Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Childrens' Day And The UN Convention On The Rights Of Children

Associated with the UN Convention on the Rights of Children is a Universal Childrens' Day.  It is November 20, the date that in 1959 the UN adopted the first version of the Convention, which had 10 articles.  It is celebrated in many nations, but not in the US.

A competitor is International Childrens' Day, also called the International Day for the Protection of  Children.  This is June 1 and was declared in Moacow in 1950.  It is also widely celebrated, mostly in former or current socialist or communist nations, and is a big deal in Russia in particular even now, a national holiday.  It is also not celebrated in the US.

Curiously there is an official Childrens' Day in the US, although almost nobody pays attention to it.  It is  the second Sunday in June, a week before Fathers' Day, which way dominates it, although MOthers' Day way dominates both of them.  Ironically, given its current obscurity, the US one was the first one established, back in 1857 for that date by a Universalist minister, Rev. Douglas Leonard in Chelsea, Masssachusetts.

At least 90 nations have an official Childrens' Day, with a variety of dates for this.

The matter of the US starting Childrens' Day but then coming to ignore it has a parallel with International Womens' Day, founded in 1909 in Brooklyn by socialist Clara Zetkin. It is widely celebrated around the world, and a big deal in many nations, including Russia.  But it is only barely recognized, mostly by feminists, in the US now.

Mothers' Day was founded by pacifist and Methodist, Anna Jarvis, in Grafton, West Virginia, in 1908 on its current date.  The US Fathers' Day was started the same year nearby in Fairmont, West Virginia.  Jarvis would later come to be unhappy with the crass commercialization of Mothers' Day.

There is a much older Fathers' Day celebrated  by Roman Catholics since the Middle Ages.  It is on St. Joseph's Day, March 19.

Anyway, I think there may be a link between the ignoring of Childrens' Day in the US, even thought it was started here compared with how it is treated in many other nations, and the bizarre refusal  of the US alone among UN nations not  to ratify its Convention on the Rights of Children.

Barkley Rosser

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

After Peter Dorman's latest post this seems appropriate to follow up.  Very recently I was at a talk where somebody spoke on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  A theme of the talk was how few Americans know about this UN Convention while most reasonably well informed people in virtually the entire rest of the world know about it.  A first version of it was passed  by the UN in 1959.  A second round was in 1989.  I do not know what the US's position was on the first round, but on the second round, while the US signed it in 1995, it was never ratified by the Senate and never has been.  Right wing Christian types claimed it took away rights of parents over their children, although any reasonable examination of it shows that is nonsense.  Up until 2015, Sudan and Somalia also were with the US in not ratifying it, but then both of them did so, leaving the US to be the only nation on earth (or at least in the UN) not ratifying it.

Unsurprisingly there may be more reasons now why the current Senate will not raritify it as it looks like US behavior on our southern border is in open violation of parts of the Convention.  It has 42 articles, and the fact that so many nations have accepted it is a sign of how really uncontroversial it should be.  There is no reasonable reason to oppose any of the 42 articles.  Anyway, I shall simply note a few that are now especially unfortunate now given recent US conduct. (these are the simpler versions for children):

Article 5: You have the right to be given guidance by your parents and family.

Article 9: You have the right to live with your parents unless it is bad for you.

Article 10: If you and your parents are living in separate countries you have the right to get back together and live in the same place.

Article 18: You have the right to be brought up by your parents, if possible.

Article 20: You have the right to special proetection and help if you can't live with your parents.

Article 22: You have the right to special protection and help if you are a refugee. A refugee is someone who has to leave their country because it is not safe for them to be there.

That will do.  The speaker I learned this from urged us to inform people in the US about this given how little it is known, although I imagine there are some of you reading this who know of this. But I did not, and I am ashamed that I did not.  So here I am, doing my best.

Barkley Rosser

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Economics, the Realm of Money and the Significance of GDP Growth, with an Application to Child Labor

What’s economics?  There are two answers.  One is it’s the sphere of human activity encompassing the production and distribution of goods and services, which has sometimes been referred to as provisioning.  This is quite a lot but not everything.  It includes meditation classes but not meditation, making and selling binoculars but not bird-watching, etc.  The problem is that it includes so much of human life that it is barely a delineation at all.  From this perspective farming is part of the economy, and so is shopping for food, cooking the food at home, and even piling some of it on your plate.  It’s a matter of debate whether eating the food should qualify as economic, not to mention the trip to the toilet sometime later.  (I think the answer should be yes to the toilet part.)

Then there’s a much narrower conception that confines itself to just the money economy, things that are produced for sale, paid labor, and money congealed into financial assets and obligations.  This is largely what mainstream economics is about, although it claims to be about human well-being in a much more encompassing sense, using welfarism as a bridge between the empirical world of markets and the putative substrate of “utility”.

In the end, the reason for attaching a label like economics to some portion of human activity is practical: to guide a division of labor that allows us to balance the demand for specialized expertise with the need to remain aware of the interconnections that matter in real life.  I suspect the line ought to be drawn differently for different motivating questions, different types of societies, maybe even different individuals and their intellectual skills and backgrounds.

What I want to suggest is a way of thinking about the relationship between these two conceptions.  Think of the money economy as the fungible component of provisioning.  That’s what money does: everything that’s exchangeable for money is exchangeable for everything else with this same property.  The non-monetary economy is not fungible; there are limited options for parting with some elements of it for more of other elements.  Restaurant cooking is part of the fungible world.  I can spend more money eating out, or I can save up and buy a camera, or piano lessons or a savings account that allows me to eat out more ten or twenty years from now.  Cooking at home is only slightly exchangeable.  I can cook less in order to do something else with that particular bit of time, but unless I use the time to acquire money the number of things I can exchange with cooking is limited.

