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Alice Goffman’s implausible defense

[ 88 ] October 13, 2015 |


More than a month after the Chronicle of Higher Education published a 10,000-word article pointing out that it’s likely a lot of incidents related in Alice Goffman’s book On the Run didn’t actually happen, including several that she claimed to have witnessed herself, this is apparently the best defense she has been able to elicit from the world of sociology:

To the Editor:

I strenuously object to the publication of Paul Campos’s “Alice Goffman’s Implausible Ethnography” (September 4).

Its content, filled with innuendo and half-truths, is better suited to a tabloid than to an organ meant to inform on the basis of fact and thoughtful analysis.

What is the point of Campos’s overlong and superficial piece? To dispute the veracity of Goffman’s research. He is entitled to that opinion, but he offers no persuasive evidence. His main objective, it appears, is to discredit, not enlighten.

Sadly, Campos is unable to see Alice Goffman as a true scholar willing to take intellectual and personal risks that people like him would never take.

Let’s be clear: Goffman is not being harassed for the presumed flaws in her research — she is being persecuted for who she is: a young white woman of exceptional talent determined to unearth realities concealed to most Americans. Would she be enduring the same treatment if she were a man?

No, Alice Goffman is the object of a modern-day witch hunt. Envy over the colossal success of her book fuels the prejudice of people like Campos who cannot see Goffman for what she is: a serious intellectual with a genuine and timely story to tell.

Patricia Fernandez-Kelly
Department of Sociology
Princeton University

Obviously this letter doesn’t require any comment, and I present it here solely for its sociological interest.

I would like to take the opportunity, however, to say that I went to great lengths in the CHE piece to phrase my criticisms in the mildest and most careful fashion that a commitment to candor would allow.

Here I will not be so circumspect: It is all but certain that significant portions of On the Run are fabricated. Whatever residual doubt (and it was very residual indeed) I still had about this matter at the time I published the CHE article has been dispelled in the intervening weeks by subsequent developments, including but not limited to the response to the article itself.


Valley Forge Americans

[ 36 ] October 13, 2015 |


The Tea Party isn’t through tying their own insanity to Revolutionary War touchstones.

A member of the conservative caucus that effectively forced House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) out of the speaker’s race said Friday one of the GOP’s true “Valley Forge Americans” should succeed John Boehner.

In an interview with MSNBC, Freedom Caucus member Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), offered a roll call of acceptable candidates for speaker. He named Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Jeff Miller (R-FL), Tom Price (R-GA), and Jim Jordan (R-OH). He even mentioned Newt Gingrich, who was speaker from 1995 to 1999.

“I hear a lot of names. All of those men are Valley Forge Americans that would serve this country very well,” Franks said, referencing the winter military camp where more than 2,500 of George Washington’s troops died of starvation and exposure during the Revolutionary War.

Franks also said Ryan “is somebody that I have great respect for and believe could be a magnificent speaker.”

And really wouldn’t be sad if these Republicans decided to camp out in Pennsylvania this winter without proper shoes and clothes in a camp with no public health planing where they would get dysentery and starve? That would be very, very sad.

But then again, Valley Forge is a pretty appropriate reference for where the Tea Party wants to take us. Under an utterly inept central government with the Articles of Confederation, the new nation was completely unable to feed, clothe, or pay the troops fighting the war designed to make the nation free from British control. It got so bad that different states were supplying their own troops, leading to major disparities in supplies within different units of the army in the same place. Meanwhile, a lack of knowledge of basic public health created a lot of unnecessary deaths at Valley Forge and a return to 18th century notions of science and health seems about right for the Tea Partiers, although admittedly there may be too much of that fancy pants Enlightenment knowledge in there for them. If the new Republican Speaker is not pro-typhus, it’s hard to see how he (of course) has the true Valley Forge spirit!

Question about Boston cost of living

[ 66 ] October 13, 2015 |


One of the curiosities of the current federal educational loan system is that it allows graduate or professional school students who aren’t in default on such a loan to borrow the full cost of attendance at whatever school they’re attending, with the cost of attendance being determined exclusively by the school. The cost of attendance is tuition plus “reasonable” living expenses while the student is enrolled at least half time. In the case of ABA-accredited law schools, the ABA requires them to disclose what schools estimate reasonable living expenses are for the standard academic year, i.e., nine months.

