Thoughts on Intersectionality

Originally a critical studies concept that was used to talk about the “intersection” of questions of race and gender in the United States, the term has become an organizing principle of today’s left.

It’s a pretty broadly accepted concept, but it has its critics. Marxists think it doesn’t focus enough on class. Natch. Or that it’s not complex enough, or it’s American-centric. Outside of the “critical studies” world, it’s easy enough to imagine that the idea is impossible to accept by political conservatives.

My problem with it is a bit different. It has absolutely no empirical basis. There is no formula for figuring out who is more oppressed. Is it a black transwoman muslim? Or a poor gay Amerindian? How do we measure “oppression.” We can’t. The reason for that is that “oppression” is not one thing, pace Marxists.

For some, oppression is unfair scrutiny by police. For others it is identity-based difficulty in acquiring a job. There is no one oppression. It is not created by capitalism (prove me wrong). It is not created by colonialism. Not alone. All of the different kinds of oppression are just that: different. Some are, quite frankly, trivial and others are crimes against humanity.

I do agree that the catalog of “intersections” seems to depend on an American-centric choice, but if you look closer, it’s who is part of the American left. And herein lies the problem:

The politics of intersectionality define it, it and its theory of identity do not define a politics. If you are part of a group opposed to U.S. policy on any level, you are almost surely “oppressed” in some metaphysically compatible way with African Americans or gays.

This is reductive. It’s Manichean. It is just not correct.

Race-based slavery is the Original Sin of the United States and we aren’t done reckoning with it. Gender equality, on the other hand, was largely pioneered here. Religious freedom and gay rights also emanate from the United States rather than being founded on their negation.

Intersectionalism is so readily contradicted by its—ahem—intersection with religious identity that it’s hard to believe it’s taken seriously at all, given that most religions have teachings that are the source of some of the oppressions that the other groups feel.

When these problems become too plain to ignore, they resort to Colonialism. In other words, inside every Muslim is a LGBT ally trying to get out, but they are held back by their legacy of colonial oppression.


You can’t have diversity that way, by seeing a teleological end point of different groups’ views of identity.

But nobody does more to dissolve this “theory” into absurdity than the Jews. Jews are white, antisemitism is a second-class problem, and Israelis are colonialists.

That’s right. The world’s longest still-existing oppressed group, who have been chased from land to land for literally millennia and who number maybe 15 million–maybe 2% of the entire planet–are part of the oppressor class because they live in the tiny sliver of land called Israel and are rich in the United States.

Jews aren’t a race, so why are they “white”? Jews aren’t all rich unless you’re a Victorian-age antisemite. Jews are only a “majority” capable of oppressing anyone in that tiny piece of land called Israel, which, just happens to be the most liberal country in the area.

Yet unless you’re one of the “Good Jews” willing to despise your co-religionists who feel the need to live in that place (which gets treated worse than North Korea by the international community) you aren’t Intersectional.®

This is simple: Israel is not part of the global left and hasn’t been since the early 50s. Therefore, it’s not Intersectional.® That is the only logical explanation. And that is why Intersectionality is really just a groupthink orthodoxy for the far left.

Quit Trying To Make Legal Arguments Against Trump

Oh boy. Fred Kaplan says Trump’s appointing Bannon to the NSC may be illegal. His legal analysis hinges on a few vague terms and barely justifies the headline. But a broader point:

It is problematic to tell the President who can give him advice in the first place. Maybe Bannon can’t have a “seat” but what difference does this make? None.

You will not solve the problems of the Trump administration with resort to legal arguments and appeals to the courts, especially once his hand-picked justice gets on the Supreme Court.

If people cared about this stuff, he wouldn’t be there in the first place. And if you block him from doing things people support on technicalities, it’s unlikely to be helpful electorally.

Unless we are talking coup, the only remedy for Trump is at the ballot box and that will unfortunately take more than clever legal arguments.

The Unfortunate Uncoolness of Anti-Trumpisms

Admit it.

He’s the worst President-elect in history already, but just because something shows defiance to him doesn’t mean it’s cool or smart or catchy. And we’re going to have to do a lot better to do much good.

The best anti-Trumpisms are the caricatures of him that are only barely exaggerations, like Alec Baldwin on SNL. But so much of what we see online and elsewhere is just … lame.

