Kevin Drum is uncivil

If you say that a plan where seniors would pay more than two-thirds of their health insurance costs is “just like” a plan where Congressmen pay just a quarter of theirs, are you really lying?

Kevin Drum says that Paul Ryan is “just flatly lying” when he claims that his plan would give seniors the same sort of health coverage Members of Congress have.

This seems like an unnecessarily rude way to make the point. True, there is a difference. Under the Congressional plan the government pays 75% of the tab, leaving 25% for the employee. Those proportions are fixed even as health care costs rise. Under the Ryan plan the government will pay a pre-determined amount, which will grow more slowly than premiums, so in 2030 the government will be paying only 32%, leaving 68% for the insured.

In other words, the people covered under the Ryan play would pay two and a half times as large a share of their costs as Members of Congress pays.

But is it really fair or civil to call the claim that a plan under which people pay 68% of the tab is “just like” a plan under which they pay 25% of the tab a “lie”? When Kevin says “flatly lying,” or the WaPo awards Two Pinocchios, they’re contributing to the incivility that plagues American political life. As Ryan’s spokesman points out, it’s all a matter of what “just like” means.

Ryan wasn’t lying. He was … that is … he was just … ummm … you see, it’s a matter of interpretation … and if the CBO number … he was …

To Hell with it. He was, and is, lying. Like a rug. And any news story that reports his assertion without adding [This is not so.] is helping him lie.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

60 thoughts on “Kevin Drum is uncivil”

  1. Over at digby’s blog, tristero discusses the central problem for the reality-based.

    The path out of this evil discourse is simple: label it first as the disgraceful and malicious expression of racism it is. Refuse to engage the “substantive” arguments they advance. Crowd out the evil discourse with truly important discussions that the country simply needs to have.

    Simple, yes, to conceptualize. Much harder to to do.

    The problem, as Prof. Kleiman implies, is that the journalistic community often doesn’t aspire to be reality-based. But I think Kleiman and tristero have the only available answer: Call things what they are, and don’t let yourself slip into a rhetorical framework created by bullshitters.

  2. Am I mistaken in assuming that members of Congress fully expect to enroll in Medicare when they become eligible? In other words, they only have to pay 25% during their relatively younger, healthier years?

    And if so, how is Ryan’s comparison in any way relevant? Also, I assume members of Congress would somehow magically be exempt from any of Ryan’s changes? I know they can’t be *that* simple as to vote otherwise. Or can they?

  3. And not to get “personal,” but are all of Ryan’s parents and in-laws already in the next world? Are they independently wealthy? Is this all just a publicity stunt? I know he’s supposed to be a true believer, but something doesn’t fit here.

  4. Can’t we all just get along?

    Probably not.

    Liberals like to imagine that we disagree about means, not ends, and that a great, good compromise is possibly that will reconcile all conflict to everyone’s gain. Liberals are often convinced that their opponents simply failed to understand the argument — see Krugman, Paul for examples aplenty.

    But, if the other guy’s “good” is your “bad” — and I don’t mean a difference of taste, I mean that the political goals of the Republican Party and the conservative movement are literally predatory and even parasitical, literally hurting others as a means to a selfish end — the political conflict is a bit too real for the liberal faint of heart.

    Calling Ryan a liar is less effective than speaking plainly about what Ryan is after. Harder to do. But, Kevin Drum calling Ryan a liar is just another species of the Krugman superior-understanding dodge. The important point, after all, is not that Ryan is stretching the truth about the nature of his plan for replacing Medicare with “premium support” modeled roughly on Obamacare, but what the consequences of Ryan’s plan are, and why Republicans are seeking after those consequences.

    Republicans are speaking more plainly in mainstream circles and in public about their true desiderata than at any time since the 1930s. This is not the time to confuse people further by engaging in angry back-and-forth. Now is the time to explain and amplify Republican testimony.

    Now, if we could get Obama to stop validating every plutocratic grab for power and money . . .

