Monday, May 31, 2010

Support the nontroops

Today we take time to honor those pacifists, deserters, AWOLs, refuseniks, Yossarians, Švejks, self-wounders, conscientous objectors, draft dodgers, hippies, misfits, fake ministers, fake homosexuals, mutineers, etc, who for selfish or principled reasons managed to avoid becoming part of the machinery of war.

Not being privy to the mind of god I don't know who is the more morally upright, the soldier who goes to war for his country and community, or the indivdual who opts out. Maybe it depends on the country, and the war. Maybe it depends on the reason for opting out. But I do know that if everyone opted out, we'd all be better off.

"Colonel Cathcart is our commanding officer and we must obey him. Why don't you fly four more missions and see what happens?"

"I don't want to."

"Suppose we let you pick your missions and fly milk runs?" Major Major said. "That way you can fly the four missions and not run any risks."

"I don't want to fly milk runs. I don't want to be in the war anymore."

"Would you like to see our country lose?" Major Major asked.

"We won't lose. We've got more men, more money, and more material. There are ten million men in uniform who could replace me. Some people are getting killed and a lot more are making money and having fun. Let somebody else get killed."

"But suppose everybody on our side felt that way?"

"Then I'd certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way, wouldn't I?"

-- Joseph Heller, Catch-22

[Last year's similarly-themed Memorial Day post]

27 comments:

TGGP said...

Because I'm lazy:
http://highclearing.com/index.php/archives/2010/05/31/11165#comment-610220

hoyhoy said...

Supporting the troops is a complicated issue. I mean, while we don't have compulsory military service in the US, we kind of do if you don't have the drone-like intelligence that can be mined by the corporate state. Other types of intelligence are regarded as "front line material" i.e. those poor non-cognitarians who are unable to get a job at Walmart or Home Depot.

In general, I think it's fun to have a purpose and fight for something. But are we fighting for the financial services arm of General Motors, Walmart, or the valuation of Haliburton and Blackwater/Xe stock at this point?

I'm not absolutely sure of anything, and definitely not sure enough about the justness of our actions to be able to rationalize firing an automatic rifle at some indigent poppy farmer.

I defer to Doug Stanhope on this matter who "supports troops on an individual basis" and not the Army private who tried to pick a fight with him at a bar in Kileen, TX. That sounds just to me.

mtraven said...

Note that theme of the post is (support (not trooops)), rather than (not (support troops)).

Should have added mutineers to my list.

http://www.democracynow.org/2007/12/21/us_soldiers_stage_mutiny_refuse_orders

hoyhoy said...

Oh, yeah. You have to mostly support the non-troops unequivocally, and the troops on an individual basis. That's implied. The only non-troops I don't support are pot-smoking hippy charlatans who use protester rhetoric to attract women without even making an effort aspire to their stated ideology. That's no bueno.

Also, after going too deep down the Internet rabbit hole, I start thinking, "well, most people must think as I do." Then I come across something like this http://youtu.be/SAWMgYyAtHU and realize, the majority of the hoi polloi in our angry powerhouse of a nation don't support the non-troops. So, you're providing an important service by supporting them.

mtraven said...

TGGP: cute, but not quite the same bumpersticker semantics.

BTW this is my actual bumpersticker.

TGGP said...

I like your bumper sticker.

David Xavier said...

Why you shouldnt be a "non-troop"-

"There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON'T have to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, "Well, your Granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana." No, Sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, "Son, your Granddaddy rode with the Great Third Army and a Son-of-a-Goddamned-Bitch named Georgie Patton"

From Patton's Speech to 3rd army , eve of D-Day.

Nontroopers shovel shit!Just look at Richard Blumenthal and the shovelling he's still doing.

hoyhoy : I think the students complaint was that it wasnt the time and place for Chris Hedge to engage in some polemical grandstanding about the Iraq war and how "America is an evil empire". More poo shovelling from a sitzpinkler nontrooper...

mtraven said...

Yeah yeah we've heard that before:

And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


I'm not entirely immune to such arguments. War is a kind of ultimate experience. It's also a communal experience, where people set their egos aside in the service of a larger cause.

