Month: February 2016

Time of coalitions

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These are strange times in American politics with outsiders like Trump and Sanders gaining momentum. Jeb Bush is out and Super Tuesday could complicate Hillary Clinton. How does it happen? Lefties try to blame everything on neoliberalism but the editorial of The American Conservative says that these ideology is dying. Sanders is un-reconstructed New Deal liberal who calls himself a socialist while Trump is more heterodox probably could be defined as an anti-immigrant moderate. Despite ideology, coalitions would be build thinking in November. Let’s have fun and try to guess.

The Trump Coalition. Last week big news was the endorsement of moderate governor like Chris Christie, but more recently his refusal to disavow white nationalist David Duke has been making reactions both on liberals and conservatives that think is naïve to believe that Trump doesn’t know who is David Duke and what is the Ku Klux Klan. Trump has an appeal on the former supporters of Pat Buchanan, white working class rural Americans but also on certain moderates attracted to a “Dealmaker”, he is even doing well by some polls among Hispanic Republicans. The endorsement of Jane Brewer is very significant, she was a hardliner on immigration and a supporter of Obamacare. In the general election some predict he could gain some independents and if Hillary wins maybe even some Bernie supporters. But if Sanders wins, The Donald would had a hard time, is difficult to be more anti-establishment than an old Jewish socialist.

The racist supporters of Trump coalition add to the rhetoric of its leader could alienate minority voters. The big government plans could scare libertarians. His distrust in foreign interventionism is making neocons panicking. Certainly a candidate with loyal followers and hateful enemies.

The Clinton Coalition. The victory in South Carolina shows that Hillary is strong among African-American community, but Latinos are divided and white progressives are feeling the Bern. Ideologically she is pushing her feminism in search woman voters but may not work after Steinem embracement. She was trying to focus in domestic issues rather than in foreign policy where her hawkishness is out of touch with the mostly dovish Democratic base but Bernie made some punches with her on the matter of having a War Criminal like Henry Kissinger as adviser. Neocons like her and in the case of a Trump victory in the Republican primaries they would support her.

A lot of progressives see her ties to Wall Street as distrustful. A Jewish progressive feminist like Jill Stein running as Green Party candidate could made the things difficult for Hillary and some Sanders supporters had even pledge to not support Hillary in November.

The Anti-Trump Coalition. Donors and party insiders would like us to believe that these is really strong coalition, capable of defeat the populist Trump. But I think that is too late for that, Trump is going to be the nominee. Some are trying to go third party, more explicitly a neocon third party. I wonder how much support it could get. The neocon candidate of the primary was Lindsay Graham who’s polling was an embarrassment, it’s true that candidates like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio were also neocons but their appeal was not necessarily their foreign policy. The position of Trump about Israel is quite interesting, he says he would be neutral on Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Probably some might try to portray him as an anti-Semite but that due to his close ties with Israel that would be hard. The question of a VP could be crucial if neocons are able put one of their own in that position, however Trump has shown he is independent minded and don’t want to be push by anyone.

Some Republican congressman and maybe even some former Presidential candidates could refuse to endorse Trump. Probably even the Bush family would reject The Donald. There had been talks about the future of George P. Bush who currently holds office in Texas but if he decides to endorse Trump, he might have problems in a future, living in a state were Latinos are becoming the majority. Texas is a state where the GOP had been able to gain an important share of the Latino vote but some may find Trump too divisive to support him and emigrate to the Democratic Party. Is very difficult that George W. Bush difficult would support Trump after he accuse him of being responsible of 9/11. That a former GOP president would refuse to endorse a nominee of his own party could be signal of the end of an era.

The Sanders Coalition. While initially he was accused of attracting only male white progressives. He now is leading with young woman and making waves among the Latino community. The endorsements of current congressman are quite diverse ethnically and religiously with Keith Ellison, Raúl Grijalva, Tulsi Gabbard and Peter Welch. The endorsement of Gabbard is particularly interesting because she is of Samoan descent and of Hindu faith. She is not a progressive even by the heterodox American standards having express doubts of the Iran deal and being in the past praised by neocons, however she is the face of shifting demographic.

Some say a Sanders versus Trump race would be socialism versus fascism. America probably will choose socialism, a fascist like FDR had already been elected and even praised by Bernie. If the neocons fail go get a third party a choice between Sanders and The Donald would be tough. On the one hand, Bernie had embrace Military-Industrial Complex, especially wasteful F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin which are assembled in Vermont and Trump is unpredictable, could the neocons join hands with their comrades of the Fourth International, that would been fun to watch. The same reason that maybe even some neocons feel the Bern is the one who scare progressives, Bernie says he is socialist but on foreign policy he has embraced military Keynesianism, that’s why some progressives still if he is Democratic nominee would back Jill Stein in November.

