Council Submissions: April 13, 2016

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A Kurdish Teen

Wonder if her dad would be open to an arranged marriage with my son? He’d get her a better rifle than the Dragunov – like this Barrett.

The Council Has Spoken: April 8, 2016

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Paypal’s Gay Rights Hypocrisy

I live in North Carolina. I support LGBT rights. I also support the rights of a state’s elected representatives to make rules that I don’t necessarily agree with, such as the law mandating usage of public bathrooms based on the gender one was born with. To complete my libertarian perspective I also support private companies holding states to account for the decisions of their elected representatives, such as Paypal’s decision to boycott the state over the new law.

But when a private company does something like that and announces it for public relations purposes, I think it’s also appropriate to take it to task for blatant hypocrisy and showboating. Paypal does business in countries which treat members of the LGTB community far more harshly. Such as Malaysia. The Washington Times notes:

But Malaysia’s Penal Code 187 — which punishes homosexual conduct with whippings and up to 20 years in prison — did not stop PayPal from opening in 2011 a global operations center there that it estimated would employ 500 workers by 2013.

“We chose Malaysia because of its highly skilled, globally competitive and multilingual workforce, in addition to a world-class business environment and technology infrastructure,” John McCabe, senior vice president for global operations, said at the time.

Paypal and such companies like making popular statements because they enhance their brands with their customers at no cost. Just don’t expect jailed or whipped gays to stand in their way of cheap labor and profits.

Personally, I think the LGBT community in the USA has reached the point of diminishing returns in the USA. There are gays being thrown of buildings in the Middle East, or “non-existing” in Iran. There are plenty of LGBT rights to be gained outside of the USA, but fighting for bathroom rights in NC is laughable while millions of homosexuals still face death elsewhere.

Time to Outsource the CEO?

Workers in the industrialized world have been looking over their shoulders ever since the Industrial Revolution. First automation threatened their jobs. Then with the advent of globalization and the rise of free trade cheaper labor abroad either left them unemployed or kept a lid on their wages. More recently lax immigration law enforcement coupled with legal labor dumping through programs like the H-1b and J-1 visa programs have limited wages low paid hotel maids to high paying legal and computer jobs. Decades of this competition in which the American worker or professional feels as if she is running a Red Queen’s Race have fueled the support of anti-establishment, anti-trade candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. These workers and professionals are told that they must constantly upgrade their skills, change careers or uproot and move in order to earn a living, often by academics who are tenured and corporate executives whose jobs are secure against those same pressures.

Trump and Sanders peddle protectionist or tax solutions to decrease the gap between the rich and poor. But what if there was another way besides raising walls and taxes to level the pay gap between the average worker and the average corporate CEO?

What if business executives including CEOs and entire corporate boards felt that same pressure? Is it possible to outsource the corporate board, replacing it with a more effective and cheaper solution? After all, a company doesn’t exist for its workers nor for the benefit of society. A company exists to make money for its shareholders. Shareholders own the company not the CEO or the board of directors, so they work for the shareholders just as a minimum wage employee does. So why shouldn’t corporate officers face the same pressures as rank and file employees?

The Economist notes, “Boards are almost exactly as they were a hundred years ago: a collection of grey eminences who meet for a few days a year to offer their wisdom.”The past 100 years have witnessed assembly lines and mass production, automation, the rise of suburbia and the demise of rural life, free trade regimes, the death of labor unions in private industry and its expansion in the public sector, liberal immigration policies, offshoring, outsourcing, specialization and numerous other changes that have remade the American economy several times over. Yet corporate boards function as they did when most cars were hand built and women couldn’t vote.

Is this what our economy needs? Corporations run by boards packed with cronies like “the former headmistress of (former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s) children’s school and the man who designed his house.” Why shouldn’t the top leadership be subject to the same economic Darwinism of the lower ranks?

In the May 2014 issue of the Stanford Law Review Professors Stephen M. Bainbridge & M. Todd Henderson suggest shareholders replace their corporate boards with “board service providers.” They advocate that  outsourcing the board of a company “will increase board accountability, both from markets and from courts,” improve corporate transparency, boost efficiency and lower the cost of corporate governance. In summary outsourcing the board would deliver the same promised results as offshoring production or outsourcing departments. Bainbridge and Henderson believe that all it would take would be a simple change to state corporate law requiring directors to be “natural persons.”