But I grew up in the Vietnam era where the larger cause was manifestly unjust and the government lacked the support of the people. No doubt if I was a WWII child I'd feel differently, although the basic nature of war is the same over historical time.

Here's something odd: political discourse on the net seems to mostly revolve around debates between "libertarians" and "socialists" (construing both terms rather broadly). The former are radical individualists who view government mainly as an imposition on their freedom, and resent it for its "coercion". The latter category includes anybody who recognizes the reality and importance of society, that society needs some sort of governance, and that individuals owe something to society and vice versa.

The odd part is that when it comes to war the people seem to switch sides. War is the ultimate in "socialism", where a government sets out to perform "coercion" on a massive scale, and demands of its citizens not just a percentage of their income but the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. Yet libertarians tend to be war supporters (not all, but a very significant fraction -- Here's a prominent one). And here am I, a "socialist", celebrating the radical individualism of people who manage to put themselves first when their society is setting off on a shared project of destruction.

Anonymous said...

What has to be understood about self-identified libertarians, neoconservatives, etc., and war, is that today's conservatism is often just yesterday's liberalism. The notion that the United States should intervene actively in the rest of the world to promote "democracy" owes its origin to the reform era of American politics. It had its partisans amongst liberals of both parties - Theodore Roosevelt was its Republican advocate, and Woodrow Wilson its Democrat.

Liberal interventionism was alive and well as recently as the sainted JFK, whose foreign adventures included the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, military intervention in the Vietnam conflict ("pay any price, bear any burden," etc.) and subsequent meddling in the internal politics of South Vietnam, most notably the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem.

What a change forty years can make. The functional heirs of Kennedy and McNamara, considered liberal Democrats in their day, are Bush and Rumsfeld, considered (wrongly in my opinion) conservative Republicans.

Historically, conservatives stood for small or non-existent standing armies and non-intervention abroad. Grover Cleveland, a so-called Gold Democract (or sometimes Bourbon Democrat), was far more conservative than any Democrat, and just about any Republican, today (Ron Paul displays a portrait of Cleveland in his congressional office). Cleveland opposed the annexation of Hawaii. Conservatives between the two World Wars were stigmatized as isolationists. They had seen the waste of blood and treasure brought about by Wilson's intervention "to make the world safe for democracy" in the first World War.

The left has stood for peace only when peace has served the left's aims. For 22 months, from August 1939 until June 1941, most of the American and British left stood for "peace" with Hitler. Only after Hitler broke his alliance with Stalin did they support war. Opposition to the Vietnam war was also substantially of this character. Remember the protesters' chanting, "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh,/Viet Cong is gonna win"? They didn't want peace - they wanted a Communist victory.

The phrase "welfare-warfare state" has recently come into use, and it is a good one to describe the kind of government we have.

Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul were always against the war in Iraq. One must deduce that they, at least, acted on principle, while left-wing senators like Kerry, Daschle, Reid, Feinstein, etc. who were "for it before they were against it" changed their positions based purely on political expediency. I suspect it is always better, from the point of such folk, for the U.S. to suffer a humiliating defeat than it is for the country never to go to war to begin with.

mtraven said...

Oddly, there's nothing much in the above comment that I object to, although it's also not news to me (well, aside from your puerile characterization of the left's motivations). Yes, it's kind of confusing how unstandard and unstable political labels and ideologies are in this country. I remember when libertarian was a left-wing term (actually I don't, that was considerably before my time).

The new left in the sixties was positioned quite explicitly against the liberal interventionism of Kennedy, Johnson, and Humphrey, for better or worse. That we of the left now settle for the likes of Reid or Feinstein, or even Obama who seems quite prepared to leave the military elites and financial elites to go about their business exactly as before, is a function of age and inevitable compromise with reality. I don't know why the 20-year-olds are so quiet.

I have some genuine respect for the libertarians and paleocons who opposed the Iraq war -- pity about their pervasive racism and antisemitism.

Anonymous said...

Well, why was the New Left "positioned quite explicitly against the liberal interventionism of Kennedy, Johnson, and Humphrey"?

