Morning Ed: Politics {2018.NYD}

[Po1] Courteous malevolence. One of the weird thing about my Twitter experience are some of the lovely people I’ve gotten to know with these wicked right-wing streaks on some issues or others that prevent me from recommending them to others. To be clear, they’re not Nazis or anything. But it can still be jarring.

[Po2] I am increasingly skeptical of articles that include the phrase “Social Justice Warriors” but I thought this piece by Thomas Varnke about the desire of some to link every social justice issue to the premier ones from yesterday was a worthwhile read.

[Po3] Everybody knows the Internet is driving us apart. But what if it isn’t?

[Po4] Jonathan Bernstein looks at the Virginia Tie and sees reasons against majoritarianism. I disagree with him on some of the specifics (I don’t favor the filibuster), but his point of conflating “democracy” as “majority rule” (and suggesting anything anything besides majority rule is minority rule) is solid.

[Po5] I thought the term “snowflake” had been around forever, but Chuck Palahniuk takes credit for inventing it. Meh. I’m not sure about that. The concept of everyone being as unique as a snowflake had been around for a while, and it was a pretty intuitive step from there to its current usage.

[Po6] The one takeaway from 2016 that seems like it might be the most long-term significant is the education divide. We are exactly one election removed from education being a poor predictor of R vs D, but there is a bit of a destiny feel about it that will lead to no good. {More}

[Po7] Reapportionment looks to benefit the south, with Florida and Texas in particular. Montana had better get that second seat, is all I’m saying.

[Po8] The economy is doing great. Why isn’t it helping Trump? The economy wasn’t the only reason he was elected, of course (there were, ahem, others), but perhaps his appeal rather depended on things going poorly. What use does an America that’s “Great Again” have for a doomsayer.

[Po9] This is a good look at Trump’s judicial nominations and why he’s done so well at the appellate level and so poorly at the trial one.

[Po0]


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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61 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Politics {2018.NYD}

  1. Po1 – Complaints about “normalizing” evil usually come from the secular left. The right and especially the religious right have an intuitive understanding of what this article says. Evil isn’t “out there”. It’s not that someone like you would commit atrocities, it’s that you would.

    There’s a tangent to this that I’ve been thinking about, but it’s still taking shape in my head. The secular left is ill-equipped to understand how to respond to sin because they only acknowledge maybe two or three sins. That’s why they go from 0 to 60 when you misuse a pronoun or tell a joke.

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    • I think its more that for most of our modern history the left has tended to view injustice as the result of structural forces, not personal behavior.

      So racism, for example, is the inevitable result of laws and systems. And erasing racism is simply a matter of becoming “enlightened” or as the kids say nowadays, “woke”.

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        • Agreed, and in this regard I think the left can learn a lot from religion.

          Not from the pronouncements of the religious, so much as by observing the thousands of years of argument and struggle and failure to identify justice and how best to accomplish it.

          For example, there are a spate of articles currently about how “good men” can react to #metoo and be an ally.

          What many of these revolve around or touch on lightly is how the sin of objectifying others is, like all sin, never far from us and is in fact woven into our humanity. The best we can do is to be constantly aware of the gravitation pull and resist it.
          All the prayer wheel spinning, rosary fondling, bowing and chanting in religion is an attempt to do this.

          With mixed results, of course.

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          • The difference in persuasive power between “I have found The Truth and you need to change!” and “I have found The Truth and I need to change!” when it comes to getting other people to believe that maybe they need to change is something that every fresh-faced group of religious nutballs needs to discover anew.

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        • I think the issue correctly is that it doesn’t matter how many citizens are personally enlightened but if the structure remains systematically racist and oppressive than the enlightenment doens’t matter.

          Erik Loomis on LGM has a tendency to annoy a lot of people for strident hectoring moralizing. I can be one of them frequently but I don’t think he is exactly wrong. There is so much structural racism in the United States that it forces people who want to be good and might not be racist into making racist choices. The whole thing is one big clusterfuck that seems impossible to unravel.

          A frequent version of this for Erik Loomis is school funding and school choice in general. Generally, public schools in middle-class and upper-middle class suburbs tend to be very good. Public schools in cities tend to be very bad (with the exception that every city has a handful of really good public high schools where there is more demand than supply). Despite some demographic changes, suburban public schools tend to be white (with significant Asian populations in some parts of the country) and urban public schools tend to be filled with people of color and need to be just as much about social work as education. Lots of urban public school children still need free or subsidized meals so they can get some food.

          So lots of progressives who might sincerely not want to end up making a racist choice when it comes to educating their kids. They either move to the largely or totally white suburb with the good schools or they stay in cities but send their kids to private school. This is because very few people are willing to be saint at the expense of their children.

