Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Clearing the Tabs

A Threat to Learning that We Rarely Consider

On a blog entitled "A Corner of Tenth Century Europe" we find the following comment regarding the "active exchange of manuscripts among religious houses in the twelfth century."  Peter the Venerable wrote to the Carthusians in 1136/7 asking for a volume of the letters of St Augustine ‘because by accident a bear ate a large part of ours in one of our dependencies.’ 
-- Peter the Venerable, Ep. 25, ed. Constable, I, 47; see the notes in II, 112
And you thought "The dog ate my homework" was a new one....  And what sort of accident could lead to a bear eating a book of Augustine's letters anyway?

The Bear Ate My Test Questions


The relative intellectual levels of the Middle and the Modern Ages can be compared using the following news item:

New York City bans mention of dinosaurs, dancing, birthdays and more on student tests

In a bizarre case of political correctness run wild, New York educrats banned references to "dinosaurs," "birthdays," "Halloween" and dozens of other topics on city-issued tests.
That is because they fear such topics "could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students."
Dinosaurs, for example, call to mind evolution, which might upset fundamentalists; birthdays are not celebrated by Jehovah's Witnesses; and Halloween suggests paganism.
Even "dancing" is taboo, because some sects object. But the city did make an exception for ballet.
While medieval bears were devouring books, modern students must be protected from encounters with the least-uncomfortable concept or idea, lest they be forced to, you know, think about them. 

Der Bär Frisst Mittelamerika

The Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey asked people to identify their ethnos.  Here now is a map, by county.  The default map shows which ethnos is the plurality in each.  Across most of middle America more people identify themselves as German-Americans than as any other ethnos.  (This does not mean that a majority in each county do so; only a plurality.)  The Southwest is Mexican-American.  English-Americans hold pluralities in much of New England (duh?), in Virginia/North Carolina and scattered in an arc across the Upper South, and in Utah and parts of adjoining states.  One finds French-American pluralities in Northern Maine & New England and in southern Louisiana (surprise!)  New York City and New Jersey are more Italian-American than anything else.  You can play with the map by using the left hand selector to pick one ethnos and see its absolute distribution.  You can then use the right hand selector to pick a second ethnos and see the relative distributions of the two chosen ethnoi, for example Irish vs. Italian. 

The Bear Drank My Gasoline
Here is a map of gasoline prices at the pump.  Redder means more expensive.  Greener means less expensive. 

The Econobrowser asks why this is so.  One reason is gasoline taxes vary by state.
which when subtracted give us this for the average gas price per state minus taxes:
Other factors are government requirements for botique fuels, fifteen different ones in various locales.  Accessorizing always adds price.  
and then lastly, the pipeline system enables sellers to move refined crude to places where it sells for more, which tends to raise the prices at the cheaper end:
Now you know.

Just Can't Bear It
Here is an interactive map on the abortion rates in NYC by ZIP code.  You can select by year.  The rate was calculated by taking 100*#abortions/(#births + #abortions).  I found one error; there may be others.  Overall, the rate was on the order of 41%, but there were large variations from one neighborhood to another.  A cursory examination of the map will indicate, for those familiar with the demographics of NYC, that Margaret Sanger's dream is being realized. 

21 comments:

  1. You mean, Sanger's dream of helping women improve their economic curcumstances? Yes, I'd say that is happening.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nah. Her dream of culling the "inferior."

      Delete
    2. Why would you say "Nah" and then agree with me? You cull the inferior by improving their economic circumstances., making them your equals.

      Delete
    3. That was not what the eugenics movement had in mind. It was in preventing the unfit from propagating by controlling their reproduction.

      Delete
    4. Sorry, I thought we were discussing Sanger, whose efforts at Planned Parenthood were praised by the like of King, X, Wells, etc. Having two kids at an age near 30, as opposed to near 18, doesn't result in the reduction of the offspring for that parent, but it does result in the improved economic outcomes for the parents children. That's pretty much the opposite of the goals of the eugenicists. Are you saying Sanger was working against her own agenda?

      Delete
    5. That's pretty much the opposite of the goals of the eugenicists.

      The presupposition of your question is that the couples in question would only have had two children anyway. But this would not have been Margaret Sanger's assumption as to the general case; she thought that blacks and other poor ethnic groups were irresponsible breeders who would have many, many children unless birth control became widely and easily available. Her claims on this are well-documented; she wrote books and articles on it.

