WHY?

The first post tells why. It may be too little, but hopefully not too late.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

No Aurora, or Parrot paranoia


"А надо  бояться только того,
Кто скажет: "Я знаю, как надо!"
Гоните его! Не верьте ему!
Он врет! Он не знает - как надо!
"
But fear only the one who'll say,
"I know exactly, how."
Do not trust in him! Do drive him away!
He lies. He does not know how. - Alexander Galich

Economics is not my forte. So I won't talk much of it - but does our ruling Party really think that "command economy", as the Soviet variety used to be called, is the way the US should take? On the top of it, do they think financing it with the Barry-HOodean highway robbery of taxing "the rich" ever more makes it more hopeful?

Why I ask? In my continued discussions with the esteemed colleague from the previous post, he has recently come to what was the logical stage in the development of his "child disease of leftism" (as Lenin termed it, albeit speaking of leftism in communism). As the stages he passes through closely correspond to those of the world view of the Democratic party, it is instructive to mark this one. To wit, in his view, the example for America to follow is China. Not the Republic of China, prosperous despite (or maybe due to) its precarious existence. His beacon of hope is the People's Republic of China, a communist dictatorship that has only relatively recently allowed its citizenry to stop starving - by making them employable by the Western corporations, decentralizing and permitting free enterprise, and making the country the leading exporter in the world. In my colleague's view, however, this inclusion of China in the world economy is not the reason for the current improvement. In his opinion, the reason is that the Chinese government massively subsidizes all that's needed to get ahead.  Because no corporation can compete with the government, the US, with its backward capitalist small-government system, is doomed, as he thinks. Unless, that is, this country follows China's guiding light and gives the reins of the economy fully to the government, growing it more and more. Big government that ensues is thus a necessity, not a burden as we the benighted "conservatives" are misled to think by the "Faux News", having no brain of our own.

You'll say, "Solyndra"? Solyndra-shmolindra - it's just an unfortunate exception. You'll say, "the Soviet Union, which failed with its command economy"? Union-shmunion - and you are paranoid. See, it's completely different. In China, corporations are there, are they not, and they are surely capitalist - but the government is always just exceedingly smart and wise. In contrast to capitalist owners and the market, it knows which corporation is to swim and grow, and which is to drown, and spreads the wealth accordingly. For instance, some corporations are "too big to fail". Like GM, saved by the bailout, i.e., the money robbed... oops, taxed out of you. It does not matter that they may fail because what they make ain't good enough to be bought. My progressive colleague would never buy a GM-made car. They are entitled to be bailed out by the People's money because too many people would suffer if they fail - like Obama's friends from GM management and the UAW that gives him so many votes. It would be unfair and socially unjust to allow them to stand on their own. See, when millions are unemployed and get their checks because of (and sometimes for) not working, it is only just for us the People to pay others for working and making something people don't buy. That's why we the People now own 500 million shares, 26% of the company whose stock is worth less than 40% of what it should be to at least cover the bailout. After all, as my colleague's argument goes, aren't we subsidizing our farmers? Yes, we are - but at least we all eat, while not all of us drive Chevrolets, Cadillacs, and literally fire-breathing Chevy Volts, Cruzes, etc. 

And who indeed says that agricultural subsidies are good? One of their likely results is the catastrophic epidemic of obesity in this country - in part due to low prices on unhealthy subsidized foods. According to CDC, more than one third of the adult population and almost 20% of the young are obese. The latter proportion has tripled since 1980's. The unfair advantage granted to the producers of those staples - soy oil, corn syrup and corn starch, that is junk food (no fruits and vegetables except, very little, apples) - not only distorts the market, but kills. Yes, it is a personal responsibility to control one's food intake. It should not be discounted, however, that humans have not had time to fully evolve mechanisms for adequately dealing with refined and concentrated high-energy nutrients at virtually unlimited availability. This combines with effects of also very recent - on the evolutionary scale - low mobility that cannot be expected to be universally offset by voluntary physical exercise. Not everybody has the means, the time and the knowledge for that. Most importantly, not everybody has the will for that even when critically needed - otherwise there would likely be no obesity to start with. The government would rather try to tax and control people who are addicted to high-calorie foods from their childhood than to change its own agricultural policies that encourage the farmers to produce the enormous surplus of unhealthy food at the cost of healthy nutrition. Unlike drugs, where governmental attempts at supply control are negative and do not work (addiction rates have not decreased in decades), the governmental control of agriculture is positive and works quite well - to our grievous detriment. The government tends to know best - like it used to in the USSR. Or in China, which will eventually be the downfall of the Chinese economy unless they change more. Or may be I am just imagining, and nothing like that has never happened.

