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Douthat gets some pushback on his earlier post concerning assimilation.   His argument was simply that he thinks that bigotry can be justified because it, like procedural liberalism, helps immigrants assimilate.  It looks bad when you state it like that without running it through the pomposity generator, so he’s stepped back a bit.  He wants to draw a distinction between ugly bigotry and positive nativist sentiment, but he concedes that such a distinction is fuzzy and in practice hard to draw, and because he thinks the alternative is European-style assimilation, where no one says anything politically incorrect and immigrants fail to assimilate, better to err on the side of nativist sentiment, which he admits is going to be occasionally indistinguishable from bigotry.

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1.  I think The Last Psychiatrist is reading my blog.  If I start explaining everything in terms of narcissism, send help.
2. Interesting article suggesting that biological differences do not explain cognitive and intellectual differences in boys and girls; the differences are too small, and brains are too plastic, for differences in the brain to explain large differences in achievement or preference.

What does explain it?  Culture, specifically parents’ expectations, which is why I thought this was interesting.  Often in informal discussions people assume that the culture must affect the child’s expectations directly, and so there’s a type of argument that points to a child’s preference for princess costumes or trucks, notes that the child is too young (and too well-parented) to know that those toys are gendered, and concludes therefore that preferences for princess costumes or trucks must be hardwired somehow.  What is often overlooked is that while the young child may be sheltered from the media, her parents aren’t, and neither are her parents’ friends.   If Suzy develops an interest in cars and princesses and her parents’ friends respond by teasing her parents by wondering where Suzy got this strange interest in cars, it reinforces the message to her parents that loving princesses is normal for a girl, and loving cars is not.  Thus, “Suzy loved princesses and cars as a little girl” becomes “Suzy loved princesses like all little girls do, but she also liked cars.”   Not a huge problem for cars and princesses, of course, but risky if the proposition is “Suzy is struggling with math” or “Joey seems to be lagging behind verbally.”

3. Did anyone else watch Zombieland and think that the lead role had been written for Michael Cera, and then went to someone else?

I was reflecting this morning on the character of some of the responses to 9/11 back in 2001 and early 2002, specifically those that responded with defiance and naughty words to the idea that the attack could cow Americans.  Things like comedians joking that instead of the Twin Towers, we’ll put up three, with “Go. Fuck. Yourself.” emblazoned on the sides, or that instead of the Twin Towers, we’ll put up five, two short ones on the ends, two slightly taller ones in from that, and one big one in the middle, to give terrorists the finger.   I seem to recall a comic book with panels depicting a memorial that made no mention of the ideology of the attackers, because, it was clear, those ignorant assholes would not be worth the time of future Americans in their futuristic memorial.   The message was clear:  these clowns can knock down a building but they can’t knock down us.

We all know that even Bush figured out that it was correct to portray the attackers as nothing more than representatives of a perverted version of Islam, that it was important not just politically but morally to distinguish between the tiny minority of Muslims who like to blow things up and the vast majority who think that those people are jerks.

But I have to figure that there was someone who combined the two, someone who thought that the best defiant response possible would be one that told the terrorists to bunny up a stump by building a mosque or Learn About Islam (Which Does Not Include Ignorant Jerkface Terrorists Neener Neener bin Laden) center right in Lower Manhattan.   There has to be someone.  Preferably on the right.   But I have entirely too much stuff to do to bother with looking this up.

Anyone up for Googling?

I wish I could get paid to peddle ignorance.  (Hush, you.)  Seriously.  Douthat wants American Muslims to recognize that to fit into the American Protestant religious model,  they must reject radicalism in favor of bland assimilationist piety consonant with Western values.

I have an idea!  Maybe one of those moderate imams, you know, the trusted sort that Bush’s administration could consult with after 9/11, one of the good guys, should start a, what should we call it, maybe a Muslim Knights of Columbus or YMMA, a-a-a cultural center!  and put it in a modest, nondescript building in a major metropolitan area.  That would be a good way to show willing.  And they shouldn’t name it something foreign-sounding, but maybe pick an easy-to-pronounce Western name that evokes a place where scholars from all religions could come and work and learn together.

(I wonder where Opus Dei’s NYC offices are.  Christ on a cracker.)

