Thursday, August 30, 2012

Japan, WWI and Fascism 

The elements in my heading above must seem a bit ill-assorted.  They are not, however, as we shall see.  Let us start with an excerpt from a book review of "Military Strategy and the Origins of the First World War"   (Princeton University Press).

Most historians seem to agree that WWI was the key folly of the 20th century -- a folly that ultimately led to  both the Hitler and Stalin disasters -- but how and why did it all happen?  There are many answers to that but the review below by Richard Koenigsberg highlights a surprising but cogent explanation in terms of the war immediately preceding it:  The Russo-Japanese war.  That war -- resulting in the crushing and totally surprising defeat of a major European power by an Asian nation -- did make a huge impact at the time so it all fits that it should have been the key to WWI thinking.

Japan and Britain were allied at the time so there were considerable numbers of British observers embedded with the Japanese forces -- so what went on in the various battles was reported in detail in the British press and also therefore in the European press
Battles occurred when massive numbers of troops got out of their trench and attacked the opposing trench. Modris Eksteins describes the fundamental pattern:
"The victimized crowd of attackers in No Man’s Land has become one of the supreme images of this war. Attackers moved forward usually without seeking cover and were mowed down in rows, with the mechanical efficiency of a scythe, like so many blades of grass. “We were very surprised to see them walking,” wrote a German machine-gunner of his experience of a British attack at the Somme. “The officers went in front. I noticed one of them walking calmly, carrying a walking stick. When we started firing, we just had to load and reload. They went down in the hundreds. You didn’t have to aim, we just fired into them.”

By the time the war ended in November 1918, casualties had been staggering. Matthew White’s table summarizes the results: 65 million soldiers were mobilized to fight of which 9.5 million were dead, over 21 million wounded, and nearly 8 million taken prisoner or missing. Total casualties were over 37 million: 57.7% of all forces mobilized.

The mind boggles at these statistics. What could have been at stake to justify this massive episode of slaughter?

Howard suggests that it was neither the Boer War nor the American Civil War nor even the Franco-Prussian War that established the template for the First World War. Surprisingly, the 1905 Russo-Japanese war provided the model that France, Great Britain and other nations sought to emulate.

In February 1904, the Japanese navy launched a surprise attack on the Russian fleet at Port Arthur. It took the Japanese army a year to establish themselves in the disputed province of Manchuria, capturing Port Arthur by land assault in a two-week battle involving over half a million men.

The general consensus of European observers-who followed this war closely-was that infantry assaults with bayonets were still not only possible but necessary. The Japanese had carried them out time and again, and were ultimately successful. In spite of enormous losses in these assaults (Japan suffered an estimated 85,000 casualties during the war); soldiers had broken through the enemy line against machine gun fire and other obstacles. Bodies were heaped on the ground as one wave of troops followed the next, but the attacks eventually resulted in victory.

Japanese bayonet assaults came, it was true, only at the end of a long and careful advance. A French observer described one Japanese attack:
"The whole Japanese line is now lit up with the glitter of steel flashing from the scabbard. Once again officers quit shelter with ringing shouts of "Banzai!" wildly echoed by all the rank and file. Slowly, but not to be denied, they make headway, in spite of the barbed wire, mines and pitfalls, and the merciless hail of bullets. Whole units are destroyed-others take their places; the advancing wave pauses for a moment, but sweeps ever onward. Already they are within a few yards of the trenches. Then, on the Russian side, the long grey line of Siberian Fusiliers forms up in turn, and delivers one last volley before scurrying down the far side of the hill."

Japanese losses in these assaults were heavy, but they succeeded; and so, European theorists argued, such tactics would succeed again. "The Manchurian experience," one British military theorist wrote, showed over and over again that the bayonet was "in no sense an obsolete weapon. The assault is the supreme moment of the fight. From these glorious examples it may be deduced that no duty, however difficult, should be regarded as impossible by well-trained infantry of good morale and discipline."

It was the "morale and discipline" of the Japanese armed forces, Howard tells us, that all observers stressed. They were equally unanimous in stressing that these qualities characterized not only the armed forces but the entire Japanese nation. General Alexei Kuropatkin, the commander of the Russian forces, noted in his memoirs that his nation's defeat was due not to mistakes in generalship, but Russia's inferiority in "moral strength." Lacking "moral exaltation" and the "heroic impulse," Russia did not have sufficient resolution to conquer the Japanese.

The issue of national morale and will was a central concern of European leaders who studied the War. British General Sir Ian Hamilton stated that the Russo-Japanese war should cause European statesman anxiety. People seemed to forget that millions "outside the charmed circle of Western Civilization are ready to pluck the scepter from nerveless hands as soon as the old spirit is allowed to degenerate." Much as some worry today that China might become the "greatest country in the world," supplanting the United States, so European leaders at the turn of the century worried that Japan might supplant Western nations as the greatest country.

