Posted by Sappho on November 21st, 2015 filed in News and Commentary
Vox, in an explainer on what’s going on with the Trump Muslim database story, includes a link to the NBC interview where Trump said he would “certainly” implement a system to register and track Muslims in the US. He is vague, in the interview, on the details of what he would implement, describing it as just “good management.”
Setting aside how creepy and unconstitutional it would be for the government to track everyone in the US from just one religious group (though it is creepy and unconstitutional), let’s take a look at the technical aspects of the question. Philip Bump at the WaPo points out, in this article I link below, that the US government already has a list of all the Muslims in the US. How does he figure this? Well, multiple companies maintain databases of our characteristics for marketing purposes, including our religious interests, and the government can purchase any of these lists it likes at any time.
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Posted by Sappho on November 17th, 2015 filed in Blogwatch
I begin this round up with this video of a father comforting his son (subtitled in English), while being interviewed by French TV, near the scene of the attack on Bataclan.
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Posted by Sappho on November 15th, 2015 filed in Daily Life
About a month ago, I sat in the auditorium of my young niece’s school, with my husband, my brother, and my sister-in-law.
The school is in Dakar, Senegal. It’s an international school. Diplomats at our embassy mingle with diplomats at other embassies, UN workers, and people who work for various NGOs, and many of their children go to this school.
We were celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the UN. It was a particularly auspicious celebration in Senegal, because Senegal had just been elected to be part of the UN Security Council. The children wore costumes representing different countries. (My niece, whose parents were born in different countries, represented the US.)
After someone from the school gave a speech about UN Day, she led us in saying “Hello” in each of the languages spoken by a child at the school. I forget how many languages she said there were in the world, but 44 were spoken by at least one child at the school (some spoke more than one language).
Then the children paraded in a circle past us, in their different national dress.
Posted by Sappho on November 5th, 2015 filed in Blogwatch
Horrible Histories on Guy Fawkes’ Thirteen
And some links that have nothing to do with Guy Fawkes Day, but today was as good a day as any to round them up:
Thoreau at Unqualified Offerings on why, whether or not you think the State Department did everything right about security where Benghazi was concerned, the fact that Hillary Clinton was not regularly involved in decisions about embassy security, but did need to be consulted about humanitarian aid to Libya, was actually, in bureaucratic terms, actually means that the State Department takes embassy security more seriously than humanitarian aid to Libya.
I work for a large public bureaucracy, and classroom instruction is allegedly the highest priority of my institution. In most cases, small purchases of instructional supplies can happen without too many layers of approval. If the highest levels of authorities were getting emails about instructional lab supplies, it would indicate a deeply broken system, because the funds for something that essential and commonplace should have already been allocated, and decision-making authority should have already been delegated. I will not assert that the State Department did everything right for embassy security, because I lack the necessary knowledge and experience to make that assertion, but the fact that embassy security issues did not need the Secretary’s approval is actually a very good thing. Ambassadors should be talking to the Secretary of State about government-to-government policy issues, secure in the knowledge that operational and safety matters at embassies are in the hands of professionals who can do their jobs without endless meddling from above. On the other hand, the fact that humanitarian aid to Libya required approval at the highest level is an indication that, superficial appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, dispensing that aid was not something that the State Department was particularly eager to do.
One would think that the Republicans, who allegedly hate government red tape, would get that.
Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns, and Money on the grave of Thaddeus Stevens.
A Globe and Mail article on the new, gender equal, ethnically diverse Trudeau Cabinet in Canada.
Posted by Sappho on November 1st, 2015 filed in Daily Life
I’m back from my travels. Actually, I got back at slightly after 9pm on Friday night (if you count when our plane got into John Wayne Airport), or later than that (if you count when we had gotten our bags and arrived home). But I have been jet lagged, still am, so posting on the blog wasn’t the first thing I did.
In theory, I could have blogged more while I was gone (we had wireless access one way or another everywhere). But we only brought the one laptop, and it was just easier to make short Facebook posts from my cell phone. I plan to write more later about our time in London, Dakar, and Paris, but, in order to get something up while I’m still jet lagged, I’ll place, below the fold, a few of my last Facebook statuses, while we were in Paris. In chronological order, but concatenated, without any separators to tell you where one status ends and another begins or what happened on what day. Those of you who already read these posts on Facebook can skip this and wait for whatever I post next.
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Posted by WiredSisters on October 26th, 2015 filed in Abortion, Anarchism, Catholic Worker, Health and Medicine, History, Law, Moral Philosophy, Quaker Practice
When I read about Kim Davis, I am almost irresistibly drawn to sarcasm. That impulse lasts about five minutes, until I remember my own war resister/draft counselor past. And then I want to ask the people who were out there with me, in the same struggle: Aren’t we the people who struggled for the rights of conscience against military service and payment of war taxes? Didn’t some of us go to jail for it? Now, suddenly, conscientious objection is making a comeback. Can’t we just enjoy the new-found fashionability of our earlier commitments? If we are to be serious about the relationship between law and conscience, don’t we have to look at it honestly and without snark? If we can’t do that, don’t we have to accept the possibility that we support the conscientious rights of only those people whose consciences agree with ours, or, worse still, that conscience is merely a childhood disease to be outgrown in adulthood?
On the other hand, what do Hobby Lobby and Kim Davis have in common with Benjamin Spock, David Harris, and David Dellinger? Do they even have anything to say to each other?
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, we war resisters were among the people who examined what the law (specifically, the Selective Service Act, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the Immigration and Naturalization Act) said about people who, for reasons of conscience, were unwilling to bear arms for the United States of America. Those bodies of law evolved a bit over the years, and ultimately came down to the dictum that a person can be exempted under the law from bearing arms for the United States if:
- By reason of a sincerely held
- Religious, ethical, or moral belief
- S/he objects to participation in all war,
- And can prove it.
As a practical matter, even people who clearly met those standards still ran the risk of being turned down (by some boneheaded administrative agency or court) for the exemption they were entitled to, and ending up in jail. And many others held an equally strong conscientious belief that the government had no right to force anybody to bear arms, and were willing to go to jail rather than submit to the process of gaining an exemption.
Still others believed that they could not, in good conscience, pay taxes that supported the making of war. Some of them ended up in jail too.
The issue of Selective Service is now moot. As long ago as the early 1990s, one of my students literally could not remember the word “draft.” The law is still on the books, and a skeleton agency is still out there, mostly for the purpose of presiding over registration and keeping records and archives. But nobody has been actively and officially conscripted into the military for more than a generation.
There are still people in the armed forces who have become conscientious objectors (often as a result of experiences in the military)and have applied for discharge under the regulations applicable to that status, with varying degrees of success. No doubt there are also people seeking to become naturalized US citizens without having to promise to bear arms for their new country, in a parallel process. But today’s conscientious objectors are a whole other bunch of people.
