Name Calling

In our reading on censorship, we came across this epithet, “white privilege, patriarchal, slave trading colonizer” – or words to that effect. We distinctly remember that the European Colonization was inflected like that, to make a personal noun. That’s a lot of historical baggage rolled into one epithet, and we wondered what use it could possibly have in a serious policy debate.

When Jeremiah wants to call names, he has to be content with bourgeois and imperialist running dog. “Colonizer,” though – that’s strong. Someone might be advocating, say, welfare reform, and then you hit him with white privilege colonizer. Bam! Case closed.

Unfortunately, this epithet isn’t historically relevant. The only white privilege colonizers in America were the British, and our ancestors drove them out of the country – inventing modern democracy in the process. Our traditional ancestors, that is. Most Americans today are descended from other places, like Ireland, Italy, and India. Plenty of white privilege colonizers in Canada, though.

America, it bears repeating, was never a colonial power.

The British were the most ambitious colonizers in history (after the Han Chinese). The French colonized Indochina, leading, ultimately, to the Vietnam War. The Dutch colonized much of Africa, giving us apartheid. America, it bears repeating, was never a colonial power.

After the British, the biggest colonizers were the Spanish. They invaded all of Latin America, from Tierra del Fuego to San Francisco – except for Brazil, which was colonized by the Portuguese. The Spanish enslaved and annihilated not one, not two, but three advanced indigenous civilizations – at least as bad as what “we” did to the plains Indians.

This is great news. It opens up a whole new group of people we can call “white privilege colonizers.” Too bad racial politics doesn’t consider Latins to be white. This is a drawback with epithets that depend on events from the seventeenth century. Are Spaniards white?

arab-slave-trade

The lovely Mediterranean style of architecture in California, it should be noted, comes from the Arab invasion of Spain. The Arabs, you see, were also slave trading colonizers. Maybe our new epithet isn’t so strong. We’re going to stick with running dog. Maybe “patriarchal” running dog. That’ll shut up anyone who’s male, at least, unless he’s gay.

Seriously, though, this epithet business illustrates the logical weakness of Howard Zinn’s approach to history. You can’t just scrape together all the crimes ever committed in America and use them as an argument stopper. Colonialism is only relevant if someone is proposing to bring it back.

Oh, but it’s an ingrained cultural attitude, you say. Really? An American named O’Malley whose people came over during the potato famine – after being subjugated by the British – is now a colonizer? It must be contagious! We should round them up and put them in “cultural quarantine.”

In his freshman logic class, Jeremiah learned that if you are going to tabulate, say, “bad things done by nineteenth century Americans,” you also have to look at “good things done by nineteenth century Americans,” and – for historical context – “bad things done by nineteenth century non-Americans,” plus maybe bad and good things done by Americans and non-Americans in other periods.

The proper guide to policy choices in twenty-first century America is a well-rounded study of our history in its comparative context. Anything less is just name calling.

See also: Pope apologizes for Catholic Church’s crimes against indigenous peoples

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The Muslim Reformation

HirsiThe July issue of Foreign Affairs has back to back essays on the Muslim Reformation. The first is by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the second is a rebuttal by William McCants of Brookings. This is a fine example of how Jeremiah is always telling you to form your own opinions.

If you read the New York Times, for example, they equip you with one (1) standard issue opinion, backed up by enough talking points to debate someone who has gotten his opinion from the Wall Street Journal. Foreign Affairs presents debates, like this one, with no guidance but your own.

Jeremiah has a lot of respect for Hirsi Ali, based on the personal risks she has taken to spread her message of Islam – which others call blasphemy.  Her essay was compelling, and resonated with our earlier report on this topic. The call for U.S. involvement, however, might not be a good idea. This brings us to the second essay.

McCants begins defensively, and his first few pages are a straw man attack on Hirsi Ali’s premises. She never suggests a fundamental problem with Islam, i.e., from Scripture. What she says is that terrorists are able to justify themselves as jihadis, and that it is the job of Islamic scholars to deny them cover.

