Morning Links

Thursday, August 26th, 2010
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68 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  Chris in AL | 

    “We hire experts.”

    Apparently just not for the senate.

  2. #2 |  Tom Johnson | 

    Years ago when I was a magazine writer I polled environmental groups, asking “if you could do one thing to improve the environment, what would it be.” Almost all the groups said the same thing: end federal flood insurance. It’s a program that spends a lot of money encouraging people to build in environmentally sensitive places — flood plains and low-lying wetlands. It’s also a program that pumps an inordinate amount of money from the middle class to the wealthy both directly — by helping pay for the reconstruction of damaged waterfront weekend homes — and indirectly — by enabling real estate development in lowlands.

  3. #3 |  Michael Chaney | 

    I read that the 33 miners are in a 500 square foot space, which is pretty tiny. Not a lot of ventilation for the bathroom facility, either. It’s going to be hell for them, and a long road ahead when they get out.

  4. #4 |  Nando | 

    I feel bad for the miners. I’m sure they’re going to need quite a bit of psychological help when they emerge from their ordeal. It kind of reminds me of what POWs have gone through in the past, just without the “torture” from another human being.

  5. #5 |  qwints | 

    It’s interesting that much of the USA Today article focuses on the problem of regulations not being enforced rather than the wisdom of the program itself. One thing that confused me, however, was how it referred to Galveston as “flood prone.” To my knowledge, Galveston only floods when hit by a hurricane – something that only happens once every couple decades. I would guess the reason it’s so high up the list is Ike – a once in a century storm.

  6. #6 |  MDGuy | 

    That Onion article is funny as hell. Sounds like something out of Catch-22.

  7. #7 |  Brian | 

    Baucus is right, but for the wrong reason.

    I don’t want him to waste his time reading every page of the health care bill because I’d prefer that he do work for which he’s qualified–covering holiday shifts emptying trash at a McDonald’s.

  8. #8 |  Mattocracy | 

    Those experts who read bills without ever realizing the unintended consequences of them…I wonder if I can sue those people for criminal negligence?

  9. #9 |  Mattocracy | 

    I read that the miners will have to have 35″ waists in order to fit in the tunnel they are drilling. Then get hauled up 2,000 plus feet through said narrow tunnel. Holy shit! Just thinking about that makes me want to piss my pants.

  10. #10 |  Mannie | 

    #2 | Tom Johnson | August 26th, 2010 at 10:04 am
    federal flood insurance. It’s a program that spends a lot of money encouraging people to build in environmentally sensitive places

    It obviously needs a tune-up, but it’s a vast improvement over what came before – nothing. The NFIP was instituted to try to avoid repetitive Federal disaster assistance to flood prone areas. It prohibits most new construction inside the 100-year flood plain, as well as repairs of more then 50% of an existing building.

    It’s obvious from the article that there are loopholes – apparently large enough to drive a truckload of money through. Good luck on fixing those, though.

    One of the root problems is that many American cities grew up along rivers and waterways. They’re already there.

  11. #11 |  SJE | 

    Both parties are pretty bad on Fed flood insurance. One of the best things Clinton did was tell towns in flood zones that they needed to move, coz they were not going to get Fed insurance any more. I wish that they had started to consider at least downsizing New Orleans: even then, a lot of the city was depressed but continuing to suck $$$ to stop it from flooding.

  12. #12 |  MDGuy | 

    @Mattocracy: Some of my worst nightmares have been of being trapped in a narrow/confined tunnel like that. I can’t decide if those ones are worse than my police-breaking-down-the-door nightmares.

  13. #13 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “Fictitious sources also confirmed that the so-called “masterminds” behind our country’s security and strategic defense are in fact people of moderate to reasonably above-average intelligence just like us who perform their jobs with more or less the same degree of competence and zeal as any regular person with a job would.”

    Wow, that’s way too kind. But then again, no one really said that.

  14. #14 |  André | 

    Taxpayers should not be left holding the bag for people who choose to build flimsy houses in retarded places, but providing emergency aid to the people when the flood waters rise also is an expensive undertaking.

