after the media spent a year running and screaming about how The End Is Near… the Trump administration has not been as bad as predicted. It yields a basic truth. Why you traffic in apocalyptic prophecies you are not going to be looking very prescient when the facts fail to bear them out. In fact, the more apocalyptic they are the less likely are they to come true. If they really do come true we will not be hear to gloat in our prophetic powers.

Anyway, the Times letters are intelligent and thoughtful. The Times could have chosen letters that sounded like they were written by high school dropouts. It chose to allow Trump supporters to present their best. 

To its credit, the Times seems also to have edited the letters, thus they read as well-written. No one else is mentioning this, but the average citizen will normally make a number of mistakes and include a few infelicitous expressions when writing a letter. That the letters do not show it, must mean that the letters were edited.

The theme that runs through the letters is that the Trump supporters do not like the president’s Tweets. They do not like his bullying persona. But they believe that he has gotten something done, and has gotten something good done for the country. Thus, they are willing to make a trade-off… to give up something in order to gain something.

Without further ado, here is a sampling:

Donald Trump has succeeded where Barack Obama failed. The economy is up, foreign tyrants are afraid, ISIS has lost most of its territory, our embassy will be moved to Jerusalem and tax reform is accomplished. More than that, Mr. Trump is learning, adapting and getting savvier every day. Entitlement reform is next! Lastly, the entrenched interests in Washington, which have done nothing but glad-hand one another, and both political parties are angry and afraid.

Who knew that all it would take to make progress was vision, chutzpah and some testosterone?

*********************************************************************

President Trump has exceeded my wildest expectations. Yes, he is embarrassing. Yes, he picks unnecessary fights. But he also pushed tax reform through, has largely defeated ISIS in Iraq, has named a number of solid conservative judges, has prioritized American citizens over illegal immigrants, has gotten us out of several bad international agreements, has removed a number of wasteful regulations, is putting real pressure on North Korea and Iran, has reined in a number of out-of-control agencies, and so on and so on.

I loved George W. Bush, but he failed on policy over and over again. If it takes putting up with Mr. Trump’s brash ways to see things get done, that is a deal I’m willing to accept. To be honest, I’m not sure he would have accomplished what he has so far without being an unrelenting public bully.

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Not all Trump voters are Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables.” Many of us are well-informed and highly educated, and we are weary of the Democrats’ tiresome focus on identity politics, class warfare, and disparagement of corporations and the “wealthy.”

Opinion polls give Mr. Trump a low rating, and I would, too, for character, personality and temperament. But I would give him high marks for policies and programs that are stimulating the private sector, which, after all, pays the bills for the Democrats’ extravagant welfare programs. And because of Mr. Trump we have an education secretary who actually cares more about educating children than appeasing the teachers’ unions.

Even more important, we desperately needed a seismic change in the pusillanimous foreign policy pursued during the Obama years, which emboldened our adversaries, including China, Russia, North Korea and Middle East militants. I also support a more robust approach to border security and illegal immigration, which could still entail legal residency for law-abiding Dreamers but not an undeserved pathway to citizenship.

********************************************************************

Much of the media, as the hotbed of hatred against Mr. Trump, has pushed me more toward him than his social behavior has done the opposite.

**********************************************************************

So far I am thrilled with his performance. Numerous reasons, but here are a few: recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; letting the generals crush ISIS; stronger plans to prevent North Korea and Iran from using nuclear weapons; getting out of biased United Nations organizations; and respect for the flag and the rule of law.

I thank my dear New York Times for asking to hear from Trump voters. It’s been difficult to read the paper this past year. It’s anti-Trump in everything from the front page to fashion. It’s so pervasive that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there’s not another loyal New York Times reader out there who voted for Mr. Trump and that I’m sending the only submission. New York Times, I will always love you, despite our disagreement.

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How’s he doing? He has turned a fragile nation “anti-fragile” (the scholar Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s term). Before Mr. Trump, we were scared of any volatility. Oh no, ISIS! Oh no, banks! The more chaos there was, the worse we were.

Now volatility is our friend. The more chaos, the better! Entrepreneurship up. Optimism up. Good old American problem solving is back! You know who loves change? Capitalists. Mr. Trump has led us on that spiritual exodus.