Actually, not all of them are “people,” if by that we mean single human individuals. Blackstone to the contrary notwithstanding, some corporations have recently acquired souls or consciences or moral beliefs and have sought to have them officially recognized. (Does that mean they believe the corporation will go to hell for violating those beliefs? Snarking again. Stop that!) The regulations from which they seek exemption have nothing to do with wars or bearing arms or subsidizing warfare (or even the death penalty.)
Some of these objectors are unwilling to cover the health care expenses of their employees for contraception, or some kinds of contraception which the corporations equate to abortifacients. Many medical authorities disagree with this characterization. And the Catholic Church and its affiliated nonprofits don’t even care about that—they consider contraception itself immoral. But let’s give the objectors the benefit of the factual doubt for the moment. Hobby Lobby may thus have the moral right to object to subsidizing some forms of contraception for their employees. Does that give them the legal right, or the moral obligation, to refuse to comply with the provisions of the ACA requiring private for-profit corporations to cover their employees’ health care including contraception? Well, the Supreme Court says they now have the legal right to do so.
But why stop with insurance? Would not such a corporation, in order to avoid collusion in the sin of contraception or abortion, have to forbid its employees from spending any portion of their corporate paychecks on such practices? Or even just forbid its employees from using such medications regardless of how, or even whether, the employee paid for them at all? Or maybe, to forestall such delicate issues, refrain from hiring women of child-bearing age? Or maybe anybody of reproductive age—much though the Religious Right likes to ignore the role of men in reproduction, it is an uncontroverted scientific fact beyond even their power to deny. (I still have trouble understanding why none of these objectors to contraception have no problems with paying for the use of Viagra by unmarried men, and I’m not even snarking now.)
But what about the moral right/obligation of such a corporation to violate the federally-protected rights of their employees? How would that differ from the rights of a corporation whose moral beliefs (remember, we’ve already conceded for the sake of argument that a corporation can have moral beliefs) included pacifism? Could such a corporation refuse to comply with USERRA (the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, Pub.L. 103–353), formerly the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act, which protects the job rights of employees in the National Guard and active-duty and reserve military? USERRA says no, and, unlike the ACA, doesn’t even provide for various opt-outs or exemptions on conscientious principle. Would such a corporation nonetheless be morally obliged to violate that law by discharging or in some other way discriminating against their military-connected employees? There are no criminal penalties attached to USERRA, but there are fines for violation—could such a corporation violate the law and pay the fines as an act of civil disobedience?
Let’s look at another aspect of our pacifist employer’s problems. If such an employer objected to the payment of federal taxes directed to arms and military operations, could they refuse to withhold all or part of their employees’ federal taxes for those purposes or to convey such monies to the IRS? Not directly, no. There are criminal penalties for doing that, regardless of motivation. But they could certainly set up operations so as to have no “employees” for IRS purposes, just “independent contractors.” That happens all the time, for various other reasons, although IRS and the DOL are a lot more suspicious of such arrangements now than they used to be. But that’s a practical problem, not a moral one. It’s one of the risks of civil disobedience.
I’m trying very hard to keep my personal politics and morality out of this discussion. I’m trying to accept for the sake of argument a legitimate analogy between the issues on which the war resisters of the 1960s and 1970s opposed the government, and those which now preoccupy the Religious Right. Sometimes I succeed. For instance, Operation Rescue and Randall Terry impressed me enough in their heyday that I sincerely hoped, if I really believed what they believed, that I would have the courage to do what they did. But Kim Davis? Not so clear. Maybe the question we need to be asking is “what would Dorothy Day do?”
As I ruminate over this conundrum, I am becoming increasingly aware of a difference between Hobby Lobby and David Dellinger that does not rest on the different issues they espouse. Hobby Lobby, and Kim Davis, and for that matter the various religiously-connected not-for-profits who are opting out of the ACA’s contraceptive mandate, are taking actions that affect the rights of other people who may not agree with them about the morality of contraception, abortion, or same-sex marriage. The war resisters of the 1960s and 1970s were taking positions that affected only themselves and the government, not third parties. Our jerry-built hypothesis of a pacifist employer violating USERRA is pretty hard to imagine or construct, and so far as we know has never really happened. Employer violations of USERRA and its predecessors have always been plentiful, but the violations have always involved putting the financial welfare of the employer before the interests of the employee and the government.
Does this mean war resisters are nicer people or better employers? Or just not likely to be employers in the first place, by reason of age or social status? Or that war resisters tend to a streak of libertarianism that would impede any move to force their beliefs on others? (Is libertarianism even the right word? Libertarians mostly object to compulsion by government. They generally think anybody subject to their private jurisdiction should either obey the boss or leave.)
It certainly raises a whole set of issues other than opposition to war or abortion or same-sex marriage—opposition to forcing one’s beliefs on those people under one’s economic or political control. So maybe we need to stop snarking at Kim Davis’ lax adherence to the tenets of her anti-SSM religion* (however tempting it may be) and just look at what her refusal to do her job does to the couples and families who are subject to her jurisdiction. Maybe we need to look at Hobby Lobby’s suit as just one more instance of an employer throwing its weight around in violation of the rights of its workers. Maybe, in fact, we really need to establish the principle that employees have certain fundamental rights that no employer can violate, regardless of its reasons. This requires further thought.
* Some related issues: Kim Davis appears to be equating civil marriage with religious marriage. Her church, the Apostolic Christian Church, defines marriage as “a lifelong union ordained of God in which a man and a woman of like mind, faith, and fellowship are united in the Lord in Holy Matrimony.” That definition could hardly apply to marriages between members of other faiths or no faith, for which she is also required to provide licenses and is currently refusing to do so. Most Western nations, including the US, do not equate the two—they require a civil license for civil recognition of a marriage, regardless of any religious ritual. And many religious bodies won’t recognize a civil ceremony or license without a religious validation (most notably the Roman Catholic Church.)
Posted by Sappho on October 19th, 2015 filed in Daily Life
In case you have been wondering where I have been for the past two weeks, here is the story: I have been in London, and then in Dakar, Senegal, where I am now. Don’t anyone take this as an opportunity to rob me, as we have a friend staying in our condo and looking after the dog and the cat. And did I mention there’s a dog?
We are in Dakar visiting my brother, who works at the Embassy here. Here’s what it has been like so far.
