A Sign that the World is about to End:

September 30, 2006

I’m defending Michelle Malkin (but still not linking to her).

Someone found a 14-year-old picture of Michelle Malkin posing in a bikini. Malkin said it’s a fake and demanded an apology for posting the picture. Since sex sells, right now the above-linked post on Majikthise has the longest comment thread on the front page, longer than Lindsay’s torture bill and macaca threads.

So far, so bad. But then one commenter linked to a thread on Wonkette, where Wonkette basically mocks Malkin for complaining about things like Wonkette’s previous thread, entitled oh-so-civilly, “Michelle, You Ignorant Slut.”

I don’t know who’s more vicious and shallow here – Wonkette or her commenters. One of the commenters on the more recent threads inquires if Malkin made some porn movies. Because, as we all know, the Other Side’s women must be sluts who should be put in their places.

The saddest thing about it is that most of the people who’re now obsessing over Malkin’s photo rushed to Jessica’s defense when she was subjected to a similarly stupid attack.


What Fascism Isn’t

September 30, 2006

Coturnix has an impassioned post comparing the situation of the United States now to this of Yugoslavia in 1990, just before the fighting broke out. Like other bloggers writing about contemporary fascism in the US, he misses two crucial points. First, the new torture bill doesn’t change anything from previous American government practice; the atrocities the CIA has committed worldwide, even after the Cold War ended, show beyond any doubt that the difference between Bush and his predecessors is in the level of tact rather than in the level of harm.

And second, American democracy is structured in such a way that it can’t really be usurped by just one branch of government that oversteps its boundaries. Fascism won’t come from an imperial President; it will come from a mass movement of Dominionists, possibly but not necessarily allied with the militia movement.

Many of my friends and neighbors have not experienced, like I did in Yugoslavia of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the gradual transformation from a nice, sweet, proseprous, freedom-loving country into a bunch of thugs duking it out over land and religion. Tito was dead for ten years. Prime Minister was Ante Markovic. Thousands of small businesses were starting up every week. Small people were getting rich. There was ebullience in the air.

Then, in a manner eerily reminiscent of BuchCo, thugs like Milosevic, Tudjman and Izetbegovic hijacked the government and started a civil war, ending with a break up of one big strong country into six small, economically weak and dependent units.

That description is somewhat of an embellishment. Yugoslavia was never Switzerland. In 1990, it had been free from Tito’s grip for ten years; Weimar democracy fell after fourteen. The United States has something Yugoslavia didn’t have – a democratic tradition. It’s no coincidence that in the 1930s, the countries that resisted fascism were generally those with a longstanding democratic tradition: Britain, France, the US, Canada, and Switzerland, but not Germany, Poland, Hungary, or Austria.

Besides, in Yugoslavia there was something clear to fight about: ethnicity, and territorial boundaries. Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia had populist thugs fanning the flames against people of the wrong groups. The US has no such thing, except an amorphous enemy, terrorists. While terrorists are very useful to the government in its quest to oppress its citizens, they alone aren’t enough for a Bosnian-style genocide.

Glenn is optimistic.
He may be right, if we act right now. If not, within three years, I predict that Americans will be fighting Americans on American soil. Just a hunch. An eerie feeling of deja vu from someone who has seen the same signs fifteen years ago.

I don’t see much optimism in Glenn’s post – all I see is a more wonky explanation of my point that most Democrats don’t give a damn about civil liberties, and the unusually large contingent of no votes was exclusively the result of the exemption-for-4.6%-of-the-world amendment.

But anyway, Americans won’t fight Americans on American soil as long as there’s no internal enemy to fan the flames against. Just as Michelle Goldberg made a mistake in not tying in Dominionism to neoconservatism, so is Bora making a mistake in not properly viewing Dominionism as the main threat.

The key fact is that Bush hasn’t used terrorism to strike against atheists or gays, the two minorities Dominionists focus on. Falwell may have blamed secularism for 9/11, but Bush didn’t, and so far the Dominionists’ sole political success has been Alito (even Roberts drew negative comments from James Dobson).

I may have not lived in a country that descended to chaos or fascism, but I learned quite a lot about one. Germany’s usurpation of civil liberties began years before Hitler came to power; beginning in 1930, the Chancellor and the President had to continually use the infamous emergency power clause of the Weimar Constitution. It even violated some of the Versailles Treaty’s demilitarization clauses, though Hitler radically stepped those violations up.

The point is that Hitler didn’t come to power by winning an election and then slowly violating civil liberties in a trumped-up war. That would’ve taken too long. He used an internal enemy, communism, and made sure the people had just enough bare necessities to live and look the other way while he was building a totalitarian state.


“Some of my best friends are Jews”

September 30, 2006

One of the parts about Kingdom Coming that I found the most enjoyable was Michelle Goldberg’s brief mentioning of the civility of the people she talked to in researching the book. She said she was stricken by their cheerfulness and civility even when talking to a hostile journalist, describing in some length the friendliness of the people she talked to. But then she explained:

In my experience, people ae often kinder than their ideologies, and always more complicated. Yet individual decency can dissolve when groups are mobilized against diabolized enemies, especially when they believe they’re under attack.

The analogy I so wanted to appear in the next paragraph was to the saying, “Some of my best friends are Jews.” While now this saying is much derided as a sorry excuse for bigotry, in early 1930s Germany it wasn’t. In fact, it began as a perfectly honest saying: Nazis in good standing who were questioned about their anti-Semitism would immediately reply that they had Jewish friends.

These Nazis never had a problem with their dear friend Herr Cohen. The Jewish problem was in the abstract: it was about the essentialized Jew taking over Germany (itself an abstraction, like all other nations). If you were to ask the average Nazi, probably even the average Nazi Reichstag deputy, about the possibility of exterminating 6 million Jews, he’d be aghast that anyone could ever think it was possible.

Now PZ is commenting on a movie that once again depicts Christian fundamentalists as happy and blissful. He says,

They may be laughing fascists, but they’re still ethically and intellectually odious, and I think the framework Olson has used to tell his story is painfully flawed. If they are good people, they are good people who are doing very bad things. That does not come through in the movie.

I haven’t seen the movie he’s talking about, A Flock of Dodos, but it’s always crucial to draw attention to the individual-collective distinction. In the Letter from Birmingham Jail, MLK quotes Reinhold Niebuhr, “Groups are more immoral than individuals.” The individual Nazi was perfectly nice, and so was the individual Southern racist.

