Archive for December 2016

Everything You Wanted to Know About Japan, But Were Afraid to Ask

What’s the difference between Japanese and Arab racism?

Arab racism is not limited to national borders. Arabs are an ethnic group spread throughout the Middle East.

The Japanese should be considered to be their own ethnic group, but they are limited to the Japanese isles.

Starting in the Tokugawa Period (ca 1633) all foreign contact was forbidden except for trade with the Portuguese on an island in Nagasaki. Although there were Japanese throughout eastern and southeastern Asia, any Japanese who was outside of Japan at that date could not reenter Japan without being executed. This limited Japanese to the main islands, and bound ethnicity to nationalism.

Arabs aren’t bound to a particular country, and their culture, customs and language have flourished without such a limitation.

What’s your impression of Japan from overseas?

I’ve lived and traveled throughout the world and met many different people, but the Japanese are the most unique people that I’ve ever met. As an American I have more in common with the Hadzabe hunter-gather people of Tanzania than I do the Japanese. Even the Koreans who live right across the Japan Sea have more in common with Americans than the Japanese. So far in all my travels through Asia, Europe and Africa, Japan and the Japanese are more different than anything I’ve experienced.

Most people view the Japanese as like them but speaking a different language and eating different food. That’s what my mother thought while I lived in Kansai for 5 years. But the truth is the Japanese are much more different, more complicated than that.

In Japan different usually means “bad” and that’s not what I mean. It’s just that the Japanese do everything differently. They think differently and they even move differently. In my travels I’ve learned to tell Japanese from Chinese or Asian-Americans by how they move.

Living in Japan was very difficult. Japanese is an incredibly difficult language to master. The Japanese people are very suspicious of foreigners. Sakoku is embedded in Japanese thinking and culture although I believe the situation is improving with the younger people. But change happens very slowly in Japan, and usually comes from the top instead of from the ground-up in other societies.

People think the Japanese work hard but there’s a difference between being busy and spending time in the office surfing the web or reading manga. People think a country that’s the home of Toyota and Mitsubishi must operate very efficiently, but it doesn’t. People think Japanese students study hard, and they do until they take the college entrance exams, then they play for 4 years in college.

Japan has much to admire and I still watch Japanese anime, eat Japanese food and follow the news of Japan because it is a wonderful country with a wonderful unique people.

But the Japanese are truly different.

Both East Asians and Western Europeans are very secular. What are the differences between the secularity in East Asia and in Western Europe?

Secularism in Western Europe has its roots in the Enlightenment, which was a reaction to the rise of Protestant sects and their antagonistic relationship with Catholicism. So you can say that the Christian religion is the grandparent of secular thinking. Secularism today remains very antagonistic to Christianity, much more so than other religions such as Islam or Buddhism, and I believe this is because secularism has its roots in Christianity. Many European secularists are born in that religion and only later reject religion in favor of secularism.

In Japan secular thinking is a much more modern invention starting in the Meiji Period of the late 19th century but not really reaching its greatest extent until after WW2. It’s source was also the European Enlightenment, and it appeared during a time when the Japanese looked to Europe as a guide for its own culture and society. But the Japanese had very limited experience with Christianity, so Japanese secularism doesn’t have that innate antagonism with Christianity that Western European secularism has.

As a result one could argue that as a result Japanese secularism is much “purer” than Western European secularism.

Are the expats in Japan getting sick of the notorious question, “Why did you come to Japan”?

Don’t forget that you are living in a culture where being a foreigner (unless you lived in a Portuguese trading post) would have gotten you killed for 300 years. Japan didn’t fully open up to the outside until 70 years ago which is a blink of an eye from a cultural perspective. The Japanese are still working through their isolation, and even today I would expect interest in foreigners to be more pronounced in more rural areas than in big cities.

Besides, they are just “following the script” how they were taught to treat foreigners. I’d treat the question more as a meaningless “How are you?” greeting and respond with a canned answer that’s polite rather than rude.

Honestly, if it’s getting to you then maybe it’s time to leave. Very, very few foreigners stay there indefinitely and it’s a tough place to live as a gaijin, so don’t beat yourself up about it.

How does it feel to be a white Caucasian male in Japan?

