Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An infrastructure push does not lead to a boost to GDP

We’ve heard much these past few years about how now id just the time to have an infrastructure surge. It’s said often enough that a recession is just when we should be building all those roads, railways, council houses and the rest. Obama even tried to find those $800 billion worth of shovel ready projects just raring to do. With no great success it should be said.

Sadly, this just doesn’t seem to work. From the IMF:

    "This paper has examined whether major public investment drives in the past have served to promote or accelerate national economic growth. It is not about whether in theory public investment drives could accelerate growth, but rather whether in practice, with real governments deciding how to spend the funds and implementing investments, they have in fact accelerated growth.

    The answer appears to be “probably very little”. This conclusion pertains to the drives – the big increases in public capital spending – not necessarily to routine levels of public investment. And furthermore the evidence here is not about whether public capital can promote growth by averting the emergence of bottlenecks. Major public investment campaigns continue to be advocated in several countries as a major trigger for economic growth, and on this issue, whether they have in fact triggered growth, the evidence for a positive effect of public capital on GDP or GDP growth is weak.

 … It is difficult to find a clear-cut example that fits the oft-repeated narrative of a public investment boom followed by acceleration in GDP growth. If anything the cases of clear-cut booms illustrate the opposite – major drives in the past have been followed by slumps rather than booms."

In theory it should work, in practice it doesn’t, which is a bit of a conundrum. The practical answer to which puzzle is that government is probably even worse at doing things than we generally think. Thus we’d probably be better off limiting it to that very small set of things that both must be done and that only government can do. Something which is a very small overlap indeed.


Beware of Kafkatrapping

The term "kafkatrapping" describes a logical fallacy that is popular within gender feminism, racial politics and other ideologies of victimhood. It occurs when you are accused of a thought crime such as sexism, racism or homophobia. You respond with an honest denial, which is then used as further confirmation of your guilt. You are now trapped in a circular and unfalsifiable argument; no one who is accused can be innocent because the structure of kafkatrapping precludes that possibility.

The term derives from Franz Kafka's novel The Trial in which a nondescript bank clerk named Josef K. is arrested; no charges are ever revealed to the character or to the reader. Josef is prosecuted by a bizarre and tyrannical court of unknown authority and he is doomed by impenetrable red tape. In the end, Josef is abducted by two strange men and inexplicably executed by being stabbed through the heart. The Trial is Kafka's comment on totalitarian governments, like the Soviet Union, in which justice is twisted into a bitter, horrifying parody of itself and serves only those in charge.

Kafkatrapping twists reason and truth into self-parodies that serve victimhood ideologues who wish to avoid the evidence and reasoned arguments upon which truth rests. The term appears to have originated in a 2010 article written by author and open source software advocate Eric S. Raymond. He opens by acknowledging the worth of equality before the law and of treating others with respect. But, he notes, "[g]ood causes sometimes have bad consequences." One such consequence is that tactics used to raise consciousness can veer "into the creepy and pathological, borrowing the least sane features of religious evangelism."

Raymond offers various models of how kafkatrapping operates. He calls the two most common ones A and C.

Model A: The accuser states, "Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of (sin, racism, sexism, homophobia, oppression...) confirms that you are guilty of (sin, racism, sexism, homophobia, oppression...)." Harking back to The Trial, Raymond explains how the novel's plot parallels the structure and purpose of the accuser's nonargument. No specific acts are named in the accusation, which makes the claim unfalsifiable. The vague charge constitutes a thought crime, which also makes it unfalsifiable. As with The Trial, the process seems designed to create guilt and to destroy resistance so that you become malleable. Indeed, "the only way out ... is ... to acquiesce in his own destruction." Even if you are innocent, the only path to redemption is for you to plead guilty and accept punishment. Ideally, for the accuser, you even come to believe in your own guilt.

Model C is a common variant on the same theme. You may not have done, felt or thought anything wrong but you are still guilty because you benefit from a position of privilege created by others. In other words, you are guilty because of your identification with a group such as "male," "white," or "heterosexual." The accusation makes you responsible for the actions of strangers whose behavior you cannot control and who may have died long ago. Raymond writes, "The aim ... is to produce a kind of free-floating guilt ... a conviction of sinfulness that can be manipulated by the operator [accuser] to make the subject say and do things that are convenient to the operator's personal, political, or religious goals." To be redeemed, you must cease to disagree with your accuser and condemn your entire identity group.

