Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Free Trade is not a Zero Sum Game for Workers in Developed and Developing Countries

This past February the US entered into the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) with Pacific Rim countries.  The 12 signatory countries to the TPP are: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, USA, and Vietnam. The agreement will take effect only after at least six countries ratify it (comprising not less than 85 percent of GDP of the whole group). They have two years to get this done. See Jones Day blog HERE. Since the USA has 62 percent share of GDP in this group, the fate of this agreement rests largely with us.

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump say we should walk away from this agreement. They suggest free trade is a zero sum game between American workers and workers in developing countries. Trump has vowed to withdraw the US from the TPP; Sanders presumably would do the same. Under pressure from Sanders, Hillary Clinton is doing her best not to commit on TPP, and last week the Democratic platform Committee managed to waffle on the agreement.

Obama, of course is strongly in favor of the agreement. Here is the simplistic "cherry on top" explanation found at White You can find more information HERE, including the text of the agreement.

Republicans voted to grant Obama fast track authority to complete the negotiations, and according to Fortune, most of them are in favor of ratification, as are dozens of Democrats. The ranking Democrat  on the House Ways and Means committee, however, expresses concerns that, he says, "require greater understanding:"
The trade agreement covers a range of subjects far beyond those negotiated in any previous multilateral negotiation, concerning everything from intellectual property and access to medicines, to financial regulations, food safety measures, basic labor and environmental standards, cross-border data flows, and state-owned enterprises.
House Democrats have identified a number of key issue areas in TPP that require greater understanding before Congress votes, including the environment, worker rights, access to medicines, auto rules of origin, investment, and currency manipulation.
This past April, at Project Syndicate, Harvard professor Dani Rodrik provided some perspective. Free trade agreements are not necessarily a zero sum game between American workers and workers in developing countries, he says. They can be win-win if we structure the agreements right.

What's clear, says Rodrik, is that globalization has not lifted all boats. Many working families have lost jobs on account of low cost imports from China and elsewhere. But our changing economy--including growing inequality--is about more than globalization. In addition to global trade, technological innovation has (and will continue) to reduce the number of jobs in manufacturing. Automation has taken an especially large number of the low-skill (but well compensated) jobs that Trump and Bernie voters may have in mind as having been lost to China, Korea, Indonesia, India, Mexico, etc.

Obama makes the argument that global trade is about more than jobs. It's also about international relations and living in a connected world. A connected world that provides opportunities for economic growth for all is a more peaceful and just world.

Of course, to turn away from trade, to put up trade barriers--as Trump and Sanders are suggesting--would harm the world’s poorest, by diminishing their prospect of escaping poverty through export-led growth. But even if we want to prioritize American workers over workers in Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, says Rodrik, it's not as simple as turning our back on the TPP.

First, suggests Rodrik, without trade agreements like the TPP, developing countries are unconstrained by WTO-type rules. Jobs are going to go there anyway, and developing countries are freer to compete in ways that harm developed countries, their workers, and consumers.
[T]he standard narrative about how trade has benefited developing economies omits a crucial feature of their experience. Countries that managed to leverage globalization, such as China and Vietnam, employed a mixed strategy of export promotion and a variety of policies that violate current trade rules. Subsidies, domestic-content requirements, investment regulations, and, yes, often import barriers were critical to the creation of new, higher-value industries. Countries that rely on free trade alone (Mexico comes immediately to mind) have languished
That is why trade agreements that tighten the rules [like the TPP] are in fact mixed blessings for developing countries. China would not have been able to pursue its phenomenally successful industrialization strategy if the country had been constrained by WTO-type rules during the 1980s and 1990s. With the TPP, Vietnam gets some assurance of continued access to the US market (existing barriers on the US side are already quite low), but in return must submit to restrictions on subsidies, patent rules, and investment regulations. 
Second, says Rodrik, trade barriers, as suggested by Trump and Sanders, won't necessarily shield American workers from competition.
[T]here is nothing in the historical record to suggest that poor countries require very low or zero barriers in the advanced economies in order to benefit greatly from globalization. In fact, the most phenomenal export-oriented growth experiences to date – Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China – all occurred when import tariffs in the US and Europe were at moderate levels, and higher than where they are today. 
Trade agreements properly structured, says Rodrik, can mitigate against inequality in developed countries (protect American jobs) and reduce poverty in poor countries.
So, for progressives who worry both about inequality in the rich countries and poverty in the rest of the world, the good news is that it is indeed possible to advance on both fronts. But to do so, we must transform our approach to trade deals in some drastic ways.... 
The time has come to embrace a ... logic ...of “exchange of policy space.” Poor and rich countries alike need to carve out greater space for pursuing their respective objectives. The former need to restructure their economies and promote new industries, and the latter must address domestic concerns over inequality and distributive justice. This requires placing some sand in the wheels of globalization.
Some sand in the wheels of globalization, however, is not the same as walking away from a commitment to free trade. It also suggests that, perhaps, we need to look at complementary domestic measures to supplement what a trade agreement can accomplish.

How do we measure the TPP as creating an effective "exchange of policy space?" How do we evaluate what other measures might need to be taken to supplement TPP to mitigate against its adverse effects on specific groups of workers? We have to examine the agreement provision by provision. To be realistic, we also have to examine what could be obtained in negotiation, and what could not. As the TPP is a long and complicated agreement, this is not easy to do. Predicting its effects over time is not easy to do either. But what's clear is, it's not simply a matter of "Trade agreements are bad and we must walk away from them."

You can follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit and the Primacy of Data over Facts

This is interesting....

In a longer piece  about the national psychology behind Brexit, published in Political Economy Research Center at Goldsmith University in London, we find this interesting discussion by Will Davies on how we are guilty of paying inadequate attention to facts in a world driven by big data. 

Facts used to be stable things, handed down to us by trusted information intermediaries.  In a world of big data, facts have become unstable... and infinitely manipulable. 