          Now Erik Loomis can be hectoring about this and annoying because he seems to be child-free but it doesn’t make him wrong unfortunately. Our absolutely bonkers way of funding schools doesn’t help either.

          And as I’ve noticed before, even when you have white and liberal parents choosing to send their kids to urban public schools, it ends up being a fight about what the school should be doing for children. This can also happen in suburban schools. Allegedly lots of Silicon Valley high schools have fights between Asian and White parents where the white parents think the Asian parents want too much STEM and are creating pressure cooker situations. How much of this is cultural stereotyping is hard to say but it does seem to involve a lot.

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      • That doesn’t quite follow. If racism is a result of laws and systems, you can’t simply
        get rid of it in society with myriad individual instances of becoming woke. You need to change the law and systems in order to get rid of racism and that isn’t going to happen without a mass enlightenment. Even with a mass enlightenment, there will be a debate on what laws and systems are racist, how to get rid of them, and what to replace them with.

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      • I’ve been watching quite a bit of the “skeptic” community on Youtube lately – Sargon of Akkad, Chris Ray Gun, Matt Christiansen, et cetera. It’s striking how many of the anti-“SJW”, anti-feminist, anti-Islam people are left-leaning atheists. Also striking that they aren’t “alt-right” but don’t run away from people who so identify. Basically, they’re the people that you alluded to. They rebel against the only religion they can find, the modern liberal zeitgeist.

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    • I think many people on the Left, especially if they are class-oriented or grew up in certain genteel environments, understand that you can be perfectly charming and a moral monster. Being raised in a sort of genteel behavior is considered obligatory in some environments.

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    • That the “secular left” freaks out over a pronoun or joke is a gross misstatement for one thing. The people who do that kind of thing tend to be the noisiest SJW’s. Those groups share some members but the secular left has been around long enough to be castigated by Moral Majority types. Speaking as a person who has never been a believer and whose mother’s family were polish jews not all of whom escaped Europe it has always been quite obvious that nice, sweet, normal looking people can be deeply evil. It’s really not a surprise at all.

      If there has ever been a section of people sure they are pure and Good and Right it has been hardcore evengelical Christians. Some SJW’s today seem to match that self-righteousness and sureness. But like most things the people, in both those groups, who see in the media and the net are the ones who want to evangelize or want to be in front of the camera. The people you meet in your everyday life, if you do, can offer lack the faults that being loud bring.

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      • “While it’s true that my ideological side does have a handful of poorly behaved outliers, these are not representative of the group as a whole. Unlike my ideological opponents, where these same behaviors are representative.”

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        • Aside from Mike’s obvious response you also missed my second para. To a degree what people think about SJW’s and hard core Evangelical Christians is based on who they hear about in the media which gives a distorted impression. Certainly some of the worst stereotypes about those groups have some truth though most of what people know about SJW’s is through often overheated and biased news pieces about distant people and we’ve been hearing directly from SoCon’s since the 80’s on their own tv shows.

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          • But this is Jaybird and he still has the Southern Baptist in him despite his atheism. He will always defend the cultural resentments of the Palin and Trump voter because once a college student sneered a truck driver for not knowing about Roland Barthes. Hence the Democratic Party will always be awful.

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          • The great thing about our new era of social media is that now we can personally witness dogpiles on these distant people on our own screens in real time.

            We can watch our own micro-celebrities get micro-aggressed by faceless pseudonyms. We can see people say “RIP my mentions!” on twitter or get downvoted “to oblivion” on Reddit or see whatever the tumblr/facebook equivalent is.

            Technically identical to this happening to distant people, but it feels so much more immediate when you, yes you, are actually witnessing the count change with your own eyes and maybe you, yes you, contributed to the dogpile by subtweeting or downvoting or whatever the tumblr/facebook equivalent is.

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              • I agree that the internet was a lot better when you needed to be at least *THIS* good with technology to participate but next thing you know, Gateway had a $999 computer and Windows 95 was easy enough to use that even Gramma could do it and AOL brought the ‘tubes into everybody’s house and, next thing you know, people evolved from making fun of folks with five digit Slashdot numbers to making fun of folks with six digit Slashdot numbers to making jokes about people with seven digit Slashdot numbers to people who have never even heard of Slashdot.

                Anyway, the internet has changed a lot of things. Perhaps a better way to say it is that these things have “evolved” in response to the internet (while a lot of other things haven’t changed at all, yet).

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  2. Po7: What surprises me when I look at the historical data from 1970 is how uneven the South (as defined by the Census Bureau) has been. Florida, Georgia, and Texas have, of course, all made large gains. Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia have all lost a seat. Louisiana has lost two. Many of the 2020 forecasts call for Alabama to lose a seat, and West Virginia a second.

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      • Yeah, probably. Ignoring the states that didn’t change over that 40 years, the Midwest had only losing states. Same for the Northeast. The West is all gainers (except for poor Montana, of course). Only the South has both several gainers and several losers.