It appears to me that the New Left was so positioned because it was substantially led by 'red diaper babies.' See Ronald Radosh's "Commies." These people were rather older than the college protesters they led. Far from rebelling against the beliefs of their parents, the red diaper babies displayed remarkable filial piety toward them. If uncle had fought for the communists during the Spanish civil war, or mom and pop had toed the party line during the Hitler-Stalin alliance, the kids were likely to be out demonstrating against the U.S. military presence in Vietnam - and for the same basic reason.

As for 'racism and antisemitism' - I do not know a single paleoconservative or libertarian who would reinstate Jim Crow or who feels the personal animus towards Jews of (say) Louis Farrakhan or Jeremiah Wright.

Pat Buchanan was pilloried because he criticized Israel and referred to its "amen corner" in the United States. To argue that the interests of Israel and the United States are not necessarily the same, and to recognize that there is a powerful pro-Israel lobby in the United States, are hardly the same as the crude Jew-hatred of a Farrakhan.

Similarly, to find fault with 'affirmative action,' to point out the defects of civil rights legislation, or to view Martin Luther King as a flawed human being rather than a twentieth-century saint, hardly make one a bedsheeted Kluxer.

Accusations of racism and antisemitism are often used when unwarranted, because they are still effective smears. Eventually, though, such overuse will deprive them of their effectiveness, because it will become evident to the neutral observer that they no longer have much meaning. "Racist" just becomes an epithet to describe someone a leftist doesn't like.

mtraven said...

why was the New Left "positioned quite explicitly against the liberal interventionism of Kennedy, Johnson, and Humphrey"?

Uh, because it was pretty obvious that the Vietnam War was a stupid, bloody disaster? And the youth of the period were not particularly interested in being drafted into it?

The New Left was definitionally opposed to the Old Left. For the most part, they weren't interested in factional disputes that went back to the 1930s or earlier, was findamentally opposed to Stalinism in particular, and was trying to define a left that was more democratic and less authoritarian (whether they succeeded or not is another matter). So, as usual, you don't have the foggiest idea what you are talking about.

As for 'racism and antisemitism' - I do not know a single paleoconservative or libertarian who would reinstate Jim Crow or who feels the personal animus towards Jews of (say) Louis Farrakhan or Jeremiah Wright.

You've got to be kidding. Libertarian icon Ron Paul was implicated in peddling racist materials, right here.

And the leading face of paleoconservatism is the openly Nazi-sympathetic Pat Buchanan, who unaccountably (given Jewish control of the media) still is a respected member of the punditocracy.

Now, I'll grant that not all libertarians are racists and not all paleos are anti-semites -- far from it. But the movements draw such people in and are inescapably tarred with their views. Libertarians in particular annoy me -- they all think they are not racists, but in practice their disdain for government handouts is strongly focused on those that help blacks and the poor, and they don't spend much energy on the mortgage-interest tax deduction or the incredible welfare system that exists for the defense industry (some do, but it's not what gets the wind in the movement's sails).

To argue that the interests of Israel and the United States are not necessarily the same, and to recognize that there is a powerful pro-Israel lobby in the United States, are hardly the same as the crude Jew-hatred of a Farrakhan.

I completely agree, but Buchanan goes quite a bit further than that if you dig a bit.

Anonymous said...

As an illustration of Communist, and likely Soviet influence on the Vietnam War protests, we may consider the well known anti-war speech made by Martin Luther King in 1967, in which he praised Ho Chi Minh and compared U.S. troops in Vietnam to Nazi storm troopers.

That speech was written for King by his associate Stanley Levison, a man with longstanding ties to the CPUSA. It was King's association with Communists like Levison and Hunter Pitts O'Dell that was the principal reason for King's surveillance by the FBI.

Records of the Soviet Union opened during the post-Soviet administration of Boris Yeltsin reveal that substantial funds were distributed through the CPUSA to various left-wing causes in this country throughout the '50s and '60s. Klehr and Haynes have provided excellent documentation of this in several of their books. It has also been documented that the 1980s "Nuclear Freeze" protests in Europe were secretly bankrolled by the Soviets. Given the close Communist ties of many people in the anti-war movement here, one must wonder what their motivations (and their source of funds) actually was.

Certainly, not all war protesters were communists or communist funded. But the movement drew such people in, and was inescapably tarred with their views.