Here is Will Davies (bold emphasis is added):
One of the complaints made most frequently (during the Brexit campaign)... was that the referendum campaign was being conducted without regard to ‘truth’. This isn’t quite right. It was conducted without adequate regard to facts. To the great frustration of the Remain campaign, their ‘facts’ never cut through, whereas Leave’s ‘facts’ (most famously the £350m/week price tag of EU membership) were widely accepted.  [Note: the £350m/week price tag of EU membership is one of the first "facts" to be universally unmasked as hogwash in the morning-after shock of the vote to leave the EU]
What is a ‘fact’ exactly? In her book A History of the Modern Fact, Mary Poovey argues that a new way of organising and perceiving the world came into existence at the end of the 15th century with the invention of double-entry book-keeping. This new style of knowledge is that of facts, representations that seem both context-independent, but also magically slot seamlessly into multiple contexts as and when they are needed. The basis for this magic is that measures and methodologies (such as accounting techniques) become standardised, but (are) then treated as apolitical, thereby allowing numbers to move around freely in public discourse without difficulty or challenge. In order for this to work, the infrastructure that produces ‘facts’ needs careful policing, ideally through centralisation in the hands of statistics agencies or elite universities (the rise of commercial polling in the 1930s was already a challenge to the authority of ‘facts’ in this respect). 
This game has probably been up for some time. As soon as media outlets start making a big deal about the FACTS of a situation, for instance with ‘Fact check’ bulletins, it is clear that numbers have already become politicised. ‘Facts’ (such as statistics) survived as an authoritative basis for public and democratic deliberation for most of the 200 years following the French Revolution. But the politicisation of social sciences, metrics and policy administration mean that the ‘facts’ produced by official statistical agencies must now compete with other conflicting ‘facts’. The deconstruction of ‘facts’ has been partly pushed by varieties of postmodern theory since the 1960s, but it is also an inevitable effect of the attempt (beloved by New Labour) to turn policy into a purely scientific exercise. 
The attempt to reduce politics to a utilitarian science ... backfires() once the science in question () starts to become politicised. ‘Evidence-based policy’ is now far too long in the tooth to be treated entirely credulously, and people tacitly understand that it often involves a lot of ‘policy-based evidence’. When the Remain camp appealed to their ‘facts’, forecasts, and models, they hoped that these would be judged as outside of the fray of politics. More absurdly, they seemed to imagine that the opinions of bodies such as the IMF might be viewed as ‘independent’. Unfortunately, economics has been such a crucial prop for political authority over the past 35 years that it is now anything but outside of the fray of politics. 
In place of facts, we now live in a world of data. Instead of trusted measures and methodologies being used to produce numbers, a dizzying array of numbers is produced by default, to be mined, visualised, analysed and interpreted however we wish. If risk modeling ... was the defining research technique of the 19th and 20th centuries, sentiment analysis is the defining one of the emerging digital era. We no longer have stable, ‘factual’ representations of the world, but unprecedented new capacities to sense and monitor what is bubbling up where, who’s feeling what, what’s the general vibe. 
Financial markets are themselves far more like tools of sentiment analysis (representing the mood of investors) than producers of ‘facts’. This is why it was so absurd to look to currency markets and spread-betters for the truth of what would happen in the referendum: they could only give a sense of what certain people felt would happen in the referendum at certain times. Given the absence of any trustworthy facts (in the form of polls), they could then only provide a sense of how investors felt about Britain’s national mood: a sentiment regarding a sentiment. As the 23rd June turned into 24th June, it became manifestly clear that prediction markets are little more than an aggregative representation of the same feelings and moods that one might otherwise detect via twitter. They’re not in the business of truth-telling, but of mood-tracking.
(1) We no longer have stable factual representations of the world; (2) our "facts" are policy based; and (3) we now care more about sentiment analysis than facts. One and two we need to be aware of, but probably can't do much about, except continue to put our best foot forward. Three is something we can change. Whether they are contentious or not, we need to care about facts and we need to pay adequate attention to facts.

In the American context: we need to care about, and pay adequate regard to facts like "Immigrants are rapists and murderers and a drain on society" vs. "Immigrants are more law abiding than citizens and contribute to society." If we pay adequate regard to facts, collectively we can hopefully figure out which of these facts is right before we vote, not after. If we don't, shame on us.

You can follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

Brexit: A Time for Extraordinary Leadership

So last Thursday (6/23) the UK asked its citizens whether it should leave the EU. The citizens from England and Wales said "yes"--citizens in Scotland and Northern Ireland strongly voted to remain.

The voters were presented with a simple question: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?" They were given the choice to mark "Remain a member of the European Union" or "Leave the European Union." Here were the results:

The EU is not a country, of course; it's an economic and political partnership of 28 countries. The United Kingdom has its own passport. It's been floating slightly offshore all along: the UK is not part of the Schengen zone (which abolished most internal EU borders) and the UK never adopted the common currency, the Euro. 

The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world, and second largest economy in Europe. Here is nominal GDP for the four largest EU economies measured in USD. 

Germany:  $3.9 trillion
UK:  $2.9 trillion
France: $2.8 trillion
Italy:  $2.1 trillion

The Brexit vote has raised lots of questions. What happens next? How quickly will the process move forward? Is exit in fact inevitable? Will the remaining EU countries act to punish the UK by extracting unfavorable terms for continued access to EU markets in order to set an example and discourage further defections? Will this lead to others leaving the EU? Could this be in Britain's long term interest? Could this lead to positive reform of the EU? Will the UK survive, or will Scotland and/or Northern Ireland split? How and when might any of this happen? 

Amidst all this uncertainty the UK's separate currency, the pound sterling, has declined to a 30 year low in the wake of the referendum; stocks have declined sharply

The BBC has a handy guide [which provided the above chart]. 

So far, other than lots of talk and anxiety, and falling currencies and stocks, nothing is happening. The UK is in the EU. In order to start the process of withdrawal they will have to provide official notice pursuant to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. See also Wikipedia.
Article 50 
1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements. 
2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. .... It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament. 
3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period..... 
Some proponents of the Brexit referendum in the UK are urging the UK to "go slow" in invoking the Article 50 process. David Cameron has vowed to resign in October and to focus on steading the ship in the meantime. So it's quite possible that the UK will not "notify the European Council of its intention" until after Cameron resigns, triggering a two year negotiation process with a nominal deadline of late 2018. In accordance with Article 50, the EU could agree to extend that deadline indefinitely. Some suggest that Britain may ultimately not invoke Article 50 at all.

People like drama, but in the meantime, I say this looks a good day to invest in some stocks.

Here is what George Soros has to say. He points to many reasons for worry but concludes:
[W]e must not give up. Admittedly, the EU is a flawed construction. After Brexit, all of us who believe in the values and principles that the EU was designed to uphold must band together to save it by thoroughly reconstructing it. I am convinced that as the consequences of Brexit unfold in the weeks and months ahead, more and more people will join us.
Here is Barry Eichengreen. He suggests "it's the economy, stupid!"

Here is Brad DeLong. He suggests that this is no time to be complacent and that "if the Eurozone is to be a good thing for Europe rather than a millstone around the neck of the continent, I think that utopian frenzy is needed."

DeLong and Soros appear to be in agreement that this is an extraordinary time, a critical time, a time that requires extraordinary leadership.

May we be so lucky.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Could Worcester v. Georgia have averted the Civil War?

Where the sun sleeps, our fathers came thence.
... the Earth opened in the West, where its mouth is.
Siberia, the Angara culture: sedentary, fishing 
through the ice on lake Baikal, the Amoor and shill Rivers...
Long ago they didn't know there was land here.

                                      Paul Metcalf--Apalache

Columbus discovered North America sailing from the east, looking for India. Perhaps 13,000 years before, man first followed game across the Bering Sea land bridge and discovered North America from the west, at the tail end of the last Ice Age. Artifacts discovered in North and South America indicate that human life was well established here by 10,000 BCE, about the time, Mammoth began to die out and buffalo became a main source of food for early North American plains Indians. 
Indian Regions in North America ca 1400
In central Mexico man began to cultivate corn as early as 8,000 BCE, keeping pace with neolithic culture in in the Middle East.  By 3,000 BCE primitive corn was grown by tribes in the American Southeast (New Mexico and Arizona). Mayan culture in Central America began to build cities by 750 BCE, coinciding with the founding of Rome. Still, in the course of human development, by 750 BCE the people of the America's had fallen far behind their Mediterranean cousins. By then their Mediterranean cousins had produced land-based empires in the Fertile Crescent, in Egypt, in Anatolia. They had produced a seafaring empire: the Phoenicians.  They had produced Homeric poetry and pre-Socratic philosophy; they were about to create Classical Greece, the Persian Empire, the Roman Empire. 

By the time Columbus sailed the ocean blue there existed a chasm the size of the Atlantic Ocean between these peoples. Copernicus was 19 years old; Michelangelo di Ludovico de Buonarotti had completed his apprenticeship. The Renaissance was flourishing. In North America, by contrast, they never managed to reach the bronze age.

Columbus's men had steel swords, guns, cannon, the wind at their backs, and the momentum and motivating force of three religions: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity.  But religion, Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, and Dante notwithstanding, Columbus's men, and all those who followed, utterly lacked the perspective and knowledge to appreciate or value the cultures they encountered in North America. Western Europeans did not manage this encounter with grace; they did not play nice. 

Europeans following in the footsteps of Columbus intruded on an idyllic landscape.

North America is a beautiful place. In 1400 it must have been a paradise. To be sure, a harsh heaven of animals kind of paradise. A land of hunters and gatherers. But a paradise. And its indigenous population had its own wisdoms. The country would have been better off if our forefathers had been more sensitive to this wisdom.