Schools have two conflicting incentives in this regard. On the one hand, the higher a school estimates the cost of living, the more its students can borrow. On the other, the higher the estimate, the higher the total cost of attendance appears to be.

This mix of incentives leads to large differences in what schools in the same area estimate constitutes a reasonable nine-month COL budget for a law student. For example, here are the current nine-month COL estimates, rounded to the nearest $500, for the law schools in Boston. (Keep in mind that the figures below include an average of around $1,500 for books):

Boston University: $18,000

Boston College: $19,000 (I understand BC is in a suburb)

Northeastern: $19,500

Suffolk: $22,000

New England Law: $22,000

Harvard: $26,000

In other words, BU expects its law students to live in Boston on less than $2,000 per month, excluding book costs, while HLS budgets nearly 50% more for its students. How reasonable do these various estimates seem, given the current COL in the city? Law students are students, but they are also adults (the average age of an American law student is 26). What’s a realistic budget for a young adult in one of the capitals of the new gilded age in 2015?

ISDS Courts

[ 13 ] October 13, 2015 |


One of the biggest concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements are the Investor State Dispute Settlement courts that have no accountability to anyone, can overturn national laws that improve labor and environmental conditions, and are utterly opaque. Here is a very useful run-down of the ISDS and the TPP:

In short, ISDS gives corporations the power to sue national governments for lost future profits related to public interest legislation, most commonly focused on the protection of the environment. This provision is known as Chapter 11 in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and it’s present in the yet to be ratified Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) and is the subject of debate and proposals to reform in the United States-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

As for the TPP agreement reached on October 5, Foreign Policy notes, “The final deal reportedly includes substantial changes to the investor-state process. A key change: Companies would have to prove all elements of their damages’ claims, which could effectively make it easier for tribunals to side with the states being sued. In addition, the new agreement would also ease the process of dismissing frivolous claims and enact rules preventing conflicts of interest among attorneys who hear cases.”

Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom writes, “The Canadian government says only that the new pact will establish ‘strong rules’ to treat foreign investors ‘in a fair, equitable and non-discriminatory manner’. The U.S. government goes farther. It says the entire NAFTA dispute settlement process will be ‘upgraded’ to make it more difficult for corporations to make frivolous claims. In particular, according to the office of the U.S. trade representative, the TPP will not allow dispute settlement panels to overturn laws. Instead they will be limited to issuing what are, in effect, stiff fines.”

That said, Walkom cautions, “Ottawa says the TPP does not remove the right of governments to ‘legislate and regulate in the public interest’. That’s what was said about NAFTA originally. But those claims proved to be false. With the TPP, as with NAFTA, all will depend on how the final text is worded and how the dispute settlement panels interpret this wording. In the end, the new Trans-Pacific deal is essentially a renegotiated NAFTA with Japan and a couple of cheap-labour countries (Vietnam, Malaysia) thrown in.”

Since we still don’t have the final text, we don’t know, but while there do seem to be some cosmetic changes that maybe could change these courts a bit to fight against dubious corporate suits, the reality is that these trade courts still give unaccountable judges authority to reject a nation’s climate change legislation if it hurts an energy company’s profit or repeal a minimum wage law if a corporation disagrees. Certainly creating courts that citizens have no ability to access is tremendously undemocratic and is a major problem with the modern trade framework. If these courts gave workers the ability to sue corporations or nations that undermined their rights or if citizens could seek redress for pollution and disease they experienced because some company parked a factory in their backyard, that might be a different story. But as constituted, the ISDS courts a prime reason to fight against trade deals like the TPP.

Four Myths about the European Refugee Crisis (And Why You Need to Know the Reality)

[ 41 ] October 13, 2015 |

This is a guest post by Dr. Adam Luedtke, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York – Queensborough Community College. He received his Ph.D. from University of Washington, and has held academic positions at Princeton University, Washington State University and the University of Utah. He has written numerous books and articles on the politics of global migration.