    Stossel wrote a piece on the NFIP back in 2004: http://reason.com/archives/2004/03/01/confessions-of-a-welfare-queen and it’s worth re-reading. I reject the idea of a flood insurance mandate just like a health insurance mandate, but I’d like to see the NFIP being run as a for-profit entity. I know as a federal program this is unlikely. Perhaps only insuring the first $50k or $150k of the house. This would discourage (but not stop) wasting money on rich people’s beach houses like Stossel’s, but also allow poorer people in flood plains not to be too strongly hit.

  15. #15 |  jppatter | 

    @Mattocracy #9: I feel claustrophobic and have trouble breathing just thinking about it! Absolutely horrible.

  16. #16 |  Tom Johnson | 

    Mannie — I will admit to being out of date on the flood insurance thing, and I know there have been improvements. My magazine days were a long time ago. And the fact that cities were developed in flood plains long before federal flood insurance creates obvious problems.

    That said, the incentives should be to relocate rather than rebuild.

    This is not a problem unique to flooding, by the way. There are an awful lot of nice houses built on hillsides that are inevitably going to slide. The political impetus is to give disaster relief when the entirely foreseeable happens. That construction also creates a political constituency demanding protection in the form of containment dams and support walls paid for at public expense.

  17. #17 |  Aresen | 

    I doubt there is any place in the US that is not vulnerable to some form of natural ‘disaster’, from ice storms in the Northeast to earthquakes on the West coast to tornados in Kansas. People should know the risks in their area and build/plan/insure accordingly on their own dime.

    Maybe if people had to pay for their own problems, they might take steps to minimize losses.

    (Athough if there is another Carrington event, we are sooo fucked.)

  18. #18 |  Roho | 

    Yeah, the 35″ thing gave me cold sweats, too. Getting hauled up over 2000 feet through a tunnel barely wider than I am – and apparently, it takes an hour for the food capsules to get down to them, I can only imagine it’ll take at least as long for the trip back up.

    Seriously, give me a cyanide tablet to keep in my mouth for the ride up. I have nightmares about being trapped immobile to face a slow death, a la Floyd Collins

  19. #19 |  SJE | 

    Lets end federal subsidies for floods, fires, etc.

    Flood insurance has subsidized home building on beaches, in flood plains etc…. a lot of developers saw this “undeveloped land”…which was undeveloped because people in the past knew that building there was a stupid idea.

    Then you have all those homes built in California canyons that require state $$$ to protect from the regular wildfires.

  20. #20 |  J sub D | 

    “Mark my words, several years from now you’re going to look back and say, ‘eh, maybe it isn’t so bad.’”

    Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it? That’s how I feel about my then girlfriend giving me the clap 20 years ago.

  21. #21 |  Stephen | 

    Somebody needs to seize the opportunity to make a real reality show out of the mine disaster. I read that they are drilling a second small hole as well as slowly drilling the bigger one to get the miners out.

    Put them on a TV show every day and they will be famous when they get out.

    They would probably appreciate some nintendo DSi’s and a bunch of games as well.

  22. #22 |  J sub D | 

    One of the root problems is that many American cities grew up along rivers and waterways. They’re already there.

    They can’t do what I’ve done a dozen times in my life, move?

  23. #23 |  Mattocracy | 

    I don’t think the problem is with insuring people, it’s the payout. Our government doesn’t give a shit how much they payout becuase they can just steal or print more money. Private insurance does care about the payout, so they try their best not to pay. People in general have a poor understanding of economics, finance, and interest rates…so naturally they have a poor understanding of risk aversion as well.

    I don’t know where the middle ground is. (Or the high ground for that matter, zing!) But seriously, we need to be in places that are dangerous. Port cities flood. Agricultural land has tornados. On and on.

    Personally, I think the best way is for local communities to raise the capital needed for disaster relief funds and let the residents divy it out to each other. I think they would be less likely to let waste occur and make sure their neighbors actually get the help they need.

  24. #24 |  Rick H. | 

    Somebody needs to seize the opportunity to make a real reality show out of the mine disaster. I read that they are drilling a second small hole as well as slowly drilling the bigger one to get the miners out.