The population in North America, north of the Rio Grande, before contact with Europeans is hard to know. Some say it may have been between 7-10 million. They were highly fragmented, speaking more than 300 distinct languages. All of the eastern seaboard, the Great Lakes, Canada, the South and Southwest, the prairies, the Rocky Mountain region, and the western seaboard for a population roughly the size of New York City. There was lots of room to roam about.

The ways of settler colonialism were not compatible with wide open roaming for hunting and gathering. The immune systems of the Bearing Straight people were no match for influenza, bubonic plague, chicken pox, pneumonic plague, cholera, diphtheria, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox, typhus, tuberculosis, and whooping cough brought over by Europeans. The empire building, private property oriented, religiously rigid and ideological ways of the Europeans overwhelmed  and destroyed the communal, yielding, and peripatetic nature of the Bearing Straights people. Native American populations plummeted.

The colonization of North America started in earnest in the early 17th century. The North American census of 1610 counted just 350 Europeans. By 1700 the white settler population had increased to  250,000; by 1770, on the eve of the Revolutionary War, white settler population had increased to 2.1 million mostly confined to the eastern seaboard.

For 200 years of settlement, English and French policy towards the Indians was accommodation and displacement. The goal was not conquest and destruction.  Later the policy switched to herding Indians into reservations by force: conquest and destruction.

Empty Promises

Between 1778 and 1871 the United States entered into 370 separate treaties with various Indian tribes. These treaties were kept by the United States, it appears, only as long as convenient. As soon as the onward march of settlement and colonization was inconvenienced by one of those treaties, the treaties gave way.

Take the plight of the Cherokee.

The Cherokee were one of the five Southeast "civilized tribes" (meaning they adopted farming, Christianity, and the English language). Between 1785 and 1802 the Cherokee entered into a series of treaties with the United States whereby they ceded large portions of their ancestral lands in exchange for compensation and guaranteed borders within which they would keep their own jurisdiction and sovereignty.
Cherokee Nation (1830) 
By 1802, however, white settlers coveted this land guaranteed to the Cherokee by treaty. They started to agitate for the removal of the tribe from Georgia and they found a sympathetic ear with the slave-owning large plantation farmer, President Jefferson. The federal government made promises to white settlers to remove the Indians from Georgia.

Jefferson, of course, was the drafter of our Declaration of Independence. The second paragraph begins with the famous and inspiring phrase: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...."  If only our founding fathers had a deeper appreciation for that phrase than they did. Perhaps our history would have gone better.

By 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act which proposed to remove all of the Southeast Indian tribes to the Oklahoma territory, west of the Mississippi.

Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831)

In the meantime, Georgia took matters into its own hands. After the discovery of gold and silver on Cherokee lands, the state passed laws designed to entirely subvert the national character of the Cherokee. They abolished the tribal government, they took possession of all gold and silver mines, and they prohibited any Cherokee from employment in those mines. 

The Cherokee sued for an injunction for violation of their treaty rights in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court refused to hear the merits of the case. Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831). Chief Justice Marshall said that the court lacked jurisdiction, and that the Cherokee's remedy, if any, was with Congress. In a long and careful dissent Justice Thompson made the case for how the court could most certainly have heard this case and granted relief if it wanted to. The Chief Justice and the majority of the court didn't want to. They made a political decision to bar the Cherokee from the courthouse. 

Worcester v. Georgia (1832)

The following year, Worcester v. Georgia (1832) demonstrated the tenuous political reality in which the Supreme Court operated and the limits of the court's power. The case also represents a path not taken for the country.

In order to remove missionaries sympathetic to the Cherokee cause from Cherokee lands, Georgia passed a law that any white person living on Cherokee lands would have to obtain a license from the state (which presumably would be denied). Samuel Worcester was a missionary and refused to apply for a license. He was promptly charged, convicted in state court, and sentenced to four years at hard labor in the Georgia penitentiary. 

Worcester appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the state lacked the power to impose its permit requirement, that only the Federal Government had jurisdiction with respect to regulating Indian nation, subject to valid treaties, and that he (Worcester) should not be in jail! The court agreed... but in a remarkable chapter of our jurisprudence, the state of Georgia, Congress, and President Andrew Jackson all defied the court and its order. Worcester was left to toil at hard labor in the Georgia penitentiary and the Southeast Indian tribes were forcibly removed to lands east of the Mississippi along the Trail of Tears. Thousands died in detention camps and in forced marches along the trail. 

Chief Justice Marshall again delivered the opinion of the court, but this time he addressed the merits of the case. In a remarkable decision, he first provided an overview of the pre-existing rights of the indigenous peoples and the colonization process. He recognized the sovereign status of the Indian nations before the Europeans arrived, discussed the policy of the British to pursue lawful purchase of property, rather than conquest, and the limited rights conferred by war and conquest in this case.  After independence, the United States by and large followed the British example....until Georgia, Congress, and he President defied the Supreme Court in this case.

The decision is worth reading at some length. I have added brief headings for clarity. The indented language is Chief Justice Marshall in Worcester:

Marshall begins with a description of the pre-existing rights of the ancient possessors of the land and the fact that discovery alone does not confer any rights....
America, separated from Europe by a wide ocean, was inhabited by a distinct people, divided into separate nations, independent of each other and of the rest of the world, having institutions of their own, and governing themselves by their own laws. It is difficult to comprehend the proposition, that the inhabitants of either quarter of the globe could have rightful original claims of dominion over the inhabitants of the other, or over the lands they occupied; or that the discovery of either by the other should give the discoverer rights in the country discovered, which annulled the pre-existing rights of its ancient possessors.... 
Did these [European] adventurers, by sailing along the coast, and occasionally landing on it, acquire for the several governments to whom they belonged, or by whom they were commissioned, a rightful property in the soil, from the Atlantic to the Pacific; or rightful dominion over the numerous people who occupied it? Or has nature, or the great Creator of all things, conferred these rights over hunters and fishermen, on agriculturists and manufacturers?...
Discovery gave Rights, but only with Respect to other European Nations... not vis a vis the indigenous population, said the Chief Justice:
The great maritime powers of Europe discovered and visited different parts of this continent at nearly the same time. The object was too immense for any one of them to grasp the whole; and the claimants were too powerful to submit to the exclusive or unreasonable pretensions of any single potentate. To avoid bloody conflicts, which might terminate disastrously to all, it was necessary for the nations of Europe to establish some principle which all would acknowledge, and which should decide their respective rights as between themselves. This principle, suggested by the actual state of things, was, "that discovery gave title to the government by whose subjects or by whose authority it was made, against all other European governments, which title might be consummated by possession."  
This principle, acknowledged by all Europeans, because it was the interest of all to acknowledge it, gave to the nation making the discovery, as its inevitable consequence, the sole right of acquiring the soil and of making settlements on it. It was an exclusive principle which shut out the right of competition among those who had agreed to it; not one which could annul the previous rights of those who had not agreed to it. It regulated the right given by discovery among the European discoverers; but could not affect the rights of those already in possession, either as aboriginal occupants, or as occupants by virtue of a discovery made before the memory of man. It gave the exclusive right to purchase, but did not found that right on a denial of the right of the possessor to sell....
The feeble settlement efforts of charter companies conferred no rights over local sovereign tribes:
Soon after Great Britain determined on planting colonies in America, the king granted charters to companies of his subjects who associated for the purpose of carrying the views of the crown into effect, and of enriching themselves. ... This soil was occupied by numerous and warlike nations, equally willing and able to defend their possessions. The extravagant and absurd idea, that the feeble settlements made on the sea coast, or the companies under whom they were made, acquired legitimate power by them to govern the people, or occupy the lands from sea to sea, did not enter the mind of any man. They (had)...  the exclusive right of purchasing such lands as the natives were willing to sell. The crown could not be understood to grant what the crown did not affect to claim; nor was it so understood.
Only defensive war, and offensive war on "just cause," was authorized by the colonial charters:
The power of making war is conferred by these charters on the colonies, but defensive war alone seems to have been contemplated. In the first charter to the first and second colonies, they are empowered, "for their several defences, to encounter, expulse, repel, and resist, all persons who shall, without license," attempt to inhabit "within the said precincts and limits of the said several colonies, or that shall enterprise or attempt at any time hereafter the least detriment or annoyance of the said several colonies or plantations." The charter to Connecticut concludes a general power to make defensive war with these terms: "and upon just causes to invade and destroy the natives or other enemies of the said colony." The same power, in the same words, is conferred on the government of Rhode Island. This power to repel invasion, and, upon just cause, to invade and destroy the natives, authorizes offensive as well as defensive war, but only "on just cause." ....
Charters contemplated conversion to Christianity of the Indians "by conciliatory conduct and good example:"
The charters contain passages showing one of their objects to be the civilization of the Indians, and their conversion to Christianity — objects to be accomplished by conciliatory conduct and good example; not by extermination. 
And conflict among European nations inevitably dragged in Indian Nations and tribes:
...[O]n so much of the American continent as lies between the Mississippi and the Atlantic, ... [t]heir pretensions unavoidably interfered with each other; though the discovery of one was admitted by all to exclude the claim of any other, the extent of that discovery was the subject of unceasing contest. Bloody conflicts arose between them, which gave importance and security to the neighbouring nations. Fierce and warlike in their character, they might be formidable enemies, or effective friends. Instead of rousing their resentments, by asserting claims to their lands, or to dominion over their persons, their alliance was sought by flattering professions, and purchased by rich presents. The English, the French, and the Spaniards, were equally competitors for their friendship and their aid....
The King purchased land Indian Nations were willing to sell; he did not set out to conquer land from the Indians:
Certain it is, that our history furnishes no example, from the first settlement of our country, of any attempt on the part of the crown to interfere with the internal affairs of the Indians, farther than to keep out the agents of foreign powers, who, as traders or otherwise, might seduce them into foreign alliances. The king purchased their lands when they were willing to sell, at a price they were willing to take; but never coerced a surrender of them. He also purchased their alliance and dependence by subsidies; but never intruded into the interior of their affairs, or interfered with their self government, so far as respected themselves only.
[It should perhaps be observed that, surely, Chief Justice Marshall offered all this as a theoretical legal construct and not as a verbatim account of history]

