Blue Fragility: Be It Resolved

Whereas the United States’s death toll per million citizens ranks as the eighth-highest among significant nations (forget about Andorra and San Marino), at 572 Covid fatalities per million…:

All graphs taken from Worldometers, September 2, 2020. Make sure you sort by the Deaths per Million column, or you won’t be any smarter or better informed than a Strib reporter.

And whereas every state with a death toll (in fatalities per million) higher than 572 per million (as of September 2, 2020) is a “blue”, Democrat-run state with the sole exception of Mississippi:

And whereas within even those states, the overwhelming concentration of the death toll in terms of fatalities per million is in those states’ “blue”, Democrat-run urban areas (Example: New York):

(Example. California):

And whereas the states about which the American left has been caterwaulilng about – Florida and Texas – have per-million fatality rates below the de factor national average of 572 per million

(and whereas even in those examples, the fatalilties are overwhelmingly concentrated in Democrat-run areas within those Republican-run states (Texas shown below),

and

Notwithstanding the fact that after months of insisting that “Red” states were going to get completely bludgeoned by the virus, any day now, every single state (with the exception of sparsely populated Vermont and Maine and isolated Hawaii) in the bottom 15 states in terms of fatalities per million is a Republican-run state, even after the resurgence of infections in July, and

Wheras the deaths among the most vulnerable, the elderly, are overwhelmingly concentrated in “Blue”, Democrat-run states from New York to Minnesota, as a result of policies that were systematically abjiured in “Red” States, and

Whereas terms like ‘Wuhan Flu” and “China Vinus” are, we are told, inaccurate not to mention racist,

Be it resolved that from now on, the Covid-19 virus shall be known as “The Blue City Democrat Plague“.

Blue Fragility: Open Letter To Jonathan Chait

To: Johnathan “Chaitful” Chait
From: Mitch Berg – Red State Sleeper Agent
Re: This Little “Eliminationist Hatred” Problem You Have

Mr. Chait

We go way back, of course – and not in a good way. You have a bit of a history of being a horrible excuse for a human being. But you are a gift that keeps giving, for people like me, so for that I thank you, even if backhandedly.

This past week, you wrote an article in “New York Magazine” claiming that the Republican response to Covid is, in your terms, a “Death Cult”.

I won’t pullquote anything – the article is long, and never really improves over the title.

But I have two questions.

First, some background – here’s the listed Covid fatalities/million as of last Friday:

  • NY (D): 1,684
  • NJ (D): 1,790
  • US average: 474
  • FL (R): 319
  • MN (DFL): 291
  • TX (R): 241
  • ND (R): 135

So I’ve got two questions for you, Mr. Chait:

  1. Did you ever refer to Cuomo (or the governors of NJ/CT/MA) as running a “death cult?” I’ll confess, I’m an infrequent reader of yours. I only read you (or John Fugelsang) when you step on your d**k spectacularly – but I’d hate to be unfair.
  2. I wager you a shiny new quarter that as of November 3, 2020, TX and FL will be below half NY’s fatalities per million. Any action on that bet?

Thanks.

By the way – at the risk of sounding uncharitable, there are times that I think you are God’s karmic gift to me for never teasing the short-bus kids in elementary school. For this, I thank Him, and urge you to keep up the, uh, work, karmically speaking.

That is all.

Side Note: I’m making this the The George W. Bush Corollary To Berg’s Seventh Law – All of a Republican’s sins, imaginary or (for sake of argument) real, will be forgotten once the Republican can no longer hold office. 

Complementary Mass Psychoses

I figured this out the other day.

Just as “White Privilege” is really class privilege sanitized for white progressives’ protection

…so, too, is “white fragility” in fact “blue fragility” – the inability of “blue-state” progressives to reconcile their class advantages with their white prog guilt.

And both, also, are one sweet bit of grifting, if you got in on the ground floor:

DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” article was, in a sense, an epistemological exercise. It examined white not-knowing. When it was published in 2011 in The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, it reached the publication’s niche audience. But three years later it was quoted in Seattle’s alternative newspaper The Stranger, during a fierce debate — with white defensiveness on full view — about the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s casting of white actors as Asians in a production of “The Mikado.” “That changed my life,” she said. The phrase “white fragility” went viral, and requests to speak started to soar; she expanded the article into a book and during the year preceding Covid-19 gave eight to 10 presentations a month,

This is verging on becoming, if not a full-fledged “Berg’s Law“, at least a corollary to the 7th.  