    I love that movie!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ace_in_the_Hole_(film)

  25. #25 |  Marty | 

    #15 | jppatter

    my thoughts exactly- I went through a bunch of trench rescue classes and had to tunnel through collapses and get pulled through tight holes… there were people panicking and becoming claustrophobic in short tunnels with daylight visible. this is unbelievable.

  26. #26 |  J sub D | 

    I would guess that miners as a group are less claustrophobic than the general populace.

    My heart goes out to these guys and I hope they hang on both mentally and physically.

  27. #27 |  Robert | 

    I would think the best compromise to the flood insurance situation would be that the property is insured for up to the tax value of the property and a running total is kept. Once the payout reaches 100% of the value of the property, then no more federal flood insurance for that property, regardless of who owns it. A person interested in buying a property would be able to look at an online database to determine the percentage remaining. Of course, you could still purchase private insurance if you wished.

  28. #28 |  Jon | 

    #10 Mannie
    “It obviously needs a tune-up, but it’s a vast improvement over what came before – nothing. The NFIP was instituted to try to avoid repetitive Federal disaster assistance to flood prone areas. It prohibits most new construction inside the 100-year flood plain, as well as repairs of more then 50% of an existing building.”

    You are contradicting yourself. It wasn’t ‘nothing’, it was ‘repetitive Federal disaster assistance’. The solution to wrongful government spending isn’t more spending. There is nothing in the Constitution that authorizes the Federal government to provide disaster assistance, as noted by many of our earlier presidents when vetoing such appropriations.

  29. #29 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Mattocracy – So, basically, people would have to follow strictly to “local (moral) standards” or be denied coverage. That’s what happened in England during the 1800′s when it was essentially using that system.

  30. #30 |  Elemenope | 

    There is nothing in the Constitution that authorizes the Federal government to provide disaster assistance, as noted by many of our earlier presidents when vetoing such appropriations.

    There’s nothing in the Constitution to provide for a social security program either, and yet we seem to have done alright in keeping millions of elderly people fed and off the street with one.

    The Constitution was not handed to Moses on tablets. It is a fallible document that is not optimized for modern conditions and life. And here’s the kicker: if people’s only complaint with this or that program were that it is unconstitutional, they would support (or at least not oppose) an amendment to make it so. Generally, they do not. As it stands, it is just a useful shibboleth to hide behind instead of directly opposing those things that improve (or save) millions of lives.

  31. #31 |  Nathan | 

    And documentation that there were more elderly people on the streets before social security?

  32. #32 |  Aresen | 

    As it stands, it is just a useful shibboleth to hide behind instead of directly opposing those things that improve (or save) millions of lives.

    You mean like no-knock warrants?

  33. #33 |  Mannie | 

    #16 | Tom Johnson | August 26th, 2010 at 11:54 am

    That said, the incentives should be to relocate rather than rebuild.

    I agree. Right now, you can’t repair flood damage if it is over 50% of the value of the property. I suspect there’s only a million ways to game that, and “forcing’ people off their land is unpopular, so the local gummint will aid in the conniving. It’s a political reality. Reducingh the repair limit would help, but what about cities that are entirely “under water”? We ain’t gonna move them.

    I’d like to see a lifetime cap on payouts, and perhaps some sort of positive incentive for demolition or positive floodproofing.

    One of the most successful of FEMA’s projects has been the flood mapping of essentially every stream in the US. This, and the mandate to stay out of the floodplain, is supposed to limit new construction in the flood plains. The hydraulic modelling is sometimnes sketchy, and no one believes in the “100-year storm” so there’s room for stiffening up the requirements, there.

  34. #34 |  Mannie | 

    #28 | Jon | August 26th, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    You are contradicting yourself. It wasn’t ‘nothing’, it was ‘repetitive Federal disaster assistance’.

    Jeez! Can’t get away with anything around here. :-)

    I meant to say there was no codified program. It was done on an ad hoc basis. Congress was tired of the constant pay outs and recognized they’d continue to pay out, so they tried to put a stopper on it. The stopper is sort of a sieve, though.

    The solution to wrongful government spending isn’t more spending. There is nothing in the Constitution that authorizes the Federal government to provide disaster assistance, as noted by many of our earlier presidents when vetoing such appropriations.

    The argument is that it comes under the General Welfare clause. That, as you point out, is debatable. But there is now so much precedent for disaster relief, that bell is not going to be un-rung.