Individuals are rarely capable of committing atrocities, except through a collective entity such as a state or a church or a mass movement, and until anti-fascists start explaining to people that cheerful personality doesn’t matter when a person is motivated by fear of Jews or gays or atheists or blacks, fascists are going to keep having a field day telling everyone how happy they are.


4.6% is a Huge Difference, I Presume

September 29, 2006

Via Appletree: Congress has just defeated an amendment that would provide protection from American torture to 4.6% of the world’s population. Grodo editorializes,

And that’s the kind of day it was. On mostly party-line votes, the House and Senate agreed that the president could hold a person without trial, even an American citizen, simply by declaring that person an enemy combatant, or by declaring that the person has aided terrorists in some way. The House and Senate agreed to allow the use of torture, including sexual torture, against these “enemy combatants.”

Actually, the party-line vote wasn’t about “could hold a person without trial” but about “even an American citizen.” Apparently, throwing me in jail without probable cause and without trial is accepted by both sides of the political divide in the US. Says the LA Times,

The new bill, if passed, would further entrench presidential power. At the very least, it would encourage the Supreme Court to draw an invidious distinction between citizens and legal residents. There are tens of millions of legal immigrants living among us, and the bill encourages the justices to uphold mass detentions without the semblance of judicial review.

But the bill also reinforces the presidential claims, made in the Padilla case, that the commander in chief has the right to designate a U.S. citizen on American soil as an enemy combatant and subject him to military justice. Congress is poised to authorized this presidential overreaching. Under existing constitutional doctrine, this show of explicit congressional support would be a key factor that the Supreme Court would consider in assessing the limits of presidential authority.

This is no time to play politics with our fundamental freedoms. Even without this massive congressional expansion of the class of enemy combatants, it is by no means clear that the present Supreme Court will protect the Bill of Rights. The Korematsu case — upholding the military detention of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II — has never been explicitly overruled. It will be tough for the high court to condemn this notorious decision, especially if passions are inflamed by another terrorist incident. But congressional support of presidential power will make it much easier to extend the Korematsu decision to future mass seizures.

The Democrats’ amendment to the whole bill, which would only protect American citizens, wasn’t even worth the paper it was written on. When Bush pushes a bill legalizing torture through Congress, offering an amendment exempting 4.6% of the world’s population from that atrocity is the height of obsequity. Senate rules permit 41 Senators to filibuster; there are in fact more than 41 Democrats in the Senate.

A significant contingent of Democrats voted yes on the final bill not because they supported torturing more than 95.4% of the world’s population, but because they were afraid of losing their seats in the coming midterm. Just like in the 2002 votes on Iraq and the Homeland Security Bill, the Democrats confused their own rhetorical ineptitude with political effectiveness.

Just because you’re too timid to slap the phrase “good old-fashioned police work” on posters and air TV ads explaining to voters that Britain’s perfectly capable of curbing terrorism without even a FISA court, let alone warrantless wiretaps, doesn’t mean that doing those things won’t work. It’s time to stop pretending that the solution to terrorism is military and that everyone who opposes fascism is weak on terrorism; doing that will only accelerate the arrival of fascism.


Liberal Intellectuals

September 29, 2006

I’ve been wanting to comment on Tony Judt’s article attacking the American liberal intelligentsia’s supposed spinelessness on Iraq for a while. Now, a blog post comparing Judt to Chomsky and one of his critics to Orwell that made it to the Carnival of the Liberals gave me a good starting point. Says Judt,

Magazines and newspapers of the traditional liberal centre – the New Yorker, the New Republic, the Washington Post and the New York Times itself – fell over themselves in the hurry to align their editorial stance with that of a Republican president bent on exemplary war. A fearful conformism gripped the mainstream media. And America’s liberal intellectuals found at last a new cause.

Or, rather, an old cause in a new guise. For what distinguishes the worldview of Bush’s liberal supporters from that of his neo-conservative allies is that they don’t look on the ‘War on Terror’, or the war in Iraq, or the war in Lebanon and eventually Iran, as mere serial exercises in the re-establishment of American martial dominance.

This is already a sign of lunacy. The New Republic is centrist rather than liberal. Liberal intellectuals rallied behind Dean or Kerry in 2004; TNR endorsed Lieberman. The New York Times and the Washington Post have never been liberal outside some conservatives’ imaginations – indeed, throughout most of the Cold War, the Washington Post was closely affiliated with the CIA.

Except for The New Yorker, there are no publications in the US dedicated to liberalism; there are arenas where liberals skirmish with other leftists, like The Nation and The Progressive, and arenas where liberals skirmish with moderates and conservatives, like The New York Times.

One of the effects of the withdrawal of radical leftists from liberal ideology has been to purify liberalism of radical pathologies; liberal intellectuals are therefore far more likely than intellectuals of any other bent to engage people who disagree with them instead of write shrill articles that everybody who doesn’t already agree with will hate.

And on these two arenas, liberals have in fact opposed Bush. On the left arena, which is politically irrelevant, it’s obvious. On the central arena, Paul Krugman has attacked Bush from day one – in fact, he was for a few years the de facto leader of the opposition to Bush; and yet in giving a host of examples of pro-war liberals, Judt fails to even mention Krugman. Thomas Friedman, who Judt casts as a run-of-the-mill neocon sympathizer, referred to the war on Iraq as a war of choice and said it was imperative that Bush seek a broad coalition composed of more countries that matter in global arena than just the US and Britain.

But what’s even more insane than Judt’s claim that liberals failed to oppose Bush is his caveat:

To be sure, Bush’s liberal supporters have been disappointed by his efforts. Every newspaper I have listed and many others besides have carried editorials criticising Bush’s policy on imprisonment, his use of torture and above all the sheer ineptitude of the president’s war. But here, too, the Cold War offers a revealing analogy. Like Stalin’s Western admirers who, in the wake of Khrushchev’s revelations, resented the Soviet dictator not so much for his crimes as for discrediting their Marxism, so intellectual supporters of the Iraq War – among them Michael Ignatieff, Leon Wieseltier, David Remnick and other prominent figures in the North American liberal establishment – have focused their regrets not on the catastrophic invasion itself (which they all supported) but on its incompetent execution. They are irritated with Bush for giving ‘preventive war’ a bad name.