So how much does fungibility matter?  The one thing fungible goods do have going for them is a range of choice, since if you have any of them you can exchange them for others.  Otherwise there is no relationship between how fungible an activity or good is and how important it is to my well-being.  Love is right up there at the top of values, and it is famously nonfungible: money can’t buy me love.  Some environmental impacts are fungible, some aren’t, since the interdependent character of ecological relationships sets severe limits to the notion of chopping the natural world into pieces that can be managed through generalized exchange.  Political goods, like freedom and democracy, aren’t fungible at all.  Health?  In some ways yes, in others no.

An important consideration is that fungibility matters more the more widespread it is.  In societies where only a very few goods and services are exchanged for money—which means most societies in most periods of human history—the money economy plays a relatively small role in human well-being and the dynamics of social change.  The increasing extent of fungibility as a core characteristic of modernity is equally why the money economy now matters much more to us.  This is an important consideration in debates about the role of GDP growth as a guide to economic and social policy.  It is objectively true to say that monetary measures of prosperity like GDP per capita (or better, median measures of money income or consumption) are vitally important today, because a large portion of what people need is part of the fungible universe.  It is also true, however, that many essential goods are still not fungible and will probably never be, so a fixation on monetary indicators is a serious mistake.  Access to higher levels of money income matters more to nearly everyone in the world than was the case in former times, but it’s still not everything—not even close.

I’ve thought about this in connection with child labor.  Even before the rise of child labor “protagonism”, that opposes efforts to eliminate child labor in the name of respecting children’s agency and opposing eurocentrism, I encountered resistance to the notion that children should be in school rather than working full-time at home or in the fields.  By trying to reduce child labor I was advancing the monetary economy over the competing claims of the traditional economy of household and kin, of the intergenerational transmission of culture and knowledge through joint work, of self-provision.  And it was true.  But when I thought about the world these children would be living in over the decades to come, it seemed clear to me that enough of what they needed for a good life would be in the fungible realm that lack of education would mean a lifetime of deprivation.  That isn’t true for each single child, but it will probably be true for the vast majority.  Seeing the matter in purely monetary terms is simplistic, but still seems to me to be the proper starting point.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Is Stephen Moore a Gold Bug?

A lot of the criticisms of putting the twin village idiots known as Herman Cain and Stephen Moore on the FED assert that they are gold bugs. Kate Riga watched CNN when Erin Burnett interviewed Stephen Moore on this allegation:
Stephen Moore tries to flip-flop on the gold standard — but Erin Burnett is prepared and armed with a montage of his past statements
Watch and enjoy! Now Moore did say he would prefer targeting an index of commodity prices, which led me to FRED and its Global Price Index of All Commodities. Moore has not be all that specific how his commodity price target would work but let’s speculate his index would be a lot like this one. Suppose the FED targeted commodity prices to be where they were in 2005 since this index is based where it would equal 100 in 2005. Just imagine how a Moore monetary policy would have worked say during the booming 1990’s. Commodity prices were low so his policy prescription would have been massively expansionary during a booming economy. For much of the period from 2007 to 2014, we would have had a contractionary monetary policy even as U.S. aggregate demand was often incredibly weak. In other words, his commodity price based monetary policy would be about as destabilizing as was monetary policy under the gold standard.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Elizabeth Warren Wants to Collect More in Corporate Profits Taxes

John Harwood reports:
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren proposes raising $1 trillion in government revenue from a new tax on profits of the largest corporations. The proposed surtax would prevent Amazon and other companies with profits exceeding $100 million from wiping out their tax liabilities altogether. Instead of taxable corporate income as defined by the IRS, the 7% surtax would apply to profits companies report to their investors.
A lot to like. Look – I hated that 2017 tax scam, which we were told would clean up how corporations are allowed to shield income by all sorts of tricks including transfer pricing manipulation. Alas, its complexity was a boondoggle for shifty tax attorneys rather than simplification and closing loopholes. So proposals to “repeal and replace” this awful tax deform are highly welcomed. But this part of Harwood’s reporting was dreadful:
Warren cited two high-profile examples: Amazon has reported $10 billion in 2018 profits but zero in U.S. corporate taxes; Occidental Petroleum has reported $4.1 billion in profits and also paid zero.
He was just on MSNBC again talking about how Occidental Petroleum makes a lot of profits but reports little U.S. taxable income. Any Wall Street Journal reporter should know to check the 10-K filing for U.S. based oil multinationals as it is often the case that most of their income is generated by foreign oil producing affiliates. Since Harwood could not be bothered, I did. Its pretax income was $5603 million in 2018 and I was surprised to learn that $3431 million was generated in the U.S. with the remaining $2177 million generated in other nations where oil profits often are taxes at very high rates. In fact, this company paid $1014 million in foreign income taxes. Now as far as the claim that it paid zero U.S. income tax, that is not what they reported to their investors as the 10-K filing noted U.S. income taxes were $463 million. A 13.5 percent effective tax on its U.S. sourced income sounds low to me but it is not zero.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Inverted Vulgar Quasi-Marxist Victim Cult

The propagandist will not accuse the enemy of just any misdeed, he will accuse him of the very intention that he himself has and of trying to commit the very crime that he himself is about to commit. -- Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes
And you know something is happening, but you don't know what it is. Do you, Mister Jones? -- Bob Dylan, Ballad of a Thin Man
Candace Owens testified today at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on hate crime. Shorter Owens: the real victims of hate crime are conservatives and the perpetrators are Democrats. The stunt hijacked the hearing.