  35. #35 |  Mannie | 

    #22 | J sub D | August 26th, 2010 at 12:37 pm
    One of the root problems is that many American cities grew up along rivers and waterways. They’re already there.

    They can’t do what I’ve done a dozen times in my life, move?

    When have we ever moved a city. In addition to the houses, there is a lot of infrastructure that occurs along rivers. Roads, railroads. They’re busy places.

  36. #36 |  Aresen | 

    When have we ever moved a city. In addition to the houses, there is a lot of infrastructure that occurs along rivers. Roads, railroads. They’re busy places.

    The infrastructure is often heavily damaged as well, so it has to be rebuilt at a cost comparable to the cost of building anew. An implicit promise from the Federal Government to replace the damaged infrastructure and transfer the costs from the local to the national level means that there is no real penalty for continuing to operate in a high risk zone. The main saving in rebuilding vs. building anew at a different location is that land acquistion costs are removed.

    By transferring the costs of a location from the property owner or municipality to the federal government, the downward pressure that those costs would put on the property value are removed, making for a bad capital investment strategy.

  37. #37 |  PW | 

    On a theme that is similar to the witchcraft story, there is currently another epidemic going on in Africa where albinos are being abducted by witchdoctors, who then chop them up and sell their body parts as fertility charms. Just another part of their “culture,” I suppose?

    http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7019680187?11-year-Old%20African%20Albino%20Girl%20Beheaded%20at%20Behest%20Of%20Witch%20Doctors

  38. #38 |  Elemenope | 

    #32

    Your snark aside, I don’t think rooting all debate about economic and civil liberty in a two hundred year old document is the wisest strategy. No, no-knock raids help nobody and harm many. Personally I’m a rather rabid civil libertarian, though rather less sanguine about the economic side of the movement. But my first recourse to argument about no-knock raids isn’t going to be the 4th amendment; if that argument were persuasive the other side wouldn’t be doing it, aware as they are of the existence and content of said amendment. And FWIW, the amendment says nothing about knocking on the door.

    Using a document as a trump card is intellectually lazy; the equivalent to fundies spouting “the Bible sez!!!” whenever challenged. Let it be about actual reasons and not about aged parchment. I would not dispute the immense importance of the Constitution for having codified many concepts of liberty that we now take as parcel for the general notion, but it is not the last word, nor in all probability the best. One can play any number of games with interpreting the written word, some in good faith, some rather less so. Reading about (tolerated and/or encouraged) police and prosecutorial abuse should show that reaching beyond the document is necessary to make the argument, because the document clearly doesn’t get us there alone.

  39. #39 |  PW | 

    “Personally I’m a rather rabid civil libertarian, though rather less sanguine about the economic side of the movement.”

    Considering your glowing endorsement of the corrupt and bankrupt Social Security system, I’d say that’s a bit of an understatement.

  40. #40 |  awp | 

    I like this.

    “Despite problems, officials say the program reduces damage by forcing communities to control development in flood zones as a condition of enabling their residents to buy insurance. About 20,000 communities take such steps, which Napolitano says averted $16 billion in losses since 2000.”

    I have a better way to reduce flood damage don’t subsidize construction in flood zones in the first place.

    as always govt. intervention leads to more govt intervention

  41. #41 |  Elemenope | 

    Considering your glowing endorsement of the corrupt and bankrupt Social Security system, I’d say that’s a bit of an understatement.

    Glowing endorsement? All I said was that it had one very notable good consequence that usually gets papered right over in discussion. If you’d like, I could criticize it pretty strongly, but I’m sure you’re already quite aware of the problems with the system.

  42. #42 |  PW | 

    “and yet we seem to have done alright in keeping millions of elderly people fed and off the street with one.”

    That’s a pretty glowing endorsement. It’s also a very dubious claim to make that Social Security kept people “off the streets,” when in fact we do not know what the alternative would have been had people simply been allowed to keep all the taxes they paid into the system and spend or invest it as they saw fit. I’ll even wager that the great majority of them would have gotten a much better return on that same money.

  43. #43 |  Elemenope | 

    I imagine you would, and I’d call you naive in turn, but I imagine we wouldn’t get far.