Update: To be clear, the problem with this is that it’s pig-ignorance wrapped in delicate language:

During the great waves of 19th-century immigration, the insistence that new arrivals adapt to Anglo-Saxon culture — and the threat of discrimination if they didn’t — was crucial to their swift assimilation.

Of course, one can’t write the simplified version and be published in the paper of record as a nuanced conservative:

Many immigrants to the U.S. in the 19th century were met with violence and legal discrimination.   That is what is missing from our treatment of Muslims today.

Douthat’s whitewashing the past and ignoring that what allowed immigrants to assimilate despite horrid treatment was the very commitment to liberal ideals that he sets to the side in his first paragraph.   Does he think that Little Italy and Chinatown are there because it was really convenient to put all the restaurants together?

Will Wilkinson presents what can be described fairly as a non-xenophobic argument for the repeal of the fourteenth Amendment.  He paints a reasonably attractive vision of an economically unified Canada, America, and Mexico, where workers could move about freely, but who would have access to social services and other goodies based on their citizenship.  In such a world, he concludes, it would be very important for other political reasons that citizenship be tied to more than mere perinatal location, and so birthright citizenship would need to be replaced by something else, and he suggests that the various laws employed by various European nations might be good alternatives.  After all, giving someone special rights just because they were born somewhere is the height of moral luck, and hardly cosmopolitan.  Thus, we should work to repeal the 14th Amendment, on liberal cosmopolitan grounds.

What follows is a long way of saying that I think his proposal is seriously deluded.

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I agree and disagree with Scott; were Inception properly a movie interested in answering “is it a dream within a dream?”,  or even a film that tried to get us to guess, I would agree that it fails.  But I thought the movie succeeded, though it was good, but not great.   There will be spoilers after the jump, though nothing I think that would rob one’s enjoyment of the film.   Nor will there be a defense of Nolan himself after the jump; it would not surprise me that the man’s intentions could be defended, but the only other work of his I’ve seen is the Batman reboot, which was notable mostly for Heath Ledger’s performance, the disappearing pencil trick, and Batman flipping the truck.

What can I say?  I enjoyed it, and as a curmudgeon-in-training, I have a low tolerance for entertainment that purports to be about something big and philosophical but is really about the authors putting in random crap/polar bears and hoping that the fans will work it into their mythology and think that it’s deep, so I trust my instinct when I think there is something clever in a film.

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I’ve been enjoying the NYT series The Stone, but not primarily for the quality of its articles, which both have been good introductory nibbles  and have in general satisfied my selfish requirement: if my mother reads this, will she be assured that it is still unlikely that my discipline requires hallucinogenic drugs?

Rather, I have enjoyed the comments to the articles, for amidst the gloaming where philosophy and philosophers are condemned as of little interest, reasons glimmer like fireflies.  But the writer didn’t think of… What about this?… You’ve overlooked…. Maybe this shows that instead we should…

It makes me smile.  Thou art the man, thou art the man.

I had the same reaction that many did to the report of the Israeli rape-by-deception case, which is that even if the guy lied, he’s not guilty of rape.  Over at feministphilosophers, there has been some pushback on that, and I’ll formulate the pushback argument like this.  As enlightened folk, we believe that lack of consent characterizes rape.   Consent is a notorious pain in the patootie (forgive the technical term), because someone can fail to consent even when appearances suggest that they didn’t object.   A 12-year-old is too young to consent; someone who fails to resist out of fear of physical harm hasn’t consented; someone who is incapacitated by a date-rape drug hasn’t consented.

Another way that apparent consent can be invalid is if the person has been deceived.  If a prankster serves you a delicious brownie telling you that it’s made of chocolate, and neglects to tell you about the secret ingredient, it’s fair to say that you didn’t consent to getting high.

In this case, the woman argues that she was deceived, and if she was, her consent would be meaningless.  Lack of consent means rape.

So, I’m still not convinced.  I think that the difference lies in whether we read the deception as warranting the assertion, “Yes, I consented, but I wouldn’t have if I’d known the truth” or “No, I really didn’t consent, because I was deceived in such a way that I couldn’t consent.”   I think that there are two categories, and that this case falls in the former category, and that to hold that this is an instance of rape, it has to be in the latter category.