The airport: The Ebola epidemic in neighboring Guinea has now reached the point where last week’s situation report said that two weeks had passed with no new Ebola cases were reported in Guinea or Sierra Leone (this week’s word is that the streak continues in Sierra Leone but Guinea had two new cases), and Liberia weeks ago reached the end of the 42 day period without cases that is required to be declared Ebola free. And Senegal only ever had the one case, coming in from Guinea. But you can still see the signs of the Ebola epidemic in the airport. I mean that literally. There are signs about preventing Ebola and places to sterilize your hands. The other striking thing about the airport is the abundant supply of people offering to carry your luggage for a fee. “My brother works for the embassy” convinced most of them that we were serious about not needing help.
Markets in everything, everywhere: You can buy cloth, wood carvings, jewelry, and a toy that men keep offering my niece with free lessons. My sister-in-law is a demon bargainer, so, though I learned bits of Wolof for buying and selling (“gnata lay jar” for how much and “dafa chere” for it’s too expensive), and Joel knows a bit more French, in practice we just leave all the bargaining to her. We have bought a few things, and passed on more.
Religion: Senegal is a predominantly Muslim country, in a lenient Sufi way, with a significant Christian minority. Here in the capital we see women with bare heads freely mingle with women in hijab, no niqabi women. I thought I might have to cover up more, but actually it turns out to be OK to go around in long pants and a T-shirt (I haven’t tried shorts or a short skirt).
Yesterday we drove out of the city to services at a monastery that has beautiful music, and today we had a look at the Grand Mosque.
Food: You can get a mix of native Senegalese and French food: fish and meat in various sauces served wtih rice or fries or plantains, croissants and other pastries, lots of different fruits.
Sights: Besides the monastery and the mosque, we have been to the Monument of the African Renaissance (which has a museum inside with African and African-American heroes, both men and women, and African artwork and a timeline of African history, and an elevator that takes you to the top, higher than the Statue of Liberty), to the beach at Ngorr Island, to Goree Island (where we visited the House of Slaves and the Door of No Return), to the embassy, and to various nice views around the city.
We will still be here a while longer, and then in Paris. Joel is putting up photos on Flickr. You can see some London photos on his Flickr page already. Eventually there will be Senegal photos as well. He took some of his photos on film, so some of them won’t go up until after we have returned.
Posted by Sappho on October 4th, 2015 filed in History
Today I was going through my files, searching for some old photographs, and came across an old printout of a Usenet post, that was made to the group soc.culture.china, at the time of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, a couple of weeks before the tanks rolled in on June 4. At the time, students from China who were studying in the US were using soc.culture.china to organize support for the protests back home. Here is the post (passed on to the newsgroup after someone posted it to a couple of mailing lists):
Conscience and Chinatown,
I thought I would share this personal account of what’s happening on the streets of Beijing. The writer is our own Shi Limin. The “Norm” referred to is Norm Shulman, the Beijing TSE Manager.
I apologize to members on both lists for receiving duplicates of this.
[Usenet headers omitted]
Yes, I’m all right. Thank you, my friend.
The situation here seems getting better and better. All army members are blocked outside Beijing city. The people’s life in the city looks as normal as usual. You may not able to see any difference than ordinary life on the streets or in the shops now. Although the students direct the traffic instead of the police, the accidents are less than before. The buses started to work yesterday. Many people went to their work unit this morning.
There are still thousands of students in Tan’anman square. They said “we will not end until our aims are reached”. The student area is circled and controled by the students. There are alot of people demonstrate to support them outside the area and on the Chang An street which is in front of Tan’anmen.
Beside Tan’anmen, the crowded areas are the places where the armies are. The PLA rounds the city but the people round them. Hundreds and thousands of people and students block at all the gateways. They circle the soldier cars, give them news paper, water and food. Some soldiers droped their tears. They said that they did not know what is happening in Beijing and what to do here. A group of Beida’s students and teachers went to “convey greeting to people’s son and brother army” yesterday.
So right now, the life in Beijing is very peaceful, there are no any reason for the army to entry the city. The soldiers themselves don’t want to get in to face to the students and the people there. But just in case, a lot of people go to the streets in the evening and wait there all night – they are ready to block the army’s cars using their bodies, in the meantime, they are talking about the jokes of Li Peng, shouting him abuses in the street.
The martial law while was signed by Li Pang totally failed, nobody even pay any attention to it. The demonstrations are still going on. The government hasn’t done, even said anything to this after the martial law was declared. The government already lose the control. I think China is in a turning point and they have to fill the requests of the people. I believe that the students and the people will win the struggle.
It is very very quiet this morning, it is said that there will be a big demonstration this afternoon.
I went to Tan’anmen very often these days. I have spent almost a night with the hunger strikers there last week. I with we had a “Sun Microsystems supporting group”. Don’t worry please, I am no problem here. We got a command from HK yesterday, it asked all foreign staff to go to HK. Norm said is is not necessary. I think so too. The status here is not so bad, “it is the best status during these 40 years”, Norm said. He is going to stay here. In fact, he is one of people who blocked the army’s cars in the nights. Bill, do you wanna go with me to see what type of guns the soldiers have if you are here?
I can understand that how you worry you were when you heard about the martial law in Beijing. I hope I can tell you how strong the people are and how great the students are. I am proud of them.
Xie Xie Ni, Wo De Peng You,
— Xiao Shi
Posted by Sappho on September 30th, 2015 filed in Abortion
Because I’m seeing lots of different versions of facts floating around Facebook about Planned Parenthood, I will try, in this post, to round up what sources I can on getting the facts right, in relation to what Planned Parenthood does and the current proposal to defund it.
FactCheck.org on Planned Parenthood: This includes all of FactCheck’s posts under the tag “Planned Parenthood.” Because FactCheck makes an effort to be nonpartisan, it includes things that they found incorrect from people on both sides of the aisle. For instance, Harry Reid overstated the proportion of women who depend on Planned Parenthood’s services, while Jeb Bush is wrong when he argues that Planned Parenthood doesn’t do women’s health issues.
Important among the FactCheck links is Unspinning the Planned Parenthood Video; it turns out that the full, unedited video of the Planned Parenthood executive tells a different story from the edited one.
Sarah Kliff, at Vox, gives more details about the video to which Carly Fiorina was referring.
But when asked for a citation, her campaign replied with a video that isn’t from the Planned Parenthood sting tapes at all — and that still doesn’t show what Fiorina said it did.
Over email, campaign spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores pointed to a one-minute clip from a YouTube account called “Save Babies.”