Ted Lieu playing Owens's homage to Hitler probably made an impression on people who already know that Owens is a grifter and that the Republican members of the committee are sleazebags for inviting her but it didn't cancel out the sabotage. The Guardian posted a tweet from journalist Christopher Mathias which nicely summed up the outcome:
That incompetence, however, was entirely on the Democratic side. The Republicans came to deflect and they succeeded. The Republicans know their script. The Democrats seem to be stuck in 1973 waiting for Howard Baker to suddenly appear and make everything right again.

Owens's shtick should be no mystery. It's essentially the propaganda game plan laid out by William S. Lind that I have documented in a four part series here. Eventually, I intend to revise and edit into a single piece but in the meanwhile here are links to the four parts:

Nazi executioner judge: "Political correctness is worse than Nazi tyranny."

Copycat Crime and the Conscience of a "Cultural Conservative" part one

Copycat Crime and the Conscience of a "Cultural Conservative" part two

Unreading Marcuse's "Repressive Tolerance"

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

France’s Fiscal Dilemma Solved

I was struck by this morning’s headline in the New York Times:

No doubt this was intended as irony, but that itself is ironic, since the “unrealistic” attitude it sums up is actually a good starting point for policy.  France has one of the world’s better welfare states, and it should be preserved and enhanced.  French taxes are very high—almost half of national income—and should be cut.  Carbon needs to be priced far more comprehensively and aggressively than Macron’s idiotic gas surcharge, but that can be done with little or no additional net taxes.  (Hint: rebate.)

So what squares this circle?  France’s budget deficit is way too small, about 2.6% of GDP the past two years.  Given the slack in its economy (over 9% headline unemployment) and rock bottom real interest rates, France would be wise to cut taxes and preserve spending even if the gilets jaunes had never existed.  Of course, it is prohibited from doing this by the eurozone’s Stability and Growth Pact, but that’s an argument against the Pact, not the policy.

Nothing I’ve said goes against standard macroeconomic advice.  The reason for bringing it up is that headline, and the article that follows it, which recycles a facile putdown of populism that is both economically ignorant and disdainful of social needs.  Come to think of it, that could be a good way to describe Macron and the political circle he represents.

Does Cochrane Really Understand the Latest on Minimum Wages?

John Cochrane thinks we liberals who think higher minimum wages can do some good by offsetting monopsony power fail to grasp labor economics. He is citing some work by Jeffrey Clemens, Lisa B. Kahn, and Jonathan Meer. Alas his blog post screwed up the link to this interesting paper:
Compensation consists of a combination of cash and non-cash attributes, and depends on worker productivity. We also allow for the possibility of a bargaining wedge whereby the firm pays less in total compensation (cash and non-cash benefits) than a worker’s marginal product. When the minimum wage rises above the prevailing wage (cash payment) but below a worker’s marginal product, the firm will shift the mix of compensation towards cash and away from non-cash benefits, but will still find it worthwhile to employ the worker. This distortion can create losses to worker welfare which, if large enough, will push workers to prefer their outside option of nonwork. We also show that, in the presence of a bargaining wedge, the welfare effects of minimum wage increases are non-monotonic. In general, wage gains associated with increases in worker bargaining power will tend to improve welfare, while wage gains that are accommodated through reductions in non-cash benefits can reduce welfare.
In many ways, this dates to a 1980 paper by Walter Wessels (“The effect of minimum wages in the presence of fringe benefits: An expanded model,” Economic Inquiry), which the authors cite. Wessels assumed a perfectly competitive model where government interference lowered worker total compensation. Wessels published later papers, which alas the authors did not cite. In 1994, the Journal of Labor Research presented an extension of Wessels thinking that incorporated monopsony power entitled “Minimum wages and the wessels effect in a monopsony model” by J. Harold McClure:
The Wessels model suggests that firms respond to increases in the minimum wage rate by decreasing the level of fringe benefits — an action which produces an inefficiency effect that lowers workers’ utility and the supply of labor. Standard models of monopsony, however, argue that wage floors prevent the exercise of market power and increase employment. I show that wage floors, even with fringe benefit curtailment, may increase employment by lowering the marginal expense of labor. Employee utility and employment will rise somewhat but not as much had the firm acted competitively in setting both wages and fringes.
The “worker bargaining power” bit may be alluding to this monopsony power argument even if the authors did not cite this 1994 paper. The authors did note:
When we compare wage changes to changes in employer coverage, we find that coverage declines offset a modest fraction of wage gains for very low wage workers and a larger fraction for moderately higher wage workers. In very low paying occupations, the coverage decline offsets an average of roughly 10% of the rise in the wage bill. We cannot reliably measure changes in employer contributions on the intensive margin, which may also decrease in response to increases in the minimum wage. Therefore, the 10% average offset is composed of some workers who lose coverage entirely and some workers who maintain coverage and receive wage gains. We find offsets of 25% and 60% for workers in the next lowest paying occupation groups, respectively.
If I’m reading this correctly, total compensation rises even if fringe benefits decline – which is more consistent with the monopsony version of the Wessel model than the perfectly competitive version. Of course this is not the message that Cochrane has conveyed to the readers of his blog.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Trump Has Birth Nations Skipping Generations

Starting around 2011 or so, Donald Trump began to get a lot of attention on the looney racist right in the US by becoming one of the leading advocates of birtherism, the claim that Barack Obama was born in Kenya rather than Hawaii.  Of course, Obamam's father was born in Kenya.

Now, curiously, Trump is at it again, although now involving his own family.  He has taken to claiming that his father was born in Germany.  His father's father was born there apparently, with the name "Drumpf."  But by all accounts I know of, Trump's own father was born in The Bronx in New York City.  It seems he is playing a reverse form of birtherism here, although it may be an effort to assert a stronger connection to the erstwhile "Master Race" of the Nazi movement.

