Sunday, October 7, 2018

Mobilization vs. Persuasion

Sar Shalom

One of the debates running in electioneering circles is whether campaigns should focus on mobilization, that is ginning up excitement among loyal supporters to make sure they feel compelled to show up at the polls, or persuasion, or trying to convince swing voters. For promoting support of Israel, there is a similar choice between whipping up passions on the side that of the domestic debate that currently is more favorable to Israel or directing arguments to the side that is less supportive. Bringing these options to mind are two recent articles linking the recent Brett Kavanaugh confirmation to discourse about Israel, one by Melanie Phillips and one by Caroline Glick.

Both of those articles are examples mobilization. Both take as a given that there was no substance to the accusations against Kavanaugh and thereby compare the media's treatment of Israel to the left-wing conspiracy against Kavanaugh. Earth to supporters of Israel, how many people who engage in the necessary motivated reasoning to dismiss the charges against Kavanaugh without a bona fide investigation are there who do not already support Israel? If there are not that many, what is there to gain by canonizing Kavanaugh?

On the flip slide, how many people are there who see the whole process as steamrolling Kavanaugh through who are not solid supporters of Israel? Does declaring Israel as innocent as Kavanaugh help endear Israel to such people? A persuasion approach would take an opposite reading of the Kavanaugh confirmation process. I'll give two examples.

Following a hamstrung investigation that explicitly limited who could be interviewed, the FBI failed to find any corroboration of Dr. Blasey Ford's allegations. Similarly, following a hamstrung inspection that allowed Iran to declare certain sites off limits, the IAEA failed to find any violations of the JCPOA.

During the pre-hearings stage of the confirmation process, Judge Kavanaugh gave Sen. Susan Collins that he accepts Roe v. Wade as settled law. Similarly, there is a widely held narrative that while Hamas and Islamic Jihad reject Israel's right to exist and are committed to terror, Fatah recognizes Israel and have renounced terrorism. This narrative is held solely on the basis of Yasser Arafat having said so in the 1990's and Mahmoud Abbas repeating that assertion.

If you want to convince America's liberals to support Israel, instead of justifying the steamrolling of Kavanaugh's confirmation, ask those who view the FBI investigation that failed to confirm the allegations (as opposed affirmatively finding anything exculpatory) as a sham and who excoriate Collins for her willful blindness to Kavanaugh's ruse, why do they take the IAEA's certification of Iran's compliance with the JCPOA and Fatah's recognition of Israel/renunciation of terror at face value?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Jewish Kids Need Krav Maga

Michael Lumish

{Also published at Jews Down Under, the Elder of Ziyon, and The Israel Forever Foundation.}

When I was a tiny, little Zionist growing up in New York and Connecticut in the 1970s and 1980s, Jewish youngsters did not learn Krav Maga.

I doubt any of my friends, Jewish or otherwise, ever even heard of this martial art.

We punched a nose when we had to, just as every other boy did, but it was a regular part of growing up. We were teens and pre-teens and made of rubber.

My neighborhood was middle-class and ethnically mixed. Sometimes the kids were working on their cars in their parents' garage. We would call them "clutch-heads." They tended to be Catholic and they sometimes wore leather jackets. Tough boys, y'know. There were also the "freaks" -- the children of the Counterculture and the New Left -- who wore long hair and denim with patches and listened to the Dead and the Stones and Zep on the cusp of the New Wave and the Reagan Administration.

 And then there were the "jocks" and the "norms" and whatever.

These are the terms that we used at the time.

"Freaks" and "Jocks" and "Norms" and "Clutch Heads"... at least at Trumbull High School, just outside of Bridgeport.

And sometimes fights would break out. Almost nobody ever got seriously hurt and even the parents did not worry too much about this kind of thing, because they grew up with it, themselves. Kids have to work out their own personal relationships just like everyone else, but the parents usually did not get involved. It was always pretty much left up to the kids in the street because it was primarily harmless.

The folks were trying to make a buck and after school, we were pretty much on our own as teens and pre-teens. But it was natural as a young man growing up to learn how to throw a punch. You did not need to be Jean-Claude Van Damme, but it was definitely helpful to know how to defend oneself. You had to be willing to fight because none of us respected a kid who was too cowardly to stand up for himself. You did not even need to be particularly big and strong because, as my old hero Yankees manager Billy Martin said, "It is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog."

I was recently in conversation with a friend of mine -- an old online sparring partner -- who studies and teaches Krav Maga in the San Francisco Bay Area. I contacted him because it seems obvious to me that diaspora Jewish kids need training in martial arts.

