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Archive for January, 2011

What is a hate crime? The FBI’s definition is reasonable enough: a hate crime, also known as a bias crime, is “a criminal offense committed against a person or property which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.” For the purposes of this post, I will abbreviate “racially-motivated hate crime” to simply “hate crime,” since I will not discuss other types of hate crime (e.g. crimes motivated by religion or sexual orientation).

Let me start with two relatively uncontroversial points:

  1. Hate crimes occur in the United States every year.
  2. Hate crimes are bad.

Some people—I’m always amazed by this attitude—seem to think that this concludes any debate on the matter. I suppose those people can just stop reading. Personally, I need to know more.

How many hate crimes occur in the United States each year?

After all, a meteor hitting your house is pretty bad, and it certainly occurs from time to time. But it’s so rare, we shouldn’t spare it a second thought. We probably don’t need special legislation—indeed, a special category of natural disasters—to combat the epidemic of meteor strikes. So we need to know how bad the hate crime problem really is.

I checked the FBI’s often-cited statistics on crime (and hate crime specifically). In 2009, about 1,318,398 violent crimes were committed nationwide. That includes murder, rape, and assault (simple and aggravated). Of these, about 1,759 were anti-black hate crimes. That’s 0.1%.

I feel better already. But I still need to know more.

How do we know how many hate crimes there are?

Is it possible there’s a reporting bias? Consider the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). They’re making a nice profit from America’s war on hate, taking in $44 million in 1999 but spending only $2.4 million on litigation and $5.7 million on fundraising, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Is it surprising that the SPLC has turned up 932 hate groups in the United States?

Look at our country. Look at its demographics, its immigrants, its media, its music, its President. Ask yourself how effective these supposed hate groups, including FAIR, can possibly be.

I am not surprised that the SPLC is not a credible source for data on hate crimes and hate groups. If I handed you $44,000,000 to fight the national epidemic of rabid woodchucks mauling picnickers, would you come back a week later and give me back $43,999,900 because you made some calls and discovered no such epidemic exists? Assume that you can count on the mainstream media to treat as credible every allegation of rabid-woodchuck picnicker-mauling. Further assume that you can silence your opponents by calling them “pro-woodchuck.” Be honest. (Remember, “George Bush doesn’t care about picnickers.”)

On July 16 2009, Henry Louis Gates Jr. experienced what he described as “the worst racial profiling [he had] ever heard of in [his] life”: being arrested for disorderly conduct, after exhibiting nothing more than disorderly conduct. And being black. In his words: “[the arresting officer] presumed that I was guilty because I was black. There was no doubt about that.” But the real story casts plenty of doubt. Great big mountains of doubt. And that makes me wonder what constitutes a hate crime to a man like Gates, and brings me to my next question:

How can we tell if any given crime is a hate crime?

By the FBI’s standards, “facts such as the following, particularly when combined, are supportive of a finding of bias:”

  • “The offender and the victim were of different race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and/or ethnicity/national origin. For example, the victim was black and the offender was white.” (Wonderfully unbiased example, there.)
  • “The victim is a member of a racial, religious, disability, sexual-orientation, or ethnic/national origin group which is overwhelmingly outnumbered by other residents in the neighborhood where the victim lives and the incident took place.”
  • “A substantial portion of the community where the crime occurred perceived that the incident was motivated by bias.”
  • “A historically established animosity existed between the victim’s and the offender’s groups.”
  • “The victim, although not a member of the targeted racial, religious, disability, sexual-orientation, or ethnic/national origin group, was a member of an advocacy group supporting the precepts of the victim group.”

There are more criteria—and some of the others make a lot more sense—but restricting our attention to just these five, I invite the reader to imagine ways in which someone like Gates, or the SPLC, could stretch them enough to find racial motives in . . . well, just about anything done to anyone. See if you can stretch “advocacy group” to include all Obama supporters, for instance; or find “a substantial portion of the community” willing to blame just about anything on, say, white people.

