Material inequity: Why Canadian gun control works better than Mexico’s

I have pointed out to liberal friends that for all the talk about murder and gun control, everyone talks about Canada and Western Europe, no talks about Mexico and Russia.  The Mexico’s gun laws are in some ways stricter than Canada’s.  Here’s the NYT dishonest presentation of it:

Americans look at Mexico and see a country of relentless bloodshed, where heads are rolled into discos, where mutilated bodies show up a dozen at a time and where more than 60,000 people have been killed since the government began its assault on drug traffickers in 2006.

But Mexicans see their northern neighbor as awash in violence, too. They look with amazement at the ease with which guns can be purchased in the United States and at the gory productions coming out of Hollywood, and they shake their heads at the mass shootings last year in Tucson and last week in Aurora, Colo.

Why, Mexicans ask, don’t Americans tighten their gun laws? Doing so, they say, would stanch the violence both in the United States and in Mexico, where criminal groups wreak havoc with military-grade weapons smuggled in from the United States.

Why dishonest? Mexican gun violence is higher than the US.   Nor do all the illegal arms come from the US, they also come from other violent countries in central America, and some of the military grade weapons are left over from both US and Soviet interests during the cold war.  Gun control alone does not explain that, and the unattributed assertions of the NYT do not go with my anecdotal experience talking to Mexicans here in narco-crime truamaized Northern Mexico.  The randomness of US mass killings does shock here in Mexico; however, so does the randomness of the cartel violence.  It is impossible to tell if this is cultural or mass killers just become narco-enforcers–it, however, is not the availability of weapons.

So what’s the difference?  If I had to put money on it: It is relative poverty mixed with inequality.  Canada has a small population and the lowest wealth inequity in North America.  Mexico and the United States have severe wealth inequality, and even though things are improving here in Mexico, much more poverty than the either the US or Canada.

The Week, of all places, seemed to actually get this in an recent article:

But there is an intersection of men and violent crime that is open to immediate political intervention. In their 2009 book The Spirit Level: Why Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out what other commentators have re-established in the wake of the Isla Vista murders: violent crime is overwhelmingly committed by young men between the ages of 15 and 29. And, calling upon the expertise of Harvard Medical Schol’s James Gilligan, the author of Violence and Preventing Violence, the authors posit that “acts of violence are ‘attempts to ward off or eliminate the feeling of shame and humiliation — a feeling that is painful, and can even be intolerable and overwhelming — and replace it with its opposite, the feeling of pride.'” This conclusion, too, resonates with the facts of the Rodger case.

I think the Week article misses some of the points.  Most gun violence is not related to mass killings like this.  Most gun violence is suicide, and then a lot of the remaining violence related to intimates engaged in things like the drug trade. All of which are tied to systemic wealth imbalance, but the idea that status competition in addition to out-and-out misogyny could have been involved with Elliot could explain a bit of the why this is so specific to US even compared with countries with awash in weapons.  I still think a hate-monger PUA-worshiping individual like Elliot Rodgers may have killed women anyway as violence against women is older than American hyper-wealth inequity, and was significantly worse even in the recent past.

The implications for gun control are clear though; if the US remains trending towards the same inequality patterns we link to places like Eastern Europe and Central America, reforms like gun control are unlikely to work.  If you reduce the material inequity, however, you are likely to lower the violent crime (which is lowering already for other reasons) anyway with or without gun control.


Anthropologically Unsound: Why Genetic hyper-determinsim is not as scientific as you think…

First, the caveats that are necessary, I am not an anthropologist. I am not a comparative biologist.  I am not a geneticist.  I am writer and as a writer, I read things.   I did study anthropology seriously, but abandoned it for philosophy at the undergraduate level because I knew philosophy+English would be more helpful to getting into law school, and I condensed the anthropology and philosophy courses into a liberal studies specialization.  So I am a educated and informed layman, and you should read me with that limitation in mind.

Second, there has been some misreading  of people being more “human bio-diversity friendly” than I am.  Race in the US does trace to morphology which does have some referent to traits that can be spotted on genetic screening, and it does tie to regional traits.  This has been attempted to be explained by some geneticists who are sociobiology friendly as also tying to cultural traits which are statistically highly heritable and are the outcome of things like criminal execution and sexual selection.  While I am sympathetic to the idea that there are still evolutionary traits developing due to sexual selection, you can see how this can be used, particularly with paired with evolutionary psychology, to rationalize cultural traits as more historical than they are.  The example one often hears is the evolutionary biologist explaining why pink is linked with women, while the historian of culture knows this has only been the case for about 120 years in European and post-European colonial cultures.

Still the second point is important.  I have pointed out that, for example, oxytocin bonding manifests completely differently in different cultures: a study that I have linked to before concerns Korean and US cultures. The more interesting thing about this is that recent sexual selection can’t explain the interaction differences because Koreans raised in the US have many more of the reactions to oxytocin in their friendships you see amongst Americans.   Meaning even if you cannot discount phenotype differences on behavior, the relationship is obviously more culturally primed than most people think. Race-realism predicated on cultural genetic determinism does not only not explain this, but ignores the tons of recent discoveries which complicate it and brackets them out of the question: environmental cues and triggers that effect gene manifestation (see many mental and physical illnesses require both a gene AND an environmental condition to have a higher probability of manifestation), epigenetics developments of traits, cultural priming of genetic traits through cultural management of environmental stressors, and, even the logical fact,  the fact that nature-nurture binaries are a category error predicated on some spurious notions of “nature” and “society” which are not justifiable.

Enter here some thoughts over at a friend of mine’s blog, Vulgar Materials, talking about IQ related theories on race and the current development of “human nueral uniformity” as somehow a type of “liberal or leftist creationism.”   He asks a simple rhetorical question which takes this vague, HBD-esque notion and exposes its problem:

If physicalism is correct, strong AI must be possible, and it is fairly certain that there are hardware layouts upon which would supervene minds vastly superior to our own, and perhaps, some day, we shall devise them. But evolution only ever seeks out local optima. This makes it vastly inferior to human design; every transitional form must pay off in terms of fitness (under whatever environmental conditions it appears;) it knows irrationalities plenty but no speculative bubbles. What if intelligence is subject to such chassis limitations – if the human brain is about as advanced along that dimension as can be given its design constraints? Several considerations make this plausible.

You may ask what could this have to do with intelligence difference between races being genetically innate.  Why not just point out the studies that show that being raised outside of poverty conditions leads to dramatically increased IQ, or that “black” students enculturated as “white” through adoption in mixed race families often show significant increases in aggregate IQ.  The problem with these objections is that they don’t show the problem with the entire question.

So, what are his answers:

First, there does not appear to be much low-hanging chemical fruit available for improvements to intelligence. There haven’t been any conspicuously successful nootropics other than caffeine (which shifts cognitive capacity around in time; the piper must yet be paid,) and large-scale studies have consistently failed to find SNPs that impact intelligence

This is more damning than it first appears. Through dopamine and oxytocin manipulation, which base levels are correlative to gene expressions in individuals, one could actually change both your social and intimate ties. You willingness to give or endure violence for a group one is attached, etc.  There, however, is NOTHING LIKE THIS WITH INTELLIGENCE or even abstract reasoning such as IQ.  We can pharmacologically boast concentration but we are boasting intelligence fatigue in that point, not intelligence overall.  This means we still do not understand what exactly we are describing by intelligence and would have a hard time reducing it anything we could see as a gene manifestation.