Indecency Plus Blue Fragility

Governor Cuomo’s “Marie Antoinette” moment:

The Democrat fielded questions Wednesday while angry protesters outside expressed their displeasure with ongoing shutdown policies. A reporter said she spoke to many of the protesters and found them to be “regular people who are not getting a paycheck.”

“Some of them are not getting their unemployment check and they’re saying that they don’t have time to wait for all of this testing and they need to get back to work in order to feed their family,” she said, CBS News reported. “Their savings are running out. They don’t have another week. They’re not getting answers. So, their point is, the cure can’t be worse than the illness itself. What is your response to that?”

Mr. Cuomo’s response suggested that government-imposed shutdowns might exist as long as a single person was at risk of dying from the contagion.

“The illness is death,” he said. “What is worse than death? Economic hardship? Yes, very bad. Not death. Emotional stress from being locked in a house — very bad. Not death. Domestic violence on the increase — very bad. Not death.”

This seems to be the tack the “shutdownists” – a term I use advisedly, as it seems to be almost a matter of religious faith among its adherents – use; the only alternative to completely shudown is mass death.

And then (with emphasis added):

The reporter countered that protesters are in an untenable position, given that they cannot pay immediate bills while simultaneously being told they cannot work.

“They can’t wait for the money,” she said. “They’re out of money.”

“They can say, ‘Unemployment insurance isn’t enough,’” the Democrat replied. “I get it. Even with the $600 check and the $1,200 check, and the unemployment benefit is not enough. I understand the economic hardship. We all feel it. The question is, ‘What do you do about it?’ And do you put public health at risk? And do you drive up the number of deaths for it, because you have no idea how to reopen now.”

Mr. Cuomo was then asked if a fundamental right to work exists if “the government can’t get [citizens] the money” they need in a timely manner.

“You want to go to work?” Mr. Cuomo replied. “Go take a job as an essential worker.”

Preferably as a dues-paying public union member, no doubt.

Joe Public Vs. Blue Fragility

“The Authorities” don’t have much faith in people. They never really have.

Before 9/11, it was the official view of “the authorities” that if a major disaster were to unfold in a Manhattan skyscraper, it’d be best to tell the people in the building to stay put and await instructions. They simply couldn’t be trusted to look out for themselves; without the firm, teutonic voice of authority, they’d rip each other to shreds trying to get through the door into the stairwell.

To the authorities, people are mindless panicky cattle.

Of course, on 9/11 the people disregarded the orders to stay put on the overhead speakers, and organized themselves and got themselves and their handicapped colleagues out of the building. Almost nobody below the impact point died in the Towers that day.

And without ignoring the panics that have ˆhappened, it’d be myopic to ignore the many times officialdom – “the authorities” – panicked first and loudest. The behavior of the people in charge of the lifeboats on the Titanic was one notable example.

The fact is, people usually – not always, usually – see to their self-preservation pretty well; since the group they are part of is often an integral part of that self-preservation, groups of everyday schnooks tend to self-organize modestly well, as well.

The best thing “authorities” can do, often, is provide useful, factual information, provide a framework for that self-organization, while seeing to the things the average schnook can’t feasiibly do; get supplies expedited, get expertise to where it’s needed and the like.

But “authorities” and “experts” have a disturbing tendency, even if they don’t panic and cause more harm than good, to go full-bore Dwight Schrute. To treat their expert status as a license to flex their power. To treat information as power – and act like they’ve got both, and know it.

I commend do you this excellent piece on “Elite Panic” – the tendency of the “authorities” to behave exactly as they fear citizens will – is a real, destructive phenomenon. And it kills people.

In this case, victims of the 1964 Anchorage Earthquake, the worst in America in modern times:

For the police, fear of public chaos outweighed, at least temporarily, concern for possible victims. Before dispatching those casually deputized citizens to keep order in the streets, the Anchorage police chief suspended the search for survivors in damaged buildings. “Arguably, the city was protecting its ruins from looters more conscientiously than it was looking for people trapped in them,” Mooallem writes.

Disaster researchers call this phenomenon “elite panic.” When authorities believe their own citizens will become dangerous, they begin to focus on controlling the public, rather than on addressing the disaster itself. They clamp down on information, restrict freedom of movement, and devote unnecessary energy to enforcing laws they assume are about to be broken. These strategies don’t just waste resources, one study notes; they also “undermine the public’s capacity for resilient behaviors.” In other words, nervous officials can actively impede the ordinary people trying to help themselves and their neighbors.