  5. Tsze-lu said, “The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?”

    The Master replied, “What is necessary is to rectify names.” “So! indeed!” said Tsze-lu. “You are wide of the mark! Why must there be such rectification?”

    The Master said, “How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.

    “If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.

    “When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.

    “Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.”

  6. I smell a meme. Of course it depends on what “just like” means is rather similar to “it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is” with two fundamental differences. First Clinton didn’t lie under oath and the impression that he had lied was based on neglecting the fact that the present tense can be used to refer to the present. Second he was Bill Clinton so he was wrong by definition.

    The problem is that it is so hard to do justice to Ryan, since the word “just” makes the claim false. At least his spokesman didn’t complain that his remark was taken in context and if only the work “like” had been quoted the claim would have been true.

    I think that Congressman Ryan is just like Bill Clinton, as some of the claims each has made was true(the fraction is different but it was neither none or all in either case).

    I can’t think of any other examples, I know this is frivolous, but I
    just like the game.

  7. “Liberals like to imagine that we disagree about means, not ends,”

    Not in my experience. In fact, you only made the statement I quoted above, as a lead in to asserting the exact opposite. In reality, liberals like to imagine that people who disagree with them are moral monsters who are entirely in agreement with liberals about what policies would advance the common good, and oppose liberal policies out of pure malice. For instance, why do conservatives oppose racial preferences? According to liberals, it’s because they’re racists. This wasn’t a conclusion you were dragged to by the weight of evidence, it’s one you embraced with gusto, even in the teeth of evidence. You get off on thinking your opponents are moral monsters, you enjoy it.

    It’s just that, at some level, you realize how unrealistic, even psychotic, that assumption is. So you pretend to be disillusioned idealists, who really wanted to believe that your opponents are nice guys who are merely wrong, but who were forced to abandon that stance by the weight of evidence.

    But everyone can see how silly that pretense is.

  8. NCG, I’m not following the sausage factory as closely as some, but I have the impression that the Ryan plan completely preserves the status quo for anyone born in or before 1956. This will include the congressman’s parents, should they still be living, and a great many of the members. My non-reality based speculation would be that things stall a while, until eventually something passes with a you-get-socialism cut-off age of people born in 1960.

  9. Brett, in America at least, conservatism correlates with racism. Simple fact. If you think conservatives oppose affirmative action for reasons other than racism, well, such potential reasons exist. But racism is a perfectly logical reason to oppose affirmative action. Why should conservatives be influenced by racism in other things, and not be so influenced regarding affirmative action?

  10. politicalfootball, let’s be generous and give opponents of affirmative action the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’re not racists. Maybe they’re social Darwinists who are incapable of empathizing with anyone who was not born with the privileges with which they were born.

  11. Henry, that’s not the benefit of the doubt. That’s just a different way of attributing evil motives to people who disagree with you.

    Try this on for size: Opponents of affirmative action actually think racial discrimination is wrong. That the government shouldn’t be discriminating on the basis of race, and demanding that the private sector discriminate on the basis of race.

    Liberals tend to believe the exact opposite, which is part of what makes the undeniable correlation between disagreeing with liberals, and being accused by liberals of racism, so hilarious.

  12. Eli, I’d like to give opponents of using true premises in argumentation the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’re not opposed to using true premises. Maybe they are simply unaware of what is a false premise.

  13. “Opponents of affirmative action actually think racial discrimination is wrong.”

    You’re missing the nuance that Henry expressed. Yes, this is certainly possible. But considering that conservatism correlates with racism in other areas, why not in affirmative action too? Racial prejudice is usually impossible to prove, as it draws from multiple cultural patterns and themes, and almost *every* modern expression of racism is categorically denied. People simply *never* admit to racist expression.

    Here’s a thought experiment. Assuming racism correlates with conservatism, think of what those expressions might be. Then ask whether the people involved admitted they were being racist. I challenge you to find a single instance of someone admitting it. So now we have a phenomenon: large numbers of people engaged in racism who refuse to admit it.

