Last week This American Life had an episode on housing discrimination, House Rules, which drew upon a ProPublica series, Living Apart – Fair Housing in America. The TAL episode began with a side-by-side comparison of the differing treatments of black and white renters-to-be by a super in Queens. Then it went back in time and focused on the long and arduous process of passing legislation to allow for equal access to housing, and then enforcing said legislation. The moral of the story is that things haven’t changed as much as you think they’ve changed. This moral is reinforced by the selective narrative framework of TAL.
As it happens though HUD has been doing broad surveys of the exact form that is outlined in the TAL episode. So I decided to browse the 2012 report. If you read the whole thing, you conclude that:
1) There is indeed discrimination against minorities.
2) But the differences are often on the margin. The stories in TAL are at the tails of the distribution, but people may be confused and assume they are ubiquitous.
For example, from the full report from HUD: “black, Hispanic, and Asian renters are all shown significantly fewer housing units than equally qualified whites. Blacks are shown about one fewer unit for every 25 visits; Hispanics are shown one fewer unit for every 14 visits; and Asians are shown one fewer unit for every 13 visits.” These are statistically significant differences, but probably less than what you might expect given the stories highlighted in the TAL episode. Additionally, the report makes clear that there has been a massive decline in housing discrimination since the 1970s.
Atheists need to stop making fun of “Christian rock” and the assorted second rate derivates of culture produced by the evangelical subculture if this is not a rip-off of The Onion, Atheist ‘mega-churches’ look for nonbelievers:
It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church. Hundreds packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational sermon, a reading and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.
Dozens of gatherings dubbed “atheist mega-churches” by supporters and detractors are springing up around the U.S. after finding success in Great Britain earlier this year. The movement fueled by social media and spearheaded by two prominent British comedians is no joke.
This is almost a parody of what organized atheism can become.
This is not the time to be talking about Left-Right alliances. I know. But this piece by Kevin Drum got my attention. He’s responding to the fact that asthma inhalers are very expensive because of the way pharmaceutical companies have gamed intellectual patent law. Here’s Drum:
In other words, pharmaceutical companies didn’t just take advantage of this situation, they actively worked to create this situation. Given the minuscule impact of CFC-based inhalers on the ozone layer, it’s likely that an exception could have been agreed to if pharmaceutical companies hadn’t lobbied so hard to get rid of them. The result is lower-quality inhalers and fantastically higher profits for Big Pharma.
As someone with asthma I have kept track of this issue more than most. There’s someone else who pointed out how ridiculuous banning CFC-based inhalers was in light of their trivial contribution, Sen. Jim DeMint aims to overturn inhaler ban:
“It’s a stupid regulation,” DeMint told POLITICO. “It’s just one more example of just out of control regulation that’s harming the quality of life for Americans.”
DeMint argues the inhaler emits just a tiny fraction of chlorofluorocarbons.
While Republicans especially have gone after a series of Obama administration EPA and other regulations this Congress, the FDA rule actually traces back to the George W. Bush administration.
FDA began public discussions about the use of CFCs in epinephrine inhalers in January 2006 and finalized the phase-out for using CFCs in the inhalers in November 2008. It is part of the U.S. commitment under the international Montreal Protocol agreement that aims to reduce ozone-depleting substances.
Many inhaler manufacturers are now using a more environmentally friendly propellant called hydrofluoroalkane. Primatene Mist — marketed by Armstrong Pharmaceutical Inc. — is the only FDA approved inhaler for relieving mild asthma that is sold over-the-counter without a prescription.
FDA last month said there are “many other safe and effective inhalers to treat asthma symptoms,” which would require a prescription.
In general I agree with those conservatives who believe that the Republicans have been emphasizing style over substance recently. But it’s a reminder that people like DeMint on the “Far Right” have who adhere to principle over pragmatism can sometimes surprise those Left critics would argue that Republican populism is always a facade.