That’s exactly the phenomenon behind “Berg’s Third Law of Human Resilience” – the “authorities” never give human survivors of catastrophes enough credit. Never.

And that’s just panic, misplaced priorities and incompetence. Sometimes, outright depravity sets in:

Elite panic frequently brings out another unsavory quirk on the part of some authorities: a tendency to believe the worst about their own citizens. In the midst of the Hurricane Katrina crisis in 2005, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin found time to go on Oprah Winfrey’s show and lament “hooligans killing people, raping people” in the Superdome. Public officials and the media credulously repeated rumors about street violence, snipers shooting at helicopters, and hundreds of bodies piled in the Superdome. These all turned out to be wild exaggerations or falsehoods (arguably tinged by racism). But the stories had an impact: Away from the media’s cameras, a massive rescue effort—made up of freelance volunteers, Coast Guard helicopters, and other first responders—was underway across the city. But city officials, fearing attacks on the rescuers, frequently delayed these operations. They ordered that precious space in boats and helicopters be reserved for armed escorts.

And whatever your view of government – from DFLer to Libertarian – you’d think getting reliable information to the people would be a priority:

Too often, the need to “avoid panic” serves as a retroactive justification for all manner of official missteps. In late March, as the coronavirus pandemic was climbing toward its crest in New York City, Mayor Bill De Blasio appeared on CNN’s State of the Union to defend his record. Host Jake Tapper pressed the mayor on his many statements—as recently as two weeks earlier—urging New Yorkers to “go about their lives.” Tapper asked whether those statements were “at least in part to blame for how the virus has spread across the city.” De Blasio didn’t give an inch. “Everybody was working with the information we had,” he explained, “and trying, of course, to avoid panic.” How advising people to avoid bars and Broadway shows would have been tantamount to panic was left unexplained.

Authorities only deserve the respect they earn.

Blue Fragility, Part V

In which NPR’s On the Media, the exposed, yapping inner id of the “elite” media, #progsplains us that notwithstanding the very plain facts that about half of all Covid deaths are concentrated in one of America and the world’s most densely-populated metro areas, and that 80% are in states centered around major, densely populated metro areas, and the slowly emerging science that seems to show that Covid’s spread is closely tied to density…

…that rural red states are gonna get it, but good, because racism. Just you watch.

As predicted.

Blue Fragility, Part III

SCENE: Mitch BERG is out at Menards picking up some shop towels for making face masks out of. While looking around a corner, he runs smack-dab into Avery LIBRELLE

LIBRELLE: Merg!

BERG:   Ah, sssssss….sssshure is nice to see you.  How are you doing, Avery? 

LIBRELLE:   You conservatives sure did yuk it up over the Trump Virus spreading through blue cities. 

BERG:  No, nobody “yukked it up”.  But there certainly seems to be a correlation between pandemics and blue cities, which tend to be very mass-transit dependent, and have populations even denser than some of their mayors, like DiBlasio. 

LIBRELLE:  Hah!  Well, red states shall get their comeuppance!

BERG: Perhaps.   Epidemics follow biological rules, not political ones.  

LIBRELLE:  Pffft.   Look at South Dakota.   Governor Noem refuses to order South Dakotans to stay at home!  And now the virus is out of control!

BERG:  South Dakota’s case rate is very heavily skewed because of a big outbreak at a pork processor in Sioux Falls, which has skewed the state’s cases per million waaay up; as of April 14, South Dakota had 1,142 cases per million; Minnesota has 307.   But that’s very skewed – South Dakota doesn’t have a million people, so an outbreak causes a disproportionate jump in per capita numbers. 

LIBRELLE:   Not issuing draconian stay at home orders kills!

BERG:   Enh.  South Dakota’s death rate per million is 7, which is half Minnesota’s rate.  Both of those will change, especially if the cases in Sioux Falls manage to overwhelm the region’s healthcare system…

LIBRELLE: …which is will !

BERG:  …which it’s not.  And God willing it won’t. 

LIBRELLE:  Oh, you and your God and thoughts and prayers.  Science!   It shows governors need to put their foot down!  

BERG:  North Dakota, which has about the same population and population density as South Dakota and has taken a similar set of approaches to the epidemic,  but which has no outbreak like the Smithfield plant, has statistically similar cases and deaths per million as Minnesota with Governor Walz’s much more draconian approach.  And yes, the outbreaks have been going on about the same length of time in all three states.  

LIBRELLE:  MERG!   If Governor Noem hadn’t been a stupid red-state governor and issued a stay at home order, the Smithfield outbreak wouldn’t have happened!