I have to agree with this criterion, though:

  • “Bias-related drawings, markings, symbols, or graffiti were left at the crime scene. For example, a swastika was painted on the door of a synagogue.”

That’s good to know if you’re planning to fake a hate crime, like these and these and this and anything else you might turn up by searching for “fake hate crime.” (I really am the world’s laziest researcher, you know.)

What happens when we factor in racialist paranoia? La Griffe du Lion, in his excellent Analysis of Hate Crime, tells an illustrative story, which I must quote at some length:

Between January 1995 and November 1996 the burning of black churches in the South created a sustained news frenzy. By the summer of 1996, Americans had been treated to over 2,000 articles in major newspapers, many on the front page. Not to be outdone, church arson lead all other stories in the TV nightly news.

Political types of various stripes chimed in. Ralph Reed, then Director of the Christian Coalition, termed the arsons, “the greatest outbreak of violence against the black church since the height of the civil rights movement.” Deval Patrick, assistant attorney general for civil rights, proclaimed the fires to be “an epidemic of terror.” President Clinton, in one of his weekly radio addresses, recalled in a now famous evocation, “vivid and painful memories of black churches being burned in my own state when I was a child.” (It was later discovered that no black church had been burned in Arkansas during his childhood.) Clinton called a conference of Southern governors to deal with the burnings. He toured burned-out churches, once on his 50th birthday. The press tagged along. Congress, not to be upstaged, passed the Church Fire Prevention Act of 1996, making church burning a federal crime.

Not everyone bought in. Michael Fumento, writing in the Wall Street Journal, analyzed the data and found that much of it was spurious. He showed that there had been no increase in church arson in the South from 1990 to 1995. Fumento noted that in 1995, USA Today reported 45 arsons against white churches, compared to 27 against black churches. He also observed that the 1996 figures were inflated by copycat crimes.

Eventually, numbers began to roll in indicating that more white than black churches had been torched. It did not make much difference to some in the press. Paula Walker, vice president and news director of WNBC-TV, reacted to the reports while attending a National Association of Black Journalists convention in August 1996. She concluded that, “There didn’t seem to be much substantiation other than raw numbers . . . while whites were being blamed for burning black churches, and were drowning in their own guilt, the facts reveal a black was 5 times more likely than a white to commit bias-motivated church arson.”

So who are the real victims of hate crimes?

Usually, white people.

There are two ways to assess the growing problem of black-on-white racism in the United States: hard facts and big news—or, to be more accurate, how the media and the public handle big news. We’ll come at it both ways.

When it comes to data, I’m very grateful that La Griffe du Lion is here to help—by which I mean, do all my work for me. From his study Crime in the Hood:

The best and most complete evidence [of white victimization by blacks] comes from the Justice Department. Its annual National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) canvasses a representative sample of about 80,000 Americans, from roughly 43,000 households. . . . From [the NCVS’s last full report] we learn that blacks committed 1,600,951 violent crimes against whites. In the same year, whites committed 165,345 such offenses against blacks. Despite being only 13 percent of the population, blacks committed more than 90 percent of the violent interracial crime. Less than 15 percent of these had robbery as a motive. The rest were assaults and rapes. [Emphasis mine.]

The asymmetry of interracial crime goes still deeper. More than half the violence committed by blacks is directed against whites, 57 percent in 1994. Less than 3 percent of the violence committed by whites is directed against blacks. Population and NCVS statistics reveal that in 1994 a black was 64 times more likely to attack a white than vice versa. In the city, the races live mostly apart from one another, so that the most convenient victims of thugs are others of the same race. Only a hunter’s mentality could account for the data. Given a choice, a black thug will select a white victim. [Emphasis mine.]

How many of these crimes, do you think, would be reported as hate crimes to the FBI? Would the SPLC factor them in? To their credit, they list active black separatist groups as hate groups. There’s 121 of them.

