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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 03:46 PM
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The Psychology of Germany's refugee response: From Auschwitz directly to Munich's main station

Will she jump?
All across Europe Merkel's refugee policy is considered by many to be crazy. But it’s not all that simple. The Chancellor is following a strategy. And a very high risk one at that.

A sudden outbreak of sympathy built up over time. And then in response to the question as to why the country initially gave in to this insanity, there is a psychoanalytical answer: the German people, weighed down by their traumatic past, wanted to free themselves from their stigma and consequently ended up with a completely irrational Willkommenskultur (the positive message of welcoming migrants). From Auschwitz directly to Munich's main station as it were.

Ultimately it all started very sensibly. From Merkel’s point of view the situation presented itself as follows: the Middle East is in absolute chaos, a large number of people will, for the foreseeable future, be fleeing towards Europe. Germany is the strongest country in Europe with the biggest demographic problem; a closed-borders policy would be hugely damaging - economically given Germany’s position as the world’s leading exporter and morally because any policy towards the refugees which could be seen as hard-hearted would be held against the German people much more than anyone else. Besides, integrating Turkish Muslims has, on balance, been a good experience. And last but not least, the previous few years have shown us that the majority of people are truly willing to help. So why not have a go at introducing a modern refugee policy to Europe, shouldering the biggest burden yourself in order to then distribute them fairly?

Therein lies the problem which political scientists call the "tragedy of the commons." Applied to Europe and refugee policy it means that the best situation for everyone would naturally be for the refugees to be more or less fairly distributed and the strain on each individual country would then be less significant. As long as, however, at least one country accepts limitless numbers of refugees, for the rest it’s rational and very simple at that to either wave them through or turn them away. This is how this fatal dynamic emerged: those who turn away the refugees quickly find themselves in a better situation than those who accept them and find themselves in a worse and worse situation, which in turn vindicates those wanting to close the borders and angers those accepting refugees.

And something else has also been added to the mix, something epochal. The pressure on the refugee policy is, therefore, so immense because people are gradually starting to realise that globalisation has reached a point at which a few old debts are now due to be repaid. Initially, a debt between the developed and developing world and consequently, now between the rich and the poor in the developed world. This sounds abstract and yet has thrown the US election race out of joint. Donald Trump has made an attractive racist offer to the electorate: the debt won’t be repaid because we will keep out all these criminals, rapists, freeloaders and terrorists (no Hispanic and Muslim people) and live as we have done up until now. The Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, currently putting pressure on Hillary Clinton, has made his own attractive (and more respectable offer). He says: yes, we have to share what we have with the migrants but for that we have to get tough on the rich.


If You Think Europe Has a Refugee Crisis, You’re Not Looking Hard Enough (Sweden is #9)

Europe isn’t the front line of the world’s refugee crisis. Media reports rife with images of people trailing through Hungarian fields and crowding onto rickety Mediterranean fishing boats would have us think that it is. Yet the global reality is starkly different. As the following data show, the overwhelming majority of displaced people are living in countries that don’t really have the resources to host them — a trend that’s unlikely to abate and one that has ominous implications for the future.

Consider Jordan. ... despite its small size and limited coffers, Jordan is being swamped by refugees, bearing the brunt of a double whammy from the Syrian civil war and the continuing conflict in Iraq. It was hosting some 685,000 internationally displaced people by mid-2015, a massive burden for a country with a population of 6.6 million. (Translate that fraction to the United States, and we’d be talking about more than 30 million refugees.) In fact, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that Jordan is ranked second in the world for the number of refugees (90) per 1,000 inhabitants. The top country is Lebanon, with a staggering 209.

None of this is to say that what’s happening farther north, in Europe, isn’t an emergency. Brussels, however, has the capacity to address it. In fact, the challenge posed by refugees could actually serve as a positive impetus for Europe to catch up on some long-neglected homework: bolstering controls on its external borders, deepening political integration, and taking serious moves toward common foreign and security policies. If successfully handled — to the satisfaction of voters — those steps could breathe new life into the European idea and even spur growth; refugees and migrants could help compensate for the graying of European societies and for stalling entrepreneurship.