The basis of national greatness was, essentially, the spirit of self-sacrifice. Hamilton said that England still had time to "put her military house in order;" to "implant and cherish the military in the hearts of children." It would be necessary to impress upon the minds of the next generation of British boys and girls a "feeling of reverence and admiration for the patriotic spirit of their ancestors." The cult of the offensive, it would appear, represented a desire to make manifest the national will-the capacity for self-sacrifice-and therefore to demonstrate the greatness of one's nation.

In the following report, British Brigadier-General Hubert Rees describes a battle in which his own brigade was massacred as they advanced on German lines:
They advanced in line after line, dressed as if on parade and not a man shirked going through the extremely heavy barrage, or facing the machine-gun and rifle fire that finally wiped them out. I saw the lines, which advanced in such admirable order melting away under fire.

Yet not a man wavered, broke the ranks, or attempted to come back. I have never seen, indeed could never have imagined such a magnificent display of gallantry, discipline and determination. The reports from the very few survivors of this marvelous advance bear out what I saw with my own eyes: that hardly a man of ours got to the German Front line.

In spite of the total failure of this attack, it is evident that General Rees regarded the destruction of his brigade in a positive light. He observed that not a man “shirked” in the face of the machine-gun and rifle fire. He was proud that even though his troops were “melting away under fire,” they continued to advance “in admirable order.” His men did not waver, break ranks, or attempt to retreat. The General gushed that he had never seen such a magnificent display of “gallantry, discipline and determination.”

His soldiers were slaughtered and “hardly a man got to the German Front line.” However, the General does not evaluate the battle in terms of success or failure. Rather, his reflections revolve around the morale and spirit demonstrated by his troops. The fact that his soldiers continued to advance despite being riddled with bullets leads General Rees to conclude that the attack had been “marvelous.”

(Excerpt from a review received by email from Library of Social Science.  Full essay available here)

More on the surprising influence of Japan

As someone who drives a car made in Japan, and as one who occasionally dines at a Sushi train, I am one of the many who is aware of the large influence of Japan in the modern world.  What seems to have slipped out of general awareness is how far back that influence goes.  It has been influencing us for over 100 years.

Even when Commodore Perry anchored his black paddle-wheeler in Tokyo Bay in 1854 and signed a treaty opening  Japan to the West, he was impressed by the rich Japanese culture -- and that impression has continued on from there.  By the late 19th century there was quite a fad in Western Europe for all things Oriental, both Chinese and Japanese.  This was very evident in  Art Nouveau, the dominant art of the Belle Epoque.  As one review says:
"Art Nouveau was not a style but a movement which was a reaction against the stuffy over-decoration of the nineteenth century. It took its early inspiration from the work of William Morris, Arthur Mackmurdo, and Walter Crane, and fused these with an enthusiam for Chinoiserie and Japonisme. And as a movement it errupted very suddenly in the 1890s, spread throughout Europe and even to the USA – and then ended just as abruptly in the first decade of the new century."

But while Westerners were enthusing (justifiably, in my view) about Japanese art, the Japanese were embarking on a uniquely determined attempt to catch up with the West technologically,  something they had pretty much achieved as the dawn of the 20th century broke.  Most Asian nations are still modernizing in the 21st century.  Japan did it in the 19th.  There is no doubt that they are a remarkable people.

And as I have previously pointed out, the culmination of that catch-up in the defeat of Russia in 1905 energized the West enormously.  A civilization that was already esteemed became even more so -- to the extent of being taken as a model in many ways.

But Japanese culture, like Chinese culture, is a culture of honour/shame rather than a culture of moral absolutes so its influence was in some ways atrocious. Again  as I have previously pointed out, its influence on military doctrine led to the mass slaughter of ONE'S OWN TROOPS being seen as a good thing!

And we see another awful instance of the power of honour/shame in the episode below:
I happened to be watching one of those TV progs about antiques the other day. This one was called "Flog It" and it encourages people to dig out old stuff they don't want, get it valued by experts and, if it is worth anything, either sell it to a dealer or put it into auction.

Apparently one of the things that can add extra value to an antique is its "provenance", i.e. its history, especially if it has some particular association with a person or event that makes the item "come alive" and become more interesting and collectible.

On this occasion an elderly woman was selling a set of medals. Alongside the medals she had an old, faded sepia photograph of two boys sitting either side of a young girl. She explained that the picture was taken just before World War I; the girl was her mother and the two boys her uncles - that she had never known. She went on to explain why she had never known them.

Just after the war broke out, one of her uncles was on a bus when a woman approached him and pinned a white feather on him. Readers will recognise this as a familiar insult used by women at the time to shame young men into joining the military and going out to fight in the war. The white feather did exactly what it was designed to do; the young man felt so humiliated by the woman's act that he promptly signed up. But he had to lie about his age in order to get in. Why? Because he was only fifteen years old. That's right: FIFTEEN. He looked older, but that was his precise age.

