Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Abraham Accords. Peace Between Israel and the United Emirates and Bahrain

First Egypt in 1979, then Jordan in 1994, and now the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have signed peace agreements with Israel, establishing normal diplomatic relations, and launching cooperative economic and other arrangements. Saudi Arabia permitted a commercial El Al flight over its air space, from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi. More Arab countries are in the queue to sign peace agreements with Israel. All of this in addition to the Serbia-Kosovo deal.

Trump has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a member of the Norwegian Parliament, for the Abraham Accords, and Magnus Jacobsson, a member of the Swedish Parliament, for the Kosovo-Serbia resolution. Peace prize nominations from Scandinavians are high praise.

Accolades have poured in, even from some anti-Trumpers.

Peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors has been one of the goals of every Secretary of State. Some spent days shuttling back and forth between Israel and the Palestinian leadership. The rise of Iran and the recalcitrance of the Palestinian leadership to accept any offer has rendered the Palestinians irrelevant. As Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban famously said, the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Now they are on the outside looking in. Maybe young Palestinians will instigate an orange revolution of their own and move to make peace with Israel and concentrate on bettering the lives of their people.

The Abraham Accords were signed at 1:00 PM EDT on September 15, 2020. As I post this comment, 48 hours have passed. I looked to see what all the former living Secretaries of State have said about this historic agreement. 

There are seven living Secretaries of State, or rather, the great George Shultz and six others, three Democrats and three Republicans, who served in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. All six all have Facebook and twitter pages, some more up-to-date than others. Shultz only has an inactive Facebook page.

To my surprise, none of the six posted or tweeted any comments on the Abraham Accords. Perhaps none of them wanted to acknowledge Trump’s foreign policy achievement. Maybe one or more will issue statements later. Still, rather disappointing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Politics On The Farm (Affectionately Known As Stanford)

Every election cycle I report political donations and votes cast by thousands of faculty, staff, and students living in housing on the Stanford campus (zip code 94305).  Political donations are reported to the Federal Election Commission and are reproduced on Open Secrets.

As of August 21, 2020, 957 donations from individuals living in zip code 94305 totaling $1,624,071 were given to candidates, political parties, political action groups, and other politically-oriented organizations for the 2019/20 election cycle.  Some persons gave two, three, or more donations, each of which is recorded separately.

Donations to Republican candidates or Republican-linked organizations amounted to $14,600.  Since Open Secrets only lists 500 donations (payment is required for the complete list), it’s reasonable to suppose that a similar amount was given by the remaining 457 donations.  This presumption puts total Republican political donations around $27,000.  Stanford residents gave 1.66% of their political donations to Republicans.

In comparison, Stanford residents gave 98.34% of their political donations to Democrats.

Stanford is among the most diverse universities in America in every category but one, political orientation.

On November 4, 2020, I will report vote totals and total political donations for 94305 residents.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Is The United States Becoming A Banana Republic?


Some pundits assert that the United States is becoming a “Banana Republic” under President Donald Trump.  Is this so?  Is this a fair metaphor?

First, some definitions.

A "republic" is a state in which supreme power is held by the people who are ruled by their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a  monarch.

What is a "Banana Republic?"

The historical description was coined by the American writer O. Henry (author of the Cisco Kid) who described Honduras and neighboring countries dominated by American fruit companies, in which business, political, and military elites ruled those countries for their private benefit by exploiting a large, impoverished working class.

Here are two political science definitions of “banana republic.”

(1) A small, poor, politically unstable country, often reliant on a single product or limited resource, governed by an authoritarian regime, characterized by corruption, and exploited by foreign corporations in collusion with local government officials.

(2) More generally, any exploitative government that functions poorly for it citizenry (whether reliant on a single export product or not), while disproportionately benefiting a corrupt elite group or individual,

Because “banana republic” refers to an unstable, authoritarian system of government, we need a measure for its antithesis, “democracy.”

