Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Let the Punishment Fit the Crime, Even if the Crime is Imaginary

This can’t be healthy:

Matthew Halls was removed as artistic director of the Oregon Bach Festival following an incident in which he imitated a southern American accent while talking to his longstanding friend, the African-American classical singer Reginald Mobley.

It is understood a white woman who overheard the joke reported it to officials at the University of Oregon, which runs the festival, claiming it amounted to a racial slur.

Here are the mechanics of the process:

But Mobley maintains that while racism should be challenged and ethnic groups made aware of each other’s sensitivities, his friend has been the victim of misunderstanding and overreaction.

Halls and Mobley had been chatting at a reception held last month during this year’s Oregon Bach Festival, when the subject turned to a concert in London in which Mobley had performed.

The singer, who was born and raised in the southern state of Florida, said the concert had an “antebellum” feel to it, of the sort associated with Gone With the Wind and other rose-tinted representations of the pre-Civil War south.

In response Mobley says that Halls “apologised on behalf of England”, before putting on an exaggerated southern accent and joking: “Do you want some grits?”, in a reference to the ground corn dish popular in the south.

“I’m from the deep south and Matthew often makes fun of the southern accent just as I often make fun of his British accent,” said Mobley. “Race was not an issue. He was imitating a southern accent, not putting on a black accent, and there was nothing racist or malicious about it.”

But the singer suspects that a white woman who overheard their conversation and spoke to him moments later went on to report it to the university, alleging Halls had made a racist joke.

An internal inquiry into the incident is understood to have been held as a result of the complaint.

However, Mobley was not invited to give evidence and he says there is a deep irony in the fact the authorities appear to have assumed on his behalf that he would have objected to the joke.

“I’m the subject of a falsified story, without having the chance to have my say,” he said. “My voice has been taken away in a conversation about race that involved me, and technically that’s racist.”

Fortunately, the process is clear and transparent:

Responding to the claims a spokesman for Oregon Bach Festival, said: “The University considers many factors when deciding whether to continue a contract. Regarding Reggie Mobley, it doesn’t appear he was involved in the University’s decision. Having said that, it would be inappropriate for the University to disclose details about a personnel matter.

“While I anticipate that more information will be available soon, I’m afraid that’s all I can say on the matter right now.”

This is reminiscent of the college student who got suspended for rape, despite the fact that the supposed victim kept insisting no rape had occurred.

Tags: , Comments (6) | |

Banishing Racism From Racism

In the last few months I have gotten accused of racism a few times at this blog. I don’t think I am misrepresenting my accusers by stating that their claim is based primarily because of my views on a) immigration and b) the differences between the economic performance of different countries. The two issues actually collapse into one. I have stated repeatedly that I believe that culture is a key factor affecting the difference in economic outcomes (and many social outcomes) between countries. Furthermore, I have stated that people carry culture with them when they move, so a wise immigration policy would select immigrants whose culture is both compatible and likely to generate positive economic results and limited friction.

I claim no credit for these ideas, mind you. Outside of some quarters, the idea that culture is a driver economic growth is widespread, long standing, well established and supported by data. I find it stunning that anyone would question the importance of culture in driving growth and the assimilation of immigrants.

But it is important to always be willing to question one’s beliefs, so I am going to do that here and now. So… how would we show that culture is not a determinant in how well a country does? I can think of a few possible tests but I want to avoid data at this time and just talk it through.

If we do that, we could start by defining “countries that do well.” In general, these would be countries that are stable, pleasant to live in, and relatively wealthy. Over the past few decades, if someone were to make a list of such countries, it would probably look more or like this (in no particular order): the US, Canada, Northwest Europe, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and, until China began applying a heavier thumb, Hong Kong. Those also happen to be the countries that would attract the most foreigners interested in being citizens, so this quick and dirty list should pass a basic smell test. (If some of these nations don’t have much of an immigrant population and don’t rank on high on the destination of potential immigrants, it is because they are very selective about the who they let in as opposed to being shunned by would be immigrants.)