There were promises, noted the Chief Justice, that "the boundaries of your hunting grounds will be fixed" and "all treaties will be faithfully kept:"
The general views of Great Britain, with regard to the Indians, were detailed by Mr Stuart, superintendent of Indian affairs, in a speech delivered at Mobile, in presence of several persons of distinction, soon after the peace of 1763. Towards the conclusion he says, "lastly, I inform you that it is the king's order to all his governors and subjects, to treat Indians with justice and humanity, and to forbear all encroachments on the territories allotted to them; accordingly, all individuals are prohibited from purchasing any of your lands; but, as you know that, as your white brethren cannot feed you when you visit them unless you give them ground to plant, it is expected that you will cede lands to the king for that purpose. But, whenever you shall be pleased to surrender any of your territories to his majesty, it must be done, for the future, at a public meeting of your nation, when the governors of the provinces, or the superintendent shall be present, and obtain the consent of all your people. The boundaries of your hunting grounds will be accurately fixed, and no settlement permitted to be made upon them. As you may be assured that all treaties with your people will be faithfully kept, so it is expected that you, also, will be careful strictly to observe them."
The King's proclamation of 1763:
The proclamation issued by the king of Great Britain, in 1763, soon after the ratification of the articles of peace, forbids the governors of any of the colonies to grant warrants of survey, or pass patents upon any lands whatever, which, not having been ceded to, or purchased by, us (the king), as aforesaid, are reserved to the said Indians, or any of them.
The proclamation proceeds: "and we do further declare it to be our royal will and pleasure, for the present, as aforesaid, to reserve, under our sovereignty, protection, and dominion, for the use of the said Indians, all the lands and territories lying to the westward of the sources of the rivers which fall into the sea, from the west and northwest as aforesaid: and we do hereby strictly forbid, on pain of our displeasure, all our loving subjects from making any purchases or settlements whatever, or taking possession of any of the lands above reserved, without our special leave and license for that purpose first obtained. 
"And we do further strictly enjoin and require all persons whatever, who have, either wilfully or inadvertently, seated themselves upon any lands within the countries above described, or upon any other lands which, not having been ceded to, or purchased by us, are still reserved to the said Indians, as aforesaid, forthwith to remove themselves from such settlements."
The Governor's proclamation of 1772 :
A proclamation, issued by Governor Gage, in 1772, contains the following passage: "whereas many persons, contrary to the positive orders of the king, upon this subject, have undertaken to make settlements beyond the boundaries fixed by the treaties made with the Indian nations, which boundaries ought to serve as a barrier between the whites and the said nations; particularly on the Ouabache." The proclamation orders such persons to quit those countries without delay.
The court concluded that during its colonization period, Great Britain viewed the Indian tribes as independent nations, capable of maintaining the relations  of peace and war. Britain managed those relations through treaties that Britain acknowledged.

After the revolutionary war started, observed Chief Justice Marshall, the rebels were concerned about a possible alliance between Britain and various Indian tribes. "Far from advancing a claim to their lands, or asserting any right of dominion over them," however, "congress resolved "that the securing and preserving the friendship of the Indian nations appears to be a subject of the utmost moment to these colonies." Consistent with this the young United States established Indian departments whose mission was to preserve good relations with the Indian tribes:
Three Indian departments were established; and commissioners appointed in each, "to treat with the Indians in their respective departments, in the name and on the behalf of the United Colonies, in order to preserve peace and friendship with the said Indians, and to prevent their taking any part in the present commotions." The most strenuous exertions were made to procure those supplies on which Indian friendships were supposed to depend; and every thing which might excite hostility was avoided.
And pursuant to those friendly relations, and the continuation of Britain's policies, the U.S. entered into many treaties, all of which treated and recognized Indian tribes as separate sovereigns.

The Hopwell Treaty and subsequent treaties with the Cherokee, marked boundaries, but the Cherokees did not give up their nation status.  In fact, in those treaties, noted the Chief Justice, the United States guaranteed to the Cherokee all their lands not previously ceded.

The court's interpretation of the general relationship between the Indian tribes and the U.S. in general, and the Cherokee treaties in particular, lead directly to its legal conclusions that Worcester's rights had to be vindicated. The court noted that the Constitution made treaties the supreme law of the land. Therefore, the laws passed by Georgia were unconstitutional.  The Indian nations possessed rights within their boundaries with which no state could interfere, it followed that Georgia did not have the power to pass laws requiring a license for white people to live on Cherokee lands. Worcester's conviction was null and void, and the court ordered him to be set free.

Implications of Worcester

Although the Chief Justice never mentioned his decision declining jurisdiction in The Cherokee Nation v. Georgia from the previous term, the implications of Worcester pretty clearly include that the rights of the Cherokee Nation should also have been vindicated. Also, under the Supremacy clause, the Indian Removal Act was pretty clearly unconstitutional in light of the court's decision.

None of that mattered. Georgia defied the Supreme Court and kept Worcester in prison at hard labor. [He was released only after a change in governors] Congress, Georgia, and President Jackson all ignored the court's opinion and proceeded with the forced relocation of the Southeast Indians to the specially set aside Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma.

