Thursday, August 02, 2012

What Did Romney Mean By Culture?


The latest flap making its way through the news is Mitt Romney's comments about Israeli and Palestinian "cultures."

Culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.
Reason magazine posts this:
The 2012 CIA World Factbook says, "Israeli closure policies continue to disrupt labor and trade flows, industrial capacity and basic commerce, eroding the productive capacity of the West Bank economy."
Writes Bernard Avishai, a business professor at Hebrew University, "Try growing a supermarket chain when your just-in-time logistics system has to deal with 600 roadblocks." These are just part of what Palestinian entrepreneurs have to overcome.
Israelis, and Romney, may say all this is entirely the fault of the Palestinians for not making peace.
But that's a separate issue. Given the many obstacles that have been erected, blaming the Palestinian culture is a stretch. Even the most business-friendly culture can't create prosperity where governments won't let it. [full article]
The argument is that the Palestinians are victims of Israeli oppression... economic oppression.  Reason tries to sidestep the violence endemic in the society of the people who call themselves Palestinians... a violent antipathy toward Jews going back well before Israel was established.  Reason ignores the fact that "Palestinians" have prospered inside of Israel and have representation in the Israeli parliament.  Reason ignores that perpetual state of "almost war" or actual war by those who call themselves Palestinians against Israel.

Perhaps it is not "cultural," but it is pervasive and enduring... call it what you will... that antagonism of those who call themselves Palestinians toward Israel.  It is a culture of destruction, not building and growth.
The claim that Romney’s statement was ‘racist’ is inflammatory but silly. Neither Jews nor Arabs constitute a distinct race; in the usual racial taxonomy both are classified as white. Ethnically, they are closely related, both Semitic peoples—as Arabs will sometimes point out to deflect the charge of ‘anti-Semitism,’ a European word for Jew-hatred that translates awkwardly into the Middle Eastern context.

The differences between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, or between Jews and Arabs more broadly, are in fact not racial but cultural, with ‘culture’ understood broadly as encompassing everything from religion and politics to prevailing norms about work, family and all manner of social activity.
But the story of Palestinian antipathy toward the Jewish people and abject poverty go back nearly a century. As evidence of the former, consider a passage from the 1936 Report of the Palestine Royal Commission: 
"An irrepressible conflict has arisen between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country. There is no common ground between them. Their national aspirations are incompatible. The Arabs desire to revive the traditions of the Arab golden age. The Jews desire to show what they can achieve when restored to the land in which the Jewish nation was born. Neither of the two national ideals permits of combination in the service of a single State." 
"The conflict has grown steadily more bitter since 1920 and the process will continue. Conditions inside Palestine, especially the systems of education, are strengthening the national sentiment of the two peoples. The bigger and more prosperous they grow the greater will be their political ambitions, and the conflict is aggravated by the uncertainty of the future. “Who in the end will govern Palestine?” it is asked. Meanwhile the “external factors” will continue to operate with increasing force. On the one hand in less than three years’ time Syria and the Lebanon will attain their national sovereignty, and the claim of the Palestinian Arabs to share in the freedom of all Asiatic Arabia will thus be fortified. On the other hand the hardships and anxieties of the Jews in Europe are not likely to grow less and the appeal to the good faith and humanity of the British people will lose none of its force." [source]
Okay, if it isn't cultural, what is it?  It sounds eerily similar to the "non-cultural" comments and slogans against Israel coming out of Egypt these days.  What other underlying commonality binds Egypt and Palestine and Iran and Syria against Israel?  What could it be?

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Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)