    The next step is to ask how much of this phenomenon underlies conservative beliefs that impact racial issues. Imagine a republican voter who never actually emailed watermelon or fried chicken jokes, or who went to a birther rally, or held a poster of Obama with a bone through his nose, or intoned “Hussein” when saying his name. Yet at some level they appreciated the sentiment behind those stereotypical and prejudiced attacks. So, when thinking about welfare, or affirmative action, or whether poor minorities are disadvantaged while rich white people are privileged, and thus should be obligated to pay more in taxes, these racist appreciations – likely unconscious and not understood – of course would affect other wise “rational” decisions.

  14. (Eli): “But considering that conservatism correlates with racism in other areas, why not in affirmative action too?
    Maqybe. if “Democrat” = “conservative”. The KKK is to the Democratic Party what the IRA is to Sein Fein.

    This illustrates why it’s more productive to discuss policy than to get distracted with labels. I’ll follow this distraction a ways. What is “conservatism”? How long must a policy be in place before its supporters merit the label “conservative”? After the fall of the Evil Empire, US journalists called defenders of Soviet State-operated enterprises “conservatives”. The US Post Office dates back to the founding of this country. Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General. Does this make supporters of the legislated Post Office monopoly on first class mail “conservative”? What label do you then apply to those who take a free market position wrt the Post Office? Social Security is about 70 years old. How much time must pass before opponents of a more market-oriented policy qualify as “conservative”? The policy which restricts parents’ options for the use of the taxpayers’ K-12 education subsidy to schools operated by government employees dates to the early decades of the 19th century. Do opponents of tuition vouchers qualify s “conservative”? What label do you apply to those who take a free market position wrt the K-12 education industry? Polls find black support for tuition vouchers at a higher level than white support. That makes defenders of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel’s exclusive position in receipt of the taxpayers’ K-12 education subsidy “racist”. right?

    What is “racism”? What attitudes and/or beliefs about differences between regional varieties of human (races) merit the label “racist”? Regional varieties of human differ in skeletal structure, in digestive system function, in liver function, in immune system function. Does this recognition qualify as “racist”? How ’bout a belief that regional varieties of human differ systematically in nervous system function? Would that qualify as “racist”?
    Does support for a policy (e.g., employment tests, academic achievement tests, physical exams) which has a disparate impact wrt racial representation in the result (NBA salaries by race, PhDs in Physics by race) automatically qualify as “racist”? In Hawaii, half of all births are mixed-race. I gather this is not the case on the Mainland. If a policy that allows people to select their own mates is not “racist”, why call a policy that allows people to select their own employees or business partners “racist”?

  15. (Eli): “Imagine a republican voter who never actually emailed watermelon or fried chicken jokes…
    Come to Hawaii and take in a performance by Frank DeLima or Mel Cabang. Is this “racist”? In Hawaii, everybody is fair game, and we like it like that, honkey. You guilty white liberals walk on eggs either out of guilt (self-admitted racism) or because in your circles, everyone plays this game of “gotcha”. I don’t.

  16. “Here’s a thought experiment. Assuming racism correlates with conservatism”

    Here’s a thought experiment: Suppose you didn’t assume your conclusions, right out in the open, at the beginning of the argument. Do you suppose you might not automatically ‘win’ the argument if that were the case? Why, I think that’s quite possible!

  17. You get off on thinking your opponents are moral monsters, you enjoy it.

    From the man who refers to government as “the Mafia.” Brett Bellmore, ladies and gentlemen.

  18. (Brett): “Try this on for size: Opponents of affirmative action actually think racial discrimination is wrong.
    Well, some of us oppose legislated affirmative action, usually and in general, but think society would be better off if the law allowed non-state actors (individuals and corporations, tax-exempt and otherwise) to discriminate on the basis of any silly reason whatsoever. Maybe pull the tax exemption from non-profits that discriminate (but what about schools for native Hawaiians or scholarships for __X__ ( female Asian Engineering majors, etc. fill in the blank)?).