For example: “pussy grabs back?” And look, I’m not even getting into the fact that the Berniecrats are taking over the Democratic party. They think Bernie would have won, but they are basically saying that moving the party to the left is the way to… capture the white voters who cost the Dems the election?

The problem with that is that what they think Bernie says is different than what he actually says. He says, “focus on wealth inequality” and talks in policy specifics. What they hear is “send everyone to transgender reeducation camp and protest in the streets shutting down the freeway.”

No, unfortunately, Democrats don’t want to—or aren’t ready—to hear what will win them elections again. And it ain’t moving to the left.

It’s this very bitter pill: some white people now behave as a minority even though they aren’t. Call them what you want. They behave this way. To win them over, you need to speak to their issues the same way you do with any minority group or interest.

It might be possible to win without them in a re-run Presidential election, but if you ever hope to get Congress back or even approach parity in governorships and statehouses, this is just what you have to do.

Ready? OK. You won’t like it. I don’t like it. But this is just how shit is.

• It’s the economy, stupid. Which means:

• Stop demanding all social change to occur overnight.

• Apply the same kind of results-based, empirical governance to guns that you want done on issues like the climate. This means you probably need to give up on “assault rifles.” Cheap handguns are the top two dozens most confiscated guns and guns used in crimes. “Assault rifles” look scary but are basically impossible to conceal and are expensive and are used in less than 10% of crimes. Handguns, on the other hand, are used in more than 85% of crimes!  Anyway, gun control will be largely a waste of time as long as the  Trumpish Supreme Court-in-waiting stays alive. School shootings should be a time to focus on why we need universal healthcare that includes mental health coverage. This issue has killed Democrats in enough elections that this should be obvious by now.

• Apply the same kind of results-based, empirical governance to the crime issue that you want done on issues like the climate. This means you probably need to give up on “mass incarceration” as a buzzword because you can’t guarantee that it isn’t one of many different reasons that crime is (or was!) at historical lows. Promoting racial equality in sentencing and encouraging state-run prisons to replace private ones is fine, but fundamentally different than emptying the prisons. This has killed Democrats in enough elections in the past that the thought of making it a viable attack again should horrify you.

• Apply the same kind of harassment-free, warm-fuzzy mentality you expect everyone to show toward the groups you like to religious people, police, and white people. Yes, I know. Racism=prejudice+power. Tell it to your dorm-mates. The white virtual minority either doesn’t or won’t understand that. Stop trying.

• Stop making excuses for terrorists. Enough with muh colonialism. You’re trying to explain how to stop it. What is heard is why we should feel bad when they try to kill us.

• Stop making excuses for hostile foreign nations.

• Stop means testing any government program. Things that are only for poors (welfare/Medicaid) are hated; things that are for everyone are loved (Social Security/Medicare)

Do these things and you have a decent chance of being put in a place where you could work the kind of radical economic reforms we need to the problem of wealth inequality. Expanding Social Security to 55+s and making Medicare available to everyone would go a long way. All those people retiring at 55 would create a flood of jobs. No more pretending Republican answers to healthcare work.

Now, what would happen if we could get to a place where we had a strong, more equal economy? All the social problems would be much more easy to handle. Not simple, but simpler.

Oh, yes. This would also have the added benefit of completely weakening the Trump coalition since reachable voters are the ones you can reverse wedge on some of these issues that aren’t the doctrinaire conservatives.


New Rule

You can’t invoke “threats to democracy” or “undermining democracy” in criticizing investigations into Russian threats to our democracy and when this serves the interests of the man who lost by 3 million votes in an undemocratic system.

It does delegitimize our system but our system is not directly democratic. So, for those so concerned about democracy, they ought to worry about the electoral college first.


Did the FBI Assist Kremlin Sponsored Coup?

Never written a more tinfoil line in my life. But, there’s this and this. So am I crazy or is this real?

Did the FBI obtain a warrant using false information from Trump aides to get e-mail issue live again which objectively tanked Clinton in the polls 10 days before the election—and was it part of a Russian plot? Intelligent people are saying so. I’m hearing this. Sad!

After all, the CIA says the Russians wanted to help Trump and no one can explain the second warrant they got on the e-mails.

Sounds like treason to me.

Palestine is a failed state

Generally, a state is that entity that has a monopoly on legal violence within its borders. A failed state has lost this ability, along with other features of a collective action body to provide services to the public.