Of course, it may also be that this is simply part of a more general mental breakdown, given the rather large number of either blazingly false or just blazingly stupid things he has been coming out with in the last several weeks.

Barkley Rosser

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Unreading Marcuse's "Repressive Tolerance"

William S. Lind's cultural Marxism conspiracy theory boils down to the claim that in his essay, "Repressive Tolerance," Herbert Marcuse "called for tolerance for all ideas and viewpoints coming from the left and intolerance of all ideas and viewpoints coming from the right" and that college administrators and professors have put Marcuse's proposal into practice in the form of "Political Correctness."

Marcuse did indeed make a statement that seemed to propose exactly that: "Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left." The problem with taking the proposition literally, however, is that on the very first page of his essay, Marcuse had already dismissed it with the awareness that,"no power, no authority, no government exists which would translate liberating tolerance into practice." The proposition, he added, was intended "to open the mental space in which this society can be recognized as what it is and does."

Approximately 6,000 words of dense verbiage intervene between Marcuse's discounting of the proposition and his restating it in stark, attention-getting terms. The casual reader could be forgiven for having forgotten the initial disclaimer along the way. What is implausible, though, is that college administrators and professors would have collectively adopted the formula as gospel while expressly ignoring the caveats. In fact, in a 1968 postscript to his 1965 essay, Marcuse indicated that his proposition had encountered "virulent denunciations" which he attempted to counter with a restatement of its rationale and acknowledgement that the practice he called liberating tolerance "already presupposes the radical goal which it seeks to achieve."

Marcuse's postscript apologia is hardly more convincing than his original essay. The problem, in my view, is that Marcuse attempted to illustrate a terminological paradox with a "counter-paradox." His diagnosis -- that "tolerance" in an administrated state rife with propaganda is not all it is cracked up to be -- was apt. But he clumsily succumbed to the temptation to offer a prescription. And since he realized that there is no pat solution, he offered a pseudo-cure instead, in the form of a facile "thought experiment."

It may well be that the crude, simplistic slogan of "intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left" would have appealed to student radicals in the 1960s, in which case, Marcuse's popularity would have been due more to incomprehension than to affirmation. But among his peers, even in the Frankfurt School, there was no such luck. Correspondence between Marcuse and Theodor Adorno from 1969 show Marcuse's defensiveness in response to Adorno's tense disapproval of his "undialectical" activist sympathies:
You know me well enough to know that I reject the unmediated translation of theory into praxis just as emphatically as you do. But...
Like you, I believe it is irresponsible to sit at one’s writing desk advocating activities to people who are fully prepared to let their heads be bashed in for the cause. But...
Meanwhile, Max Horkheimer "too has joined the chorus of my attackers" while Habermas was publicly warning against "left fascism." By the early 1970s, Marcuse's brief moment of notoriety was rapidly fading.

Marcuse's paradoxical fable of "liberating tolerance" (and intolerance) was not even the most pernicious part of his "Repressive Tolerance" essay. The same social conditions that make "tolerance" abstract and spurious, Marcuse argued, also "render the critique of such tolerance abstract and academic, and the proposition that the balance between tolerance toward the Right and toward the Left would have to be radically redressed in order to restore the liberating function of tolerance becomes only an unrealistic speculation." So, there you have it, folks! Herbie has been giving you the jive and now he's telling you it's all jive. What, oh what... is to be done?
Indeed, such a redressing seems to be tantamount to the establishment of a "right of resistance" to the point of subversion. There is not, there cannot be any such right for any group or individual against a constitutional government sustained by a majority of the population. But I believe that there is a "natural right" of resistance for oppressed and overpowered minorities to use extralegal means if the legal ones have proved to be inadequate.
Andreas Baader invoked this "natural right of resistance" at his 1968 trial for arson, with the outcome that he was sentenced to three years imprisonment for political vandalism that caused no injuries and relatively modest property damage. So much for Marcuse's objection to sitting "at one’s writing desk advocating activities to people who are fully prepared to let their heads be bashed in for the cause."

Closely reading Marcuse's "Repressive Tolerance" essay gives me a new insight into what Lind is doing with his cultural Marxism hoax. Lind has appropriated Marcuse's theme of there being a regime of repressive tolerance but has inverted its origin and attributed it to Marcuse's "liberating tolerance." Marcuse's "mental space," "unrealistic speculation" or petitio principii that "already presupposes the radical goal which it seeks to achieve" is recycled by Lind as the actual persecution endured by conservative students under the imagined regime of "cultural Marxism."

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Copycat Crime and the Conscience of a "Cultural Conservative" part two would be absurd to subscribe to the author the unintended consequences of an author's statements without considering the circumstances which surround them. It is, however, equally absurd to pretend that the ideological history of a work's consequences are entirely extrinsic. -- Jürgen Habermas
With all its limitations and distortions, democratic tolerance is under all circumstances more humane than an institutionalized intolerance which sacrifices the rights and liberties of the living generations for the sake of future generations. -- Herbert Marcuse
As we saw from his March 17 webcast, William Lind was not inclined to consider taking any responsibility whatsoever for the (presumably) unintended consequences of his rhetoric. This is not to say, however, that he isn't eager to take credit for political influence his ideas may on powerful state actors.

