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

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 Moscow 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, Massachusetts.

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

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UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

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):

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Trump Has Birth Nations Skipping Generations

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

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Thinking About Generations

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.

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Maybe No Conspiracy Or Coordination, But Lots And Lots Of Collusion

Maybe No Conspiracy Or Coordination, But Lots And Lots Of Collusion

Trump and his supporters have been loudly claiming that the Barr letter about the Mueller report has shown “no collusion!” which has been shouted loudly from the rooftops, with many supposedly respectable sources such as the New York Times agreeing with this assessment, thus supporting the long running Trump/Hannity repeated claim.

But I note that the big headline on this morning’s Washington Post was “Mueller Finds No Conspiracy,” not “No Collusion.” Indeed, a careful reading of the clearly carefully written Barr letter finds it not using the word “collusion” at all. Its crucial getting Trump off a major hook says that the available evidence suggests that there was “no conspiracy and no coordination.” Nothing about collusion.

Clearly few have even notieced this, very few besides myself so far, but I did occasionally see commentators noting that while Trump/Hannity were constantly denying “collusion” with the Russians, Mueller was not investigsting that, ssomething that is not iillegal in any case, but instead “conspiracy” was what was being investigated, something that is a crime. While I am about to accuse Trump of stupidity, I think he or somebody figured it out that pushing this “no collusion” line would end up as it has as indeed Mueller was not investigating the not-illegal “collusion.” So far, they are getting away with this scam.

So how do these things differ? Conspiracy and cooedination both imply some amount of planning and direction, with for conspiracy some sort of communication and agreement on the plan with the other conspiring party, namely the Russians. What apparently the Mueller report finds is none of that: no central plan or direction or the making of such a plan with the Russians. This indeed looks like it is true, although some of what went on around the Trump Tower meeting gets pretty borderline, even as that seems to have been sort of a mutually botched meeting.

 

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Alan Krueger And Happiness

Alan Krueger And Happiness

It took awhile for me to remember after his apparent suicide that the late Alan Krueger was the coauthor of what I consider to be the best paper published on happiness economics, “Develpments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2006, 20(1), 2-24, https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/08953300677 .  (I apologize if that link is no good.)

This paper was coauthored with is Princeton colleague, Nobel-Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman.  What stood out was that this was as well done an empirical study of this difficult topic as I have ever seen, and above all in terms of his professional accomplishments, Krueger’s abillity to carry out very well done empirical studies stands above all else, and this paper with Kahneman certainly fits into that category.

Happiness research, or more properly research on “subjective well-being” as their paper titel put it, has been a controversial mess for some time.  The journals I have edited have been major outlets for this research, so I have seen lots of papers on it.  Not only that, but I have seen the referee reports on those papers, and this area of research has somehow attracted a lot of unhappy people taking out their unhappiness on papers that they referee.  This is not true  of all people in this field, and  I shall especially single out Richard  Easterlin, the fathr  of the field, who retired from USC last year at age 92 and deserves a Nobel Prize.  But many others in the field are not as happy as he has always been.

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti Turns 100 Years Old

Lawrence Ferlinghetti Turns 100 Years Old

On the forthcoming March 24.

This last of the Beat Poets, who founded and still owns both the City Lights bookstore and the associated City Lights press, which legally overcame an effort in 1956 to prevent him from publishing Allen Ginsberg’s poem, _Howl_, he is not only alive and well by current reports, and looking forward to his centennial birthday party, but his bookstore on Columbus Avenue in San Francisco as well as his press are also doing well.  Apparently the celebrations will begin a week early on St. Patrick’s Day with a massive poetry reading and will go on for over a week, culminating on March 26 with a reconsideration of the 1956 case that led to him publishing _Howl_

His bookstore continues to be outstanding.  I bought s book about whales there for a grandson, and I also bought _Karl Marx’s EcoSocialism_, by Kohei Saito, Monthly Review Press, 2017, derived from a PhD dissertation written in German in Frankfurt-am-Main in 2016, although the author came out of Japan and relied heavily on Japanese sources as well as German ones. Particularly interesting are various notes on ecology Marx wrote that were never publlished, and, of course, remain in German.