And then there’s the big news. Can you really even charge blacks for hate crimes? Will a white rape victim blame the black perpetrator or herself and her entire race? Are we even allowed to talk about this? Will the media report the races of the victims and of the offender when it’s a black-on-white crime? How about horrific crimes? How about the worst and most sickening crimes in American history?

Rhetorical.

Special bonus atrocities: If you haven’t yet had your fill of the “black experience,” there’s a big list of racial atrocities committed by blacks against whites at the end of this article about the 2009 massacre of five whites by three blacks.

Postscript: Don’t worry, the media’s all over it when it comes to really important racial issues, like the discovery that adding words to other people’s sentences can make them sound racist. Morons.

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I have black friends. This post is not about them.

Anyone who has ever heard or participated in a candid discussion of race issues is probably familiar with exchanges like this (Igor is not based on any real person):

UNAMUSED: Blacks are, on average, less intelligent than whites. This is a well established scientific fact.

IGOR: How dare you suggest blacks are inferior to whites? You’re just a racist!

UNAMUSED: First, that’s not what I said. Second, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m friends with [mutual acquaintances] CARL [black], PENG [East Asian], and MANUEL [Hispanic]. Would a racist be friends with them?

IGOR: So what? That doesn’t mean anything. Hey guys, Unamused is trying that same old bullshit line racists always try: “Oh, but I have black friends! That means I can be as racist as I want!”

That’s enough out of those two. My question is this: what’s wrong with the “I have black friends” argument? A racist—against blacks, in this example—is unlikely to be friends with black people. So how do you explain my black friends? Any explanation that manages to cram “hates blacks” and “has black friends” into one logically consistent universe is going to be a complicated, convoluted, cockamamie scheme. Occam’s Razor suggests we take the simpler route, and conclude that I’m not actually a racist—that I have good reasons to believe what I believe about race differences in intelligence.

Somehow I doubt Igor would buy that. So what’s really going on here? So far, I’ve been taking it for granted that “racist” means something like the following:

Racist (1): someone who hates people because of the color of their skin, or shape of their eyes, or width of their nose, etc.

Let’s call those people racists (1). When Igor scoffs at the notion that my liking some black people could somehow preclude my being a racist, he’s not talking about racists (1). He’s operating from a definition very much like this, as famously put by Peter Brimelow:

Racist (2): anyone who is winning an argument with a liberal.

It matters not a whit to Igor that I don’t feel hatred toward any races, or that I treat people as individuals because it would be irrational to do otherwise. These points are inessential—irrelevant, even—to definition 2. Let’s call the people who fit that definition racists (2).

Now, if I were a racist (1)—if I really did hate/resent/mistreat people based on their race—Igor would certainly call me a racist, and he would be right to do so. Actually, he would skip the name-calling and go straight to the press, the courts, the police, and if possible the lynch mob. The problem for Igor is that if he stuck to persecuting racists (1), he would have no one to lynch!

There are virtually no real white racists (1) in America today. They are largely an urban legend. Unfortunately for Igor, if people understood that white racism (1) is extinct in the United States, they would quickly lose patience for forced diversity (including affirmative action, racial quotas, the four-fifths rule, disparate impact, and forced busing), discriminatory lending practices, and of course shrieking, race-baiting demagogues like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

And Igor will not let that happen. So he has expanded the meaning of “racist” until it actually starts to look quite like definition 2. Now he can profitably persecute whites (and blacks, the so-called Uncle Toms) for all of these new, exciting kinds of racism (2):

  • Believing true statements that favor whites or reflect poorly on blacks. For example, noting blacks’ higher average criminality and lower average IQ is racist (2), because committing crime and being unintelligent are bad. For the same reason, observing that blacks are more disruptive in classrooms is racist (2). See: thoughtcrime.
  • Believing that blacks can be held accountable for their own behavior. For example, you are very racist (2) if you don’t believe that black students are only disruptive in class because black churches are so much more lively and enthusiastic than those boring white churches. You are completely, utterly racist (2) if you don’t accept that blacks score poorly on IQ tests because evil whites have told them, all their lives, that they are inferior; because white school teachers refuse to teach black students; and because the tests are culturally biased against blacks, whose “black mathematics,” for instance, are to be celebrated as a valid (indeed, preferable) alternative to the markedly inferior “white mathematics” of Archimedes, Gauss, and Einstein.