There are occasions where I don’t even understand what universe the academic cultural Left is inhabiting. Their utilization of plain and simple terms in bizarre fashions makes implicit the reality that their factual universe is radically different from mine. AFP has a piece up, Indian-origin Miss America shows evolving US ideal. It covers the controversy over an Indian American winning the Miss America beauty contest. Much of the article is banal or unsurprising, and naturally it focuses a great deal on the winner’s ethnicity, and the uproar over numerous racist Twitter comments. But the assertions of the academics interviewed struck me as both illuminating and depressing:
The author Jim C Hines sparked a conversation on Twitter after posting a picture of the all-white past, present and future chairs of WorldCon and coining the hashtag #DiversityinSFF. As the South African books blogger Lauren Smith wrote, it’s a problem often talked about in SFF circles. “These genres – or at least their English-language versions – lack diversity, with the major problem being that white male authors and straight, white, predominantly male characters are favoured,” she said, adding that it’s clear “who and what is underrepresented: anyone who is POC [person of colour], female, gay, transgendered; settings and cultures that aren’t North American or European; non-western folklore and mythology”.
Saladin Ahmed, who was born in Detroit and raised in a working-class, Arab American enclave in Michigan, was one of the non-white males at WorldCon: his novel Throne of the Crescent Moon was shortlisted for best novel at the Hugo awards, given out at the convention. He called for diversity in science fiction to be extended even further – to class. He tweeted: “Class diversity also needs to be part of #DiversityinSFF. I want fewer kings and starship captains, more coach drivers and space waitresses.”
I can take Lefties who are concerned with the immiseration of the working class seriously. Usually I disagree with their diagonsis and prescription, but the concerns are intelligible and broadly serious. These sorts of cultural obsessions are infantile in light of more pressing material concerns in this world. On this specific point if you read William Sims Bainbridge’s Dimensions of Science Fiction you will note that fandom and authors tend to be disproportionately atheist, Jewish, and libertarian within the culture of science fiction. These are all minority persuasions, last I checked….
Obviously. In any case, if you want to read some sordid goings on in the ‘skeptic/rationalist movement’, check it out. You should be able to use Google from then on….
There’s been so much said about l’affaire Richwine that I am not keen to get deeply involved. I would advise that you read Jason Richwine’s account, as well as Ph.D. thesis itself. There are now various movements to expurgate Richwine’s thesis on explicitly ideological grounds. This is very stupid.
As a non-liberal with some affiliation with academia I’m in a peculiar position. I get to observe people blithely confusing their normative presuppositions with the basic background assumptions of the average person. By analogy, in a conservative evangelical church “Christians” have specific opinions on issues such as abortion and taxes. And yet the reality is that there are many self-identified Christians who would take issue with these assumptions. But these other types of Christians may not be part of the social group of conservative evangelicals, so the implicit assumption is that those who would espouse abortion rights and higher taxes must be secular humanists (actually, most self-identified liberals are religious and believe in God).
What’s happening here is that many liberals hold that Richwine’s thesis is ipso facto racist due to the axioms and inferences he made. Obviously this is a red line for the cultural Left today, and it makes sense why they would be outraged. The issue is that this thesis has already been given the stamp of approval by Harvard via the regular channels. If the thesis was put under special scrutiny or even revoked on ideological grounds then that would be rather exceptional, and also a major crack in the facade of the idea of intellectual integrity within the academy.
The problem with this is that many questions and conclusions which liberals are not so offended by are quite offensive and objectionable to non-liberals, and especially social conservatives. People within the academy are generally not conscious of this because they rarely encounter people who are offended by the concept of Queer Studies, or the type of Ph.D. theses which come out of these departments. Currently exploration of topics objectionable and offensive to “Middle America” are protected by the idea that part of the academy’s role is to provoke and even offend, to explore taboo issues and reach shocking conclusions. But if the academy starts to make exceptions in such a blatant manner for areas which it finds the offense unacceptable, then its defense of heterodoxy becomes much weaker. Outrage for thee, but not for me.
