White Identity Politics

White people don’t like to be called white people: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/7/26/17613844/diversity-poll-twitter-white-people

First let me say god damn you Vox for having articles I like to read but no comments section in which to discuss them onsite, forcing me to keep quiet or advertise for Vox by sharing their articles in order to talk about them (like I’m doing now).

That throat clearing out of the way, the article above is a fairly interesting discussion of how white Americans react to being reminded they are just one group with its own particular perspective rather than being default / normal / generic people with no identity but the one they choose. Spoiler, they’re not fans:

“Indeed, as research on “priming” shows, simply discussing race at all kicks up those effects among the racially dominant group. Or to put it more bluntly, in the US context: White people really don’t like being called white people. They don’t like being reminded that they are white people, part of a group with discernible boundaries, shared interests, and shared responsibilities.”

The article’s take on that situation is basically that white people need to bite the bullet and accept their status as one more identity group “with particular interests, settling differences via democracy.”

The reason I share this is that the author seems oblivious to the fact that this is already happening, and the consequences are not great. Oddly, through the whole piece he never mentions what it would look like or mean for whites to actually do what he recommends and accept themselves as a separate and distinctive identity group. It seems to me that it means white nationalism. If you tell white people “think about yourselves as this ‘white people’ group and act in the interests of that group” what do you think they’re going to do? Probably be against affirmative action programs that discriminate against white people huh? Probably not in favor of allowing a lot of non-white immigration that will reduce the political dominance of whites? Probably not promoting the general tearing down of the structural racism that advantages whites?

To me it looks like the white population is gradually starting to treat itself more like an identity group, and that looks like the rise of Trump, ethno-nationalism, white nationalism, white supremacy, and all those other words that mean “look out for whites and fuck everyone else.”

It’s of course not inherently wrong for a group to consider its interests and act accordingly. The problem in the United States is that whites already have everything stacked in their favor and are in the process of seeing things become a little less stacked in their favor. So a movement on behalf of white interests as such basically means a movement in defense of the racial hierarchy that puts whites on top. Maybe someday whites will be getting screwed badly enough that a “pro-white” agenda will be as positive of a force as a “pro-black” agenda currently is, but that’s not the situation currently.

So I really don’t want white Americans to double down on their white identity. What I want politically is a renewed focus of most white Americans on their identity as workers, or at least as Americans. If this country is going to function it’d be nice to encourage the majority group to embrace a shared identity that also includes minority groups, rather than an exclusive racial identity that leaves much of the country on the outside. It seems like that should be the standard view among people who are not in fact white nationalists. I’m concerned that a lot of American liberals don’t get that because their conception of politics is basically “support the political agendas of minority identity groups.” That’s of course a noble goal, but only because those groups are disadvantaged and need to organize to even get close to equal footing with the white majority. Encouraging that majority to organize in the same way might seem like a logical thing for people with that attitude, but it’s a recipe for disaster.

Safe Sex

I stumbled across this blog post via a facebook friend:

http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/08/05/i-will-not-teach-my-kids-about-safe-sex/

It’s basically a rant in favor of abstinence only sex-education. Here are some choice passages and my responses:

“In this nation, we are concerned about the integrity of our produce and our peanut butter, so we only buy them if they have words like ‘organic’ and ‘raw’ on the packaging. But, when it comes to human sexuality, we’ll sip whatever chemicals we need in order to stave off the natural emotional and physical consequences of our behavior. Imagine the college students who have to chug 6 rum cocktails and 8 Natty Lights between them before they can anonymously copulate in someone’s dorm room. But they require more than booze; they also need pills and condoms and explanations the morning after about how this was all just for fun and it didn’t mean anything.”

What does this mean? So regular, non-drugged sex is like organic peanut butter I guess, and so sex with birth control is like processed peanut butter? In that…. it involves adding things?

“Why do we say that these people enjoy sex? The man who makes love to his wife of 20 years enjoys sex; these people only enjoy certain physical sensations. They enjoy masturbating with assistance — but sex is precisely what they’re trying desperately to avoid.”