    Finally, you are incredibly, unbelievably racist (2) if you fail to acknowledge that blacks only ever commit crimes in retaliation for much worse racial crimes committed against them by white conspirators; or out of desperation, in a society that will not allow them to feed their families by any other means. That’s why they feel the need to rape and murder white women. That’s why mainstream blacks consider beating a white boy unconscious, then stomping and kicking him, to be a cause their community can unite and rally around.

  • Saying anything that some paranoid race-baiter can misinterpret as being connected with race. Yes, that’s the full description—”misinterpret as being connected with race.” To pick a particularly silly example, it is racist (2) to draw a cartoon where a crazed ape from recent headlines is implied to be responsible for writing a stimulus bill. This is because President Obama, who supports the bill, is black, and a long time ago racist (1) people would compare blacks to monkeys.
  • Being a cop. This is to be considered super racist (2), and don’t you forget it. I personally know a person who is considered mentally sound, yet believes that police officers in Canada, of all places, like to get together at night, go out into the streets in gangs, and round up innocent blacks and Muslims to murder in cold blood.
  • The absence of racism (1). This is very racist (2), because it proves that racism (1) has sunk so deeply into our minds that we no longer notice it. This leads us to believe it does not exist, when in fact it permeates our society to the very core. This so-called institutional racism explains every black failing that can’t be explained by regular ol’ (mythical) racism (1).

So that is what racism means to Igor. That is why it doesn’t matter if everything I believe about race happens to be true. I am still a racist (2). Poor me.

One interesting, unintended consequence of this re-defining of “racist” is that whenever someone accuses me of being racist (2), I feel an almost irresistible urge to show them what real racism (1) looks like.

IGOR: How dare you suggest blacks are inferior to whites? You’re just a racist!

UNAMUSED: Oh, give me a break. If I were a racist, I wouldn’t stand here debating with you. I’d just call you a “nigger-lover” and get on with my day.

IGOR: [head explodes, showering bystanders with blood and gray matter, to my great relief]

Of course, I resist. Well, most of the time . . .

Be sure to read the comments, where I discuss race relations with Obsidian and Hail. My own comments are summarized in a follow-up post, “I still have black friends”.

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I’m certain this will become a regular feature here. I love to argue—debate, that is, not fight verbally. It’s like how playing sports feels for normal people. It satisfies the same need. It’s action. Without it, we stagnate. I can’t help that I’m not into hockey. Let me have my games of deductive reasoning—at least nobody’s getting their teeth knocked out (usually).

Way too many people associate vigorous debate with anger and general unpleasantness. I never get angry when I’m arguing, and I never find it unpleasant. That is, unless my opponent is unwilling or unable to follow the Rules of Engagement:

  1. Don’t make it personal. Arguments stand or fall on their own merits, not on your opponent’s receding hairline, mismatched socks, or history of sexual congress with barn animals.
  2. Don’t be a jerk. Never be the first to bring out the insults, coarse language, and snide remarks. They add nothing to the argument and they put everyone in a bad mood. Your opponent is not “stupid,” he “may be mistaken.” His claim isn’t “a bunch of crap,” it’s “flawed for the following reasons.” Once you’ve said that, go ahead and tear it apart.
  3. Be reasonable, i.e. rational. If you have no counter-argument, you lose—go away. You don’t get to invent new rules of logic—Aristotle’s got you covered. You don’t get to deny inconvenient facts—just because a study disagrees with your opinion, doesn’t make it flawed. I could go on, but you get the point.