There has been some debate about whether one particularly gory image involves a late term abortion or a stillborn baby. I am not sure how to tell. Some abortions are performed quite late. I do know, though, that the argument that, if the baby were stillborn, doctors would be trying to save a kicking baby doesn’t really hold. One of my nieces was born very premature, at only one pound six ounces, just days past the point where doctors would consider her viable. She was our miracle birth, our Christmas Eve baby who went on to thrive against difficult odds. She also would not have been saved if she had been born a week earlier. In fact, my sister was in the hospital, with drugs to stop her premature labor, and part of why doctors were able to save my niece is the fact that they were able to keep her in my sister’s womb for just long enough that she could reach the micro-premie stage when they could actually keep her alive on a respirator in the NICU. There’s a limit to how early they can do that, and there’s a limit to how early they will try. You can give birth to a very much wanted baby, who indeed looks like a fully formed baby, still moving, whom doctors won’t try to save because they know they can’t. So, yes, that image could be a stillborn baby. Or it could be a late term abortion. It would take someone way more knowledgeable than me about obstetrics and gynecology to be able to assess the likelihood of which it is, from a video snippet.
Here is the text of the bill defunding Planned Parenthood.
The bill defunding Planned Parenthood proposes to redirect the money to other community health centers. Here is a post on a health affairs blog about whether community health centers are prepared to do that.
Who provides women’s health care in rural areas? According to the Guttmacher Institute, a survey of clinics providing services to rural areas in Washington State found that “Eight of the clinics were Planned Parenthood sites, eight were private freestanding clinics and 15 were local health department clinic sites.”
Is Planned Parenthood closing its rural clinics? Sometimes, yes. Here’s a Huffington Post article about loss of STD services in rural Indiana after Planned Parenthood closed some rural clinics in the wake of a loss of funding from the state government.
That’s all I have. Feel free to offer any fact checking links of your own in the comments. Note that I will not be assessing comments for accuracy before approving them, and will not be moderating them based on people’s views about Planned Parenthood. (I will, of course, throw any comment that says anything offensive about my prematurely born niece into a black hole, but I don’t imagine I’ll get any of those.)
Posted by Sappho on September 23rd, 2015 filed in Blogwatch
Belle Waring rebuts a particularly silly argument about Ahmed Mohammed.
Wow. Much openminded. So scientific. OK, sorry, I keep getting off-track for some reason. Right, this hoax is designed to get Ahmed Mohamed reprimanded at school, then arrested, and then become an internet cause celèbré, and then get invited to the White House. First of all, Ahmed and his family have to have judged the over/under for “young brown man thought armed with deadly weapon getting shot by the police” vs. “grievance-mongerer fêted by liberal elitists” a safe bet. I, like, would not take those odds at all. Secondly, for this plan to work, the teachers and police officers have to act like morons all up and down the line. There’s no other way. Really, it has to be a Confederacy of Dunces down there. Do these Clock Truthers realize their grim vision of Texan society is far, far more cynical than mine? Dawkins’ zealotry has obviously clouded his judgment, something which often befalls fundamentalists. To be undeservedly fair, Dawkins has perhaps been walking this back but, you know how it is. You’re a well-respected biologist—but ONE pig. It happens to, like everyone. It’s an experimental phase!
I hadn’t been paying attention to Ashley Madison hack news for weeks, and it turns out some more information came out while I wasn’t paying attention. First, their password security is worse than it initially appeared. Second, Krebs reports on a site where people bid for breaches of security by insiders. And here’s the Ashley Madison tie in:
Many experts believe the breach that exposed tens of millions user accounts at AshleyMadison.com — an infidelity site that promises to hook up cheating spouses — originated from or was at least assisted by an insider at the company. Interestingly, on June 25, 2015 — three weeks before news of the breach broke — a member on a related secret data-trading forum called the “Gentlemen’s Club” solicits “data and service” related to AshleyMadison, saying “Don’t waste time if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Big job opportunity.”
Sigrún Davíðsdóttir at A Fistful of Euros on Corbyn’s European context and the challenge to turn popularity into power.
Posted by Sappho on September 23rd, 2015 filed in Blogwatch
First, an old one that I haven’t gotten around to blogging: Ken Burnside gives the best “pro-Puppy” retrospective that I’ve seen on the Hugo Awards (hat tip to Jim Henley for pointing me to this one). I am one of the people who gave Ken Burnside an automatic placement below “No Award,” for reasons I’ll explain, but as they were definitely nothing personal against him, I’m happy to congratulate him on his second place after “No Award” in the “Best Related Works” category (of all the Castalia House nominees that I didn’t bother to read before voting, once I had made my decision about Vox Day, his was the one that I thought I’d be most interested in reading after I had read all the nominees I was considering). Basically, after deciding that I wasn’t going to vote straight “No Award” over Puppy nominations, but was mostly going to read each and rate them on their merits, with the exception of, oh, Vox Day personally, I decided that Vox had done a series of things (filling in a slate mostly with himself and works by his own publishing house, telling his followers to vote exactly that slate, encouraging said log rolling on his own behalf with lots of culture war rhetoric, and then threatening that if No Award won any category, no one would ever win that award again), that I would vote anything by his publishing house below No Award. And vote all the other Puppy nominees on their merits after at least starting to read them. I don’t regret that choice because, well, Vox Day, but I do feel sympathy for the self-deploying human sandbags (Ken Burnside’s words) in the line of fire, and I sure as hell don’t think people like Ken Burnside deserved threats.
That said, I’m pretty much in agreement with Burnside that my preferred outcome would have been something like No Award for the two weakest categories, Related Work and Novella, and awards to the better Puppy nominees (which I actually liked) for the other Puppy sweep categories. And, if the Sad Puppies are to continue (as I guess they will), I’d be happy to see them adopt one of his two suggestions in particular, “or actually be a recommended reading list, and have so many recommendations that it’s ineffective as a slate. I’d guess that 10-15 works per category would suffice, but I don’t know.” Not only would that many prevent said Puppy recommended reading list from acting as a slate of coordinated votes that shuts out everyone else’s preferences, but it could be a useful list in itself, for people who want to read more milsf, or “Heroic Engineer” stories.
I still think that “E Pluribus Hugo” is a big part of the solution.
Next (also an old one), Jim Henley on How to Stop Worrying and Start Loving the Ancillary Novels (if You’re Not a Liberal).
Next, Ta-Nehisi Coates will be writing Black Panther. Yay! I loved Black Panther as a child, I love Ta-Nehisi Coates, and I know he’s a big comic book geek, so this match sounds great.
Thomas Sowell, _Ethnic America_, Chapter 2, “The Irish”: Keith E Gatling said that this chapter in particular interested him, because Sowell describes the Irish as, in some respects, having it worse than black people.
Slaves in the United States had a longer life expectancy than peasants in Ireland, ate better, and lived in cabins built of sturdier materials, with more space, ventilation, and privacy, than the huts of contemporary Irish peasants….