Most libertarians regard the income tax as an abomination and wish to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment. Surely that would put an end to the mortgage-interest tax deduction, since there would be no tax to deduct it from! As for the defense industry, Buchanan (for example) would withdraw U.S. military presence from Europe and Japan, which would certainly much reduce military expenditures, including for war matériel.

Characterizing opposition to social-welfare programs as 'racist' is just lame. European libertarians oppose them and did so long before there was any significant racial minority in their countries. Their opposition cannot be called racist. Neither should that of American libertarians. That the American poor are disproportionately black or Hispanic is an artefact of the population of this country. The U.S. has had a sad history of slavery and segregation, but it recedes farther into history with every passing year.

One of the unfortunate consequences of the civil rights laws Rand Paul criticized - and the one he could most effectively have attacked, had he the presence of mind - is their assumption that 'disparate impact' - i.e., the production of any racial distribution disparate from the proportion of the races in the general population - is prima facie evidence of invidious discrimination.

Now let's consider some interesting facts in light of this principle.

According to www.jinfo.org/Nobel_Prizes.html , 22% of all individual recipients worldwide of the Nobel Prize, from 1901-2009, were either of fully, 3/4, or half-Jewish ancestry. 36% of all U.S. recipients during the same period were of similar ancestry. This has been the case despite Jews being a tiny minority of the world's or the U.S. population.

According to www.wikianswers.com/Q/What_percentage_of_nba_players_are_black , during the 2008-'09 season, almost 82% of NBA players were black. This has been the case despite blacks constituting perhaps 11-12% of the U.S. population

Under the standard of "disparate impact," shall we then conclude that the Nobel Prize is granted in a fashion discriminatory against gentiles? Shall we conclude that professional basketball players are hired in a fashion discriminatory against whites and Asians? Of course we can't. The skew of these statistics from those of the total population reflect natural inequalities that are both genetic and cultural in origin, not intentional unfairness. There isn't much government can or should do about such natural inequalities. "Disparate impact" is a snare and delusion.

Anonymous said...

Further on Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan - the piece to which your earlier post on Paul linked was a New Republic article entitled "Angry White Man," that showed him in a Photo-shopped illustration wearing a Confederate grey kepi and a necktie made of the Confederate battle flag. Its supposed indictment of him as a racist was filled with short quotations, sentence fragments most likely torn from their original context. Such an article hardly seems to be an unbiased source. If Paul really said, as the article alleges, that "opinion polls consistently show only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions," is that really 'racist'? According to www.politico.com/news/stories/1108/15297.html ,
fully 96% of black voters voted for Barack Obama in 2008. I should imagine that, from Ron Paul's point of view, anyone who voted for Obama did not have sensible political opinions, including those 96% of black voters.

Your link on Buchanan to the mediamatters.com site can, similarly, hardly be called unbiased - and it too gives mere snippets of what Buchanan reportedly said, doubtless selected to portray him in the most unfavorable light. Acknowledging Hitler's courage is not necessarily sympathizing with the Nazis. He was a daring, albeit imprudent, strategist. One can find far more fawning things said about Hitler and Mussolini during the 'thirties by American New Dealers.

Which brings us back in a way, to the topic of your original post on "honor(ing) those pacifists, deserters,... mutineers, etc., who for selfish or principled reasons managed to avoid becoming part of the machinery of war."

What do you think of the America First Committee that sought to keep the U.S. out of WWII, and the efforts of people like Sen. Burton K. Wheeler and Charles Lindbergh? What do you think of Elizabeth Dilling's Mothers' Movement? They were certainly anti-war and had 'principled reasons.' Note: my mention of them should not be taken to imply my approval. Maybe it does depend on 'the country, and the war.'

mtraven said...

It is not surprising that Soviet agents would try to influence the New Left. But they didn't control it, no more than did the FBI infiltrators who were probably more numerous. There were a lot of commies, ex-commies, and various agents around in those days.

King was not really part of the New Left, which was separate from (but linked with) the civil rights movement. According to this, Levison was actually trying to pull Kingback from antiwar activism: In early 1967, when King became determined to participate in a public denunciation of the Vietnam War organized by Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam, Levison counseled him to refrain. Levison felt that King’s planned speech, “Beyond Vietnam,” was unbalanced and would have disastrous consequences to SCLC’s fundraising campaign and King's personal prestige...