For example, one of the most egregious violations of all three rules is illustrated by a female/gay/minority opponent who sneers at any mention of discrimination against men/heterosexuals/whites: “Yeah, right! Like that could ever happen!” (It should go without saying that anyone may commit this violation, but I’m a white heterosexual man, so this is the form I’m most familiar with.)

So that’s my system. I think it’s pretty solid. It’s not perfect and neither am I, but we try our best.

And yet, whenever I get really into an interesting discussion, some bystander, with no ideas of his own to contribute, is always ready to jump in to remind everyone to calm down, relax (I’m feeling fine, thanks), it’s not that big a deal (nothing is, to these people), and just agree with him so he’ll stop arguing! That might be the most insulting of all. Don’t pretend you’re taking the high road to save me the humiliation of defeat; have the decency to admit you’re running away.

To be clear, I’m not talking about interrupting dinner parties with abortion debates. That’s not fun, for obvious reasons; one of them is that it’s inconsiderate (see 2). (Incidentally, I don’t debate abortion or religion.) I’m talking about ordinary, typically private conversations, where any uninterested parties can walk away at any time.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Who am I arguing with now?

First up, dissention is “pissing on white notions about black criminality”. I respectfully disagree. Patric Paramedic has many insightful remarks I wish I’d thought of first, but at least we both seem to equally annoy the hell out of A is A. Personal highlights:

(The previously mentioned dissention-debates on science-y topics (one and two) are still going on, as far as I know.)

Second, and sadly last, Hank Campbell doesn’t think much of evolutionary biology. Apparently, men are more likely to forgive their girlfriends for cheating with other girls than with other men. Campbell scoffs:

Lead author Jaime Confer, doctoral candidate in evolutionary psychology, and Professor Mark Cloud, of Lock Haven University bizarrely try to make a biology case that men are more distressed by infidelity that could threaten their paternity of offspring. College age men. Offspring. Yeah, instead of the obvious “it’s a porn movie” thing that has nothing at all to do with evolution, no matter [how] much evolutionary psychologists want everything about sex to be biology.

There are plenty of other snide remarks in the same vein, like

evolutionary psychologists insist men have an inborn need to sleep with the planet

and

Machismo college age men may regard gay male sex as icky but not female gay sex, as long as the women are hot. Science has no explanation for that, try as evolutionary psychology might try to make one. Because it isn’t a biology issue.

Isn’t it, though? A biology issue, that is. So I figured, what the hell, I’ll give it my best shot:

Am I missing some incredibly subtle sarcasm? If not, your entire article is one big fallacy. To be precise: you are confusing proximate cause with ultimate cause.

No one, least of all evolutionary biologists, is suggesting that college age men consciously consider paternity of offspring before they decide whether or not to break up with their girlfriends. (“Hmm, what are the chances I’m raising another man’s son? Let’s get out the statistics textbooks.”) Obviously, they do not choose to feel or not feel sexual jealousy.

What the scientists are suggesting is that, over the many millions of years of human evolution, there was a reproductive advantage to getting mad about your girlfriend cheating with a man—because you might have to raise his offspring, not yours; but there was no reproductive advantage when it’s girl-on-girl, because . . . well, duh. No babies to raise.

It’s quite reasonable to conclude that men have probably evolved (again, not by choice) to feel sexual jealousy toward other men, but not nearly as much toward other women. The actual response is completely instinctual. They don’t look at their evolutionary past and make decisions based on differential reproduction rates, which is the straw-man argument you’ve set up [in order to] take cheap shots at evolutionary psychology/biology.

As for the “porn movie” explanation: well, yes, that’s why men like it, or at least like the thought of it (as opposed to merely being neutral). In the absence of strong sexual jealousy toward women, there’s not much reason for men not to like it. It’s sex, right?

Personal highlights:

  • a fallacy is dragged out to article length,
  • the term girl-on-girl is used in a serious discussion of evo-biology, and
  • prehistoric man gazes in awe at the colossal straw-man, which Campbell (sadly, not Joseph Campbell) has so laboriously erected. (Totally not violating Rule 2—he started it!)

