Monday, October 17, 2016

What are valid arguments supporting discrimination against the unemployed?

To discriminate is to evaluate someone based on characteristics other than merit; sometimes it involves acting on that assessment.

In actual fact, unemployed people experience many kinds of discrimination. There is ample evidence, for example, that it is easier to find a job when you already have one. This is largely because to potential employers someone who is employed is already demonstrating some basic minimum traits (showing up at work, behaving reasonably in a workplace, keeping up some level of productive behavior, etc.).

However, it would not be logical to assume that every person who is unemployed does not possess similar traits, only that the traits are only not evident in the present. Nonetheless, the bias exists among employers.

Some even argue that the longer a worker stays out of work, the more their skills degrade—for example, the jobless often do not gain exposure to the latest techniques in certain fields or through lack of practice they lose proficiency. This is debatable. Certainly, it cannot be applied reasonably to everyone on a blanket basis.

At this writing in mid-2016, in most of the United States to act in the labor market on the basis of biases such as I have presented is not illegal, although it is neither kind nor fair nor, in many cases, sensible. In my view, it is not valid to refuse to hire people on the basis that they are unemployed.

There are other conclusions, however, that may be validly drawn from unemployment.

People without jobs are not likely good risks for a bank loan, unless they can show unearned income. Unemployed people are not likely to be paying taxes, they are likely to suffer from unemployment psychologically and require help. Some studies show that people who lose their jobs during great economic crises tend to have lower future incomes and life expectancy. It would be valid to make some decisions on the basis of these effects of unemployment and take actions that might discriminate, sometimes for the good of the jobless person.

This is a repost from my replies to questions posted on Quora, a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users, at The questions are not mine.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Why is it not possible to eliminate world poverty?

Conceptually, poverty cannot be eliminated because being poor means being the person(s) with the least money and resources. Someone will always be richest and someone poorest unless some way is found for everyone to own and have income that is exactly identical.

However, poverty as a condition in which essential needs such as food, clothing and shelter are unmet, can in theory be eliminated. For the past 100 years or so humanity has possessed the means to produce enough food, clothing and shelter for everyone, whereas in the past the lack of industrial machinery might have prevented this and genuine shortages existed.

What is lacking is the political will, the collective disposition of most people and most societies to make an earnest effort to make sure these become available to all. This could change. The fact that the United Nations Millennium goal to eliminate extreme poverty is slowly being met shows much more can be done. What cannot be done is eliminate poverty and keep societies that have excess luxury intact.

Also, a much more difficult way to eradicate poverty involves providing everyone the access to education and employment sufficient to help them become self-sustaining. This is a much more complex problem.

This is a repost from my replies to questions posted on Quora, a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users, at The questions in italics and their subtexts are not mine.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The anti-Columbus fashion is a matter of bias fed by lies

Christopher Columbus was not a saint and, despite his first name (which means Christ-bearer), was likely a Marrano (or secret) Jew. Moreover, the first European ever recorded as having set foot in the New World was openly Jewish, a man named Luis de Torres, who spoke Hebrew to the Americans he met on October 12, 1492.

If this startles you, it is because the reality of what happened that fateful day and in the years that followed has been obscured by historical propaganda.

The version prevalent in the English-speaking world is that cruel, lazy and papist Spaniards landed in the Caribbean driven by a lust for gold, a crazed desire for spilling blood and enslavement of natives and an unquenchable urge to rape their women. The republics were doomed to fail given their rampant “miscegenation” and collapse into neofeudal sloth. Britain and later the United States were duty bound, the story went, to exploit these people for the good of the continent, bringing democracy and free trade.

This overlooks several uncomfortable facts.

Information about Spanish wrongdoing during the early colonization is not a new discovery by liberal left-wing U.S. academics, or even by American Indian activists. The facts come from the written advocacy on behalf of natives by Spanish Catholic priests, including the first one ordained in the New World, going back 500 years.

Little is said by the outraged garment-rending followers of anti-Columbus fashion about British atrocities against American Indians, Irish, Indians from India, Africans and so on. This includes the first recorded use of germ warfare, when British commanding generals ordered, sanctioned, paid for and conducted the use of smallpox against Native Americans during the French and Indian War. Where were the Protestant clerics demanding that such practices be put to an end?

This is to say nothing of the introduction of the kidnapping of Africans into slavery in the New World, a wholly British and Portuguese business. Today, every single former British colony, including the United States, has an ethnic or racial fissure at the core of its society. Ever wonder why?

Of course, there is a Spanish-speaking-world version of historical propaganda about the colonization of America, with other distortions.

According to the traditional Spanish and Ibero-American story, valiant and devout Spanish military men and missionaries brought civilization and Christianity to savage Indians, installing societies in which all were respected according to their ordained station. Notably, these societies included an intermingling of Spanish, American natives and Africans that today offers a rich palette of skin hues in that part of the world. The venture was disrupted by British pirates’ attack on Spanish shipping and their agents’ promotion of discontent among the local elite.

In a relatively new and revisionist rendering since the 1970s—which adopts some of what traditionally was called the British “black legend” about the Spanish colonies—the Ibero-American story adds that the former colonies of Spain and Portugal became neofeudal estates thanks to a deliberate British campaign to develop a neocolonial regime of subservient banana republics. Once the British Empire faded, the United States stepped in as colonial master.

Supposedly enlightened U.S. Americans are coming to the game a little late—as are the Ibero-American children and grandchildren of more recent immigrants who had little to do with colonization. It’s easy to see wrongdoing in past generations of unrelated foreigners.

The much harder task is to reevaluate history with fresh eyes that take into account what people born before our time could not have known or understood.