    (Brett): “That the government shouldn’t be discriminating on the basis of race, and demanding that the private sector discriminate on the basis of race.
    I’m not opposed to targeted policy to reduce misery. If, for example, some measure of welfare (infant mortality, juvenile crime, heart attack, suicide rate) shows a significant racial influence, I have no problem, in principle, with a targeted policy. It has to have a decent prospect to work, of course.

  19. Charley Carp: excellent point. You are probably right.

    But this all reminds me of why Meg Whitman got called the “W” word — it is such a cheap stunt to buy off older voters this way. If Ryan realizes that without Medicare, older people basically couldn’t live in dignity, then how can he propose this?

    Maybe Bruce is right, and Republicans just don’t care if people die for lack of insurance. I wish they’d just say so. At least one could respect them.

  20. NCG): “Maybe Bruce is right, and Republicans just don’t care if people die for lack of insurance. I wish they’d just say so. At least one could respect them.
    Maybe he’s just stupid, and cannot acknowledge three facts: 1) every dies, 2) getting the government out of the insurance business does not mean an end to insurance, and 3) getting the government out of the medical services industry does not mean the end of medical care.

  21. Assuming racism correlates with conservatism,

    Brett is, in may ways, right to mock people who base their arguments in reality. But if there’s any advantage at all to membership in the Reality-Based Community, it’s that you can cite research. The correlation of racism and conservatism has been so thoroughly documented that the only remaining arguments are about the mechanism behind the connection.

    But this is merely science, and you can’t prove anything to Brett until he admits it exists. Brett ain’t gonna do that.

  22. political football, I hope Brett understands why I – following Henry – chose the verb *correlates* on purpose. Obviously not all conservatives are racist, but all racists tend to be conservative (excusing here the vast subtleties of unconscious bias, and focusing on the more pronounced features). Asking whether expressions of racism are more or less likely from conservatives is indeed an empirical question. Your link shows this. But I think we can all pretty easily think of, say, the first 10 popular examples of blatant racism off the top of our heads and the participants will be likely conservative. This is also a falsifiable claim. Go out onto the internet and find people saying racist things who are liberals. Compare that to the voluminous number of racist things being said by conservatives.

    Brett, if this is not true, that’s a discussion to have. I don’t think it will be very serious (sorry if that’s assuming a conclusion – but I’m basing this on years of experience with what I see as denial and defensiveness). For instance, the classic claim that affirmative action is a form of reverse-racism, and therefore an expression of racism, is unserious. It flies in the face of everything we should understand about the human history of prejudice and oppression. To put that kind of abstract critique on par with real, gut-level bias against an entire ethnicity is unserious.

  23. Football,
    That was an interesting pile of baloney. Why doesn’t this:…

    Thus, in
    contrast to principled conservatism theorists, group dominance theorists assert that political conservatism and racism should be strongly correlated, because both ideologies are motivated by a common desire to assert the superiority of the in-group over relevant out-groups, and they justify such group superiority in terms that appear both morally and intellectually justifiable.

    imply that liberals wouls also be racist? I mean, if politics is a struggle between groups for control over resources and if race is a useful group-identity tag, wouldn’t it be just as much in the self-identified liberal’s interest to use race as a tag? Anyway, my previous objection holds. The terms “conservative” (as opposed to what?) and “racist” or “racism” remain undefined. Support for race-neutral laws meant opposition to Jim Crow. The progressive Democrat Woodrow Wilson brought Southern-style Jim Crow legislation to the Federal government. Now, support for race-neutral laws is somehow “racist”.

  24. “but all racists tend to be conservative”</i

    All racists as racism is defined by liberals. Shocking, that. Meanwhile, it’s not conservatives who are demanding racial discrimination in this country. It’s liberals.

    According to liberals, it’s somehow not racist to discriminate on the basis of race. No, it’s racist to refuse to so discriminate.

  25. Malcolm, I was only making one point: That racism correlates to conservatism. If you can’t acknowledge that obvious fact, then it’s pointless to talk about why racism correlates to conservatism, or what that means in the context of political history and philosophy. It is, as Eli says, an empirical matter. If the USA in your universe behaves differently than the one that I live in, that’s fine, but it makes it impossible for us to talk.