Actually, the correct Stalinist analogy isn’t to discrediting Marxism, but to letting a large political segment hate the idea of government intervention in the market. The problem with the Iraq war wasn’t that the US ousted Saddam, but that it killed civilians doing so – in fact, many more civilians per year than Saddam killed – and that it created a new Islamist hydra.

And the liberal intellectuals who’ve so vociferously criticized the US in Iraq recognize just that. For all his rhetoric about not seeing things in black and white, Judt is as monochromatic as an intellectual can be; he just reverses the traditional black and white. Thus every American foreign policy plank is necessarily bad, and the US should do nothing but retreat to its corner of the world and feel guilty.

After all, I’ve yet to see a single intellectual write about human rights abuses without offering any political or social angle on it, unless the intellectual viscerally hates the abuser. Radical anti-Americans like Chomsky have no trouble rationalizing violence whenever it’s committed by groups that aren’t allied with the United States. Charitably, then, Judt is asking liberal intellectuals to have the same skewed view of reality as Chomsky, Said, and Zinn.

But reality is less than charitable to fringe writers. Liberal intellectuals don’t even apologize for American atrocities or rationalize them. Some people, consumed and blinded by patriotism, think about human rights exclusively from a national-interest angle. Most liberals don’t; they either talk about the moral outrage of torture, or coax it in national-interest terms simply to appeal to people who disagree with them.

Judt would have you believe that pragmatism and consequentialism are dirty, which to some degree they are. For writing about politics is a dirty business, in which you have to appeal to people with worldviews vastly different from yours. It’s not that surprising that a certain segment of intellectuals, who on the left are called radicals, eschew that completely and take pride in basking in their ideological purity, political effectiveness be damned.

It’s not any more surprising that these radicals attack first and foremost the liberals. The first enemy of the radical is never the other side; it’s always the liberal or the moderate, who’s ruining the self-aggrandizing party by talking of such dirty terms as evidence, reality, results, and human rights. On the contrary, the other side is a great recruitment tool. Just as Ahmadinejad’s main enemy is the democratic movement at home, and for that purpose the US and Israel are just propaganda items, so is Judt’s main enemy liberalism, with neoconservatism being nothing more than a stick to beat liberals with.


Fractional Ideals, Part 2

September 29, 2006

First, note to any reader who doesn’t understand these posts: feel free to ask questions – that’s what I’m here for.

Second, continuing from my previous post about ideal theory, I’m going to show that given any fractional ideal I of a Dedekind domain, there exists another fractional ideal J such that IJ is precisely the domain.

Recall that a Dedekind domain R (with fraction field K) is defined by three properties:

  1. It is integrally closed. If c in K satisfies a polynomial x^n + a(n-1)x^(n-1) + … + a(1)x + a(0) = 0, then it must be in R.
  2. It is Noetherian. If I1, I2, I3… is a chain of ideals such that I(n+1) contains I(n) for all n, then for some m, we have I(m) = I(m+1) = I(m+2) = … Equivalently, if I = (a1, a2, a3…), then for some m we have I = (a1, a2… a(m)).
  3. Every prime ideal, except (0), is maximal.

I’m going to proceed in four steps. In step 1, I show that every ideal A contains a product of prime ideals. In step 2, I show that for every prime ideal P, the inverse of P defined in my previous post, call it S, satisfies PS = R. In step 3, I show that every integral ideal can be uniquely factored into prime ideals. In step 4, I show that every fractional ideal can be factored into prime ideals and their inverses. In step 5, I show that the theorem in step 2 applies to all fractional ideals.

Step 1: if an ideal I1 does not contain a product of prime ideals, it’s clearly not prime, in which case it just contains itself. So we can find ideals A and B such that AB is contained in I1, but neither A nor B is contained in I1. Now, (I1 + A)(I1 + B) = (I1^2 + AI1 + BI1 + AB) which is contained in I1. So at least one of I1 + A and I1 + B doesn’t contain a product of prime ideals; call that one I2, and note that since A and B are not contained in I1, I2 is strictly bigger than I1. We can then similarly define I3, I4, I5… which gives us an ascending chain of ideals that doesn’t terminate. But R is Noetherian, so we have a contradiction.

Step 2: if P is a prime ideal, then it’s a maximal ideal. Define Q = {q in K: qP is contained in R}. Clearly, QP is contained in R. Every element of R is in Q, since rP is in P by the definition of an ideal. Therefore, QP contains RP = P; this means that QP is P or R, since P is a maximal ideal. We show that QP = R is two steps: first we show that Q is bigger than R, and only then we show QP = R.

Let a be any nonzero member of P. The ideal (a) must contain a product of prime ideals, say P1P2…P(n); we can choose n to be the smallest number for which this holds. The product is then contained in P; since P is a prime ideal, at least one of the ideals, say P1, is contained in P. But P1 is a prime ideal, so it’s maximal. This means it’s equal to P, or else P is between P1 and R, contradicting the definition of maximality.

Now, let’s look at P2P3…P(n). By our choice of n, it is not contained in (a), so it contains an element not in (a), call it b. If b were divisible by a, it would be of the form ac, which is in (a); therefore, b is not divisible by a, so the element b/a is in K but not in R. But now bP = bP1 is in P1P2…P(n), which is in (a), so (b/a)P is in (a/a) = R, and (b/a) is in Q.

If QP = P, then QQP = QP = P, so if c and d are in Q, then so is cd. Let b/a be in Q but not in R as above; then Q contains (1, b/a, b^2/a^2, b^3/a^3…). As Q is a fractional ideal, multiplying by a suitable r in R gives an integral ideal of R. As R is Noetherian, the integral ideal has only finitely many generators, i.e. is of the form (r, rb/a, rb^2/a^2… rb^m/a^m). We then get that the fractional ideal is of the form (1, b/a, b^2/a^2… b^m/a^m). We write (b/a)^(m+1) as the sum of the generators of the ideal; by moving terms around, we get (b/a)^(m+1) + c(m)(b/a)^m + … + c(1)(b/a) + c(0) = 0. As R is integrally closed, it means b/a is in R, which is a contradiction. Therefore, we must have QP = R.

Step 3: first, we show that each ideal can be expressed as a product of prime ideals; then we show uniqueness. If I1 can’t be factored into prime ideals of R, then I1 at least contains the product P1P2…P(n); we can choose n to be the smallest integer for which this holds. Given P1, define Q1 as in step 2; then I1Q1 contains P2P3…P(n). If I1Q1 can be expressed as a product of prime ideals, then so can I1 = I1Q1P1. If I1Q1 = I1, then I1 contains P2P3…P(n), contradicting the choice of n. So I2 = I1Q1 is a bigger ideal than I1 that isn’t a product of prime ideals. We then get a chain I1, I2, I3… which is impossible since R is Noetherian.