What happens when an accuser confronts someone in the same identity group to which he or she belongs? For example, one woman may question aspects of politically correct feminism being presented by another. An entirely different phenomenon occurs. Obviously, the questioner will not be encouraged to condemn herself for being a woman or to excoriate all women. Instead, she will be defined out of the group.

This is called the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. It occurs when someone is confronted with an example that disproves a universal claim. The British philosopher Antony Flew described the fallacy, which he also named. One day Hamish McDonald reads an article in the Glasgow Morning Herald which reports on an attack by a sex maniac in England. Hamish declares aloud, "No Scotsman would do such a thing!" The next day, the Glasgow Morning Herald reports on an even worse attack in Scotland. Rather than reject his original statement, Hamish exclaims, "No true Scotsman would do such a thing." Thus, conservative women like Sarah Palin are not true woman; blacks who question the validity of 'white privilege' cease to be viewed as truly black.

Other techniques are often associated with kafkatrapping. (Note: For a tactic to be true kafkatrapping, it has to involve an unfalsifiable claim.) Associated techniques that prove your guilt could include:

Requesting a clear-cut definition of what you are charged with – for example, homophobia;

Pointing out an injustice committed by the accuser's identity group;

Applying a single standard to everyone, e.g., refusing to accept that blacks cannot be racist;

Expressing skepticism about any aspect of the victimhood ideology, including the plausibility of anecdotal evidence;

Being ignorant of or uninterested in the subject;

Arguing against the ideology;

Saying "some of my best friends are X."

Kafkatrapping would seem to be a win-win situation for an accuser. And, in the short term, this may be true but its long-term impact can be devastating.

A movement becomes widespread because its voice is truth – at least, largely so – and its demand for justice is valid: For example, homosexuals have been hideously abused through much of history. When a movement discards the truth and justice that made it grow and favors abusive attacks instead, it is in decline. The abuse also quashes any productive discussion of real issues. Raymond observes, "[m]anipulative ways of controlling people tend to hollow out the causes for which they are employed, smothering whatever worthy goals they may have begun with and reducing them to vehicles for the attainment of power and privilege over others."

A separate problem arises if the accuser honestly believes the kafkatrapping. A woman who believes all men are oppressors is unlikely to cooperate with them in a good will attempt to solve social problems. She is more likely to seek a position of dominance over men, which she justifies in the name of self-defense or as a payback that is her due. This heightens tension between the sexes and obstructs sincere attempts to resolve problems. A kafkatrapper true believer becomes increasingly isolated from people who are seen as "the enemy" because they disagree; the true believer becomes increasingly unable to even communicate with or have empathy for a broad spectrum of people. The kafkatrapper 'wins' the argument but loses a shared humanity.


Vet Kicked Out of Theme Park for Wearing Pro-Gun T-Shirt That Supports Military

Corporal Mario Alejandro was a member of the Marines who took part in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003. This patriot was recently kicked out of a Six Flags amusement park in Jackson Township, New Jersey. His crime? Wearing a shirt that read, “Keep Calm and Return Fire.” Thanks to his choice in apparel, he couldn’t even get past the front gate:

“I can’t let you into the park with that shirt on. That shirt’s offensive,” Alejandro recalled the guard saying to “I said it’s not offensive, it’s a military shirt. I told him that I am an Iraq veteran … I served in the war. But he said: ‘I don’t care, you have to take it off … or you need to buy another shirt to put over it.”

Alejandro, who could not be reached for comment Friday, refused to remove the T-shirt from The Reconnaissance Foundation, a nonprofit group supporting Marines and their relatives, or to buy another garment, leading the security guard to call a supervisor.

“I saw him talk to two women in white shirts, who looked at me and then shook their heads,” he told “And then the man grabbed my arm and asked me to leave. I told them that it’s not offensive, that it’s a military shirt and that it means nothing. But they said: ‘I don’t care, get out of the park.’”

The proceeds from Alejandro's shirt goes to military veterans. It was supposed to be a win-win: He could exercise his First Amendment right while supporting his fellow soldiers. No matter to Six Flags, it seems.

What exactly is offensive about promoting the Second Amendment and wearing our nation's colors? Unfortunately, this isn't an anomaly. Across the country Americans have been punished for sporting their right to bear arms.

The theme park tried to excuse away its action toward the veteran by noting its ‘longstanding relationship’ with U.S. veterans – such as its policy to offer discounts to veterans and events honoring them and their families.

Sorry, that's no excuse. Shame on Six Flags for humiliating one of our nation’s bravest.