*********************************************************************

That said, I am shocked at how well President Trump is doing. I give him a B-plus. His performance under extreme pressure and harsh criticism has been admirable. Some of the many positive results of his policies are a booming economy, low unemployment (record low for black Americans), soaring stock market, lower taxes, the repeal of mandatory health insurance coverage, ISIS defeated in Iraq, and much, much more.

I do not understand why people still believe anything that the media, or politicians and pundits who have an agenda, say. They have been wrong about practically everything since long before November 2016.

 *************************************************************
I’m thrilled with the progress that President Trump has made in defeating ISIS, cutting taxes for middle-class families and making court appointments. Thanks to the tax cuts, my husband and I stand to keep a much larger portion of our paychecks. I’d like to see more work in securing the border, enforcing immigration laws, improving our infrastructure and combating political corruption in D.C. (in both parties).

I’m thrilled at his support for Israel. Nikki Haley is one of his best appointments, and I love seeing strong women stand up for what’s right on a global stage.

What I like least about his presidency so far is the tweeting. It’s often immature and lowers the tone of the debate while debasing the office of the presidency. That said, I think the media needs to be a lot more evenhanded in its coverage of him and keep its personal opinions in check.

*********************************************************************
Mr. Trump’s language is often inappropriate and juvenile, and I had hoped he would rise to his new position. But although words are indeed important, I thought his tough take-no-prisoners manner and, yes, even his unpredictability might be what was needed at this particular time to cause offending persons and countries to sit up, consider us seriously, and think twice about taking advantage of us financially and otherwise.

*****************************************************************
However, even though I’m a “women’s libber” from the late ’60s, and I feel that we should have had a female president by now, Hillary Clinton was not worthy.

Mr. Trump is a vulgarian in the way he tweets and sometimes talks. However, as Rich Lowry wrote in National Review, his presidency is better than his tweets, and he has made significant progress in nominating and appointing conservative judges.

He has undone many of President Barack Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders. He has been rolling back burdensome regulations. He shepherded through Congress a tax bill that most people think will be a boon to the economy and “lift all boats.” Obamacare is mortally wounded.

**********************************************************************
The very fact that we have a tax cut, a roaring economy and stock market, a magnificent new Supreme Court justice and a wonderful attorney general with not only a moral compass but also a determination to actually enforce the laws of the land gives me great hope for this country’s future.

I think President Trump is doing just fine, particularly when one considers the sustained assault of the media, Hollywood, talk shows and, dare I say, “the paper of record,” which has abandoned all pretense of objectivity to join, if not lead, “the resistance."

Netanyahu in India

Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the world’s leading proponent of anti-Semitism, the Palestinian Authority, has been ranting and raving of late. Having lost his support in the region, having been told that it’s time to make peace and to give up on a capital in Jerusalem, Abbas is reduced to maniacal pronouncements… the kinds that are most likely to impress brain-dead Europeans.

In the meantime, the Prime Minister of Israel has been enjoying a tour of his new ally India. He has been greeted better than well, with respect and admiration. He has established new trade agreements and has fortified an alliance. If you want to know what is going on in the world of foreign relations, it is always good to follow shifting alliances. In the interest of contributing to the public debate and discussion, we follow such events on this blog.

While Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are working together, the American media has for the most part ignored the story. After all, it’s happening in Asia, so why should we care?

The Legal Insurrection blog has rounded up stories from the Indian and Israeli press and has put together an outline of the relevant information.

It begins with this:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began the fifth day of his six-day India tour with a ‘power breakfast’ with a select group of Indian business leaders and CEOs. Later he joined Prime Minister Nerendra Modi at the India-Israel Business Summit hosted at the iconic Taj Hotel, one the sites hit by the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.

Netanyahu was very well received by the Indian people. Why would this be? Perhaps because Israel has been a great success story… and has achieved what it has achieved against very long odds:

Before traveling to Mumbai, Prime Minister Netanyahu spent a day with Prime Minister Modi in his home state of Gujarat where tens of thousands of Indians showed up to welcome the visiting Israeli leader.  Jerusalem-based new website Times of Israel reported the reception given to the visiting leader in the Indian city of Ahmadabad on Wednesday:

“In Ahmadebad, tens of thousands of people lined the street, some waving Israeli flags, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sped past, whizzing by massive billboards with his and Indian counterpart Narendra Modi’s faces plastered on them.