There are times when companies have truly visionary CEOs. Apple’s Steve Jobs or Microsoft’s Bill Gates come quickly to mind. But most companies don’t have anywhere near that level of talent, and would do well with experienced, efficient and competent leaders who also happened to be paid far less than they were in the past. It’s easy for those of us who have worked in IT for a generation and seen the changes in the field brought by outsourcing and offshoring to support such a change as replacing the board of directors with a board service provider. If we have to look over our shoulders and constantly upgrade our skills just to remain employed at the same salaries, why shouldn’t the decisionmakers at the top?

Council Submissions: April 6, 2016

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The Council Has Spoken: April 1, 2016

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Stop Using Phobia To Describe Rational Fear or Hate

In a prior post I wrote about the attachment of the word “phobia” to terms to describe those who dislike other groups, e.g. Islamophobia or Occidentophobia. “Phobia is commonly defined as “a strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no real danger.” Tell the Belgians and Parisians that their fears of Islam are irrational and that it poses “little or no real danger.”

We don’t apply the term “cancerphobia” to those who worry about the disease because if you live long enough it is likely you will come down with it. Being afraid of cancer, especially if you have smoked in your life, isn’t irrational. So I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Europeans are irrationally afraid of Islam when they suffer terrorist attacks, and while more than half of the Muslims surveyed believe the West is at war with their religion.

The usage of such an attachment is based on the notion we can trace back to the writings of Erasmus who believed that ignorance was the base of all conflict, and that if both sides learned about the other they would stop fighting. So the term Islamophobia makes sense because under this assumption people fear Islam because they don’t understand it and don’t know Muslims. Once they learned about Islam and befriended Muslims they would no longer fear them.

This is comforting because it places the power to change in the hands of the person fearing Muslims and Islam. Muslims don’t have to do anything. It is up to us to learn about their ways and as we do they will learn about us and see that we aren’t so bad and stop wanting to kill us. This is the intellectual equivalent of a battered spouse who believes she controls her abusive husband. If she understands him and loves him even more he will see she is a person worth loving and will stop beating her.

But an outsider knows such a situation ends in one of two ways. Either someone leaves or someone dies.

The Danish writer who coined the term Occidentophobia to apply to Muslims who hate the West fails to recognize this deadly assumption. We don’t talk about Judeophobia – we talk about anti-Semitism. We don’t call Klansmen African-Americanophobes, we call them racists. Islamic terrorists aren’t ignorant about the West. They know who we are and they hate us anyway. So using a “phobia” term is misleading. And limiting their hatred to the Occident ignores terror attacks elsewhere in the world.

Jihadis aren’t at war with the West, they are at war with the modern world and everything it stands for: gender and sexual equality, personal liberty, economic freedom, and the separation of church and state. Their true goal is to reverse Time and bring the world back to the 7th Century as it was when the Prophet Mohammed ruled Arabia. This isn’t irrational fear of the West but a rational hatred from the Islamic perspective of modern life and everything associated with it.

This hatred is so expansive that I can’t think of a word that accurately captures it. It’s a hatred of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, of Science and Reason itself. It’s a hatred of all 4/5ths of humanity not Muslim, and the fraction of Muslims who are heretics (like the Shi’a). It’s a hatred of all world history prior to the birth of the Prophet, which is why the Taliban blew up statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan and Isis destroyed Roman temples in Palmyra.

But just because there isn’t a word to sum it up means we should make do with one like Occidentophobia. It’s always better to have nothing than something that misleads, as this term surely does.

Muslim Attitudes in Europe: Occidentophobia – Their Hatred of the West

Dutch writer Leon De Winter has an interesting article at Politico.EU which compares European attitudes towards Muslim migrants with Muslim migrants attitudes towards the West. In the process he coins a new term: Occidentophobia to “expres(s) a refusal to accept the essential concepts of life in the West,” in short a hatred of the West and all it stands for.  It’s an ugly term in many ways. Occident is an antiquated term and phobia is an abused term thanks to the term Islamophobia which De Winter is trying to counter. Phobia is commonly defined as “a strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no real danger.” Tell the Belgians and Parisians that their fears of Islam are irrational and that it poses “little or no real danger.”

But De Winter does make a case against those particularly on the Left that seek to “blame the victim” – the West – for hatred expressed by Muslims towards it. He cites a December 2013 study by Professor Ruud Koopmans of the Berlin Social Science Center ,“Fundamentalism and out-group hostility (PDF).” The study interviewed 9,000 people throughout Europe. Some key slides from Koopmans’s study appear below.