Anyone who looks fairly at the situation in Europe can see that our Jewish brothers and sisters are under the gun. The Labour Party, with Jeremy Corbyn in Britain, is fighting off charges of intense antisemitism even as the country is grappling with Muslim gang rape issues. One of the options in response is Jewish self-defense.

In truth, I would love to see the Hillels introduce Krav training as part of their regular curriculum.

The basic criticisms that would come from the Hillels and other Jewish organizations is that the very last thing that they want is to be seen as antagonistic or militaristic or pugnacious. This is entirely understandable. The Jewish population in the United States is somewhere between one and two percent of the total. But the thing is, anyone who knows anything about martial arts knows that you learn how to fight so that you do not have to.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Jordan Peterson and the New Center

Michael Lumish

I find myself increasingly interested in the work of social media people such as Dave Rubin and academics such as Jordan Peterson around what is sometimes referred to as "The New Center."

Jordan Peterson, along with neuroscientist Sam Harris, is among the trend's most significant figures. The point of this emerging sensibility is to outline a rational political balance and to promote freedom of speech, particularly at the universities.

Peterson, out of the University of Toronto, is a clinical and evolutionary psychologist who is influenced by Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. Campbell became famous in the late 1980s through the PBS documentary, The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers. In the last few years, Peterson came to prominence due to his opposition to Canadian legislation mandating the use of non-gendered pronouns among certain professional types, such as university professors.

Some have even accused him of being "alt-right"...  whatever that is supposed to mean, exactly.

In truth, Peterson draws much from the hippie-counterculture inspiration of the twentieth-century that goes to scholars such as Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell and Timothy Leary.

If you listen to his discussion below, concerning psychedelics, you could easily mistake his sensibilities with the early careers of 1960s counterculture academicians like Richard Alpert, out of Harvard, who later became Baba Ram Dass.

To confuse someone like Peterson with a hard-line, right-wing political viewpoint is, from any reasonable historical view, simply mistaken.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Jesse Ventura and the Maximum Wage

Michael Lumish

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura
I have a soft spot in my heart for Jesse Ventura, the former professional wrestler and former governor of the state of Minnesota.

He went from "Jesse the Body" to "Jesse the Brain."

The video below is a few years old and in it he discusses the notion of a "maximum wage."

He uses the Walton family of Walmart fame as an example. He argues that there is something fundamentally wrong with wealth distribution in the United States. Walton family members are billionaires even as US taxpayers are forced to subsidize their employees due to low wages. From my perspective, Ventura is correct to point to the problem. Personally, I could not care less how much anyone earns or how many simoleons a person acquires over the years. It is not my business and it does me no personal harm.

However, the very notion that regular working-class Americans must subsidize the employees of gazillionaires does indicate a significant problem. So, what to do?

I do not have the answer.

The reason that the question interests me, however, is because it seems to go to a fundamental fault-line in western politics between authoritarian socialism and liberal capitalism. I never write on economic theory because I do not believe that I have the necessary education to weigh-in on that field. But I certainly think that Ventura has a point.

Socialism, if it means anything, means that the workers own the means of production. That is the most fundamental definition. But it also means, essentially, that therefore the government owns everything. It suggests an authoritarian framework that flies directly in the face of the Constitution of the United States and of western liberalism, more generally.

What I would suggest is that many of the people who currently refer to themselves as "socialist" on the American political scene are probably not. Actually, they are social democrats. The reason that I say so is that they also see themselves as anti-authoritarian. Certainly the little ideological offspring of Bernie Sanders -- a self-proclaimed socialist -- see themselves as freethinkers and anti-fascists. The problem is that socialism and anti-authoritarianism are mutually exclusive in practice.

One cannot be a socialist and anti-authoritarian simultaneously because socialism is authoritarian in its nature as a political ideology. The only way that "the workers" can gain ownership of the "means of production" is through government intervention through violence or threats of violence. This is the very definition of authoritarianism.

Thus in the United States, the primary political question is not between socialism versus capitalism, but where to draw the necessary lines within regulatory capitalism because, at the end of the day, we are all pretty much regulatory capitalists. The hard American left is mainly comprised not of actual socialists, but of regulatory capitalists who want to see more regulation. The hard American right is mainly comprised not of fascists, but of regulatory capitalists who want to see less regulation in the interest of individual liberty.

I am not putting forth answers to these fundamental questions.

I am merely endeavoring to define the questions for my personal edification and perhaps for yours.