    I would note that pretty much every Western democracy has on its own terms come to a point where it has chosen to go the social security route rather than some other solution. Why do you think that is?

  44. #44 |  Joe | 

    Co workers can get on your nerves after 8 hours, but 30 days in a mine, whew.

    I assume they have to conserve water too, so folks are going to start getting mighty ripe.

    Still, better to be alive than dead, which is how these mine accidents usually go. And I am sure they are rising to the occasion (no pun intneded). I wish them the best and hope and pray for their quick and speedy recovery.

  45. #45 |  Joe | 

    This Nigerian witch children issue is very disturbing. I saw the HBO documentary. This disturbing mix of animist and Christian beliefs needs to be confronted (since if anything is anti Christ, it is this sort of persecution). Would the best way to confront this be by missionaries? NGOs? How do you stop this?

    Nigeria is such a mess. Vicious Muslim and Christian violence. Both Muslims and Christians seem to abuse their own children there. Criminal gangs. Government corruption.

    It is overwhelming.

  46. #46 |  BSK | 

    PW translation:
    An opportunity to dump on folks I don’t like? Have at it! Not only will I generalize the actions of a small but obviously disturbed and dangerous minority to an entire continent of people, but I will exaggerate it into an epidemic. Yet when the shoe is on the other foot and there is evidence of disturbing, ignorant, and violent behavior perpetrated by whites, I will dismiss it as extreme, isolated incidents. The standards are different when the actions are taken by people I don’t like. And those people tend to be people of color. But there is nothing racist about me. Not one bit.

  47. #47 |  PW | 

    “Not only will I generalize the actions of a small but obviously disturbed and dangerous minority to an entire continent of people…”

    What evidence do you have that they are a minority, BSK?

    2009 Gallup Survey of % of population that believes in witchcraft:

    Ivory Coast – 95%
    Senegal – 80%
    Ghana – 77%
    Cameroon – 76%
    Congo – 76%
    Niger – 75%
    Malawi – 72%
    Chad – 68%
    Tanzania – 64%
    Zimbabwe – 63%
    Zambia – 59%
    South Africa – 46%
    Burundi – 46%
    Nigeria – 45%
    Kenya -26%
    Rwanda – 17%

    AVERAGE FOR SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: 55%

    Looks like a pretty firm majority.

  48. #48 |  BSK | 

    PW translation:
    “Because a handful of people who practice “witchcraft” have committed vile and horrible acts, it is okay to assume that all practitioners of witchcraft support those acts. I’ll ignore the fact that “witchcraft” is a horribly inaccurate catchall term for a variety of religions that may share certain characteristics but hardly constitute an organized or monolithic religion. I’ll ignore the role that Christianity and its interplay with local religions plays in some of the atrocities being perpetrated in various African nations because it doesn’t suit my argument that there is a fundamental flaw in Africans that leads them all to such deplorable behavior. And rather than focus on the victims of these horrible crimes and what can be done to protect them and cease this practice, I’d rather just vilify an entire continent’s worth of people, because my feelings are not sympathy towards the victims, but hatred towards the inhabitants of second-largest continent on Earth, since all the people are really the same there anyway, right?”

  49. #49 |  PW | 

    Nor should libertarians feel obliged to abstain from recognizing the unpleasant truth of Africa’s superstitious backassward fucked-upness (or the same for anywhere else in the world) simply because it is “insensitive” to your multiculturalist ideology, BSK.

    The simple fact is it’s a HUGE FUCKING PROBLEM when a solid majority of the people on a large swath of a continent believe in witchcraft in the 21st century. Just as it’s a problem when large portions of the islamic world believes that gays should be stoned to death, or that we should all be governed by a religious theocracy.

    And when people translate those absurd beliefs over into their legal system (and yes, they do that too. It is estimated that about 40% of all criminal prosecutions in several central African countries are for witchcraft), it almost certainly means that lots of innocent people are going to be harmed or killed by it. To ignore that in the name of cultural sensitivity is to turn a blind eye to their suffering. It also perpetuates that suffering by ensuring such superstitions are never shed and condemning those regions to a future of anti-capitalistic impoverishment.