The first slide combines answers from three questions: “Christians [Muslims] should return to the roots of Christianity [Islam],” “There is only one interpretation of the Bible [the
Koran] and every Christian [Muslim] must stick to that”, and “The rules of the Bible [the Koran] are more important to me than the laws of [survey country]”.

The next question: “I don’t want to have homosexuals as friends”, “Jews cannot be trusted”, “Muslims aim to destroy Western culture” (for Christian natives)/“Western countries are out to destroy Islam” (for Muslims).

De Winters writes Occidentophobia “expresses a refusal to accept the essential concepts of life in the West. Young men like the perpetrators of the Brussels attacks have refused to embrace the social codes of Belgian life. They were raised on the idea that their religious ethics trump the ethics of the infidels (close to non-existent, in their eyes, in any case).”

The survey supports Michael Totten’s conclusion that Europe has done a poor job of integrating their Muslim minorities, and allowing these attitudes to fester. “There are five times as many Muslims in the United States as there are in Belgium, but the United States is not a hotbed of homegrown Islamic extremism. We’ve suffered some acts of terrorism since 9/11—the mass shooting in San Bernardino, the Boston Marathon bombing and the massacre at Fort Hood. If American Muslims and European Muslims were equally predisposed to jihadism, we’d experience roughly five times as many attacks. But we don’t, mostly because Muslims feel more at home in the United States than they do in Europe.”

De Winter concludes, “What did “we” do to “them”? We opened up our cities, our houses, our wallets. And in our secular temples of progress — our metro stations and airports and theaters — their sons are killing themselves, and taking our sons and daughters with them. There is nothing for which we need to apologize. “Occidentophobia” originated in the Muslim community. We need to demand they abandon it.”

Perhaps a better solution would be for Europe to remove the suicidal politically correct elite currently governing it in Brussels, Paris and Berlin. Then perhaps it could implement sensible immigration reforms based on politically incorrect facts such as collecting money from the state without working for it isn’t healthy for young able bodied men regardless of religion, and tell them that their recreating the societies in Europe they escaped from in the Middle East and North Africa will not make them happy.

But as Totten suggests with his Tom Wolfe quip “the dark night of fascism is forever descending on the United States and landing in Europe”, the European solution will likely involve jackboots and shaved headed thugs. Europe has suffered two large scale terrorist attacks in 6 months. At this rate it won’t take much to turn even the most open-minded and non-racist European into a tacit supporter of the far right.

What this should teach us in the US is that our own elite, which looks towards the European elite for its inspiration, needs to be resisted at every turn.

Council Submissions: March 30, 2016

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Free Trade: I Want to Believe

Bloomberg has an article showcasing the winners and losers of a manufacturing company’s move from southern Kentucky to northern Mexico. First the losers. “Randall Williams and his wife, Brenda, were two of those workers. For three decades, they helped assemble the hermetically sealed motors that power air conditioners sold all across America. At the end, they were each making $16.10 an hour. That kind of money’s just a dream now: Randall fills orders at a local farm supply store; Brenda works in the high school cafeteria. For a while, he said, their combined income didn’t even add up to one of their old factory wages… ”

Then there are the winners. “Just as the Williamses were being informed by A.O. Smith that they’d be let go, a young Mexican woman named Zoraida Gonzalez was hired some 1,200 miles away in the hardscrabble town of Acuna, just over the Rio Grande from Texas. To replace its Kentucky output, A.O. Smith was ramping up production in lower-cost Mexico, a move facilitated by the signing a decade earlier of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Gonzalez was brought in to help handle phone calls. Now 30 years old and in charge of payroll, she makes about $1.75 an hour…”

In theory free trade should make more winners than losers. A company that offshores manufacturing should save money. This money will go into hiring other employees  whose jobs cannot be sent abroad, or be paid to investors in the form of dividends. This money will stimulate demand or be used for more investment, creating jobs that will replace those lost by the Williams’s while at the same time lowering the cost on the things they buy, though the Williams’s might have to relocate to get those jobs.

Unfortunately the theory isn’t working that way in practice as a recent paper by M.I.T.’s David H. Autor, UCSD’s Gordon H. Hanson, and the University of Zurich’s David Dorn of the University of Zurich found. “Instead, unemployment rose both among manufacturing and nonmanufacturing workers, suggesting that the ill effects of increased trade had a spillover impact on the larger local economy. On top of that, average weekly wages declined. In general, places like Tennessee were very slow to adapt to the new economic reality—their elevated unemployment rates and diminished wages persisted for a decade, the paper’s authors estimate. The workers there are also saw a lower lifetime income.”