    Eli, I chose the word “correlate” carefully also. (I think you’ll find that the comment you attribute to Henry was actually mine.)

  26. Obviously not all conservatives are racist, but all racists tend to be conservative

    This is assuming the definition of racist is the liberal one; if you use the historic definition of racism (supporting legal differences in the treatment of people based on race) racists tend to be liberal.

  27. Discriminating on the basis of race is not wrong per se. If a theater producer, on the basis of race, hires a black actor to play Othello and a white actor to play Iago, few would object. But discriminating on the basis of race may be wrong for a variety of reasons. It is wrong if it is done to degrade, oppress, or persecute. Discriminating on the basis of race that is done for those reasons is invidious and we call it racism.

    Discriminating against members of dominant group to aid an oppressed group, however, is not invidious, and therefore is not racism. This does not mean that reverse discrimination is necessarily good. One might oppose it because one believes that, for various reasons, it does more harm than good. But, if reverse discrimination is in fact undesirable for prudential reasons, that doesn’t make it racism. To claim that it is racism is, as Eli eloquently said at 6:11 pm, unserious.

  28. I will add that opposition to reverse discrimination need not necessarily be for prudential reasons. A white person who is discriminated against might simply think it unfair, because he personally never invidiously discriminated against anyone on the basis of race. Even if that argument had merit, it still wouldn’t make reverse discrimination racism. In any case, the white person who makes that argument is overlooking the fact that merely being white has brought him advantages at the expense of people who have been invidiously discriminated against. So he’d be better off relying on prudential arguments.

  29. political football, ah, my mistake!

    Samchevre, that is exactly what I’m talking about. As Henry put nicely.

    I actually popped back in here just to point out to the sort of anecdote one frequently finds on the internet. Looking for footage from a new Dan Eggers documentary on teachers, I came across [link=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIu6kk4id3o]this[/link] clip from “Fox and Friends” posted on you tube. If you’ll note, the user’s name is beattheZOG. Click on his profile and you enter the world of an anti-semitic, anti-government, racist, stormfront-promoting conservative. It is no coincidence that the clip was from FOX and friends. Spend any time on a large enough conservative board and you’ll inevitably run across numerous explicit racists.

    There is a spectrum, and it runs at a frighteningly gradual slope from non-racist conservatism to racist conservatism. This should not surprise anyone, as there is a lot in conservatism that would support racist ideology, and vice versa. I think the reasonable conservative response to this would be to be extra careful to take bias very serious. Yet that’s exactly the opposite of what happens. Any criticism from liberals that a particular response coming from the right might be racially motivated is denied outright as a complete fabrication. And yet expression that is so blatant as not to be denied is shrugged off as marginal and irrelevant.

    But the point is that while such blatant expression is marginal, its manifestation provides a damning window into the unconscious memetics that could very reasonably be assumed to be motivating the right on some level. Of course, this goes to the difficulty in sorting out our unconscious motivations, especially when the bias in question – racism – is such a powerfully negative phenomenon. Yet liberalism and conservatism are fundamentally concerned with power, and in America race is tied to power in very fundamental ways. To the extent that liberalism accuses conservatism of apologizing for or promoting what it feels are inequitable power structures, the accusation will always – at some level – contain an accusation of racism. Likewise, to the degree that conservatism feels liberalism is making much ado about nothing, so to will it dismiss race. When Kanye West said Bush didn’t care about black people, he could have been any liberal talking about “poor” people. The trick is in figuring out where American proclivity towards racial bias fits into this power dynamic.

  30. I gotta ask, though I know I’ll regret it: Do you seriously think that Woodrow Wilson would have, today, supported affirmative action? Seriously?

  31. Speaking to the example of Othello and Iago for racism.

    From my Shakespeare course, the prejudice about Othello’s marriage to Desdemona (“the old black ram tupping the white ewe”) is not in him being black and her white, but in him being old and she young.

    And my favorite, in that racism was built in this country to solidify the position of early settlers over later immigrants, so that the poor, black and white, would not unite against the powerful.