Australia: A Muslim suburb in Sydney

The Lakemba Hotel is one of the last Anglo holdouts in Sydney’s otherwise Middle Eastern south-western suburb. Frankly, the old joint – it opened in 1928 – isn’t putting up much resistance. Most nights the bar is closed by 8.30pm or so, because by then what few customers it attracts are insufficient to cover running costs.

Still, it’s friendly and hospitable. Staffer Poppy helpfully showed me to my $50 per night room, which is the only option in Lakemba for anyone seeking short-term rented accommodation. There are no other hotels or motels. In fact, there are no other rooms besides number 15, in the hotel’s residential wing. All the others are taken by boarders, one of whom has been here for 20 years.

It isn’t exactly luxurious. The room has a sink, which is nice, but nothing else by way of amenities. There isn’t even a Gideon’s Bible. Instead, reflecting certain demographic changes in the area, there is a Ramadan eating schedule.

Lakemba may be only 30 minutes from the centre of Sydney, yet it is remarkably distinct from the rest of our city. You can walk the length of crowded Haldon Street and not hear a single phrase in English. On this main shopping street the ethnic mix seems similar to what you’d find in any major Arabic city. Australia may be multicultural, but Haldon Street is a monoculture.

This does have its advantages. If you’re ever in need of groceries at 3am, head to Lakemba, where shopkeepers keep unusual hours, particularly during Ramadan. The food is delicious, of course. I recommend La Roche and Al Aseel, but all restaurants in Haldon Street are good. If you’re unfamiliar with Lebanese food, just go for anything with the word “mixed”.

And then there are the downsides.

A few weeks ago a large crowd of mostly young men assembled outside the Lakemba Hotel. Waving black flags, the men chanted:

Palestine is Muslim land
The solution is Jihad ...
You can never stop Islam
From Australia to al Sham.

I asked a non-Islamic local about that night. “You should see them when they really go off,” she said. “That was nothing.” Another non-Islamic woman said young men sometimes shouted “sharmuta” at her from their cars. She looked up the word online and discovered it was an Arabic term for prostitute.

Across the road from the hotel is the Islamic Bookstore, which bills itself as “your superstore of Islamic knowledge”. Three books caught my eye. Here’s an extract from Muhammad bin Jamil Zino’s What a Muslim Should Believe, a handy 64-page Q & A guide to the Koran’s instructions:
Question 43: Is it allowed to support and love disbelievers?

Answer: No, it is not allowed.

Well, that might explain a few things. The History of the Jews seems a bland enough title, but the back cover quotes lines from Martin Luther that were used by Nazi propagandists: “The sun never did shine on a more bloodthirsty and revengeful people as they.” The book offers this view, on page 16:

No one can deny the fact that the Jews are the worst kind of barbarian killers the world has ever known!!! The decent great Adolf Hitler of Germany never killed in the manner of the Jews!!! Surely only mad people or those who love killing infants, pregnant women and the infirm will think differently.

It goes on and on. Another extract:

"Humor and jokes are strictly forbidden by the Jewish religion.
This will come as a surprise to just about every Jew on earth. Another must-read is Mansoor Abdul Hakim’s charming 2009 text, Women Who Deserve to go to Hell. Turns out it’s quite a lot of them.

“Some people keep asking about the denizens of Hell and the reason why women will go to hell in large numbers,” writes Hakim in the book’s foreword, before listing various types of hell-bound females, including the grumbler, the quarrelsome woman, women with tattoos and women who refuse to have sex during menstruation. “Men’s perfection is because of various reasons: intelligence, religion, etc,” Hakim explains. “At most, four women have this perfection.”

Mix this level of ignorance and loathing with the Islamic community’s high rate of unemployment, and conflict is inevitable. The Islamic riots of 2012 ended up in central Sydney but began here in Lakemba and surrounding suburbs, where seething young Muslims formed their plans, including printing signs reading “Behead all those who insult the prophet”.

One of the men arrested in those riots was Ahmed Elomar, who was subsequently convicted for bashing a police officer with a flagpole. His lawyer claimed that Elomar was “overcome with the occasion”. The occasion continues. Lately Elomar’s brother Mohammed has posed with severed heads in Iraq, where he is fighting alongside fundamentalist Islamic State extremists.

Back at the pub, a staffer mentions rare moments of cultural overlap. “Sometimes the young blokes will come in here to buy Scotch,” she says. “They try to hide themselves under hoodies.” But when the staffer sees them later in the street, they don’t return her greeting. The hotel is haram – sinful and forbidden. Those early closing hours will eventually become permanent.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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