Now, if I = P1P2…P(n) = P(n+1)P(n+2)…P(n+m), then P1 contains the product P(n+1)…P(n+m); hence it contains one of these ideals, say P(n+1); since P(n+1) is prime and hence maximal, P1 = P(n+1). We multiply I by Q1 = Q(n+1) and continue this process until all ideals in the two factorizations have been paired off, which means the two factorizations are the same.

Step 4: let I be a fractional ideal of R, and let r be an element of R such that rI is an integral ideal of R. Both (r) and rI are integral ideals, so we can write them as products of prime ideals, P1P2…P(n) for (r) and P(n+1)…P(n+m) for rI. Then I = rI/r = Q1Q2…Q(n)P(n+1)…P(n+m).

Now, if I = sI/s = Q(n+m+1)…Q(n+m+k)P(n+m+k+1)…P(n+m+k+l), then look at rsI = P(n+1)…P(n+m+k) = P1…P(n)P(n+m+k+1)…P(n+m+k+l). By uniqueness of ideal factorization, we can pair off these two sets of prime ideals. This allows us to pair off the factorizations of rI/r and sI/s, possibly after killing off pairwise inverse Q(i)’s and P(i)’s (for example, if Q1 is the inverse of P(n+1)).

More generally, if we have two equal factorizations into P’s and Q’s, we multiply each side by the P’s corresponding to the other’s Q’s. We can do this, because if Q is the inverse of P, then P is the inverse of Q, i.e. P = P* where P* = {k in K: kQ is contained in R}. To see why, remember that Q strictly contains R, so if k is not in R, then k*1 = k is not in R, which means P* is an integral ideal of R; 1Q = Q which is not contained in R, so P* is proper; and PQ = R, so P* contains P; then P* = P since P is a maximal ideal.

Step 5: if I =  Q1Q2…Q(n)P(n+1)…P(n+m), then its unique inverse is clearly P1P2…P(n)Q(n+1)…Q(n+m).
I’m going to explore fractional ideals more later, and explain a little bit about why they’re useful. But I’m going to introduce a theorem I’m not going to prove – while its proof is fairly easy, it requires a ton of theory behind it, most of which I’ve omitted so far on the grounds that it’s confusing and for now unnecessary.


Stop Talking About Abortion

September 29, 2006

Earlier tonight, Jessica made a really good point about feminism and abortion: NOW’s insistence on making abortion not only its immediate concern but also its grand selling point is hurting the feminist movement, in particular making it less appealing to young women.

In the US, abortion has been legal for 33 years. Do you know a movement that succeeded by reminding people of its past successes? Me neither. The constant threat to Roe vs. Wade helps keep committed members inside, but it doesn’t convince anyone who isn’t already part of the movement.

Fear-based appeals don’t work. They’re a staple of boundedness-oriented egalitarians, but most people aren’t egalitarians. Telling young women that if they don’t support NOW their right to abort will be revoked won’t make them support NOW; it’ll make them shrug feminism off as a relic of the past. If you don’t believe me, ask Kilgore how successful he was at running for Virginia Governor by telling everyone his anti-death penalty opponent wouldn’t have executed Hitler.

To succeed, movements have to constantly reinvent themselves. In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan didn’t talk about women’s right to vote, but demonstrated that women’s rights had been slipping over the ten previous years, and raised the issues of education and work. 1960s American liberalism moved on from public works and social security to Medicare and civil rights.

I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to say it for a while, but the Democratic Party should under no circumstances bring up judicial nominations as a campaign issue in this election. Telling people “Vote Democratic so that Bush won’t overturn Roe vs. Wade” won’t get a single pro-choice voter to the polls or convince a single undecided; it’ll energize the activist base, but the activist base already supports the party.

It’s the same with the feminist movement: American women make 62 cents on the male dollar, are subjected to serious job discrimination, and are told to do nothing but raise kids while the government refuses to support them financially. If NOW really can’t rile people up with employment discrimination and sexual harassment, it should get the hell out of the way of a more serious feminist organization that can.


Junk Statistics

September 29, 2006

On Feministing, Samhita talks about a new study that shows that 56% of all female-owned American businesses are home-based compared with 47% of all male-owned ones. The news piece says grandiosely,

“A significant percent of women having businesses in the home are comprised of women who are doing it for family reasons,” said Kathleen Christensen, director of the Workplace, Workforce and Working Families program at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York.

I find myself constantly referring to Echidne’s post about junk science. She talks about junk medical science, but it applies to junk social science just the same. A difference of 9 percentage points suggests that a small subset of American women prefers working at home, either due to a traditional view of motherhood or due to inability to find daycare.

Compared to other gender gaps, this one is tiny (in the US, women make 62 cents on the male dollar). It can be explained entirely with ad hoc things with few policy implications: maybe it’s because conservative women would rather work from home; maybe it’s because of daycare problems, which women face more than men because their spouses are less willing to stay home with the kids; maybe it’s because female-owned businesses tend to be smaller than male-owned ones.

In any case, the operative terms are “some” and “maybe.” The government should subsidize daycare, but not because of this 9-point gap; I submit that anyone who uses it as a pro-daycare talking point knows less rhetoric than a cucumber.

Of course, this doesn’t prevent some commenters on Feministing from bullshit-analyzing that trend even after someone pointed that it’s very weak.


Women and Language

September 28, 2006

Hat-tip to Battlepanda: Mark Liberman of The Language Log refutes the latest binge of “women are verbal and men are visual, so let’s perpetuate the patriarchy” arguments so that you don’t have to.

It’s recently fashionable for books and articles to enlist neuroscience in support of the view that men and women are essentially and unavoidably different, not just in size and shape, but also in just about every aspect of the way they see, hear, feel, talk, listen and think. These works tend to confirm our culture’s current stereotypes and prejudices, and the science they cite is often overinterpreted, and sometimes seems simply to have been made up. I recently discussed an example from Leonard Sax’s book Why Gender Matters (“Are men emotional children?“, 6/24/2006), which David Brooks has used to support an argument for single-sex education. The latest example of this genre, released August 1, is Louann Brizendine‘s book “The Female Brain“.

