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Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Bay Area, California
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 1,082

About Me

Software engineer who thinks a lot about the future. http://paulkienitz.net/future/

Journal Archives

my partner needs prayer

I may not have much belief in the power of prayer, but she does, and she has never needed it more. We've been going to doctors and emergency rooms for weeks now and it seems like she's no closer to getting any treatment. They're dragging their feet even on obvious diagnostic procedures. She's lost way too much weight and is very scared. If you are a sayer of prayers, please say one for her.

"Everyone is a little bit racist" -- a proposed scale of racism

(an article from my blog)

ďEveryone is a little bit racist.Ē

You may have heard that quote. I am quoting it because I believe itís true. There is no dividing people into two groups, one racist and one not. Itís a spectrum, and what matters is not what feelings or assumptions you start with, but what behavior you end with. Letís look at some sample points on this spectrum ó some levels of racism:

Level 0: innocent. This is where small children start out ó unaware that race is a problem. Maybe itís possible to maintain this into adulthood in circumstances of major social isolation, but I donít think Iíve ever personally seen an example of that.

Level 1: responsible. We are all liable to sometimes forming snap judgments based on first impressions, and race is often a factor that plays into this. But we can compensate for this by taking a moment for a second thought, to double-check our initial thoughtless reaction and make sure weíre being fair-minded. This may not sound very impressive, but for most adults, this is about the best you can expect. People in this category may be ďalliesĒ of minorities, or not.

Level 2: in denial. This is probably where the majority of people fit, on most days. This is where you land if you react to prejudicial snap judgments by rationalizing them instead of reconsidering. Frequently accompanied by the idea that racism is largely historical, or confined to a few extremists ó that itís a distant external problem. Racism at this level isnít going to burn crosses, but it can produce frequent calls to the police about ďsuspiciousĒ characters, or some extra strictness from the police themselves. This mild racism can be enough to make a big difference in how difficult it is for some people to land a job or rent a place to live. So even though the acts committed by any one individual seem minor and excusable, they can add up to a large negative impact on the lives of minority citizens.

Level 3: asshole. This level is for people who sometimes show active racist behaviors, such as taunts and trolling and harrassment with racial epithets. Generally these are people who are habitually unpleasant or obnoxious in other ways as well, or who have long lists of people whose lives they disapprove of. Most often, such people are still in vigorous denial about racism, despite having numerous examples readily visible in the mirror.

Level 4: deplorable. Finally, we come to those who have adopted racism as a guiding philosophy, and who actively evangelize it as an ideology: the Nazis, Klansmen, Neo-Confederates, and other racial separatists. Many are fanatical True Believers, and as such, are capable of horrific violence for their cause.

Again, the point is not that people are divided into groups, who fit one label or another. Any one person can and does slide up and down this scale, plus or minus a space over the course of a day, or larger shifts over months or years as they are exposed to different ideas.

And note that oneís position on this scale may have very little to do with the intensity or severity of their prejudices, particularly in the middle part of the scale. Some can have major race-based fears and handle them well, and others might have minor ones but handle them badly.

The most important factor for affecting how a person moves forward or backward in their behavior is probably the social expectations of the people around them.

But donít take this to mean that the way to make someone act better is by lecturing them. If you really want to bring someone to see another point of view, itís important to listen to them more than you talk to them, and let them express the feelings or anxieties or bad experiences they may be carrying on the subject. And when you do speak, you want to be offering them an option, rather than making a demand.

Because when social pressure comes in a hostile form, itíll probably have the opposite of the desired effect. If you do listen to people at level 2 or 3 talk about race, one thing that often comes up is how much they dislike and resent hearing the word ďracismĒ brought up as a belligerent finger-pointing accusation.

I donít personally know whoís doing this kind of accusing, but some of my friends see it happen, and they affirm that yeah, it ainít helping. Maybe that behavior arises from having one foot in the responsible level and the other in the denial level, so you want to project and externalize the problem. Thatís just my guess, I canít say.

As for the level 4 deplorables, I donít think thereís much point in listening to them or engaging with them. Theyíve created a fantasy world where they believe each otherís made-up stories, so thatís all youíre likely to hear. Theyíve embraced evil, and there arenít really very many of them, so socially, we can just write them off.

what drives Trump's habit of awful tweets

I think Trump's habit of awful tweets is being driven by his craving for popularity. The same goes for a lot of the awful things he says out loud. As this article by Kevin Drum of Mother Jones points out, the intended audience is his fanbase -- it's just a nasty side effect that the rest of the world is horrified and offended, or that our overseas troops are endangered.