Japanese discriminate against whites just like they discriminate against all non-Japanese.

My wife and I (Caucasian Americans) were refused service at restaurants, called epithets and harassed, but worst of all was the difficulty we had finding anyone to rent to us. We worked with a Japanese friend and an apartment finder who spoke to dozens of landlords. None would rent to us. We ended up being forced to live in areas where foreigners were tolerated, and found a place in a shabby building in an area that from a Japanese perspective was considered “the hood,” but honestly, given the low crime rate in Japan we never had a problem there.

Look, the Japanese discriminate against non-Japanese, but our treatment was nothing compared to the way my African-American friends were treated, or even worse, the way generations of Koreans who have lived all their lives in Japan have been treated. In the hierarchy of foreigners white Europeans/Americans/Canadians/Aussies are at the top. Koreans and Africans are at the bottom.

It sucks being treated poorly just because of the color of your skin or your nationality, but as a white American it was an important learning experience that made me much more aware of racial biases. I think it’s made me a better person, more tolerant and open-minded in my travels and my daily life at home.

I don’t mean to excuse this behavior. Japan suffers from it’s its isolationist (sakoku) thinking, but come on: Commodore Perry’s Black Ships was 160+ years ago. They need to change.

But change doesn’t come easily in Japan (and often comes from the outside). So the best thing to do is to realize the situation and know that during your stay there for every d**khead there will be a dozen kind and generous people.

Will Japan ever become multicultural?

Some cultures are by their very nature multicultural. For example ancient Rome encompassed numerous ethnic groups and accommodated many languages. It even made room for foreign gods in the Roman Pantheon. Countries like France, the US, and the UK have little difficulty assimilating other cultures. To be American or French is to accept an identity based on ideas and secular principles, one that ideally is shared regardless of ethnicity, language or religion.

Japan on the other hand is based on Japanese ethnicity. To be Japanese means to be a descendant of the people who settled in Japan about 2,000 years ago. It is thought these people originated from China, but the Japanese Shinto origin myth has the people as descendants of Amaterasu, the Sun goddess.

To be Japanese means much more than what Americans or other foreigners think. To be Japanese starts with being a descendant of 100 generations of Japanese people. During those 2000 years your ancestors must have lived in Japan. There is an assumption that as soon as you leave the country you begin to lose your Japanese-nature, which is why Japanese who study abroad for long periods are chided for “speaking Japanese funny” when they return. To be Japanese you speak the language fluently. But being Japanese also determines how and what you eat, how you dress, and how you relate to other Japanese. In many respects this is similar to how religions are followed in the West, which is why I’ve always viewed being Japanese as more of a religion and ethnicity rather than a national identity. Look up the term “nihonjinron” for more examples.

To put it bluntly, Japan would die if it went multi-cultural. It wouldn’t be Japan at all, and as a nipponophile I would really hate to see that happen.

Will the decrease in Japan’s population lead to deterioration of Japanese culture?

Nope. For two reasons.

First the Japanese are at the forefront of robotic technology which minimizes the need for human workers. Their factories remain some of the most efficient in the world because of the use of robots, and they lead the world in attempting to get robots off the shop floor and into the streets and homes of Japan. Although androids or human-like robots remain a fixture of science fiction, if anyone is going to make them a reality it will be the Japanese.

Second the Japanese aren’t efficient users of their human workforce, particularly women. Women are under-utilized, working in junior and support roles and expected to leave the workforce entirely upon marriage to raise children. This is changing but like all change in Japan it is changing very, very slowly. By relaxing some of the cultural norms that prohibit women from developing careers the Japanese will be able to handle a declining population without resorting to importing foreign labor the way Germany has.

A century ago Japan had a population of 55 million, less than half of its current 127 million. Culturally speaking Japan might be better off with a 1915 population as long as advances in robotics and the continued relaxing of the prohibition against women in the workforce allowed the nation to adjust to the smaller population. I believe less crowded cities and more space would improve Japanese well-being, plus with robots doing some of the dull and mind-numbing work, the Japanese would have the time for more creative pursuits.

Now whether they spent that time studying traditional Japanese arts like ikebana (flower arranging) or tweaking their Facebook profiles is another question.

Why did you decide to leave Japan?