Certainly, not all war protesters were communists or communist funded. But the movement drew such people in, and was inescapably tarred with their views.

Heh, touché. Well, maybe I'll take back some of my earlier language. As I said, there are libertarians and paleocons who don't have problems with racism. Are they "tarred"? I think they are, precisely as you tar, say, Quaker pacificists with the crimes of some Soviet commissars that they may be linked to by a chain of association. This kind of guilt-by-association seems to be a basic part of political discourse. I'm not sure I like it, especially when I find myself doing it. I think I've written about this process before, but I can't find it now.

Characterizing opposition to social-welfare programs as 'racist' is just lame.

I don't think I did. But let me be clear -- most libertarians I don't think are explicitly racist, or consciously racist. But in practice their faction is tinged with racism (maybe that's better than being tarred), not because of their abstract beliefs but because of concrete political realities. You can see a manifestation of this in the tea party movement, which is an ominous stew of libertarian rhetoric and racist practices.

I'm beginning to think (and it's not a terribly original thought, but it is becoming clearer to me) how race underlies almost every issue in US politics, even when it isn't explicit. Why don't we have a system of national health care, for example, like every other industrialized country? I'm convinced that it's because a good segment of the population views this and any other social-welfare scheme as transfer payments from deserving whites to undeserving blacks. (of course, racism directed towards the person of Obama is a more obvious manifestation, but the problems go deeper).

Your diatribe on disparate impact has nothing to do with what I'm talking about, and this is getting too long as it is.

One can find far more fawning things said about Hitler and Mussolini during the 'thirties by American New Dealers.

Well, it is somewhat different to be praising Hitler in 1935 than it is to do so in 2010. Just like it was different to be a Communist in 1920 than it was in 1950.

What do you think of the America First Committee that sought to keep the U.S. out of WWII, and the efforts of people like Sen. Burton K. Wheeler and Charles Lindbergh?

Well, as I said and you quoted, it depends on the country and the war. I probably would not have thought much of the movement above, given its rank anti-semitism. But I can wish that Weimar Germany had had more pacifists, deserters, resisters, and similar types.

Anonymous said...

My "diatribe" on disparate impact has everything to do with what you are calling "racism".

Your reasoning about the tea party movement being and "ominous stew of libertarian rhetoric and racist practices" is an illustration of this. It happens that taxes and welfare spending have a disparate impact. Whites pay the former, and blacks benefit from the latter, disproportionately. Reasoning from such premises, the former House Ways & Means Committee chairman, Rep. Charles Rangel, once claimed that because black people receive welfare spending disproportionately, therefore any call for lower taxes must be racist.

If everything is to be reduced to race (which the concept of disparate impact invites) then racism is going to explain just about everything, which is the argument you are advancing. This is comparable to the circular argument we see in Marxism, which reduces every historical event to a manifestation of class struggle.

The Tea Party people appear to me to be primarily worried about the huge indebtedness the United States has taken on and its potential consequences for the country - white, black, rich, or poor, all will be in the same boat if bankruptcy or hyperinflation should result. Yes, the debt is not all Obama's fault. But better to come to terms with it late than never.

Would you prefer to have the orderly Tea Party crowds protesting the enlargement of government and the accompanying public debt - or rioting mobs like those in Greece, who are angry because their country is insolvent and they aren't going to get the handouts they have come to expect?

We can see what the future of the welfare state is in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and perhaps beyond. The fear is that Obama is taking this country down the same road. His race is irrelevant to this.

mtraven said...

I think I've said what I have to say. Misinterpret it all you like. It's also veered off dramatically from the original topic of the post into -- surprise -- race, which helps support my point.

The Tea Party people appear to me to be primarily worried about the huge indebtedness the United States has taken on...

Uh, no. They were entirely silent while Bush was using up the surplus on extraordinarily expensive wars. The were silent during the 2008 bank bailouts, but suddenly materialized during the Obama administration. Whatever they are about, fiscal responsibility isn't it.

Anonymous said...

You were the one that first brought up the allegedly "pervasive racism and antisemitism" of the libertarians and palaeoconservatives. So you should not be surprised if the topic of race is further discussed. It does not help to support your claim that the American rejection of socialized medicine is racist in motivation. It's an example of the kind of reduction of every issue to race that the concept of 'disparate impact' invites.