BERG:  So what kinds of businesses are exempt and “essential” under the MInnesota shelter in place order?

LIBRELLE:  Essential stuff like grocery stores, liquor stores, Democratic political action groups, medical stuff…

BERG:   What do they do at that Smithfield plant?

LIBRELLE:   I don’t know.  It’s South Dakota.  I have no idea.  Aren’t they Amish?  I’m gonna guess Amish furniture.  

BERG: It’s a pork processing plant.  Where exactly do you think the food that the grocery stores sell, comes from?

LIBRELLE:  Amazon!

BERG:  Yeah, food processing plants are pretty much open everywhere…

( But LIBRELLE has skipped away, pushing  a cart full of plastic bags to use as make-shift head coverings). 

And SCENE. 

 

Blue Fragility, Part II

It’s a steroetype of “blue” America – at least, the “elite” version of it that gets (and makes) the headlines – that liberty, at least the kind that involves something other than waving one’s genitals about and dunking crucifixes in urine – terrifies them.

Stereotypes exist for a reason. Blue Amerca’s official vision is that liberty is a scary thing. Of course, this vision is broadcast by an “elite” that thinks they stand to benefit from living in a society where an elite – including them, natch – makes the trains run on time.

Which is why as calls from the hinterland to open up the economy get louder, you can expect to see a lot more of this sort of thing, equating those calls with scary backwoods guys with un-oiled bears and lots of guns.

Bonus steroetype: why did the New York Times put scare quotes around “liberty” in the headline?

Blue Fragility

Like all plagues, Covid19 is a problem everywhere, for everyone.

But like most plagues, you need hosts for a plague to spread – and cities are to viruses what a Super Walmart is to humans; vast collections of everything they need to survive.

Plagues don’t care about their victims’ politics – but cities are stuffed full of people for whom politics matters an awful lot. And so most cities are simultaneously a) blue, and b) suffering disproportionally from the Covid plague.

And it’s hard to escape the fact – as, indeed, not a few blue-city dwellers are realizing – that high density and a transit-centered lifestyle make cities susceptible to epidemics.

But you just can’t tell the “evidence based, science-centered” crowd the utterly obvious without expecting a political retort.

I’ve been seeing stories, here and there, for a few weeks now: “JUST YOU WAIT! RED STATES ARE EVEN MOOOOOORE VULNERABLE! THEY’RE OLD AND FAT AND GO TO CHURCH AND THINK HOPES AND TEH PRAYERS ARE A SOLUTION!”

And yeah, Covid’s been filtering out into the square states; people are dying in Montana and North Dakota and other sparsely populated places. But in a sparsely populated area, not full of five-floor apartments and filthy buses and bars full of people jammed into each other’s laps, the death rate – probably the only rate we can trust, since the numbers are relatively hard – is trailing the big, blue cities by quite a bit so far.

(The concomitant effect, in the long term? In a phenomenon first noticed during the CIvil War, soldiers from urban areas tended to be less susceptible to the diseases that ravaged the Union winter camps, the cholera and typhus and other bugs that killed many more soldiers than bullets or artillery, than their rural comrades; the New York and Massachusetts units had developed at least some herd immunity. Expect a certain amount of that in the next year and a half or so).

But I’ve been expecting this phenomenon – let’s call it “Blue Fragility” – ever since New York City started getting hammered with the virus; blue-checks from the blue states trying to transfer some of the ugly to the red states:

The MSM have been in full-court press mode for the last two weeks in accusing President Trump, Fox News, and conservative media outlets of downplaying the Wuhan coronavirus until it was too late to contain it.

But another related talking point has emerged in recent days which involves the press relentlessly bashing red states for their allegedly slow response in comparison to blue states. In a nutshell, the reason they have supposedly been slower to put restrictions in place is that they are taking their cues from Trump, Fox, and Rush.

Axios CEO and co-founder Jim VandeHei is a notable example of a media figure who employed this strategy, and he did so in an interview last week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. Here’s what he said:

What you’re seeing here, and this is a bigger problem for society, is information inequality,’ VandeHei said. ‘Like, why (did) Desantis do what he did? Why did Georgia wait so long? They were listening to President Trump. They were watching Fox News and listening to Rush Limbaugh. The information was there. In the information bubble, they were basically getting a lot of sort of noise and news pollution.