One of Brizendine’s claims is that on average, women use 20,000 different words a day whereas men use 7,000 (presumably, there’s the assumed qualifier “Anglophone” or “American,” considering that there are plenty of languages that don’t even have 20,000 unique lexemes). Mark eviscerates that claim, showing that there’s no evidence for it, to the extent that he can prove a negative:

I looked through the book to try to find the research behind the 20,000-vs.-7,000-words-per-day claim, and I looked on the web as well, but I haven’t been able to find it yet. Brizendine also claims that women speak twice as fast as men (250 words per minute vs. 125 words per minute). These are striking assertions from an eminent scientist, with big quantitative differences confirming the standard stereotype about those gabby women and us laconic guys. The only trouble is, I’m pretty sure that both claims are false.

With respect to the speech rate claim, I’ve just run a script on a corpus of 5,202 transcribed and time-aligned telephone conversations, involving native speakers of American English with a wide variety of ages, regions and backgrounds. The average speech rate for the males was 174.3 wpm, and the average speech rate for the females 172.6 wpm. I assume that Brizendine didn’t just concoct her figures about male vs. female speech rates out of thin air — she must have gotten them from a study that someone did somewhere, sometime, or at least from some other author plugging another work in the flourishing genre of pop gender studies — but let’s say, at least, that it ain’t necessarily so. I’ll post something more about Brizendine’s striking speaking-rate and words-per-day claims as soon as I can figure out what evidence she based them on. [More on female and male speaking rates is here, and more on the number of words men and women typically speak per day is here.]

Even if men and women do use different numbers of unique words per day, automatically attributing that to innate sex differences is hasty. Consider this thought experiment:

Freedonia is a very patriarchal society, where men are subject to universal conscription, and women are not allowed to take jobs outside home. Freedonia hasn’t fought a war in 40 years and its military is primitive, and its male-dominated industries are stagnant enough that they don’t produce any new specialized vocabulary. In contrast, there are plenty of household appliances, and a rich semantic space in Freedonian for household tasks. Further, military terms are largely native and can only be augmented by native derivational affixes, of which there are few since Freedonian is an analytic language in origin. But most household terms are borrowed, and can be augmented by the much larger set of affixes available in the languages Freedonian women come into contact with. Naturally, women will use many more unique words than men.

In contrast, suppose that Kumran is an equally patriarchal society, but its language partitions different semantic spaces differently. Its military is modern and so is its oil industry, so its (invariably male) industrial workers possess an enriched specialized vocabulary and are often able to choose between a general Kumrani word, a specialized Kumrani military or industrial term that got generalized by analogy, or a borrowing. At the same time, women, who are conclaved in their homes and shut off from the outside world, have little opportunity to communicate with other people, read books, or be exposed to the public sphere’s vocabulary. In Kumran, men will obviously use more unique words than women.

It matters which language you decide to base your research on. It matters which society you do your study in. It matters which social factors control men and women’s language use.

And, of course, it matters that there’s no evidence that there’s even a discrepancy to explain with social factors.


On Animal Rights

September 28, 2006

Stentor analogizes the argument that humans and only humans should have rights to two exceptionally frustrating arguments for sexism and heteronormativity:

A1. Most heterosexual couples are able to produce children.
A2. Only those couples which can produce children should be allowed to marry.
A3. Therefore all heterosexual couples should be allowed to marry.

B1. Most women have less upper body strength than men.
B2. Only people with great upper body strength should be allowed to be firefighters.
B3. Therefore all men, but no women, should be allowed to be firefighters.

C1. Most humans (and few if any animals) are capable of “reason.”
C2. Only things that are capable of “reason” have rights.
C3. Therefore all, and only, humans have rights.

The point is that it’s inconsistent for liberals to support argument C while opposing A and B. But in fact, off the top of my head, I can think of two big discrepancies, one between A and C, and one between B and C. Argument A’s second premise is very weak; when questioned, its supporters can rarely come up with a justification better than “It’s what marriage is for.”

In addition, even assuming A2, it’s very easy to come up with a system that only gives fertile couples the right to marry: make marriage contingent on childbirth. It’s fairly easy to measure upper-body strength too, but not capacity to reason. There’s probably an objective standard for what a rational being is, but we don’t know it yet. We have a multiplicity of standards, the crudest easy approximation for which is “all born humans with functioning cortexes, and only them.”

The other big discrepancy is the degree of difference. When liberals argue for gender equality, they typically don’t attempt categorical refutations of arguments like B; instead, they point out that the differences between the sexes are small, and vastly outweighed by intra-sex differences. This is especially true in fields based on intellectual performance, where innate gender differences are trivial to nonexistent.

In contrast, species differences are enormous. The best-trained apes never master more than a few hundred words and no grammar at all, and are incapable of speaking. The most severely retarded human can know much more than that given enough effort. Even granting that a 30-year-old chimp may be more capable of reason than a 1-year-old, the overlap between chimps and humans is small enough, and the inconvenience of treating all chimps as persons or of establishing criteria for chimp personhood is large enough, for it to be moral to base rights on humanness.

Incidentally, it makes some sense to establish a middle category of beings that aren’t considered rational but are close enough that they should have limited rights: dolphins, great apes, very late-term human fetuses, octopuses, and so on. Their rights should under no circumstance be allowed to conflict with the well-being of humans – including the benefits of scientific research – but when their rights are sacrificed, it makes sense to do it in the way causing the least amount of pain.


Science PAC

September 27, 2006

Hat-tip to PZ: there’s a new American PAC meant to promote good science and policy, Scientists and Engineers for America. SEA is based on the following list of core principles:

  1. Federal policy shall be made using the best available science and analysis both from within the government and from the rest of society.
  2. The federal government shall never intentionally publish false or misleading scientific information nor post such material on federal websites.
  3. Scientists conducting research or analysis with federal funding shall be free to discuss and publish the results of unclassified research after a reasonable period of review without fear of intimidation or adverse personnel action.
  4. Federal employees reporting what they believe to be manipulation of federal research and analysis for political or ideological reasons should be free to bring this information to the attention of the public and shall be protected from intimidation, retribution or adverse personnel action by effective enforcement of Whistle Blower laws.
  5. No scientists should fear reprisals or intimidation because of the results of their research.
  6. Appointments to federal scientific advisory committees shall be based on the candidate’s scientific qualifications, not political affiliation or ideology.
  7. The federal government shall not support any science education program that includes instruction in concepts that are derived from ideology and not science.
  8. While scientists may elect to withhold methods or studies that might be misused there shall be no federal prohibition on publication of basic research results.  Decisions made about blocking the release of information about specific applied research and technologies for reasons of national security shall be the result of a transparent process.  Classification decisions shall be made by trained professionals using a clear set of published criteria and there shall be a clear process for challenging decisions and a process for remedying mistakes and abuses of the classification system.