His next answer:

Second, intelligence is likely the result of an intra-human arms race, rather than struggle with the extra-human environment. Humans have intelligence enough to kick the ass of (non-human) nature ten times over everywhere on the planet – the myth of the noble savage, living in harmony with her natural environment, is exactly that – but we do have a tendency to get into more nettlesome battles of wits with each other.

This point is more subtle. The HBO advocate can say, “See this is proof of group selectivity as competition is generally between groups.”  That may have been trouble in nomadic, hunter-gather societies which have more complete in-group cohesion and show violence as a trait towards outsiders, but it is NOT true anytime after the development of agriculture or even pastoral nomadism. Class society begins at this time as division of labor is required for agriculture to work. Given proximity, such intelligence battles are not only in-group but often both inter-class (between groups competing for resources) and intra-class (between individuals competing for status and advancement).  Therefore, intelligence should so signs of being related to positions within a culture framework. Those IQ studies on poverty and “racial enculturation” (which is explicitly tied to class) and IQ are far more indicative of this than the hyper-genetic determinism implied in “human nueral uniformity.”

His last point is the one most relevant to anthropology:

Third, humans have unusually low genetic variation; we are a bottleneck species. This point has been emphasized in previous anti-racist arguments; the point here is not just that absolute current variation is comparatively low, but that there is less room for maneuver.

While some scientific racialists have argued that human races amounted to sub-species, this does not stand water.  I have talked about research indicating that hominid sub-species are more like what we view as races, and even then we have to consider removing them as sub-species because products of sexual union between the various hominid groups appear to have been reproductively viable for generations down.  Meaning most biological notions of species do not apply.  This is even more true now because of the bottle neck discussed.  Furthermore, if you remove the African populations from the equation, the bottle neck gets even tighter (as there is more genetic diversity within Africa that in all the areas outside of it).  While HBD advocates like to argue that Asians, then whites, then hispanics and first peoples (North West Asians), then Africans make some kind of human intelligence hierarchy. This does not stand to up to our knowledge of population genetics:  Hispanics are a cultural group, not even a clear race in the reductive HBD definition.  Secondly, Native Peoples have phenotype evidence clearly showing ancient SIberian/Asian ancestry, why the strong difference in IQ?  Why does the sophistication of Meso-American society indicate that perhaps even as recently as 400 years ago, which in biologic time is nothing, Meso-American culture as technologically and culturally advanced as European. IQ studies now explain that?  No. No, they don’t.  Even the recent sexual selection hypothesis doesn’t.    A good recourse on this from a slightly more left-than-me pov can be here.

So the question becomes what do we mean by identity and why does it have these effects?  I used to be a Marxist skeptical of identity theory. Now I am skeptical of both liberal identity theory rooted in stand-point epistemology and classical Marxism, but I think there is a core to identity theories of human relationships that are more anthropologically sound than some of the more abstractified Marxist notions of pure class struggle as the sole “mover of history”. Marx’s critique of capitalism stands and fails on capitalism, and increasingly it is capitalism itself that I realize Marxist did not actually agree on what it is, and manifestations of intra-class racial and ethnic conflict are hard to hand-wave away.  Marx’s theoretical work here was incomplete–he admitted this– and used too many Hegelian terms that actually do not seem to have done the work he wanted (the implied teleology was too simple). I keep going back to Weberian notions of class and identity relationships and conflict as they seem, while primitive, actually more clarifying.

Conversely, the analytic and “scientific” crowd, like what sees around sites like Less Wrong,  one links with sites like have mystique of abstractification.  This mirrors the teleological mystigoguery one sees with Hegelian frameworks, but inverts them. By rooting the notion of reason on analytic logic predicated on sets in math or on subject-predicate equations, the context of the observation is stripped out as is even the possibility of discussing history.  You add this observations from historical sciences like “evolutionary biology” and you have a recipe for hiding all sorts of cavaets, exceptions, and historical differences crucial the claims being made.  Beware the power of “pure reason,”  it is often hiding something.

Steering towards Endstaat: An interview with Keith418

Keith418 and I have had a ongoing conversation on the development of right-wing and left-wing ideological developments, his pessimistic judgement of Hegelian teleology, and why the far left and the far right seem to be more of a release valve for politically marginal people to vent. You can read our other interviews here and here.

C. Derick Varn:  It seems like conservatism in the US  has become completely incoherent in the opposition to Obama.  What do you make of the state of the American conservative movement? Conversely, do you think the observation often made by Paul Gottfried and by Slavoj Zizek that the Eastern Block and the former bastions of Asian communism are far more culturally conservative than any of the capitalist societies that developed in the 19th century.  This seems interestingly true, and even more true when you look at the most liberal bastions in the United States–they are the two coastal hubs of commerce and finance. 

Kieth418: Both liberalism and conservatism are failing – neither has the answers, but the more obvious this becomes, the more people cling to the idea that somehow they have to still provide solutions.

One thing to consider about modern constructivism is how much of it has simply become a business – perhaps the ultimate “pro-capitalism, pro-market” irony. People in conservative circles don’t want to rule – they don’t want to assume power and responsibility. Instead, they want a comfortable living selling stem-winding speeches and red meat to a dwindling, but well-off constituency. The left has this problem too, but it’s more concealed. How many “non profit” left/liberal groups exist solely to employ the people running them? Come on. It’s a racket.

Communism froze many of these societies in Eastern Europe. It’s not surprising to find them more conservative. The dream of many communists was really a kind of democratized bourgeois life. It’s not strange, then, to find these societies in a more conservative state. In addition, many of these countries didn’t organically “achieve” socialism. It was imposed on them – either by the USSR or by a cadre of armed and organized revolutionaries. Why would we expect these people to be radical leftists, when none of the supposed conditions for evolving to that state were ever present?

The “left” in America these days is simply the liberal wing of the managerial elites. Why should we be amazed to find them concentrated near where the wealth is? I have to laugh when people in the Bay Area demand that we “Question the Dominant Paradigm.” The “dominant paradigm” in the Bay Area, for the last 40 years, has been left-liberalism, secular humanism, etc. Do they really want  us to start being skeptical of that paradigm? Or are we not supposed to really notice who is in charge? This is like the left that gets upset about current government scandals and outrages while shielding Obama and his cronies from any blame. Do you know people who do this? I sure do.

Both the left and the right have failed. The right insisted that the market would save us. It has not. Globalism is a mess. The left demanded that governments would save us – but the state is weaker and weaker and clearly no solution. What do people do when both sets of promises prove to be bankrupt? Atheism captures so much attention these days, but when are we going to see ideological, political atheists popping up on the horizon? God may not be the only thing that died…

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Interesting Listening: Rationally Speaking about the Cruel and Unusual

I am going to suggest two podcasts for which  I learned a far amount.  Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef deliver one of the only “skeptic” podcasts which is not obsessed with either religion or popularizing science, but understanding rationality, its limits, and its application.   Pigliucci and Galef are often best when they tackle an issue on their own.   I may suggest MOOC podcast for understanding how to parse data and ask the right questions about social and educational policy.  As a teacher and former lecturer, few administrators and policy makers know how to ask these kinds of questions.