Since 2006, the Economist Intelligence Unit has published an annual Index of Democracy.  The Index assigns countries to four categories:  (1) full democracy, (2) flawed democracy, (3) hybrid system—a mixture of democracy and authoritarian, and (4) authoritarian.  Categories (1) and (2) are not “banana republics.”  Categories (3) and (4) are partially or fully authoritarian.

Let’s put to rest the contention that the United States is becoming a “banana republic.”  In the EIU index, 20 countries qualify for category (1) full democracy.  The U.S. ranks 25, near the top of category (2) flawed democracy.  Hybrid regimes begin with Albania, ranked 75.  The U.S. is nowhere near becoming a “banana republic.”

Here are the top 15 net exporters (imports minus reexports) of bananas by value in 2019, its ranking in the democracy index, and the value of net coffee exports for countries that are also major coffee exporters.

As to bananas, consider the following table.


Country          Net Banana     Democracy       Net Coffee
                         Exports             Index             Exports

Ecuador            $3.9 billion           2
Philippines         1.9 billion            2
Columbia           1.6 billion            2               2.6 billion
Costa Rica         993 million           1              254 million
Guatemala        942 million           3              663 million
Dominican         433 million           2
  Republic
Panama            353 million            2
Ivory Coast       340 million            3
Honduras          301 million            3               1.1 billion
Mexico              270 million            2             182 million
Cameroon         256 million            4
Peru                 152 million            2              617 million 
Vietnam           138 million            4               2.4 billion
Ghana                98 million            2
India                  78 million            2

True “banana republics” include Guatemala, Honduras, Cameroon, and Vietnam, the first two ranked hybrid, the latter two ranked authoritarian.  However, since coffee exports dwarf  banana exports in Honduras, perhaps it should labeled a “coffee republic.”  Vietnam is a coffee authoritarian state.  Coffee exports also exceed banana exports in Columbia and Peru.  The latter two countries are classified as flawed democracies, not hybrid or authoritarian, so they are neither “banana” or “coffee republics.”

By the way, the U.S. is the world’s largest net importer of bananas at $2.3 billion, followed by China and Russia at $1.07 billion.  Americans eat, not produce, bananas.  Those who assert the U.S. is becoming a “banana republic” are wrong on every count of the charge.  However, because of their never-Trump, anti-Trump obsession, even some otherwise respectable scholars fall victim to this error.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Blacks Prefer Police To Social Workers

A recent poll revealed that 81% of Blacks wanted the same level or more police protection; only 19% wanted less.

This is not surprising.  In 1971, The Department of Housing and Urban Development solicited proposals from Local (Public) Housing Authorities (LHAs) for grants to improve their housing management systems and cut costs.  This was part of HUD’s Management Improvement Program (MIP).

The MIP added special funding to the normal operating budget of the LHA.  But a condition of the grant was that the management changes were to be planned and implemented with the participation of public housing residents.

Thirteen large LHAs (1,250 or more units under management) were selected from the 72 applicants.  One was the Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA) in Delaware, which had nearly 2,000 tenant families and elderly residents.

TransCentury Corporation, founded by the deputy director of the Peace Corps Warren W. Wiggins, was selected to assist with the design of the program and evaluate its success or failure.  I was retained as a consultant.

In early 1973, we set out to interview the nearly 2,000 largely Black residents about their problems, not to find out if they had problems.  Our task was to identify and count them in pursuit of a well-designed information and referral program.  To our surprise the tenants would not own up to all the problems they were supposed to have based on prior research of the “crisis” literature in public housing.

We had anticipation that tenants would cite problems with obtaining much needed social services such as day care, urgent need for food, jobs, and money, that they felt trapped in public housing, and that they were contemptuous of the WHA’s management.  Because one study team member had interviewed in Watts, we rather incidentally also asked about crime and the police.

Only a handful of the nearly 2,000 residents we interviewed cited difficulties with obtaining social services.  Moreover, most liked their housing.  Most rated the management in positive terms.  But they wanted police protection.  More than anything else, they wanted security for themselves and their possessions.