Feminism has no predictive power

Feminism is a nonsense idea because it has no predictive power.

A great example is the a priori belief that there is nothing essential about gender in human beings. We’re all supposed to believe that gender roles are the product of socialization.

How exactly do feminists arrive at a conclusion like this? That isn’t clear, but it’s probably just that they, you know, wanted this to be the case. What is clear that such a belief isn’t true.

There’s lots of ways to prove that such a belief is bullshit, but my favorite is a study about toy preferences among male and female rhesus monkeys strong paralleling those of human boys and girls.

Socialization processes, parents, or peers encouraging play with gender specific toys are thought to be the primary force shaping sex differences in toy preference. A contrast in view is that toy preferences reflect biologically determined preferences for specific activities facilitated by specific toys. Sex differences in juvenile activities, such as rough and tumble play, peer preferences, and infant interest, share similarities in humans and monkeys. Thus if activity preferences shape toy preferences, male and female monkeys may show toy preferences similar to those seen in boys and girls. We compared the interactions of 34 rhesus monkeys, living within a 135 monkey troop, with human wheeled toys and plush toys. Male monkeys, like boys, showed consistent and strong preferences for wheeled toys, while female monkeys, like girls, showed greater variability in preferences. Thus, the magnitude of preference for wheeled over plush toys differed significantly between males and females. The similarities to human findings demonstrate that such preferences can develop without explicit gendered socialization. We offer the hypothesis that toy preferences reflect hormonally influenced behavioral and cognitive biases which are sculpted by social processes into the sex differences seen in monkeys and humans.

Also, check this out.

A new study finds that young females in one group of African chimpanzees use sticks as dolls more than their male peers do, often treating pieces of wood like a mother chimp caring for an infant. In human cultures around the world, girls play with dolls and pretend that the toys are babies far more than boys do.

Ape observations, collected over 14 years of field work with the Kanyawara chimp community in Kibale National Park, provide the first evidence of a nonhuman animal in the wild that exhibits sex differences in how it plays, two primatologists report in the Dec. 21 Current Biology. This finding supports a controversial view that biology as well as society underlies boys’ and girls’ contrasting toy preferences.

Young male Kanyawara chimps occasionally used sticks to mimic child care. Far more often, they fought with sticks, an infrequent behavior among females, say Sonya Kahlenberg of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and Richard Wrangham of Harvard University.

“Although play choices of young chimps showed no evidence of being directly influenced by older chimps, young females tended to carry sticks in a manner suggestive of doll use and play-mothering,” Wrangham says.

The monkey patriarchy is real, and it’s dangerous.

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Trump and divine retribution

Is God lending a hand to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign?

I know that’s a borderline blasphemous question to ask. Presumably, our Creator has better things to do than monitor America’s electoral politics. But I can’t come up with any other reason to explain Trumpmania.

First things first: There is no doubt the Republican electorate loves the Manhattan mogul. His poll numbers explain that well enough.

But popular uprisings have historically been suppressed by the party honchos and connected elites. Clamping down on insurgent candidates is well-honed practice that goes back to Teddy Roosevelt and Andrew Jackson. Yet Trump seems to be leading a Jacksonian march straight into the White House. He’s treating basic political orthodoxy like his own personal punching bag – Trump branded and everything.

By far, the Republican Party has been the biggest casualty in Trump’s jihad against Washington torpor. The billionaire is winning over GOP voters by insulting every accepted party soundbite to date.

Just take a look at his recent win in South Carolina. The Palmetto State isn’t exactly known for strict family values. But it does have a sizable military presence, and tends to be more war hawkish than the rest of the Union.

Normally, retail politics forces candidates to appeal to voters who value someone that identifies with their needs. Somehow, that memo never reached Trump’s untidy desk.

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‘The story of our wretched kind / To be — and be no more’

From a collection of poems written by Dabney Carr Terrell, a friend of Thomas Jefferson, a poem called “On An Indian Mound”:

Can’st say what tenant fills yon grave?
Oppressor stern, or crouching slave?
Or gallant chieftain, vainly brave,
Who for the land he could not save
Was well content to die?
Or beauteous maiden in her bloom,
Who rashly sought an early doom,
Because unable to resume
Her lover’s heart? or, in the tomb
Do both united lie?

Or it may be some bard divine,
Whose lofty lay and polished line,
By age unthreaten’d with decline,
A thousand years had seen to shine,
With still increasing ray;
When from the north the savage horde
Of hostile tribes, like torrents poured;
Sweeping the peasant, throne and lord,
The shiver’d shield and broken sword,
Like wither’d leaves away.