The official blog motivates the formation of the PAC, “Over the last several years, scientists have come under political assault and the integrity of science has been compromised. The attacks have ranged from White House rewriting an Environmental Protection Agency report on global warming, to veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, to the promotion of intelligent design to disseminating inaccurate scientific information on federal websites.”

This is of course a positive development, though since the organization isn’t even one day old, it’s way too early to judge how influential it will be. Science is like free trade: every politician likes to say he supports it, but when it comes to actually putting it above partisanship and taking it seriously, everyone runs away from it as if it were the plague (which it’s not – at most, it has scientists who study the bacterium that causes the plague…).

On the other hand, some of the eight core points are underwhelming. Bad science is most dangerous when it comes from the government, but it can also cause harm when it comes from businesses or from political movements, which can pressure the government to adhere to their bad science. Corporations dislike science that tells them their products are harmful (think tobacco); political movements dislike science that conflicts with their ideology or that looks scary (think evolution and thimerosal).

In addition, overall, I think the best approach is based on education rather than lobbying. Science isn’t that powerful an interest group. It can only seriously influence government policy when backed by another institution, such as the military-industrial complex. But the backing institution will then corrupt and subvert it; the radical left wouldn’t be nearly as anti-science as it is if it hadn’t learned to associate science with nuclear bombs.

Where science is immensely powerful is in education, obviously. I’m pretty sure that dollar for dollar, it makes more sense to focus on the local and state level on the federal level, given the positively weird structure of American politics. Focusing on education on the federal level (point #7) requires the movement to fight battles that cause unnecessary schisms between localists and centralists, which I don’t see doing any good to anyone, except maybe the religious right.


Christianity vs. Islam, and Dominionism vs. Islamism

September 27, 2006

Whenever I point out to people that there is no difference between Christianity and Islam, someone always brings up terrorism. Generally, it’s coaxed in denial of the existence of such Christian terrorists as Timothy McVeigh; occasionally, the critic is sophisticated enough to recognize that Christian terrorism exists, but says it’s not so bad as Islamic terrorism.

In fact, there difference between the levels of terrorism the two religions cause is entirely attributable to anti-terrorist action and European racism.

In Christian countries, there’s a significant contingent of Dominionists, which has a militia minority; in Muslim countries, there’s a significant contingent of Islamists, which has a Jihadi minority. So far, there’s no difference. Where there is a difference is in the governments.

The United States has a functioning government that’s strong enough to crack down on domestic terrorism. Since it would be unthinkable for it to bomb Idaho, it uses police tactics against the militia movement, which are largely successful at curbing it.

In contrast, the Saudi government is not a modern state capable of cracking down on its extremists – developing countries tend to be like that. Most Jihadists in Saudi Arabia never leave their home country, but there are enough of them that those who do used to be a formidable threat (though they no longer are).

The first-world countries these international Jihadists target obviously try getting rid of them, but their governments opt for treating terrorism as a military problem, which doesn’t work. Bombing Iraq produces less of a backlash among Americans than bombing Montana, and Iraqis can’t vote in American elections.

Now, lately Islamist anti-Western terrorism comes not from Islamic countries, but from European Muslims. A good place to start when looking at the difference between Christians and Muslims would be identity. After all, the one Western country with a significant Muslim minority without Jihadism, Canada, is the one country where that minority is not pressured to develop its own religious identity by a racist system.

And indeed, most countries with Christian minorities don’t impose a Christian identity on Christians. It’s a lot easier to be a Christian in Turkey than a Muslim in France. Some do, but there’s no charismatic leader like Bin Laden who can transform this Christian identity into a militia one.

Dominionism is largely an intra-US movement. Dominionists don’t need a worldwide revolution; they’re based in a sufficiently powerful country that it’s a lot easier for them to take over that one country and then use it to launch wars of aggression against the rest of the world. Call it the Christianity in one country policy. Pat Robertson isn’t interested in inspiring non-Americans to do anything but bow to their American masters, for that is how American patriotism works; even if he were, he would lack the charisma to do so (though I presume some of the people in his movement don’t).


Fractional Ideals

September 27, 2006

I’ve explained what ideals are, but just like they generalize the concept of numbers, it makes sense to generalize the concept of fractions, in the form of fractional ideals.

Here is where I have to be a little more axiomatic. We’re interested in integral domains, which are defined by the six axioms of rings, plus the axioms that multiplication is commutative, there’s an element 1 such that 1*a = a for all a, and the product of two nonzero elements is again nonzero. If R is an integral domain, we define the fraction field K of R to be the set of all fractions r1/r2, with the usual notion that r1/r2 = r3/r4 if r1r4 = r2r3, and the usual method of addition and multiplication. The main advantage of K is that it obeys a stronger axiom than the ab = 0 –> a = 0 or b = 0 axiom: in K, for every nonzero element a, we can find an element 1/a such that a(1/a) = 1.

Now, recall that an ideal I of R is identified by two properties: if a and b are in I, and r is any element of R, then a + b and ra are in I. So we can apply that rule to every subset of K. For example, if R is the ring of integers Z, then K is the field of rational numbers Q; (2) is an (integral) ideal of R, and (1/2) = {…-1.5, -1, -0.5, 0, 0.5, 1, 1.5…} is a fractional ideal of R.

Actually, to make it work, we need a third condition, namely that there exists an element s in R such that sI is contained in R, i.e. is an integral ideal. That takes care of annoying cases like (1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16…).

As with integral ideals, if R is a principal ideal domain, then multiplying fractional ideals is just like multiplying integral ideals. We have (1/2)(2) = (1), (2/3)(1/10)(45) = (3), etc.

The most nifty thing about working with fractional ideals is that every ideal is invertible in a way. In particular, if I is any fractional ideal of R, then there exists another ideal, call it J, such that IJ = (1), as long as R is a Dedekind domain.

To prove that J exists, first note that by definition, there exists an element s of R such that sI is contained in R. Now, if r is any element of R, then clearly rsI is contained in R, and if t is another element of K such that tI is contained in R, then (s+t)I is contained in R, since it’s a subset of the larger integral ideal sI + tI. So the set of elements s of K such that sI is in R is a fractional ideal, call it S; observe that for every i in I, iS, the set of all elements of the form is, is contained in R.