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The Lordstown Effect

The Lordstown Effect

Late last week, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that he will not run for president in 2020, declaring that he would prefer to stay in the Senate to criticize President Trump and support whomever the Dems nominate against Trump. He had been highly praised by various commentators, including Chris Matthews, and even conservative columnist, George Will, who wrote an entire column in WaPo praising him. In repeated polling among Daily Kos activists he was running around fifth or sixth at about 5%, with the top 3 being Harris, Warren, and Sanders over 10%, and Brown in with Biden, Klobuchar, and O’Rourke in the mid-single digits range, all the others never exceeding 1% (so much for all the attention paid to Booker and Gillibrand, neither going anywhere). In short, Brown had potential to be a serious candidate, with a record generally respected by both progressives (despite not signing on for “Medicare-for-all”) as well as more moderate Dem types. Of course, his biggest appeal, symbolized by his “Dignity for Work” slogan, was his clearly strong appeal to the midwestern white working class that was key to Trump’s 2016 victory, with this reinforced by Brown’s strong reelection victory in Ohio in 2018, even as GOP took the governorship.

With all this going for him, and his having enough support to be in the top tier out of the scads of seriously nobody candidates clamoring to run, why really did he pull out? I do not know, but I find his “I love the Senate so much” explanation not all that convincing. He took a pretty substantial tour around the country with his clearly appealing Dignity for Work pitch, but somehow he obviously decided it was just not quite enough to warrant the hard reality of running, which certainly is hard. There may have been doubts in his family, and nobody can be blamed for simply not wanting to put up with all that is involved in such a serious run. Being in the Senate is certainlhy a lot easier, not that I think Brown is lazy or scared or any of that.

Beyond whatever personal factors there may be, two factors stick out obviously as possibilities, especially when put together. One is that he is a white male at a time when there are a lot of women running, as well as several non-white candidates, with Kamala Harris recently topping those DK activist polls, if not the broader ones, where two other whilte males lead, the more senior and better known Biden and Sanders, with Biden apparently definitely getting in. Brown arguably overlaps with both of them, but he would have a hard time beating either of them in the end, and given that they might well be battling for the lead for those not wanting a woman (or nonwhite) candidate, he may have felt he did not have a good enough chance in the end.

The other may have been a feeling that there is also a strong tilt to a progressive stance he felt he could not fully sign on to, with the “Medicare-for-all” issue the tip of an iceberg, although ironically he has long been viewed as among the most progressive and leftist of Dems in the Senate, if not quite as much so as Sanders or Warren. He saw Harris bungle while supporting “Medicare-for-all” by declaring this would mean no private health insurance, and her having to walk that back. Harris looks to be maybe in about the same place as Brown, someone who might appeal to both party wings, but with her more willing to pander to the left with a strong likelihood of “moving to the center” if she gets the nomination, a very traditional thing to do, but maybe one Brown just did not want to play. As someone in the Senate for a longer time, and with him emphasizing his love of being in the Senate, it may be that he is too aware of complications for some of these slogans when one gets around to making them into actual policies, with this also applying to the Green New Deal, which I think he was also unwilling to sign on to (I may be wrong on that one). He may be too much of a policy wonk a la Hillary Clinton, worrying about getting into policy details that would damage his run for the nomination in a time when a more strongly voiced support of a harder line progressive set of positions seems to be popular.

However, there is one other matter that I think may have played a role in his decision, although perhaps more indirectly, and I think there if so it was probably less important than the two already mentioned. But it would have been and is there. I am labeling it the “Lordstown Effect,” and it has to do with his more or less unabashed and across the board protectionism. This is (and was) without doubt a central part of his “Dignity for Work” program and also his appeal to the midwestern white working class, arguably the strongest argument for making him the candidate (and he may well yet end up as the VP candidate for Harris or some other non-white male candidate, with reportedly Clinton having seriously considered him for it in 2016).

The problem is that Trump has now shown us what a mess an aggressively protectionist program is, which weakens Brown’s position. It is not just that one is hurting farmers, who seem to be sticking with Trump anyway despite getting hurt by his policies. It is that even in the core of the old unionized industrial Midwest in Ohio, such an across the board protectionism runs into contradictions, and it has done so in Ohio itself, where Brown has had to face this, managing to get around it on the ground for now, but I suspect fully aware of the problem. It is highlighted by the closing of the large auto assembly plant by GM in Lordstown, Ohio. While there were other factors, a major one according to GM is the steel tariffs Trump has not only put on for the clearly hypocritical reason of “national security,” but the fact that after renegotiating NAFTA (which Brown proudly voted against and supported renegotiating), Trump did not remove the steel tariffs on Mexico and Canada. Brown supported and supports the steel tariffs, which help him in Youngstown and other Ohio steel towns (and Youngstown was a place that flipped from supporting Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016), but those same steel tariffs also hurt the industries that use steel, notably in this case the auto industry, which has many production facilities in Ohio also, with the one (formerly) at Lordstown one of the largest.