        I was reading a short piece the other day that said in 2000 Alabama was headquarters for twelve Fortune 1000 and seven Fortune 500 companies. By 2016 that had dropped to three and one respectively.

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        • Was that because the companies moved or because between 2000 and 2016 there was a gimungous amount of churn in the members of the Fortune 1000 and Fortune 500?

          I mean, sure, if the companies relocated, that’s one thing.

          But if Buggy Whips Unlimited was a Fortune 500 Company in 2000 and it wasn’t in the Fortune 1000 in 2016 but it’s still up’n going and still in Alabama, I’m not sure what that demonstrates but it’s not the same thing as if they moved to California (or Singapore) to get better Buggy Whip leverage.

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          • An interesting “research” question.

            The largest source of the decline was (unsurprisingly) M&A. Regions Financial, the remaining Fortune 500 company, sat in exactly the same spot (453rd) in 2016 as it did in 2000, despite absorbing the other banks on the 2000 list, and some from out-of-state. Some Alabama HQs disappeared to out-of-state acquisitions. (The problem with M&A is that so many of the HQ-level jobs of the acquired company disappear, with ripple effects.) One shrank dramatically after its CEO and CFO were convicted of major accounting fraud. A couple moved out-of-state without being acquired.

            For comparison, over the same period the number of Colorado Fortune 1000 companies shrank from 15 to 13. Like Alabama, several of the companies on the list in 2000 disappeared to M&A. Unlike Alabama, multiple companies moved their HQs to Colorado, and several companies grew enough to make the 2016 list.

            Almost certainly related in some fashion, over that window of time Colorado went from 125K fewer people than Alabama to 700K more.

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            • Corporate HQ moves over the last 15 years or so though don’t typically involve most of the executive jobs moving. When Boeing moved to Chicago, it brought 400 jobs out of 1000. ADM moved 70 jobs. About 300 Caterpillar HQ jobs are estimated to be moving soon, though it looks like CAT is going to the suburbs. Part of the reason to relocate to Chicago (and probably Denver) has more to do with the proximity of a large international airport, because a lot of people will be traveling most of the time. Your correct that these jobs tend to be higher-paying and there are knock-off effects, but I’m not sure that says a lot about Alabama.

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              • It makes a much bigger difference when it’s an M&A move — the majority of what happened in Alabama. Finance, HR, Legal, IT — the combined company gets by with far fewer of that sort of support employees than the two separate companies. When I was working in an M&A-crazy industry, we used to say, not joking at all, “If they say ‘synergy’ when they announce the deal, it means they’ve decided to fire half of the engineering staff.” In one of the Alabama bank acquisitions, the acquiring company was buying customers but not buildings or staff, and one-third of branches were simply closed and the staff let go.

                My interpretation of the overall numbers is that Alabama is struggling to do new things, so striving for efficiency means consolidating the things they already do. As a consequence, their population growth (0.55% over the period in question) trails the US growth rate (0.85%) or the growth rate in Colorado (1.56%). People are voting with their feet. There are all sorts of causal arrows that can be suggested.

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  3. Po2:
    In calling for a more incremental approach, think Thomas Varnke seems to be ignoring the long history of this very argument.

    For example he mentions MLK as a figure of bold clarion vision, in contrast to today’s more complex field of racial issues:

    The moral disputes of Martin Luther King’s time are not analogous to those of our own times, nor are the solutions so easy to articulate. This is partly because King was dealing with a problem that was more obvious and easily addressed than, say, whether or not we should diminish the preponderance of white men in university curricula. He did not, therefore, depend on the arcane speculations of continental philosophy to make his point; rather, he appealed to the basic and universally intelligible idea that skin color is an arbitrary basis on which to determine societal treatment.

    No, it was not more obvious, not at all.
    King was surrounded on all sides, from figures like the softly spoken and politely civil Wm. F. Buckley who earnestly if sorrowfully argued that the Negro was inferior, to other civil rights figures who urged a more incrementalist approach, to more radical figures like Malcom X, to the open racists who spoke with fire hoses and snarling dogs.

    King was successful precisely because he pruned away the moral clutter and nuance, and framed his issue in stark terms.

    It is the compressing effect of history that leads us to view history as simple and obvious, a moral arc like a story, completely different than our complex nuanced world.

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    • more obvious and easily addressed than, say, whether or not we should diminish the preponderance of white men in university curricula

      I think the reason stuff like this falls flat is because the activists calling for fewer white men in a curriculum aren’t making the case clearly. IMHO they need to remember that the people they are trying to reach do not, for the most part, live a life that is seen through a lens of race in the way that they do. I’m white, so I will likely never experience life in the way that a POC does. This doesn’t mean I can’t understand that they do, and that it colors how they experience things, but I won’t know it first hand. Just demanding fewer dead white guys in the ‘dead white guys’ class to study does a bad job of getting this across. Better off asking that everyone be required to take a class examining race and how it impacts people, so students who don’t experience racism can maybe understand how others do, and let that affect how they consume the dead white guys in the ‘dead white guys’ class.