By contrast, there is relatively little that Jordan, Ethiopia, and other countries hosting most of the world’s displaced can do to stem or prevent crisis. At least, they can’t do what’s needed on their own. The world’s richest countries — including those that, like the United States, Canada, and Japan, are somewhat protected by geography from the full force of migration patterns — must come to terms with the fact that the magnitude of current displacement dictates a need for a truly global approach. That means more fairly divvying up the responsibilities of giving refugees homes, putting money in UNHCR’s woefully underfunded accounts, and working to create and support peace and prosperity in countries that crave it.


There a couple of great bar graphs that I could not get to copy here. They show the number of refugees in the most burdened countries compared to national population and national GDP.

Sweden comes in #9 in terms of refugees per capita of national population. Malta is #10. No other European countries are in the top 15. Not surprisingly, neither is any other Western country. Naturally, where GDP is concerned no Western country, European or other, is in the top 15.

"None of this is to say that what’s happening farther north, in Europe, isn’t an emergency." We all agree that Europe has its problems with the influx of refugees but we should not forget the even greater magnitude of problems in poorer countries. And reports are that conditions in these refugee camps are deteriorating which will motivate more people to move.

Anti-smoking groups come to Obama’s aid on trade deal

Public health groups are pressing Democrats to back a controversial Pacific Rim trade deal negotiated by the Obama administration. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other groups are backing the deal because of language that carves out tobacco companies from using the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s dispute settlement system. The rare carve-out blocks tobacco companies from suing when foreign governments restrict labels on cigarette packaging.

Gregg Haifley, the federal relations director with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said the tobacco provision goes right to the heart of what Democrats have demanded in trade agreements: reducing global tobacco use while protecting the sovereignty of governments from expensive and unwarranted litigation.

Inclusion of the carve-out in the TPP was a big win for anti-smoking groups, but it is costing President Obama some valuable Republican votes in Congress as he seeks to win approval of the deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned the administration not to include the carve-out. McConnell has said that the deal may not get a vote until the lame-duck session, after the November elections. And several Republicans from Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia say they will oppose the TPP because of the language.

While they won’t name any names and can’t point to any lawmaker statements of support, they say that Democrats have told them in conversations on Capitol Hill that the tobacco provision will be a very important consideration in their vote. “Most Democrats are still making up their minds as they weigh the actual impact on their constituents,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in an interview. “But there will be more support for the Pacific deal than people expect,” he said.


I haven't seen any such positive reviews of the TPP from environmental and labor groups.

Great post. A lot of useful information. n/t

Look out Coolidge! Look out Hoover! America's Rich May Soon Blow Past Roaring Twenties Tycoons

Thomas Piketty and Joseph Stiglitz: What’s really causing the startling gap between haves and have-nots? Is it mechanical market forces? Outsourcing? Real estate? As Taylor sees it, economists have gotten the answer wrong. Worker exploitation and outsized business profits are factors, but even more key are the unjustified payments to the wealthy generated by our outsized financial sector. This hasn’t just “happened.” Flawed economic theory and politicians beholden to the rich lead to policies that make it happen. We can fix the problem, but it will take bold steps.

The existing social order does not necessarily guarantee that the rich will get richer (remember Keynes on the essential uncertainty of the future). But even if they do, a stiff tax on capital gains could be used to build up a socially-oriented wealth fund that would help offset that.

Look at Norway’s “oil fund,” which takes a cut of petroleum revenues and invests the money while giving a small annual pay-out from its investment returns. An example closer to home is California’s CalPERS retirement fund. The key point is that such funds can save at a higher rate than wealthy households, amassing market power and potentially using capital income for social purposes.

In the labor market, real wages of employees have lagged productivity growth, which is why the profit share for the boss has gone up. Outsourcing has played some role, but policies and legal interpretations (think of so-called “right to work” legislation and attacks on public sector unions) that reduce labor’s bargaining power have been more important. Recreating that power could reverse the trends and slow the accumulation of wealth. Our studies and others suggest that simply raising taxes on the rich and transferring the proceeds downward in the income distribution will not have a large immediate effect on distribution, but the impacts could cumulate over time.