    No less a libertarian bona fide than Ludwig von Mises had this to say about the problems of Africa:

    “Conditions in Asia and Africa are, by and large, the same. These backward peoples receive the devices for fighting and preventing disease ready-made from the West…[but] contact with the West has not yet benefited these peoples because it has not yet affected their minds; it has not freed them from age-old superstitions, prejudices, and misapprehensions; it has merely altered their technological and therapeutical knowledge.” – Human Action, Chapter 24

    He continued by observing that only in shedding those superstitions and adopting a thoroughly Western system and culture of market capitalism in their place would they ever escape their current poverty, no matter how much technology or handouts we fling in their direction.

  50. #50 |  PW | 

    I know you like to misrepresent people, but I never said the 55% of Africans who believe in witchcraft all commit murder, BSK. I said they believe in witchcraft, which is itself fucking messed up in the year 2010.

    Also note that “believing in witchcraft” and “practicing witchcraft” are two very different things. The former (which is where most Africans fall) means people who believe there are witches out there among their neighbors and family members casting spells on them. This usually drives them to persecute said suspected witches in – you guessed it – a witch hunt. The problem is so thoroughly pervasive over there that most African countries have actually adopted laws that make it a crime to practice witchcraft. In Central Africa, cases under these witchcraft laws (which are almost always a bunch of trumped up superstitious nonsense) comprise as much as 40% of ALL criminal prosecutions.

    By contrast, there are very few Africans who fall into the latter category of self-identifying as “witches” because to be a “witch” there is to be persecuted.

    That is NOT to say, however, that most Africans abstain from practices the rest of the world considers analogous to witchcraft, such as casting spells and potions. They simply call it something else – normally Ju-Ju or Animism or some variant of what we know as Voodoo in the western hemisphere. In fact, most of the countries on the list above have similar percentages that believe in the power of Ju-Ju charms even as the very same people fear witchcraft and persecute others they believe to be witches.

  51. #51 |  PW | 

    One final thing, BSK. For all your talk about it now, I certainly don’t see you offering any suggestions on how to help the victims of Africa’s epidemic-sized obsessions with crazy backwards superstitions.

    In fact, whenever the subject comes up all you ever do is make excuses for them, or trot out some absurd multiculturalist moral equivalency about how the west is supposedly no better because it engaged in witch hunts 400 years ago, even though it’s 2010 and they are doing that sort of thing and worse in Africa today, as in right now. Your excuse-making only obscures a very real and very deadly problem. That means the problem never gets addressed, which only equals more victims.

  52. #52 |  PW | 

    “I would note that pretty much every Western democracy has on its own terms come to a point where it has chosen to go the social security route rather than some other solution. Why do you think that is?”

    Likely the same reasons why they also tend to adopt welfare states, farm subsidies and tariffs, large military expenditures, heavy progressive income taxes, large police states, craptastic socialized health care systems, and a whole litany of other stupid policies: it is the nature of government to grow itself over time.

  53. #53 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Except a lot haven’t, when you get into details.

    Quite a few, indeed most, European countries have a compulsory health insurance scheme instead. How those systems are funded varies, and in many cases a percentage of income is taken into a pool, but in the Netherlands, France, Germany and so on the majority of care is delivered by the private sector.

    There’s a vast range of models, from the risk equalisation and emphasis on preventative care of the Netherlands to “solidarity” – the more ill you are, the smaller the percentage of your care has to be co-paid – in France and Ireland’s yearly-capped co-payment charges.

  54. #54 |  Joe | 

    PW and BSK, when it is native people enjoying some peyote buttons it is all good. When it is witch hunts against little kids, not so much.

    What is the way to combat this? I would suggest education.

  55. #55 |  PW | 

    I agree that education is the answer, but we have to be careful. Simply any old type of education will not alleviate the problem, and particularly not the type of multiculturalist/relativist education that is in vogue today, as it only reinforces these very same absurd superstitions by cloaking them as if they were legitimate aspects of “culture.”

    No, Africa needs education in market capitalism and the strong system of property rights that must exist for it to work. Without that, don’t be surprised if the Africa of the next century looks like the one of this century or the one of 10 or 20 or 30 centuries ago, which is to say a giant perpetually impoverished, violent, superstitious, and completely backwards mess.