Indeed, I have more than once heard an opinion that those who came from the now extinct Soviet Union have a distorted perspective of paranoid obsession with the ongoing communist transformation of this country. Like Monty Python's parrot, communism is no more, we are told, it has ceased to be, - even in its own cage. It is even less likely to fly in this free country, and we should not try to sell the dead bird to the enlightened US public. Well, okay, it is possible that so many of us have gone if not postal then Forrestal, at least as the legend of his yelling "The Russians are coming!" goes. There surely have been mass delusions before. Judeophobia, for one, has affected Christian Europe and has been a major component of Islam since Muhammad. Nevertheless, all cases of mass paranoia have been due to intensive indoctrination, usually from a very early age, acquired, as they say in Russia, with one's mother's milk. One may be also prepared for accepting a paranoid cult based on prior prejudice and a lacuna where axiomatic religious feelings should have resided, like in the cases of the Manson family or Adam Gadahn, the American Taliban. We, who grew up in and escaped from the Soviet Union, have successfully withstood communist indoctrination, which not only presented the USSR as the pinnacle of human social achievement, but also depicted the Western society as hell on earth, where the rich and strong devour the weak and the poor, where "millionaires and billionaires" are ready to destroy the world in nuclear fire once promised some profit - never mind how they'd use it in the destroyed world, "stupid" as they are (another favorite term of the progressives). It is highly unlikely that having been immune to the Soviet propaganda, with its virtual monopoly on legal information and the scarcity of any illegal alternative, we'd be driven out of our minds by the weak, inconsistent, and contradictory ideologic information supplied by the "conservative" sources. 

It is much more likely that our dissent from the crowd educated at a comparable level in the US is due to our scale of reference, which is extended far beyond the abstract perceptions of communism that are available to US intelligentsia. This allows us to see the social phenomena not as discrete "line-item" events and occurrences, but as indicators of larger ideological constructs. Unfortunately, it is not (just) the economy, "stupid" (why can't they do without cussing?). Human history, even not so distant, has shown that people are capable of completely disregarding economy and their own material advantage - even their own lives - for an ideology's sake. Sometimes those are self-sacrifices that may be noble, altruistic and indeed result in a better future for others. Very often they are sacrifices of others by the ideologically driven leaders who themselves are doing quite well. It does not matter what this latter category calls itself - Secretary General and the Politburo, or President and his advisors, or Rais and his Authority - the result is the same. They are beyond critique, and they know exactly, how. Naturally, they also rely on unquestioning worship, like that accorded to Stalin, Mao, the Kims, and now - oh miracle! - Obama: watch the horrific Soviet-parroting organized mantric brain-washing of American kids, no different from that in today's North Korea. Those who are brought up worshiping an idol will hate his perceived human enemies - which is everybody who doubts his divinity and divine ideas.

The polarization of the country that took good root in the 1960's, despite apparent changes soon from hippies to yuppies, has created the indoctrination climate. One could say it was not communist indoctrination, even though "commune" was the name in vogue for the hippie groups. Communism as the term had lost much of its shine since Khruschev's denouncement of Stalin and become synonymous with oppression - not a good thing to accept when you preach love. Nevertheless, while not called by the dreaded name, not marching under the sickle and hammer banner, the anti-establishment, anti-capitalist and pacifist ideology was in service if not to communist goals, then to the goals of communists. Telling examples were the Jane "Hanoi" Fonda affair, and the "peace movement", in large part set up and funded by the KGB. No, the yuppified "flower children" generation did not become communist - they fought for peace and human rights. Along with the racism of the prior generation, however, they also rejected its other values - religious and thus ethical. Today, the generations of flower children and grandchildren rule the US and decide our future. It is not by accident that communists, terrorists, America-haters and Mao-worshipers keep popping up among Obama's coterie. Nowadays, it is the time-adjusted communist ideology of the current US government itself that works to destroy the hated capitalist system or, at the very least, to enable the benevolent power of the new Politburo over the "stupid" masses. For this kind of revolution, you don't need any cannonade from the Aurora, the cruiser that gave the signal for starting the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. No shooting, no civil wars - only the soft but firm congealing of power in the Kremlin, oops, the White House. Going by the same book of slogans of fair share, redistribution of wealth, "millionaires and billionaires" (used to be "bourgeoisie") - but with the book cover and the title and "the spectre of communism" cautiously stripped off.