News reports about the EU refugee crisis have been misleading at best, and have potentially (in an unfortunate guise of well-intentioned awareness and concern) made the situation even worse for the refugees. While the headlines have outlasted the media’s usual attention span, they will inevitably fade, but the plight of 60 million refugees will not. For those wishing to do more than post solemn declarations of concern on social media, there are some critical facts to know–facts being obscured by how the media talks about the crisis. The first step to helping more refugees, in a more effective way, is to correct misperceptions about: 1) who the refugees are–that is, who makes it out (and why), versus who remains in conflict regions; and 2) how governments can or should act to alleviate the problem. As powerful as headlines are for sparking concern, people remain wholly misguided about the origins, manifestations and optimal solutions to the problem. The first step to moving beyond this ignorance is to consider the problem systematically, and debunk the most common media myths that obscure such understanding.

Myth: Europe is facing its largest refugee crisis since World War Two.
Example: “Even now, with the biggest refugee crisis since WWII… the E.U. doesn’t seem to be conscious of its magnitude.”

Today’s crisis is horrible, but the early 1990s saw more refugees than now, and the crisis was more acute. In 1992, on the heels of communism’s collapse and turmoil in Eastern Europe (including genocide in former Yugoslavia), there were 670,000 asylum applications to (the 15) EU countries. Among other things, headlines detailed regular Neo-Nazi firebombings of shelters in Germany. So, the belief that we are in the largest post-WW2 refugee crisis is simply wrong. Last year, 626,000 people (44,000 fewer than 1992) applied to all (now 28) EU countries. The first quarter of 2015 shows this year may pass 1992’s total of 670,000. However, even if this happens, the period 1992-1997 will still have seen a larger number than 2010-2015 (and today’s total is spread over double the countries).[2] Our media feed perceptions of an unprecedented crisis, shocking us with graphic images and a steady stream of detail about the misery. It is fortunate that this raises awareness and prompts desire for action. But incorrect information undermines the cause of helping refugees. The sudden burst of alarm–and the well-intentioned concern that results–obscures important facts, such as who makes it to Europe, and who is left behind.

Myth: The poorest and most desperate arrive at Europe’s doorstep.
Example: “Most migrants who live illegally in the European Union fly to the 28-nation bloc on valid visas. But for the poorest and most desperate travelers… the journey often takes months by sea or land, with payments to traffick[ers].”

Reality: The new arrivals have suffered greatly, but their poorest and most desperate compatriots never make it out of the region. Only those with resources can afford the high fees charged by human smugglers. Because the burden of travel is usually placed on refugees themselves, the poorest and least-equipped are trapped in their home countries or make it to neighboring countries at best, which are often underdeveloped and face grave sociopolitical problems themselves. 1.8 million Syrian refugees have been admitted to Turkey, with Lebanon taking 1.2 million and Jordan 600,000. The world was captivated by images of little Aylan Kurdi’s body, after his family attempted sea passage. It was only because his aunt in Canada gave the family thousands of dollars that they were they able to pay the human smugglers who facilitated that journey from Turkey. Turkey now shelters more refugees than any other country in the world, and just four countries (Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon and Iran) host 36% of global refugees. The most deserving refugees are ignored by the logic of this system. If this is true, then who makes it to safe haven in the West?  The greater skills and resources of the “successful” refugees can benefit host countries, while admitting them in the comparatively small numbers they represent alleviates the political pressures from the headlines. But haven’t countries now stepped up their efforts?


Credit: European Union

Myth: Rich countries are finally taking in their fair share of refugees.
Example: “Why are the Germans being so nice? Angela Merkel has come out in favor of giving the refugees a big welcome. Being nice to refugees… helps dispel the ‘ugly German’ image. Angela Merkel has no difficulty in appreciating… human rights.”

Reality: Germany likes people to think it’s helping, but overall, rich countries admit few refugees, and the recent increases (though welcome) are a drop in the bucket. Germany does host the world’s eighth highest refugee population, but their refugee-to-native ratio is about 40 times less than Jordan’s. In the U.S., total admissions have dropped to under 70,000 from a 1990 peak of 122,000. Indeed, developing nations now host 86% of the global refugee population, and 25% of all refugees reside in the world’s “Least Developed” countries. This unbalanced settlement of refugees reveals the global system’s disproportionality. Refugee camps closer to the country of origin allow for more refugees to be helped. But the costs are much higher to resettle refugees in the West. This is why rich countries back a system which secludes refugees in temporary encampments, where they can be organized and managed by NGOs, who help shift focus and responsibility away from politicians. As analyst Robert Gorman notes, “Although the UNHCR is the institutional focal point of refugee protection, individual governments are the ones who must take up the cause.” So how could individual governments have handled this crisis better?