For example, the term “genocide” was coined in 1944 by Polish-born U.S. jurist Raphael Lemkin in his work Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. It means to kill a tribe, from the Greek genos (race, kind). Columbus would not have known what anyone bringing up such a charge even meant.

All conquest in history, even in 21st century Syria and Ukraine, has involved some vile and repulsive violence against the civilian population, often enough chosen as victims simply because of their kind.

Columbus was not leading a scientific expedition out for a picnic. He was leading an expedition to get access to Asian goods that could be sold in Europe. He had investors to repay, because contrary to legend the Catholic monarchs did not finance the venture, but rather a consortium headed by two conversos like Columbus: Luis de Santangel, Spain’s chancellor of the royal household, and Gabriel Sanchez, treasurer of Aragon.

In researching this post, I found a fanciful explanation that adds another viewpoint, published in an October 14, 2013, Times of Israel blog by Simcha Jacobovici, a Canadian-Israeli filmmaker and journalist.

Jacobovici points out that Columbus left the port of Palos on August 3, 1492, which to him is the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av, “the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, the day that both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed.” It was also the deadline for Jews in Spain to convert or leave.

Alongside Columbus’ ships was a veritable flotilla carrying Jews. Indeed, at least four Jews were on Columbus’ crew, in addition to Luis de Torres: Marco, the surgeon; Maestre Bernal, the physician; Alonso de la Calle, a bursar; and Rodrigo de Sanchez of Segovia, who was related to the Aragon treasurer.

Then Jacobovici drops his bomb:
Why would Columbus take a Hebrew speaker with him on a voyage to the New World? Because, according to Simon Wiesenthal in his book Sails of Hope, Columbus wasn’t looking for India. Rather, his secret mission was to find the lost tribes of Israel.
Whether this is true is irrelevant. There is some evidence that the delay in the Canary Islands, apart from having to do with the Great Navigator’s affair with a widow whose house in Las Palmas still stands (I visited it), was related to negotiations involving Jews and the Spanish authorities.

Whatever Columbus was looking for, he accidentally chanced on something else.

There was no established protocol on what to do when you find lands you didn’t even know existed, inhabited by peoples with warfare technology vastly inferior to your own. The precedent, from the most ancient history, offered one clear example: conquer them.

Monday, October 10, 2016

What do people mean when they refer to Republicans and Democrats?

There are technically more than two political parties, but only two get the attention and the money to win elections from time to time.

The Democratic Party was founded by Thomas Jefferson. For a long time after the Civil War it was a predominantly Southern party, until Franklin D. Roosevelt refashioned it into a coalition of groups that benefited from measures to combat the Great Depression in the 1930s. That is when the Democrats first became liberal-leaning and favoring labor unions and worker rights, later civil rights.

The Republican Party was founded by Abraham Lincoln. It arose out of many of the issues that gave rise to the Civil War and was supported mostly by the Northeastern elites made rich by industrialization. For much of the second half of the 19th century it was a majority party thanks to that support (and the exclusion of many groups from voting). The FDR coalition, which fell apart in 1968, turned it into a minority party until the 1980s. The Grand Old Party, as it was called long ago, reversed its fortunes primarily by attracting the votes of white
Southerners who never forgave the Democratic Party for supporting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended legal segregation.

At present, the long-term demographics are working in favor of a future Democratic majority, as non-Hispanic whites are rapidly becoming a minority (Anglo-Saxon whites already are), but the plutocracy may find a way to corrupt the political process and keep the Republicans in play.

This is a repost from my replies to questions posted on Quora, a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users, at The questions and their subtexts are not mine.

Friday, October 07, 2016

What is socialism, in simple terms?

Socialism is an as yet unrealized system of social and economic organization by which the society as a whole controls, and equitably distributes, the yield of human work and machinery for the benefit of everyone. Socialists differ on how to get there.

Karl Marx, one of the first major exponents of socialism, offered an entirely theoretical scenario in which capitalism’s internal contradictions would lead it to a collapsing crisis. The working classes would then take control through a revolution and “dictate” a new social compact under which socioeconomic classes would eventually wither away. He died in the 1880s and did not see any of this come to fruition.

Marx had predicted that the revolution would occur in an industrially advanced capitalist country, he cited his native Germany several times. However, the first politically successful revolution to espouse Marx’s ideas occurred in backward Russia in 1917 under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, a polemicist who read Marx as justifying brutal terror and dictatorial rule by a self-appointed “vanguard.” The Marxist-Leninist regime, which in time came to call itself Communist, put together a vast repressive system to defend modest social and economic redistribution of wealth and power; its entirely state-owned economic institutions became internally corrupt and inefficient until Communism collapsed bloodlessly in 1991.

Meanwhile, in western Europe after World War II, the exhaustion of traditional unfettered capitalism and a shared poverty brought on by two vastly destructive wars allowed non-Communist parties aligned with the Socialist International (of which Marx himself had been a member) to eventually gain power in Britain, France, Sweden, the Low Countries and eventually Germany, Spain and Italy. All of these carefully avoided too explicit an identification with Marx, due to the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, but they managed to launch a variety of vast reforms that developed what was called “the welfare state.” This was a womb-to-tomb system of social insurance to protect workers from poverty, unemployment and their worst effects, without actually attempting to force the end of private enterprise.

In North America, Canada leans toward the European socialist model although no socialist party has ever won a governing majority. The model is roughly what socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders proposed for the United States in the 2016 presidential election campaign.

This is a repost from my replies to questions posted on Quora, a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users, at The questions in italics and their subtexts are not mine.