As long as it was all just an abstract possibility, Brown could address a rally with steel and autoworkers and support protectionism for both the steel and auto industries. But, in the end, when the abstraction became a reality, supporting the steel tariffs hurts the autoworkers. Somehow, somewhere, I think Brown understands this, and it may be that this Lordstown Effect played into his decision, with him realizing that a full-throated defense of across-the-board protectionism is not going to be the leading issue for a Dem trying to unseat the protectionist Donald Trump. But, who knows, the eventual Dem candidate may yet want to have him on board as VP candidate to quiety nod in that direction anyway, especially if that candidate does not have obvious appeal to the midwestern white male working class. We shall see. But I suspect that awareness of the Lordstown Effect has played a role in Brown’s decision not to run right now for president.

Barkley Rosser

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Is Russia Becoming A Neo-Socialist NEP Economy?

Is Russia Becoming A Neo-Socialist NEP Economy?

Probbly not, but there has been some movement in that direction.  The New Economic Policy  (NEP) was the Socviet system in the 1920s after the WarCommunism period and before Stalin imposed command central planning as well ass full state ownership of the means of production, classsic socialism.  The War Communism period was a command economy, but without central planning.  Famine appeared as authorities demande crops from farmers.

The NEP was a partial move back from War Communism to a mixed economy in which most of the “commanding heights” were nationalized, but smaller businesses were privately owned.  There was basically a makrket economy with agriculture privare and market oriented.

When the USSR ceased to exist, central planning ended in Russia, and here was widespread privatization, even as some sectors remained state owned.  What has happened in recent years has been a mild trend towards renationallizing several large firms in several sectors, or letting a dominant state-owned firm become more dominant compared to privatedly owned ones.  This has happened in the oil and gas sectors shere both Rosneft and Gazprom have been renationalized, with only Lukoil privately owned, now the largest privately owned firm in the economy.  In banking there over 1000 privately owned banks, but the vast majority have failed and increasingly the sector is dominated by always state-owned Sberbank, with the Gazprom bank also being privatized.  The railroads remain state-owned as well as the Telecoms.

It is not clear what proportion of the economy is state owned or state directed, with different sources saying anything between 40 and 70%.  However, agriculture and most smaller businesses are privately owned and there is no central planning, even though the state does direct much of what goes on in the economy.  The system is not precisely the same as the old NEP, but it is not all that far off and it may have become more like it in recent years.

Addendum (3/12, 8:15 AM): A way NEP different than now is that was a period of social and cultural liberalism and innovation, with the influence of the church suppressed.  One saw modern literary forms, such as the poetry of Mayakovsky, constructivism in architecture, abstract art as with Kandinsky and Malevich, new names for things, and much more, although it was not a political democracy.  But now, with at least nominal democracy, the churh is increasingly influential, homophopbia and xenophobia are on the rise, and a nationalist and autoritatian themes are on the rise.
Actually, this part, along with the form of state control of the economy in place, more resembles Italy in the 1920s than Russia.

Barkley Rosser

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Visa Restrictions And Intellectual Degradation

Visa Restrictions And Intellectual Degradation

I am in New York attending the Eastern Economic Association meetings.  I was in an agent-based modeling session in which two partticipants participated by internet because they were both refused visaas to enter the US.  One was from Turkey, which I think is under strict review by the current administration.  The other, a woman from India, working for an American think tank in Toronto, may have simply been a victim of somebody messing up and being too slow in getting the appropriate application forms in on time.  But I am sure the deal on the Turkish participant was new policy.

Their presentations, on self-organizing hierarchies and cryptocurrency dynamics, mostly got through to us. But even with this high-tech ABM crowd there were problems and glitches and occasional disconnctions.  It should not have been this way.
This is just dumb obvious. You arbitrarily keep smart foreigners out of your country, this will lead to intellectual degradation.
Barkley Rosser

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