Another excellent podcast, which I think may have pod-faded, is Cruel and Unusual .  This is probably the best podcast on looking at the history and development of punishment, particularly in the US, as well as making possible the contextual understanding for policy.   If I may, I will make several suggestions on this:

Sex and Punishment w/ Eric Berkowitz

This episode is particularly interesting at contextualizing modern sex laws in contrast with medieval and early modern laws.

The American Origins of Prison w/ Michael Meranze

The development of the modern prison is actually refined in the US, and gives birth to most of our modern prison system.

The Politicization of Punishment w/ Jonathan Simon

Goes into the problems of polity and policy, including the insanity that is the prison politics of Texas and California.

From Dungeons to Medieval Prisons w/ Guy Geltner

The late medieval prison was actually more humane than the early modern prison and maybe even the modern prison. The idea these were places where people just went to die is actually incredibly misleading and dungeons were privately held.

The Apocalyptic Optimist: Or, don’t tell me to turn my frown upside down

“What people forget is a journey to nowhere starts with a single step, too.” – Chuck Palahniuk


For years we heard how awesome optimists were, how they lived longer, ate better, had better sex, and were generally blessed with sunshine and rainbows. It looked for a long time that optimism was a force multiplier. I wondered though, optimism always seemed like a big confirmation bias shell game and an invitation to be fooled by one’s own tendency towards the Dunning-Kruger effect.

About three years ago, the tide changed. Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright Sided came out, the economic collapse seemed to call out irrational exuberance, studies on self-conception and depression , and I was smug for a bit.

Now at risk for my own tendency for confirmation bias, the are dangers to both being irrationally optimistic and rationally optimistic. An article for Psychology Today goes into this:

Most Americans are familiar with Norman Vincent Peale and his writings on “the power of positive thinking,” and more recently “The Secret” which posits “the law of attraction.” Basically, this sounds like excellent advice. And indeed, Dr. Martin Seligman, a top-notch research psychologist and a former President of the American Psychological Association, has shown that “optimism” is a key element in emotional well-being.

But there is a big difference between healthy optimism and the Pollyanna pop psychology version of positive thinking. Giddy positivism advises us to look on the bright side at all times. These trite pep talks often tend to backfire and cause resentment and isolation in others.

People who play the “everything-will-be-terrific” game not only overlook real problems and issues that need to be addressed, but they prevent others from expressing grief, pain, anger, loneliness, or fears. It is difficult if not impossible to air your true feelings in the presence of one of these ever-positive thinkers. They often make others feel guilty for harboring bad feelings.

The ingratitude and emotional controlling nature of this kind of optimism is understood now. To be fair and not deny pain, sometimes you have to admit that the situation is, well, shit. Sometimes you have to do that to be a good friend too.

There is no rational reason deny yourself either pleasure or pain, happiness or unhappiness in abstract.   These states of being are feedback,  and while it may be wise to avoid their causes or to avoid reveling in a feedback loop, but, as sentiments guide reason, not being very intimate with your natural disposition seems foolish to this reader.

In a social context, it means a little bit of pessimism is useful, but a hysterical hanging onto disappear seems foolish.  But even that can be a optimistic apocalypticism, and even that is a reason to get up in the morning, as Eugene Thacker says about Thomas Ligotti’s cosmic pessimism:

Above all, Conspiracy is a document of the pessimist’s dilemma: that the worthlessness of life and its philosophical realisation tends to become worthwhile (a ‘no’ becomes a ‘yes’). And in this, Conspiracy might be characterised as a form of ecstatic pessimism, a pessimism that is resolutely misanthropic and without redemption, but that also must constantly bear witness to the failure of thought that constitutes it.

Even the path to nowhere is still walking.

Today’s Interesting Reading: Putin, Reparations, Weakness of Compound Interest, and Materiality, oh my.

Russia to ban citizenship change for adopted children

Fyodorov reported that in connection with this fact he and other Russian MPs had prepared a set of amendments to the current adoptions ban that would restrict the transfer of Russian children from adoptees to other families. The MP also proposes a ban on renouncing Russian citizenship for an adopted orphan until the child comes of age.

Russian officials intend to switch the adoption practices so that they are regulated by intergovernmental agreements between Russia and other nations. Presently there are only two such agreements – with Italy and France, and an agreement with Spain is expected to be signed soon. However, adoption in other countries is still allowed, with the exception of the United States and also countries that allow same sex marriage.

Two caveats: I generally do not regularly cite Putin’s Equivalent to Radio Free Europe plus Pravda Russia Today, and I find a lot of the US liberal anger at Russia to be hypocritical. I mean, Saudi Arabia and Brunei get free passes on much harsher laws than Russia. Still, tu quo que is bad thinking and worse politics. The amount of internal press this adoption scare seems particularly counter productive when taken to this level. (I like the way RT drops that “and also countries that allow same sex marriage” as an afternoon. In this great game styles masquerading in cold-war drag, things are bound to get silly. RT is bound to look a lot more like Russia’s Fox News for foreigners.

Public uninformed & skeptical about party system in Russia

In addition, the chief pollster noted that the recent accession of the Crimean Republic into the Russian Federation had shown that all legislators were unanimous on really important issues and this made people question the role of political opposition.

The political reform benefitting smaller parties commenced about three years ago, during Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency. The changes included reducing the minimum number of party members from 40,000 to 500. A minimum requirement on regional branches was also dropped, however parties must be represented in at least half of Russia’s 95 federal regions.

The reform triggered an invigoration in Russian political life – new parties began to appear and old parties that merged into larger movements started to re-register as independent projects.

I wanted to cite RT for this and not some US source which generally is more motivated in coverage. It is interesting, however, that the dominance of Russia Today has made people down that opposition even matters. I suppose that is a lesson for those American moderates who think having everyone vote in unison on pragmatic grounds would give the process more legitimacy.

Denisovans, Neandertals, Archaics as Human Races – Anthropology 1.11

The 2010 discoveries of Denisovans, the 2012 findings of archaic African DNA, and the additional 2012 genetic sequencing of Denisovans–are part of a longer trajectory dating to the discovery of fossil Neandertals. Ever since the fossil Neandertal discoveries in the 19th century, debates have raged about who they were. Were Neandertals direct ancestors to modern humans? A completely different species? Or a sub-species, like a race? And now what should we do with the Denisovans?

In 2012, anthropology can confidently report that Neandertals, Denisovans, and others labelled archaic are in fact an interbreeding part of the modern human lineage. We are the same species. There has been extensive admixture across modern humans for tens of thousands of years, and at least some admixture across several archaic groups. Neandertals, Denisovans, and other archaics may be the best example of a true human race or sub-species. They are also fully part of the human lineage, with almost all contemporary humans showing genetic admixture with archaics in our genetic signatures.

SSC Gives A Graduation Speech

What of the costs of education? What have you lost out on?

Well, first about twenty thousand hours of your youth. That’s okay. You weren’t using that golden time of perfect health and halcyon memories when you had more true capacity for creativity and imagination and happiness than you ever will again anyway. If you hadn’t had your teachers to tell you that you needed to be making a collage showing your feelings about The Scarlet Letter, you probably would have wasted your childhood seeing a world in a grain of sand or Heaven in a wild flower or something dumb like that.

I’m more interested in the financial side of it. At $11,000 average per pupil spending per year times thirteen years plus various preschool and college subsidies, the government spends $155,000 on the kindergarten-through-college education of the average American.