The medals on show on the programme were the ones he and his brother, who followed him into the army, won in their brief lives. Within a year of signing up, they were both dead on the killing fields.

Dead. Wasted. Before they could start their own families, before they even had a vote, before they had any chance of fulfilling their promise. Brave, honourable, but uselessly dead.

The presenter of the programme could not hide his shock at the story. It is good that people can still register such shock, because we should never forget the lessons. Did that woman who pinned the feather ever know what wickedness she had perpetrated? Did she ever care?

It occurs to me that in order to pin the feather on the young man, she must have deliberately taken it out with her that day. She must have had it in her bag or whatever, and was specifically looking for a young man to pin it on. It could not have been a spontaneous act: it was planned. She had a clear intent to inflict personal shame and misery, and ultimately complete destruction, on an innocent young man she didn't even know. She might as well have pulled out a gun and shot him. But she got clean away with it."

What kind of person is it that approaches a random stranger and calls him a coward knowing nothing about him, not his age, his occupation, his health and fitness, any of his history at all, the only type of person who does this is one who feels completely invulnerable, secure and confident in the knowledge that they would not be censored or criticized"

Fortunately, the follies of WWI were rapidly recognized as soon as the war was over and Western Christian values were more or less restored throughout Europe.

During WWI, Japan itself continued its alliance with Britain but mainly undertook naval operations (Would you believe Japanese navy warships assisting the  British even in the Mediterranean?) -- so Japanese values continued on as before, leading them into the disaster of their conflict with the USA in WWII.

Japan, "Modernism" and the 19th century origins of Fascism

I would now like to say something about the deeper reasons behind the West's early fascination with Japan.  I need to set out a lot of background to get to that point, however, and "Modernism" is a rather surprising key to that.  It explains both the fascination with Japan before WWI and the emergence of Fascism after WWI.

"Modernism" is a much abused term that has had a number of meanings over the years but the version that I want to discuss here was a movement, mostly in art and literature, in the closing decades  of the 19th century and continuing into the early 20th century.  It took a hit from the shattering events of WWI but rather surprisingly survived. It was particularly prominent in France and Italy and in Italy eventually merged with Fascism. 

It was a rather euphoric movement marked by a general rejection of previous traditions and a feeling that the modernists could create the world anew.  It all sounds rather silly and egotistical nowadays but its relationship with Fascism gives it more than ordinary historical importance.  Wikipedia has one summary of it here for those who want to read further. 

There is a book (briefly summarized here) by a frequent writer on  Fascism (Roger Griffin) which attempts the daunting task of defining modernism -- and the author's apologies for the boldness of that endeavour must be my apologies too. 

I think his approach to Fascism via Modernism is fruitful but there is also something in the Marxist account of social changes having economic causes -- so I would extend the analysis to say that even modernism can be seen as an economic product.   I think economic history explains just about all of modernism in fact.  But economic phenomena do not exist in a vacuum either.  Behind economic history is political history. So on to that:

After the defeat of the French by German forces in 1870, Bismarck rapidly accomplished his long-pursued  task of unifying most of  the German lands under the Prussian crown.   Only Austria proved indigestible.

Bismarck saw the great danger of the unification, however.  Unified Germany was such a formidible economic and military power that it had great potential to strike terror into the rest of Europe.  And a logical response to that terror would be for the rest of Europe to "gang up" on Germany in what would have to be a brutal and destructive war, whatever the outcome. 

Rather surprisingly to some, however, Bismarck was a man of peace, despite his earlier talk of "blood and iron".  His only real devotion was to his Vaterland so, although he made skilled use of war to bring about the widely desired unification of Germany, he was just as ready to use peace on behalf of Germany once that was accomplished.

And Bismarck saw the fatal weakness in hostility to Germany:  Great alliances would have to be formed if there was to be any hope of taking Germany on.  So for the remainder of his term as  Reichskanzler he used diplomatic means to frustrate that.  His constantly changing foreign policy confused everyone and prevented any firm alliances from forming.  So purely to protect Germany, Bismarck achieved something remarkable:  Peace in Europe.

And that peace became rather permanent.  People got used to not being at war. Proof that peace was possible made it the status quo which most people wanted to continue.  So even after Bismarck left the scene in 1890 the peace continued for nearly a quarter of a century more -- until 1914. 

And peace in Europe had a hugely energizing effect.  Scientific, technical and economic innovations  had already begun in various places but with European energies diverted to peaceful pursuits rather than war, those developments got  a huge kick-along and great economic progress took place.  Europe emerged from a peasant age into an industrial age.  Even in Russia, heavy industries emerged and railways snaked out across  the land.

But these vast economic changes had a psychologically disruptive effect.  As the old order crumbled before the steam train its assumptions crumbled too.  Aristocracy lost legitimacy and all values were questioned.  Any thinking that had been widely accepted in the past became automatically suspect as belonging to the past only.