In his March 24 webcast, Lind revealed the "scoop" that his initiative may have inspired President Trump's executive order to protect conservative speech on university campuses. "We have," Lind boasted, "what I think is the inside story on one of last week's news events -- mainly the President Trump's announcement that 35 billion dollars worth of federal funding for higher education is going to be tied to freedom of thought and expression on college and university campuses." According to Lind, what happened is that, as a board member of a conservative group of Dartmouth University alumni, he wrote a memo -- subsequently forwarded to the White House by a well connected board member -- that recommended substantially the steps taken by Trump in his executive order.
This, by the way, is a basic rule of politics. If you're going bottom-up you come in as a supplicant. You're either ignored or kicked in the teeth. The way you get something to happen politically is to come in top-down. You come on… you come down on the center you're targeting from a higher political level. Well there's no higher level obviously than the White House.
Lind made it plain throughout his eleven minute discourse that the "freedom of thought" he is seeking to protect is specifically conservative thought ("we all know very well what happens to conservatives on campus -- how often they are persecuted.") As Lind read from his memo:
The problem of discrimination against conservative faculty, students and outside speakers by colleges and universities is not restricted to Dartmouth. It has become general throughout academia. The same college administrators and faculty members who demand diversity in all things also require uniformity in the one area most important to any academic institution – thought. And the ideas that contradict political correctness -- including arguments for free markets, traditional morals and Western Judaeo-Christian culture -- are subject to censorship. Faculty, students and speakers who express conservative views find their careers threatened, face college discipline or are simply shouted down with no penalties imposed on those who threaten violence.
The origin of these practices is Herbert Marcuse's essay on liberating tolerance, which called for tolerance for all ideas and viewpoints coming from the left and intolerance of all ideas and viewpoints coming from the right. This is what college administrators and professors now mean when they call for tolerance. 
Lind took the timing of Trump's announcement -- just a couple of weeks after Lind sent his memo -- and the specific inclusion of targeting research funding to indicate strong circumstantial evidence that his memo was pivotal. "So I think there's a pretty good chance circumstantially that it was our initiative that brought this about and if so again we have watched the mother of all Zeppelin strikes on the cultural Marxists." Here he repeated the image he had introduced earlier in his account: "So what President Trump did this week there is a large Zeppelin raid directly on the enemy's base and that's significant."

Lind continued on for three minutes on implementation of the policies announced by Trump before returning yet again to the trope of aerial bombardment:
The deep state obviously is going to hate all this because it's populated by cultural Marxists, including in the trump administration, and they're going to do their best to sabotage this with the old bureaucratic rule: delay is the the surest form of denial. They will be hoping to make sure nothing happens and nothing changes at least 'til the end of President Trump's first term. So we're gonna have to watch this carefully. If it… if it is implemented and implemented forcefully as it needs to be. 
Lind and his co-hosts concluded their discussion of this conservative free thought initiative with a "jocular" exchange on bombing universities:
Brent: Well there you have it. if you want the cutting edge in conservative activism -- right-wing activism -- look no further than TR. 
William Lind: Absolutely. And if this doesn't work, we're gonna tell Jeff to get back in his Cobra and launch an airstrike.  
Jeff Groom: That would actually work because the Cobra uses a Hellfire, which, as you know, Bill, attacks from the top down on things. It doesn't fly in armour, but flies in top down where armour's thinnest.  
William Lind: And I can't think of anything that colleges and universities more deserve than Hellfire.  
Jeff Groom: Yeah we're gonna get the November variant so just it's a thermobaric one not the tank killer we need the thermobaric one -- burn everything out… 
Thermobaric weapons are one of the class of fuel-air explosives (FAEs). According to Human Rights Watch: 
FAEs are more powerful than conventional high-explosive munitions of comparable size, are more likely to kill and injure people in bunkers, shelters, and caves, and kill and injure in a particularly brutal manner over a wide area. In urban settings it is very difficult to limit the effect of this weapon to combatants, and the nature of FAE explosions makes it virtually impossible for civilians to take shelter from their destructive effect.
Remember though, folks, the real victims here are the conservatives being persecuted for compulsively joking about incinerating their political, ethnic and religious enemies.

In part four of this series, I read Herbert Marcuse's "Repressive Tolerance" so you don't have to.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Copycat Crime and the Conscience of a "Cultural Conservative" part one

On March 15 a gunman opened fire on worshipers in two Christchurch mosques, killing 50 and wounding around the same number. Survivors of gunshot wounds often have traumatic injuries that require multiple surgeries and leave them severely disabled for life. Before embarking on his rampage, the alleged gunman broadcast over the internet a "manifesto" outlining the motive for his deed.

In his manifesto, the alleged perpetrator claimed to have had "brief contact" with "Knight Justiciar" Anders Breivik, the convicted Norwegian mass murderer, and to have taken "true inspiration" from Breivik's "2083" manifesto. Indeed, the Christchurch massacre would fit the definition of a copycat crime in terms of motive, manifesto and mass murder.

As mentioned in the previous post, Breivik plagiarized approximately 15,000 words of his manifesto from a pamphlet on "Political Correctness" by William S. Lind. The alleged Christchurch killer plagiarized his deed from Breivik. On his March 17 traditionalRIGHT webcast, Lind spent a little over 16 minutes talking about the Christchurch rampage. Not surprisingly, neither he nor his interlocutors mentioned the Oslo precedent. John Lind referred explicitly to content of the alleged Christchurch shooter's manifesto. Is it conceivable that Lind is unaware of the widely-disseminated, extensive plagiarism of his work seven and a half years ago by a mass murderer? That's a bit of a stretch.

So what did William Lind talk about when he talked about the Christchurch terror attack? To what extent, if at all, does Lind take moral responsibility for the consequences -- even those unintended -- of his words?