Even the free trade cheerleader The Economist takes American companies to task for hoarding cash saved by offshoring and other job cutting measures instead of plowing it back into the economy. “Abnormally high profits can worsen inequality if they are the result of persistently high prices or depressed wages. Were America’s firms to cut prices so that their profits were at historically normal levels, consumers’ bills might be 2% lower. If steep earnings are not luring in new entrants, that may mean that firms are abusing monopoly positions, or using lobbying to stifle competition. The game may indeed by rigged.”

One of the theories of Karl Marx’s insomnia cure, “Das Kapital” is that under capitalism money tends to accumulate as winners take all and leave scraps for everyone else. When it accumulates it is less useful than when it is spent. It then becomes up to the government to step in and redistribute it – at least until money is completely abolished. Or something like that. I think that’s as far as I ever got in that billion page long book, required reading in my Marxist Economics class taught by a real honest-to-goodness Israeli Communist.

Free trade is supposed to improve the economic prospects of everyone in aggregate. For losers like the Williams’s, there should be winners not just in the USA but in their own communities. But that is not happening. Instead of leading to greater prosperity, free trade has created stagnant wages and diminished prospects for American workers. The economy booms when a company opens, and everyone in the area prospers as the wages filter through the economy. Then the jobs are lost in one area, but gained by another as the wave of prosperity crosses borders and improves the life of those like Ms. Gonzalez.

But the wave will not stop in Mexico. As prosperity descends on northern Mexico, wages will increase and reach a point where there will be an economic incentive for companies to find cheaper labor elsewhere. This has already happened in Latin America as many of the jobs created by NAFTA move from there to China. And even the Chinese are feeling pressure from lower wage nations such as Vietnam, Cambodia and others. People float in an economic sea, and become prosperous as the wave of prosperity raises them up, but then makes them less so as the wave moves on. The question then becomes: Are the people better off after the wave recedes? Will another follow it?

And that’s where the Williams’s come in. Ask them if they are better off. Then pull the lens back and look at the communities in America’s rust belt cities and see whether cities like Pittsburgh, Detroit and Gary are better off today than they were forty years ago. As the paper by Autor, Hanson, and Dorn proves that next wave of prosperity may never come for some.

Marxist Economics class aside, I was educated to believe in the free trade. Even after I suffered the indignity of training my foreign replacement at my tech job, I wanted to believe that my community was better off under the free trade than it would be without it. I remember talking with a reporter about how America’s real religion was free market capitalism, and that our nation had embarked on a great experiment based on the faith that the the free trade would benefit everyone.

But after decades of trade deficits, wages that haven’t changed since the 1970s and the American worker’s Red Queen’s Race, I think it’s fair to ask, has our faith been well-placed?

The Council Has Spoken: March 25, 2016

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The Islamic Terrorist Attack Narrative Arc

If the Media Were As Sympathetic to Gun Owners as to Muslims

Take this article and substitute the words “gun owner” or “gun owning” for Muslim and Islam.

WASHINGTON — Cities across the USA are preparing for the next phase that inevitably follows a gun attack: anti-gun backlash.

Across social media, in public forums on college campuses, and even in mainstream political rhetoric from presidential candidates, anger over the deadly gun attacks in Brussels has spawned discontent and suspicion directed at gun owner groups.

The aftermath of an attack “is always a difficult time for gun owners in the United States,” said Nabil Shaikh, a leader of the Gun Owner Students Association at Princeton University.

“On Princeton’s campus, students took to anonymous forums like Yik Yak to comment that there are gun owners at Princeton who are radical and would therefore condone yesterday’s attacks,” Shaikh said. “These comments not only are appalling and inaccurate but also threaten the well-being of gun owning students.”

Unlike in Belgium and Paris following the November gun attacks, the backlash in the U.S. is not as confrontational.

Europe has seen occasional anti-gun rallies in Flemish cities such as Antwerp and Ghent. Some gun owner leaders have accused police in Europe of overtly targeting gun owning communities in lockdowns and raids of homes.

“The average gun owner still feels intimidated, still feels scared, still feels insecure.”

Khusro Elley, Chappaqua, N.Y.

Gun owner communities in the U.S. face opposition more in the form of rhetoric — but in an election year, such rhetoric can lead to sweeping change.


Council Submissions: March 23, 2016

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