I’d like to say it was due to events outside of our (my wife and my) control. Her scholarship ended and a post-doc fell through, and the idea of watching her scramble for editing or conversation jobs seemed below her status.

Then there was our kid who had just been born. The idea of raising him as a gaijin in Japan from Day 1 didn’t seem right. Growing up is tough. Growing up in Japan is tough. Growing up as a foreigner in Japan, well that just didn’t seem fair to put him through.

But honestly I was tired. I had hit a wall with the language and knew I would never go beyond it. I couldn’t do anything but continue teaching English conversation, and it had become soul deadening for me. By the end my heart was simply not in it. And 20 years later I still can recite some lessons from the textbook we used.

I got tired of struggling with the language. I got tired of the stares and drunken “hellos” on the train. I got tired of the panic whenever I approached a counter in a store, because the shop assistant might have to speak English. I got tired of the litter in the shrines and bosozoku joyriding on Saturday mornings. I just got tired.

During my stay I estimated that there was about a 25% attrition rate every six months, meaning that by the end of my 5 years about 95% of the foreigners who had arrived at the same time I had were gone. It seemed that everyone had a set time, and when that time was up they needed to move on to the next phase of their life outside of Japan.

For 5 years I was away from my home country and my family. During that time I had a wonderful experience and learned much not only about Japan but about myself and my own country. But 5 years for a young adult is a long time making 250,000 Yen a month with little chance for advancement. I needed a new challenge (besides parenthood). I needed to build a career, and I couldn’t do that in Japan. My time was up.

It was the right decision and almost 20 years later I have no regrets. It’s okay for me to love Japan from a far. I am quite content where I live in the USA now, and the older I become the more I travel abroad. It would be nice to visit Japan sometime, but in the meantime there are so many other places to go. It’s a big world after all.

Civilis – The Greatest General You’ve Likely Never Heard Of

Long ago in an ancient empire a subjugated people enjoys privileged status. This people had once belonged to another kingdom, but dissension caused them to successfully rebel, setting up their own on a large island in a broad and deep river. Fearing those whom they once considered they brothers, they allied with an even more powerful but distant empire exchanging the military service of their sons for protection. The greater empire so valued this exchange that it exempted the people from taxes. The subjugated people were known as the Batavians living in what would one day be known as the Netherlands. The greater empire, Rome.

The Batavian soldiers came with a fearsome reputation and the Romans deployed them widely. They sent them against the Britains after they showed incredible discipline and ferocity against the barbarian Germans. Unusually for vassal troops the Romans allowed Batavians to command their own troops, but the best Roman generals from the foundation of the Republic all the way through Caesar always valued results more than precedence, and one of these Batavian commanders shone above all others. His name was Julius Civilis and it was claimed he was of royal blood.

One of the Roman generals who commanded him saw Civilis as a threat. He had him arrested on made up charges of treason and sent to Rome in chains to Emperor Nero where he was to be strangled, burned alive or otherwise meet a gruesome end for the emperor’s entertainment. It was 69AD and Rome was a hotbed of intrigue. By the time the year was out Rome would have 4 emperors. When Civilis arrived in chains Nero had committed suicide and his successor showed no interest in this noble from a tiny vassal at the edge of the empire and had him freed.

Civilis wasn’t safe though. Supporting the right guy at the wrong time just as easily get you killed as backing the wrong guy at the right time in Rome, and the succession of emperors pretty much guaranteed that everyone was going to be on the wrong side of the guy in power at one time or another. During this time Civilis learned to truly hate Rome and began planning his rebellion. But he had to survive and did so by professing his support for Vespasian, a general who ended the chaos that year and took firm control of Rome.

But not the Empire. Civilis made his way back to his homeland and under the guise of his outward support of Vespasian convinced his people to rearm and rebel against Rome. It was an easy task. Roman commanders had taken to conscripting old men and young boys, becoming wealthy from the bribes given from their families for their release. The handsomest young men were targeted for what the historian Tacitus calls “immoral purposes.” Civilis summoned the chiefs and nobles to a sacred grove and laid the foundation of the rebellion. Tacitus writes that Civilis spoke, “We are no longer treated … like allies, but as menials and slaves… Now conscription is upon us: children are to be torn from their parents, brother from brother, never probably to be seen again. And yet the fortunes of Rome were never more depressed…  There is nothing to fear from legions that exist only on paper… We have infantry and cavalry: the Germans are our kinsmen: the Gauls share our ambition. Even the Romans will be grateful if we go to war. If we fail, we can claim credit for supporting Vespasian: if we succeed, there will be no one to call us to account.”