Lind's first observation was to caution that there was much that remained unknown about the attack. He then criticized "the establishment media rushing to judgment" by reporting that it was a right-wing hate crime. Then he launched into speculation -- "I only say possible no idea at this point" -- that the alleged attacker had been converted to Sunni Islam during his travels in Pakistan and that the attack on the mosques was "actually part of the Sunni-Shiite war" and that "it would make sense in many ways for him to try to blame this on the right because of course who's leading the opposition to Islam in the Western countries?"

It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?

The "second thing that immediately jumped out" at Lind was "why in the Hell are there mosques in New Zealand to begin with?" This remark evoked appreciative laughter from his co-hosts, Brent and John. The real problem was allowing Muslims to come to Western countries, or, if they are allowed to come, allowing them to build mosques. Lind then expounded for three minutes on the unrelenting persecution of Christians in Islamic countries and the disregard of the establishment media toward "church bombings and mass murders -- those get a paragraph or two in the same papers that splash this [Christchurch] across the headlines on the front page with the biggest type." According to Lind, these atrocity are "happening all the time in Africa":
We have had Christians worshiping on a Sunday morning suddenly the doors of their church are barred and it's set on fire by Muslims. These don't even make the New York Times. Remember the Times's real slogan is "all the news that fits we print." So this [Christchurch shootings] fit their narrative of evil Christianity -- evil white males, evil right-wing etc. The mass murder of Christians by Islamics doesn't fit the narrative so, okay, doesn't exist and this by the way is exactly what the President and his supporters means by fake news.
After discounting media coverage of the Christchurch attack, conjecturing about an alternative scenario and objecting to Muslim presence in Western countries and lack of media coverage of atrocities committed against Christians, Lind turned his attention to the strategic disaster of the attack. For this analysis, he assumed the "current narrative" of a right-wing, anti-Islamic attack. From that perspective, Lind expressed sympathy for the killer's alleged motivation, "from what we're being told now were inspired by this guy's reaction to seeing Islamics all over France -- well, that's an understandable reaction [laughter]." Nevertheless, Lind was eager to advise "our colleagues on the right [that] it's important to understand why actions like this actually work against us."

Lind's analysis of the strategic inaptness of this particular kind of "leaderless resistance" action relies on his theory of "fourth generation warfare" and with the "cult of the victim" that he attributes to Antonio Gramsci and Georg Lukacs, "what we know as cultural Marxism or political correctness."
All Marxism is loser worship. It's if you're successful, if you're a builder, if you're a producer, if you're out there doing great things, you're evil, you're a capitalist, you're a member of the bourgeoisie, you're an exploiter, you're a landlord etc., you deserve a firing squad or the gulag. If you're a complete loser who produces nothing you know you're only a taker, you're, you're always defeated, then you're a moral hero and in the climate that we now live in where cultural Marxism sets the tone throughout much of the world the highest status you can achieve is victim.
Why "loser worship" makes this kind of "leaderless resistance" violence strategically disastrous for the right is left unspoken by Lind. My interpretation of what Lind is getting at here but not clearly stating is that the attacks will evoke sympathy for the victims and thus elevate their status. But the real victims here, according to Lind and his colleagues, are the young, white heterosexual Christian men driven to violence by the pervasive cultural Marxist oppression: many lost young men that feel like they have no future we're not allowed to have our own spaces anymore as like white Christian European people without having to have without foreigners coming in here...  \ 
...we can't speak out against any of this without censorship or losing your job or something and it's driving people mad...  
...this feeling of oppression where you can't say what you think about anything because because certain viewpoints have effectively been outlawed...
...more and more men young men particularly -- and this by the way, Brent, is happening in many parts of the world -- are finding themselves with no prospects if in this country they're white Christian men, heterosexual. They are considered somehow evil. Again they're the old equivalent of the capitalists and landlords under the old economic Marxism. They're inherently evil and they can't do anything without women but they can't do anything with women because if they displeased a woman she could immediately claim sexual harassment and he's guilty until proven innocent and the rage is just building and building and building and because of the way the internet fosters leaderless resistance I'm afraid you're right, Brent, we are going to see more of this but on our side we need to understand it is strategically disastrous.
Does your head hurt trying to follow Lind's logic? That is the point. It is not logic but a propaganda technique that relies on the listener/reader's conditioning to assume that what they are hearing/reading and trying to follow is a logical argument. Jacques Ellul gave a concise description of the technique Lind employs:
Propaganda by its very nature is an enterprise for perverting the significance of events and of insinuating false intentions. There are two salient aspects of this fact. First of all, the propagandist must insist on the purity of his own intentions and at the same time, hurl accusations at his enemy. But the accusation is never made haphazardly or groundlessly.* The propagandist will not accuse the enemy of just any misdeed, he will accuse him of the very intention that he himself has and of trying to commit the very crime that he himself is about to commit. He who wants to provoke a war not only proclaims his own peaceful intentions but also accuses the other party of provocation. He who uses concentration camps accuses his neighbor of doing so. He who intends to establish a dictatorship always insists that his adversaries are bent on dictatorship. The accusation aimed at the other's intention clearly reveals the intention of the accuser.
*Because political problems are difficult and often confusing, and their import not obvious. the propagandist can easily present them in moral language -- and here we leave the realm of fact, to enter that of passion. Facts, then, come to be discussed in the language of indignation, a tone which is always the mark of propaganda. 
Lind's cult of the victim enlists young, white, heterosexual Christian men driven mad by having their future -- their rightful prospects as successful builders, producers, capitalists, landlords and doers of great things -- stolen from them by losers. They just can't catch a break! Even when they go out a shoot a bunch of those losers, it is the losers who get elevated as high-status victims in today's cultural Marxist climate instead of the real victims, those meritorious young, white, heterosexual Christian, deservedly-successful but dispossessed males. Ressentiment is a bitch.