Not every blue-state talking head, of course:

Polling guru Nate Silver even took issue with those who were pitting red states against blue states when talking about response times:

People sure like to post things about how there are huge disparities between red states and blue states in social distancing… when if you look a the actual numbers the differences aren’t actually that big and may largely be explained by other variables (e.g. urbanization).

— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 4, 2020

It’s almost like people who live in an area with 1/100th the population density may be able to get by with less strict measures.

— binge tweeter (@binge_tweeter) April 4, 2020

If what the government is saying is correct, the country still has several more weeks to go before the worst of this is over. So it remains to be seen where the next hot spots will be after New York City has reached its peak. In the meantime, instead of disproportionately attacking red states, the mainstream media should do the following things:

Being Evil

Last year, Google’s collective (heh) culture of Urban Progressive Privilege-sotted virtue-signaling intolerance fell onto Google engineer James Damore for the high crime of out that Google, ironically, has a relentlessly PC, virtue-signaling-focused corporate culture.  Damore was summarily fired.

This past week, Damore and his team  filed their lawsuit

Damore has now answered Google with a legal broadside, and it’s extraordinary. Most people don’t have time to read his entire 181-page complaint, but those who do will find a comprehensive argument that Google’s corporate culture encourages, sanctions, and facilitates an extraordinary amount of abuse against conservative white males.

Artists Conception of a Google staff meeting:

 

And he has the receipts. Much of the complaint consists of screen shots of internal Google communications and postings on internal Google message boards that would constitute strong evidence of hostile-environment race-and-gender harassment if the the races and genders were reversed. For example, “Googlers” (that’s what employees call themselves, using Google’s silly corporate language) relentlessly enforce a so-called “Googley” culture where employees blacklist conservatives (blocking them from in-house communications), actually boo white-male hires, and openly discuss committing acts of violence against political opponents. The “punch a Nazi” debate is alive and well at Google, and the definition of “Nazi” is extraordinarily broad. In one posting, an employee proposes a “moratorium on hiring white cis heterosexual abled men who aren’t abuse survivors.” In another, an employee advertises a workshop on “healing from toxic whiteness.” Another post mocks “white fragility.” The examples go on and on, for page after page. Damore also alleges (and again, provides screenshots of emails and other communications to support his claims) that managers actively attacked conservative employees, encouraged punitive actions against dissenters, and even awarded “peer bonuses” for speech attacking conservatives.

Google is a private business?  Sure – they’ve got every right to run things any way they want.   But we’ve seen what mindless monocultures have brought to most of our major cities; what do you think it’ll do to a company?

Googlers may have special coding skills or may fit seamlessly in the company’s Googley culture, but it’s now plain that much of their discourse represents a special kind of pettiness, stupidity, and intolerance. It’s often fact-free, insulting, and narrow-minded. In other words, a Silicon Valley monoculture produces exactly the kind of discourse produced by monocultures everywhere. While there are certainly kind, courteous, and civil progressives at Google, the existence of the monoculture also enables the worst sorts of behavior.

Read the whole thing.

Fighting Racism With Racism

This piece – “Ten Cracka Commandments“, submitted by “Christopher Driscoll”, ostensibly an African-American professor at Lehigh Universithy, as a suggestion for the rules white people should follow in dealing with race – was making the rounds of the clickbait sites last week.

All the usual disclaimers apply; unknown professor (likely trying to make a name, in an academic community where inflammatory publicity-whoring is as important as teaching), clickbait site, the fact that I’m referencing him at all gives him more attention than he’s worth, yadda yadda.

1. #AllLivesMatter won’t matter until #BlackLivesMatter. This commandment is a litmus test and the greatest commandment.

OK, since that would seem to be a matter of mathematical logic, that’s not too big a stretch.

2. Always remember that white privilege is real, even if you do not understand it. Use it to convince other people that black lives, including black women’s lives, matter. Show up for protests, write letters to representatives, and start discussions with other white people about black lives mattering.

OK, privilege is real.  I’ve even defined it, at least for part of “white culture”.

Now what?

What do we do, once we’ve made this assertion?

I’ve never gotten an answer on this.

3. Always remember that ignorance is real, and is a product of privilege. Treat the ignorant with compassion, but hold them accountable.

I love getting lectured about “privilege” by tenured academics.   But I do try to treat them with compassion.  For what it’s worth.

4. Never think that the critique does not apply to you. Just because you were at Barack’s inauguration and your dad was a freedom rider, or because you are the head of your local chapter of GLADD, that does not mean you do not have more work to do on yourself, your family, and your community.

Read: “Your zeal will always be insufficient to satisfy The Movement”.