Now, SI is obviously an integral ideal of R. But it’s not necessarily the whole of R; that needs proof. I’m going to prove that tomorrow, by first proving it in the case I is a prime (integral) ideal of R, and then using that to prove unique factorization into ideals. Then if I = (P1^a1)(P2^a2)…(P(n)^a(n)), then S = (P1^(-a1))(P2^(-a2))…(P(n)^(-a(n))) and we’re done.


Authoritarianism vs. Totalitarianism

September 27, 2006

There’s a comment on Majikthise arguing that Dominionism doesn’t really exist because all the American religious right wants to do is recreate the 1950s. It seems like a sufficiently common argument – after all, it’s a variation on the standard conservative reason to support the fascists – that it deserves refutation here.

Most of what the religious right is demanding: A return to federalism and democracy concerning abortion, traditional sexual mores, even prayer in school were all mainstream practice circa 1950-60’s America. The scare of “theocracy” seems to obscure the point that most of what is advocated is neither new nor radical to American culture. To the contrary it is cultural leftist “experiments” (like ss “m”) that represent the political extreme.

Apparently, equal rights are a political extreme. In fact, as I said in that thread, turning the clock back to 1950, when the Supreme Court didn’t enforce desegregation, thousands of women died every year in botched abortions, homosexuality was illegal, and women couldn’t get non-shitty jobs, is considered moderate in the Dominionist movement. Recreating the past is always a major theme in fascism, but in fact, fascism always ushers in a substantially more repressive environment.

Conservatives always oppose social changes; that’s not new. Bismarck fought the social democrats and the liberals, the Dixiecrats fought civil rights, and de Gaulle fought the student movement. When you’re already an established player, you don’t need to have the totalitarian zeal to kill all your enemies. You have the mainstream’s privilege of ignoring and marginalizing them.

But fascism is reactionary rather than conservative, and its playbook imitates not its conservative allies’ but its communist enemy’s. When you want to radically remake society in your image, it doesn’t matter whether your utopia comes from Marx, the Bible, the Qur’an, or an idealized past; in all cases, you’ll end up creating a far more restrictive society than this of Bismarck, or de Gaulle, or even the Tsar.

In the 1870s, Germany was authoritarian rather than totalitarian. But the idealizers of the past who came to power in 1933 nonetheless made it totalitarian. Similarly, in the 1950s, the US was authoritarian (unless you were a straight, Christian, non-leftist white male), but the idealizers of the past who might come to power will make it totalitarian to everyone.


Discrimination Against Atheists

September 27, 2006

Submitted without comment: Brent has a story about how socially accepted American atheists are.

We met a couple that we know slightly, Jim and Adele, mainly because their daughter and our daughter competed a few years ago in local singing contests. Their daughter was an exceptional singer who I could very easily see picking up a record contract if she tried hard enough. Her parents were pretty controlling, though, and they pushed her hard to become a “star”.

In any case, we had not seen them for quite some time and we shook hands and I asked Jim how his not-so-little-anymore girl (she’s 19 now – she was 13 and 14 when we knew them) was doing with her singing and such.

“Don’t know,” said Jim with a little half-smile. “She moved out.”

Adele, her silver cross necklace winking in the fluorescent lights of the big box store, eyes shining with holy fervor, took up the story from her husband. “She’s living with some atheist. Walked away from a million-dollar record deal because of her atheist boyfriend.”

The way she venomously spat out the word “atheist” caused The Inscrutable Wife to step back a half-step, and look at me uncertainly. Even when their daughter the singer was 14 we both knew that she would eventually tell her controlling parents to take a hike and get out on her own. With a voice like hers, I really don’t think that she will ever have any trouble finding work in any bar band in any state for the rest of her life, or even getting a record deal, if that’s what she wants to do.

As for million dollar record deals… Well, we only have the Adele and Jim’s word on that. They were always the type to embellish things a bit beyond what they actually were.


Stop Stop the ACLU

September 27, 2006

Hat-tip to Echidne: anti-liberty organization/blog Stop the ACLU is trumpeting a new bill that underlines the point I made on Monday about enforcing the Constitution. The ACLU explains a little more:

The American Civil Liberties Union today expressed its dismay as the House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 2679, the “Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005″ (PERA). The bill would bar the recovery of attorneys’ fees to those who win lawsuits asserting their fundamental constitutional and civil rights in cases brought under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“If PERA were to pass, Congress would isolate and discourage enforcement of a specific piece of our Bill of Rights,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “PERA advocates are seriously misguided in their claim of defending religious freedom. This legislation would in fact weaken the very freedom they claim to be protecting. We are deeply disappointed in the committee’s decision to allow PERA to come to a vote.”

Stop the ACLU has a list of talking points in support of the bill, and the ACLU’s rhetoric in opposing it is weak, so let me give a few pointers.

1. Civil liberties must apply to all citizens, not all citizens who can afford to pay for court protection. Just like the US was not a free state until slavery was eliminated, even though the majority of its residents were free, so will it have no real civil liberties if those too poor to avoid a lawyer can’t have them.

2. If I sued someone in a civil court and won, he’d have to pay my legal expenses. Lawsuits against the state shouldn’t be any different; to privilege the government from having to pay implies that violations of freedom of speech and religion are lesser crimes than torts.

3. Historically, civil liberties litigation often relied on outside sources of funding, including governmental payouts. Black victims of racial oppression in the 1950s couldn’t pay legal expenses out of pocket.

4. If taxpayers have the right not to pay for lawsuits they disagree with the results of, then criminals have the right not to pay fines or serve jail terms they disagree with. When a court decides the government violated someone’s freedom, it’s incumbent on the government to comply with the court’s sentence. If you do the crime, you serve the time; similarly, if citizens collectively elect government officials who violate the Constitution, the citizens need to at least pay the litigants’ legal expenses.


New Category: Race

September 26, 2006

Over the last few days, I’ve realized I’ve written many more posts about race and racism than about language or academics, both of which have their own dedicated categories. So now I have to hunt down every post I’ve written and see if I need to add it to the new category.


Arbiters of Normality

September 26, 2006

LizardBreath’s responded to the feedback she received about her whiteness post, including my post about the issue (welcome, all Unfogged readers). She raises a valid point about decentering identity, namely that it makes the default group – in the USA’s case, whites – the arbiter of what’s considered mainstream.