    Sounds familiar, for some reason.

  32. Football,
    Jim Crow was affirmative acton, for white people. Progressive Democrats were racists. Just read Steinbeck’s __The Grapes of Wrath__, with it’s little ditty in the opening chapter about a “nigger”s genitals. There’s no purpose for it, except to establish that the hero (and the author) is one of the good (ole) guys. Just read Jack London (socialist and racial fear-monger).

    The Republican Party originated in opposition to slavery. “The Solid South” was solidly Democratic from Reconstruction until 1960. Federal minimum wage legislation had an explicit race-related motive: to protect expensive unionized Northern white workers from competition from cheaper non-union Southern black labor.

  33. “Even if that argument had merit, it still wouldn’t make reverse discrimination racism. In any case, the white person who makes that argument is overlooking the fact that merely being white has brought him advantages at the expense of people who have been invidiously discriminated against.”

    Technically, it’s not “reverse” discrimination. This presumes there’s only one polarity for discrimination that counts. It’s just “discrimination”.

    Henry, what exactly IS racism? How, precisely, do you define it? I’d say that racism is a subset of prejudice. It’s just prejudice with regards to race. And prejudice? It’s the belief that some one characteristic, somehow, tells you all you need to know about individual, specific people. That it’s ok to treat people, not as individuals, but merely as interchangeable instances of a group.

    Henry, you think precisely that. You think it’s ok to treat white people, individual white people, with their own life histories, as interchangeable members of the “white race”. You think one white person did something, maybe decades ago, it’s perfectly fine to take it out on another white person. You think “white person” is an important category that can justify doing things to specific individuals! And that “black person” is an important category that can justify doing things FOR specific individuals. You think, “I didn’t personally do anything wrong!” is an argument without merit.

    You, sir, are a racist. No different from any member of the Klan, except for which race you’ve decided to hurt, and which you’ve decided to benefit.

    Liberals are quite fond of word games, and constructing definitions which make them innocent by definition of the wrongs they commit. But those games only make you innocent in your own heads, they don’t prevent other people from noticing that you’re race obsessed bigots who are only too glad to hurt somebody on the basis of their race, and sneer when they point out they didn’t do anything to deserve it.

  34. Brett argues:

    “You think it’s ok to treat white people, individual white people, with their own life histories, as interchangeable members of the ‘white race.’ You think one white person did something, maybe decades ago, it’s perfectly fine to take it out on another white person. You think ‘white person’ is an important category that can justify doing things to specific individuals! And that ‘black person’ is an important category that can justify doing things FOR specific individuals. You think, ‘I didn’t personally do anything wrong!’ is an argument without merit.'”

    I think that what Brett writes in the above paragraph constitutes a strong argument against reverse discrimination. I am aware of the artificiality of racial classifications and I buy Brett’s argument to some degree. I find reverse discrimination a complex issue and would not either support it or condemn it in all situations, but would use it as a last resort in some. I mentioned in earlier posts that it has prudential problems.

    But for Brett to deny that there is a difference between Jim Crow discrimination and reverse discrimination, to pretend that the motivation of the two is the same, and to call a supporter of reverse discrimination not only a racist and a bigot but no different from a member of the Ku Klux Klan, is not only not serious, but constitutes either willful blindness or dishonesty. It constitutes constructing a definition (reverse discrimination = Jim Crow discrimination) that make himself right by definition.

  35. I erred in calling Brett both not serious AND either willfully blind or dishonest. Those are inconsistent. He is one or the other, and I really don’t care which, because, in either case, his claim that supporters of reverse discrimination are the equivalent of members of the Ku Klux Klan is so ludicrous, so over the top, and so insulting as to refute itself. The psychological states of one who makes that claim need not be of interest to others.

  36. I don’t really care about your motivation for racial discrimination. Claiming you’re not really racists because you’ve got the ‘right’ motivation for treating people as interchangeable instances of their racial group is how you define yourselves out of being racists. Who cares? Is the person you discriminate against out of ‘nice’ motives any less harmed? Not one bit.