Lavrentii Beria went from “Stalin’s #2 man” to “dead” in less time than it takes Mark Dayton to flip-flop on an issue.

5. Always remember that it is never a question of if violence, but whose violence are you going to defend. Unjust state-sanctioned and racist violence, or justified resistance; the choice is yours, the choice is ours.

This is where it’s probably a good thing we’re not having this debate in person. I’d start laughing right about here.  It reminds me too much of “last call” at the craphole bars I used to work at.

It’s a false dilemma.  Those aren’t our only choices.   The real range of options is:

  • Unjust State-Sanctioned Violence:  the shooting of Eric Garner qualifies.
  • “Justified Resistance”:  We can argue about examples – I‘ve written about a few – but it’s certainly a choice.
  • Unjustified, out-of-proportion, opportunistic violence with a thin veneer of “resistance” daubed on the top:  The LA riots, the looting and destruction of innocent peoples’ property and livelihoods in Ferguson and Baltimore and, really, anywhere.
  • Justified State-Sanctioned Violence:  It should be rare, and much more closely scrutinized than it is in much of the country.  But it exists.

And you’re right, Professor Driscoll.  The choice is mine.  I’ll take “2” and “4”.  Thanks.

6. Never tolerate racism from your friends or family. Whether it is coming from your eighteen-year-old friend, your thirty-one-year-old cousin, or your eighty-year-old grandmother, confront it always. Confronting racism does not mean you will lose your friend or family. It means you will help to make them act and think in less racist ways.

OK.  Professor Driscoll:  Stop using the term “cracka”.  It implies that white people are inherently slave-masters.  It’s degrading and insulting and racist, and I won’t tolerate it.

7. You cannot love cultural products without also loving the people who make those products. If you like black art or athletics, that appreciation is an entryway into recognizing that black lives matter.

Wait – racism is hatred, right?  You can’t simultaneously love and hate.

So if I “cannot” love cultural products – as I do Levi Stubbs and Walter Payton and Clarence Clemons and LeBron James and Jimi Hendrix and James Brown (both) and Prince – then I cannot simultaneously hate black people?

I mean, that seems reasonable – and seems to contradict the rest of your thesis, Professor Driscoll.

8. Never quote black leaders like Dr. King in order to criticize protesters and activists.

Bullshit.   I absolutely will.  You don’t make those rules.

9. Always embrace uncertainty. Life is uncertain; death is certain. Uncertainty promotes life; certainty produces death and destruction.

I love getting told to “embrace uncertainty” by tenured professors.

10. Never put white fragility ahead of justice. If you are more concerned to argue that you “aren’t racist” than you are with racism or with people dying, you’re priorities are skewed. Do you want justice or comfort?

I’m not concerned about arguing I’m “not racist”.  I’m not.  There’s no argument.

Everyone in the world is a “we-ist” – more comfortable around, and forgiving of, people like them than people not like them. I am, you are, everyone is.  There’s evidence it’s programmed into our DNA; babies recognize adults of different races very early in life.

I just have a hunch our definitions of “Justice” are very different.

UPDATE:  I’m informed that, counter to BuzzPo’s foreword, Professor Driscoll is in fact white.

Which changes none of my conclusions above – except that using the term “cracka”, like he’s a native speaker of ghetto argot, isn’t just presumptuous; it’s a comfortable, fat ‘n happy academic playing “minstrel show”.

Question for Eric Black

McCain came to town.

I didn’t have an invite.

But reading the leftymedia’s contortions on the subject is probably almost as much fun anyway. It ranged, as usual, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Or at least from the groaningly obvious and cliche-driven to the moderately interesting.

For the former, we turn to former City Pages writer GR Anderson at the MNPost – who uncovered a real scoop:

Shocker! McCain’s visit to bring out the wealthy, protestors

GOP presidential candidate John McCain’s visit to the Hilton in downtown Minneapolis for a fundraiser this afternoon promises to be a moneyed affair: To qualify to be on the host committee, McCain’s web site says, “individuals or couples must raise or contribute $20,000.” For the less fortunate, “tickets for the Photo Opportunity & Dinner are $2,300 per person. Tickets for the Main Reception and Dinner are $1,000 per person.”

Right. As opposed to those Democrat fundraiser$, where $your $pocket $change will get you in?

Who says the economy is bad?

(I don’t have an exhaustive list, but I do know that the MNPost and the Minnesoros Independent will be calling it “Bad” until 18 months after the recovery is generally accepted as undeniable, or Barack Obama’s inauguration, whichever comes first. But I digress).