My resistance is largely because describing her as giving consent only because she was deceived about his personal qualities pre-supposes that sex as fundamentally transactional.  The woman exchanges sex as payment for the man’s good qualities, and if he’s lying about his good qualities, then he’s, um, overcharging and she, er, deserves a refund.  (This is going nowhere good.)

The consent there is the consent typical of something like a contract.  That is not an unprecedented way of understanding sex, even in this day and age (save it for marriage! no one wants a cookie with a bite taken out!), but it strikes me that to endorse this idea of rape-by-deception one also has to endorse the concept of sex as a transaction, rather than something that two people might choose to do for fun.

Otherwise, she’s just freely consented to have sex with someone she met at a club who (may have) turned out to be a liar.    This wouldn’t preclude being attracted to someone for having certain qualities, or being rightfully angry if it turned out they misrepresented themselves, but I don’t think you can get to retroactively invalidating consent without building in more assumptions about sex.

That’s a first pass, at least.

In keeping with the theme of the blog, would Tom Buchanan want a Germany-Netherlands final or a Spain-Netherlands final?

I’ve mostly ignored this over the past few months because I believe that examining pictures of a pregnant woman with an eye to figuring out whether her shape is appropriate to the gestation of the fetus is morally degrading to the examiner.  But I have to say that I’m with Amanda here, and I’m very surprised at the quarters whence the newest round of conspiracy theory comes.

Don’t get me wrong.  It strikes me as completely plausible that Palin, a woman whose public persona is constructed around a conservative fantasy, the tough woman who proves liberals wrong by having Christ, a career, children, and a perfect coiffure, exaggerated the extent to which she was in labor during the plane flight (here’s one account, where the doc says she induced labor upon landing)  This would not be surprising for any politician whose career depends more than most on personal charisma and narrative.   I have heard that male politicians have sometimes exaggerated their influence in important legislation or their status as a war hero.

What bothers me is the epistemic leap from Palin probably isn’t wholly truthful big friggin’ shocker to Therefore, we have a right to demand the birth certificate of her child to prove that she’s  the mother. As near as I can tell the only reason anyone considers the latter question seriously is due to Andrew Sullivan’s hissy fit that started way back before anyone knew that Bristol was pregnant (which makes it next to impossible that there’s another candidate for the role of Trig’s Mother besides Sarah Palin); otherwise it would be a complete non sequitur.  Settling the question that Palin is Trig’s mother wouldn’t prove her Wild Ride story to be true or false.

The obvious parallel with birtherism annoys people, but there’s more in common than the fact that in both cases people are demanding birth certificates and bemoaning the lack of MSM interest.  In both cases, the demand for the birth certificate came after a bunch of common-sense evidence was rejected as easily fabricated.  And I’d be willing to bet that if Palin released Trig’s birth certificate tomorrow, there will still be people pointing out that sometimes adoptive birth certificates show the adoptive parents as the parents with no indication that the child has been adopted, and somewhere down in the abyss of Amanda’s comments there will continue to be arguments that because Palin was photographed wearing kitten-heeled boots, she’s can’t really be the mother.

So, the U.S. is out.  Not terribly surprising.  Anyone familiar with sports is familiar with the maxim that you have to play the whole game; usually, this is a monition to a team that is winning in the waning minutes.  With us, it’s a reminder to the defense that they have to show up before minute nineteen.

In any event, forward we go in our discussion of reasons Americans don’t like soccer.

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So England scored a goal that didn’t count because the referee didn’t see it and now my English friends are suddenly of the opinion that perhaps a smidgen of technology might not be the end of the beautiful game.

But… I have to say that this case isn’t the best for either introducing video refereeing or sexy be-chipped soccer balls.   The ball was in by about two yards.  There wasn’t a tough judgment call that needed to be made here that could have gone either way.  They just needed someone on the field seeing the goal!  So we need some line judges, with flags.  Their only job would be to raise the flag when the ball crosses the line; the head referee would still sort out whether someone was offsides, diving, or American* when figuring out whether he should disallow the goal.

I get that the simplicity of soccer is something a lot of people value, and that there’s something to be said for not chasing down every new whizbang technological solution, but I think colorful flags on sticks are proven technology.