Civilis struck the Roman legions on the Rhine, forcing them out of Germany and capturing their ships. Using their own advanced military tactics against them, Civilis defeated two legions. Seeing one of their own leading a rebellion against their masters, Batavian members abandoned their posts and switched sides in the middle of the battle.

His success spread throughout Gaul and Germany, and both peoples proclaimed him their champion for liberty, flooding his army with recruits. Nevertheless Civilis made his growing army swear allegiance to Vespasian. He even sent envoys to the Roman legions he defeated asking them to join him and do the same. They refused, saying “they never followed the advice either of a traitor or of an enemy.” Nonetheless inspired by his success the province of Gaul revolted. Vespasian sent several cohorts of Batavians to capture Civilis, but instead they joined him. Two commanders of the Gallic auxiliaries convinced Roman forces occupying Gaul to revolt and join Civilis. Gaul, which had enjoyed independence until the late 2nd century and which was only crushed by Julius Caesar 100 years before, was on the verge of throwing off the Roman yoke and becoming free again.

But as so often happens with disparate groups who are only united by opposition to an occupying force, initial success breeds squabbling which ultimately leads to failure. Vespasian appointed Quintis Petillius Cerialis, a distant relative and like Vespasian an able general. Cerialis had helped crush the rebellion in Britain by the Iceni queen Boudica, and was experienced at handling rebelling natives. He immediately began to follow Cerialis and attacked him when victory was assured, avoiding conflict when it wasn’t. He also sent messages to the various tribes and rebel military leaders, promising them no consequences for their rebellion if they swear allegiance to Rome, offering financial incentives where they were appreciated, or attacking their forces instead. One by one the tribal chieftains and rebellious generals fell into line and swore allegiance to Rome.

With the rebellion collapsing and Civilis tired of fighting, he requested a meeting with Cerialis. They met on a broken down bridge over the river Nabalia, an ancient river in the Netherlands that no longer exists. For the Roman writers such as Tacitus rhetoric was a means of achieving drama, so it’s no surprise that the historian has Civilis confronting his nemesis with a speech. Civilis notes his hatred of Emperor Vespasian’s predecessor Vitellius stating “He began the quarrel, I fostered it. Towards Vespasian I have from the beginning shown respect.” He continues, claiming that his initial actions helped Vespasian by preventing the Roman legions in Germany from marching on Rome in the early days of his rule just as other generals in other regions of the empire maintained the peace. “I raised the standard in Germania, as did Mucianus [Vespasian’s ally] in Syria, Aponius in Moesia, Flavianus [Vespasian’s brother] in Pannonia…”

Tacitus’s histories cut off mid-sentence and at that moment Civilis disappears from history. It’s a disappointment not just for the abrupt end of Tacitus’s work. His writing style is quite modern in many respects, especially when communicated through a modern translator. But more importantly what happened to Civilis? Did Cerialis take him prisoner or did he let him go back to his homeland? Without the discovery of more Tacitus we will likely never know.

Civilis Meets Cerialis

California Secession: A Thought Experiment – Pt 2: Life in West California

Cross-posted at Wow! Magazine

In Part 1 of this two part series we imagined the borders of a new nation called West California created from the blue counties that went for Hillary Clinton in the November 2016 election. In this essay we’ll consider some of the challenges the new country will face, and how it will fare on its own in the international arena.

Foreign Policy

As mentioned in Part 1, the new nation of West California would likely not have a military. The Yes California website states, “The U.S. Government spends more on its military than the next several countries combined. Not only is California forced to subsidize this massive military budget with our taxes, but Californians are sent off to fight in wars that often do more to perpetuate terrorism than to abate it. The only reason terrorists might want to attack us is because we are part of the United States and are guilty by association. Not being a part of that country will make California a less likely target of retaliation by its enemies.” California dreaming huh?