Worcester was a timely decision which, if respected by Georgia, the U.S., and other states could have altered our relationship with the Indian Tribes and could have resulted in a much more honorable outcome. Coming 30 years before the Civil War, is it too far fetched to speculate that if the states and the U.S. had done right by its Indian Tribes, if the Trail of Tears did not happen, if Worcester had become the model, that this could have led the Southeast and the United States in a direction that would have made progress on slavery earlier? That our history might have unfolded without Civil War? 

It appears that by 1830 the Cherokee had made considerable progress integrating into the overall Southeast economy. If white settlers had found it within themselves to hold the racism that led the Cherokee to the Trail of Tears at bay...., who knows what could have happened. 

As it was, Georgia snubbed its nose at the Supreme Court; Andrew Jackson was afraid of war with the southern militias and refused to back up the court; federal and state militias blotted a large stain on our judicial system, on our country, by forcibly and cruelly removing the Southeast Indian Nations from their treaty lands. The country marched towards civil war, a war that we still have not truly worked out of our system. There followed the slaughter of the buffalo on the prairies. There followed Wounded Knee

Could a different implementation of one Supreme Court case in Worcester have resulted in an altered history? A better history? 
Wounded Knee Massacre 1890/Robinson

Friday, June 17, 2016

About Guns: A Trump Voter Appeals to our Inner Dirty Harry

Gun Show--Some of the 11 million guns sold annually/
The United States has many more civilian guns per capita than any other country in the world. We have more guns in the hands of civilians than there are civilians.  Annual gun sales have greatly increased during the Obama administration: from less than 5 million in 2008 to more than 11 million today. But even as we are buying more and more guns, the number of households with guns is decreasing.  We don't love guns equally. Guns are concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people. Trump voters as best I can tell.

Gun owning households have declined from roughly 50% in the 1970's to less than one in three households today. Only 22.4% of adult individuals owned a gun in 2014, down from 31% in 1977. See National Opinion Research Center at University of Chicago Report (NORC 2015). Part of the reduction in household and individual gun ownership is due to the reduced popularity of hunting. Today, only 15% of adults live in a household where they or their spouse hunt, down from 31% in 1977.

Gun ownership for women has not changed appreciably in the last 35 years. Between 9 and 14 percent of adult women have owned firearms during this period. Id. 

Guns are predominantly in the hands of white, rural, male voters. Black and Hispanic incidence of gun ownership is much lower [18% and 15% respectively]. Gun ownership is also concentrated among households with higher incomes: 18% in households earning less than $25,000/year, versus 44% of households earning over $90,000/year.

The Candlelight Vigil Crowd vs. the Dirty Harry Crowd

We may not love guns equally, but--since we're red blooded Americans--deep down Dirty Harry has a hold on our psyches. 

After the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris (mass shooting on January 7, 2015, leaving 11 dead) Trump voter Richard Hewitt explained his attitude to gun control laws in a half hour monologue on his YouTube channel (Nutnfancy). Hewitt's YouTube channel provides knife, gun, and wilderness gear reviews, and a strong dose of pro-gun politics. He's good at it and his videos garner more than 100,000 views.  He's got a fishhook into our Dirty Harry psyches.

Hewitt's thesis is that the way to stop mass shootings is to arm more civilians. If the mass shooter at Sandyhook Elementary School in Newtown, CT (12/14/12 mass shooting that killed 20 schoolchildren, six staffers, and the shooter's mother) had to confront the possibility that teachers might be carrying concealed handguns, he might have thought twice. If the mass shooter at Virginia Tech (student killed 23 others in mass shooting in April 2007) had to worry about random students on campus being armed with a concealed weapon and that they might shoot back, he might have thought twice. If armed civilians could be found anywhere, anytime, ready to act like Dirty Harry.... mass shooters would stay away.

What we need are more George Zimmermans, only with better judgment. He points to a real life example: Nick Meli and the Clackamas shooting in Oregon (Dec. 2012). But from a policy perspective, it's a fantasy.

"So how is that disarmament thing going in France?" Hewitt asks rhetorically in his video. "This should be the talking point of American gun right advocates for years," he said.
"If that would have gone down in the state of Utah (Hewitt's home state) I would like to think, I can't guarantee it, I would like to think there would have been some rounds fired by concealed weapons permit holders. I can pretty much guarantee you there would.... In Utah, there are guns everywhere. Something like that goes down Downtown, I'd get involved. Absolutely. Got to make a judgment call...." 
Right. He'd be Dirty Harry, not George Zimmerman.

The Australian Example

But the evidence is that fewer guns and tighter regulations mean fewer gun deaths. 

In France they have a gun death rate of ~2.83/100,000,  compared to the U.S. rate of ~10.54/100,000. So, yes, for France, that disarmament thing is working out quite well compared to the United States.

A starker example is Australia. There, after a mass shooting in Tasmania that killed 36 people in 1996, Australian governments united to remove semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns and rifles from civilian possession as a key component of gun law reforms. In the 18 years before the gun law reforms, Australia had 13 mass shootings; in the two decades following the gun law reforms they have had one mass shooting (arguably two) and a significant reduction in gun related homicides and suicides. In Australia, removing a large number of rapid-firing firearms from civilians appears to have been effective to greatly reduce the number of gun-related deaths. Today the gun death rate in Australia is 0.93/100,000, which is less than 10 percent of the US rate. 

It's true that "bad guys" may always be able to obtain guns if they are determined to do so. So it's true that no gun control measures can eliminate the possibility of a mass shooting like we just saw in Orlando. But that is not the question. The question is whether gun regulations are beneficial overall to reduce the incidence of gun deaths, including the incidence of mass shootings.  The Australian example suggests the answer is "Yes."  

"Civilians Trained to be Victims" 

Hewitt asserts that advocating to remove rapid-firing guns from civilian populations like they have done in Australia, or to take much milder action that might have a chance in the U.S. Congress, is to train the civilian populace to be victims. The public is foolish to acquiesce, he says. Be like Dirty Harry, he suggests, don't submit to "sheeple mentality." 

"We are a country of liberty" said President Hollande after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. "Are you really?" taunts Hewitt. "If you're not armed isn't it kind of hollow?" He speaks to our Dirty Harry impulse; it speaks to us. But all the evidence suggests that flooding a country with rapid-fire guns results in more gun deaths. The evidence is, Dirty Harry notwithstanding, gun control works. 

Allowing more guns than people in a country, and concentrating those guns in the hands of Trump voters is not a good idea. It's not gun control advocates, it's the NRA, and the GOP, and Richard Hewitt and his YouTube channel who are training us to be victims. And we have been "sheeple-ish" about it. No more. It's time to act.

The Crazy

And because Hewitt is a Trump voter, here's the crazy: 
"The progressive agenda, the liberal agenda, the communist agenda, they don't want to arm the people. They want to disarm the people because a disarmed populace is controllable. We can have our way with you; want to tax you more; we want to control you; we want to control your movements; we want to do check-points. Welcome to 1984!
The ultimate safe-guard for a free country is to have an armed citizenry, he says. Candle light vigils won't solve the problem of mass shootings, he sneers. What we need is a populace full of Dirty Harry Trump voters with rapid-fire guns, ready to take the law into their own hands, ready to use those guns to resist tax increases.

HERE's another link to Hewitt. It's worth watching.

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The American Jewish Identity: Moving Beyond "Love for Israel" and "the Holocaust"

Dov Waxman, has written a clear and useful book. "It's about how American Jews relate to Israel, and increasingly fight about Israel," he says in a recent article in The Forward. Waxman was hoping the book would spark discussion and reflection, but so far, he laments, it has garnered him nothing but grief. The book deserves a wide audience. It offers an insightful glimpse into modern American Jewish identity, especially non-Orthodox identity, and it will serve as a lasting resource for the next generation of American Jews as they attempt to move beyond "love for Israel" and "remembrance of the Holocaust" as cornerstones for their Jewish identity.