Seriously – does GR Anderson think that big-buck fundraisers are a Republican franchise?

Eric Black’s article was more interesting – or at least a little less predictable:

Senator McCain. Welcome to Minnesota. Thank you for your service. My question is about the occupation of Iraq.

I agree that some Democrats have tried to have a little too much fun with your “100 years in Iraq” quote a while back. I take you at your word that you didn’t mean 100 more years resembling the last five — 100 years of steady U.S. casualties. In explaining what you really meant, you have said that it would be fine with you if U.S. troops had a long-term presence in Iraq, like the troops have had in Germany, Japan and Korea.

Well, we’re off to a good start. That’s more honest than most of Black’s colleagues have been with that question.

Many Americans may think that sounds fine. I’m not so sure. No other country has huge military installations around the world.

But that’s a fairly recent development – not so long ago, plenty of other countries maintained genuine empires; Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and even Belgium had or have imperial possessions within my lifetime and, incidentally, Eric Black’s.

It’s not only expensive, but it smacks of imperialism.

Let’s touch on both of those assertions.

It “smacks” of imperialism, because it is – sort of – and always has been. And yet unlike every single other imperial power in history, our “imperialism” has left behind largely functional, largely democratic countries; Germany, Japan and South Korea are world leaders and, at least by their previous standards, incredibly liberal in that small-“l” way that even I approve of.

And the “expense” has to be based on costs and benefits – indeed, Black touches on that concept later, so we’ll come back to it. The “expense” of any “imperial” entanglement has to be judged against the benefits; the Cold War, for example, has to be gauged against the general good of having contained the Soviets until they collapsed.

Ask yourself how the U.S. — specifically the McCain administration — would view it if another powerful country — let’s say China for the sake of illustration — toppled the government of our neighbors — let’s say Mexico, and said that one of its goals was to leave behind a Mexican government that would be an ally of China. Let’s say China did install a Mexican government friendly to China and then reached a deal with its puppet government for a permanent military base close to our borders in order to protect what China declared to be its “vital interests” in the Americas. And then let’s say China announced that it would be fine if the bases were there for 100 years. My hunch is, the McCain administration wouldn’t like it, wouldn’t tolerate it, would view it as a threat and an act of aggression against the United States and a statement of China’s intent to dominate our hemisphere. Please correct me if I’m wrong about that.

Black is right – sort of. The Monroe Doctrine has pretty much been established policy, one we’ve enforced for almost 200 years.

Of course, the analogy makes Iran – a murderous dictatorship that has been in a de facto state of war with us for my entire adult lifetime – the moral equal of the United States.  Is that a dock  you wanna walk down, Eric Black?

There is, of course, another difference; China has not secured UN resolutions condemning our human rights abuses, our acts of war against China and their allies, our pursuit of Weapons of Mass Destruction and our defiance of previous agreements caused by our previous aggression.  We don’t pose a threat to China and the rest of the world.

The parallel, Mr. Black, really isn’t there.

And I know – your analogy doesn’t depend on the parallel, necessarily. But let’s just say that some of Mr. Black’s audience doesn’t know this.

Of course, the USA is not just any country. We are the world’s only superpower. How we use that position is essential to how the rest of the world views us as we try to repair some of the damage that President Bush — and the Iraq misadventure — have done to the our image in the world.

Actually, Mr. Black, Iraq has very little to do with the world’s “elites'” views of us. There’s another entire post brewing on that subject – but suffice to say that Europe’s opinion-class have never much cared for us (except when we’ve saved them from, say, Hitler or post-war starvation) and they never really will. The left’s conceit that Europeans will generally love the US once this “misadventure” is over are, at best, wishful thinking and utterly ahistorical.

I know I’m making more assertions than posing questions here, but the question is: If, as you hope, U.S. troops will be in Iraq for 100 years, what will that do to the perception that the U.S. seeks to dominate Middle East?

A “perception” that the left and media (pardon the redundancy) are trying to reinforce in every reference to the subject?

Your reference to the long-term U.S. troop presence in Germany, Japan and Korea is designed to illustrate that U.S. troops can be present in foreign bases without facing daily combat or casualties. My question is: How soon and at what cost in blood and treasure do you believe that the situation in Iraq — specifically the situation regarding the safety and normalcy of U.S. troops in Iraq — will resemble the situations in Germany, Japan and Korea?

I can answer that for Sen. McCain; “when the sentient terrorists realize that their chances of achieving their goals aren’t worth their lives”.