I intend to stumble into or provoke more discussions soon.

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The future, now!

If you came to read about race and other serious things, go ahead and skip this.

In a world of uncertainty where often the only constant is change, we are indeed fortunate that astrology—the science of predicting one’s personal future from the relative positions of the planets—was perfected over two thousand years ago by Mesopotamian dirt farmers, whose encyclopedic ignorance of natural law included the belief that the soul of an animal was in its liver; that the Earth was the center of the universe; and that there were only six planets in the solar system. It is truly incredible that these minor errors have not affected astrology’s power of divination. Therefore I insist that you base all your life decisions on these startlingly precise omens and auguries.

Aries (March 21 to April 19): The planets align for maximum pain and misery, culminating in a midair zeppelin collision that will claim both your thumbs.

Your sign is an angry goat, representing your love of barnyard squalor and the two small horns on your forehead.

Taurus (April 20 to May 20): You will achieve great fame as the discoverer and first victim of a mysterious tropical disease affecting the nose, mouth, and genitals. After your death, your reputation will diminish when an autopsy of your bloated, oozing body reveals that the disease is sexually transmitted and originated among bats.

Your sign is a bull, representing your arena battles against gaily-dressed Spaniards.

Popsicle (Witches’ Sabbath and the vernal equinox): After weeks of introspection and meditation at a secluded mountaintop retreat, you will finally come to a profound realization about the nature of the universe; namely, that nobody likes you enough to notice you’ve been stranded for weeks at the top of this mountain, and hey, “Popsicle” isn’t even a real zodiacal sign.

Your sign is a gullible child tumbling into a grain thresher, representing your childlike sense of wonder and your fondness for threshed grains.

Gemini (May 21 to June 21): I see it now. Your future is weird and terrifying. You will stare into the abyss but you will not die. You will see things no man has seen. You will hear amphibians perform live music. You will brew liqueur from your own urine.

That was odd. Well, your sign is a couple of cool dudes who look pretty much the same, representing your secret desire to get it on with a more experienced future version of yourself in what can only be described as “freaky relativistic masturbation.” Then two copies of your mom walk in on you.

Cancer (June 22 to July 22): You will get cancer.

Your sign is a crab. The crab also has cancer.

Leo (July 23 to August 22): Do not despair. All your problems can be solved by squatting on a quartz pyramid for one hour, every day, for the rest of your miserable life.

Your sign is a lion, representing your lush, golden mane of pubic hair and the way you sometimes eat African children.

Virgo (August 23 to September 22): Men: while pondering a Zen koan, you will become disoriented and aroused, and fall down an open manhole. On the way down, your engorged member will ensnare a ripe strawberry, which will taste unusually good. Women: while planting unusually good strawberries in a manhole, you will achieve enlightenment and total spiritual fulfillment seconds before being crushed by a falling man with a strawberry-flavored erection.

Your sign is a virgin, representing your continued failure to achieve vaginal intercourse with a consenting, living human being.

Libra (September 23 to October 23): You and your evil twin—easily identifiable by his goatee and eyepatch—will become painfully aware that wearing two pairs of underpants is not sufficient protection against attack by vicious cancer-crabs.

Your sign is a set of scales, representing your life’s perfect balance between emotion and reason, between career and relationships, and between male and female genitalia.

Libré (Octember 222 to Septober -8): Be forewarned. Despite what they may tell you, mysterious hobos are either unwilling or unable to grant three wishes to those that enter the “magic alley” at midnight—unless of course all your wishes are “please molest me with a rusty eggbeater.”

Your sign is a small sack of assorted nuts, representing your small sack of assorted nuts.