      Your question also assumes that Sanger's association with the eugenics movement was generally known. This does not seem to have been the case. First, because Sanger was actually a fairly moderate eugenicist -- she opposed actively harming people, and this was why she was so insistent on the importance of birth control. Thus she had no problem benefitting individuals in groups whose populations she was trying to reduce over generations. Second, even though Sanger herself was quite clear at times that she thought light-skinned races superior to dark-skinned races, she was also a moderate bigot -- it was, again, at the population-level that the superiority existed, since some dark-skinned people would almost always be superior to some light-skinned people. She didn't hate blacks at all; and she didn't think that being black automatically made a person inferior to someone who was white -- she just thought that blacks as a race provided overall inferior progeny for future human civilization. Third, Sanger was well aware that her goals could not be met without the cooperation of black and immigrant communities, and thus actually did a lot of free, good-will outreach -- there is a reason Planned Parenthood does more than just birth control, and this is also why Sanger insisted that the Negro Project have black ministers on its board.

      And fourth, eugenicists were not the only ones who thought that there could be benefits in birth control, although non-eugenicists supporting birth control was a group that grew fairly slowly. But it was a period in which interest in family planning (which is a bit larger than contraception alone, and which can be argued for without presupposing any principles of eugenics) was becoming widespread even outside eugenics circles. There were enough in the later part of Sanger's life that there would be people who would not really have any reason to associate contraception with eugenics, particularly in a case like Planned Parenthood which gave free medical care to blacks on an increasingly large scale.

      Delete
    6. Brandon,

      ... she thought that blacks and other poor ethnic groups were irresponsible breeders who would have many, many children unless birth control became widely and easily available.

      That's pretty much true for people of all races, even if Sanger did not realize it.

      Now, I'm sure you will be able to provide some sort of documentation that Sanger supported making different levels of birth control available to poor white people and poor black people. Perhaps something where Sanger says that poor whites produce superior children to poor blacks? I mean, no one would be so narrow-minded and ignorant as to say someing is acting prejudicially when they are treating all poor people the same.

      Still, I think it's great that all you fine white gentlemen are here to warn black people about how much black people don't know when someone is offering black people help. Otherwise, black people would be deciding for themselves whether someone was actually helping them or not. We can't have that, right?

      Yes, the sarcasm in that paragraph was fully deserved.

      Delete
    7. There were a lot of very smart Jewish people, not to mention folks of other ethnicities, who walked into those showers at Auschwitz. The art of this kind of marketing doesn't care how smart you are, or how wise you are. It wants your attention misdirected for just long enough. For another example, cows notoriously are easier to slaughter and taste better if they're not alarmed at any point before the moment they're killed.

      One of Sanger's prime strategies of which she spoke openly was to give donations and lecture jobs to smart handsome young ministers from various "undesirable" ethnic backgrounds that she wanted infertile. They would lecture on how great her stuff was and thus make it harder for older community leaders to organize against it. Thus she would have shepherds who'd faithfully lead young sheep to the slaughter.

      Delete
    8. One Brow,

      No, your sarcasm simply makes you sound like someone defending a woman who wanted to see a world in which there were no blacks because she thought that they were inferior as a population, and pretending that people pointing it out are somehow racist for doing so. It doesn't make you sound very clever; it just makes you sound like someone defending a eugenic racist.

      As I already said, both the eugenics and the racism of Sanger is highly documented, although much of the information would not have been easy to find (until well after Sanger's death) except by those who were avid readers of Birth Control Review or the books put out by the Eugenics Publishing company. Even the slightest amount of research today, however, turns up obvious examples, even though Sanger's work; you can find some of the information at NYU's Public Papers of Margaret Sanger project, you can find Sanger's work The Pivot of Civilization at Project Gutenberg, and so on, and so forth. Likewise, it doesn't take much work these days to find blacks criticizing Sanger for precisely the positions noted above at places like Booker Rising. There was plenty of excuse not to know these things thirty, forty, fifty years ago; trying to pretend that it's at all difficult to trace this in the age of Google is nonsense.