In response, the WHA set up a housing security force, hiring off-duty Wilmington police, largely White, to provide after-hours security for the tenants.  When a panel of the same residents was interviewed a year after the initial set of baseline interviews, it testified overwhelmingly in favor of the new security force.  Though it had been in operation only a few months, a majority of respondents knew of the force and wanted it continued or expanded.

Because the survey showed that almost nobody had problems obtaining needed social services, the management reduced by three-quarters the resident social services staff during the same period.  Tenants reported that satisfaction with social services actually increased during the project period.

Interviews were conducted with a sample of tenants in each of the three succeeding years.  Tenants continued to speak highly of the benefits of management decisions designed on the basis of tenant preferences.

Tenants were disappointed that the security force was disbanded after the money for the MIP was exhausted.  As is all too common in government programs, policies change with changes in administrations and political objectives.  It was back to business as usual with social welfare workers, not police, despite the reduction in crime and drug dealing in the community.

The study is reported in detail in my coauthored (with William G. Weissert) book, Caseworkers or Police (free download).

Please take some time to look at the data in this book, rather than draw inferences of Black preferences from observing urban street riots.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Teaching Race And Ethnic Relations: 1975 vs. 2020

On August 17, 2020, California’s Governor Newsom signed into law a requirement that every student enrolled in any of the 23 California State University Campuses take a course on ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. Options include courses on Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latina and Latino Americans.

All major universities have Centers for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations. They have become umbrellas for departments and centers on African and African-American Studies, Latin American Studies, Asian Studies, Jewish Studies, Russian Studies, South Asian Studies, Middle East and North African Studies, and so forth.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policy that prevails in every American university has placed more emphasis on research and teaching race and ethnic relations in America.

I began studying race and ethnic relations partly by accident. I switched from Engineering to Asian Studies after my junior year (1961) at Washington University. I crammed in two years of Chinese language study in summer (1961) and the following academic year (1961/62). Then I spent two years at the East West Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii, of which one was in Hong Kong studying Chinese.

When the time came to fix a dissertation topic, I looked for a country where I could put my Chinese to use. The Federation of Malaya (peninsular Malaya excluding Sarawak, Sabah, and Singapore), which gained independence from Britain on August 31, 1957, was an ideal choice with populations of Chinese, Malays, and Indians.  I proposed to study the political, economic, and social “integration” of the three disparate communities in a newly-independent country.

I subsequently revised my dissertation, publishing it under the title Race and Politics in Urban Malaya (free download). This led me to pursue comparative ethnic/racial studies. I subsequently traveled to Singapore, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), Cyprus, Belgium, Gibraltar, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic and Slovakia), Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia (Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia), Trinidad and Tobago, and South Africa. I read widely on Sudan, Nigeria, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Zanzibar, Mauritius, Lebanon, and Guyana. I coauthored (with Kenneth A. Shepsle), Politics in Plural Societies: A Theory of Democratic Instability (second edition, 2009, free download).

I taught a course on Comparative Ethnic Politics at the University of Rochester in the 1974/75 and 1975/76 academic years. The timing was ideal. The scholarly literature had substantially increased during the 1960s and early 1970s with the granting of independence by Britain, France, and Belgium to many multi-ethnic countries in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Living in and traveling to these countries adds depth, insight, and understanding to history, stories, and folklore in books and articles.

As an outside scholar, I found that members of different ethnic/racial groups were willing to share with me their perceptions of rival communities. Most comments consisted of negative stereotypes, explicit prejudice, and harsh jokes (e.g., characterizing rival groups as ignorant, illiterate, lazy, filthy, greedy, selfish, ruthless, crude, ill-mannered, hostile, untrustworthy, and having undesirable animal-like traits).