A Vibrant and Powerful Community

Waxman describes an American Jewish community that punches above its weight in politics, culture, and life. Approximately six to seven million strong, it accounts for just two percent of total U.S. population, but four percent of its voting population, and a much larger percentage still of political donations. See, e.g. Here and Here. Jews are strongly represented in government (e.g. 7.3% of the current Congress), in think tanks, academia, media, entertainment, and business.

The American Jewish community accounts for 40% of the world's Jewish population and 70% of the Diaspora population (Jews outside Israel). It is highly organized and focused on Israel. "No citizens of one country have ever been so committed to the success of another as American Jews have been to Israel," said Steven Rosenthal in 2001. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main lobbying organization on behalf of Israel, annually draws in excess of 15,000 to its policy conference, including most members of Congress. As a result, Jewish issues have become interwoven in America's routine political agenda.

And there are spillover effects. Jewish access and powerful sway over the American government has led some foreign governments to court the American Jewish community, sometimes by adopting foreign policies supportive of Israel. American Jewish leaders travel the world like ambassadors, says Waxman.

An Emotional, Not Ideological Connection

American Jews have not always been Zionists. "Right up until World War II," says Waxman, "the American Zionist movement failed to gain mass support among American Jews and encountered a lot of resistance from the (mostly German-Jewish) leadership of American Jewry who were concerned that Zionism might jeopardize the position of American Jews by calling their national allegiance into question." 

Louis Brandeis, a Boston lawyer and later an associate justice of the Supreme Court, leader of the Federation of American Zionists from 1914-1921, argued that Zionism was the solution for European Jews who faced persecution and homelessness. Brandeis encouraged American Jews to philanthropically support the efforts of Jewish pioneers in Palestine, and he made the point that they should do this as patriotic Americans.

After the Holocaust, creation of the state of Israel in 1948, and especially after Israel's success in the Six Day War (1967), American Jews gradually came to love Zionism and Israel. The connection formed was deep and emotional, but not based on ideology, says Waxman. He identifies five pillars of this emotional pro-Israelism: 1) Familial solidarity and kinship among Jews worldwide; 2) Fear of anti-Semitism everywhere, fear for kin in dangerous places, and fear of assimilation at home; 3) Functionalism--support for Israel, along with the Holocaust, functions as a powerful symbol of Jewish identity in a time when Jewish observance of Halakhah (Jewish law) and communal observance in synagogues is less and less prevalent; 4) Faith--Jewish rituals, festivals, and prayer are intimately connected to the land of Israel [Take, for the most recent example, the creation and adoption of a Prayer for the State of Israel which has been incorporated into the Jewish liturgy world wide and is recited every Shabbat in most synagogues]; and 5) Fantasy--Israel for American Jews is an idealized fantasy of all their hopes and dreams; it's not their real Zion; America is their Zion. 

Waxman cites to the 2013 Pew study in which 43% of American Jews reported that caring about Israel was an essential part of what "being Jewish" meant to them; 69% reported being emotionally attached to Israel; 75% reported that "remembering the Holocaust" was essential to their sense of Jewishness. Since the Six Day War support for Israel has been central to Jewish life in America. It has been described by some as a "civil religion" for American Jews. 

For a period this support was unconditional, uncritical, and near unanimous. It united the Jewish community. But after the scare of the Yom Kippur war (October '73), two wars in Lebanon (1982/2006), three Gaza wars (2008/09, 2012, 2014), two Intifadas (87-93; 2000-2005), 20 years of a failed peace process, and  nearly 50 years of occupation, this support for Israel has become fractured and contentious. The emotional attachment remains, says Waxman, but at this point Israel has become a source of division rather than unity for American Jewry. And this fracturing is apt to continue for the foreseeable future. 

A Political Spectrum Regarding Peace with Palestinians

The fracturing of American Jewish engagement with Israel is taking place along the political faultiness of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. As this conflict has dragged on, and on, American Jewish engagement has become more critical, and less unconditional over time. Waxman identifies four  distinct political camps who live on different tectonic plates in this fractured landscape:

1. Center-Right (think AIPAC): This, by far the largest grouping, includes most of the Jewish establishment. On this tectonic plate challenging Zionism--the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state--is deemed anti-Semitic at heart. People who live here are very concerned about any efforts to de-legitimize Israel (e.g. the international boycott-divest-sanction (BDS) movement). People who live here believe that Israel is absolved of responsibility for the dispute with the Palestinians: it is Palestinian stubbornness in refusing to accept "generous" peace offers made by Israeli leaders that is to blame for the failure to reach a just peace. There is no "partner for peace," people say here. Flare-ups of violence are blamed solely on the Palestinians, on Hamas, and on Palestinian incitement. Israeli actions--from the creation of the state in 1947-49 all the way to the current knife intifada--are seen as reactive and necessary for Israel's security, and justified. The Center-Right accepts the concept of a Palestinian state in theory, but on this tectonic plate they believe that the size and sovereign powers of such a state must be limited. And they don't feel great urgency about a two-state-solution. The Center-Right pays lip service to abandoning some settlements, but they believe that settlement building is not an obstacle to peace as such. They opposes any U.S. pressure on Israel with respect to the peace process.

2. The Right (think ZOA): On this smaller tectonic plate are found American neo-conservatives and many of the religiously Orthodox. Neo-conservatives see the conflict through the ideological lens of a wider conflict between the West and radical Islam. The religiously Orthodox see the conflict through the theological lens of "it's our holy and Promised Land." Security is an overriding concern. Those who find their home here dispute the existence of Palestinian national rights. They brook no territorial compromises. They hold the view that the Arabs are not--and never will be--interested in peace; in fact, the Arabs are motivated by deep seated and incorrigible anti-Semitism, they say. They hold that all of the land belongs to the Jewish people, and that Israel is entitled to build settlements anywhere on the land. People who live on this tectonic plate reject a two-state-solution; at most they are willing to grant some limited autonomy under Israeli rule. 

3. Center-Left (think J-Street): Those on the Center-Left tectonic plate share the belief that Zionism is just and right. They believe in the continued existence of a Jewish state and they are emotionally attached to the idea. But they abhor the military maximalism exhibited by the Center-Right and Right. They are critical of the Center-Right for failing to take into account past wrongs against the Palestinians and failing to take into account present injustices. They believe in "humane and pragmatic Zionism," a term coined by Leonard Fein. The Center-Left believes in Israel as a liberal democracy that treats all of its citizens equally (with exceptions inherent in Israel's status as a Jewish state with Jewish symbolism, Jewish holidays, and a right of return for Jews but not others). People on this tectonic plate also believe that Israel as a Jewish state must be reconciled with the rights of Palestinians to self-determination as indigenous inhabitants. The Center-Left believes that continued occupation is a threat to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Accordingly, the Center-Left feels much more urgency about the need for a satisfactory two-state-solution. Whereas the Center-Right grounds its tepid support for a two-state-solution in a grudging pragmatism, says Waxman, the Center-Left's advocacy of a two-state-solution is normatively grounded (a requirement of justice). The Center-Left believes that the occupation and the settlements are an obstacle to peace, that Israel is partly responsible for Palestinian suffering, displacement, dispossession, discrimination, and for widespread violence on both sides.  The Center-Left, moreover, feels that a two-state-solution is possible: it is just a matter of political will. They reject the notion that there is "no partner for peace." Finally, the Center-Left believes that the U.S. has a crucial role to play in bringing about peace, and that this includes applying pressure to both sides. 