Scorpio (October 24 to November 22): Contrary to tomorrow’s resolution by the United Nations, you are probably not the sole cause of “date rape, spousal abuse, amphetamine addiction, AIDS, obesity, zeppelin fatalities, seductive bats, fraudulent zodiacal signs, the dire proclamations of ersatz wood nymphs, these constantly attacking cancer-crabs, and a plague of hobo rapists of Biblical proportions.” Nor will your prompt hanging and dismemberment do anything to allay them.

Your sign is a bad-ass scorpion, and everyone is envious of you, so you sting them with your venomous barbs.

Sagittarius (November 23 to December 21): Your future has been stolen by roving time bandits!

Your true sign has been replaced by a stupid arrow, an obvious fake. To find the True Sign of Sagittarius is to find pure awesomeness in its most distilled form. Here, take this sword—and take a free shirt while you’re at it. Good luck on your quest!

Capricorn (December 22 to January 19): While dodging the draft for the First Intergalactic War, a sarcastic answer to a rhetorical question will cause you to become trapped for hours in a vat of olive oil with a gorgeous redhead—neither of them in any way “extra virgin.” Unfortunately, you will get only halfway to third base, with two strikes and one ball, before you are discovered and conscripted into . . . the Rocket Marines!

Here come the Rocket Marines,
Hooray! Hooray!
Flying in their Rocket Ships,
To save! The day!
Rocket, Rocket, Rocket Marines,
Dangerous, sexy killing machines,
Conscripted from convicts whose brains are wiped cleeeeeeeean,
Here come the Rocket Marines!
Death to the alien hive-mind!

Your sign is a sea-goat, representing—wait, what the hell is a sea-goat?

Aquarius (January 20 to February 18): Something marginally out of the ordinary will happen to you, possibly involving the number 77 or the color blue. You will take this to be a sign from God and crown yourself Emperor of Earth, sparking a thousand years of holy wars. Many centuries later, your best-selling memoir will inspire the conquest of space by, uh . . . the Rocket Marines. Sure, why not.

Your sign is a couple of wavy lines, I guess they’re supposed to be water, probably representing the impending sea-goat attack that topples your reign. (Look, astrology is not an exact science, and your negative vibrations are not making my job any easier. Jerk-face.)

Pisces (February 19 to March 20): As a Pisces, you are remarkably stubborn, so it is unlikely that I will be able to change your mind—especially since that would contradict my infallible predictive powers. However, I am obliged to point out that—whatever the park ranger tells you—the common brown bear is not “undead,” let alone “an abominable lich controlling our minds, pilfering our precious honey reserves, and preventing me from getting a prom date,” and thus it will be quite immune to your formidable collection of garlic bread and crucifixes.

Your sign is a bunch of dead fish, representing the bait you will inevitably use in your ill-fated expedition to “smoke out that mind-reading, honey-stealing devil-bear.”

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Developing, that is? Is Haiti developing? East Timor? North Korea? Can we call them what they are? They’re failing.

I might be in the minority here, though: apparently, some people think that “developing” is too harsh a word to describe these places. From Wikipedia, savior of lazy researchers everywhere (boldface in original):

There is criticism of the use of the term ‘developing country’. The term implies inferiority of a ‘developing country’ compared to a ‘developed country’, which many countries dislike. It assumes a desire to ‘develop’ along the traditional ‘Western’ model of economic development which a few countries, such as Cuba, have chosen not to follow.

Putting “develop” and “Western” in scare quotes, like any good cultural relativist, doesn’t make Swaziland, Afghanistan, or Cuba a better place to live than Sweden, Australia, or Canada. But it’s the preceding sentence that I find sadly funny. What implies the inferiority of developing countries is the fact that they are inferior according to objective metrics for the quality of human life.

I think that last remark bears illustration. To that end, I have prepared a short quiz.