Myth: We could have avoided the crisis if states coordinated better.
Example: “Crisis… could have been avoided had refugees been able to travel normally, or make applications for asylum at embassies.”

Reality: Even if rich countries were willing to host every single refugee out there, it would be logistically impossible. Extra efforts should therefore be concentrated on the conflict region. While the option of asylum for refugees who reach Western shores is critically important, it is “hopelessly inadequate” as a solution to refugee crises. The causes of refugee flight are complex, and require a multi-faceted approach, including diplomacy and conflict resolution. To Oxford’s Matthew Gibney, even if “democratic states were to satisfy all of humanitarianism’s requirements, the claims of many of the world’s refugees to a safe place of residence would still go unmet.” Obviously, refugees arriving on the Western doorstep cannot be turned away. But in weighing the costs, benefits and ethics of refugee policy, we must acknowledge the relatively privileged status of the few refugees who have the means to make the journey, versus the dire needs of far larger populations near the conflict. There are no easy answers to their plight, but the inevitable search for answers must begin with correct facts. Otherwise, headlines will shock and sadden, without prompting effective action.

The BENGHAZI!!!!!!! Scam

[ 31 ] October 13, 2015 |


In a rational universe, as Bouie says, the House Benghazi committee would be a punchline:

Republicans have consistently denied that this is a partisan fishing expedition. “My interest is in the past, not the future. I’m trying to figure out what happened to four Americans in Benghazi,“ said South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, who leads the committee, in reply to further criticism from Cummings. But it’s not hard to understand Democratic frustration. Three separate investigations—from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, from the House Select Committee on Intelligence, and from the Senate Select Committee—cleared Clinton and the State Department of particular wrongdoing. There were no warnings and there was no cover-up. At most, the agency and its leaders were negligent in the face of danger.

Despite this, Republicans pressed ahead. In the 17 months since the committee was formed, investigators haven’t found anything to contradict earlier assessments. Then, as now, there’s no evidence of a cover-up from Clinton or the administration.


But that was before Boehner announced his retirement, and before his assumed successor—House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy—said too much about the actual purpose of the committee. “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable,” McCarthy said to Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”

This connection—between the committee, the email scandal, and Clinton’s declining numbers—was debatable. But the words were there: The committee wasn’t about finding the truth behind the attack in Benghazi; it was about tanking Clinton ahead of the election.


This weekend, another shoe dropped for the Benghazi committee. “A former investigator for the House Select Committee on Benghazi says he was unlawfully fired in part because he sought to conduct a comprehensive probe into deadly attacks on the U.S. compound instead of focusing on Hillary Rodham Clinton and the State Department,” reported the Associated Press.

The New York Times followed with a major story that detailed the degree to which “the focus of the committee’s work has shifted from the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi attack to the politically charged issue of Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.” What’s more, according to the Times, this was a particular preoccupation for Boehner, who pushed the committee to focus on Clinton’s emails.


At this point, the House Select Committee on Benghazi is a dead letter. Democrats will dismiss it entirely, Hillary Clinton—in her upcoming testimony—will likely treat it with contempt, and the media will disregard its claims. Indeed, there’s a chance this could spread beyond the committee to Clinton’s email controversy.

I hope that the optimism at the end is warranted. I fear that it is not. The media rule that governs all Clinton “scandals” from Whitewater on seems to be “where there’s enough flatulence, there’s fire.” I suspect that the press can pretend that the Benghazie and especially email servers are real scandals for a while yet.


[ 174 ] October 13, 2015 |

I’m still fighting off a bug that was clearly engineered by Satan so I can’t do an entry of substance. What I can do, however, is link to another blog entry that has funny MRA graphics in it.


I have to admit I found the first graphic unsettling. I had no idea Jessica Alba was a murderer. Until now I’d thought the only thing she’d killed were any lingering feelings of affection I had for Frank Miller films.

“That Word Extremism, I Do Not Think….”