Inspired by a tweet: what if the government had taken this figure (adjusted for inflation) and invested it in the stock market at the moment of your birth? Today when you graduate college, they remove it from the stock market, put it in a low-risk bond, put a certain percent of the interest from that bond into keeping up with inflation, and hand you the rest each year as a basic income guarantee. How much would you have?

And I calculate that the answer would be $15,000 a year, adjusted for interest. We can add the $5,800 basic income guarantee we could already afford onto that for about $20,000 a year, for everyone. Black, white, man, woman, employed, unemployed, abled, disabled, rich, poor. Welcome to the real world, it’s dangerous to go alone, take this. What, you thought we were going to throw you out to sink or swim in a world where if you die you die in real life? Come on, we’re not that cruel.

So when we ask whether your education is worth it, we have to compare what you got – an education that puts you one grade level above the uneducated and which has informed 3.3% of you who Euclid is – to what you could have gotten. 20,000 hours of your youth to play, study, learn to play the violin, whatever. And $20,000 a year, sweat-free.

$20,000 a year isn’t much. The average mid-career salary of an average college graduate is nearly triple that – $55,000. By the numbers your education looks pretty good. But numbers can be deceiving.

Consider the life you have to look forward to, making your $55,000. The exact profession that makes closest to that number is a paralegal, so let’s go with that. You get a job as a paralegal in a prestigious Manhattan law firm. You can’t afford to live in Manhattan, but you scrounge together enough money for a cramped apartment in Brooklyn, which costs you about $2000 a month rent. Every morning you wake up at 7:45, get on the forty-five minute subway ride to Manhattan, and make it to work by your 9:00 AM starting time. Your boss is a kind of nasty lawyer who is himself upset that he can’t pay back his law school debt and yells at you all day. By the time you get back home around 6, you’re too exhausted to do much besides watch some TV. You don’t really have time to meet guys – I’m assuming you’re a woman here, sixty percent of you are, I blame the patriarchy – so you put out a personal ad on Craigslist and after a while find someone you like. You get married after a year; your honeymoon is in Vermont because his company won’t give him enough time off to go any further.

As a teacher and a uni lecturer who has more than one graduate degree, I hate to admit how much I agree with the gist of some of this. It is hyperbole, to be sure. However, one commenter on the site sums up my critique: “The factors that make upper class children smarter before they start schooling are probably the ones that allow unschooling to work where it works. Which is to say, that they wouldnt generalize to lower class parents.” On that note, one may be tempted to see this as a conservative screed, but Scott Alexander’s anti-Reactionary FAQ makes it clear that is not really here his alliance is.

The Case for Reparations: An Intellectual Autopsy

Like Coates, I have thought reparations were a bad idea, and I still do not understand the exact practicality of it. However, Coates’s argument is almost conservative in its spelling out of the damages. No matter what your opinion is on the topic, I suggest you read this article. It is one of the better things the Atlantic, which generally find to be obnoxiously predictable in its politics, has published recently.

Compound Interest Is The Least Powerful Force In The Universe

Slate Star Codex again, and this is one is directly related to the above. Scott Alexander seems to be want to answer: since the Southern states exploited African labor, why are they still so poor.

There are many many complicated moral arguments for and against reparations. Like Klein, I don’t want to get into any of them except the financial aspect of how much modern whites benefit from the lingering effects of slavery, and how much modern blacks are harmed by them.

I want to make one very loose argument and then one based off of empirical research.

The loose argument is that the best way to determine whether modern whites have gained from owning slaves (and I know Klein’s argument takes into account other forms of oppression beyond slavery, but slaves will be a good first approximation) is to see if formerly slave-owning societies are richer than formerly non-slave-owning societies.

The state with the highest percent slaves before the Civil War was South Carolina, with Mississippi number two. Mississippi is the poorest, and South Carolina the fifth poorest of the fifty states today. Except for Virginia, every single state in the former Confederacy is poorer than the US average.

This is somewhat confounded by the high level of poor blacks in these states, but remains true even when you look only at the income of white residents. For example, if Mississippi whites were their own state, they would be 39th out of 50 in terms of per capita income. South Carolingians would do better but still be below the national average. If all states suddenly became all white, Mississippi and South Carolina would drop right back down to the bottom.

So the whites who had the most opportunity to benefit from a supposed ability to earn compound interest on slavery earnings clearly didn’t do that.

While one could make the argument that the gains from slavery left Mississippi and the Deep South to enrich all whites, this seems a bit forced. The US was much less interconnected in those days. And other places that had no connection to slavery still outperform the Deep South: Italian whites, for example, still do comfortably better than whites from most Southern states.

One could always argue that Southerners would be even poorer today if not from all the compound interest they received on their slavery earnings. But Southern poverty is already a bit of a puzzle. To make them too much poorer would require them to descend into levels of squalor totally unknown in any First World country.

I think we should at least look at an alternate hypothesis: people are really really really bad at passing ill-gotten wealth through more than a generation or two.

I suggest reading the entire thing as the major complication to Coates. That said, even if Alexander is right, the moral argument and the practical argument are actually very different. We rarely seem to speak if that is the case.

An area’s level of poverty or wealth may affect the distribution of cancer types

While I thought we knew this, file this under actual evidence. Poor people get sick differently from the rich, and it is not just healthcare that causes the difference. It is the difference in environment.

Subjectivism in the short run, Classical value theory in the long

My instinct here, as should be obvious, is to deploy this as an apologetic cudgel for Marxism against neoclassicism (or, rather, against non-classical neoclassicism, as classical political economy is a special case of neoclassicism in the same way that neoclassicism is a special case of game theory.) But more objectively, the point seems to be that the appropriateness of different price theories (and, hence, ways of conceptualizing market civilization generally) depends upon the term within which you are asking your question.

Beating marginalism with Marxist theories of value may actually be wrong-headed because they describe almost completely different things, particularly when you are dealing with scales of time.

Yong Zhao: Shanghai May Drop Out of PISA, Not Interested in Being #1

Lastly, I have always been fascinated with Shanghai, which tends to do almost as well as Korea and Hong Kong, but has been much more resistant the the kill-drill, cram night school approach to education one sees in most of East Asia. (I have written many times on how this produces good PISA scores–a kin to Finnland’s who does this by almost the opposite approach than South Korea). Apparently Shanghai is considering opting out.

Shut Up, dude!: Some thoughts on the “discourse” about Elliot Rodgers

I am on the record as being a critic of both safe spaces and trigger warnings: in both cases I feel like what is going on is signaling, but particularly in the case of trauma no one can possibly know what is going to trigger someone’s experience.  So just informing your audience what you are going to talk about and letting their memory take its course is a best policy.  No place is safe because we do not have total control of either the world around us or our minds.  Consider this my warning.

So, dudes, I am speaking to you.  Four out of five closest women in my life have been traumatized by men.  In three out of four cases it was men close to them; in all four cases it was men they knew and saw almost daily.  Given the closeness of my relationship with these women–we are talking about my best friend, my partner, my ex-wife, etc–I sometimes have had to deal with trauma that I invoked that had nothing to do with me in origin.  In the case of my partner, I have to work to control my temper because being angry around her can remind her of things other men have done to her.

