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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 03:46 PM
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The Real Roots of Sexism in the Middle East (It's Not Islam, Race, or 'Hate')

Picture a woman in the Middle East, and probably the first thing that comes into your mind will be the hijab. You might not even envision a face, just the black shroud of the burqa or the niqab. Women's rights in the mostly Arab countries of the region are among the worst in the world, but it's more than that. As Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy writes in a provocative cover story for Foreign Policy, misogyny has become so endemic to Arab societies that it's not just a war on women, it's a destructive force tearing apart Arab economies and societies. But why? How did misogyny become so deeply ingrained in the Arab world?

There are two general ways to think about the problem of misogyny in the Arab world. The first is to think of it as an Arab problem, an issue of what Arab societies and people are doing wrong.

But is it really that simple? If that misogyny is so innately Arab, why is there such wide variance between Arab societies? Why did Egypt's hateful "they" elect only 2 percent women to its post-revolutionary legislature, while Tunisia's hateful "they" elected 27 percent, far short of half but still significantly more than America's 17 percent? Why are so many misogynist Arab practices as or more common in the non-Arab societies of sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia?

A number of Arab Muslim feminists have criticized the article as reinforcing reductive, Western perceptions of Arabs as particularly and innately barbaric. Nahed Eltantawy accused the piece of representing Arab women "as the Oriental Other, weak, helpless and submissive, oppressed by Islam and the Muslim male, this ugly, barbaric monster."

The other way to think about misogyny in the Arab world is as a problem of misogyny. As the above rankings show, culturally engrained sexism is not particular to Arab societies. In other words, it's a problem that Arab societies have, but it's not a distinctly Arab problem. The actual, root causes are disputed, complicated, and often controversial. But you can't cure a symptom without at least acknowledging the disease, and that disease is not race, religion, or ethnicity.

Some of the most important architects of institutionalized Arab misogyny weren't actually Arab. They were Turkish -- or, as they called themselves at the time, Ottoman -- British, and French. These foreigners ruled Arabs for centuries, twisting the cultures to accommodate their dominance. One of their favorite tricks was to buy the submission of men by offering them absolute power over women. ... Colonial powers employed it in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and in South Asia, promoting misogynist ideas and misogynist men who might have otherwise stayed on the margins, slowly but surely ingraining these ideas into the societies.


The "Assad" strategy for dealing with massive protests is something all dictators should learn.

1: When massive peaceful protests occur, repress them as them as violently as you can get away with - snipers, tanks, artillery, arrests, torture, etc.

2. Sometimes repression works to quell the protests. (It's why dictators frequently stay in power so long or inherit their positions from their fathers like in Syria and North Korea.) If repression works, reward your military and security services and go back to being a dictator.

3. If #1 doesn't work right away and massive peaceful protests continue, keep up the repression. (You have to come up with a strategy to keep the international community at bay. If you already have a powerful international patron, you may be OK. If not you had better find one.) Start talking about the presence of "criminal gangs" or "terrorists" among the protestors. There may not be any yet, but it's good to get the talking point out there for future use.

4. If, after many months, your military and security forces continue to prove to be ineffective in suppressing dissent, don't worry. Do not stop the armed repression. (As a dictator, the military and security forces are all you have going for you. Peaceful negotiations are a trap. Your assets - the army and internal security forces - cannot help you there.) Eventually frustration will build up among factions of the protesters and some will become willing to resort to violence given the apparent futility of peaceful protest. (You will also lose some of your common soldiers to defection. Many of them will not understand that they signed up to protect you not the country.) Or outside groups will begin to take advantage of these frustrations.

5. At this point you can unleash your military and security forces to the full extent and hope you don't lose the civil war you have created. Keep in mind that civil wars are very messy affairs. Be sure to keep you international patron happy.

I think this is a strategy that is workable in many repressive countries when populations get fed up with living with no rights.

The Great Divergence: Why do unions work in Europe but not in America?

At the risk of being called un-American by Mitt Romney, let me point out that globalism has not rendered unions obsolete in Western Europe. During the 1970s (the decade that coined the term “deindustrialization”), union density actually increased in most industrialized European countries even as it decreased in the United States. ... Richard Freeman calculates that if average earnings for industrial workers in the United States had followed the pattern in these other countries—which faced the same pressures of global competition—then in 2005 the typical American industrial worker would have been paid $25 per hour instead of $16 (more than a 50% increase).