And that, basically, was modernism:  A confidence that the old could be swept away and replaced by a new more exciting and more heroic vision of just about everything.

But again at risk of seeming Marxist, the new vision had its antithesis.  Many people were suspicious of the new enthusiasms and were not at all ready to throw away  the wisdom of the past.  This "reaction" was brilliantly managed by Disraeli  in Britain, not managed at all in  France and rather hamfistedly managed by Bismarck in in Germany.  Bismarck was not nearly as successful in domestic policy as he was in foreign policy, though again his policies kept his opposition off-balance as long as he was around.

So, of the major European powers, only Britain merged smoothly into the modern world -- with only a minimum of social disruption.  The values of the past were largely preserved while considerable innovations to cope with changed economic circumstances were also made.  Russia was of course at the other end of the scale, where adaptation to the new was disastrously managed. 

Perhaps the most vivid evidence of the orderly British transition is the survival right into the present day of the House of Lords, still a highly esteemed body but quite unlike any other present-day upper house that I know of.  So Britain had plenty of cultural modernism in its day but Fascism never made significant inroads into British political life, despite the efforts of Sir Oswald Mosley.

So now I come to where I disagree with the Marxists (with whom Griffin, mentioned above, seems to agree partly).  I think the Marxists have got the wrong end of the stick altogether.  Marxists  see Fascism as a form of defence of the old order when it was clearly quite the opposite.  They see it as a defence of traditional values when Fascists themselves saw themselves as the vanguard of the new.  Particularly in Italy  it is clear that Fascists were the modernists, not  traditionalists.  Extreme modernists such as D'Annunzio were simply co-opted into Fascism.

One can perhaps excuse the Marxist confusion a little in that both Mussolini and Hitler did make major allusions to the past  -- Mussolini aiming to re-establish the Roman empire and Hitler glorifying Germany's imagined  pre-Christian lifestyle.  But it is starkly clear that these allusions are to an imagined and remote past rather than to the actual immediate past.  Neither man was a traditionalist in any sense.  Both had visions for their countries that were thoroughly modernist.  The visions were rather vague and inchoate but that was part of modernism.

But the major point behind the Marxist critique is that the changes wrought by the Fascists were much less sweeping than those wrought by the Bolsheviks in Russia.  The Fascists left most of the existing structure of society in place.  Does that not make them defenders of the status quo?

But it must be remembered that the modernists were idealists  rather than the hate-filled smash-everything monsters  of Bolshevism.  And the "hope and change" message offered by the modernists was  every bit as vague as a similar message in the 21st century.  Their ideals left very little guide for action.  So their actions were rather limited when  they came to power.  They were clear that they needed to gain close control over society but they saw that this could be done by laws and regulation rather than by mass-murder -- so chose that more orderly path. 

The one ideal that they aimed to implement was the thoroughly socialist ideal  of a better deal for the workers -- and they in fact did that by much expanded social welfare legislation.  And they intruded further into the lives of the workers than even social democratic parties had ever envisaged  -- even providing cheap recreations for the workers (The "Dopolavoro" system in Italy and the "Kraft durch Freude" movement in Germany). 

A KDF "Holiday ship"

The Fascist control of their society was extensive and intrusive but not obviously destructive.  They were in that way closer to the social democrats than the Bolsheviks.  So the transformation of society under the Fascists was more restrained than what happened in Russia but it was still obviously motivated by socialist ideals and was just as disastrous in the end.

But what about the nationalism of the Fascists?  Where does that fit in?  It was in fact one way in which the Fascists did NOT innovate or stand out.  Nationalism was normal across the political spectrum in Europe at the time.  There were few more ardent German nationalists  than Friedrich Engels, for instance.  Yes.  THAT  Engels: Karl Marx's co-author.  And Mussolini saw that.  He saw that the working classes of Europe had supported their respective nation-states  in WWI and it was largely that realization which eventually caused him to give up Marxist class-war ideas  and invent Fascism instead.  Hitler too was repulsed by class-war ideas.

So one can conclude that the political manifestation of modernism in the form of Fascism was largely a poorly managed response to an economic transformation.  A new world called for new ideas and Fascism purported to offer that.

I will close by  pointing  out very briefly the rather obvious tie-in to the fascination with Japan that prevailed for a while in Europe.  Japan modernized at the most breakneck speed of all and yet still seemed to retain all its traditional values!  No wonder the modernists were fascinated!  In fact, Japan had something for everyone, which is why it had so much influence (now mostly forgotten) in the run-up to WWI.

Footnote:  I am mildly pleased to see that the Wikipedia entry on Bismarck agrees fairly closely with what I have said about him.  I don't always have orthodox history on my side!