      Delete
    9. Brandon,

      Can you offer statements from Sanger to back up that, specifically, she targeted blacks more than poor whites? While eugenicism and racial bigotry are often close companions, you can certainly be either without the other. My request is specific, and given your confidence and familiarilty with Sanger's work, should be easy for you to meet. As a contrast, an idea that said something along the lines of "improving society by reducing the number of children poor people have" would be something that I could see the point of, in that fewer children mean more resources given to each child, improving the life of that child; such an idea would not necessarily be bigoted.

      Either way, though, it matters little, so please do not interpret this as an onus on you. If someone offers me $100,000 on the assumption tht it will corrupt my character, and I'll kill myself off in a drug overdose, I'll take that money and prove them wrong (I do have kids to send to college). If Sanger was really trying to eliminate black people entirely, she was a fool for trying to do it that way, and her acftions worked against her desires. I wish every racial bigot would be so helpful to black people.

      In case it was not obvious, the sarcasm is not directed at your view of Sanger, but at the notion your ilk thinks it knows better than black people what black people actually need. Your narrative requires a difference in intelligence between you all and black people that is much larger than what I have read in Sanger, so much so that Suburbanbanshee refers to black people as sheep by comparison. So, regardless of how bigoted Sanger was, your kind is not looking better by comparison.

      Delete
    10. (1) You are trying the wrong test, and showing that you are not grasping the concept of eugenics. There were plenty of poor whites that Sanger specifically targeted: Jewish and Eastern European immigrants being the ones who explicitly come up the most. The concept of race in the eugenics movement allowed for many more races than we usually think of, and (depending on the exact decades) was often based as much on the shape of the head, or the presumed size of the brain, or any number of other physical characteristics, as on the color of the skin (which did, however, play a role). Anyone who knows anything about eugenics knows this. If it reduced Sanger's racism to prove that it included anti-semitism and was combined with anti-immigrant positions, then this would mean that you are arguing that the KKK was not racist, since it also targeted Jews, Catholics, and Eastern Europeans. (Actually, although Sanger's positions were much more moderate and she abhorred violence, her general positions were quite similar to those of the KKK in her day; she occasionally accepted speaking engagements with the Klan, and if I recall correctly she talks briefly about speaking before various KKK women's auxiliary chapters in her Autobiography.)

      (2) You may well be right that Sanger's approach backfired. One of the things that becomes clear from Sanger's eugenics works was that she actually expected birth control to allow two things: the reduction of the inferior races and the feeble-minded so that superior races could outbreed them, and the empowerment of women in the superior races to do more. How she intended the superior races to outbreed the inferior races when the superior races were also on birth control, I don't know, although I haven't read her entire corpus on the subject.

      (3) The comment, "at the notion your ilk thinks it knows better than black people what black people actually need," is the single stupidest thing anyone has said to me in the past month. It takes no great reading skills to see that the issue in this comments thread is a twofold issue:

      (a) Was Margaret Sanger a eugenicist?
      (b) Was Margaret Sanger a racist?

      These are the two things you seemed to deny or to play down. These are also matters of public record, objectively identifiable on the basis of evidence, some of which is currently easily accessible, although some of it hasn't been easily accessible until researchers in the past several years have started making them more available to the public. It requires no interpretation of "black people as sheep" or "black people as stupid" to suggest that some black leaders forty and fifty years ago weren't aware of information that has only become easily available to the general public in the past decade, and claiming it does is about the most single most ridiculous thing I have ever seen you say in any argument I have ever seen you give on any blog on which I have seen you comment, so I have no clue what's going on in your head. It's not an insult to say that people didn't know what they couldn't have known, or that we can know more about the subject because more evidence has become available. Please tell me that you are not really that stupid and that you just misread something, or jumped to a conclusion somewhere.

      Delete
    11. Brandon,

      In point 1), it should be obvious that you can satisfy my questions by showing Sanger advocated treating poor white English (and whatever other so-called superior subgroup) differently. I don't mind you not rising to the challenge, because I did not really expect you to; nor am I surprised that you tried to change the subject into a lecture. I did grow up hear words like "mick", "wop", and "greaser"; I'm well aware that bigotry has many forms. Ultimately, race is a subjective, social concept with no real underlying biological justification, so naturally racism has many forms. So again, can you offer evidence that Sanger targeted specific poor groups over other equally poor groups, based on her notion of race?

      It takes no great reading skills to see that the issue in this comments thread is a twofold issue

      (a) Was Margaret Sanger a eugenicist?
      (b) Was Margaret Sanger a racist?


      Perahps you could tell me how these comments fit into that paradigm.