Or it may be some victor proud
Came o’er the world like tempest cloud,
With blaze as bright and noise as loud,
Trampling on earth the servile crowd,
Their wonder and their fear.
Or it may be some patriot chief,
Camillus-like, that brought relief,
Whose clos’d career, Alas! too brief,
Awoke a nation’s bursting grief
To millions justly dear;

Or it may be — but whither springs
Bold Fancy on her airy wings?
Unmeasured Time deep darkness flings
O’er what our fond imaginings
Try vainly to explore.
Yet this past race has left behind
A lesson dear to Wisdom’s mind;
In that lone mound, summ’d up, wee find
The story of our wretched kind,
To be — and be no more.

My copy of this poem comes from Armistead C. Gordon‘s Virginian Writers of Fugitive Verse, published in 1923. A reminder of an interesting book excerpt published here about two years ago which is a more modern imagining of the disappearance of native Americans.

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No, women shouldn’t have to sign up for Selective Service (or fight in war!)

Feminists, rejoice!

Horace’s dictum, “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” will soon no longer be exclusive to American males. Sometime in the near-future, women will have the honor of being forced to leave their families, enter bullet-ridden battlefields, and risk having their limbs blown apart.

Surely, Virginia Woolf is cheering in her grave.

Last week, the chief of staff of the Army and the Marine Corps commandant came out in favor of lifting the exclusion of women from the Selective Service. Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Robert Neller, the highest ranking U.S. Marine Corps member, told lawmakers, “it’s my personal view that, based on this lifting of restrictions… every American who’s physically qualified should register for the draft.”

Congress must act to lift the males-only condition for Selective Service. But is there any doubt this will eventually happen? In the name of equality, Democrats will joyfully embrace the proposition. Republicans are already coming around: A bill to lift the female draft restriction was just introduced in the House of Representatives by two GOP reps who also served in the armed forces.

It’s only a matter of time before girls, upon turning 18, sign up for the draft. And just like that, we will have slipped further into the brave new world where men and women are interchangeable cogs in the machine of society.

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There is no such thing as left-wing dissent

If we grant that the definition of dissent is the holding of a belief that is contrary to the prevailing ideology, then it’s not particularly difficult to categorize instances of such dissent.

A good metric to measure it by is the magnitude of social penalties paid for by expressing potentially dissident beliefs. Can you lose your position at a company that you yourself started over the beliefs that you express? You are probably engaging in genuine dissent. This happened to Brendan Eich at Mozilla when he donated $1,000 to an advocacy organization that had Barack Obama’s 2008 opinion on traditional marriage. Something similar happened to Pax Dickinson for making crude and heterodox tweets about women in tech.

However crude the boundaries are, it should be easy to see what cannot belong in the category. It’s hard to think of a situation where holding left-wing beliefs, no matter how left-wing they are, would get someone removed from an an organization that is not itself expressly right-wing.

I can, however, think of examples where lefties didn’t get shitcanned. In 2001, Ward Churchill, a UC Boulder professor, literally argued that financial workers killed in the 9/11 attacks had it coming. Adam Kotsko, another academic, had similar sentiments about the Charlie Hebdo attacks: the people at the newspaper were insensitive to Muslims and therefore deserved to die.

“Can it get you fired?” is by no means a necessary element when looking to categorize something as dissent, but it’s a pretty good barometer for the climate of official ideology; that is, the underpinnings of polite culture that we’re expected believe. Both of these men, of course, made waves. There was a lot of outcry, and Kotsko eventually deleted his Twitter account, but neither of them suffered real material setbacks. Unpopularity is not dissent. I don’t suffer consequences for thinking that Drake is a bad rapper.

So it’s clear that official ideology is not democratic: right-wingers get fired for expressing even mainstream opinions, left-wingers do no get fired for expressing universally revolting opinions. Most Americans probably do not want gay marriage, but that belief system doesn’t use the ideological assumptions that it is supposed to. Churchill’s 9/11 apologia, however, was underpinned by the belief that there is Wall Street imperialism in the third world and that it such a thing is bad. This is firmly in line with with the ideological assumptions of powerful cultural institutions. So is Kotsko’s belief that racism is an insurmountable evil.

The pseudo-dissent that leftists engage in is merely a demand to extend official ideology and praxis. If we’re sitting somewhere around 6 on the Official Ideology Scale, the supposed dissent of the left is just a petition to crank it up to 11.

The FBI officially makes it its business to infiltrate and disrupt white supremacist organizations, and fashionable Black Lives Matter types like Ta-Nehisi Coates are also in the business of trying to dismantle white supremacy. There’s a difference, of course, of where exactly they think borders of white supremacist ideology starts and ends, but this is a question of magnitude, not a question of principles.

Black Lives Matter is a particularly pertinent example because such activists are supposedly fighting against “systemic racism” that is working around the clock to destroy them. The veil is pulled back when we actually look at the casualness of these protests. There are no long-term legal consequences for anyone hunting for the white supremacist witch, much less social penalties. If anything, you can gain social credit by bragging to your middle-class friends about being on, like, the Right Side of History.

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