So ‘these people’ are enjoying something, but it’s not sex, that’s only between married couples. Instead sex outside of marriage is ‘masturbating with assistance.’ I would be interested in hearing what the actual cutoff is between these two categories, but I can’t imagine someone dumb enough to think them up would have also thought them through.

“Nameless, random, uncommitted sex is never safe. Not emotionally, not spiritually, not physically. In fact, no sex is safe. Sex is not supposed to be safe. Sex isn’t supposed to be physically perilous like it often is these days — thanks, mostly, to years of ‘safe sex’ education — but it is supposed to be an act of great depth and consequence. Sex is meant to be open and exposed. It’s meant to bring out scary and mysterious feelings of desire and devotion.”

Well first let me just say thank god that I’ve just been masturbating with assistance this whole time, because that sure does sound scary. Also, how exactly is safe sex education making sex more dangerous? My only thought is this: divide sex into within-wedlock and out-of-wedlock. The out-of-wedlock category riskier than within-wedlock, but is made safer by sex-ed classes. However, if these classes convince enough people that out-of-wedlock sex is safe, we might see an increase in it compared to within-wedlock sex, thus making the average sex-act more dangerous, even as unmarried sex havers see nothing but safety improvements. Sort of like how car accident fatalities are surprisingly unchanged by safety improvements, because people just feel safer and drive more recklessly. Of course in that scenario having a giant spike coming out of the steering wheel is the reducto ad absurdum of the trend, while getting rid of the available protections is actually what this post recommends.

“This is like planting a seed in the ground and calling it a mistake when a tree begins to sprout because you thought the soil was infertile. You may have believed this, but still the seed is doing exactly what seeds are supposed to do, and you did exactly what a person is supposed to do if they want to make a tree grow. You may be a fool, but this was no accident.”

Wouldn’t just planting the seed and walking off be equivalent to unprotected sex? Let’s say planting seeds was really fun, but for some reason we didn’t want more trees to go. How about planting the seed inside a little plastic case, so it wouldn’t grow? Or just removing it right after? And plus, then if you take these precautions, you’re more justified describing any tree that grows as an accident, since you were obviously trying to avoid that eventuality. Of course some environmental groups might get mad at how you’re killing the seeds, but really even tree-huggers know the difference between a seed and tree.

“sex is an expression of love. This is the primary thing that separates human sex from sex between beasts. It is a profound good, but, like any good, it can be perverted and turned into a very dark evil.”

Animals feel love don’t they? Their minds are simpler of course, but I’d say what a mother bear feels towards its cubs or what two mated-for-life swans feel for each other is pretty analogous to love. Or maybe not! Either way, it’s an interesting question that shouldn’t have on answer glibly passed on as supposed wisdom.

“The abstinence-before-marriage plan paints an affirmative and uplifting picture. It says, “this is something so good and so important and so joyful that you should leave it be until you grow up and find one special person to share it with.””

Of course it’s been proven over and over again that abstinence only sex education does not lead to a decrease in sexual activity, but does manage to stop people from using as much protection, leading to increases in the teen pregnancy rate, leading to increases in both the teen birth rate and the abortion rate. It’s so uplifting!

“By the way, though it is just a recreational activity, like Parcheesi or air hockey, it can also lead to broken hearts, chlamydia, pregnancy, and AIDS. So, in that sense, it’s a little different from a board game. Hey, let’s look at some super-magnified images of genital warts!””

Confession – an experience much like this is why I no longer play Parcheesi. Though I still break out the genital warts slides now and then! Well, at least we learned that if something people want to do is dangerous, the worst thing we can do is try to make that thing safer.

“You don’t want your kid to drink and drive, but if he did, you’d prefer he wear a seatbelt, right? Well, would you ever say to him: “junior, I know you’re going to drink and drive. You shouldn’t, but everyone does. So just wear your seatbelt”?

Why not?

Because that statement seriously dilutes your anti-drunk driving message, lends a tacit endorsement to the behavior, and assumes the worst in your son before he even has a chance to make his own choices?”