A lot of the difference can be attributed to the weakening of U.S. labor law with the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 and after. Among other things, the penalty for firing a worker who tries to join a union is now so pitifully slight that bosses do it with impunity. One really interesting idea put forth by Richard D. Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit, in their new book Why Labor Organizing Should Be a Civil Right, is to extend legal protections under the Civil Rights Act to union membership. That way a worker whose boss fired him for trying to start a union could sue the boss, expose the company to the humiliation of the discovery process, and win significant monetary damages. Kahlenberg and Marvit argue that Americans understand the vocabulary of civil rights in a way that they don’t understand the vocabulary of labor rights.

It’s worth remembering that even at its peak in 1954, private-sector union membership was just a little under 40 percent. (Today it’s about 7 percent, or roughly where it stood before the New Deal.)

Finding ways to revive the labor movement is just about the toughest challenge facing liberalism today, but I don’t think it’s possible to make much headway reversing the inequality trend without it. I don’t pretend to have found a magic bullet, but Andy Stern, who as president of the Service Employees International Union from 1996 to 2010 saw more success in this area than just about anybody else, has a few ideas. He’d like to make it legal for unions to solicit outside funds, which is largely prohibited under the 1959 Landrum-Griffin Act. Union organizing is extremely expensive, which is why very little of it is being done today, and there’s a limit to how much labor unions can hit up their members. Stern would also like to negotiate wages industry-wide (as Reuther finally achieved with the car companies in the early 1950s) to remove wage-based price competition from the market. He also thinks the labor movement needs to globalize to keep up with the global economy.


A look at populism: the right wing - tea party - version and the left-wing - Occupy - version.

Part of that confusion lies in populism’s deep but complex relationship to democracy. Arguably, there is no populism without democracy: populism is a by-product of democracy (or as the scholar Margaret Canovan once argued ↑ a ‘shadow cast by democracy’). It arises from a perception of betrayal of the democratic promise. And the greater the foundational promise of equality, the greater the chances of populist politics emerging, once the promise is seen as broken...

The second reason why populism is attracting the favours of otherwise reasonable people is that, for the past year or so, it seems to be undergoing a renaissance on the left of the political spectrum (and many have also been tempted to lump the Arab revolts of 2011 in there as well for good measure). Two types of reactions then occur. The first is a knee-jerk, ‘I like these people and therefore they can’t be populists’ reaction. The second is a more nuanced, ‘but this is a left-wing populism… and therefore it can’t be bad’. This last reaction is based on a much more interesting premise, namely that populism on the left is not xenophobic and therefore is perfectly OK. Take away the xenophobia, some argue, and you’ve got yourself a democratic movement.

For right-wing populism, a variant of racism ... will do the trick ... But given the contemporary left’s complicated relationship to diversity (that pesky conundrum resulting from the dual demands of equality and representation), clear cut racism is no longer an option and neither is a classic xenophobia necessarily related to race, ethnicity or even religion.

For left-wing populism in the era of identity politics, the contortions are more and more demanding. But xenophobia is a pliable concept. ... The fact that xenophobia can accommodate huge variations of nature and intensity is a useful resource for populist movements. This means that ‘the other’ can be expanded to mean just about anything: the elite of course, liberals and intellectuals who favour the complexity of diversity, the ‘traitors amongst us’, but also foreign powers (the EU, the US, China).

But, broadly speaking, these fall into three distinct camps: the Strictly Populists, the Demagogues and the Democratic Activists. The first group is toxic and dangerous, the second is regrettable, the third is a necessary by-product of mass, democratic politics with which we can all live. It is a fundamentally different political animal.

The Strictly Populists include the movements and parties who fit all three initial criteria and whose xenophobia – however couched – is well in evidence. The Marine Le Pens, the Geert Wilders, the Tea Party activists ... All of them have refined their xenophobia by moving it away from outright racism. But their appeal is to those people who not only feel they have been cheated by a system that privileges elites of all sorts whilst abandoning them to a mediocre existence, but for whom solutions are to be found in an increasingly closed model of society that can privilege them, protect them, as the ordinary, true people - the keepers of the national flame. A closed model of society and politics is foundational to this strand of populism.

The demagogues are a kind of ‘populism lite’. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a prime example. Anti-elitist but erudite, frank but astute, his rhetoric is nevertheless neither simplistic nor does it come across as common sense. Indeed listening to Mélenchon is a lot like listening to Chomsky or the ghost of Durkheim. References to Bretton Woods, Huntington and Fukuyama abound, and the role of the United States is consistently highlighted as the engine of the current crisis. The anti-globalisation rhetoric sails very close to the wind of xenophobia, but manages not to fall into the trap.