In the mid-1970s, a teacher could use those critical ethnic remarks as a pedagogical tool, in class anthropology, to illustrate the depths of hostility and anger rival groups felt toward each other. This information enabled students to understand why civil wars and violence broke out among rival ethnic and racial groups after the lid of colonial governance was removed. The first generation of post-independence leaders urged members of all ethnic/racial groups to practice harmony, respect, and civility towards each other to sustain democracy. What is today termed “identity politics” transformed multi-ethnic political parties into exclusive ethnic/racial political groups, destabilizing the multi-ethnic political coalitions.

Today’s identity politics preclude even the slightest effort to add folklore depth to current research and teaching. The consequences are that students, professors, and policy makers, especially those interested in international relations and foreign policy, are woefully uninformed. They have been trained to mistakenly advance the American doctrine of Diversity and Inclusion in countries that tried and emphatically rejected it (e.g., Libya, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan).

The destruction of an academic career in 2020 only takes a single student to complain that an instructor disparaged a member of an ethnic or racial group, or assigned reading that does so, thereby creating a hostile educational environment. The instructor will, at a minimum, receive a severe warning from the Dean or Provost, be possibly suspended from teaching while under investigation, or even dismissed from employment. Academic freedom is no match for Madame Defarge.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Race Relations In America

Late May 2020 witnessed an outburst of protests and violence in cities around the United States in the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd.  Racial protests and race riots are not new or unique to America. They have occurred throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, East Asia, South Asia, the Pacific, and the Caribbean.

Countries have their own unique causes of racial and ethic conflict, but they also have features in common.  My co-author and I have chronicled these episodes in several dozen countries in our book, Politics in Plural Societies:  A Theory of Democratic Stability (Second edition, 2009).  It is available for free download.

I invite you to read this comparative study of racial and ethnic violence, the lessons learned, and proposals for ameliorating the hostilities.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Getting Back To Business With China

Is it time for the U.S. to move on from the blame game over who did what on Covid-19, and get back to doing business with the Chinese Communist Party, China’s Government, Chinese universities, business firms, and social organizations?

Perhaps.  But doing business with China requires adherence to its rules. What are those rules in practice?  (See list below.)  If you doubt them, apply for a visa to visit China.  On arrival, exercise your freedom of speech criticizing Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party the same way that are free to criticize Donald Trump and the Republican Party in the United States.  Watch what happens.  If you are lucky, you’ll be deported.  If not so lucky, you’ll be detained, perhaps for an indefinite period of time, or worse.  If you are President of Harvard, you may be allowed to talk about academic freedom to an audience of students and faculty at a leading Chinese university, but you still better not criticize any aspect of Xi Jinping Thought.

Here is a list of no-no’s that constrains doing business with China (and applies to your local Chinese employees):

No freedom of speech.

No freedom to dissent.

No freedom to criticize Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party, and China’s government.

No academic freedom in the humanities and social sciences.

No freedom of the press.

No religious freedom.

No freedom of the people to peacefully assemble.

No freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

No security of persons in their houses and their papers and effects.

No protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.

No “rule of law.”

No presumption of innocence.

No right to equal protection under the law.

No trial by an independent jury of one’s peers.

No protection against seizure of private property without just compensation.

No protection from excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishment.

No practice of democracy, i.e., free and fair elections.

No freedom of travel by train or airplane without an acceptable government-determined social credit score.

No protection from arbitrary arrest, detention, and exile.

No universal freedom to leave the country.

The individual freedoms that are summarily disregarded by China’s leaders are enshrined in China’s Constitution.  But they are on paper, not in practice.

Chapter II of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (2018 Edition) is titled “The Fundamental Rights And Duties Of Citizens.”  They are stipulated in Articles 33 through 56.”

33.  All citizens of the PRC are equal before the law.

34.  All citizens aged 18 and over have the right to vote and stand for election, unless deprived of political rights according to law.

35.  PRC citizens have freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of demonstration.

36.  PRC citizens have freedom of religious belief.  Citizens cannot make use of religion to disrupt public order or interfere with the educational system of the state.

37.  No citizen may be arrested except with the approval of a people’s procuratorate, a people’s court, or public security organ.