If you want to examine why the U.S. has not adopted the social-democratic schemes of other industrialized countries you should probably first go back to the question posed by Werner Sombart in 1906: why is there no socialism in the United States? In 1906 the migration of blacks from the rural South to the industrial North had not begun. Both a substantial black population and the racist motive you allege for rejection of socialism were thus absent in the industrialized part of the country. Despite this, socialism never had more than a fringe presence in American politics, at the time and long thereafter, even outside the South.

A more likely explanation is that by the time most European countries adopted their present social welfare systems, including nationalized medical care, they had lost or were losing their empires and were handing over the responsibility for their defense to the United States. Thus they could afford an extensive welfare state, because they maintained only token military forces. This country, on the other hand, picked up the tab for defending them throughout the Cold War. That was a higher priority for the American political establishment than expanding the welfare state. Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" strained the fisc and began a rapid expansion of deficit spending and the national debt. Remember those who warned, at the time, that we could not have both "guns and butter"?

It's true that the bank bailouts began with the September 2008 liquidity crisis, while the first Tea Party protests took place in February 2009. What was significant about February of 2009? It was then that Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly called the stimulus bill. The stimulus amount was nominally $787 billion. That's a lot in one fell swoop. It's more than the cost to date of the Iraq war, which began in 2003. See: costofwar.com . Then to that we add to that the cost of the health care bill, which was estimated at $849 billion when it was introduced in the Senate. Gross debt is projected to rise from $9.99 trillion at the end of 2008 to $18.35 trillion by the end of 2014. It is already at $13.05 trillion as of 4 June 2010 (see the Wikipedia article "United States public debt").

These additions to public debt are considerably greater than those made by Bush or any previous president. Indeed, the projection indicates that between his 2009 inauguaration and 2014, Obama will have indebted the country by an additional $8.36 trillion, which is almost as much as all previous administrations had accrued through the end of 2006.

If you wish in the face of such evidence to attribute the Tea Party protests to racism and deny that they are about fiscal responsibility, have at it. I'll only note that the first national Tea Party protest originated from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where one might expect to find a bunch of financially astute folks with their fingers on the pulse of the economy. Bedsheets and flaming crosses were conspicuous by their absence.

mtraven said...

Tea party racism

How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty

The European welfare state traces its development back to Bismarck in the 19th century, a time when Europeans had no problem fighting their own wars.

In any case if we put ourselves in the position of impoverishing ourselves so that Europeans can have free health care and six-week vacations, that would make us pretty stupid, wouldn't it?

There most certainly was a robust American socialist movement. Aren't you the one constantly complaining about the New Deal as socialist? Can't have it both ways. The Socialist movmeent in the 19th and early 20th century was certainly a good deal more significant than the current libertarian movement in terms of supporters and influence.

It is extremely silly to compare spending on a war (which is largely money flushed down the toilet) with stimulus spending (which is money that is put back into the economy with the goal of, you know, stimulating it). Joseph Stiglitz estimated the cost of the Irq war at $3 trillion and I'm inclined to believe him.

Anonymous said...

Ward Connerly wrote of accusations that the Tea Party movement was racist: "Race is the engine that drives the political Left. In the courtrooms, on college campuses, and, most especially, in our politics, race is a central theme. Where it does not naturally rise to the surface, there are those who will manufacture and amplify it."

Disparate impact is the tool by which this is accomplished. It is a casuistic device by which available information is fitted to a pre-fabricated narrative. Simple differences in capacity, desire, and ambition explain why different groups of people succeed or fail at various activities in disproportion to their presence in the general demographic - it's why Jews are disproportionately represented among Nobel Prize winners, and blacks among professional basketball players. If one's intention is to discern racism everywhere, inferring it from disparate impact is the way to do it.

Allegations of 'witch hunts' should be used with caution in public life - Joe McCarthy is often associated with the term, but as the Venona transcripts and the released records of the old Soviet Union show, he somehow hit upon the truth. There were no witches, but there were communists in the U.S. government.