The death of a Jew-hater

There is a lot of outrage on the net today over an Israeli court giving the "wrong" verdict over the death of a pro-Palestinian protester, Rachel Corrie, in March, 2003.  She was run over by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to be a "human shield" to protect a Palestinian terrorist site.  The IDF has always held that the driver of the bulldozer did not see her before he ran over her. He was driving a large and heavily armored bulldozer with small slits for vision.  The court upheld the driver's account.

The interesting thing to me is the close-up picture that accompanies many of the stories.  It  portrays her as a quiet and serious young woman in what could be a studio portrait (though even in a studio portrait they could not get her to smile).  You can search high and low on the net to find a picture that gives any other impression  of her.  Being an old guy, however, I have certain records and one of them has produced a picture of her that is what the bulldozer driver would have seen if he had been looking down.  A picture is worth a 1,000 words, I think.  The stock picture followed by the "forgotten" picture below.  The forgotten picture shows her at a rally shortly beforehand.

Even in the above picture she looks rather angry

A face of hate

If anyone is to blame in the matter it is the parents who indoctrinated her with their Leftist hates.  May their grief help them to repent.  The love of Christ would not have led them into the Devil's kingdom.

Rachel Corrie believed in Israel

I don't know if anybody else has pointed this out  -- they probably have  -- but the Israel-hating Rachel Corrie showed by her actions  that she recognized Israel's moral superiority. Why didn't she hop out of the way at the last minute instead of getting run over by the bulldozer?  I certainly would have in her shoes. 

But the reason why she did not is clear:  She clearly had absolute confidence that the bulldozer would stop at the last moment.  Her  only mistake was in assuming that the driver would see her lying on the ground in front of him.  Had it been a Palestinian bulldozer I cannot imagine anyone not being prepared to hop out of the way.  But Rachel Corrie was clearly not so prepared.

By her own actions she betrayed more than any words could do that she knew Israel was not the moral monstrosity that she claimed it was.  Her death was an unintentional  tribute to Israel.  She knew in her heart where the virtue was.  And coming from an enemy of Israel, the tribute is all the more impressive.  She was hate-filled but she knew the truth.

A trenchant comment from Israel about her here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Is libertarianism an infantile disorder?

In the excerpt below the very level-headed Mark Krikorian says it is:
I think libertarianism is an infantile disorder, an "ideology" in the worst, anti-Burkean sense of the word. That is not to say that many Americans who call themselves "libertarians" share that disorder — I think the appeal of the label comes from the Republican Party's pathetic big-government record over the past couple of decades. Despite the many patriotic Americans who call themselves "libertarians" as a kind of protest, the ideology of libertarianISM is a post-American creed that rejects national borders and nationhood itself.

Krikorian is of course alluding to "Left-Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder", a book by V.I. Lenin in which Lenin criticizes the more idealistic and less practical Communists of his day.

I am inclined to agree with Krikorian.  The level of hate and fanaticism that I regularly read in libertarian publications can sometimes be quite nauseating.  Ideas of moderation and compromise are a rarity.  As I myself am very much a minimum government conservative I find a lot of libertarian analyses helpful so I will not go on a rampage of finger-pointing and naming names but some of the writers on Lew Rockwell's site (for instance)  regularly sound distinctly unpleasant to me.  Take this article by Karen de Coster for instance.  It absolutely drips hate and dogmatism.  She is admittedly an extreme food fanatic as much as she is a libertarian  but that seems to pass muster among at least some libertarians.  Their very Leftist contempt for the society they live in makes them disrespectful of scientific caution so food and health fads seem to flourish among them.

I will not go on but those who read much libertarian literature will know well why libertarians  are and will remain a tiny minority in politics.  Which is all the more a pity because a more moderate presentation might help in the great struggle against government and for the  individual that is afoot in America today

An important caveat, however, is that there are as many versions of libertarianism as there are libertarians and there are a minority of libertarians who manage to keep their feet on the ground.  There are, for instance, some libertarians who oppose unrestricted immigration, though that is far from the majority position among libertarians.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A wicked proposition 

I have been thinking about this for some time but have not mentioned it before because almost any mention of race and ethnicity is prone to being misunderstood, if not actively demonized.  Yet what I want to say is, I think, commonsense and is certainly well-meant.  Yes.  I know about the road to hell.

What have Indians, Chinese and Jews got in common?  High IQs maybe but there is something more important that a knowledge of history would tell you:  All three have been heavily persecuted in lands  where they have been minorities  -- the Chinese in S.E. Asia, the Indians in East Africa and the Jews we all know about.

Sadly,  I have to say that I think that is human nature.  We can struggle against it and we might even change the minds of educated people but I think the average Joe in any society does not like to think that his society is run by those he perceives as aliens.  That doesn't mean I condone what Indonesia did to the Chinese or Uganda did to the Indians any more than I condone what Hitler  did.  But do note that the Jews in prewar Germany occupied a space in Germany not dissimilar to the space that Jews occupy in America today:  At the top of most heaps. 