  56. #56 |  BSK | 

    PW translation-
    “Even though you have said nothing but rewordings of my own comments, I was malign your character and attacks arguments I suspect you would make but haven’t. Any legitimate point I might have is overwhelmed the gross exaggerations and generalizations I make a long the way. I consider any rebuttal to my own part of some larger ‘multicultralist conspiracy’ instead of recognizing the legitimacy of those who work on behalf of anti-racism and other efforts to end oppression and bigotry and achieve more equity and justice in the world. My comments are filled with anger and hate instead of a compassion for the victims and a desire to see things change for the better. It is far easier to simply vilify and monger hate and fear than to actually figure out the root causes of the problem and correct them. Rather than recognize the circumstantial problems that have led to the situation many African nations find themselves in today, I will assume that any problems rooted there are the result of fundamental flaws in the people, including their lesser intelligence and inherent backwardness.”

  57. #57 |  PW | 

    Your silly strawmans aside, BSK, every argument I’ve attacked is one you have indeed made at some time in the past. I can fully comprehend why you are leery of making them again though, seeing as your words have a bad habit of catching up with you lest we forget the “racist” anti-shoplifting cameras at Costco. So you have a reason to take refuge in strawmans instead. Even with that though, you simply cannot help yourself from inserting vague allusions to the “circumstantial problems” of Africa (translation: you think they are just victims of colonialism and “whitey”) or to shoes being on the other foot (translation: the epidemic of witchhunts in Africa today covered by morally equivalency to something the West did hundreds or thousands of years ago) so even as you deny, deny, deny, your extreme multiculturalist ideology cannot help but show its ugly head.

    Meanwhile innocent people in Africa and other parts of the world continue to die because that same ideology cripples our ability to differentiate right from wrong and our attempts to instill those regions with the values of property rights-based market capitalism.

  58. #58 |  PW | 

    Hey. This is kinda fun…

    “and other efforts to end oppression and bigotry and achieve more equity and justice in the world.”

    BSK Translation: the world is divided between the mostly white and privileged haves and the have-nots, who tend to be “brown people.”

    “Rather than recognize the circumstantial problems that have led to the situation many African nations find themselves in today”

    BSK Translation: Africa’s problems are the result of centuries of colonialist capitalist exploitation by white Europeans and nothing more.

    “Christianity and its interplay with local religions plays in some of the atrocities being perpetrated in various African nations”

    BSK Translation: Africa got all its crazy superstitions from the Christianity imposed on it by all those white European colonialists (but not from any of the muslim armies that conquered that continent too)

    “the shoe is on the other foot and there is evidence of disturbing, ignorant, and violent behavior perpetrated by whites”

    BSK Translation: A bunch of Christian WASPs in Salem burned a couple of witches back in the 1600′s and also owned slaves centuries ago, so that proves the Western world today really is no better or more civilized than the villages in Africa where they chop up albinos and make fertility charms out of their body parts.

  59. #59 |  PW | 

    And in case it isn’t clear from the above, BSK, yes – I am characterizing you as a racial marxist.

    If you are not, go ahead and prove me wrong by showing how this characterization does not fit you.

  60. #60 |  Joe | 

    More on the Mine.

    PW and BSK, the old “education is the answer” is obviously not so simple. Paul Theroux’s Dark Star was a pretty good book on addressing some of the edemnic conditions and failures in Africa in an entertaining travel sort of way. Theroux is especially critical of the failure of NGOs in Africa (and having previously served himself in the Peace Corps in Malawi has a pretty good understanding of it).

    And it is not so easy as to blame whitey. Superstition in Africa (and in fact for humanity) is not limited to any race or people.

    But with a evil like this, by self professed Christians, probably the best way to deal with it is probably by other Christians adresssing and condemning the practice and arguing that this is very un Christ like. Suffer the little children does not mean making the little children suffer.

  61. #61 |  JOR | 

    A “racial marxist” would be a more or less standard-issue “race realist” or Human Biodiversity type. I mean, if we’re using “racial marxist” to indicate sharing something close to Marx’s views on race.