To illustrate paranoid thinking, Robins and Post (1997) in their Political Paranoia: The Psychopolitics of Hatred note that for a paranoid "[w]hile there may be merit to the aphorism 'Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they are not out to get me,' it is also often true to state 'Because they have been out to get me, I had better trust no one and assume I am surrounded by enemies.'" From this "often true" statement follows that paranoia can also be readily used as a political quasi-diagnosis that dichotomizes a continuous variable of perceived risk, making it easy to assign the individual at a first "symptom" to the affected group and dismiss any legitimate fears any group or its individual members might have. The progressives like to attack their opponents as mental cases. When they are in power, as in the USSR,  punitive psychiatry becomes a method of choice for dealing with political enemies, that is anybody who disagrees. Interestingly, however, it is exactly paranoids who "do not have adversaries or rivals or opponents; they have enemies, and enemies are not to be simply defeated and certainly not to be compromised with or won over. Enemies are to be destroyed" (ibid.). The paranoid log has always been lodged in the progressives' own eye. With Obama and his unconditional supporters, mainstream media filled with sticky-sweet adulation for him and hate for the half the country of enemies, communist demagoguery and deep reach into the control of economy - the parrot is alive and kicking. And it hurts.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Who wins?

Why waste money and effort? Too bad they'll never listen to me - or the Romney and Obama election campaigns would have stopped that waste and donated that enormous money to charities and to the IRS, respectively. As per the sympathies, that is: "conservatives" are known to be more conscientious than "liberals", giving more to charities despite being poorer. Which is not surprising, because the difference is ideological, not material. In the Soviet Union, always my point of reference, giving alms, personal charity, was considered a sign of contemptible weakness to the beggar's reprobate behavior. The state was supposed to be thought of as taking care of everybody - against all facts to the contrary, particularly concerning the elderly and the disabled. Their pensions, if any, were often at the starvation level, and even that meager money was frequently stolen from them by their alcoholic relatives. Under the capitalist system, the progressive viewpoint is the same: the state is supposed to take care of our needs. Of course, we need to pay ever more taxes - as much as the state says it needs for taking care of us. The state's perceived generosity is very attractive to both the progressives, because it relieves them of the pesky responsibility of a civilized person to make the uncomfortable donation decisions, - and to the prospective recipients, because they get that as a legitimate entitlement and have nobody to thank for that (but the state, sometimes also known as Dear Leader).

While being demonstrably more charitable, the conservatives are presented as vicious predators, ready to push the granny off the cliff. The progressives (aka "liberals"), like Al Gore who donated one seventh of the average for donating households, are to be thought of as striving to take off their last shirt, or perhaps the $6,800 designer jacket, helping "the poor". Regardless of what one may voluntarily donate, it is never a "fair share", as the Leader... uhm, the President, defines it. Because it is the state that determines what that share is, it can only be paid through taxes.

I digress, but not much. The administration has succeeded in ensuring that half of the population uses and is used to governmental handouts, which are firmly associated with the Democrats. Add to these the progressive intelligentsia and money-hating "millionaires and billionaires" like Soros and Buffett, and the electoral majority is clearly in Obama's hands - no need in campaigning. In fact, no need in elections: the People has spoken already - just look at the polls. Never mind that over two thirds of the population are thinking that the country is going in a wrong direction - they still prefer the one who is taking it there. Something else matters, not the facts of life. It does not matter to the black voters that a leader of the Party, Sen. Harry Reid, likes Obama because he is “light-skinned” and capable of speaking “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one”. After all, Reid is no different in that from another idol of the progressives, "Che" the La Cabaña Butcher Guevara, with his insightful observations: “The black is indolent and a dreamer; spending his meager wage on frivolity or drink; the European has a tradition of work and saving, which has pursued him as far as this corner of America and drives him to advance himself, even independently of his own individual aspirations”; and “The blacks, those magnificent examples of the African race who have maintained their racial purity thanks to their lack of an affinity with bathing…” (The Motorcycle Diaries). 