    And it’s not an argument against reverse discrimination. It’s an argument against “discrimination”, period. It’s what I find wrong with discrimination against blacks, too.

    What exactly do YOU find objectionable about racism, if you’re ok with discriminating against non-blacks? I’d really like to know what you think is the wrong here, that’s somehow not applicable to your own position.

  37. Of course a person discriminated against from non-invidious motives is less harmed. Haven’t you ever read anything about the experience of spending one’s life under the degradation of Jim Crow? I recommend this story:
    http://storyoftheweek.loa.org/2011/01/what-it-means-to-be-colored-in-capital.html. The effect of missing out on one educational or employment opportunity, although not to be dismissed, is hardly comparable.

    Brett, I know from your many comments that you are not simple-minded, so why do you make a simple-minded argument in this case? Affirmative action and reverse discrimination are serious subjects that merit serious discussion.

  38. I didn’t mean to place my thumb on the scales by comparing life under Jim Crow with a single instance of being victimized by reverse discrimination. If we compare a single instance of an African-American person today being denied a job because of his race, with a single instance of a white person’s being denied a job because of reverse discrimination, the former is more harmed because of the degradation involved. Even if the white person’s anger in the particular instance is justifiable, the motivation of those behind the reverse discrimination will prevent him from feeling degraded.

  39. Um, yeah, he’s really going to feel better about it because you’re a nice guy. Way to rationalize, Henry.

  40. Jim Crow was affirmative acton, for white people.

    I knew I’d regret it. You and Brett are really remarkable. It’s like you don’t even recognize that I asked a question, much less attempted to answer it.

    What exactly do YOU find objectionable about racism, if you’re ok with discriminating against non-blacks?

    Racism doesn’t exist without some kind of is race-hatred, Brett. Acknowledging that blacks and whites have wildly different histories in this country is simply an acknowledgment of reality. Wishing to remedy that situation isn’t racism.

    Hint: Whenever you see yourself accusing white people of hating white people, and describing that hatred as identical to the hatred that whites have had for blacks, you might want to ask yourself: Am I being a dumbfuck?

  41. “Racism doesn’t exist without some kind of is race-hatred, Brett.”

    Yes. It. Does. You’re just trying to claim that you can’t be a racist, ’cause you’re a nice guy. I don’t buy it.

    “Acknowledging that blacks and whites have wildly different histories in this country is simply an acknowledgment of reality.”

    Yes, on average blacks and whites have had wildly different histories in this country, and none of the people you encounter are “on average”, they’re actual, specific people with actual, personally specific histories, and entitled to be treated as individuals, not interchangeable instances of their group.

    “Wishing to remedy that situation isn’t racism.”

    No, you’re right about that. It’s thinking that you can remedy the situation by racial discrimination that’s racist.

  42. The world must be a very confusing place to you, Brett. When Stephen Colbert says “I don’t even see race,” what do you think that joke is about?

  43. And the world must be a very comforting place to you, if you think that considering yourself to be a nice guy absolves you of any wrongs you commit.

    Suffice to say, that when conservatives deny that racism is correlated with conservatism, it’s because we’re not using a definition of racism liberals came up with to make it impossible for liberals to be considered racists.

  44. And the world must be a very comforting place to you, if you think that considering yourself to be a nice guy absolves you of any wrongs you commit.

    Brett, use quotes. I never said such a thing, or anything that an honest person could mistake for it.

    Suffice to say, that when conservatives deny that racism is correlated with conservatism, it’s because we’re not using a definition of racism liberals came up with to make it impossible for liberals to be considered racists.

    Cool, now we’re getting somewhere. Let’s try this instead: White hostility to black people correlates with conservatism. Agreed?

  45. Brett, political football asks an important question. I’d just add that when you say,
    “Liberals are quite fond of word games, and constructing definitions which make them innocent by definition of the wrongs they commit,”
    we are merely talking past one another. I get that your definition of racism would include affirmative action. But the word racism isn’t so easily defined. The weight of the word comes largely from the history of brutal oppression and the psychological phenomenon of xenophobia, dominance, etc. that resides deep in the unconscious. Affirmative action cannot be said to be driven by any of this. That is just silly. Do the promoters of affirmative action do so out of hatred of white people? When I think a business should attempt to recruit minorities in the interest of promoting diversity, am I motivated by hatred of white people? That’s really absurd.