4. The Left (think Jewish Voice for Peace): The Left inhabits the smallest tectonic plate in the American Jewish community. People who live here are critical of Zionism and its inherent institutional bias against its own Palestinian citizens. The Left wishes to transform the state in a way that can accomplish justice and equality for all who live in Israel-Palestine. The Left is universalist in its orientation, says Waxman. It proceeds from different factual premises, starting with a view of Israel as a colonialists occupier of the land. People here focus on the dispossession of the Palestinians, the denial of rights, the historical and ongoing injustices. The Left views Israel as an aggressive apartheid state that violates international law and human rights and commits war crimes. They view all non-violent forms of Palestinian resistance, including BDS, as justified. The Left is very skeptical of a possible two-state-solution. They see that only a weak, truncated state could possibly emerge from any two-state-solution, and that this would be inadequate to satisfy the basic rights and needs of the Palestinians. In place of the two-state-solution the Left supports some version of a one-state-solution (with equal rights guaranteed for all) or some type of bi-national state.  The Left believes the U.S. has proven that it is unable to act as an honest broker in any peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. 

The Secular/Orthodox Divide

Waxman points to Michael Oren, who started out as an American citizen, became Israel's ambassador to the U.S. under Netanyahu ('09-'13), and is now a member of the Israeli Knesset (Kulanu party). Oren has lamented about a growing division between American Jews and Israeli Jews. But that misses a key part of the picture, suggests Waxman: Jews are divided both in America and in Israel. The biggest divide, he suggests, is the divide between the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox.

Waxman points to polling of the American Jewish community over the last 30 years which suggests that there is a significant divide between the Orthodox, the non-Orthodox, and the not-religious in their attitudes towards Israel. Some of this polling information is interesting in and of itself.

As we saw with the fight over the Iran nuclear deal (2015), which featured J-Street and AIPAC square-off on opposite sides of the issue, the right end of the political spectrum in the American Jewish community is aligning more and more with the Republican party, and the left side of the spectrum is aligning with the Democratic party. This partisan divide over Israel in Congress is new. But this polarizing trend is likely to accelerate, suggests Waxman.

For the non-Orthodox, Jewish identity is not a series of obligations and communal commandments, notes Waxman. They approach Judaism as a source of personal meaning and spirituality: more as a personal choice than as a matter of religious definition. It makes them less committed to Jewish peoplehood and more committed to American peoplehood.

In other words, Jewish communities in America are not immune to the melting-pot effect. As non-Orthodox Jews continue to inter-marry at higher and higher rates, their children are becoming post-ethnic, part of a wider multi-cultural and multi-racial society. The communal glue of "we care about Israel" and "we are the children of the Holocaust" is getting weaker. The shock and proximity of the Holocaust is wearing off and in America today philo-Semitism is much more prevalent than anti-Semitism. The Birthright program won't be enough to keep "love of Israel" as the defining characteristic of Judaism for the non-Orthodox in America. [Birthright sends 30,000+ young Jews to Israel each year on all expense paid trips in order in order to foster the emotional connection between young American Jews and Israel] This shows up prominently, for example, in the '13 Pew polling where among younger Jews (those under 30 years old) only 32% responded that "caring about Israel" was an essential part of their Jewish identity, compared to 53% among older Jews (those over 65 years of age).

Bad Jews!

If being a "Good Jew," above all, is synonymous with "love of Israel," "remembering the Holocaust," and "not inter-marrying," as some on the Center-Right and Right tectonic plates believe, then most  non-Orthodox and secular Jews in America today are "Bad Jews!"  Elliot Abrams (identified by Waxman as living on the neo-conservative tectonic plate of the Right) illustrates this position in a highly critical review of Waxman's book in Mosaic Magazine. The "problem" of increased criticism of Israel and Israeli government positions by American Jews--by those on the Center-Left and Left tectonic plates--says Abrams, should not be blamed on what Israel has become, or on Israeli politics. The problem is that too many American Jews are "Bad Jews."

"Bad Jews" don't practice the religion and they marry non-Jews. For Abrams, the fact that many of these "Bad Jews" vote Democrat must make matters that much worse! All this non-Orthodoxy, this fading emotional attachment to Israel, this inter-marrying by "Bad Jews," that's the problem. It has resulted in a lack of ethnic solidarity with Jews here in America and abroad, i.e. Israel, says Abrams. 

What Abrams says poses a challenge to the American Jewish community, but he is shooting the messenger.  

The five pillars of emotional attachment to Israel (see above) are crumbling.  Abrams is correct that the familial bond is being watered down by a lack of observance and increased rates of inter-marriage and the fact that, today, there are no Jewish communities "in trouble."  In the highly successful American Jewish community, and in a world where Israel is the undisputed military hegemon in the Middle East, fear of anti-Semitism is greatly diminished. For these reasons, Israel and the Holocaust are no longer so functional as a locus of Jewish identity. After 50 years of occupation and the rightward drift of Israeli politics, and the fading of the Holocaust into history, it is harder for young American Jews to "love Israel" unconditionally. Faith is less of a factor in a time of declining participation in organized religious life. Finally, with bad news from Israel featured in our news feeds on a daily basis, Israel is a much less idealized fantasy. 

To lay this at the doorstep of "Bad Jews!" as Abrams implicitly does is to miss the point. To write off the secular critics of Israel as "Bad Jews!" is not useful. 

A Concluding Thought

The challenge for non-Orthodox American Jews is to find a new center for their Jewish identity.  "Love of Israel" and "the Holocaust" cannot serve this role for the long haul. But a fading emotional attachment to Israel and a fading identity with the Holocaust among the non-Orthodox and secular unaffiliated Jews does not mean they are abandoning their Jewish identity, of course. Even among the unaffiliated studied by the Pew '13 study, 87% responded that they are "proud to be Jewish," says Waxman. A significant number (57%) place this pride in working for justice and equality. That and tradition are two places to start looking.

Finding a replacement for "Love of Israel"and "the Holocaust" as a locus for Jewish pride in a secular world is a challenge for our time. Dov Waxman's book will help with the quest.

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Moving on to the General Election with Ken Starr as an Object Lesson

Hillary Clinton/Jonathan Alcorn/AFP/Getty Images
Presumptive Democratic Party Nominee 2016
The Democratic primary race is over and Hillary Clinton will be the nominee. It's sweet redemption for Hillary, who conceded to Barak Obama in 2008 three days after the last primary, trailing Obama by just 100 pledged delegates and 100 unpledged delegates. 

Today, Clinton has a commanding lead of 850 delegates over Bernie Sanders (324 in pledged delegates and 526 in Superdelegates). Superdelegates, of course, are those 719 current and former elected Democratic officials who may vote for anyone of their choosing at the national party convention, which will be held on July 25-28, 2016 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. 

Back in 2008, had she decided to contest the nomination at the convention, Clinton could have succeeded by peeling just over ~100 Superdelegates away from Obama. This year, Sanders would have to convince ~507 Superdelegates to abandon Clinton. With Clinton having secured 3.7 million more votes than Sanders in this primary and having won nine more contests than Sanders (32 vs. 23), Superdelegates will not switch their allegiance.

Still, in Santa Monica last night, Bernie vowed to fight on. “We understand that our mission is more than defeating Trump, it is transforming the country,” he said. “Next Tuesday we will continue the fight in the last primary in Washington D.C., and then we take our fight for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice to Philadelphia,” he said.