… The British landlords were more than economic interests. They were a social and political power. In the eighteenth century, their power had been so great that they could physically punish Irish peasants, who dared not raise a hand in self-defense. They could even send for a peasant’s wife or daughter to spend the night with them. Some students of this earlier era have questioned whether there was more than a technical difference between slavery and the subjugation of the Irish peasant….
I read this at first warily. It’s not that I doubt the Irish had it bad. But there’s a certain “white ethnic” argument that, since we’ve been able to reach a certain equality with those white people who get termed not the least bit “ethnic,” black people really need to get off their duffs and do the same. And I think this overlooks some things. For one thing, “the Irish had it worse” accounts tend to pick just the things where Irish might have had it particularly bad, and overlook some pretty significant disadvantages (having your children routinely sold away from you) that even the Irish missed. For another, it *is* easier to “become white” and lose your earlier disadvantages when you look enough like the already accepted white people that you can lose yourself in their midst. Was Sowell, as a black conservative, and one who is wary of affirmative action, going to buy too thoroughly into that narrative?
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We arrived two months before September 11, 2001. I suppose everyone who was in New York that day has a story. Here is mine: That evening, I stood on the roof of an apartment building with your mother, your aunt Chana, and her boyfriend, Jamal. So we were there on the root, talking and taking in the sight – great plumes of smoke covered Manhattan Island. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who was missing. But looking out upon the ruins of America, my heart was cold. I had disasters all my own. The officer who killed Prince Jones, like all the officers who regard us so warily, was the sword of the American citizenry. I would never consider any American citizen pure. I was out of sync with the city. I kept thinking about how southern Manhattan had always been Ground Zero for us. They auctioned our bodies down there, in that same devastated, and rightly named, financial district…. In the days after, I watched the ridiculous pageantry of flags, the machismo of firemen, the overwrought slogans. Damn it all. Prince Jones was dead. And hell upon those who tell us to be twice as good and shoot us no matter. Hell for ancestral fear that put black parents under terror. And hell upon those who shatter the holy vessel.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
Part of me wanted to pick a different quote for the next one I would feature from this book. Perhaps one (which I’ll share with you later) about the writing exercises TNC’s parents gave him, and how they taught him to think. Or perhaps one about his reading in the great library at “The Mecca,” Howard University. But it’s now a week after the fourteenth anniversary of 9/11, and so I think it’s time to grapple with this one, one which chilled the hearts of at least some readers. I forget whether it was Rod Dreher or David Brooks who, in reviewing this book, quoted this section with dismay, as a sign that TNC had gone too deep into his own anger and resentment. I remember that, whoever it was, as I read the criticism in his review, I was reminded of what Malcolm X had said, after JFK’s assassination, about chickens coming home to roost, and the anger that remark brought. Was this passage TNC’s version of Malcolm’s “chickens coming home to roost”? Surely one consciously chosen, if so, for TNC knows well every event of Malcolm’s life.
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Americans believe in the reality of “race” as a defined, indubitable feature of the natural world. Racism – the need to ascribe bone-deep features to people and then humiliate, reduce, and destroy them – inevitably follows from this inalterable condition. In this way, racism is rendered as the innocent daughter of Mother Nature, and one is left to deplore the Middle Passage or the Trail of Tears the way one deplores an earthquake, a tornado, or any other phenomenon that can be cast as beyond the handiwork of men.
But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming ‘the people’ has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. Difference in hue and hair is old. But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible – this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
Ethnic America, Thomas Sowell, Introduction, “The American Mosaic”: Most of this book takes several American ethnic groups one at a time (and in this sense reminds me of Albion’s Seed, which takes different colonial waves of immigration from England one at a time, and American Nations, which does the same but also includes the waves from Spain, France, and the Netherlands, and some hybrid “nations” where the cultures mixed). But the book begins with the grand view:
Over the years, a massive stream of humanity – 45 million people – crossed every ocean and continent to reach the United States. They came speaking every language and representing every nationality, race, and religion. Today, there are more people of Irish ancestry in the United States than in Ireland, more Jews than in Israel, more blacks than in most African countries. There are more people of Polish ancestry in Detroit than in most of the leading cities in Poland, and more than twice as many people of Italian ancestry in New York as in Venice.
Things discussed in this chapter include:
I’m reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and Thomas Sowell’s Ethnic America in parallel. I’m mostly posting about these books on Facebook, since that’s where I have most of my conversations with the friend who recommended Ethnic America. But I’m going to crosspost a little here. First, this post, where I compare the two books, and second I’ll have a post that’s headed by a quote from Coates, but continues with a summary of Sowell’s first chapter. Probably I won’t crosspost the discussion further, but will have it on Facebook and discuss other things here, but this should be enough to give you some idea of what it’s like to read the two books together.
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Posted by Sappho on September 2nd, 2015 filed in Blogwatch
Lawyers, Guns, and Money has a guest post by Jameson Quinn on the Hugos, Sad and Rabid Puppies, and the new E Pluribus Hugo nominations proposal, designed to allow slates to get some nominees on the ballot but not to sweep it, which passed overwhelmingly at this year’s business meeting, and which will become the new rule if it passes again next year. In the meantime, statistics on this year’s Hugo nominations have been released, and some, including Quinn, have gone over these statistics to estimate just how many Puppies there were. I found it interesting that not only were Puppies a distinct minority of nominations; Rabid Puppies were actually less numerous than Sad ones (this despite the fact that pre-Hugo anti-Puppy analysis of nominations had suggested that Rabid Puppies got their way more often than Sad ones).
Under a voting system like EPH which doesn’t give an outsized voice to minorities, I don’t think that the rabids’ outright trolling would have gotten the same traction. And I’m not the only one who feels that way; in the final debate over E Pluribus Hugo in the Worldcon business meeting, one of the speakers in support was a Sad Puppy who liked how EPH would have prevented the Rabid Puppy takeover. Remember, according to my best analysis, there were about 100 committed Sads and about 40 committed Rabids, yet because the sad slate had fewer than 5 candidates in many categories, there were a number of rabid-but-not-sad finalists, giving an exaggerated impression of Rabid strength.
And this brings my to a couple of posts about statistics by my friend Keith:
Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics About Planned Parenthood, and Unicorns explains how it can simultaneously be true that the overwhelming majority of Planned Parenthood’s business does not involve abortions, that Planned Parenthood is the largest single provider of abortions in the US, and that most abortions in the US are not performed by Planned Parenthood.
20 Women, 200 Dates, and a Little Math shows how it can both be true that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted at some point, and that the overwhelming majority of men that women date don’t wind up sexually assaulting anyone.
Now for some non-statistical topics.
In Harvard Business Review, Michael Maccoby writes on Why People Are Drawn to Narcissists Like Donald Trump, and also has an older article (about ten years older) on Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, the Inevitable Cons.