In rural Dev Dholera, curious farmers and others craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the prime ministers, and hundreds of young entrepreneurs and business people cheered the leaders like rock stars.

In Sabarkantha, villagers waved at the prime ministers’ helicopters as they came in to land in a former forest that had been cleared to make way for a helipad. Dancers in traditional dress did flips, and farmers told of how many rupees they had made after training at an Israel-funded agricultural center.

Of course, there were business deals in the defense industry… which highlight cooperation:

There was some positive developments in the field of defense cooperation as well, with India putting the $500 million deal to buy the Spike anti-tank guided missiles back on the table. Earlier this month, India’s Ministry of Defense unexpectedly announced its decision to cancel an agreement with the Israeli defense manufacturer Rafael, amid speculations that India wanted to develop the missile system ingeniously.

Pakistan is worried about the Israel-India cooperation. After all, Israel has led the world in the fight against Islamic terrorism. 

India’s neighboring Islamic Republic of Pakistan has been rattled by growing Israel-India cooperation in defense and counter-terrorism. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister accused Israel and India of building an ‘anti-Islam nexus,’ several Pakistani newspapers reported.

How does the Israeli-Indian alliance compare to the trade that Israel has been doing with China. It is still significantly smaller:

After impressive growth in last two decades, the bilateral trade between the two countries has fluctuated between 4-5 billion dollars in recent years. Israel’s trade volume with China, however, reached almost thrice that size in 2017.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Some Facts About Immigration

It’s worthwhile to check in with reality… from time to time. Today, we examine the facts about immigration, provided by Kay Hymowitz in the City Journal.

Since we are now being barraged by commentators whining about how the new Trump rules would have kept their parents out of America… it is useful to find a way out of the miasma of sentimentality.

Hymowitz opens:

The United States has welcomed immigrants from various “shithole” countries for much of its history. Those schleppers worked, sweated, and saved, started businesses, paid taxes, and asked God to bless America.

And yet, the president’s rhetoric has clouded the issue, to the point where only a precious few are asking the right question: whether the America that welcomed masses of immigrants in the past is the same as today’s America.

She writes:

During the mass migration that took place in the period between 1850 and 1930, more than 12 million immigrants arrived in the United States. Many were uneducated and unskilled people from countries that were largely shitholes. Immigrants from nineteenth-century Ireland, Italy, Poland, Russia, Austro-Hungarian, Greece, even the now-flush Scandinavian countries, were escaping poor, stagnant places where the future promised more of the same.

Poverty and lack of skills didn’t stop newcomers from finding work because there was plenty of it—on the piers of New York and Philadelphia, the meatpacking plants of the Midwest, and in the factories that were spreading to cities all over the country. In 1914, over 70 percent of the factory workers at Ford Motor Company were foreign-born. Immigrants and their children were over half of all of American manufacturing workers in 1920. New technologies and a swelling population also meant more jobs for construction and transportation workers. The pre–World War II industrial economy, sociologists Roger Waldinger and Joel Perlman have written, offered a “range of blue collar opportunities” for immigrants and their children.

Then, blue collar jobs were plentiful. Now, not so much. Therein lies the rub:

Automation and offshoring to Third World countries have seriously eroded the number of blue-collar jobs. Manufacturing positions plummeted from 19.4 million in 1979 to 11.5 million in 2010, even as immigrants were adding millions to the population of job seekers. In 1970, blue-collar jobs were 31.2 percent of total nonfarm employment. By 2016, their share had fallen to 13.6 percent of total employment. Today’s immigrants are more likely to be hotel workers, agricultural hands, bussers, janitors, and hospital orderlies. They may be earning more than they could have in their home countries, but their wages—assuming they work full-time—are enough only to keep them a notch or two above the poverty line in the United States. Adding to their troubles is frequently a lack of benefits, unreliable hours, and little chance for moving up the income ladder.

America took in loads of immigrants because the rapidly expanding industrial base needed their labor. It took them in because it could also offer them something:

Immigration was part of the nation’s identity not because Americans loved living next to foreigners—few human beings do—or because immigration is a foundational principle of the nation, but because the rapidly growing American economy had a need for unskilled workers, and offered them an opportunity for advancement. 