Of course, in my insecurity and my love for them, I may want to say “it’s not me. I am different. I will try not to hurt you.”  And you know what, every time I have done this, even lovingly, it is the wrong thing.   Why?  They already know this.  And sometimes, if I am honest, I am doing damage because of carelessness. Forgetting that in the realm of the physical, I have a distinct advantage, and there is actually a rational calculus for responding in a particular way.

Now, this is all in the context of intimate and loving relationships–sexual and not.  This principle, however, seems to come up on the internet a lot. I keep seeing men on the internet say “It’s not all men” or “It’s not all white men” or, I admit I have seen this only once, “It’s not all Asian men.”   Now, the principle I am talking about above applies a thousand times more.

So, dude, listen to me, and shut up.

A writer over at Terrible Minds gets to the core of the issue, and since I don’t feel like speaking for others, I am going to quote it:

I understand that as a man your initial response to women talking about misogyny, sexism, rape culture and sexual violence is to wave your hands in the air like a drowning man and cry, “Not all men! Not all men!” as if to signal yourself as someone who is not an entitled, presumptive fuck-whistle, but please believe me that interjecting yourself in that way confirms that you are. Because forcing yourself into safe spaces and unwelcome conversations makes you exactly that.

Instead of telling women that it’s not all men, show them.

Show them by listening and supporting.

Show them by cleaning the dogshit out of your ears and listening to their stories — and recognize that while no, it’s not “all men,” it’s still “way too many men.” Consider actually reading the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter not to look for places to interject and defend your fellow men, but as a place to gain insight and understanding into the experiences women have. That hashtag should serve as confirmation that women very often experience the spectrum of sexism and rape culture from an all-too-early age. Recognize that just because “not all men” are gun-toting, women-hating assholes fails to diminish the fact that sexism and rape culture remain firmly entrenched and institutional within our culture.

So first off, many of the problems the writer is speaking about are institutional, and, of course, they are not about “all men’s motives” or “your motives” because such structures are beyond your subjective intention.   Even if you disagree with some of the structures, and I sometimes do, saying “its not all men” means you do not get the point enough to really contribute to the conversation meaningfully anyway.   I am not saying men can’t have something to say about this, but derailing the conversation with something like “it’s not all men” or, more perniciously, “women hit men too” is more than useless.

Yes, dude, but that’s tu quo que,  which is a) a logical fallacy, and b) one that the fair heuristic reading is that you are being a git.

But there is a deeper reason for the suspicion, and it the same reason I love dog but approach them carefully.   You see “not all dogs bite people.”  In fact, most dogs that integrated in their community–your family– don’t bite people unprovoked.   Yet there is a thousand years of dealing with wolves and dogs that indicate that you have to show caution at first.  Dogs can rip your throat out.

And, while I know no one likes to be compared to dogs, it comes into play here.  This comment from the above article cuts to the heart of the matter:

My father recently said he doesn’t like the way women “study” men, how we’re always trying to figure out what men are thinking and asking them what they’re feeling. He seemed to have the crazy idea that we do this for fun or because we’re just nMy faturally nosy. I scoffed and when he asked me, “Okay, WHY do women do this?” I responded calmly with, “Because you kill us.” That’s right lads, it’s just a good old fashioned survival mechanism honed by thousands of years of evolution. Being “tuned in” to you is, simply, a strategy to keep you from slaughtering us. Not always terribly effective, obviously, but since we got totally ripped off in the upper body strength department we work with what we have.

Sure, women can be brutal too, and women can be strong.  Furthermore, as my conservative friends like to tell me, guns are an equalizer (however, at equalizer that in mass shootings and whatnot women in general seem to opt not to use). Still, I have known no women living in a city who have not be cat-called.  The number of women who I know have been sexual assaulted in some way is ridiculously high.   Most women know it’s at most 10% of men who would do these things outright.   But let us be honest, there is a physical and social power dynamic here, and neither truly work out in a woman’s favor.

So let’s recap, whenever you feel the urge to say “it’s not all x” where that x is something that  you are, shut up. Everyone actually knows that if they are not bigots or highly damaged–and if either is the case, you can not do much about that by merely asserting something anyway.  You do more for yourself by realizing not everything is about you and meeting people where they are.

And particularly in these issues about violence against women:  there are thousands of years of social and biological forces that are at play here.  Be a grow-up, and learn for a minute, listen.  After you have done that, sure, you can disagree about some theoretical or social point–although really you should probably discuss that at a different time and in a different context.  But face the facts: most violence against women is by men.  Sure, yeah, female culture can be brutal, and honestly women are just as good as perpetuating anti-female cultural traditions as men are at enforcing them. Perhaps even better, but specifically when it comes to violence, it is overwhelmingly male.   Everyone knows that it is not all men;  hell, it is probably not most men.  That is not the point.  Think about the way you approach a predatory animal that is pet that is also a beloved member of someone’s family.  You do so with caution, or, at least, few would blame you for doing so.

We realize that Elliot Rodgers is to women in the USA as to what Anders Breivik to liberals and Muslims in the nordic countries.  Rare and delusional, but symptomatic.

But it’s still not really about YOU except that if you mean what you say about it “not being all men,” be respectful and shut your mouth for a minute.

While we are talking about Elliot Rodgers and PUAs who want to be “Alpha Men.” The MRA/PUA conception of wolf pack hierarchies–which don’t apply to primates who have even more complicated social relations–is wrong.  Sorry, as a friend on the internet pointed out to me, wolves are actually more enlightened than dudes who want to be “alphas.”



Michael Moore, the state of fear, and why half-truths should not be why you give up the gun..

I made the mistake of clicking on something that Michael Moore said on facebook–you can feel my compounding my own foolishness–and then reading the comments worldwide congratulating Moore for speaking the truth. Here is what he said:

With due respect to those who are asking me to comment on last night’s tragic mass shooting at UCSB in Isla Vista, CA — I no longer have anything to say about what is now part of normal American life. Everything I have to say about this, I said it 12 years ago: We are a people easily manipulated by fear which causes us to arm ourselves with a quarter BILLION guns in our homes that are often easily accessible to young people, burglars, the mentally ill and anyone who momentarily snaps. We are a nation founded in violence, grew our borders through violence, and allow men in power to use violence around the world to further our so-called American (corporate) “interests.” The gun, not the eagle, is our true national symbol. While other countries have more violent pasts (Germany, Japan), more guns per capita in their homes (Canada [mostly hunting guns]), and the kids in most other countries watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games that our kids play, no one even comes close to killing as many of its own citizens on a daily basis as we do — and yet we don’t seem to want to ask ourselves this simple question: “Why us? What is it about US?” Nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males. None of them are committed by the majority gender, women. Hmmm, why is that? Even when 90% of the American public calls for stronger gun laws, Congress refuses — and then we the people refuse to remove them from office. So the onus is on us, all of us. We won’t pass the necessary laws, but more importantly we won’t consider why this happens here all the time. When the NRA says, “Guns don’t kill people — people kill people,” they’ve got it half-right. Except I would amend it to this: “Guns don’t kill people — Americans kill people.” Enjoy the rest of your day, and rest assured this will all happen again very soon.

Now, I am actually strongly to the left on Michael Moore on both economics and culture. I have no problem with moderate gun control, although I wish people would quit cherrypicking countries were it has worked (Korea, Japan, Canada) and ignoring countries were it has not (Mexico, Russia). Or even cities in the US where moderate reforms worked (New York City) versus places where they did not (Washington, DC).