I’m not linking these just for the swipe at Trump (though he’s a candidate of unusually awful character – if I were picking on character alone, experience and policies be damned, I’d be so cheering for Ben Carson to overtake Donald Trump). I also see a tie in to dating. It’s often suggested that women in particular (and men not so much) are attracted to people who are bad for them, but it turns out that, in dating and friendship as well as when picking leaders, everyone is drawn to narcissists. At least for a time. If the trait’s at all genetic, it’s no mystery how narcissistic genes could survive natural selection.
Which brings me to my next set of links, the ones on genetics:
Roberta Estes at DNA Explained writes about Ethnicity Testing and Results and also about the new “shared matches” and “new ancestry discovery” features at Ancestry.com. (Like her, I’ve found that not all my new ancestry discoveries were actual ancestors. But in my case, two of my “circles” actually are for a married couple among my ancestors, and the other two “circles” are for a married couple one of whom was probably a cousin of my Hampton ancestors.)
The 23andMe blog explains haplogroups (maternal and paternal).
And here’s a BioNews post on Epigenetics: Holocaust trauma passed down the generations? It’s an interesting finding, if true, but take careful note of the qualifications at the end of the post; the study has limitations, and the finding may not bear up under further research.
Posted by WiredSisters on August 28th, 2015 filed in Democracy, History, Law, Moral Philosophy, TV
There’s a popular joke among statisticians: my uncle was a heavy drinker, and couldn’t figure out what was really causing his drunkenness and his hangovers. So he decided to do a scientific analysis. Monday, he drank rum and water; he got drunk, and had a hangover the next day. Tuesday, he drank vodka and water; he got drunk, and had a hangover the next day. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, he experimented with gin and water, Scotch and water, Bourbon and water, brandy and water, and rye and water. Each time, he got drunk, and had a hangover the next day.
So he decided to cut out water.
Once again, somebody with a gun has killed himself and various other people, and once again we feel helpless to take on the gun lobby, so we go looking for other causal mechanisms that we could tackle to get rid of the problem. This time, because both the killer and the TV channel that employed the victims were taping the incident, and it went viral online almost immediately, we’re worrying about the possible contagion of violence from all this involuntary viewing.
I don’t watch social media often, and I missed viewing this particular piece before Facebook took it down (about 15 minutes after it got online.) Apparently 500 or so people were not so fortunate. I don’t know how much of the TV taping turned up on everybody’s TV news later, since I rarely watch TV news either. But suddenly we are worried about the prevalence of “snuff tapes” in our media. Yes, that kind of exposure is bad for our culture, and may very well encourage copycatting, or at least harden us to murderous behavior, so that we care less about it. But is this rum, or is it water?
It’s too soon for any exhaustive search for ways to keep this stuff off of Facebook, although in fact, some people are already talking about the Facebook staff keeping a closer watch on the feed, so as to prevent the 15-minute gap between when the bad stuff gets onto the small screen and when Facebook takes it off. So far, nobody is talking about out-and-out censorship. I would like to suggest a Third Way. In the Jewish tradition, we like to say, of some bad guy or other, “May his name be blotted out.” This would be violative of the First Amendment only if it were mandated by some government agency. If the media decided voluntarily not to publish the name or image of murderers more than, say, three times (once when the bad guy goes on trial, again when a guilty verdict is returned, and a third time at sentencing), there could be no serious legal objection. (A not guilty verdict would lift the prohibition entirely—why should we mind when a suspect turns out to be innocent?)
Anyway, before yesterday’s abomination, we worried about people with mental health problems having access to guns. Yes, that’s a valid worry too, probably a much more serious one than media exposure. People with mental health problems, like victims of shootings and car crashes, rarely check their insurance coverage before experiencing a psychotic break or getting shot or run over. Their health problems, thus, are a problem for the community as a whole. The local hospital can always decide (as an increasing number have) not to have a psych ward or a trauma center, but the community as a whole probably doesn’t want bodies piling up on the street, or maniacs roaming at large. We need to tackle this problem to ease the suffering of people with mental illnesses–but not just to keep innocent people from getting shot. Is this rum, or is it water?
And before that, at least here in Chicago, we worried about kids shooting kids. Most lawless behavior among young people happens between when school lets out and when the parents come home from work. So our local do-gooders have intensified their search for programs and activities to occupy the kids during that bloody four hours. Again, that’s a good idea. The reason we let kids out of school before dark in the first place is that, back when we were all farmers, we had to let the kids get home early enough so they could slop the hogs and milk the cows while it was still daylight. That’s not much of an issue these days. But once again, after-school programs aren’t really the best or most direct solution to kids shooting kids. Is it rum, or is it water?
Ordinary people, especially city dwellers, are likely to take the direct approach in their analysis. We know of very few drive-by stabbings. Yes, we all know that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But people with guns kill people faster. And in greater volumes. Automatic and semi-automatic guns are more popular than ever—an ER physician from Chicago’s Cook County Hospital once pointed out, in a lecture to a bar group I was in, that her ER staff had gotten to the point where, when they saw a victim with only one or two bullets in him, they presumed suicide or accident rather than homicide. So why can’t we just control guns?
There appear to be two sets of problems here—the cultural and the political. Southern, Western, and rural culture consider the ownership and use of guns normal and reasonable. The solidly pacifistic Amish hunt with guns, for pete’s sake! Rural poverty being what it is these days, there are lots of country people who cannot imagine getting through the winter without a deer in the freezer. The guns involved are mostly long guns, usually single-shot. And the hunters eat what they kill. (And often, in the country, kill what they eat.) I have no problems with that kind of gun culture.
But political gun culture is a different issue altogether. In the first place, it is largely fueled by the profit motive. Most of the gun-rights movement’s money and energy come from gun manufacturers, and to a somewhat lesser extent, gun dealers. They create customer demand by appealing to a mixture of paranoia (“the Feds in their black helicopters are gonna take away your guns and then take your land” or “the thugs are gonna rape your women and kidnap your children”) and machismo (”only you can protect your family, and you have to be ready, willing, and able to do it all the time, everywhere.”) The machismo element sometimes shades over into both gun collecting and trophy hunting. Mr. Wired always theorized that the gun rights lobby was also backed by organized crime. I have seen little evidence of that, but it’s not impossible. Certainly organized crime figures prominently in under-the-counter gun dealership.