This is why anti-drunk driving organizations advocate banning seatbelts. The only way to stop drunk driving is to make it as dangerous as possible! That’s the only way they’ll learn!

“Also, for how long have the majority of parents been using the “well, my kids are going to have sex anyway” logic? Decades, maybe? And has sex among unmarried people become generally more or less prevalent during that time? More, right? So do we, perhaps, have here a case of a self-fulfilling prophesy?”

Because it sure would be ridiculous if the causality worked the other way, from teenagers having sex to parents… noticing their teenagers are having sex.

“Also, do you, in any other situation, elect to forgo teaching your kid to do what is right and instead prepare him to do the next best thing? Do you ever tell your child to shoot for a ‘C’ in math class? Do you ever tell her to make sure she only engages in reasonable levels of bullying and gossip? Do you ever tell your son to only vandalize abandoned properties? Do you ever tell your daughter to only lie to you once a week? Do you ever tell your son to only forge your signature on his report card if he’s really sure it looks super accurate?”

Good thing the author emphasized how sex-positive he was earlier, or this comparison of sex to a list of crimes, sins, and failures might seem a little suspicious. Really that’s what this ultimately comes down to. Is sex a reasonable thing for people to want to do, just for the joy of it? Or is it morally equivalent to petty crime? And what that comes down to is whether you think sex outside of marriage is sinful. If you do, you can write whole blog posts trying to come up with reasons to support your position, but all it comes down to is that we should be avoiding extra-marital sex as much as possible, because it’s BAD. On the other hand if you don’t believe sex is sinful, you can just look at it as a public health problem like any other, and do what the data says will save the most lives and give people the most control over their own bodies: real sex education that doesn’t judge people regardless of what level of sex they’re interested in having, but just gives them the tools they need to be healthy no matter what choices they make.

Bad Arguments on the minimum wage

As someone who is in favor of large minimum wage increases but likes to keep an open mind, I try to keep up on what the anti-minimum wage people have to say. My latest stab at that project was this article, describing a $15 an hour minimum wage as absurd:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2013/09/01/the-absurdity-of-a-15-minimum-wage

So I decided to look into the only data this article actually presents to support it’s position, this quote:

“The actual state of knowledge of the impact that the minimum wage has on employment in North America, and especially in Québec, leads to the conclusion that a minimum wage that is greater than 50% of the average wage is harmful to small wage earners and that a minimum wage that is less than 45% has very little risk for this group of workers. Between these limits, the area of 45% to 50% would represent an increasing danger to employment.”

It doesn’t really present any evidence, just makes a factual claim and moves on. Still, people do that all that time, and as long as you link to where you can find more info it’s not a problem.

So I follow the link, which turns out to be Worstall linking to himself (not the best sign):

http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2013/02/17/greg-mankiws-excellent-question-why-a-9-minimum-wage-why-not-90-or-90-cents/

In that article, the same quote is presented, and sourced to a 2006 post in a Canadian economics blog called “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative”:

http://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi/2006/11/when_the_minimu.html

There, we learn the quote comes from an economist named Pierre Fortin, and we get this gem of an attribution:

“An internal working group at the Quebec government kindly offers us a translation for how Fortin summarises the argument (the actual paper is written in French, and as far as I know, no electronic version exists – I got my copy by fax)”

Within that quote there’s a link that is presumably supposed to go to said paper, but actually goes to a ‘page not found’ message:

http://www.travail.gouv.qc.ca/actualite/revision_salaire_minimum/summary2.pdf

And that’s the end of the rainbow. So to be brief about it, I’m not convinced. Worstall’s claim is that we only have evidence that smaller minimum wage increases can be passed without greatly increasing unemployment, but of course the reason for that is we’ve only ever had small, gradualist minimum wage increases to observe. So we have weak evidence in favor of minimum wage increases in general not harming employment, and no evidence pointing the other way. And this is in an article by an anti-minimum wage partisan!

Of course intelligence is not simply the opposite of stupidity, but it still gives me some warm fuzzies that this is the level of discourse on the other side of the debate.