*I know, I know.  It’s not prejudice against Americans, but global incompetence, but it was too much fun to type.

Someone here has discovered the vuvuzela iPhone app.

It’s that time again, once every four years, when nations from around the globe gather…

… to ponder why Americans don’t like soccer.*  None of the typical explanations are compelling.  Thus I rant, first in a series, in part because it will tweak eric, tongue firmly in cheek, and you may talk about games that you’re watching in comments if you like, or you may rant back:

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what LB said, about this terribly daring article that seems to suggest that the importance of identifying and eliminating bias affecting women in the sciences cannot be determined unless science has established that men and women have the same innate* mathematical abilities.  To this I’d add the following:

1) This argument apparently only works for math. If we’re talking at the level of the facts people normally pull out here, there’s some research that suggests that at the tip of the tail, the brightest men are better at math than the brightest women, and the usual argument proceeds from here to conclude that this explains why men are more likely to be PhD’s in math, etc.  But similar research shows that the best female communicators are better than their male counterparts, and that women are natural consensus builders and yet no one suggests that top literature and political science departments are and should be female-dominated, because here we can easily see that innate tendencies can be overrun by other factors.

In fact, when girls get into gifted programs in greater numbers than boys, there are articles in the NYT about ways we have to ensure that the boys are tested properly, worrying about the biases and expectations of the teachers and testers.  This is a smart thing to consider.  Would that we took the same attitude towards preteen girls who struggle with math instead of writing them off because the top men might be better than the top women!

2. You (probably) cannot see the tip of the tail from where you are. The hidden assumption of these kinds of arguments is that the granting of, say, academic positions in the sciences at Harvard neatly tracks mathematical ability, and that the academic positions in question always go to the candidate who is best at math.  (It would make hiring easier…) I think it’s questionable whether the marginal utility of mathematical talent is sufficient at the top end across all scientific disciplines to explain any kind of hiring disparity.  Being a 1.23% better mathematician might be outweighed easily by a more creative head for experimental design, or a stronger work ethic, or a charming personality that encourages others to collaborate, or having an advisor run into someone at a conference and drop your name, or having a generous grant, or what have you.

Moreover, the purported difference in mathematical ability is not sufficient to explain day-to-day disparities in the professions.  Not everyone who is a working scientist or engineer or statistician or social scientist is in the top 1% of mathematical abilities.  Not even close.   Sometimes they let you be an engineer with only 650 on the Math SAT!  The relevance of the long tail for most very smart people: not so much.

2b.  Side note to philosophers: we’re not actually mathematicians. This needs to be said.

3. An uncomfortable alternative explanation suggests itself. Let me set aside the sciences for the moment.  Philosophy is about 25% female, and whenever this topic comes up, some  philosophers fall all over themselves explaining why more women don’t major in philosophy, why more don’t go to grad school, why women drop out along the tenure stream in ways that ensure it’s not their fault:  there are differences between men and women regarding mathematical ability, women just can’t handle or don’t like rigorous arguments, perhaps it’s time to consider that women just don’t like philosophy, or that they’re not as good as it as men, so of course the top jobs….

For some reason, the negative effects of the attitudes of senior philosophers towards the likely character traits of their female students on retention rates of said female students rarely comes up.

Not that I think that’s a complete explanation, or even one meant as more than a zinger; whatever leads to fewer female scientists and philosophers and engineers includes many factors, and the sensible thing to do would be to get up out of the armchair and… identify and eliminate such factors, if possible, as the House bill proposes.   We shouldn’t need to prove that men and women have identical mathematical abilities to discuss how to remove systematic barriers to entry.


*I have a problem using “innate” ever since I overhead this conversation at an x-phi conference:

“We psychologists try not to say “nature vs. nurture.”  “Why?” “Because it’s always wrong and it makes you look like a dumbass.”

A fun poll asks us what 20th century philosopher will be read in 100 years.  What I find interesting about the list is that it depends on what you mean by read, and by whom?   Are the works to be read as coursework?  for pleasure?  for shaping politics?  Who is the audience?  Professional philosophers?  Trends die quickly,  and the birth of analytic philosophy may be regarded as no more than a passing fancy suitable only for 22nd century historians of philosophy.  (“A New Interpretation of Two Dogmas of Empiricism”; “Hesperus, Phosphorus, and American Cosmology post-1969″; ‘The Trolley, Ethics, and Ancient Rail Safety Protocols”; I will be here all night if I get started)  The general educated public?  Most of the authors on that list aren’t read now by non-specialists.