I think what Trump has done is found an audience that is willing to give him the cheers and praise he wants, and they're the people that nobody else wanted cheers from, so he's kind of got them monopolized. I'm talking about the racists and xenophobes and misogynists and other deplorables -- the sort of people who actually cheer for the destruction of the environment, just because they hate environmentalists; people who condone violence against women and applaud police brutality against minorities; people who despise diplomacy as an alternative to violence, and feel there should be no such thing as international law. Trump has found that by egging on the worst tendencies of America's worst citizens, in ways that few others are willing to stoop low enough to do, he can finally get that long-sought popularity. That he's pushing the country toward fascism in the process doesn't worry him at all... after all, if it did become fascist, that just neans he could have even bigger adoring crowds, and to him, that's the important matter at stake -- the one we should all be talking about first.

the only identities who have been truly practicing identity politics are christians and caucasians

Identity politics are about setting my own cultural group as a priority above others. African Americans ahead of everyone else, or gays ahead of everyone else, or Buddhists ahead of everyone else: if those happened, that would be identity politics. The very fact that all these "identity politics" groups have so readily formed inclusive coalitions with each other puts the lie to the whole label. No, there are only two identity groups who have actively been trying on a large scale to promote themselves above other groups in an exclusive and nonsharing way, and those two identities mostly overlap: Christian evangelicals and white conservatives.

Once again, we've let conservative projection frame our discussion. Equality, fairness, justice, and civil rights are not identity politics. Opposing these things in favor of white Christians -- that is identity politics.

Why do people keep blaming the left for "identity politics"?

The right unified around white male privilege back in the days of MLK, and the left got everyone excluded from that, by default.

"Fighting nazis is an American tradition"

My favorite meme picture for the post-election period is the one that says "Fighting Nazis is an American Tradition. Stop the alt-right." It shows Captain America punching Hitler in classic golden-age style. I think it might be the perfect starting point for inspiring normal conservatives to renounce the hardcore alt-right, and from that point to maybe, at some later time, question a bit of their own common ground therewith.

I've decided that if Trump is a normal conservative we can survive, but if he goes alt-right he may be an existential threat, so the thing to do is attack and undermine the alt-right, which if done right could at the very least help divide his supporters. And when trying to bring along as many patriotic mainstream Americans as possible even if they're conservative, I think our most famous Hitler-puncher, Captain America, might be the perfect mascot for this campaign.

I am also trying to spread the hashtag #AmericansFightNazis for the same reason. If we can remind mainstream Republicans to be like Cap or like Indy, and heroically confront Nazis and their ilk as outsider enemies, then the process of winning back our country from the likes of Steve Bannon is well on its way to success.

Nate Silver is indeed the most pessimistic of the group

I ranked these by taking the midpoint of their tossup range, and got this ordering:

FiveThirtyEight 297.5
Cook Political 301
ABC 306
PredictWise 308
Sabato's Crystal Ball 308.5
Governing 311.5
CNN 315.5
NBC 316
Associated Press 321.5
Princeton 323
NPR 323.5
Fox 325.5
The Fix 326
NYT Upshot 334.5
Rothenberg&Gonzales 335

Nate Silver is about 19 EV off the average, and the most Trumpward of the bunch. Given that the turnout stories indicate a surge of Dem votes way beyond his prediction, I expect that this election will be Silver's comeuppance as the big star among statistical election predictors.

Nate Silver is going to get a comeuppance as star prognosticator.

Still, the house might be a stretch.

EDIT: See the All the predictions thread.

There are several reasons. Sexism is one.

There are several reasons why Trump has a chance instead of being a joke:

1. He appeals to authoritarian-follower personalities. The Republicans haven't really made a strong appeal to that personality type in a long time. George W sort of halfway did it, but Trump is going full potato on it.

2. Racism, xenophobia, and the other deplorabilities. Same deal.

3. Sexism. In this case Trump is not the one to blame, despite Mike Pence's appeal for a "broad shouldered" government. That's why I list it separately from the deplorables. The sexist hate for Hillary was pre-existing -- indeed, a surprising amount of the opposition to Bill Clinton in the ninteties focused on Hillary all along, because she became a symbol of feminism. Hatred of feminism is every bit as powerful as hatred of other frightening minority views, such as Islam or communism or atheism. Unlike the racist and xenophobic issues, Trump didn't even have to do anything to get these voters in his pocket.

But I think the biggest factor may be:

4. The fact that both parties sold out the blue collar working class -- the Rs because they viewed them as nothing but an extractable resource, and the Ds because they stopped caring about voters who wouldn't come along with them on issues like civil rights, abortion, and gay marriage. At this point these voters don't just want justice, they want revenge. In practice they've been completely unrepresented for a long time, and have little to no stake in preserving the status quo.

if the GOP were to split

into a reformed conservative/libertarian party and a "deplorables" party, I wonder which would get the bigger share? I'm all too afraid it would be the latter.

The outcome I'm sort of hoping for now is that the GOP starts losing massively, and all the moderate conservatives flee and join the democratic party, until it becomes so overwhelming that the schism happens there, leaving us with a progressive party and a moderate-conservative party, with the hardcore racists and fascists relegated to a third-party rump status. But that probably won't happen... and if it did, it would certainly be a sad end to the legacy of Lincoln. I think the more likely outcome is that the Republicans will stick together despite being in permanent chaos and dysfunction, until they either come up with a charismatic post-racist leader, or finally manage to age out all the racists who keep making them lose elections.
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