[ 25 ] October 13, 2015 |


Michael Kinsley is, in 2015, being paid to write a column, and this month’s insight is that Donald Trump is not qualified to be president. You can’t get that kind of analysis from just anybody! You would think that pursuing this line of argument wouldn’t be much a challenge, but he manages to step into a rake or ten along the way:

A while back in the Times, Josh Barro started a debate about whether Trump is really a “moderate” who merely acts like an extremist because it sells. You might say that he isn’t an extremist but he plays one on TV. Barro’s argument was that if you take all of Trump’s extreme views on Social Security, immigration, and so on, some of them classified as extremely right-wing and some extremely left-wing, they average out to be more or less down the center. Ezra Klein replied in Vox, essentially, that extreme views are extreme views, no matter how they average out. But looking for some kind of ideological thread in Trump’s various positions is a fool’s errand (and another victory for Trump). The appeal of Trump’s alleged views on every issue is their extremeness. That, and their seeming simplicity. The fact that he hasn’t thought them through and has more or less pulled them out of the air (or out of his ass, as Trump himself might put it) is a feature, not a bug, as they say in Silicon Valley. Trump stands for the proposition that you don’t need to know much to run the government. You just need to use your common sense and to grow a pair, as Sarah Palin so memorably advised.

Wait, what was that again?

Trump’s extreme views on Social Security

Trump has “extreme” views on Social Security, or at least views that Josh Barro considers “extreme”? That doesn’t make much sense. Let us consult the original source:

The main way Mr. Trump stands out from the field on economic policy is leftward: While most Republicans favor free trade, Mr. Trump has called for much higher tariffs on imported goods to protect American industries from competition. He has also criticized his opponents for proposing cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. “I’m gonna make us so rich you don’t have to do those things,” Mr. Trump said in April.

Barro, you will notice, does not describe Trump’s views on Social Security as “extreme.” While we’re here, you can also read Ezra’s argument, which is nothing like Kinsley describes it as.

And the reason Barro and Klein do not describe Trump’s views on Social Security as “extreme” is that they are about as mainstream and popular as a position can be. The “extreme” position is Kinsley’s view that 1)You can’t have everything, 2)??????, 3)We must cut Social Security rather than raising taxes or cutting defense spending! Pain caucus pundits have been marinating in their own nonsense for so long they just take the soundness of Social Security cuts as being self-evident. Trump, for all his many faults, is performing a useful service in showing that even among the Republican rank-and-file Social Security cuts have very little support.

Turnin’ Mountains Into Oceans Puttin’ Baseballs on the Moon

[ 29 ] October 13, 2015 |

Revenge is a dish best served in the upper deck 430 feet away.


[ 86 ] October 12, 2015 |


Amazing and beautiful:

University of Texas students announced a plan to openly carry dildos in response to a new “campus carry” law that takes effect next year.

The Facebook page for the group Campus (DILDO) Carry has since been flooded with abuse, which moderators are leaving in place to show the kind of aggressive hostility open carry zealots display when they find out they’re being mocked.

The group was founded in protest of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R)’s signing of S.B. 11, a so-called “campus carry” law which says “license holders may carry a concealed handgun throughout university campuses, starting Aug. 1, 2016.”

According to the Houston Chronicle, the #CocksNotGlocks protesters intend to openly carry brightly colored sex toys on campus in protest.

“You’re carrying a gun to class?” wrote group founder Jessica Jin on Facebook. “Yeah well I’m carrying a HUGE DILDO. Just about as effective at protecting us from sociopathic shooters, but much safer for recreational play.”

Jin invited like-minded protesters to join the group on Aug. 1, 2016 — the first day of fall semester — for a group “strap in.”

This is literally the best possible response one could have to the rise of guns on campus. Open mocking. Of course that doesn’t mean one or all of them isn’t going to be shot. But what else are you going to do. Waving a giant dildo in the face of a gun nut sounds fantastic. Of course these women are taking all sorts of misogynistic abuse from idiots and gun freaks.


[ 43 ] October 12, 2015 |

Interlocking USC Logo.svg

There’s no doubt that the Oregon football program is currently a mess, what with…. Hey, look over there!

USC has fired coach Steve Sarkisian, the school announced Monday.

“After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the university and our student-athletes, I have made the decision to terminate Steve Sarkisian, effective immediately,” USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement.

“I want to thank Clay Helton for stepping into the interim head coach role, and I want to add how proud I am of our coaching staff and players and the way they are responding to this difficult situation.