Jews in America today seem perfectly safe but Jews in Germany once seemed that way too.  The Prussian parliament announced the emancipation of the Jews as early as 1812 and Frederick the Great welcomed them when just about no-one else would.  As a result the German Jews of the 1930s were the most assimilated Jews in the world.  It did them no good.

Why did it do them no good?  It did them no good because Hitler tapped into precisely the sentiment I mentioned:  resentment of dominance by an ethnically distinctive elite.  Hitler waxed eloquent about Jewish dominance of banking, commerce, science and industry and there were plenty of examples for him to point at.  And there was little objection to that among non-Jewish Germans.

So what should Jews learn from that?  I think that they should learn that they are not as safe as they think.  The antisemitic comments I get on my blogs (DESPITE the Israeli flag I have flying on them all) are both frequent and virulent and the antisemitic cadre formed by Muslim-Americans is well known. 

And the ever-encroaching socialism promoted by the Democrats has already long ago halted any growth in the average incomes of Americans -- despite great technological and scientific improvements.  And the Obama-induced Great Recession seems finally to have put America into economic reverse-gear.  Even a Romney/Ryan victory would seem to have only a slim chance of reversing the huge debt overhang that Obama has bequeathed to America    -- so an outright economic collapse via Weimar-style inflation seems all too possible.  And amid an economic collapse the people at the head of most parts  of "the system" could be very exposed.  Politicians will certainly prioritize saving their own skins above all else and pointing the finger at people other than themselves is totally predictable.

Let us suppose (for instance) that Romney/Ryan is defeated this year and an (overdue) inflationary thunderclap befalls America shortly thereafter.  What is Obama going to say as the 2014 mid-terms approach?  The dislike of Jews among African-Americans is well-known and Obama is an African-American politician who has no problem with race-hate (embodied in  his pastor of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright).  And even among white Democrats there is a barely-suppressed stream of antisemitism that occasionally breaks the surface.  So if Obama pointed to Jewish bankers as the culprit for America's woes he would have almost every prominent African-American and Muslim-American on his side immediately.  And the media will swallow anything that Obama says.  And it's all downhill along a well-trodden path from there.

Republicans might object (as some did in response to FDR's imprisonment of Japanese Americans in WWII) but the well-oiled and media-enabled Leftist abuse machine would soon drown that out.

Are there any steps that Jews can take right now that will help them in the future?  I think there is one.  I will be blunt about it:  Jews occupying prominent positions in American life should make aliyah.  Israel needs their money and talents and they need Israel.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Some more observations about Ron Unz and IQ

There is an ongoing "debate" between  Richard Lynn and Ron Unz regarding international variations in IQ.  Although he is the publisher of "The American Conservative", Unz takes the classic Leftist view that  low IQ is caused by  poverty, although he does make the concession that "some residual European IQ differences might indeed be due to genetics rather than environment".  

Poverty is the cause of everything according to Leftists.  They even blamed the 9/11 events on poverty until it finally penetrated their unseeing eyes that Bin Laden was in fact a billionaire.

Unz's article is replete with accusations that Lynn has acted in bad faith  (though not in those  words), which seems to me rather deplorable, though I was not too surprised by it.  When Unz replied to my observations about crime and  immigration, his comments were almost hilariously "ad hominem":  He suggested that I was disqualified from commenting on such matters because I live in Australia!

Perhaps I can be rather Old Testament in the matter however by in turn accusing Unz of bad faith.  In his desire to discredit Lynn's  hypothesis of substantial genetic influence on IQ he cherrypicks his data heavily, as Sanders has pointed out at length.  And it also seems to me that he rushes by the German data in great haste.  I would think that the differences between the old East and West Germany should be a very good test of Unz's "poverty" hypothesis. After  several generations of real poverty, East Germans were found to have average IQs that were about the same as West Germans -- even though West Germany was one of the world's most prosperous countries, one which made a "miraculous" economic recovery from WWII  (the famous Wirtschaftswunder).

If poverty had no effect there, whence Unz's claim that poverty explains almost all IQ variation?  Unz does not allude to the German results in his latest article but here is what he said in his earlier article:
Consider, for example, the results from Germany obtained prior to its 1991 reunification. Lynn and Vanhanen present four separate IQ studies from the former West Germany, all quite sizable, which indicate mean IQs in the range 99–107, with the oldest 1970 sample providing the low end of that range. Meanwhile, a 1967 sample of East German children produced a score of just 90, while two later East German studies in 1978 and 1984 came in at 97–99, much closer to the West German numbers.

These results seem anomalous from the perspective of strong genetic determinism for IQ. To a very good approximation, East Germans and West Germans are genetically indistinguishable, and an IQ gap as wide as 17 points between the two groups seems inexplicable, while the recorded rise in East German scores of 7–9 points in just half a generation seems even more difficult to explain.