I find the allusion to witchcraft more persuasive in most cases of alleged racism. From the time of Sprenger and Kramer until the late seventeenth century, people looking for witches found them - complete with the common narrative of flight on broomsticks to the witches' Sabbath, kissing of the Devil's arse, the whole scenario. It was, in their case, completely imagined. So is the continual finding of racism in America's white middle class. Yes, there are a few Kluxers, perhaps less than a thousand of them - just as there were doubtless a few crazy old women back in the seventeenth century who fancied they could cast spells. In both cases, the phenomenon is much over-estimated. It reflects principally the Left's enormous preoccupation with race.

Yes, Germany had social security in Bismarck's time. However, socialized medicine was not instituted in any other country with a mixed economy until New Zealand did so in 1938. Britain did not establish its NHS until 1948. France's system was founded post-WWII and inspired by the same Beveridge Report that underlay the British post-war Labour government's creation of the NHS. The Netherlands has had public health insurance for the indigent since 1941; everyone with income above a ceiling must purchase compulsory private health insurance. The Canadian province of Saskatchewan was the first to guarantee free hospital care for much of its population in 1946. All ten Canadian provinces did not agree to provide programs under the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act until 1961. Australia's Medicare was not instituted until 1984 and co-exists with private insurance. Dentistry, optometry, and ambulance transport are paid out-of-pocket or by private optional insurance, except for those whose incomes fall below a ceiling and are entitled to a subsidy. In other words, most industrialised countries with mixed economies indeed did not have universal health care until after WWII. If you wish to hold out Wilhelmine Germany as a moral model, go ahead. It (and its successor states) were exceptional in several other ways as well, none to any good effect.

No socialist party honestly so called was ever more than a fringe element in American politics. Rarely did any succeed in actually electing anyone to public office. The New Deal was not socialistic in the sense of nationalizing industries, as (for example) the Attlee government did in Britain with its coal mines and shipyards. It sneaked some socialistic measures through by calling them 'liberal,' a nomenclature that in Europe means bourgeois and market-oriented. Economically it more resembled Mussolini's regime than it did those of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. See Schivelbusch, "Three New Deals."

mtraven said...

I find the allusion to witchcraft more persuasive in most cases of alleged racism.

And I should care aboout what you "find" why, exactly?

The persistence pervasiveness of racism in American society -- not people dressing in sheets, but in underlying attitudes, often unconscious -- ought to be the least controversial proposition around. Hell, there's even quite good experimental evidence and you can test yourself. How could it be otherwise? Racism was frankly practiced just 50 years ago, and ingrained attitudes and practices don't change that fast. A good chunk of the country never was too pleased that that era ended. It's kind of amazing that overt racism is no longer socially acceptable, but that doesn't mean the implicit kind has gone away.

As usual, this thread has drifted completely away from the original post topic into race, presumably because "the left" is obsessed with it. So I may cut this off unless it gets back on track.

Anonymous said...

All right, so you can prove that racism exists even where there is no obvious reason to suspect it. Thus could self proclaimed witch finders prove witchcraft. To call someone racist has become an all purpose smear, just a meaningless pejorative.

I note your citation of Joseph Stiglitz's claim about the cost of the war in Iraq. This is the same Joseph Stiglitz who wrote, as you may recall, that "on the basis of historical experience, the risk to the government from a potential default on GSE dent is effectively zero" ("Implications of the New Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Risk-Based Capital Standard," in Fannie Mae Papers, vol. I, issue 2, March 2002). He and his co-authors Peter and Jonathan Orszag acted at the time as obedient shills for Barney Frank and others who wanted to "roll the dice" on subsidized housing. According to the most recent report, the bailout of Fannie and Freddie has cost taxpayers $145 billion to date. Fanne and Freddie have today been ordered to delist from the NYSE and any other national exchanges. Prof. Stiglitz's abilities at calculation, Nobel Prize or no, are highly dubious. It should give us special pause that his co-author Peter Orszag is currently the OMB director under the Obama administration, and was director of the CBO when nominated. That you should be "inclined to believe" such people is a confession of credulity.

Anonymous said...

To come back to war, your original subject, vis-à-vis stimulus spending: historically, you have matters exactly back to front when you write that war is "largely money flushed down the toilet" while stimulus spending is supposedly "money put back into the economy with the goal of, you know, stimulating it."