This may not may not be a big issue in the short run. But, it will contribute to the continued alienation of the majority of the nation from elite higher education, especially the sort of research institutions which by their very nature are going to be culturally transgressive of mainstream values. If the cultural Left manages to get an asterisk placed on the Richwine Ph.D., or have it revoked, then the rational move by conservatives is simple. First, conservative think-tanks should go put the spotlight on the Ph.D.’s of prominent liberals and highlight aspects which are “objectionable” so as to smear their reputations (e.g., anything “anti-American” or sympathetic to cultural Marxism, or questioning bourgeois institutions like marriage). Second, an army of activists could comb through departments which are known award Ph.D.’s with “radical” political and social agendas, and use these as evidence to argue that the academy has become just an arm of cultural Leftism and should no longer receive public funds aside from explicitly practical disciplines (e.g., engineering).
I think a reasonable person can make the case that academic research questions and conclusions should not be adjudicated in by a “voice vote” of democratic acclaim or rejection. But once you open this sort of Pandora’s Box it’s hard to put the tool you unleashed back in. You can’t always control the ends once the means are available.
The Bill Maher clip has to be watched to be believed. Not the guest’s attempt to obfuscate.
The fundamental issue is simple: most non-Muslims don’t care about Islam or Muslims so long as Islam and Muslims don’t impinge upon their lives. We don’t care about the heterogeneity of Islam or history when faced to real and present fear about the violence currently associated with the religion. By analogy, non-Buddhists who live in Sri Lanka or Myanmar could care less that Buddhism is really fundamentally a religion of peace. To non-believers the ideals of a religion don’t matter, the realized actions of the religionists do.
One of the more maddening aspects of modern discourse is the attempt to interject the concept of racism into internecine ideological conflicts where it really isn’t appropriate. For example, some anti-Zionists label Zionism racism, and the state of Israel a racist state. And yet conversely, some supporters of the Zionist project label those who reject or criticize aspects (or the totality) of the state of Israel anti-Semites, a subset of racism. Though some of these accusations are justifiable (e.g., many ‘National Religious’ elements of Israeli society exhibit views analogous to racial nationalism, while much of the anti-Israel sentiment in the Arab world is crassly anti-Semitic), in many cases the accusation is misleading, and dodges the substantive issues at the heart of the debate (Arabs are second class citizens in Israel, but non-Muslims are much more marginalized in neighboring states, making accusations of prejudice seem rich to me). For example I put myself in the category of someone who is skeptical of the long term project of a Jewish democratic state in the Middle East. Yet I also do not think the ‘Israel issue’ is particularly important in the grand scheme of world affairs, and believe that the fixation on the oppression of Palestinian Arabs specifically is driven by ethnocentrism (Arab Muslims privileging their own concerns, Muslims identifying with co-religionists) and the character of the oppressors (elite Israeli society is still Western oriented, and therefore Western critics judge it by the standards of Western society, not Middle Eastern society).
These issues are even more prominent today when it comes to the Muslim question. The reality is that the Islamic world is hell for non-Muslims, and fear of Islamic populations is justified on empirical grounds. Not only is the Arab Spring moving in an illiberal religious-populist direction, but atheists are being killed in Bangladesh, and anti-Christan pogroms are regular occurrences in Pakistan. Recently there has been a internet debate between Glenn Greenwald and Sam Harris on the question of “Islamophobia.”
Below the fold is a guest post on the issue from Jackson Doughart which I think is well worth ruminating upon.
This weblog has been around for 4+ years now. It started as a way to give voice to people who lean Right who are not necessarily libertarian. America’s conservative party, the Republicans, have lost their second presidential election in a row to a definitively liberal candidate. Whether America is a “center-right” country, center-right politics are having difficulties at the national level. A primary problem seems to be that the Republican party has to account for the reality that religious social conservatives are a necessary part of their coalition, but they need to expand the tent out toward more secular and socially moderate voters. The gay marriage debate is to some extent a signpost for the general conundrum; how to hold onto to the base, while attracting converts.
There are no easy answers here. The substantive issue is fundamentally tricky, because many social conservatives have strong principles in particular domains which brook little margin for compromise. On the other hand there are many younger and secular individuals whose aversion to the Republican party and conservative politics seems to be one of identity, not issue. The simple and clear message of liberty, order, and security, should have broad appeal. Unfortunately though the Republican brand in the minds of many has become exclusively identified with religious social conservatives, even though in terms of policy I would argue this component of the coalition receives by and large lip service.