So what do these places have in common? It isn’t natural resources. Just ask the Japanese. (Plus, in countries outside of the list above, being blessed by nature somehow correlates with suffering from the “Resource Curse.”) It isn’t Democracy as we know it. That’s a relatively new thing for South Korea, Hong Kong was ruled by foreigners for most of the last century, and then, of course, there’s Singapore. It isn’t coming into the post-WW2 period wealthy; quite a few countries on the list were in miserable shape in 1945. It isn’t a matter of exploiting other countries (which Americans of a certain bent are always fond of claiming is the US’ secret) – South Koreans will proudly tell you that the country has never invaded anyone in well over 2,000 years. Switzerland, too, is proudly neutral. The Scandinavians have also been pretty pacifist for well over a century as well. Small government? As much as libertarians like to claim Singapore for their own, ignoring the massive government participation in the economy (think Temasek, Singapore Airlines, Mediacorp, Singtel, Singapore Power, etc.). Nor did Japan, Inc. qualify. Something about about geography and environmental factors that these countries have in common? Nope and nope.

To be blunt, there doesn’t seem to be a factor or group of factors that can be applied to these countries but not to countries that are “developing.” I also hesitate to go with supernatural explanations, particularly since, as I learned about four decads ago (long before the stupid movie was made), Deus é Brasileiro. Besides, there is no such thing as empirical theology. For completeness, I should also say the Guns, Germs and Steel explanation got a few things right about the past. However, unless I missed something, Papua New Guinea is not is not putting out the performance you’d expect from the world’s smartest people in the Internet Age, which should go some way toward invalidating Diamond’s hypothesis.

On the other hand, I can describe a few cultural factors that distinguish these countries from others. For instance, these countries have (or had) reputations of being the home of people who were, on average, diligent, frugal, studious, and punctual among other traits. I presume those traits are largely learned, I might add.

And just like that, I slipped back into my sinning ways. So let us assume that like Winston Smith, I really would prefer to believe something that presently I don’t. Perhaps my reasons are not as noble as Smith’s. Maybe I am only concerned because I know that cultures change, and I wonder about the direction in which ours is currently headed. But regardless of my motives, how do I convince myself?

Tell me, please, what are the factors that explain economic and social performance so well that we can dispense with culture entirely as an explanation?

Tags: , , , , , Comments (71) | |

Oh, but Janell Ross, you promised to cite EXAMPLES of racist comments by Bernie Sanders. If you can’t actually deliver on that promise, then maybe a retraction of the racism allegation against him is in order? Just sayin’.

Folks, you really just have to read this for yourselves.  Excerpting from it or summarizing it can’t possibly do it justice.

Which is what it deserves.

Suffice it to say that I’m not eager to engage in a debate of this sort, and I agree that some comments by Sanders supporters about the devotion to the Clintons that so many middle-aged and elderly African-Americans have is condescending and in some instances downright demeaning.  As for me, I’m pretty sure that everyone is entitled to vote for whichever candidate he or she prefers. As an obsessive Sanders supporter myself, I think everyone should vote for Sanders.  But that’s just my opinion; everyone else is entitled to hold another one.

And there really is no question that, as Ross says, if Clinton wins the nomination it will be African-Americans who are responsible for it.

But if Sanders has made racist comments, it appears that about half of younger African-American voters missed it, because they’re voting for Sanders. So if Ross knows of actual instances of direct or implicit racist comments by Sanders, she might want to apprise younger blacks of these.  She’s a blogger for the Washington Post, so she has a high-profile forum to do that.

So do that, Ms. Ross.  Do that. Unless of course you can’t.

 

Tags: , , , Comments (5) | |

Clinton is Running as the Un-Elizabeth Warren. The Tactic is Succeeding. For now. (And btw, what DO those polls on gun-control laws show about rural-vs.-urban-area views?)

Marco Rubio spoke today to a large group of Iowa Republican activists and urged them to “turn the page on outdated leaders of both parties“. They agreed to do that, and started chanting “Feel the Bern.”

Senator, You’re No John Kennedy.  You’re Just Clumsily Appropriating a Campaign Line of His [from his 1946 run for Congress], Me, Nov. 1

Rubio, whose policy proposals entail returning to 1920s economic and regulatory policies (presumably because they worked so well)—and, regarding such matters as antitrust law, returning to the pre-Teddy Roosevelt era—claims that what determines whether a candidate would be an outdated leader is the age of the candidate, not his or her proposed policies.  As I said in the above-referenced post, Rubio is 44 and probably would support a 43-year-old Communist Workers Party candidate if one were to run, and step down himself as a candidate.  Policy proposals being irrelevant to the datedness of the candidate, and all.