We must not embellish things and say that Islam is a religion of compassion, peace and rose water, and that everything is fine – Ayad Jamal al-Din

Overall, Hirsi Ali has a better grasp of the situation and the desired outcome. She is also more honest in her use of language. McCants adheres to the weasel words of diplomacy, wherein a “violent extremist” is just a “religious conservative” gone bad. On the other hand, he is probably right about the pitfalls of America trying to influence a profound debate at the heart of Islam.

This is where a morality-based foreign policy pays off, bizarre as that may sound. On principle, America should demand freedom of speech for all participants in the debate – no fatwas, no intimidation – and we can make our other values known, too, like gender equality.

Hirsi Ali says we should stand up for the reformers, in our negotiations with allies and foes alike. It may not be constructive for us to take a side in this debate, but we do have a right to articulate our own values – a right, and an obligation.

See also: What Ayaan Hirsi Ali Doesn’t Get about Islam

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Of Sex and Shackles

Jeremiah was mortified to learn that Facebook offers more than 58 choices of gender identity. Many of them are duplicates! Worse, Facebook has added a freeform text field. This is a missed opportunity for Facebook and for social scientists, because we will not have clear categories to use for marketing and research.

Inventing your own freeform gender identity is part of the fun, but you cannot run, e.g., a dating site this way. Public institutions that need to collect gender information will probably follow Facebook’s lead – and give up. We wondered if it would be possible to categorize modern American gender identities and, if so, how many categories there are.

  • Biological gender – male or female. This may be of decreasing relevance to society, but it is still important for medical research.
  • Sexual preference – gay, straight, or bi. This one is tricky because it relies on the gender identification of your partner. Caitlyn and Candis are both trans female, so they’re lesbians.
  • Elective gender – male, female, or cis. When people say that being trans is different from being gay, what this means is – a different check box.
  • Gender role – masculine, feminine, or non-conforming. Many gay couples adhere to “traditional” gender roles, which is really odd because this is the most obsolescent aspect of gender identity.

Now that our lesbian pals can get hitched, Sue will be the “husband.” Why does a gay couple in the twenty-first century adopt roles from monochrome television? Who knows? Who is John Galt?

That works out to 54 choices, so maybe Facebook had it right after all. As enthusiastic as we are about the proliferation of gender choices, we can’t help but think this is an epic distraction from the ongoing curtailment of civil rights in America.

Everyone is so busy with this narcissistic sense of who they are in terms of sexual orientation or gender, and this intense gender consciousness, woman consciousness at the same time, and meanwhile…

Camille Paglia, herself a lesbian and a feminist, says that preoccupation with gender is a symptom of decadence. It is too easy to focus on things of immediate personal importance, and not notice what’s really going on the country. Chelsea Manning is trans, and she’s in prison.

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Selling Out

The Economist has been just brutal on President Obama’s foreign policy, despite having endorsed him in 2008 and again in 2012. They had some other policy in mind, and Jeremiah knows what it is. To prove it, we confidently predict the magazine will endorse Jeb Bush in 2016. Need a hint? Here is the latest shameless advertisement for Common Core.

Pearson2014

The data in this chart is from Pearson’s annual report. We love The Economist, but it is chump change to the money Pearson makes from its multimillion dollar no-bid education contracts. They might as well use it for an advertising vehicle. Oh, and did we mention that “Doctor Evil,” Eric Schmidt of the Google-NSA security apparatus, recently joined the board?

A Politico investigation has found that Pearson stands to make tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and cuts in student tuition from deals arranged without competitive bids in states from Florida to Texas.

As for the substance of Common Core, centrist Jeremiah splits the difference. Standards, testing, and merit pay – good. Reliance on agitprop course packs – not so much. At this point, the best way for The Economist to recover its editorial integrity would be for Jeff Bezos to buy it and make it into an app.

Update:  Shortly after this post, Pearson sold FT.  As of this writing, July 28, they also plan to sell The Economist.  Someone must be reading Jeremiah.