The revolutionary icon, by the way, was also an antisemite, as comes from another quote from the same book, about "a certain Cohen, who we were told was Jewish but a good sort; there was no doubt he was Jewish, the problem was finding out if he was a good sort.” Then again, so are the plurality if not majority of Democrats, who not only list all the congressional antisemites, but are hardly half sympathetic to Israel vs. "Palestinians" (53% in 2012, but 48% in 2010) - in striking contrast to the overwhelming support of Israel among the Republicans. A progressive colleague, with his usual irrelevant cussing attributions, pointed out that this support is due to the eschatological motivations of "the lunatic fringe fundamentalists". I replied that if a Jew pays attention to these alleged hopes for the ultimate conversion of the Jews, he must believe in that as well as in all the surrounding events happening - the second coming, and the first one for that matter. Otherwise, why would he worry about that motivation that has no effect on the present, except positive? Suppose the "fringe" believe we the Jews will eventually convert, but meanwhile they help us against our sworn enemies – why would you be concerned about their dreams? Considering that they sincerely believe, it would be very inconsistent of them  –  and a reason of concern to us the Jews  –  not to worry about our redemption: it is a sine qua non for a believing Christian to hope for universal redemption. Democrats, on the other hand, believe in something else – their ideology of robbing the haves and spreading, however eventually thinly, among the designated have-nots – at their wise discretion. The ways-and-means are well described in Animal Farm

To get a taste of the components of that ideology pertaining to the Jews, check out Jimmy Carter’s slanderous masterpiece, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, along with another contemporary version of the Protocols –  the Walt and Mearsheimer treatise. This is who the Jewish majority in this country vote with – Carter, Sharpton, Farrahan, and their fellow Judeophobes. The latter, of course, include Obama himself, the first US president who has supported the return of Israel to the pre-1967 lines, better known as "Auschwitz borders". It is often said, and repeated by that colleague of mine, that Obama's minions' inability to name the Israeli capital is the US policy since Reagan. Well, I don't worship Reagan, like the progressives worship Obama. When I make my pick, I don’t need to make good out of bad, as they do with Obama who they think is infallible, if not immaculately conceived.  I've been well inoculated against idol-worship, much as I respect Reagan for his unique role in the destruction of communism. I see clearly the good and the bad, the latter including Reagan’s treatment of the Jerusalem issue, advised by James "f... the Jews" Baker. The fact that Obama follows in those steps, instead of the steps of the Democratic competitors of Reagan, Hart and Mondale, who both promised to move the embassy, and of Moynihan who introduced the US Embassy Jerusalem relocation bill, only confirms Obama's antisemitism and my colleague's inconsistency. Reagan, however, instructed to veto any possible UN resolutions that, prompted by Arabs, would characterize east Jerusalem as “occupied territory”. The Reagan Plan called for "Palestinian" autonomy, but not an independent "Palestinian" state, and Jerusalem as an undivided city – obviously no "Palestinian" capital. Obama did the Jerusalem piece too – only to renege the next day. Obama's sympathies, inspired by his uncommon upbringing, Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said, and Rev. Wright, are clear.

His motivations, which are not, unfortunately, of the fringe of the Democrats anymore but of their mainstream, - are clear too. He has been quite open on that, starting from the beginning of his career of an "organizer": 
That’s why people become involved in organizing—because they think they’ll get something out of it... With enough actions, I could start to build power. Issues, action, power, self-interest. I liked these concepts. They bespoke a certain hardheadedness, a worldly lack of sentiment; politics, not religion.
He took to heart the advice of his organizer mentor: "the last thing we need is to join up with a bunch of white money and Catholic churches and Jewish organizers to solve our problems. They’re not interested in us." Obama made them all "interested". He did need a friendly advice, though: "When classmates in college asked me just what it was that a community organizer did, I couldn’t answer them directly. Instead, I’d pronounce on the need for change." He has continued pronouncing that, and that has taken him straight to the White House. 