Okay.  But he’s actually right about one of the older candidates.  Not about her policy proposals, but about her campaign itself.   Hillary Clinton as a candidate is the un-Elizabeth Warren.  She’s running an absurdly retro campaign that employs asinine allegations of sexism, racism, and Commie-ism against her main primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, as her go-to misdirection tactics to avoid talking about the issues that Warren and Sanders both have made their trademark, their political raison d’être: the thoroughly rigged power game that has so thoroughly rigged the economics game. And the legal game.  [Trust me on this.]

We all know by now about Clinton’s claim, repeated on six occasions within a few days, that all of the 76 members of the National Rifle Association’s Board of Directors are women—er, that Bernie Sanders told her, and only her, to stop speaking in a literally loud voice and that he said this because she is a woman. The initial reaction to Clinton’s claim was a bonanza for her among non-millennial women—that is, women who are of a generation in which being a feminist requires automatic adoption or acceptance of any charge of sexism (or for that matter rape).

Having been a victim of sexual harassment myself, I don’t take lightly the real deals—sexual harassment, sexism, rape. Which may be why it so offends me when a career feminist, which is what Clinton is, cries ‘wolf’ about sexism, knowing its Pavlovian pull among fellow feminists.  Especially career ones. And baby boomer ones, for whom it will always be the 1992 election cycle. As it always will be for her.  But the allegation quickly was shown as false.  As was part of her substantive charge against Sanders in the exchange at the Oct. 13 debate in which Sanders had made the comments that she claimed were sexist: a 2005 statute called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which she criticized Sanders for supporting and which she as a senator from New York voted against, doesn’t provide what she said it provides.  And the state of liability law at the time, and the state of liability now, that pertains to manufacturers and retailers of products other than guns and ammunition is the opposite of what she claimed.

But not to worry.  Having milked all she could from sexism—she also had claimed that a joke by Sanders’ campaign manager that Clinton would make a fine vice presidential nominee, a standard line that presidential primary candidates use about their nearest competitor, and one that Clinton used about Obama in 2008, was, you guessed it, sexist! —and now being limited to talking about actual gun-control proposals, past and present, she went back to the trumped-up ism well.  (I mean, seriously, good grace; she thought Obama was a woman.  But that was then and this is now.)  She accused Sanders of racism for a comment he made at the debate during, you guessed it, the gun legislation exchange.   William Saletan of Slate, who wrote the most thorough article I’ve read on the sexism smear, wrote in an article yesterday titled “Hillary Clinton Is Stepping Up Her Smear Campaign Against Bernie” by now accusing him of, um, racism!  Seriously.  Saletan reports:

Clinton was in Charleston, South Carolina [on Friday], addressing the local NAACP. She spoke against a tragic background: the massacre of nine black people in a Charleston church by a white racist. Naturally, she talked about guns. But she added a new line: “There are some who say that this [gun violence] is an urban problem. Sometimes what they mean by that is: It’s a black problem. But it’s not. It’s not black, it’s not urban. It’s a deep, profound challenge to who we are.”

The idea that urban is code for black has been around a long time. It’s often true. And it’s not necessarily derogatory: In 1920, the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes shortened its name to the National Urban League. But why would Clinton suddenly bring up, in a damning tone, people who call guns an urban problem? Who was she talking about? It can’t be the Republican presidential candidates: They haven’t disagreed enough to debate the issue at that level of granularity. The only recent forum in which guns have been discussed as an urban concern is the forum that inspired Clinton’s initial accusation of sexism: the Oct. 13 Democratic debate in Las Vegas. Pull up the transcript of that debate, search for “urban,” and you’ll see whom Clinton is talking about: Sanders.

Actually, though, Sanders didn’t say that gun violence is an urban problem.  He said that people in rural areas are strongly against gun-control legislation.  Here’s Saletan again:

In fact, [Sanders’ comments are] from the same moments of the debate that Clinton had already seized on. In the debate, Sanders began by saying, “As a senator from a rural state, what I can tell Secretary Clinton [is] that all the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want.” A couple of minutes later, Sanders told former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley: “We can raise our voices, but I come from a rural state, and the views on gun control in rural states are different than in urban states, whether we like it or not.” O’Malley insisted that the issue was “not about rural and urban.” Sanders replied: “It’s exactly about rural.” Only one other candidate used the word “urban” during the debate: former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb. A week later, on Oct. 20, Webb quit the campaign. So when Clinton, on Friday, spoke scathingly of people who call guns an “urban problem” but mean it’s a “black problem,” it’s obvious to whom she was referring.