Keynesian stimulus spending during the New Deal didn't, you know, meet that goal very successfully. Ten years after the crash of 1929, unemployment was still about 18%, having come down only modestly from its peak of 25% in 1934.

It was the onset of World War II that really put people back to work - albeit by removing most of the nation's young men from the work force and putting them in harm's way. Sen. Burton K. Wheeler, alluding to to an earlier Roosevelt agricultural policy, described the Lend-Lease program that led up to the war as "the New Deal's triple-A foreign policy: it will plow under every fourth American boy."

The Keynesian stimulus of 2009 shows no sign of working any better than that of the 1930s. Unemployment is still stuck around 10% and is close to 1939 levels when 'discouraged workers' are added.

As the Obama administration heads into the second phase of a double, or even triple-dip recession - one all its own, one that after 18 months can no longer credibly be blamed on George Bush - what do you think the likelihood is that Mr. Obama will pine for the onset of real honest-to-God shooting war (not a little brush-fire like Iraq or Afghanistan) to come along and bail him out, like it did FDR?

mtraven said...

Acknowledging pervasive racism is not the same thing as labeling people racist. The interesting thing about those implict association experiments is that they reveal a degree of racial prejudice (in the very literal meaning of pre-judging) in just about everyone.

You analogy with witchcraft seems really clever until you think about it for five seconds.

Re: Stiglitz, too off-topic, sorry.

You are somewhat right about war spending, I was oversimplifying, perhaps too much. Obviously spending on war has a stimulative effect by increasing aggregate demand. But surely the same amount of money spent on things with actual utility would be more stimulating? Maybe not. Maybe it's only war that can drive government spending to the levels where Keynes works. Obama might like a full-scale war (I think not) but there is a dearth of plausible enemies out there.

Anonymous said...

The fact remains that historically, Keynesian stimulus spending did not work in the depression. Preparation for war in 1940-41 and war itself after Pearl Harbor functioned effectively as a stimulus. Nixon's famous proclamation that "we are all Keynesians now" and Carter's continuation and expansion of Keynesian policy initiatives didn't work. A centerpiece of Keynesian theory, the Phillips curve, which purported to show a correlation between inflation and employment, was toppled by experience during this period of 'stagflation.' The economy came roaring back after the monetary retrenchment and tax cuts of the early Reagan years.

Much of what is attributed to 'pervasive racism' is actually a product of class differences and the unattractive habits of the underclass (regardless of race).

Very few white people would object to having a black family like that portrayed on the Bill Cosby Show as neighbors - stable, orderly, upscale. It is the social pathology of the underclass they dislike and fear: violence, crime of all kinds, drug abuse, gangs, sexual promiscuity, etc.

That the American underclass is disproportionately black and Hispanic is an accident of time and place. The British middle class feels about its own white underclass - "chavs"- much as the American middle class does about the American underclass. Frenchmen have the same feelings about the Moroccans and Algerians of the Parisian banlieues, and central European peoples exhibit similar attitudes about Gypsies.

Are they all 'racist' - or is this a reflection of the fact that all around the world, 'poor people have poor ways'? Moreover, what we've discovered about the underclass, just about wherever it exists in the industrialized world, is that giving these people money does not improve those poor ways. They are not poor because they have no money, they have no money because they lack the personal qualities necessary to better themselves. This deeper poverty is an intractable problem.

mtraven said...

Yes, it's clear that leftists are obsessed with race. They just can't seem to stop talking about it, no matter how irrelevant it is to the subject at hand.

Anonymous said...

You were the one who initiated the discussion when you accused the Tea Party movement of racism, and went on about 'implicit racism' and so forth. You were also the one that brought up the inflated claims of Joseph Sitglitz on the cost of the war. When I pointed out that his abysmal failure to predict the collapse of the GSEs rather impeached his credibility, you dismissed further discussion as 'off topic.'

Have you noticed that in the first district of South Carolina - the low country, including Charleston - a black Republican, Tim Scott, endorsed by the many Tea Party figures, today beat Paul Thurmond (Strom's youngest son) in the state primary - and by a very substantial margin? Yes, those Tea Party folks are awful racists. Just as in Florida, where they chose an Hispanic named Rubio over a white man, Charlie Crist, in the Republican primary there a few weeks ago.