Power, which he has built so successfully, is the ultimate goal of the progressives - not “the problems of ordinary people, the voices of the Rust Belt town or the dwindling heartland", that "become a distant echo rather than a palpable reality, abstractions to be managed rather than battles to be fought”. The progressives always care about humanity - not about humans. About The People - not about people. But people are just that - people, suckers for populist slogans, freebies and discounts, flattery and the "cool", their memory short - in this case often literally, as the Obama-faithful majority of the youth have none. That's why the response to the question above is so easy.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Facebook logic and emotions

My on-occasion adversary on FB, a leftist by ideology but a good statistician by occupation, asked me in a heated discussion, "Do you think your views on the Middle East are logical and not emotional?" By which rhetorical device he, of course, meant, "Your views on the Middle East are illogical and emotional," and that logic and emotions are incompatible and mutually exclusive. A clear conclusion here is that my views are wrong for both of the named reasons, and both reasons inevitably result in error. 

I agree in part. The lack of logic would not do. My interlocutor, however, did not present any evidence that I suffer from that, and I'll simply disagree that my views are not logical. My word against his - but read on. I do agree with his other "accusation", but, again, not entirely. I agree that the Middle East events do not leave me unemotional. Having an emotional reaction, however, does not necessarily invalidate one's views. In fact, it is illogical and counterfactual to think otherwise. Emotions are usually engaged when one hears about injustice, violence, and murder. The inability to experience emotions in such cases suggests callousness and amorality - symptoms of psychopathy, but with no charm of a "classic" psychopath. It is hardly necessary to point out how injustice, violence and murder have been the inalienable part of the Middle East history, particularly that through which Israel has lived throughout its existence. From the Roman destruction and expulsion that was only the beginning of destructions and expulsions, to the genocide in Europe and Arab pogroms throughout Middle East and North Africa that preceded Israel's rebirth prepared by the millennia of the Jewish prayers of return, to the invariable Arab denial of the legitimacy of any Jewish state, to the incessant Arab terror targeting babies, kindergartens, women - anybody whose murder would produce a maximal possible horror - one has to have the cold blood of a frog, or simply be on the side of the murderers, to experience no emotion and be unaffected by it in one's views. 


It would be even more pathological if I did not experience emotions when thinking of the Middle East, being Jewish and having family in Israel. As my interlocutor was aware of that, his question was rhetorical, part of his mighty war arsenal. Nevertheless, some relevant possible meaning can be gleaned from it - that he himself is not emotionally involved. Not when the ongoing Olympics can't fail to remind him of the Munich massacre, not when his favorite news sources, however seldom they react to anti-Jewish terror, report of a family with little children slaughtered in their beds, not when Israel's "peace partners" celebrate that and name squares and schools after the murderers. Am I holding wrong views if I think, quite emotionally, that you cannot make peace with somebody whose goal is your death? Were Golda Meir's views wrong when she emotionally said that "Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us”? Do emotions cloud my thinking when I recognize that the Arabs are driven by an emotion, hate, not by reason, and those who are driven by hate must be treated differently than those driven by reason? Should I then, in my FB friend's illogical inversion, be ascribed hate to Arabs - just because many of them have shown that they hate me?  

The discussion I started with had had nothing to do with the Middle East, and my opponent's asking about the latter was a red herring, illogical and combative. I think that my mentioning his leftism is relevant, however, because leftists are wont to neglect logic, as they are driven by an ideology rather than facts and logic, and this ideology does not allow dissent. As I wrote to him, like his ideological brethren everywhere, he perceives any disagreement with him as an "attack", an opponent as an enemy, and views opposing his as "ideological extremism" and "BS" (quotations from his customarily rude and very emotional messages), which makes him incapable of a civilized discussion. He naturally would like to destroy the enemy - if not physically then figuratively. His language in these inconsequential FB disputes is hardly different from that of Vyshinsky, the prosecutor at the Moscow show trials, when the triumphant Party line was drawn in blood.