The US would make it clear that any interference in West Californian affairs would be treated as interference in its own in a 21st century version of the Monroe Doctrine. But it is unclear how long this would last and whether the liberal residents of West California would put up with it and with the military bases on their soil (nor how many Texan or North Carolinan parents would be willing to see their child put in harm’s way for the defense of the anti-military liberal enclave).  In any case I would expect West California to lack a national military as Costa Rica does now and for the US military to move its bases out of the country eventually. US military bases are more portable than people think. Just ask the Philippines about how quickly we closed Clark and Subic Bay after they k

West California would face significant opposition to joining international treaties and bodies and would have to create bilateral trade agreements with nations while it applied for membership in NAFTA and other organizations, assuming NAFTA survives the Trump administration. Seeing successful secession in the United States would encourage secessionist movements in Canada, Mexico, and Spain among others, so countries would not necessarily welcome the new nation to their organizations and clubs. Still, the economic might of the nation would make it a player, especially in the Pacific Rim region. There is absolutely no way the US would give up or share its UN Security Council seat with West California.

Domestic Politics

The federal system of the United States was set up on the assumption that the states it governed were sovereign, and the system actually prepares West California well for independence. Elections would follow independence, and the most likely form of government for the new nation would be a parliamentary system with an elected president similar to France. The president could be considered as an elevation of the governor’s role, while the prime minister would be an elevation of the current house speaker’s role. This would require power shifting from the current senate to the lower house as expected with the change to the parliamentary system.

Being a single party state doesn’t mean an end to politics for the nascent country. In place of Democrats I expect two political parties to arise post-independence: liberals and socialists. Both will agree on the goals but disagree on the methods at first. Eventually the two will become less alike although by no means as different as the current GOP and Democrats.

Education from pre-school through college would be free, paid for by higher taxes. Healthcare would be provided based on the current ACA but eventually would switch to the Canadian model. Abortion on demand and contraceptives would be free making Sandra Fluke happy.

All hunting and fishing would be banned. Strict gun control would be enforced following the Australian model whereby citizens are requested to voluntarily give up their guns during a grace period. After that possession of all firearms including hand guns, rifles and shotguns and all ammunition would be illegal.

I do not know whether the West Californian government would create a written constitution or not. I could see it going either way, but would expect the following “rights” to exist with the following caveats.

  1. Freedom of Speech – As with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, freedom of speech will not be absolute. It would not cover hate speech which would be defined as “speech inciting hatred against any identifiable group or which makes the targeted group feel uncomfortable. “

  2. Freedom of Religion – Citizens are free to practice any religion as long as it does not disrespect or denigrate other groups of people.

  3. Freedom of Identity – Citizens are free to identify in any way they wish as long as it does not conflict with the rights of others. This would cover all issues related to gender and sexual identity.

  4. Freedom from Want – The State will provide all the basic needs for all its citizens including food, shelter, education, and health care. This could be in the form of a monthly allowance for all citizens regardless of income.

I would expect the codification of other rights as well, including the addition of sections covering animal and environmental rights. These would restrict farming, mining and exacerbate the state’s current power supply woes as power companies were forced to abandon fossil fuels and switch to renewables. Greenhouse gas emission-free nuclear energy will be treated the same as coal.

Drug policy would be lax especially since California legalized recreational marijuana use in the November election. Harder drugs would still be illegal, but the switch would be from incarceration to harm reduction policies as followed by Sweden and Switzerland.


In order to avoid hyperinflation and maintain stability during independence, West California would likely continue to use the US dollar as its official currency. The state does have gold held in Fort Knox, and would likely maintain ownership of that commodity in the event of secession (if it wasn’t used to pay for federal land or other transfers to the US federal government as a condition of its independence), but I don’t expect calls for the nation to revert to the Gold Standard. The few calling for that likely left the state prior to independence.

The exodus of unionists out of the new country would likely leave it with more income inequality than it has today based on the fact that Democrats tend to be wealthier than Republicans. California already ranks worst in terms of wealth inequality, with the billionaires of Silicon Valley living less than 100 miles away from the produce pickers of the Central Valley, and the flight of middle class police, teachers and nurses would only worsen the situation. California is today a one party state, and freed from the restraint of the federal government of the Union it West California would likely pursue wealth redistribution along socialist lines. Such wealth redistribution would have two effects: 1. It would encourage benefits seekers, a problem that California has today, and 2. Contrary to what Liberal billionaires profess, they will either move their money out of the country or move their homes to avoid paying more taxes. Put the two together and you have increased demands on the State and fewer resources to meet those demands.