To be continued...

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Thinking About Generations

Three weeks ago my wife and our daughter and I were in Moscow to celebrate her mother's 90th birthday (which was on March 10).  Somehow when I woke up today it occurred to me that a man born on the same day could have joined the Soviet army and participated in the final push into Berlin for the defeat of Hitler.  Likewise in the US a man born on the day could probably have gotten into the US military and participated in the final actions in Europe or the Pacific of the war. But probably few born much after then could have had that experience. So, whatever the sociologists or demographers say, this was the tail end of the "Greatest Generation," with Americans born then having some experience as young people of the tail end of the Great Depression as well as of WW II, the signature events of that generation.

Next came the Silent Generation, whose front end includes the veterans of the Korean War, now in their mid-80s, more or less.  In contrast with the Greatest and their unabashed victory, the Korean War was ulitmately a stalemate, and its veterans have long complained with some reason of not getting much attention, even as as many died during it roughly as the later and longer Vietnam War. But then maybe that is because the Silents just did not make enough noise.

Which brings us to the Boomers, who got Vietnam, at least the front end of the generation.  And this one was a loss after it became very unpopular and tore the nation apart.  For the record, I got out of it through having a high draft number, 346, not through  having my father pay a doctor to make up phony bone spurs for me as someone else did, someone who had the nerve to say he did not respect John McCain for getting captured during the war.

The later stage Boomers would get to see the US win the Cold war, even as the president was a Greatest Generation guy when that went down.

Gen-X got the unfortunate Iraq War, with it being instigated by a Boomer president.  And now the Millennials have all sort of fun and games happening with another Boomer president in place, Mr. Bone Spurs.  ISIS may have just been defeated on the ground, but the situation in Afghanistan looks set to get bad, not a victory.

I am not sure there is a bottom line to this post.  It was triggered by thinking about my mother-in-law and how much people in the USSR suffered during the Great Patriotic War as they call it and how the Greatest Generation is now all in their 90s or above, what is left of them.  Somehow that was the last unadulterated victory the US had in a war, with the rest since either stalemates or outright defeats.

Regarding that generation in Russia, I note that in the past one would see the men of that generation, the veterans of that war, walking proudly in the streets with their medals on, with people treating them with great respect, both in the Soviet period and afterwards as well.  The women would become the babushkas who would order younger people on the streets around for whatever they thought the younger people should be doing or not doing.  But now what is left of that generation is not on the  streets any more.  I did not see a single one of those vets with his medals this  visit, although I know many are still alive, and no babushkas were ordering young people around on the streets, for better or worse.

Barkley Rosser

Nazi executioner judge: "Political correctness is worse than Nazi tyranny."

The terrorist mass murder in Christchurch, New Zealand two weeks ago has sent me back to my archives to retrieve my documentation of Anders Breivik's extensive plagiarism of the writings of William S. Lind, et al.

Did I say "extensive" plagiarism? Breivik copied and pasted the whole 19,000 word pamphlet, making minor revisions here and there and deleting around 4,000 words that dealt with more arcane academic topics, such as Derridean deconstruction. Below is an example of the markup comparison of documents from Lind's to Breivik's, with insertions in blue and deletions in red:
At the end of Lind's tract, he included a bibliographical essay " a guide for interested citizsens who want to learn more about the ideology that is taking over Western Europe and America." One of the entries in that bibliography was The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories and Political Significance by Rolf Wiggershaus. Lind quoted a passage from the book's "Afterword"
Since the publication in 1970 of his book The Poverty of Critical Theory, Rohrmoser has promulgated, in constantly varying forms, the view that Marcuse, Adorno and Horkheimer were the terrorists’ intellectual foster-parents, who were using cultural revolution to destroy the traditions of the Christian West. Academics such as Ernst Topitsch and Kurt Sontheimer, who saw themselves as educators and liberal democrats, followed in Rohrmoser’s footsteps. In 1972 Topitsch, a critical rationalist who was Professor of Philosophy in Graz, had stated that behind the slogans of ‘rational discussion' and ‘dialogue free of domination’ there was being established at the universities ‘a distinct terrorism of political convictions such as has never existed before, even under Nazi tyranny’ 
What struck me as odd about the above passage was that "Rohrmoser" had no first name. At first, I suspected the passage was simply cut and pasted in without acknowledging that it was a quoted text. But the absence of quotation marks may have been simply an artifact of indent formatting lost during conversion to a web document. I was curious to find out Rohrmoser's first name, which appeared in the sentence before the passage quoted by Lind:
Günther Rohrmoser was a social philosopher employed by [Hans] Filbinger, who, as a judge at a naval court martial during the last days of the Second World War, had pronounced a scandalous death sentence which he defended during the 1970s by saying that what was the law then could not be injustice today.
Hans Karl Filbinger was Minister President of Baden-Württemberg from 1966 to 1978. In October of 1977, in response to the kidnapping and murder of Hanns Martin Schleyer by the Red Army Faction, Filbinger gave a speech in which he blamed the teachings of the Frankfurt School for the terrorism. Such accusations, elaborated by academics such as Rohrmoser, Topitsch, Sontheimer and others became the basis for efforts to suppress student activism and the teaching of Critical Theory.