Anyway, respect for rural gun culture pretty much requires that any kind of gun regulation be selective as to both locality and type of gun. Nobody needs an Uzi to shoot a deer. Indeed, the more ammo ends up in the prey, the harder it is to prepare it as food. But, despite the increasing volume of wildlife in our cities, almost nobody hunts it for food. Coyotes, reputedly, don’t taste good. So if Chicago and Baltimore and New York City want to ban guns, or even just certain kinds of guns, from their streets, why shouldn’t their citizens have the right to do it? The alternative, at least here in Chicago, is that almost every building has a “no guns” sticker on its front door. Okay, the right of a private property owner to set conditions on the use of his property is almost as sacred to conservatives as the Second Amendment (not quite, given the unpopularity of landowners who post their rural land “no hunting”), but why should we have to regulate guns building by building instead of county by county?
Judging from our public responses to gun violence these days, we have decided that the only way we can preserve gun rights while protecting the public is to lock up everybody who has ever been diagnosed with a mental illness, censor all news stories involving violence, keep kids in school until seven at night, and allow the concealed and open carrying of firearms in every building or institution in every city, village, and town. Is this maybe unnecessarily complicated? Maybe, instead, we need to rethink the Second Amendment. Surely an “original intent” fan like Scalia could be persuaded that the Framers really meant that every citizen has the right to keep and bear a specimen of the American Long Rifle that won the Revolutionary War for us? Enough already.
Posted by Sappho on August 27th, 2015 filed in Books
Last year I read Colin Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, a book in the same spirit as David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed, but covering eleven regional cultures where Fischer covered four. Woodard’s book tells both more and less than Fischer’s: More in the obvious sense that Woodard has expanded to more regional cultures than Fischer could, given Albion’s Seed‘s premise of just covering the early waves of colonial immigration from the UK, could. Less, in the sense that, by expanding to more regional cultures, Woodard doesn’t have space to give as much detail about any one, so that when we get to a culture that Fischer had also covered (Tidewater, Puritans), we get a quick summary of highlights instead of Fischer’s more detailed account of all kinds of folkways (religion, politics, family, education, food, etc.). And more, again, in the sense that Woodard has more coverage of the interaction of the settlers with the Native Americans already living here, and the ways in which the settler cultures were influenced by the Native Americans.
At the time, I did a chapter by chapter analysis of, well, not the whole book, but the first section (up to the end of the seventeenth century) on Facebook. This got me through some of the American nations Woodard describes (El Norte, New France, Yankeedom, New Netherlands, the Midlands, Tidewater, and Appalachia), but not all of them, as I got distracted from my chapter by chapter summaries on Facebook (though not from reading the book) before I got to his discussions of the Deep South, the Far West, the Left Coast, various changes in the ways the different American nations interacted over the centuries, and a return at the end to discussing First Nations.
I meant, at the time, to write a couple of blog posts about the book, but the one I tried to write first, on the New Netherlands, where I was raised, got long and unwieldy, so I think I’ll just delete it, having shared a briefer and therefore probably better version of my thoughts on that section with my family and friends on Facebook. The other post in development that I had hanging from last year was this one, about how different experiences with and approaches to immigration weave through the book, and, since it’s just a few sketchy notes, I think I’ll clear it from my drafts by publishing those notes. Here are some of the different stories told in the book related to immigration:
- First Nations experience: In general, of course, this was an experience of settling and invasion, rather than one of immigration and assimilation. Woodard did point, though, to an early exception. When European settlers were first arriving, and sparse, in New France, so Woodard said, some joined and assimilated into First Nations tribes.
- Appalachian immigration to the Midlands: The Midlands, according to Woodard, tended to be tolerant of immigration; the Appalachians, not so much. But when the Appalachian wave of immigration hit the Midlands, it was Midlands culture that was troubled by the new, rowdy batch of immigrants.
- Anglo immigration to El Norte: Mexico faces the problem of a wave of Anglo immigration to its northern region, which ultimately results in Mexico losing that region to the US.
- Dixie’s ambivalent attitude toward immigration: On the one hand, heightened racial prejudice in Dixie has made for heightened wariness of immigrants seen as racially different. On the other hand, businesses in Dixie are always searching for cheaper labor.
- Immigration and shifts in power between Dixie and Yankeedom: Woodard, like Fischer, sees the different American cultures as largely set early, with newer waves of immigrants, like those who came through Ellis Island, largely assimilating into existing regional cultures rather than adding new distinct cultures. But he also sees US history as, to a large degree, being a battle for control between Dixie and Yankeedom, with the other American nations as swing voters, and he also sees immigration as sometimes shifting the balance of power between regions.
- The Melting Pot and Yankeedom: The New Netherlands (the area around NYC) was from the beginning a multicultural region, and the Midlands, says Woodard, was also generally open to immigration. But the story was different for Yankeedom, which was resistant to immigrants until it was hit by its own mass immigration experience, and, in response, came up with the mythology of the Melting Pot, into which immigrants would assimilate (here there’s an account of an actual melting pot ritual).
- A reconquista? Woodard sees the El Norte region as shifting its Anglo/Mexican mix back to its original Mexican majority. He is sanguine about this change.
That’s a basic summary. Originally I was going to do a longer and more detailed post, with quotes, but, hey, for more detail you can read the actual book, which also has plenty to say on topics other than immigration.
Posted by Sappho on August 19th, 2015 filed in Race
The other day, someone gave Rod Dreher a Kindle copy of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ latest book, Between the World and Me, and Rod read it. I haven’t, myself, read TNC’s book yet, though I mean to buy and read it. So far, I have just browsed it in my local bookstore, where it stood on a case of new arrivals, right above a shelf with Ann Coulter’s new book, Adios, America!
I’m not surprised that TNC’s new book has won acclaim, and a place on the best seller list, for TNC is eloquent as always. I’m not surprised that Rod is more critical, for Rod, who once read TNC regularly and sometimes engaged in friendly blog conversations with him, has grown disillusioned with TNC’s “blue period,” and has said more than once that TNC has taken a turn for the worse since Trayvon Martin’s death.
Rod’s own reaction to #BlackLivesMatter has been ambivalent. Rod believes that the playing field is not level, where race is concerned, to the point where he has said that he wonders how a black man can manage not to be angry all the time. And Rod believes that black people in general, and TNC in particular, underestimate the degree to which working class white people face some of the same problems and disadvantages. Rod hears each new tale of the death of an unarmed black person with anger, and then often questions his anger as people report new things that make the dead person sound less innocent. Rod think there’s a need for police reform, and if there’s any sign of a riot, the riot quickly alarms Rod more. Rod thinks white people need to confront white racism, and he thinks that it’s not fair to give white racism and white supremacy the sole responsibility for the problems of black communities, and shouldn’t black people take some responsibility for their own part in their troubles?
Rod reads TNC’s book and sees endless gloom and pessimism, a world heavy with original sin and short on redemption. He links a column by John McWhorter suggesting that anti-racism is America’s new religion.