38.  Citizens shall be secure from libel, false accusation, or false incrimination.

39.  Citizens shall have freedom from unlawful search of, or intrusion into, a residence.

40.  Citizens shall enjoy freedom and privacy of correspondence, except to meet the needs of state security and criminal investigation.

41.  Citizens have the right to criticize and make suggestions regarding any state organ or functionary and make complaints against those that violate the law or fail to perform their duty.

42.  Citizens have the right and duty to work.

43.  Citizens who work have the right to rest and take vacations.

44.  Citizens who are retired are guaranteed livelihood by the state and society.

45.  Citizens are entitled to material assistance from the state and society if old, ill, or disabled.

46.  Citizens have the right and duty to receive education.

47.  Citizens have the freedom to engage in scientific research, literary and artistic creation, and other cultural pursuits.

48.  Women shall enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life.

49.  Freedom of marriage is protected by the state.  Both husband and wife have the duty to practice family planning.

50.  The PRC shall protect the legitimate rights of Chinese nationals residing abroad, family members of Chinese nationals residing abroad, and lawful rights of returned overseas Chinese.

51.  Citizens, in exercising their rights and freedoms, must not infringe upon the rights of the state, of society, of the collective, or lawful freedoms and rights of other citizens.

52.  Citizens have the duty to safeguard the unification of the country and the unity of all its ethnicities.

53.  Citizens must abide by the Constitution and other laws, keep state secrets, protect public property, observe labor discipline, observe public order, and respect social ethics.

54.  Citizens have the duty to safeguard the security, honor, and interests of the motherland and must not commit acts detrimental to the security, honor, and interests of the motherland.

55.  Citizens have the duty to defend the motherland and resist aggression.  Citizens have the duty to perform military service and join the militia in accordance with the law.

56.  Citizens shall have the duty to pay taxes in accordance with the law.

These rights and duties would be reasonable if they were honored in practice.  A major problem is that the Preamble and Chapter I in the Constitution, which specify the foundations of “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” provide justification for violating constitutional rights.

Here is a partial list of constraints on the exercise of individual rights stated in the Preamble and Chapter I.  (My comments in italics.)

The People’s Republic of China is a Socialist state.  Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the leadership of the Communist Party.  Any disruption of the socialist system by an organization or individual is prohibited.  (This statement eliminates democracy, dissent, free and fair elections, criticism of the Chinese Communist Party, and disobeying any other CCP dictums.)

The state upholds the Socialist legal system.  (The Socialist legal system does not provide the individual protections embedded in the Common Law and Civil Law.)

The basis of the Socialist economic system is socialist public ownership of the means of production.

All mineral resource, waters, forests, mountains, grasslands, unclaimed land, beaches, and natural resources, and urban land are owned by the state or rural collectives.

Non-public sectors of the economy (individual and private sectors) are protected, but under the oversight and control of the state.  (Individual and private sectors are subject to the whims of the CCP and the state.)

The state protects both public and private property, but may requisition or expropriate private property for public use with compensation.  (The state, not an independent tribunal, determines compensation.)

The state maintains public order and penalizes activities that endanger public security or disrupt the socialist economy.  (This provision means that China can punish any individual or organization that does not comply with official ideology or policy, without any appeal.)

What must be understood in these lists of rights, freedoms, and duties is that the Chinese Communist Party and its subsidiary state organs have the exclusive right and power to interpret and apply the Constitution and laws of China.  There are no appeals to any independent constitutional or statutory authority.

No country is perfect in always applying its stated principles of governance.  There are degrees of variation of adherence to human rights.  By any measure, the United States is high on the list of countries that give credence to human rights and China is far down.

Do you want to understand Chinese rules?  Ask residents of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Chinese exiles in the West what the “Rule of Law” means in practice in China, and what China’s promises to abide by written agreements means in practice for Hong Kongers.

The United States does business with many countries that violate their constitutional principles and legal guarantees.  But none pose the same economic and political threat to the United States as does China.  Burundi is not China.