“Through all of this we remain concerned for Steve and hope that it will give him the opportunity to focus on his personal well being.”

On Sunday, Sarkisian was asked to take an indefinite leave of absence. Haden said Sunday it was “clear to me that he was not healthy.”

To be fair to USC, there was no evidence whatsoever that Sark was hitting the sauce (via Lemieux):

What emerged is a portrait of a man who favored Patron Silver tequila or Coors Light and frequented a handful of Seattle-area bars, typically accompanied by staff members, and didn’t hesitate to drink — early — while traveling.

During a stop at a rib joint in Nashville in January 2013, for example, Sarkisian and three assistants ordered four shots of Patron Silver, four shots of an unspecified liquor and five beers. The coach cashed out at 11:53 a.m.

I respect the late morning drinking, but tequila and Coors Light?

Deep Thoughts, By Christopher Hitchens

[ 117 ] October 12, 2015 |


LGM prides itself on its fairness and balance. It only seems right, then, that Erik’s thoughts below opposing imperialist genocide be paired with the profound views of another important public intellectual, the late Christopher Hitchens:

My old comrade David Dellinger, hero of the antiimperialist movement, telephoned the other day to tell me of the fast he was undertaking to protest the celebration of racism, conquest and plunder that impended on Columbus Day. I am as respectful of my elders as any ancestor-worshiping Iroquois, and David has been to prison for his beliefs more times than I have had hot dinners, but a hot dinner – with steak frites, cheese and salad and a decent half bot. of something, all complete – was what I urged him to go and have. Break your fast, old thing, I beseeched; 1492 was a very good year.

I can never quite decide whether the anti-Columbus movement is merely risible or faintly sinister. It is risible in the same way that all movements of conservative anachronism are risible, and reminds me of Evelyn Waugh’s complaint that he could never find a politician who would promise to put the clock back. it is sinister, though, because it is an ignorant celebration of stasis and backwardness, with an unpleasant tinge of self-hatred.


One need not be an automatic positivist about this. But it does happen to be the way that history is made, and to complain about it is as empty as complaint about climatic, geological or tectonic shift. Not all changes and victories are “progress!’ The Roman conquest and subjugation of Britain was, I think, a huge advance because it brought the savage English tribes within reach of Mediterranean (including Ptolemaic and Phoenician as well as Greek and Latin) civilization, whereas the Norman Conquest looks like just another random triumph of might.

The very dynasty that funded Columbus put an end to Andalusia in the same year, and thus blew up the cultural bridge between the high attainments of Islamic North Africa and Mesopotamia and the relative backwardness of Castilian Christendom. Still, for that synthesis to have occurred in the first place, creating the marvels of Cordoba and Granada, wars of expansion and conversion and displacement had to be won and lost. Reapportioning Andalusia according to “precedent” would be as futile an idea as restoring Sioux rights that are only “ancestral” as far back as 1814. The Sioux should be able to claim the same rights and titles as any other citizen, and should be compensated for past injury. That goes without saying. But the anti-Columbus movement is bored by concepts of this kind, preferring to flagellate about original sin and therefore, inevitably, to brood about the illusory counterpart to that exploded concept-the Garden of Eden.

Forget it. As Marx wrote about India, the impact of a more developed society upon a culture (or a series of warring cultures, since there was no such nation as India before the British Empire) can spread aspects of modernity and enlightenment that outlive and transcend the conqueror. This isn’t always true; the British probably left Africa worse off than they found it, and they certainly retarded the whole life of Ireland. But it is sometimes unambiguously the case that a certain coincidence of ideas, technologies, population movements and politico-military victories leaves humanity on a slightly higher plane than it knew before. The transformation of part of the northern part of this continent into “America” inaugurated a nearly boundless epoch of opportunity and innovation, and thus deserves to be celebrated with great vim and gusto, with or without the participation of those who wish they had never been born.

And, hey, I bet David Irving thought 1492 was a very good year too!

As I’ve said before, whatever his merits as a prose stylist and literary critic, as a political thinker he was incoherent and puddle-deep. When he reached the right conclusion his arguments were just as driven by personality considerations and self-consciously “provocative” contrarianism as they were on the many occasions when he reached terrible ones.

[Via Jeet Heer]

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