The key to advancement in today’s economy is education… advanced education, at that. On that score, immigrant children have not been making the grade. As Hymowitz pointed out in the past, drop out rates go up in the third generation.

Unlike during the later industrial era, when even high school dropouts could get decent employment, education is now the most likely route to middle-class comfort and relative stability. Though as a group the number of foreign-born kids graduating college has grown faster than native-born, the children of low-skilled immigrants, particularly Latinos, are struggling. Instead of climbing the income ladder, they are slipping down. Between the second and third generation, Hispanic high school dropout rates go up and college attendance declines. Canada, Australia, and several other countries have introduced a points system giving preference to skilled immigrants precisely to avoid this scenario.

If Prime Minister Justin Bieber’s Canada is limiting immigration to those who possess first world skills, what is keeping America from doing the same?

What is the predictable outcome of the current American policy? Hymowitz explains that we will end up with:

… a multi-generational proletariat class, hovering near the poverty line and dependent on government help…

Have a nice day!

The Iranian Regime Won't Go Quietly

Our media has a markedly short attention span. When the press faces news that might make Trump look better than Obama, it runs screaming for the exits… the better to cover up the story and divert attention on to more important matters… like shithole countries.

The media would want us to believe that the protest demonstrations against the Iranian theocracy have all but died down. Such is not the case. They are continuing… only now, the whole world is not watching.

To put it in some perspective, we turn to an opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal. Ray Takeyh explains that the Iranian regime is ultimately doomed—if not today, tomorrow—but that its overthrow will be especially hazardous-- because it has nuclear capacities.

The popular uprisings in Iran make it a sure bet that the Islamic Republic’s government will eventually collapse. That possibility in a nuclear Iran should have many in Washington losing sleep. What will happen to Iran’s centrifuges, enriched uranium, warhead designs and ballistic-missile technologies if the mullahs are toppled? What will happen to Iran’s scientists who are suddenly unemployed? Western governments should prepare.

He continues:

The Islamic Republic is no ordinary dictatorship heading toward the dust bin of history. In 2015 it was effectively granted a license by the U.S. and the other world powers to expand its nuclear program. The deal has not impeded Iran’s efforts to modernize its nuclear apparatus. Under the watchful eye of Ali Akbar Salehi, the MIT-educated head of Iran’s atomic program, Iran continues to enrich uranium, develop advanced centrifuges, test ballistic missiles, and train engineers. The regime, which has continuously lied about its ambition to acquire nuclear weapons, is determined to build an industrial-sized uranium-enrichment infrastructure equipped with cutting-edge technology and manned by a capable cadre of scientists.

Two nuclearized nations recently underwent important political transformations. They did it responsibly, perhaps because they did not suffer a violent revolution:

Thanks to the nuclear deal, Iran could be the first country to undergo a violent revolution while in possession of an extensive nuclear network. The world has been lucky that the two nuclear states that collapsed did so peacefully. At the Cold War’s end Mikhail Gorbachev managed to liquidate the Soviet Union while safeguarding its atomic apparatus. In South Africa, the apartheid regime dismantled and destroyed its nuclear capability before handing over power to the majority.

What is different about Iran:

Iran’s mullahs won’t go as quietly as Russia’s commissars and South Africa’s racists. These are men who claim to know the mind of God and have no compunction about shedding blood. The Islamic Republic will surely experience a prolonged period of internal strife, nationwide violence and ethnic separatism as it unwinds its theocratic experiment. In such circumstances, the command-and-control structure of the Iranian nuclear program may break down. Its enriched uranium and advanced centrifuges could go missing. And Iran’s enterprising scientists may find lucrative employment in unsavory places like North Korea and Pakistan.

Today, the administration is trying to deal with the threat posed by North Korea. Tomorrow, it will need to find a way out of Obama’s Iran nuclear deal.

A Fecalized Environment

When newly minted Peace Corps volunteer Karin McQuillan arrived in Senegal, West Africa several decades ago, a doctor took her aside to warn her that she was entering “a fecalized environment.” (via Maggie’s Farm)

She explains what that means:

In plain English: s--- is everywhere. People defecate on the open ground, and the feces is blown with the dust – onto you, your clothes, your food, the water. He warned us the first day of training: do not even touch water. Human feces carries parasites that bore through your skin and cause organ failure.