  62. #62 |  PW | 

    JOR – I’m referring to racial marxists of the type who use race and ethnicity as the demarcation line for marxian class struggle analysis. In other words, people who believe that:

    1. The world is divided into the privileged and the underprivileged, or the haves and have-nots,

    2. The haves are Westerners/white Europeans and the have-nots are everyone else, or “brown people,” and

    3. The condition of the have-nots is a result of their exploitation by the haves via colonialism, slavery, and other vaguely specified instruments of “oppression.”

    I maintain that all three accurately describe how BSK views the world, hence my characterization of him as a racial marxist, though if he disagrees I again invite him to prove otherwise.

  63. #63 |  JOR | 

    1. seems pretty obviously true, even if the privileged and unprivileged don’t always line up on simplistic economic or racial lines (and even if the world can be divided among a lot of other conceptual dichotomies); 2 seems more or less true; 3 looks to be partly true (Africans etc. have more than their own fair share of vices and problems but they also have to deal with the consequences of ill-considered and sometimes malicious activities of presumptuous outsiders), but not exactly what BSK is arguing here anyway.

    In any case, it’s not like Marx invented or has any kind of monopoly on class analysis (Rand divided the world into exploited “producers” and exploitative “parasites” just like Marx did; was she a Marxist?), so it just seems weird to label any sort of thingie that looks sort of like an exploitation/class theory “____ marxist”, especially when the “____” is pretty directly opposed to Marx’s opinions on the matter.

  64. #64 |  PW | 

    JOR – They are less obvious than you think. There are two big faults with 1 in particular: It that it assumes that the categories are pretty stagnant, whereas evidence suggests that mobility across the lines is increasingly rapid and drastic. It also assumes that members of the haves/have-nots consciously identify themselves in each group and act in accordance with their respective group interests, which is completely wrongheaded and contradicted by history (hence the general absence of instances where the workingmen of the world have ever truly united and risen up, etc.).

    The rest of the argument breaks down from there.

    As to Marx’s own opinions, there are two problems with your analysis. First, that which we know today as marxism did not cease to develop as a school of thought when Marx died. That subsequent marxist theorists have taken his ideology and adapted it along racial lines is thus unsurprising. Second, Marx’s own racial thoughts were much less clearly cut than it would seem from simply reading his beliefs about the differences of racial groups. His writings on the anti-slavery aspects of the American civil war in particular display a conscious extrapolation of class theory to a racially defined group (the slaves), and the treatment of their emancipation as an epochal event in proletarian uprising.

  65. #65 |  Elemenope | 

    I maintain that all three accurately describe how BSK views the world, hence my characterization of him as a racial marxist, though if he disagrees I again invite him to prove otherwise.

    How exactly is one to “disprove” an Internet chat-based characterization? Is he supposed to email you pictures of him hugging a plush stuffed Reagan doll?

  66. #66 |  BSK | 

    PW translation:
    I’ll just attack the person opposing my argument, bringing up comments from long ago out of context because the best way to provide counter-arguments is simply to malign my opponent. I’ll still preach anger, rather than showing any true compassion for the victims. That is why my initial comment, rather than identifying with the victims, simply identified more perpetrators of awful, horrible violence as I screamed, “JUST LOOK HOW AWFUL *THOSE* PEOPLE ARE!” Obviously, the fact that there are some crack-shit-crazy folks in Africa doing horrible things under the guise of practicing a religion is enough to denounce an entire continent. And anyone who disagrees with that clearly hates freedoms. Of course, if those freedoms are being enjoyed by folks who were not part of the privileged subset of the population that had near-monopoly-level control over those freedoms as recently as 50 years ago or so, they’re not that important.”

  67. #67 |  wonkie | 

    Baucus isn’t one of the people chiefly responsible for pushing the bill through. He is one of the Democrats who did everything he could, short of becoming a Republican, to slow its passage and water it down.

  68. #68 |  PW | 

    “How exactly is one to “disprove” an Internet chat-based characterization?”

    If he thinks I’ve mischaracterized any of his positions, he is always welcome to elaborate upon them or explain how his views differ from how I’ve interpreted them. The fact that he chooses not to does tend to support the conclusion that I have indeed accurately described him. It really is as simple as that.

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