Which is why I’m wondering what the actual poll numbers are on gun-control legislation in, say, Montana, and Maine, and Vermont.  And what the poll numbers are in Illinois, New York, California, and Maryland.  Since hunting is the primary divide, I’m also wondering what the poll numbers are in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula, northern Lower Penninsula, and “Thumb” region (rural; lots and lots of hunters).  And how they compare to southwestern Michigan (urban, suburban).  Because while there is, of course, some cross-over—some urban dwellers oppose gun-control legislation; some rural residents support universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and huge-capacity magazines—it is, very largely, exactly about rural.  Sanders needs to get the poll numbers on this.  And use them.  There aren’t many hunters in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Chicago or San Francisco. There are a lot of hunters in Vermont, Montana and Wyoming.

But he also needs to suggest that Clinton is willing to cheapen the issues of sexism and racism in order to avoid talking about issues concerning the basic power structure in this country and its clear consequences.  And about Republican plans for further, dramatic imbalance.  And about the havoc that the pro-corporate takeover over government beginning more than three decades ago has wreaked on huge swaths of Americans.  In language that does not consist of soundbites and that actually discusses and explains specifics.

I wasn’t kidding when I said Clinton is the un-Elizabeth Warren.  In her campaign tactics at least, Clinton is far more Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson and Donald Trump than she is Elizabeth Warren.  Far more.  Notwithstanding the gender difference.  Swap out the-debate-moderators-are-biased-and-asking-improper-questions for Bernie-Sanders-said-“shouting”-to-me-when-talking-about-women-and-men-who-take-opposing-sides-on-gun-legislation, and Bernie-Sanders-said-“urban”-as-code-for-African-American-criminals!”.  And … voila!

Is it just a coincidence that it’s the candidates, Democrat and Republican, with the zillionaire backers and consequently the army of political consultants, who employ these misdirect tactics?  Just askin’.

But really, isn’t Clinton’s gender-and-race fraud more pernicious than the Republicans’ media/moderator-bias gimmick?

It’s a safe bet that Sanders doesn’t think Warren is shouting.  But then, maybe that’s because it’s Warren and female politicians like her—whose gender is not their defining political identity and who in fact never mention it, but who do discuss intricate fiscal, economic and regulatory issues—who are the actual feminists.

Saletan’s article, which is fairly long, goes on to say this:

This line of attack is rich in irony. When Clinton ran for president in 2008, she explicitly used race against Obama. She told USA Today that she should be the Democratic nominee because “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.” Clinton cited an article that, in her words, showed “how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in [Indiana and Pennsylvania] who had not completed college were supporting me.” A reporter asked Clinton whether this argument was racially divisive. “These are the people you have to win if you’re a Democrat,” Clinton replied dismissively. “Everybody knows that.”

Now Clinton accuses others of playing the race card. In Charleston, she told the NAACP, “Some candidates talk in coded racial language about ‘free stuff,’ about ‘takers’ and ‘losers.’ And boy, are they quick to demonize President Obama. This kind of talk has no place in our politics.”

Clinton, too, speaks in code. But in this election, her coded phrases—“some people think we’re shouting,” “some who say that this is an urban problem”—aren’t designed to veil racism. They’re designed to veil her meritless insinuations that her Democratic opponent is sexist and racist. You can argue, based on power or privilege, that playing the race card or sex card from the left isn’t as bad as playing it from the right. But even if you believe that, Clinton’s smears bring discredit on the whole idea of bigotry. If accusations of misogyny and racism are casually thrown at Sanders, voters will conclude that these terms are just rhetoric.