And Germany, Japan and Korea are bad examples (although to a nation of people who are largely ignorant of history, they may be the best we can do). The Philippines and El Salvador are better ones; insurgencies that died off (literally and metaphorically) as the result of an extended, judicious combination of military and civil action. It took six years for the Philippines’ insurgency to tail off a century ago; El Salvador is fairly recent history. Neither accomplishment was achieved without pain; both had the good luck to be either too early or too obscure for the attentions of the modern-day American media.

It’s wonderful that the level of violence in Iraq has fallen over recent months. But more than 200 U.S. troops, and a much larger number of Iraqis, have been killed in the less than half-year of 2008 so far.

Context counts, though. The number has been falling for a year, is at its lowest level of the war so far, and seems for the moment to be continuing to fall. Everyone from Petraeus to Michael Yon says to expect a counterattack to try to influence the election, and that’s reasonable. But if the violence continues to drop, the Iraqi government continues to improve (I notice you haven’t written, Mr. Black, about the fact that the Maliki government has quietly achieved most of the 18 criteria for recognizing Iraq as a legitimate government that the Dems were howling about last year), as Al Quaeda continues to be killed off (again, the MNPost is silent), it seems reasonable to believe things will tail off over the course of years rather than decades.

I hope, as you do, that the number continues to drop and soon gets close to zero. I assume we agree that the reasons for the decline in violence are several and complex and, as Gen. Petraeus said, “fragile” and “reversible.” Do you agree, “fragile” and “reversible?”

I agree with the General that it’s best not to be overconfident – but that while the fragility is a function of a difficult Iraqi situation, the progress will “reverse” only because of decisions made in Washington DC.

I suspect we may disagree, but I believe that there is no likely benefit to ordinary Americans of the invasion and occupation of Iraq that will outweigh the costs already incurred.

Those costs are already incurred and we can’t get them back. But decisions about war, including the future policy in Iraq, cannot and should not be shielded from the logic of cost/benefit analysis.

OK.  Let’s look those costs and benefits over:

Costs:  4,000-odd dead American troops, hundreds of billions of dollars.  (I’m not going to count “international goodwill”, becuase for the most part that is mercurial and cultural and if it hadn’t tanked over the Iraq war, it would have over soccer rules or trade balance or Susan Lucci’s Daytime Emmy or whatever they Euros are always whinging about whenever we’re not disposing of their genocidal dictators for them).

Benefits: Iran is firmly counterbalanced.  In a few years, the countries of the Middle East will very likely have a safe, stable neighbor against whom the people can find their own dictatorships and medieval baronies sorely wanting.  We have a base to contest Iran’s control of – I stress this – two thirds of the world’s currently-working oil reserves, which may be of much more importance to the third world and developing nations like China and India than to us.  Absent a serious US presence and counterbalance on the ground, Iran could close the Straits of Hormuz more or less at will (indeed, has been building for a decade and a half a force capable to doing that, with North Korean and Chinese anti-ship missiles and Russian submarines), with terrible effects on the US economy and potentially cataclysmic effects on the developing world.

You can, of course, easily reply that there are never any guarantees in war except that it will be bloody and awful. I agree. It’s one reason we should not get into unnecessary wars. But seriously, given the entire regional and historical context in which Iraq sits, what is your level of confidence — and how can you convince skeptical listeners to share your confidence — that the situation of U.S. troops in Iraq will resemble the situation in Germany within 20 years? Or, I don’t know, why not make it 100?

That’s easy.  There’s a zero percent chance that Iraq will ever resemble any of those countries.  Unlike Germany, its two primary religious factions are still in a low-level war (as opposed to “500 years ago”).  Unlike Japan and Korea, Iraq is ethically as well as religiously heterodox.  Unlike Germany and Japan, there was no clean, legal end to a conventional war, after which the people of both countries pretty much toed the occupier’s line. 

What we can hope for, and have worked for, is that Iraq will turn into the best Iraq it can be.

So I called this “Question for Eric Black”, didn’t I?  Here’s the question, then:  Given continued improvement on the ground, and assuming that over the course of the next year or two the insurgency dies off to a fairly background-level problem, and that the US involvement starts to draw down (as Gen. Petraeus has said) to a small garrison of mostly civil affairs and special forces troops over the course of the next 2-5 years, what do you think Iraq is most likely to turn into.  What do you think, given the above (and the above seems not all that unreasonable these days), are the best, worst and most likely cases for Iraqi civil society over the next decade or two?

Take it away.