So I read the McWhorter column. I’m not linking it because I didn’t find it one of McWhorter’s more compelling arguments. What caught my interest, instead, was an earlier article of McWhorter’s, that he linked in the article of his that Rod Dreher had linked. The article is titled Black People Should Stop Expecting White America to ‘Wake Up’ to Racism.
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Hatfield and McCoy descendants work with archaeologists to uncover the history of the famous feud.
Posted by Sappho on August 8th, 2015 filed in Blog maintenance, Race
In the wake of the Charleston shooting, Steven Barnes made some changes to the rules of his Facebook page, for discussions related to race. The house is burning, he said, and he wants to talk about solutions with people who can see that the house is burning, without being sidetracked by people who don’t recognize the problem that he is trying to solve.
This decision of Steve’s inspired me to think about what my own boundaries and moderation policies should be, and I turned comments on race related posts off, while I thought. I’m now ready to turn them back on (well, not on the old posts, which in any case are probably at the point where comments would be autoclosed, but on posts going forward), after setting out my policy.
This blog has never been a complete free speech zone. It’s my personal blog, on space that I pay for. As such, I’ve always moderated out a few comments that I considered more over the top in their bigotry than I wanted to approve, from the comment I once got that suggested it was unfortunate that my African-American nephews and nieces were born, to the occasional extreme conspiracy theory about what “the Jews” control and what they are doing with that control. But I have set that line very far out.
This has its drawbacks. On the one hand, as this is a small, personal blog, for much of this blog’s existence, I wasn’t getting all that many comments from people I don’t know anyway, and so had little need to moderate. On the other hand, because this is a small, personal blog, it can easily get flooded. I have said that I’ve dropped the race and IQ topic because I’ve said all I have to say on that topic, and nothing new is coming out. That’s part of the truth. But the other part of the truth is that I’ve stopped feeling comfortable posting about the human biodiversity crowd on this blog because, the one time I tried blogging about the “gay germ” theory and what nonsense it was, a call went out on Twitter to come over here and have fun. Which was absolutely the right of the person making the call. Free speech. But it meant that every day I would check this blog, and see a bunch of comments saying how only stupid and uninformed people could doubt that homosexuality was caused by a germ, and realize that, given that there was no way I had time to reply to each comment, the last word on the topic, and most of what was written, on my own blog, was going to be “gay germ” all the way. And I thought, if I talk too much more about race and IQ, I’ll get a similar flood of comments sent my way insisting that only people who deny the theory of evolution can doubt Richard Lynn’s rankings of national IQs, and that will be most of what anyone reads, on my blog, in my space.
The other thing is that I take Steven Barnes’ point, about solutions not coming from people who don’t agree that there’s a problem.
At the same time, I don’t want to draw my line in exactly the same place where he has drawn his, because I believe that many people in the US in fact believe that the playing field, as far as race goes, is now level, and don’t think that they consider black people inferior. For various reasons, that position doesn’t make sense to me, but I think part of the solution to the problems we’re now seeing, such as the fraught relations with police that #BlackLivesMatter has highlighted, involves discussion between people who don’t see the same problem. But also that part of the solution has to involve conversations like the ones Steve’s now leading, among people who recognize the same problem. (As I said when I talked about this on my Facebook page, there’s a similar issue with climate change.) I think it’s absolutely appropriate for Steve to draw the line where he does, and I think perhaps I should remain willing, in at least some threads, to labor with others (mostly other white people) who don’t see the problem that I do.
After reflection, these are my rules now, and here is where I draw my line. These rules are not open for discussion on the blog (and hence I will close comments to this post), but are open to discussion, and possible modification based on that discussion, from my co-bloggers (by email), and from my friends and family on Facebook.
On racial issues, I am going to explicitly permit people, on my blog, to argue that the playing field is level if they can find a way to do so without arguing that black people are inherently inferior. (And say when the playing field became level.) Go ahead, knock yourself out. But I won’t allow any argument that black people are inferior to white people, on my blog.
This does mean that, in general, HBD arguments about racial differences won’t be up for discussion on this blog. But if your name is Hector, don’t consider yourself squelched; you’re welcome to email me if you run across anything that may interest me. What I’m up for discussing with you in particular personally turns out to be different from what I’m up for discussing with whatever random angry stranger Twitter may send my way.
I will also allow people to discuss dysfunctions in black culture, as long as it’s done with the understanding that you’d see the same dysfunctions in white culture given the same circumstances. You’re allowed to make varied proposals as to what those circumstances are. I’m just, again, not going to let discussion of dysfunction become a way of smuggling in suggestions that black people are inferior from the get go. Or that there are no issues in other cultures. Or no strengths in black culture. And if you mention a problem a couple of times, you need to be prepared to suggest solutions.
I’m also going to put some boundaries on what suggested solutions I’ll debate: People can debate where we should go on affirmative action, but I’m not going to debate whether the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act were good ideas (obviously ditto for ending Jim Crow or, further back, slavery). People can propose different possible approaches to improving police relations, some more liberal, some more libertarian, and some more conservative, but I’m not taking arguments in favor of deliberate ethnic profiling as a matter of policy. On this blog, people of all ethnic backgrounds will be considered to have equal Fourth Amendment rights.
Similarly for discussion of other races, or ethnic groups. On this blog, Jews don’t own all the media and the banks and aren’t conspiring with each other against everyone else. Etc.
Finally, I and my co-bloggers are free, if we choose, to designate particular threads as meant only for discussion of solutions by people who believe that a problem exists. This applies both to racial issues and to other issues. For instance, I do not have a rule on this blog barring people from arguing that there is no such thing as human-caused climate change. But if my friend Karen Street chooses to accept an invitation from me to blog here about climate change, she is free to choose for her threads to focus on debate among people who agree to the existence of the problem, and is not required to leave moderation of those threads open to climate change denial. I may similarly choose to limit particular threads.
I also apply some boundaries on gender issues, but with what I consider a wide latitude. I’ll accept comments from both complementarian and egalitarian perspectives, for instance. But I won’t accept defenses of what looks to me like outright harassment. On this blog, you can defend the Sad Puppies, but don’t get to defend GamerGate.
I continue to allow varied views on, for example, affirmative action, or, for example, gun control vs. gun rights, etc., and don’t intend the blog to be a particularly tightly moderated safe space (there are other blogs that try to fill that niche).
That’s it. Those are my rules. (People remain, of course, free to reply to me any way they darn well please on Twitter or on their own blogs.)
UPDATE: Just in case it comes up, I’m adding the Fourteenth Amendment to things I won’t debate. (Who and how many people get to immigrate, and what we do or don’t do to keep people out, yes, but not whether “Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” should be part of our Constitution.)