Seven years ago, when Clinton’s own campaign was accused of prejudice, her husband was outraged. “She did not play the race card, but they did,” Bill Clinton said of the Obama campaign. The former president went on: “This is almost like, once you accuse somebody of racism or bigotry or something, the facts become irrelevant.” Three months later, Mr. Clinton was still fuming. “They played the race card on me, and we now know from memos from the campaign and everything that they planned to do it all along,” he protested. “This was used out of context and twisted for political purposes by the Obama campaign to try to breed resentment elsewhere. … You really got to go some to try to portray me as a racist.” Now Hillary Clinton is doing to Sanders what her husband said was done to her. She’s taking Sanders’ remarks out of context and twisting them to breed resentment. You’ve got to twist the facts pretty hard to portray Sanders as a racist or sexist. But politically, it’s easy, because once you start throwing around charges of bigotry, the facts become irrelevant. You’re just another beautiful baiter. And you won’t be silenced.

I remember these incidents well.  I especially remember the “Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in [Indiana and Pennsylvania] who had not completed college were supporting” her” comment, because my jaw dropped when I first heard about it.  And because this is exactly what she’s doing again, with her incessant “hardworking families” cliché, repeated again and again by her on the campaign trail this year.

The difference between the “harworking” dog whistle and Sanders’ comment that the level of support for gun-control legislation is very different in rural areas than it is in urban ones is that tSanders’ comment is accurate and is borne out in the polls. And would be borne out in informal converations between Clinton and people in rural areas, should she take another listening tour, one that doesn’t prescreen attendees and keep unscreened folks on the other side of a rope line.

Clinton reaped a poll bonanza from her debate and her Benghazi-hearing media successes.  But only among Democrats.  Her ratings on honesty and trustworthiness, and her general favorability, rose substantially among Democrats, but remained about the same among the public overall.  Which means that among non-Democrats, her ratings decreased.

Which may in turn mean that Democrats who now support her because they think, in light of those performances, that she would be the stronger candidate in the general election may begin to waver.  And others may catch on that there’s a reason why she wants to talk about anything other than what progressive Democrats and many others want most to hear about.

The Saletan article mentions the uber outrage at Sanders that some prominent feminists have expressed as his employing of–gasp!–gender stereotyping about women shouting, and their equally rote outrage at Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, for suggesting that a woman could qualify for vice president but not for, y’know, the actual head of the federal government.

Yup. Good ole Bernie Sanders never would have supported a presidential primary run by Elizabeth Warren, and not run himself, had Warren decided to run.  Uh-uh.  No, Ma’am. No how.  And no way.

Two of the three women have made careers out Feminism, and one of them has never met a sexism or rape allegation that she thought just possibly could be false.  Or, regarding sexism, ridiculous. But really, how many millennial women think it’s a good idea for the first woman who has a real chance to be elected president to engage some sort of word game, trolling for a word or phrase whose meaning, alone or in the context in which it was used, could be tortured to suggest gender stereotyping?  Marco Rubio is right about Hillary Clinton.  And in her instance it does appear to be age-related.  She’s running a ridiculously retro campaign.  And only partly to regain the support of women.  Mostly, to reiterate, it’s in order to avoid addressing the economics-related issues that Sanders, and Warren, raise.

Gun violence is a tremendously important issue.  But it is not the only tremendously important issue. It’s just the only tremendously important issue that seems to offer opportunities for false sexism and racism allegations against Bernie Sanders.

And therefore opportunities to then, in the light of day, reveal Clinton for who she really is after all.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Comments (8) | |

Obviously, the New York Times Editorial Page is Lying*

I know for a fact that the alleged facts stated in this New York Times editorial today are false.  Or at least that, contrary to the editorial’s claim, those facts, if true, no longer have any impact on black Americans’ financial status and educational opportunities.  None whatsoever.

I know this because I read John Roberts’ and Anthony Kennedy’s opinions in cases that touch on such matters.

Okay, so maybe the writer of that editorial isn’t actually a liar.  Maybe he or she actually believes that the claims in the editorial are true.  Which would indicate that that writer does not read John Roberts’ and Anthony Kennedy’s opinions, at least not the ones that concern such things.

In any event, that editorial should be retracted.  Immediately.  With a concession that it misstates fact.

—-

*Okay, I know from experience that someone will post an angry comment here indicating that he or she thinks the title of the post, and the post itself, aren’t, y’know, facetious.  The title of the post, and the post itself, are facetious. The Times editorial, by the way, is titled “How Racism Doomed Baltimore.”

Tags: , , , , , Comments (14) | |