But here is the problem with what Michael Moore has said: Most of it is false.

1) “We are a nation founded in violence, grew our borders through violence, and allow men in power to use violence around the world to further our so-called American (corporate) ‘interests.'”

This is true in a sense, but completely superficial. Moore is trying to make it appear that the USA is uniquely violent in its history. This is false, no modern nation state that I can think of did not come into its modern incarnation except through war of conquest, imperialism, or national liberation. While the later may be justified, they are all violent.

2) “While other countries have more violent pasts (Germany, Japan), more guns per capita in their homes (Canada [mostly hunting guns]), and the kids in most other countries watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games that our kids play, no one even comes close to killing as many of its own citizens on a daily basis as we do”

This is so wrong, it is hard to believe it is not an out and out politically motivated lie. Do not believe me, looks look at what UNODC has to say on it:


 Honduras 91.6 7,104 Americas Central America
 Venezuela 79.0[10] 24,783 Americas South America
 El Salvador 69.2 4,308 Americas Central America
 Ivory Coast 56.9 10,801 Africa Western Africa
 Belize 41.4 129 Americas Central America
 Jamaica 40.9 1,125 Americas Caribbean
 U.S. Virgin Islands 39.2 43 Americas Caribbean
 Guatemala 38.5 5,681 Americas Central America
 Saint Kitts and Nevis 38.2 20 Americas Caribbean
 Zambia 38.0 4,710 Africa Eastern Africa
 Bahamas 36.6 127 Americas Caribbean
 Uganda 36.3 11,373 Africa Eastern Africa
 Malawi 36.0 5,039 Africa Eastern Africa
 Lesotho 35.2 764 Africa Southern Africa
 South Africa 31.8 15,940 Africa Southern Africa
 Trinidad and Tobago 31.3 407[8] Americas Caribbean
 Colombia 30.8 14,670+ Americas South America
 Congo 30.8 1,180 Africa Middle Africa
 Central African Republic 29.3 1,240 Africa Middle Africa
 Puerto Rico 26.2 983 Americas Caribbean
 Ethiopia 25.5 20,239 Africa Eastern Africa
 Saint Lucia 25.2 44 Americas Caribbean
 Dominican Republic 25.0 2,513 Americas Caribbean
 Tanzania 24.5 10,357 Africa Eastern Africa
 Sudan 24.2 10,028++ Africa Northern Africa
 Mexico 23.7 27,199+ Americas North America
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 22.9 25 Americas Caribbean
 Guinea 22.5 2,152 Africa Western Africa
 Dominica 22.1 15 Americas Caribbean
 Brazil 21.8 42,785 Americas South America
 Democratic Republic of the Congo 21.7 13,558 Africa Middle Africa
 Panama 21.6 759 Americas Central America
 Equatorial Guinea 20.7 137 Africa Middle Africa
 Guinea-Bissau 20.2 294 Africa Western Africa
 Kenya 20.1 7,733 Africa Eastern Africa
 Kyrgyzstan 20.1 1,072 Asia Central Asia
 Cameroon 19.7 3,700 Africa Middle Africa
 Montserrat 19.7 1 Americas Caribbean
 Greenland 19.2 11 Europe Northern Europe
 Angola 19.0 3,426 Africa Middle Africa
 Guyana 18.6 140 Americas South America
 Ecuador 18.2 2,638 Americas South America
 Burkina Faso 18.0 2,876 Africa Western Africa
 Eritrea 17.8 879 Africa Eastern Africa
 Namibia 17.2 352 Africa Southern Africa
 Rwanda 17.1 1,708 Africa Eastern Africa
 Chad 15.8 1,686 Africa Middle Africa
 Ghana 15.7 3,646 Africa Western Africa
 North Korea 15.2 3,658 Asia Eastern Asia
Benin 15.1 1,262 Africa Western Africa
 Sierra Leone 14.9 837 Africa Western Africa
 Mauritania 14.7 485 Africa Western Africa
 Botswana 14.5 287 Africa Southern Africa
 Zimbabwe 14.3 1,775 Africa Eastern Africa
 Gabon 13.8 200 Africa Middle Africa
 French Guiana 13.3 30 Americas South America
 Papua New Guinea 13.0 854 Oceania Melanesia
 Swaziland 12.9 141 Africa Southern Africa
 Nicaragua 12.6 738 Americas Central America
 Bermuda 12.3 8 Americas Northern America
 Comoros 12.2 85 Africa Eastern Africa
 Nigeria 12.2 18,422 Africa Western Africa
 Cape Verde 11.6 56 Africa Western Africa
 Grenada 11.5 12 Americas Caribbean
 Paraguay 11.5 741 Americas South America
 Barbados 11.3 31 Americas Caribbean
 Togo 10.9 627 Africa Western Africa
 Gambia 10.8 106 Africa Western Africa
 Peru 10.3 2,969 Americas South America
 Myanmar 10.2 4,800 Asia South-Eastern Asia
 Liberia 10.1 371 Africa Western Africa
 Costa Rica 10.0 474 Americas Central America
 Nauru 9.8 1 Oceania Micronesia
 Russia 9.7 13,826 Europe Eastern Europe
 Bolivia 8.9 884 Americas South America
 Kazakhstan 8.8 1,418 Asia Central Asia
 Mongolia 8.7 239 Asia Eastern Asia
 Senegal 8.7 1,027 Africa Western Africa
 Turks and Caicos Islands 8.7 3 Americas Caribbean
 British Virgin Islands 8.6 2 Americas Caribbean
 Cayman Islands 8.4 5 Americas Caribbean
 Seychelles 8.3 7 Africa Eastern Africa
 Indonesia 8.1 18,963 Asia South-Eastern Asia
 Madagascar 8.1 1,588 Africa Eastern Africa
Mali 8.0 1,157 Africa Western Africa
 Pakistan 7.8 13,860+ Asia Southern Asia
 Moldova 7.5 267 Europe Eastern Europe
 Kiribati 7.3 7 Oceania Micronesia
 Guadeloupe 7.0 32 Americas Caribbean
 Haiti 6.9 689 Americas Caribbean
 Timor-Leste 6.9 75 Asia South-Eastern Asia
 Anguilla 6.8 1 Americas Caribbean
 Antigua and Barbuda 6.8 6 Americas Caribbean
 Lithuania 6.6 219 Europe Northern Europe
 Uruguay 5.9 199 Americas South America
 Argentina 5.5 2237 Americas South America
 Philippines 5.4 4,947 Asia South-Eastern Asia
 Estonia 5.2 70 Europe Northern Europe
 Ukraine 5.2 2,356 Europe Eastern Europe
 Cuba 5.0 563 Americas Caribbean
 Belarus 4.9 473 Europe Eastern Europe
 Thailand 4.8 3,307 Asia South-Eastern Asia
 United States 4.8 14,173 Americas Northern America

Source. and Here.

Whole regions of the world have more homicide than the US. How can it be number 1 in letting it citizens die in these kinds of ways?