The International community in the post-WWII world has focused on “self-determination” and the basic preservation of state boundaries. After the war, under pressure from the United States and the Soviet Union, the world rapidly decolonized and many new states came into existence. It was either presumed or ignored whether these states actually had the features of states in many cases, especially in Africa.

The case of Africa is interesting because especially in the case of the former British colonies, independence was conditioned on universal suffrage and states that resisted the occurring even over a rapid amount of time were made into international pariahs—though arguably not for that alone. Yet almost without exception, the new states that were given the vote became kleptocratic dictatorships almost immediately.

The situation is mostly similar throughout the Middle East with the exceptions of the Gulf emirates and Saudi Arabia that were given independence not on a western parliamentary model, but on traditional leadership structures. It is no mistake that these states are stable and Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and virtually all of Sub-Saharan Africa are not. Better understandings of how liberal democracies emerge show that it is rare that they emerge from illiberal democracies and common that they emerge from more centralized but stable states. The frequent slaughter, genocide, and famine in these areas seriously undercuts the policies undertaken in decolonization. At the very least, the assumption that these people want to “live free or die”—in this case, having one and only one fair election is “living free.”

The Oslo Accords provided space and time to see if some of these mistakes could be avoided in Palestine. They were not. In the first open elections (Doe-eyedly insisted upon by the second Bush administration) resulted in the last elections in over 10 years, the loss of control of Gaza from the recognized Palestinian authority and the failure of either the Hamas government in Gaza or the PA government in the West Bank to provide routine services—which in the international sphere is always blamed on Israel. But this really shouldn’t matter because a sovereign state should, at least in those parts that are unoccupied, be able to do this even with hostile neighbors. Cuba did it.

Of course the situation of white settlers and colonists cannot be in good faith compared to Jews in their ancestral homeland.

Despite this, the international community persists, just as it did after World War II, in either a case of malevolent neglect or being blinded by Kumbaya optimism some toxic mix of both in pushing the two-state agenda. At the very least, consideration of giving Gaza a separate independence should be considered. It also seems more likely that a confederation of the West Bank and Jordan is more likely to be a viable state and ironing out the ramifications of that easier than of a separate Palestine or a single-state solution with Israel.

In reality, the fate of the “settlers” left in an Arab state will likely be the fate of Jews left in every other Arab state. They will be cleansed out of it at best and slaughtered at worst.

A one-state solution in all of Mandatory Palestine would almost certainly result in the same one-man-one-vote but only once result seen elsewhere in the hemisphere under such circumstances. Since this enables the great powers and the UN to wash their hands of the situation it is often chosen.



It’s always our fault

A professor on NPR this morning, I believe from Davis, said things like “soul searching” and that complaining about racism was “intellectual comfort food”  when the reality was more complex.

A WSJ reporter on the program pointed out that if trade and economic anxiety were really the issues then why, in a place like Ohio, are free traders Portman and Kasich popular?

This election is not my fault. It’s not the fault of some inchoate coastal elite to “understand” “real Americans” or “working class whites.” If they are mad about being made fun of then how do they expect the minority groups they’re mad at to feel? Why is it always our fault.

Let me be clear: the problems of the white working class will not be made better by undoing trade deals and undoing the remnants of the safety net. They will be made worse. This is the path they chose. And if we’re in their living rooms, recording their conversations, it was done to stick it in the eye of their betters.

It’s classic “cutting off your nose to spite your face” behavior and I find attempts to understand or empathize with this comical.

How about these folks get a dose of empathy for the “urban” and “coastal” human beings they hate so much they are willing to suicide bomb them politically? Why isn’t it their job to understand us?

The Democrats do not need a major revolution in their policies or electoral strategies as strange as that sounds. They won the popular vote. They would win the House if it weren’t gerrymandered. As bad and as consequential as this loss was, it was still very close and not a landslide rejection. Those are two different things. 1984 was a landslide but since it was an incumbent’s reelection there weren’t the same consequences.

Becoming the party of the campus left isn’t going to help here either, no matter how much the BernieBros say so. Agreeing with Trump on trade isn’t going to make these “real Americans” ask you for your preferred pronouns anytime soon. If the Keith Ellison chairmanship of the DNC is any indicator, 2020 will be more like 1984.

Recognizing that these people are reactionary and dislike equality for minorities, however, is different than constantly saying “you are racist” at every turn. Knowing how things are doesn’t mean we have to say it 24/7.