The Democratic Activists: Here we find Occupy and the Indignados, but also the rhetoric of any talented politician or political activist in an era of mass democracy and media driven politics. Those whose explicit use of the concept of accountability (rhetorically and in practice) de facto creates an ‘air de famille’ with populism, but who don’t rely on exclusion or any form of xenophobia to drive the project: those whose vision might encompass enemies, but whose aspirations belong to an open society, mindful of diversity. ... The language of anti-corruption and democratic accountability differs substantially, in that it targets specific laws and specific members of the elite. It is not anti-elitist per se. And in all these points it differs markedly from a populist movement.


Interesting look at populism. I like the author's conclusion that right-wing populism as typified by the tea party (and the French National Front, Geert Wilders and others) is characterized by a preference for "solutions are to be found in an increasingly closed model of society that can privilege them, protect them, as the ordinary, true people..."

On the other hand, left-wing populism (like Occupy and the Indignados) "targets specific laws and specific members of the elite", with a "language of anti-corruption and democratic accountability" that is not "anti-elitist per se" and does not "rely on exclusion or any form of xenophobia to drive the project: those whose vision might encompass enemies, but whose aspirations belong to an open society, mindful of diversity". (The author thinks this means that these left movements are not "populist" because they are not "anti-elitist" in general but rather target particular members of the elite. Not sure I agree with that definition of "populist".)

It seems consistent with what I see of the tea party that they want a closed society that protects "us" and privileges "us" against all of the "thems" (foreigners, minorities, liberals, etc.) out there. While Occupy and other left movements seek an open society that doesn't "rely on exclusion or any form of xenophobia" and is mindful of diversity.

Canada's Charter of Rights anniversary highlights liberal/conservative split.

The Liberal festivities featured former prime minister Jean Chrétien, one of the key architects of the 1982 deal to patriate Canada's Constitution with a Charter of Rights. Both he and interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae proclaimed that the charter was a historic, non-partisan accomplishment of which all Canadians should be proud.

"And when we did that, we said to every single Canadian, there are no back seats, there are no second-class seats ... for the citizens of Canada, whether you came here yesterday or whether you came here 300 years ago, you are a Canadian and your rights are protected," (Liberal Leader Bob) Rae said.

Yet neither could resist the opportunity to take Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper to task for his government's refusal to mark the occasion with anything more than a perfunctory news release.

Neither the Tories nor the NDP appeared inclined to draw attention to what they regard as a primarily Liberal achievement.


Canada would be Anders Breivik's worst nightmare. It has the highest immigration rate (or at least claims to) in the world and enshrines protection for multiculturalism in its constitution.

Immigration and multiculturalism are the two things he thinks are ruining Norway. Liberals in Norway have supported both, too, (much to Breivik's irritation) but not to the extent that they have in Canada.

Someone should have told Breivik to chill out. It could be worse. You could have been born in Canada.

"What went wrong" is that we used to have most of the policies that Europe still has.

We had high and progressive taxes after WWII. We had strong unions. We had an effective safety net. We had effective corporate regulation and oversight of the financial sector. All of these we had thanks to Democrats. (It is true that we never had effective health care, though Medicare and Medicaid were at least improvements over what existed before.) Our income equality was among the best in the world and the productivity gains made for the first 25-30 years after the war were translated directly into increased pay for the working class.

What went wrong in the US was the we (largely, but not solely, republicans) cut taxes and made them more regressive; emasculated unions; shredded the safety net and deregulated everything under the sun particularly the financial industry.

And then we looked around and wondered how things got so bad and how income inequality got back to pre-Depression levels. Rather than reverse all of those policy mistakes, some suggest that maybe we should cut back on trade to make up for all these problems we created. The fact is that we trade less than practically any country in the world (aside from a few "hermit" nations) - certainly much, much less than any developed progressive country.

The reason I look to Europe is that it is largely a progressive continent with much better income equality, strong unions and an effective safety net. They are much further along the path to progressive societies than we are. I realize that the US is different (if not exceptional ) but there are lessons to learn from Europeans on how to create a progressive society.

They have achieved this by not doing what we did: they have maintained high and progressive taxes, strong unions, an effective safety net and effective regulation of corporations and the finance industry. And they trade more than we do. So trade doesn't kill progressive taxes (just look at Sweden), we did that all by ourselves; it doesn't kill strong unions (just look at Germany), we did that all by ourselves; it doesn't kill effective safety nets or regulation, we did that too all by ourselves.

Trade does not create a "workers paradise". What does create at least a strong middle class and high quality of life (not sure that there is a "workers paradise" anywhere), at least in the "Real World" of much of Europe is what I have mentioned above with respect to taxes, unions, the safety net and regulation. And the countries that have achieved these relatively progressive societies also see trade a significant part of the picture.

With regards to the "Real World" I seldom see trade critics offer real world examples of progressive countries that use high tariffs to provide their citizens with a "workers paradise". If tariffs are all we need to create a progressive society, surely there must be some examples which we can examine and learn from their experience. Or must high-tariff "workers paradises" remain a misty dream unexamined in the context of the Real World.