The economic situation would be worsened by the removal of border controls between the new nation and Mexico. This may seem a bit of Right wing wishful thinking on my part, but the border issue has been so fetishized by the Left that I cannot help but believe that given the chance a sovereign West California would remove all border controls with its southern neighbor. This would have consequences with the remaining Unionist state of California and the US federal government forced to defend a much longer border with New California than it does today California’s current border. Within a few years of independence I foresee a downward spiral as the state raises taxes to provide benefits to an increasing number of citizens thereby driving out the minority of citizens capable of paying those taxes.

But immediately after independence West California’s economy shouldn’t change much. There are numerous statistics used comparing California to other countries, and depending on the statistic California’s $2.31 trillion economy ranks anywhere from 7th to 14th in the world. One thing is clear: the US, with a $15.11 trillion dollar economy will still be the world’s single largest economy after it loses California. California, on the other hand, will find itself among the ranks of Brazil and Italy. As the largest state economy in the US it has the loudest voice when it comes to economics. It issues its own emissions standards and car makers comply. When policies are crafted in Washington DC, its congressmen and senators are usually in the fray. But independence will mute those voices on the international stage to the same status of Brazil, Italy and India. Sure these nations are important in many respects but there are 6 to 13 states ahead of them in importance.

Life in West California

As a former Californian myself and an occasional visitor, there is without a doubt much to love about the state. It has some of the most beautiful places in the country. Joshua Tree. Big Sur. Yosemite. The beaches along the coast are world class, and its pleasant climate is always appreciated by those from “back east.” But today California is a very expensive place to live, making it a playground for the rich who can afford to subsidize the poor. Essentials such as housing, electricity, and gasoline are some of the highest in the nation, chasing away the middle class. The policies that make California expensive such as its restrictions on the housing supply, the state mandate of renewable energy sources, and high state gasoline taxes would likely worsen after independence.

Current liberal thinking on immigration that borders don’t matter skirts the realm of the magical. Nearly all large cities within the state are sanctuary cities which protect illegal immigrants at all cost. Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California school system has stated the system will not assist the federal government in immigration actions against students. Presumably this would include crimes committed by them against other students. In such cases defendants can post bail and disappear back into the illegal supporting community or if charged with capital offenses return to their home countries. Where the border will matter will be with the Unionist California. West California authorities will be busy interdicting firearms from the US as well as the smuggling of high taxed commodities such as gasoline and cigarettes. At border crossings with Mexico I would expect only a token presence along the lines of what tourists used to find in pre-911 border crossings with Canada.

For the first few years post independence I would expect little change with pre-independence California. But as the liberal policies took hold and the population reacted to them, things would change. The flight of the middle class would accelerate. Illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America would swamp the state just as illegal immigration from Africa and the Middle East have swamped Germany, a country with a similar attitude towards borders and immigration. The disarmament of the populace would lead to worsening crime, exacerbated by the innate distrust of the liberal voter for the police. The wealthy would continue on as before, hiring private security to protect them behind the walls of their fortress-like communities. The poor would live on state handouts while suffering the human misery of lives lacking meaningful work dependent on the state, living in crime infested neighborhoods and experiencing shortages of electricity and gasoline.

A wealthy nation with spectacular scenery and blessed with natural resources brought to ruin by the policies of its Leftist government. West California would become Venezuela.


The likelihood of California seceding remains remote bordering on the impossible. But thought experiments like this can provide glimpses at the Truth. California is already experiencing the dangers of being a single-party state, and its only hope is for the state’s Republicans to regroup and help pull the state back to its senses. Without their input, and without the brake red states such as my own of North Carolina put on California through the federal government, the state is destined for disaster.