I tend to agree. It's a tough situation for Europe.

With an unending flow of refugees and others making the short trip from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands, Europe's choices are limited. The EU has patrols in the eastern Mediterranean. They could use those to sink the boats rather than rescue them but that seems immoral.

The EU could force people who land in Greece to return to Turkey immediately but there are international laws that apply to those claiming to be refugees that they would have to ignore.

They could provide the resources to Greece to house and feed the arrivals and process their applications for asylum or refugee status, deport those who do not qualify and allow qualified refugees to move to other EU countries.

Or the EU and the rest of the world could deal with the cause of the continuing flow of refugees instead of arguing over what to do about them.

New study shows Trump has potential to unite whites' "ethnic and economic anxieties into a powerful

populist coalition".

A newly released poll shows the populist power of Donald Trump

For example, Lee Drutman noted that ethnically conservative and economically progressive populists who want increased spending on Social Security and a decrease in immigration vastly outnumber political conservatives and business Republicans. (?) “So when Trump speaks out both against immigration and against fellow Republicans who want to cut Social Security,” Drutman wrote, “he’s speaking out for a lot of people.”

The PEPS follows prior research and measures resentment toward African Americans and immigrants with statements like “blacks could be just as well off as whites if they only tried harder” and “it bothers me when I come in contact with immigrants who speak little or no English.” It also contains a measure of ethnocentrism developed by Donald Kinder and Cindy Kam, which compares how favorably respondents rated whites to how favorably they rated minority groups.

Finally, the PEPS included questions about taxes, the minimum wage, government health care, big business and labor unions — which together form a reliable measure of economic liberalism.


On economic issues, Trump separates himself even more from his closest competitor in the PEPS survey, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). The graph below shows that Cruz outperforms Trump by about 15 percentage points among the most economically conservative Republicans. But Cruz loses to Trump by over 30 points among the quarter of Republicans who hold progressive positions on health care, taxes, the minimum wage and unions.

It appears from the PEPS data, then, that the Trump coalition unites resentment of minority groups with support for economically progressive policies.


We all know that the republican party is full of people with a "resentment of minority groups". Where did these poll takers find the "quarter of Republicans who hold progressive positions on health care, taxes, the minimum wage and unions."

The point is made in the article that Trump is not really that 'progressive' in economic terms since he "opposes raising the minimum wage and has proposed a massive tax cut on high incomes" and supports spreading 'right-to-work' to more states. Of course, within the GOP being 'economically progressive' by comparison is a low bar to hurdle.

Britain's unions will fight to keep the UK in the EU. Conservatives want it out.

Britain's unions ready to join fight to stay in European Union, top official says

Britain's trade unions are close to joining the push to keep the country in the European Union, bringing grass-roots muscle to a fight that has so far been dominated by big business and bankers, the head of the country's largest union group said. ... The TUC, which represents most unions, remains a political force with close ties to the opposition Labour Party which is broadly supportive of EU membership.

Unions will fight to stay in, emphasizing jobs and workers' rights
, Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, told Reuters in an interview. "What we need to do is start putting rights and jobs center stage in the campaign debate," O'Grady said. "The bulk of the rights at work that matter to us originated in Europe."

The EU-mandated protections for workers would be at risk if Britain votes to leave the EU. Many lawmakers in Cameron's Conservative Party resent them as an embodiment of EU over-reach into the affairs of member states.

For the TUC, by contrast, they are sacrosanct. "A Brexit would have massive implications for jobs, rights, and the very fabric of the UK," O'Grady said, referring to a possible British exit. "If you take that floor away, workers will be worse off. It's a hell of a gamble for those, who want to leave Europe, to depend on particularly the government we have now to protect the rights on which so many people's working lives depend."


Conservatives will downplay the threat to labor rights if the UK leaves the EU. Conservatives will focus on using a fear of immigrants and refugees to to achieve their economic goals.

I came across an article on Swedish feminists balancing combatting sexism and racism

Swedish Feminists Thread Needle Between Sexism and Racism in Migrant Controversy
A scandal over alleged sexual assaults by migrants puts Sweden—renowned for its gender equality and its liberality—in a difficult place

Though the facts of what actually happened at the festival remain unclear, the controversy has raised questions in Sweden about whether the Scandinavian country’s liberal political values had stifled a more honest discussion about how to integrate migrants from the Islamic world who might not share those values—even as the response of right-wingers fed accusations of racism.