In 1978, Filbinger was accused of having presided -- either as prosecutor or judge -- over the executions of several sailors at the conclusion of the Second World War. The Wikipedia article outlines extenuating circumstances in his favor: several of the death sentences were in absentia and never carried out, others were commuted to prison sentences and in the one case that resulted in an execution he appears, according to the Wikipedia article,  to have been "filling in" for a prosecutor who had already asked for the death sentence. In In Pursuit of German Memory: History, Television, and Politics After Auschwitz, Wulf Kansteiner offered the following account of the outcome of the scandal:
With proper symbolic guilt management, none of these facts would have ended Filbinger’s career, but he committed two major public relations mistakes that made his resignation inevitable. First, Filbinger failed to reveal the full record of his service as a military jurist; the press found a total of four death sentences that listed Filbinger as an officer of the court and that he professed to have forgotten. Second, although Filbinger explained and defended his actions at length, he never apologized to his colleagues, his voters, or the relatives of the soldiers he had condemned to death. He failed to realize that legal innocence no longer amounted to historical innocence. Just because he had not committed any crimes in the eyes of the law did not mean that he could survive in the court of public opinion.
So it wasn't the crimes Hans Filbinger committed -- or didn't commit -- but the cover-up that disgraced him. Lind's omission of the context for Wiggershaus's discussion of Rohrmoser's attacks on Critical Theory as the "foster parents of terrorism" deprives his readers of two crucial perspectives. The more sensational but ultimately trivial insight was the status of one of the accusers of the Frankfurt School as an actual Nazi who presided over at least one execution and subsequently tried to conceal his past.

But the more important aspect was the precedent in West Germany of the 1970s of a political campaign against Critical Theory orchestrated by high government officials. In addition to Filbinger, Franz Josef Strauss, leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, and Alfred Dregger chairman of the Christian Democratic Union in the state of Hesse "promptly labeled the Frankfurt School a cause of terrorism."

Jürgen Habermas gave a contemporaneous account of this assault on the Frankfurt School in an article that first appeared in Der Spiegel in October 1977 and was subsequently translated and published in the New German Critique. It is worthwhile to quote at some length from that article because illuminates an historical parallel that few Americans would be at all aware of:
As an undergraduate I was struck by the fact that such influential figures of the post-war generation, eminent men like Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, had made politically astonishing statements and had advocated unfortunate doctrines. The first, as chancellor of the University of Freiburg, had welcomed the Nazis' seizure of power and exalted its significance metaphysically, while second had theoretically vindicated that state which Hitler created. After the war, neither of them considered an unequivocal political explanation or a public revision of their actions to be necessary. 
These shocking examples - and they are, after all, just examples - sharpened my, sharpened our awareness of the consequences of the theoretical matters which we teach and write. They are not simply arguments which are absorbed by the scholarly process and then survive or dissolve within it. On the contrary, as published and spoken words, they have an effect on readers and listeners at the moment of their reception which the author cannot revoke or withdraw as if he or she were dealing with logical propositions. Now of course it would be absurd to subscribe to the author the unintended consequences of an author's statements without considering the circumstances which surround them. It is, however, equally absurd to pretend that the ideological history of a work's consequences are entirely extrinsic. There is only one pragmatic escape from this dilemma, and unfortunately it is not easily put into practice. An author's awareness of this dilemma must sufficiently limit his teaching and writing: an individual should not succumb to the atmosphere of objective irresponsibility, nor should an individual expand moral accountability to such an extent that he or she is paralyzed by the fear of uncertain and unexplored areas. Then only silence would remain. 
It is obvious that Strauss and Dregger want to intimidate us so that we shall seek refuge in this last alternative. Both obscure the fact that in the 1960s it was the left-wing professors who were especially and distinctly conscious of intellectual causalities. Instead Strauss and Dregger construct a scenario of objective responsibility in a manner which until now has only met with approval in the dominions of Stalinist bureaucrats.
Does William Lind take responsibility for the (presumably) unintended consequences of what he has written, given the dilemma framed above by Habermas? Lind does a weekly YouTube broadcast called traditionalRIGHT in which he gives his opinions on items in the news. On March 17, he discussed the mass murders in Christchurch. On March 24, he addressed an executive order signed by Donald Trump that would cut off federal funding from universities that inhibited the "free speech" of conservatives. I have listened to these segments several times and downloaded transcripts that I have read closely. I will present my summary and interpretation of them in a subsequent post. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Looking for Mister Good Barr

I confess. I posted The Barr Letter and Useful Idiots of the Jaded Left to troll for tin-foil hats. I am agnostic on the Mueller investigation. I have never viewed Mueller, Comey or Rachel Maddow as the savior of truth, justice and the American Way. My objection to Taibbi, Greenwald et al.'s gloating is primarily against their premature ejaculation -- although their glee is also reprehensible under the circumstances.

But here is the thing about tin-foil hat thinking: if you are going to engage in it, do it right. Let's say there is this vast establishment, deep state conspiracy to overthrow the popular will electoral college result of the 2016 election. Hey, I can get down with that! What makes the Glenns and the Matts and the Halaszes and likbezes so confident that William Barr isn't part of that conspiracy? Absolutely nothing. They simply haven't thought through their heist.

Here's how I would NAIL Donald Trump if I was William Barr: I would write a four-page letter that appears to exonerate him from conspiracy or coordination and in which I explicitly decline to indict on obstruction of justice charges. See what I did there? No?

I sidestepped the "can't indict a sitting President" rule. That sets a precedent. Now we let that settle in for a while. Nobody objects -- least of all the President of the United States who thinks he has just been cleared. Next comes the indictment from SDNY. But wait a minute! You can't indict a sitting President! Oh yeah? The Attorney General just waived that rule.

Is my little scenario true? I doubt it. But it is no less plausible than the half-baked conspiracy scenarios heralded by the half-cocked tin-foil hat crew. Of course the paranoid style is not noted for  consistency or for thinking things through.