But let’s limit it to OECD countries:  Here the US is an outlier with some BIG exceptions which are Estonia and Mexico which the writer deliberately left out of the data set as well as Brazil and Russia, which the author does not acknowledge she left out. But accepting the death rates, this is still very misleading. According to the OECD safety index, the US is actually in good standing with the best on overall assaults. In fact, one of the safest countries in the OECD.  It just if something DOES happen, you are more likely to die.   Furthermore, the largest portion of the gun violence in the US is suicide.  It accounts for about 60% of all gun-related deaths.

All this is a good argument for reasonable limits on handgun purchases; however, none of it implies that US has a unique culture of violence that worships guns.

So if we limit to mass shootings, are they getting worse?

No. if you look at the last three and a half decades


Read the Daily Beast Covering the Department of Statistics. Mass shootings have been flat since the 70s.

Is the US alone in having Mass shootings? Which Moore does not state, but does imply.


Nor, apparently, would most of the laws related to this gun control or even mental health do much about the mass shooters we do have?

. Sensible gun laws, affordable mental-health care, and reasonable security measures are all worthwhile, and would enhance the well being of millions of Americans. We shouldn’t, however, expect such efforts to take a big bite out of mass murder. Of course, a nibble or two would be reason enough.


Are mass shootings rare?

Despite what both Mother Jones and the Washington post say, yes.  I agree with both Mother Jones on the number, it is 61 in 30 countries.    I also agree that 1 is too many. However, Ezra Klein’s claim that 62 mass shootings make them not rare is pretty misleading.  As Bloomberg reports: 

The mass slaughters listed in the report caused the deaths of 547 people. Over the same three decades through 2012, that’s less than a tenth of 1 percent of the 559,347 people the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates were murdered in America.


The homicide rate in the US is 7 per 100,ooo varying a lot by region and county.  The population was roughly 227,224,00 1 in 1980 and is estimated at 310,232,863 in 2010.  Figuring that out per year, the percentage is something like 1 in 133 of being murdered.  The chance you will be murdered in a mass shooting is less than .01 percent of that.  I count that as rare.

I agree that the majority of the mass shooters are white men, but not disproportionately so like David Sirota suggested and Michael Moore has repeated on other occasions. In fact, Salon’s article on mass shooting by Andrew O’Hehir points out:

I’m not suggesting this is good news, but the stereotype that these kinds of shooters are invariably white men is less true than it used to be. In the last decade or so, almost every possible demographic has been represented: There have been two infamous campus shootings by Asian graduate students, one by a Native American teenager living on a Minnesota reservation, and a couple by African-Americans and Latinos. Overall, 43 of the 61 shooters in mass killings since 1982 have been white, which is only a little higher than the proportion of whites in the general population.

Sadly, the shooting in California this weekend follows the trend and also points out the increasing complicated notion of white identity.  The man involved in his PUA-sounding, racist, hate-filled screed is clearly motivated by notions of both Asian and White supremacy, so it can’t be ruled out.  However, he was bi-racial.  As hispanics also increasingly identify white, it becomes clear that the social category of whiteness itself is changing in a way that makes even demarcating what does and does not account more difficult.

One can say that it is, however, almost all men committing this kind of violence.

Still, we don’t have evidence of a culture of violence that is unique to the US.

What about school shootings?  Are they worse?




You will notice that the period around Columbine was actually a low point for school homicides.   There was a spike in 2007 for reasons I do not understand. You will notice that like with mass shootings there is not a lot of sense to the numbers. The trend after 1998 is down, but with severe but brief spikes.

So if the net trend in school shootings is down, and mass shootings seem to randomly cluster, how do we have any idea what this is actually saying about violence?

To Moore’s next problem
3) “Even when 90% of the American public calls for stronger gun laws, Congress refuses — and then we the people refuse to remove them from office. So the onus is on us, all of us.”

One, Moore’s wrong about it being 90%. At the most charitable reading, it is more like 70%.IF you approach a total ban, most polls put it at 20-30%. Here’s Gallup putting it at 27% in 2011 for an example. Still it does seem like the majority favor more restrictions on purchase and a national database. That brings me to two, how does it stand to reason that if a majority supports gun control, and congress is not responsive, how is that on the American people?

Like during the Roman Republic, where patronage made the Senate completely unresponsive to popular demand, the rich have a hugely disproportionate amount of influence. 

A recent survey funded by the Russell Sage Foundation found that the policy preferences of the wealthy (average income over $1 million annually) vary widely from those of the general public. As Table 1 shows below, this survey found that the general public is more open than the wealthy to a variety of policies designed to reduce inequality and strengthen economic opportunity, including: raising the minimum wage, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit, providing generous unemployment benefits, and directly creating jobs. For example, only 40 percent of the wealthy think the minimum wage should be high enough to prevent full-time workers from being in poverty while 78 percent of the general public holds this view. Affluent voters are also less supportive of labor unions and less likely to support laws that make it easier for workers to join unions—even as research shows that unions are crucial to enabling people to work their way into the middle class.

Representative Democracy, after all, is not particularly democratic,  and, frankly, it never has been.  Add to this low voter turn-out, highly motivated primary voters, and industry money.  There is no evidence that getting a new round of politicians in.  Furthermore, and this is unique to the US, there is no way to easily change the entire legislature over at once given that only 1/3 of the Senate is ever up for election at a time.

Sorry, Michael, that seems like victim blaming.

I know the moral outrage makes everyone feel good and feel good to agree with it in indignation or to denounce as a communist plot.  Reality, however, supports none of that.  Frankly, if you really wanted to get gun violence down, end the drug war, have a national gun registry, and work on unionization or some form of minimum income.   Violence may be cultural, but culture has historical and material causes.  You deal with the context instead of trying to shame people.

Also, for a person talking about how American fear is poisonous, Moore engages in a whole lot of fear-mongering.


Today’s interesting reading: PSTD, Ultranationalist, Myths, and Rex Stout, Oh My.

Ancient warrior myths help veterans fight PTSD

Many people in the audience are surprised that these classic battle stress symptoms are thousands of years old. “By using an ancient text, we’re trying to create a safe distance,” Doerries said. According to John Klocek, a psychology professor at Baylor University who treated PTSD at the VA for years, letting veterans know that PTSD is an ancient condition might also help remove the stigma around it.

Contextualization and integration into a social narrative helps relieve PSTD. I wonder if this could be used to have traumatized women or those getting out of drug-war related gang violence, etc. , not just war vets.

European far-right bloc collapses :

Italian MEP Alessandra Mussolini, the grand-daughter of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, reportedly described Romanians as “habitual law-breakers”.

Italy recently expelled 20 Romanians following a spate of violent crimes.

The resignations take the bloc’s membership below the minimum required for a grouping in the parliament.

The European parliament only grants official status to political groups that can claim a minimum of 20 members from at least five countries.

Well, the good thing about nationalists in an international forum is that their nationalism blocks unified effort. It is still a bad sign for European Parliamentary legitimacy, but there are a bunch of center-right parties breathing a little less hurried because the ultra-nationalists can not get over their ethnic tensions first. At least, they have not in the past from 2007 to current. Still, all indicators say the mood about the EU outside of Germany is pretty profoundly negative in most member countries.

Also related: Meet your ultra-nationalists.

ITUC Report: S. Korea near the bottom of the global pile on worker rights

Park, the daughter of the last dictator of South Korea, has made things worse, and it was never great in South Korea on this front. There were Unions, but they had about the power of the Unions in the Southern US (which is to say, very little). I used to get tired of expats complaining about work conditions when I lived there as if they were being discriminated against–and they were sometimes, but generally they were actually treated better than their Korean counterparts. Work culture in Korea is just difficult for a OECD country.