“Is my country inferior?”: The Quiz

  1. Does your country grant you rights like personal security, personal liberty, and private property? Subtract one Inferiority Point.
  2. Are you allowed to make spurious allegations that the leader of your country is an idiot? How about explicit death threats? Can you do all that without fear of being murdered? Subtract one Inferiority Point, and try not to singe your fingers if you’re burning your flag.
  3. Do foreigners incur an “extreme risk” by conducting business in your country? Add one Inferiority Point, and enjoy your Appel computer and Cokha-Cola.
  4. Do you live in a dictatorship? Add one Inferiority Point, and—look, we’re not safe here, they’re watching us, always watching—I mean, praise our Glorious Leader! May He live ten thousand years!
  5. Do significant numbers of your countrymen consider your sister or daughter being “too Western,” or being a rape victim, good reasons to murder her? Add one Inferiority Point, and please avoid stepping on any IEDs on your way to the hummus store.
  6. Are there ongoing epidemics of fatal diseases? Are some of those diseases curable? Add one Inferiority Point, and have a shirt. Feel better yet?
  7. Are albinos likely to get murdered and dismembered so that their body parts can be used in witchcraft? Are thousands of innocent people, including children, being burned alive, hacked apart with machetes, or doused with acid after being accused of the aforementioned witchcraft? Add one Inferiority Point, and, uh . . . I got nothin’. Hang in there? Every cloud has a . . . ? Never mind, forget it. Have another shirt.

Look: if you want to help these countries, acknowledging their present condition is a good place to start. And we’re short on good places to start. AIDS charity hasn’t worked. Foreign aid in general hasn’t worked. A cynic might ask: isn’t time to just leave these countries alone? After all, we’re not to blame for their failures—white guilt over slavery and colonialism notwithstanding.

However, I am not that cynic. Irrational though it may be, I actually care—just not enough to do anything about it, unfortunately. Well, unfortunately for them. Lucky, for me: I can’t imagine the pain and frustration of truly caring about people living in Third World countries.

I really don’t do anything. I mean, I don’t make their lives worse, but that’s about it. I don’t give to charity, like 25% of us. When I still watched TV, if starving African children appeared, I muted them. I stopped giving money or food to homeless people years ago, with the exception of one cute homeless girl—but that story isn’t relevant here.

Obviously I didn’t choose to feel this way, any more than I chose to enjoy fatty foods. I can’t force myself to feel more strongly about complete strangers from alien cultures. If my mother were starving, I would care enough to do something about it. If her mother were starving, I would still do something about it, but I’d complain a lot and make her feel guilty. If my mother’s cat were starving, I’d be all over that situation—shit would get done. And I’m comfortable with that—with the diameter of my moral circle.

Of course, I’m a bad person. So there’s that, too.

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I (posting as Unamused) am in two dialogues—the first about radioactive decay, the second about alien intelligence—with dissention in his comment sections. I’m interested to see where he’s going to take this with his upcoming weekend post. Aside: I think arguing is fun.

On an unrelated note: there’s an insightful guest post over at In Mala Fide. The post is by Freedom Twenty-Five, who’s also writing what looks like a great first novel.

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The death penalty ought to be applied to all murderers, be they sad, bad, or mad. (Even the sad ones shouldn’t be unleashed on the world.)

We are under no ethical obligation to bill taxpayers for their “three hots and a cot” in prison. We are, however, under an ethical obligation to put them down like rabid dogs (the criminals, not the taxpayers). The analogy is not intended to be inflammatory; I believe it is accurate.

The only problem is: how can we streamline the criminal justice system’s process—how can we kill murderers faster—while keeping innocent deaths to a minimum? Yes, I am willing to accept a few slip-ups. (You can’t make an omelette, et cetera.) The only relevant question is, what will kill more innocent people, capital punishment or the lack of thereof? On the basis of the available evidence, I’ve come down hard on the socially unacceptable side of that dilemma.

Along those lines, links I’ll re-read at work today: one, two, three, four.

Incidentally, the death penalty is not racist, but blacks do commit much more capital crimes per capita.

And yes, I do sometimes spontaneously crank out a post on some pseudo-random subject in ten minutes or so, with no advance preparation. If this displeases you in some way, please enjoy this video of the Ramones.

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