See also: Strictly Fishwrap

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Centrist Donald?

GoodwinDonald Trump has an interesting position on free trade. He is against the TPP, really down on NAFTA, and accuses China of currency manipulation.

For a man touted as the Fox News poster boy, being antitrade is pretty far left. Think unions, Senator Schumer, and this leftist cartoon.

The right is blindly pro-trade, assuming that what’s good for business is always good for America. Jeremiah has discussed this conflation, here. The last business candidate to stand up against free trade was Ross Perot.

On the other hand, you can’t hope to build a wall around your national market. That’s a tactic, not a strategy – although China has done pretty well with it. The balance between trade and protectionism boils down to negotiation.

Trump’s native mode of expression is bombast, so it’s hard to tell, but this is actually a nuanced position. Consider the current debate in Congress. The Democrats are blocking President Obama, for the usual antitrade reasons, and the Republicans are afraid of a “bad deal.”

It is doubtful the race will turn on trade policy, but The Donald gets points for the first non-stereotyped idea of the season. Maybe he can get an endorsement from Michael Moore.

See also: Jeremiah on Protectionism

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Stop Using the Dollar

Dear President Varela, it is one thing to have your currency pegged to the dollar. It is quite another actually to use the dollar as your currency. If you should ever need to break the peg, you will have to build all the infrastructure of currency management – during an emergency.

For example, the Federal Reserve has lately created four trillion new dollars, with the express intention of creating inflation – driving up condo prices in Miami and Panama City. Inflation will hit Panama harder than the United States, and the Fed will tighten when it suits their policy, not yours.

The other emergency comes when the dollar is too strong. Then you have to manage an internal devaluation – like Greece. Greece’s problems (the monetary ones, at least) stem from being yoked to the Euro. Generally, one has both emergencies in sequence. The hot money rolls in, creating inflation, and when it rolls out you have a recession. India’s central banker knows something about this.

Incredibly, several Latin American countries use the dollar. A small, low income country using the dollar (or the Euro) can expect to have its money supply whipped up and down. The Bundesbank had a reputation for price stability, and the Fed before Greenspan. Not anymore.

Jeremiah recommends starting now to de-dollarize. Keep the peg, but begin the process of printing Balboa notes and removing the dollars. Expats and importers will need dual currency banking. Set the peg at $0.97 or $1.03, so merchants can practice their spread pricing.

This will cost some money, in the near term, but it will serve you well. When the time comes, you will be able to hike interest rates. Look at Brazil. Also, as trade with China increases, you will want to clear transactions in Yuan.

From an American perspective, we have enjoyed the “exorbitant privilege,” but now our leaders are squandering it. You might as well save yourself.

See also: Poder a Los Estudiantes

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Chart of the Week

This, below, is the best chart of the week. It’s like an optical illusion. You have to stare at it for a while. Note that the right scale is inverted. Tweeps were quick to confirm their favorite political theories – George Bush “put the economy in a ditch,” Obama never “created or saved” any jobs. Jeremiah debunks president centered economic theories here.

EmploymentThe point of plotting both these lines is to show that one of them is bogus. The blue line is the one that’s economically relevant. The black line, U3 Unemployment, is a proxy measure for the blue one. What is astonishing is that U3 held up so well for so long. All serious observers have switched to U6, nonfarm payroll, and labor force participation. Even if you’re looking at NFP, you have to crack the report and look at the categories.

No one takes the headline numbers seriously, especially not U3. It’s not technically wrong. It’s just irrelevant, and then CNN serves it up as feel good propaganda. The Fed has kept ZIRP for almost seven years now. They are either trying to destroy capitalism, or they see a weak economy. Jeremiah is not prone to conspiracy theories. We disagree with the Fed’s prescription, but not the diagnosis.

Back before Chairman Yellen, the Fed set a benchmark of 6.5% unemployment before they would raise rates. The reason this is “chart of the week” is that it shows the corresponding figure, 62% on the blue line, that would mark the return of a healthy job market.

See also: New Fed Bashing Hero

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