      -- there is a reason Planned Parenthood does more than just birth control, and this is also why Sanger insisted that the Negro Project have black ministers on its board.


      Thus she would have shepherds who'd faithfully lead young sheep to the slaughter.

      After all, black people just weren't smart enough to see through that clever white woman's plans, is that it?

      I agree that Sanger thought over-breeding by poor people was bad for civilization (I actually agree). To make the charge of eugenicist convincing, you would needd to add in that even if their children became weathly, the grandchildren would still be unfit. To make the charge of racist convincing, you would need to add an advocacy of treating poor people of one race differently from poor people of another race. Since almost every white person who lived in Sanger's time was a bigot, it shouldn't be that hard to do.

      It requires no interpretation of "black people as sheep" or "black people as stupid" to suggest that some black leaders forty and fifty years ago weren't aware of information ...

      I agree. The interpretation comes from the inferred inability of black people to determine for themselves that Sanger's plans were inimical to their success as an ethnic group. The very notion that black people have to have this spelled out by having this information available is another brick in this wall that you seem to think black people need to be told what is good for them.

      Just to be clear, "sheep" was introduced into the conversation by Suburbanbanshee as a direct description of black people.

      Why would it affect my opinion of twentieth-century eugenics to know that a eugenicist opposed abortion while chatting about the importance of the superior races outbreeding the inferior ones?

      It may not affect your opinion. Would you agree with me that, contrary to the original post, pervasive abortion rates in any part of New York city are not a realization of Sanger's dream?

      Delete
    12. Don't forget the Tuskegee Experiment had black doctors and nurses on board. You can accomplish a lot when you lie to people or conceal things. Being deceived is not the same thing as being stupid.

      Delete
    13. TheOFloinn,

      My recollection is that in the Tuskeegee experiment, the study participants were not told they had syphillis, and that after a cure was discovered, they were still not given the cure. I agree the particpants should not be thought of as stupid for trusting their doctors.

      Sanger dispensed birth control stating explicitly and accurately what it was and what it was for. The implication that people were nonetheless tricked into using it, becasue of some other agenda they may or may not have known about, is insulting those people.

      Delete
  2. How is that kool-aid tasting, One Brow?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Suburbanbanshee,

    Was it really necessary to Godwin this thread so soon? Do you really expect me to equate offering a medical service, which each woman chooses for herself knowing what she is choosing, with being herded into gas chambers at the point of a gun and under the deception they are showers? Did Sanger deliberately make anyone infertile against their will?

    Again, this reads very much like you saying the smart white woman fooled all those dumb black people into doing something they didn't want to do. You'll understand that I find your characterization to be at least as racist as any action Sanger may have performed, hopefully.

    As a skeptic, I am committed to examining these various charges based on evidence, and I have even provided a level of evidence for Brandon's claim of overt racism that would be required to convince me (the suggestion by Sanger that poor white women be treated differently than poor black women). From you, to support your claim, I'd like to see evidence that Sanger supported tricking these women into sterilization (that is, deliberate acts on the parts of the doctors without the patients knowledge or without their consent). Otherwise, it just comes across as demagoguery.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Godwin's Law indicates faulty thinking only when referring to a peccadillo or non sequitur. If we are indeed talking about the prospect of an efficient, almost workmanlike snuffing out of independent human life at such a scale as statistics fail to grasp the immensity of the evil, then comparisons to Hitler are apt. Hitler is bad because he did things like that.

      Delete
    2. The Ubiquitous,

      I agree with the denotation of your statement. However, if you statement was an attempt to justify the comparison of Suburbanbanshee by saying passing out birth control was "an efficient, almost workmanlike snuffing out of independent human life at such a scale as statistics fail to grasp the immensity of the evil", I will register my disagreement at that. So, I do not retract the charge of having Godwinned the thread.

      Delete
  4. Did a little quick research on Sanger, nothing detailed.

    How many of you were aware that Sanger opposed abortion? Does that change your opinion of her? Just checking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was, since I've actually read quite a bit of Sanger. Why would it affect my opinion of twentieth-century eugenics to know that a eugenicist opposed abortion while chatting about the importance of the superior races outbreeding the inferior ones?

      Delete
    2. Didn't know she was opposed to abortion. If anything, changes my opinion of Planned Parenthood. If only it would return to its roots we could more easily unroot it!

      Delete