The most recent examples of high tariffs in the US were enacted in the 1920's and 1930 by republicans and, not surprisingly since they were republican policies, helped create extreme income inequality (though we have matched that in the last few years). That's one reason that FDR was a low-tariff, pro-trade advocate both during the 1930's and in his plans for the post-war world which included GATT to help prevent the return of republican high tariffs.

Krugman: Let’s talk first about the link between inequality and polarization.

So how did we end up in this state? How did America become a nation that could not rise to the biggest economic challenge in three generations, a nation in which scorched-earth politics and politicized economics created policy paralysis?

We suggest it was the inequality that did it. Soaring inequality is at the root of our polarized politics, which made us unable to act together in the face of crisis. And because rising incomes at the top have also brought rising power to the wealthiest, our nation’s intellectual life has been warped, with too many economists co-opted into defending economic doctrines that were convenient for the wealthy despite being indefensible on logical and empirical grounds.

Let’s talk first about the link between inequality and polarization.

What’s more surprising is the fact that the relatively nonpolarized politics of the post-war generation is a relatively recent phenomenon — before the war, and especially before the Great Depression, politics was almost as polarized as it is now. And the track of polarization closely follows the track of income inequality, with the degree of polarization closely correlated over time with the share of total income going to the top 1 percent.

The most likely explanation of the relationship between inequality and polarization is that the increased income and wealth of a small minority has, in effect, bought the allegiance of a major political party. Republicans are encouraged and empowered to take positions far to the right of where they were a generation ago, because the financial power of the beneficiaries of their positions both provides an electoral advantage in terms of campaign funding and provides a sort of safety net for individual politicians, who can count on being supported in various ways even if they lose an election.

In sum, extreme income inequality led to extreme political polarization, and this greatly hampered the policy response to the crisis. ... Leading politicians gave speeches that could have come straight out of the mouth of Herbert Hoover; famous economists reinvented fallacies that one thought had been refuted in the mid-1930s. Why?

The answer, we would suggest, also runs back to inequality. ...


Republicans Harding (1921 and 1922) and Hoover (1930) passed higher tariffs with repub congresses.

Woodrow Wilson (1913), FDR (1934) and Truman (1947) passed lower tariffs with Democratic congresses. I think it is difficult to make the case that Warren Harding and Herbert Hoover (with republican congressional support) were more progressive than Wilson, FDR and Truman (with Democratic congressional support).

"The tariff (Harding's 1921 tariff act) was supported by the Republican party and conservatives and was generally opposed by the Democratic Party and liberal progressives."


"During the 1928 presidential campaign Hoover promised to raise tariff rates again." Hoover was pushing higher tariffs before the Depression started.

"In their certitude that tariff hikes were the answer, no matter what the question, Smoot’s Republicans resemble today’s Republicans, who put a similar faith in tax cuts."


"Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke against the act (Hoover's 1930 tariff) while campaigning for president during 1932. ... The Smoot-Hawley Tariff was a reflection of Republican Party policy. In his 1932 election campaign platform Franklin Delano Roosevelt pledged to lower tariffs. He and the now-Democratic Congress did so in the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1934."


Historically lower tariffs have been a liberal policy, higher tariffs a conservative one. That is still the case in Europe where it's the conservative political parties (particularly those on the far right like the National Front) that propose dismantling the EU (with its free trade zone) and raising tariffs.

The same is true with immigration legislation. republicans Harding and Coolidge passed very very restrictive immigration laws in 1921 and 1924, while Democrats liberalized immigration laws in 1965.

The Immigration Act of 1924, or Johnson–Reed Act, including the National Origins Act, and Asian Exclusion Act (Pub.L. 68-139, 43 Stat. 153, enacted May 26, 1924), was a United States federal law that limited the annual number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States in 1890, down from the 3% cap set by the Immigration Restriction Act of 1921, according to the Census of 1890. It superseded the 1921 Emergency Quota Act. The law was aimed at further restricting the Southern and Eastern Europeans who were immigrating in large numbers starting in the 1890s, as well as prohibiting the immigration of Middle Easterners, East Asians and Asian Indians.

Democrats liberalized the immigration law in 1965.

"The 1965 act marked a radical break from the immigration policies of the past. The law as it stood then excluded Asians and Africans and preferred northern and western Europeans over southern and eastern ones. At the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s the law was seen as an embarrassment by, among others, President John F. Kennedy, who called the then-quota-system "nearly intolerable". After Kennedy's assassination, President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill at the foot of the Statue of Liberty as a symbolic gesture."
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