      In short, you gotta help people come to Jesus on their own terms, you can’t force them to.

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      • “You’re protesting the wrong way” was the very argument addressed by the Letter From Birmingham Jail.

        Throughout history, most of the demands by protesters are actually very petty and meaningless.

        The colonists protesting a tea tax, Ghandi protesting the salt monopoly, Rosa Parks protesting having to set at the rear; These were small grievances, and of course there were better more effective methods of accomplishing the end of the tax, the monopoly, the bus regulations. Right at this moment we are seeing a wave of protests across Iran.
        The cause?
        A rise in the price of eggs.

        But the small protest was not the point, any more than changing the ratio of black authors to dead white guys is the point.

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        • Arguing against “you’re protesting the wrong way” is valid if a person is complaining about the method of protest as a cover for objecting to the message. I’m not. I don’t care how they protest, for the most part, as long as the message is heard and understood by the target population.

          If the target population is solely TPTB, and they understand, then I don’t care if the rest of the population is confused or bemused. However, if the target is bemused or confused, or worse, annoyed, then your messaging is bad and needs fixing.

          What Dr. King did was to coalesce all those petty protests into a clearer narrative, one that could be digested. He helped people see how those petty protests were all part of a larger picture, and what that picture was.

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  4. Further Varnke:

    Social Justice Warriors believe that radical cultural parity, not Enlightenment universalism, should constitute the fundamental ideal toward which humanity must strive. Against this is the second view, which runs more or less as follows: particularized forms of identity politics are an artefact of primate psychology—an unnecessary and even potentially dangerous one at that. At the core of this second view is the idea that all humans can be held to universal standards: that wrong in the West is identical to wrong elsewhere…

    In this he exemplifies the very problem that social justice identifies.
    He has no problem asserting un-selfconsciously the idea that “what is wrong in the West is wrong everywhere”.
    Not, lets say, that what is wrong in the Islamic world is wrong everywhere?
    What is wrong in Confucian East is wrong everywhere?

    He calls for “bona fide dialogue”, but only within the strict boundaries of his own worldview.

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    • Varnke would argue that Enlightenment liberalism is what gave way to the current egalitarian-leaning society loved by the Social Justice faction. Feminism, LGBT rights, anti-racism have their origins in universalist enlightenment thought and not in the Confucian East or Islamic World. Therefore, enlightenment universalism is the way to achieve the ends the Social Justice movement claims to be seeking.

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      • Good observation, and that strikes at the core of why conservatives are so mystified by how Social Justice Faction* can simultaneously embrace dignity for gay people and Muslims alike.

        They assume a fundamentalist view of the Enlightenment, where we already possess an exhaustive understanding of the human person and dignity, needing no input or critique from outside the system.

        For example: The original political stance of the gay rights movement in America was essentially a libertarian one straight out of Enlightenment thinking; that is, what people did in their private homes was no one’s business.

        But that left the issue of dignity off the table; It made the status of one’s sexual orientation an individual matter, and left gay people without a way of entering full status as teachers, ministers, married persons and Scout leaders.

        The religious concept that homosexuality was a different method of perfecting the human relationship came from outside the Enlightenment; it was a faith-based approach which ended up being more successful, since it established a new norm.

        The Enlightenment depends heavily on secularism, dare I say Protestantism, where it places religion as an individual act. This is a powerful way to integrate different cultures, but really sidesteps the fundamentally communitarian nature of most of the world’s faith traditions.

        ( *As opposed to those splitters at the Faction for the Liberation of Social Justice)

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        • Social Justice faces the problem in that it is an Enlightenment based movement whether it wants to be or not. I presume that most of them want LGBT people to have the same rights across the world rather than having persecution of LGBT people fine in some places like certain very Protestant African countries or Muslim countries but not fine in the West. At some time they are going to need to conflict that non-Western societies have some problems from the Social Justice point of view.

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  5. Po2: The Social Justice faction would argue that a lot of basic issues need to be worked upon.

    Po4: Bernstein is assuming that the different factions will work together though. If they don’t, you need majoritarianism or a system that forces groups to work together in coalition like parliamentary republics with proportional representation,

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  6. Pizzagate continues to go absolutely bonkers.

    The new theory is partially that thousands of people (including HRC) are under secret arrest and hiding electronic monitor bracelets. It also dragged him John Legend and his wife somehow.

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  7. So has Mitt actually said he’s running for Orin’s seat, or is a whole lot of political twitter currently writing fan (and non-fan) fiction?

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