Unz here cherrypicks again by seizing on the widest possible gap in the data rather than on the reasonably inferrable average.  The 107 result is clearly an outlier and a West German mean of around 100 seems the best attested. And the convergence between the two later East German studies  suggest that the 1967 East German finding was also an outlier.  So we are left with an East German mean that is essentially undistinguishable from the West German  mean.

Will Unz be defeated by that fact?  Perhaps not. He leaves himself an "out" by saying "but East Germans hardly suffered from severe dietary deficiencies".  So now it is not poverty that affects IQ but rather "severe dietary deficiencies".  The goalposts have moved!

I don't know that it is really worth saying much more about Unz's merry journey through the data but I will briefly mention two other points:  Unz consistently discounts the immigrant effect, the claim that immigrants are in various ways a superior subset of their parent population.  Yet the USA seems a clear proof that such an effect exists.  Herrnstein & Murray long ago showed that lower IQ goes with lower social class and the mass of immigrants to both Australia and America in the past were clearly from the lower strata of their host societies. To this day, upper class English accents are as rare in Australia as British regional accents are common.  So average white IQs in both Australia and America should be lower than the average IQ in (say) Britain -- right? 

But it isn't so.  The average IQ in all three countries is essentially the same.  The most readily apparent explanation for that convergence would seem to be the immigrant effect:  The immigrants were a superior subset of the population from which they originated.  And the way America has in various ways led and dominated the world at least since WWII would also seem to suggest that those immigrant genes were pretty good.

A final point in defence of Lynn.  Unz says:  "Finally, Lynn closes his rebuttal by repeating his boilerplate disclaimer that he has “never maintained that IQ is overwhelmingly determined by genetics,” although this seems to be his clear reasoning in every single particular example he discusses"

I suspect here that Unz is failing to see that Lynn has had two aims in his work:  His main aim is to show that IQ is economically important and ascribing any origin to the  differences observed is secondary to that aim.  And that refusal to ascribe is what Lynn is doing when he makes modest claims for what he has shown.  In science, however, once one question is answered, new questions arise and Lynn's demonstration of national differences in IQ does quite immediately lead to a question of how those IQ differences arise.  And in rejecting Unz's "poverty" reasoning Lynn has moved on to the derivative question.

And even there, I think  Unz is seeing only what he wants to see in Lynn's words.  Lynn's denial of an "overwhelming" influence is perfectly consistent with around 100 years of IQ research.  The normal finding from twin studies is that IQ is about two thirds genetically determined.  Whether two thirds is "overwhelming", I leave others to judge but I submit that Unz has read more into Lynn's words than is there.

Prominent psychologist Steven Pinker also has some  comments on Unz's dubious logic and in addition  makes some useful points about the massive support for the heritability of IQ etc.  He is far too cautious to endorse Lynn's position, however.  To do so would be academic suicide  -- JR

Monday, August 06, 2012

  Another revealing admission of Leftist motivations

I don't think Leftists realize how arrogant they sound sometimes.  Obama is on record as wanting to "fundamentally reshape" the American economy -- something he has certainly done, though not in a way that many would praise -- and we read below something very similar from  Kevin Rudd, a past Prime Minister of Australia who could well be getting his job back soon as his Leftist rivals falter.  There are no fixed terms for Australian Prime Ministers.

In reading Leftist admissions of wanting to "reshape" countries  conservatives ask:    What if the people don't want the shape the Leftist  wants?  What about letting the people shape their nation by their own individual actions and choices?  This idea that a "shape" can be imposed from on high is pure Fascism

He is not supposed to be talking about a comeback, but former prime minister Kevin Rudd has given an interview in which he opens up about wanting to shape Australia's future well into the next decade.

Mr Rudd, who unsuccessfully challenged Julia Gillard for the Labor leadership in February, has told the Australian Women's Weekly that shaping the nation - which is somewhat difficult to do from the backbench - is "part of who I am, and you gotta be who you are".

Asked directly whether he wanted an ongoing role for himself, Mr Rudd said: "Oh definitely, it's just who I am. You gotta be who you are."

He was quick to say that "the position you occupy in life is less important".  "What's more important is being involved directly in shaping the nation's future, to the extent that you can," he said.


Sunday, August 05, 2012

Criminality among illegals

I have found what sound like  some better statistics on  illegal immigrants than what can be inferred from Obama's broad brush claim that he "only" deports serious criminals.   We read:
"The 2011 figures show slightly more undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes were deported last year than in the prior year. ICE reported that 216,698 of the unauthorized immigrants removed in the 2011 fiscal year were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, making up about 55 percent of the total removals"

Even so, if we scale up 216,698 over just 10 years we still have 2 million out of 12 million illegals who are offenders, and that is not at all consonant with claims by Ron Unz and others that offending among illegals is rare.