So much in the past depended on the survival of your manuscripts.  It’s also interesting to consider the differences in what of a philosopher’s work was thought to be interesting when they lived, and what resonates now.  Leibniz’s contemporaries couldn’t pore over his letters to figure out what was UP with the monads; basic courses including Descartes read the Meditations, not the Passions or Optics or Meterologie; and many philosophers published their now-canonical works posthumously.

It would be interesting to see what a list like this would have looked like in, say, 17th century France, or 1st BCE Greece, or 19th or very early 20th century America.

Our present-day philosophers will see more of their works survive, and philosophy is now professionalized more than it has been in the past, although that might mean just that the canon ossifies more quickly, rather than lending longevity to the works of the canonized.

Were I to recommend a course for being read in 100 years, I’d recommend writing on as many topics as possible, so desperate gleaners of the past can find something sexy in your work, and writing engagingly for non-specialists but with sufficient subtlety that the profession bothers to keep your works taught, and that they need to be taught in order to be understood.  You should probably try to be scandalous; atheism was popular for a while but that won’t get you as many clutched pearls today.  Finally, your work should be imperfect but in a tantalizing way.  You can have a principle that doesn’t quite work; you can equivocate on a key term so future scholars have something to do; you can write e-mails that clarify your thoughts.

Of course, if you try this, you probably won’t get hired or get tenure.  Fortunately, that also fits a well-patina’d tradition.

I don’t really care about Rand Paul’s heart of hearts, but I do wonder if the acrobatic tap dance some people do about wondering whether he’s really a racist or just advocating a return to Jim Crow that happens to have racist effects would survive if the questions were put in the following way:

Should your tax dollars be used to pay police to remove people from private businesses solely because the proprietor doesn’t like the color of their skin?

I imagine it would be like one of those push polls where you get different results based on whether you say pro-life or anti-choice or what have you.  But even if it didn’t, it would belie a feature that often is overlooked; this whole debate is not one between those who would prefer a society free of state interference* versus those who think that some state interference is warranted, but a debate over what kinds of rights should have priority.

The libertarian answer in this instance is that property rights trump civil rights, and that the state should prioritize enforcing those.

*If I were a libertarian, romantic appeals to the past would bother me because it would imply that America had already implemented my vision, and decided that it was bad.

A seven-year-old girl is killed by police in an ill-considered botched no-knock raid.

I’ll admit that it’s a non sequitur, and probably necessary for fair and balanced reporting since one of the foreseeable results of a flashbang grenade is lots of chaos and no one knowing what’s going on, which one would think might be a reason not to use grenades in duplexes, but the passive constructions used to describe the killing of the girl is driving me up the wall.

Apparently people don’t kill people, it’s just the officer’s gun firing.

So Lieberman is a monster.

But logistically, how is this thing supposed to work?  The state accuses someone of terrorism.   If the state waits until after he is convicted, then stripping him of his citizenship is a novel punishment, but not one that would affect how the trial proceeds or the rights the accused would have until the trial.  (And it creates more problems, too; what do you do with a stateless terrorist?  Start deportation proceedings after prison?  Where to?)

If the state doesn’t wait, then the mere suspicion of terrorism is enough to… start legal proceedings to remove someone’s citizenship… so he can… be tried without constitutional protections?   Taken away to be tortured because the magical Miranda fairy dust makes it impossible to interrogate the guy or get him to confess?  (Both of which happened with the Miracle-Gro bomber, here, but let’s not confuse the issue with the facts.) I’m assuming that’s the line of thinking here.

We’re supposed to start years of legal proceedings to remove someone’s citizenship (because of course Lieberman isn’t suggesting something as stupid as revoking citizenship based on an indictment, right?  Right?) so we then know how to proceed with the investigation?  And that’s supposed to help us get more information faster all like Jack Bauer in minute 59 of the hour?

Here’s what the law is now. Note the little clause in §1481(a).  I suspect that one could commit treason and be executed a citizen.

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