    All of this seems to go back to the bizarro world of conservative denialism and defensiveness. In this world BET is racist because it is for black people – no different than if there were a channel for white people. Or that black comedians making fun of white people is the same as white comedians making fun of black people. It is a willful misunderstanding of history and society that seems only to serve the interest of downplaying real racism that exists, especially to the extent that there is a correlation between conservatism and minority prejudice/social dominance, and conservatives in general feel under attack. Yet instead of acknowledging the actual historical phenomenon and memetic patterns of racism, race is defined down into a sort of bare-bones, skin-deep racism that ignores nuance and historical context, thus avoiding serious discussion.

  46. (Eli): “…the word racism isn’t so easily defined.
    That was the point of my initial comment in this thread. Seems to me this indefinition woould incline a reasonable person to caution when throwing an emotionally charged word around. Calling “racist” is a useful tactic, and Journolist Spencer Ackerman observed.

    What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear…If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them–Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares–and call them racists.

    (Eli): “…The weight of the word comes largely from the history of brutal oppression and the psychological phenomenon of xenophobia, dominance, etc. that resides deep in the unconscious…
    Of “conservatives”? There we differ. Care to deal with the historical evidence? Woodrow Wilson was a progressive Democrat. George Wallace was a Democrat. Robert Byrd was a Democrat. The KKK was the enforcement arm of the (Southern) Democratic Party.

    (Eli): “…Affirmative action cannot be said to be driven by any of this. That is just silly. Do the promoters of affirmative action do so out of hatred of white people? When I think a business should attempt to recruit minorities in the interest of promoting diversity, am I motivated by hatred of white people? That’s really absurd.
    Maybe so, but opposition to State-mandated racial discrimination “cannot be said” (note the passive voice) to be due to racism either. Equality before the law, color-blind law, is a principle. As I wrote earlier, I prefer a legal regime that allows non-state actors to discriminate on the basis of any silly reason whatsoever. To make motive an issue is to legislate thought crime, a dangerous power to give to the State. If some employer prefers to hire the less-qualified black guy over the white guy, or the less-qualified white guy over the black guy, that’s (literally) his business.

    (Eli): “All of this seems to go back to the bizarro world of conservative denialism and defensiveness.”
    Note the abstract nouns. You describe phantoms of your own construction. What color is “denialism”? What is its specific gravity?

    (Eli): “In this world (of your imagining) BET is racist because it is for black people – no different than if there were a channel for white people (find one person who say so). Or that black comedians making fun of white people is the same as white comedians making fun of black people.Why isn’t it?

    (Eli): “ It is a willful misunderstanding of history and society that seems only to serve the interest of downplaying real racism that exists, especially to the extent that there is a correlation between conservatism and minority prejudice/social dominance…”
    Well, that’s the issue, isn’t it. You keep insisting. To say “is so” 1000 times is to establish no more than to say it once.
    (Eli): “…and conservatives in general feel under attack…”
    Not just conservatives:

    HERBERT (12/12/93): Jesse Jackson is traveling the country with a tough anti-crime message that he is delivering to inner-city youngsters. In Chicago he said, “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

    If that’s not “racist” (I don’t think so), why call “racist” a cab driver’s refusal to pick up a young black man at night? Or an employer’s preference for his own tribe?

    (Eli): “…Yet instead of acknowledging the actual historical phenomenon and memetic patterns of racism, race is defined down into a sort of bare-bones, skin-deep racism that ignores nuance and historical context, thus avoiding serious discussion.
    Got a mirror? You’all been ignoring the historical relation between progressives and race-identity politics all through this discussion. We could broaden this to an international perspective. Consider the race-identity politics of the (German) National Socialist Workers’ Party.

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