California Secession: A Thought Experiment – Pt 1: Redrawing Boundaries

Cross posted at Wow! Magazine

Since the Nov 8 election, disgruntled California Democrats have been kicking around the idea of California seceding from the United States. For a variety of reasons this is not happening, most especially because of the moldering bones in Civil War cemeteries throughout the Eastern USA. But let’s imagine if it was possible. For argument sake we must ignore the mechanism for how secession occurs – mainly because there isn’t one regardless of what Rep. Zoe Lofgren believes.

The Easy Part: Redrawing Boundaries

When California secedes the goal of secessionists will be to create a nation in which majority rules. But this may not be so appealing to minorities. Take for example a map portraying Republican/Democrat voting in the November 2016 election breakdown county-by-county. We’ll assume that these counties reflect the strong, consistent political beliefs of the population with red counties voting GOP and blue counties voting for the Democrats in all recent elections although this may not be true since some counties marked in blue like Orange and Riverside went for Romney in 2012.


California Presidential Vote 2016 – by County. Source:

How likely would the less populous, conservative-voting California remain in the more densely populated, liberal California? If California is going to secede what would stop these counties from seceding from California and remaining in the Union? And what would happen to Nevada county, the blue tongue surrounded by red counties in the north? Hillary won that county by 2,000 votes out of 30,000 cast. Would the liberals be willing to forgo secession and hang with the surrounding red counties, or would they prefer to secede along with their liberal cousins on the coast?  A similar situation existed in areas in Bosnia and Croatia, and the Serbs and Croats took matters into their own hands and murdered and terrorized their non-Serb, non-Croat neighbors until they left. Sparsely populated Mono and Alpine counties would face similar questions on the border with Nevada, assuming Nevada itself doesn’t secede.

While there are federal laws against state secession, I am not aware of any prohibiting the secession of counties from their states.  The easiest way to gain secession might be for California to remain part of the United States while the secessionist counties left. This way the Union would be preserved at least at the state level, the secessionists get their new country – we’ll call it West California – and everyone theoretically is happy. That’s what this is all about, after all, making people happy who are so convinced they are right that they are willing to consider starting their own country.

Based purely on the 2016 vote here’s what California and West California would look like. Note that I split Fresno county east of Fresno due to the close vote there. California secessionists may not appreciate the importance of borders today, but you can rest assured their non-secessionists neighbors will.


But we’re not done yet. The US federal government also owns a lot of land including several military bases as shown in the red shaded areas of the map below.


Source: USGS Atlas, Federal Public Land Surface and Subsurface

Either West California would have to buy that land from the federal government or take it by force, which won’t be easy considering the new West California will likely not have its own military. At the very least the new country would likely cede the eastern halves of San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial counties containing the most US federal land while granting the US military long-term leases for their current bases in counties such as San Diego and Orange. The resulting country would likely end up looking something like this:


The new nation  would have roughly 60,000 of the 163,696 square miles of the current state, but it would be much more populous, containing 33.7 million of the current state’s 37.2 million residents (2010 population estimates). The map below shows the population distribution of the current state.

Source Wikimedia


So the boundaries have been redrawn. But there’s still a problem: nearly 35% of voters voted for the losing candidate in his or her county in Nov 2016. Most of these are Trump supporters living in the new West California.  That’s a lot of disgruntled people. Will they remain where they are?

When independence looms it’s quite likely that there will be a migration of people to live with people who share their views. This is already happening according to a recent TED Talk by Jonathan Haidt, so we should expect some voluntary mass movement of people out of West California most likely to Arizona, Washington, Oregon following current state emigration patterns. The liberal influx from the remaining rump-state of California would be relatively minor by comparison.  This will depress the population further and more so than the election numbers would suggest. According to voting tallies in the New York Times, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3.4 million votes. If we spread the population between the 11.2 million votes cast, we could surmise that each vote reflects the will of roughly 3.3 people (pop: 37.2m/11.2m votes). Trump received nearly 4 million votes, so we could guess that in the population of 2010 California there would be 13.2m Trump voters or sympathizers. Not all Trump voters or sympathizers will leave their jobs, families and homes, but a significant portion would when threatened by 2nd class status in a new nation. Even some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters might reconsider giving up their US citizenship to live in the new nation and join the exodus. Some voluntary migration will occur, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assess West California’s population to 25 million post- independence.

But it will grow and do so quickly, and not in the way liberals will appreciate. See why in Pt 2.