All statistics in this field have to be regarded as wobbly but deportation statistics would seem most likely to be solidly grounded -- JR

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


The article below came out some time ago but it is so stupid  that it has taken me until now to bother with it.  They come to the crazy conclusion that people do NOT become more conservative as they age. 

I think most of us old-timers can think of quite a few people who are a lot more conservative than they used to be -- and who can overlook that both Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill were liberals in their younger days?  And readers of this blog will probably be familiar with John Stossel and David Horowitz as further examples of such change.  In my home State of Queensland, Ned Hanlon started out as a far-Left unionist and red-ragger but when he eventually became Premier of the State he ended up using the police to break strikes by unionists.  He moved from one extreme to the other in the course of his lifetime.  I could go on.  The exampes are innumerable.

So how did they go wrong below?  In the usual Leftist way:  They have no idea of what conservatism is and substitute their own false picture of it for the reality.  In particular,  they equate conservatism with rigidity and closed-mindedness, when the actual research on the topic (going back to Rokeach in 1960) says that closed mindedness is not politically polarized.  Both liberals and conservatives are roughly equally likely to be rigid and closed-minded. My papers on that topic are here

And any mention of what conservatism really is:  Respect for individual liberty and opposition to big government, for instance, is conspicuously missing.

In short, the work below fails as research because it gets the very first step in any science wrong:  Taxonomy.  Their classification of people as conservatives is demonstrably erroneous

Readers may be interested in the listing of attitudes contained in my paper "What old people believe".  Note that the listing includes statements that old people REJECT  -- JR

Amidst the bipartisan banter of election season, there persists an enduring belief that people get more conservative as they age -- making older people more likely to vote for Republican candidates.

Ongoing research, however, fails to back up the stereotype. While there is some evidence that today's seniors may be more conservative than today's youth, that's not because older folks are more conservative than they use to be. Instead, our modern elders likely came of age at a time when the political situation favored more conservative views.

In fact, studies show that people may actually get more liberal over time when it comes to certain kinds of beliefs. That suggests that we are not pre-determined to get stodgy, set in our ways or otherwise more inflexible in our retirement years.  Contrary to popular belief, old age can be an open-minded and enlightening time.

"Pigeonholing older people into these rigid attitude boxes or conservative boxes is not a good idea," said Nick Dangelis, a sociologist and gerontologist at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

"Rather, when they were born, what experiences they had growing up, as well as political, social and economic events have a lot to do with how people behave," he said. "Our results are showing that these have profound effects."

Today, the image is ubiquitous in popular culture: A rigid gray-haired grump, who is closed-minded and set in his or her curmudgeonly ways. To some extent, that belief emerged from a real observation: Surveys that ask about attitudes towards things like premarital sex or race relations reveal that people older than 60 express more conservative views than people between the ages of 25 and 39. By extension came the assumption that older people used to be more liberal.

The problem with these studies, Dangelis said, is that they compare two demographics at one moment in time without offering a picture of the older cohort when they were younger. So, in a 2007 paper in the journal American Sociological Review, Dangelis and colleagues started to address that problem.

Using surveys taken between 1972 and 2004, the researchers found that groups of people actually became more tolerant, not more conservative, after age 60 -- calling into question some enduring myths about old age. Survey questions addressed attitudes about boundaries of privacy (such as the right to die), historically subordinate groups (such as women and Blacks) and civil liberties (for groups like atheists).

But that study had limitations, too. For one thing, each survey included a different set of people. So the researchers could compare the attitudes of people who were 25 in 1972, for example, with the attitudes of people who were 35 in 1982.

What's still missing, though, are long-term studies that actually follow individuals over time to see how their beliefs change.

In lieu of that kind of research, which is too difficult to do, researchers are now using complicated statistics to tease apart the effects of getting older from the effects of being a certain age at a certain moment in time.

Results, which are just starting to emerge, suggest that each belief follows its own complicated pattern. Seniors seem to have become more liberal about subordinate groups, for example, but more conservative about civil liberties.

Overall, what's happening in society at large as people come of age seems to matter most in determining the starting point for their core beliefs, said Karl Pillemer, a sociologist and gerontologist at Cornell University, who conducted more than 1,000 in-depth interviews with seniors for his book, "30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans." From there, people's attitudes can evolve as they age. And flexibility often trumps rigidity.

"Older people said very surprising things about being old," Pillemer said. "One of those things was that old age was a quest for adventure and a time to try new things. Many older people describe themselves as feeling freer or clearer."

Late in life, his research shows, people often become more open, more tolerant, and more appreciative of compassion. Even if they started out conservative, they may become less extreme in their conservatism.

"Many describe themselves as open to ideas or open to new ways of thinking, and they come back to a sense of much greater tolerance for different points of view," he said. "I had someone say, 'I used to think I was always right, but now that I'm 80, I'm not so sure I'm always right.'"