Rex Stout on Writing .

Just some friendly advice.

‘I Am a Secular Christian,’ Richard Dawkins Admits

As an atheist, I have always been amazed that until about two or three years ago, how much the cultural Anglicanism and some the attendant misreadings of Muslims and Catholics that were lifted directly from Protestant polemic got a pass in Dawkins.

Colleges Rattled as Obama Seeks Rating System

The rating system, which the president called for in a speech last year and is under development, would compare schools on factors like how many of their students graduate, how much debt their students accumulate and how much money their students earn after graduating. Ultimately, Mr. Obama wants Congress to agree to use the ratings to allocate the billions in federal student loans and grants. Schools that earn a high rating on the government’s list would be able to offer more student aid than schools at the bottom.

While I agree with the diagnosis, the solution is similar to the accountability solutions offered to Secondary Schools, and we have seen how that has played out. Gains are hard to measure, but poor and minority achievement gaps made gains until 1997 and then stopped. School reforms which are specifically targeted at this very problem have not made inroads since the reform movement itself started in late 1990s.

Euro blues

The first thing to say about the elections to the European parliament is that the turnout across Europe was almost exactly the same as in the last time in 2009 at 43%. Despite the campaigns of anger by the Eurosceptic and far right parties against the EU, voters continued to show a lack of interest in the EU parliament and doubt that EU institutions were relevant to their lives. The NO VOTE party won again. Voter turnout has steadily fallen since 1979 when it was 62% with the no vote party starting to win from 1999 when the euro emerged. . . .

Public opinion pollsters have found that, of those who voted for the likes of UKIP or the FN, about one-third were just fed up with all the main parties and another 10% were protesting against the existing government. In France, apparently over 40% of white working class voters went for the FN. Yes, there is a layer of voters who are anti-immigrant, nationalist and even racist. But this layer remains relatively small in the broad sweep of things. Take the UKIP vote in the UK. Of those who voted in the UK EU election, nearly three-quarters voted for other parties and less than one in ten who could have voted did so for UKIP. Similarly even in France, only one in nine voted for the FN.

So you have the emergence of something like the Tea Party being supported by generalized anger at the main parties and a heavy dose of Euro-skepticism more than nationalism. That seems to be the trend.

Piketty, data and the scientific method

That rare breed, a Marxist economist, takes a serious look at Piketty and Chris Giles’s critique of Piketty’s numbers. As one would expect–or perhaps not given the number of right-wing magazines who paint Piketty as the second coming of Marx (who Piketty has admitted to not studying particularly deeply)–Robert’s has a very mixed take on both the book and the critique.

A Textbook Case of Charter Skimming

Charters acting corrupt and getting high needs students off their enrollment… well, I never!

Bad Faith and Deadwood

I was watching Deadwood today with my partner today–two things shocked me when watching it that I didn’t notice the first time I watched it when I was in college:  the race relations are obviously strained but the contempt is a community bond.  The way having someone to spit on keeps the fact that you are precarious and being spit on yourself seem easier to take.   The show being an HBO production obviously overplays this for shock value, and a lot of the people involved are probably not even thinking the problematic of the situation out.   It is refreshing, however, for poverty to be show as ugly and spiteful as desperation makes people.  In situations like that “race”–or more precisely ethnicity–stops and fills the gaps.   The ugliness of poverty doesn’t excuse it, and the proximity between poor people makes that hatred harder to maintain, but the structures are their to maintain it.  That is in the fictive subconscious of the show.

Racialism is the last hope for those who, at root, have very little.  Racism may be endemic in both its structural and individual forms in all classes at all times of stress, but racialism is turning that frustration and foolish reaction into a political ideology.  It is a way to imagine a kinship the way border creates the imagined community.  Deadwood, after all, has no formal borders and as such this is likely to be rampant.

This brings up UKIP, the National Front, the Tea Party, etc.   It is not that these voters are the most disadvantaged–they feel besieged.  They look around, and being that they can’t get to the people actually besieging them.  Well, aren’t those brown people over there more than you remember?   Honestly, one of the strange things about Euro-racialism is that it puts the lie to the American binaries:   Why would Farrage care about Poles and Romanians?   The Slavs are more religious, more skeptical of socialism, and more distrust of central Asian immigration according the stereotypes these things are made of.  I mean, from a reactionary stand-point, it would seem like the ideal “white person.”   Of course, this is nonsense.   You have to kick someone and those Slavic peoples are the exotic people with an EU passport.

As I write this, I just saw that the National Front won the Euro-elections in France, UKIP lost council percentage in local elections but won the Euro-elections in the UK, and the Danish People’s Party grew in size.   It is sad when you wish people could learn from a HBO historical exploitation drama. Are all these parties racist?   I doubt all the voters for them are, but nationalism is always based on exclusion and this kind of nationalism is the blood and soil variety. Draw your own conclusions.

Conversely, UKIP did not do as well as predicted in local elections–loosing a percentage of council seats. Anyway, my liberal and left friends will need to ask things about the situation they are been unable to alter or deliver on, and what that will be mean for them.  The numbers are complicated.

Back to the television show, nominally.

The other shocking thing about Deadwood is the way the show treats women.  Some of it is exploitative writing, but it is also very realistic in showing the twisted way male-female violence distorts everyone’s emotions, and ruins the women involved.  What I noticed, however, is the bad faith most of the men have towards women.  That reminded me, for some reason, of an article I read this morning about MRAs.   While not the same as the kind of abuse you see on Deadwood, the entitlement and focus on interrupting and interfering.. and thus controlling is definitely there.   The talk about “men’s issues” seems to be bad faith.

What do I mean about bad faith:  What ever issues I might have with a specific type of feminism–as there are many and we should not lump them together all the time as if “feminism” was this monolith of an abstraction that could enforce uniform beliefs–MRAs I see are the ideological manifestation of a butthurt ego at best and more generally hatred of women.  Why do I say that?  To focus on derailing.  The lack of theoretical grounding.  Feminism has competing theoretical groundworks because there are many different ideas to parse out multiple ways to look at it.  MRA does not have this.  There is no theory and little praxis other than showing up on feminist blogs and maybe posting to Return of Kings or the defunct In Mala Fide–and probably participating in Pick-up Artist forms. I have met a few men who flirt with some of Men’s Rights ideas because of a particularly unfair divorce, or what have you, but generally, those guys either man-up and see through it or they become hateful douchebags.  

The concerns such a male-on-male rape seem lost in the actual trolling concerned.  Furthermore, one of the reasons male rape is not taken seriously is that rape is seen as feminizing, so this whole “cover-up of male-rape because of the dominance of women” seems to be rooted in a profound hostility to femininity in the first place. It is not somehow a sign of the dominance of a feminist cabal.   Sometimes MRA’s like my writing, sadly, because of a critique of Stand-point epistemology or a rant about “the end of men” arguments of Hanna Rosin. They eventually realize that I like many feminist thinkers even if I am wary of a man, like myself, donning a feminist mantel.

Like in Deadwood, however, the reason for all the derailing and controlling are often lost on those doing them. The saloon owners convince themselves they love one of the “girls.”  The MRA convince themselves that they are aimed at men’s issues instead of just derailing.