“You Have Already Won”

This morning on his Facebook page, Robert Reich, who has been a strong Bernie supporter, took stock of what Bernie has accomplished, and ever so gently, signaled that it's time to move on:
Dear Bernie: 
I don’t know what you’re going to do from here on, and I’m not going to advise you. You've earned the right to figure out the next steps for your campaign and the movement you have launched.  But let me tell you this: You’ve already succeeded.… [Y]ou won 22 states. And in almost every state – even in those you lost -- you won vast majorities of voters under 30....  You have helped shape the next generation.  ....You did it with small contributions from millions of us. You've shown it can be done without selling your soul or compromising your conviction.  You’ve also inspired millions to get involved in politics -- and to fight the most important and basic of all fights on which all else depends: to reclaim our economy and democracy from the moneyed interests. Your message – about the necessity of single-payer healthcare, free tuition at public universities, a $15 minimum wage, busting up the biggest Wall Street banks, taxing the financial speculation, expanding Social Security, imposing a tax on carbon, and getting big money out of politics – will shape the progressive agenda from here on.... Regardless of what you decide to do now, you have ignited a movement that will fight onward. We will fight to put more progressives into the House and Senate. We will fight at the state level. We will organize for the 2020 presidential election. We will not succumb to cynicism. We are in it for the long haul. We will never give up.
Thank you, Bernie.
It’s the gentlest and most positive of nudges directed at Bernie's supporters that it’s time to move on with the general election. 

Many of Bernie's supporters, however, are not ready to move on. In my Facebook feed people are saying that polling shows Sanders polls better against Trump than Hillary--suggesting that is reason for Superdelegates to switch their votes.  In my Facebook feed people are saying Hillary is corrupt, that she has cheated her way to the nomination, that she is a hawk and terrible for the environment. And her husband is a sexual predator. They embrace all the dirt that Republicans have thrown at the Clintons for 30 years now. They fantasize that maybe Hillary will be indicted and Bernie, even after losing the primary, will get to be the standard bearer.  

Don't hold your breath. Jim Schutze puts it all in context for us.

History Lesson: Ken Starr was a Hypocrite

A week ago Jim Schutze reflected on the irony come full circle that Ken Starr was just suspended from his post at Baylor University for mishandling a serial rape crisis involving the Baylor football team. It points to a lesson Bernie Supporter haters of Hillary should take to heart. 

Here is Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer with the smackdown :
Up until last weekend, Starr was president of Baylor University, a conservative Baptist school in Waco with an enrollment just under 17,000. Starr was “demoted” by Baylor  regents in a messy, fumbled, panicky-seeming attempt to get rid of him as president.

His removal as president was the result of an independent audit by a law firm, just out, lambasting his regime at Baylor for the way it handled a serial rape crisis of several years duration. .... The regents also announced that Baylor football coach Art Briles has been “suspended with intention to terminate.”... Briles is a very big deal in the world of football. He took a losing, lackluster team and turned it into a powerhouse, at the cost (of) recruiting rapists to help get the job done....
The law firm hired by Baylor to investigate the serial rape crisis at Baylor produced a report that .... (earned) the university scorching condemnation from advocates for rape victims. Annette Burrhus-Clay, executive director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Baylor had created a culture in which, “one can rape with impunity.” ....

And there you have it, really. Football is just in it. At Starr’s Baylor, the underlying question — the question no one was dumb enough to speak out loud — was whether having a winning football team may not have been almost worth a few rapes, and, if it was, didn’t Baylor have to cover up the rapes by persecuting the victims? For the football, you see.
And here, all you Bernie supporting Hillary haters, listen up:
Even this staggering enormity — this awful moral debacle taken on its own without any reference to Starr — would not have earned Baylor the special wrath that history must bring to it because Ken Starr is at the center. Starr, after all, was at the center and beginning of the entire cycle of American history that we find ourselves stuck in now. The trumped-up scandal, argument by vilification, staggering hypocrisy about private sexual conduct: all of this dreck we are drowning in today started with Starr.

... In 1993 a three-judge federal panel appointed Robert B. Fiske, a moderate Republican, to investigate "Whitewater,"an Arkansas real estate deal in which newly elected President Bill Clinton and his wife had invested a decade before taking office. Fiske investigated for six months, found no evidence of wrong-doing and closed the investigation.

Frustrated conservatives in Congress denounced the Fiske investigation and used special legislation to reopen it, this time with Starr at the helm as independent counsel. Starr found no wrongdoing in Whitewater, either, but made great hay politically by expanding the investigation into a running probe of President Clinton’s sex life, replete with strategically timed leaks of salacious details.

As an absolute hallmark and signature of this kind of sexual witch-hunting — the sort of thing we all know we must brace ourselves for if Trump gets elected — the campaign to take down Bill Clinton over his sex life was positively resplendent with hypocrisy on the part of his attackers. Of course.

Henry Hyde, Republican of Illinois, who as House Judiciary Committee chairman was a leader of the drive to impeach Clinton, was outted for his own philandering. Weeks before impeachment hearings were to begin, House speaker and conservative darling Newt Gingrich had to step down because he got caught in serial affairs.

Gingrich was replaced as speaker by Bob Livingstone, Republican of Louisiana, who later announced he was resigning from Congress because he, too, had been caught having an affair.

But, no worries. Livingstone was replaced by Dennis Hastert, Republican of Illinois, a good, solid, middle American type whom we now know to have been a serial child molester.

So what was the glue in all of this? Was this a string of wild coincidences that no Hollywood studio would have accepted as the plot for a movie? No. There were no coincidences. These were hard-wired consequences, the grand finale of which is what just happened to Starr.

Sexual witch-hunters always — always — turn out to have sexual skeletons in their own closets. The ranting homophobic preacher always gets caught taking rent-boys through the turnstiles in some airport. It is in their nature.

Sexual take-downs always proceed from some other take-down attempt that failed. Nobody even thinks of it — the light bulb does not come on — until after the attempt to take down the target on some legitimately public issue has failed. That’s when people think of this stuff, and the agents who come forward and volunteer for it, drawn like rats to carrion, are always people hiding their own secrets by attacking others for the same thing. How many times do we have to see this show?

What would we have lost had Bill Clinton stepped down from office because he was being investigated? We would have lost an entire decade of solid, sensible well-being in this country, an era that laid down the road-map for the solid commonsense recovery we have seen under President Obama. Taken together these two administrations point to a path for a better future based on moderation, mutual respect, tolerance and intelligence.

Who knew that would work? What a surprise, that the keys to the kingdom have turned out not to be accusation, invective and invasion of privacy.

In this long arc of history, the rape crisis at Baylor was almost an inevitability. The disregard for victims at Baylor wasn’t some kind of oversight. It wasn’t merely callous. It was sick. What kind of adult looks into the beseeching face of a young victim who could be his or her own daughter and decides that football is more important?

The Ken Starr kind. The same kind that went after the Clintons, first on trumped up public charges, then for sex. It’s this very cycle of history, coming back to take Starr down at last, that Baylor missed seeing over its shoulder and now is bumbling and stumbling in panic to evade.

Come on, Bernie supporters. You already knew all this. You didn’t miss school that day, I know. You know why Hillary won’t step down over the stupid ginned-up email thing. When they can’t get her for email, they’ll go straight to sex. Oh, well, come to think of it, they’re already doing that, are they not?

What kind of odds can you give me, if I want to bet that Trump will be outted in some gigantic, totally laughable act of hypocrisy? You won’t even take that bet? Yeah. See what I mean.
With respect to the email server, Clinton violated no law in setting up her server. Colin Powell maintained a private email account and received some classified information on it. Condoleezza Rice's senior staffers also received classified information on private email accounts. On emails there is no There there. The same is true for every other "scandal" Republican Hillary haters have trumped up over the years:  Whitewater, the Vince Foster Suicide, Travelgate, Filegate. Troopergate, Benghazigate, Humagate, Foundationgate. Here is Kevin Drum. I have taken exception to Hillary's tour on the speaker circuit. It's emblematic of an honorarium problem in politics, I said. But this is not a problem unique to Hillary, and there is nothing illegal about it, even if this activity should be regulated.

Hillary has been found to be more of a truth teller than Bernie. She is fundamentally honest and trustworthy says Jill Abramson.

It's time to get on the Hillary bus; it's time to dump Drumpf.