This does not appear to be the case: people who commented in the thread (and others) came down pretty heavily on the side of thinking that this is a bad idea — that whiteness should, rather than being treated as a marked ethnicity, be de-emphasized until it essentially disappears as a concept, and is just what people without any other strong ethnic identity do (eat meatloaf, Mexican, and Chinese food; decorate holiday cookies; dance poorly and without enthusiasm). People with no other ethnic identity just end up partaking in the melting pot of all the various ethnic stuff that’s gotten normalized as American over the years; people with a strong ethnic identity can do the same at will, or not, as they choose. And I can see that maybe this might work: I can’t imagine being able to erase ethnicity at all from people’s minds, but I can see it being possible to sort of erase whiteness — it’s what the discomfort I talked about in the earlier post leads people to want to do.

I’m curious about this, though — doesn’t it still leave people like me, white folks with no other particular ethnicity, as the arbiters of normality? Ordering take-out Chinese food is a normal, ordinary American thing to do, because white folks like me do it. Naming your daughter Tamesha on the other hand, is a weirdo ethnic thing to do, because white people don’t do it. And I come back to thinking that treating being Anglo as a marked ethnicity is necessary. A white boss shouldn’t have any more reason to think that a black employee’s being named Tamesha rather than, oh, Karen is abnormal or bizarre, than a Latina boss would have to think that a white employee’s being named Karen rather than Rosita is abnormal or bizarre — in each case, it’s a wildly unimportant expression of ethnicity.

When I talk about decentering identity, I talk about a lot more than just retreating into some vaguely defined mainstream identity. My individualist project is about much more than that; it’s about deemphasizing conformity to the mainstream, too, to the degree that it’s possible to avoid conforming at all. It all depends on how daring you are with things, but at a minimum, I’m talking about not even caring about the American mainstream to judge people by.

To put it in less pie-in-the-sky terms, decentering ethnic identities will work because any standard of conformity that’s now applied will have to be applied equally to everyone. (White) racists will obviously have plenty to work with – skin color, hair texture, and accent for one – but it’ll be much harder to devise ostensibly neutral standards to exclude minorities.

The problem of what’s considered normal is more or less independent of that. The standard of “ethnic food is okay for OKOP, ethnic names aren’t” is as far as I can tell universal, though obviously, different countries’ dominant ethnic groups disagree on what’s considered “ethnic.”

So it’s probably not that when ethnicity is deemphasized, the dominant group gets to define what’s acceptable – it’s that certain cultural aspects are considered more acceptable to appropriate. And, I think, it’s generally about what is considered easier to change and less central to one’s culture: food is something you can easily mix and change every day, fashion styles slightly less so, hair style even less, and names even less.

Coming back to LizardBreath’s point about names, I therefore don’t think deemphasizing race will change the current situation. Most Americans are native English speakers, so it’s safe to assume that whatever happens, English names will continue dominating. The trick is not to make Jerry as marked as Tyrone, which won’t happen under any circumstance, but to make people stop caring about whether someone is named Jerry or Tyrone.


Asian Values

September 26, 2006

Someone found my blog by Googling asian values lky (LKY is the accepted acronym for Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s de facto monarch); I Googled it myself to see where my blog places on that search, and found a few very good articles about why Lee’s shrill appeal to Asian values as a reason not to infringe on his inalienable right to exercise sovereignty over 4 million people is wrong.

First, in 1997, Amartya Sen wrote a superb article documenting that historically, Asia’s cultures are as democratic and pluralistic as the West, and explaining that there’s no evidence that fascism is good for the economy. Mind you, that was before the 1997 financial crash, which demonstrated that the basic rules of macroeconomics apply to East Asia, too.

Second, Macam Macam wrote a beautiful piece of snark about the Asian values tirade back in 2004:

Then to think that a Western-style, liberal democracy couldn’t work in Asia just because it hadn’t been part of Asian history. That would have been akin to saying that neither Malaysians nor Singaporeans could rule themselves….because they hadn’t done so previously. And I suppose democracy just popped up in the West, fully-formed like an adult, rather than as concept that evolved in theory and practice over time.

Third, Walden Bello of Focus on the Global South wrote a three-part series about authoritarianism and democracy in Southeast Asia; one of its best gems is,

However, as an Asian observer noted: ”When I first came across Lee’s list of supposed Asian values, I saw values that were not so much specific to Asian culture but good British upper class Tory values dear to threatened elites everywhere.” It was not without good reason that one British cabinet minister once referred to Lee, when he still was known as Harry Lee, as the ”best bloody Englishman east of Suez”.

Remember “We are global, and they are global.”


Race-blogging

September 26, 2006

Now that the racial Clinton lunch firestorm has subsided, LizardBreath posts her own white person’s race-blogging. She says, in a nutshell, that whiteness is considered unmarked and other skin colors aren’t, and tries solving that the usual way, that is constructing a non-supremacist white identity.

Reading about race, something that comes up fairly often is that a facet of white privilege is the capacity to think of yourself as ethnically-unmarked: brown people have ethnicites which explain important things about their identities, but white people are just people, and anything they do is a statement of their personal identity, free of the constraints of any ethnicity. This clearly happens, and I get what makes this claim to be free of ethnicity a claim of a special privileged status, which obviously white people shouldn’t be claiming.

(…)

I haven’t got any useful ideas here, just that I’ve never seen the embarrassingness of an affirmation of one’s own whiteness addressed in the context of freedom-from-ethnicity as a facet of white privilege.

The problem with that project is that it can only work once racial inequality disappears. The concept of an ethnic identity is inherently racist: it sets up an “us” and “them,” and implicitly others “them.” At the very least, it encourages ethnic conformity among “us.” Obviously, this causes way more damage when a dominant group does it than when an oppressed one does it, but in both cases, it’s useful to no one but a few career politicians.

The successes of anti-racism in the US in the last 50 years have typically been based on integration, which in turn is based on destroying the concept of racial identities (especially but not only white). I can’t see how racial equality will improve if it becomes acceptable again for white people to view other whites as OKOP.

The other way of trying to remove the imbalance is to just obliterate the concept of identities. It’s already done superficially in the sense that it’s considered unacceptable to profile people based on race/ethnicity. The most natural way to extend this is to try convincing people that giving a damn about people’s skin color and family name makes about as much sense as giving a damn about their astrological signs.


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