Bad habits die hard, even when their possessors arrive in nations that have indoor plumbing. McQuillan described a scene from central Paris:

Last time I was in Paris, I saw a beautiful African woman in a grand boubou have her child defecate on the sidewalk next to Notre Dame Cathedral. The French police officer, ten steps from her, turned his head not to see.

Now that she has your attention, McQuillan analyzes the cultural problems that keep countries like Senegal behind.

She liked the people she met and thought well of them:

Senegal was not a hellhole. Very poor people can lead happy, meaningful lives in their own cultures' terms. But they are not our terms. The excrement is the least of it. Our basic ideas of human relations, right and wrong, are incompatible.

As a twenty-one-year-old starting out in the Peace Corps, I loved Senegal. In fact, I was euphoric. I quickly made friends and had an adopted family. I relished the feeling of the brotherhood of man. People were open, willing to share their lives and, after they knew you, their innermost thoughts.

The ethos was another story. Marital customs in Senegal have very little to do with those that pertain in Western cultures:

Take something as basic as family. Family was a few hundred people, extending out to second and third cousins. All the men in one generation were called "father." Senegalese are Muslim, with up to four wives. Girls had their clitorises cut off at puberty. (I witnessed this, at what I thought was going to be a nice coming-of-age ceremony, like a bat mitzvah or confirmation.) Sex, I was told, did not include kissing. Love and friendship in marriage were Western ideas. Fidelity was not a thing. Married women would have sex for a few cents to have cash for the market.

Women in Senegal have very hard lives. Given that the culture is only apparently patriarchal, men do not work:

What I did witness every day was that women were worked half to death. Wives raised the food and fed their own children, did the heavy labor of walking miles to gather wood for the fire, drew water from the well or public faucet, pounded grain with heavy hand-held pestles, lived in their own huts, and had conjugal visits from their husbands on a rotating basis with their co-wives. Their husbands lazed in the shade of the trees.
Since people do not work for a living, they steal:

The Ten Commandments were not disobeyed – they were unknown. The value system was the exact opposite. You were supposed to steal everything you can to give to your own relatives. There are some Westernized Africans who try to rebel against the system. They fail.

We hear a lot about the kleptocratic elites of Africa. The kleptocracy extends through the whole society. My town had a medical clinic donated by international agencies. The medicine was stolen by the medical workers and sold to the local store. If you were sick and didn't have money, drop dead. That was normal.

It’s a pure kleptocracy, culturally rather different from what we know. In addition, people do not care about other people:

In Senegal, corruption ruled, from top to bottom. Go to the post office, and the clerk would name an outrageous price for a stamp. After paying the bribe, you still didn't know it if it would be mailed or thrown out. That was normal.

One of my most vivid memories was from the clinic. One day, as the wait grew hotter in the 110-degree heat, an old woman two feet from the medical aides – who were chatting in the shade of a mango tree instead of working – collapsed to the ground. They turned their heads so as not to see her and kept talking. She lay there in the dirt. Callousness to the sick was normal.

Americans think it is a universal human instinct to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It's not. It seems natural to us because we live in a Bible-based Judeo-Christian culture.

As for the Protestant work ethic, it does not exist in Senegal:

We think the Protestant work ethic is universal. It's not. My town was full of young men doing nothing. They were waiting for a government job. There was no private enterprise. Private business was not illegal, just impossible, given the nightmare of a third-world bureaucratic kleptocracy. It is also incompatible with Senegalese insistence on taking care of relatives.

All the little stores in Senegal were owned by Mauritanians. If a Senegalese wanted to run a little store, he'd go to another country. The reason? Your friends and relatives would ask you for stuff for free, and you would have to say yes. End of your business. You are not allowed to be a selfish individual and say no to relatives. The result: Everyone has nothing.

The more I worked there and visited government officials doing absolutely nothing, the more I realized that no one in Senegal had the idea that a job means work. A job is something given to you by a relative. It provides the place where you steal everything to give back to your family.

McQuillan’s story astonishes because, how did we not know what is going on in a nation like Senegal. Her short and incisive analysis shows, far more than a bunch of talking points, that if all these people move to Western Europe they will not adopt local cultural habits. The distance they need to travel is far too great. One day they might get there, but it is not going to happen tomorrow.