It is not the first time that Sweden has had to deal with the uncomfortable intersection of racism and sexual assault against women. After sexual assault allegations were made against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in Sweden in 2012, the country faced scrutiny over statistics that suggested it had one of the highest rape rates in the world. Right-wing organizations, such as the Gastestone Institute, have used this data as an indication of risk migrants pose to women. But Sweden’s National Council for Crime Prevention cautions against comparing crime data across countries, and attributes Sweden’s statistics to high rates of reporting rape, and a broadening of the definition of rape in 2005.

The attention on these particular assaults has put many Swedish feminists in an uncomfortable place. They don’t want to play down the very real threat of sexual violence that all men potentially pose, but they don’t want that threat used as a political weapons against refugees. “It is very dangerous to racialize sexual harassment,” says Tiina Rosenberg, a founding member of Sweden’s feminist party, the Feminist Initiative, and a gender scholar and professor at Stockholm University.

Other Swedish feminists agreed, saying that, while it may be good that it the national refugee crisis brought attention to the violence all women face, it is wrong to describe the problem as specific to refugees. “This kind of harassment and violence has been going on for a long time in every country,” says Gudrun Schyman, a Swedish politician and spokeswoman for the Feminist Initiative, “What is common is men.”


Great post. It reminded me of this article about a Pat Buchanan adviser in 1996.

How an obscure adviser to Pat Buchanan predicted the wild Trump campaign in 1996

(S)ooner or later, as the globalist elites seek to drag the country into conflicts and global commitments, preside over the economic pastoralization of the United States, manage the delegitimization of our own culture, and the dispossession of our people, and disregard or diminish our national interests and national sovereignty, a nationalist reaction is almost inevitable and will probably assume populist form when it arrives. The sooner it comes, the better…

(Samuel Francis in Chronicles)

Imagine giving this advice to a Republican presidential candidate: What if you stopped calling yourself a conservative and instead just promised to make America great again?

What if you dropped all this leftover 19th-century piety about the free market and promised to fight the elites who were selling out American jobs? What if you just stopped talking about reforming Medicare and Social Security and instead said that the elites were failing to deliver better health care at a reasonable price? What if, instead of vainly talking about restoring the place of religion in society — something that appeals only to a narrow slice of Middle America — you simply promised to restore the Middle American core — the economic and cultural losers of globalization — to their rightful place in America? What if you said you would restore them as the chief clients of the American state under your watch, being mindful of their interests when regulating the economy or negotiating trade deals?

That's pretty much the advice that columnist Samuel Francis gave to Pat Buchanan in a 1996 essay, "From Household to Nation," in Chronicles magazine. Samuel Francis was a paleo-conservative intellectual who died in 2005. Earlier in his career he helped Senator East of North Carolina oppose the Martin Luther King holiday. He wrote a white paper recommending the Reagan White House use its law enforcement powers to break up and harass left-wing groups. He was an intellectual disciple of James Burnham's political realism, and Francis' political analysis always had a residue of Burnham's Marxist sociology about it. He argued that the political right needed to stop playing defense — the globalist left won the political and cultural war a long time ago — and should instead adopt the insurgent strategy of communist intellectual Antonio Gramsci. Francis eventually turned into a something resembling an all-out white nationalist, penning his most racist material under a pen name. Buchanan didn't take Francis' advice in 1996, not entirely. But 20 years later, "From Household to Nation," reads like a political manifesto from which the Trump campaign springs.

To simplify Francis' theory: There are a number of Americans who are losers from a process of economic globalization that enriches a transnational global elite. These Middle Americans see jobs disappearing to Asia and increased competition from immigrants. Most of them feel threatened by cultural liberalism, at least the type that sees Middle Americans as loathsome white bigots. But they are also threatened by conservatives who would take away their Medicare, hand their Social Security earnings to fund-managers in Connecticut, and cut off their unemployment too.

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