Wednesday MOOCs, Strikes, Scandals, Snubs, and Flubs
The first thing I want to do, then, is slow us down a bit, and go through the last year with a bit more care than we’re usually able to do, to do a “close reading” of the year of the MOOC, as it were. Not only because I have the time, but because, to be blunt, MOOC’s only make sense if you don’t think about it too much, if you’re in too much of a hurry to go deeply into the subject.
* IRS Sent Same Letter to Democrats That Fed Tea Party Row. Gasp! You mean this whole scandal isn’t?
* Adam Kotsko on the US as a party state.
The really disturbing thing is that the party duopoly renders both parties above the law. We can see this in the IRS scandal that is currently unfolding: although there are very good reasons to suspect Tea Party organizations of being less than completely upright when it comes to taxes, the formal state apparatus is likely to back down and sanction the agents who carried out those investigations, because the appearance of neutrality vis-à-vis the two parties is more important than the rule of law. Similarly, one cannot prosecute Bush-era war crimes, because that would be an illegitimately “partisan” move. Given that Clinton and Obama have both committed similar atrocities, one might have some sympathy with the inevitable Republican whining that would accompany a Bush prosecution — it genuinely wouldn’t be “fair.” But it’s when one asks why we don’t just prosecute Bush and Obama that we realize that the two parties are truly above the law — a bipartisan agreement on foreign policy trumps even the most sacred norms of international law.
In the US, it’s common to think of sickle cell anemia, a genetic condition, as a “black disease,” and in fact statistics on prevalence bear that out — black Americans are far more likely than whites to carry the sickle cell gene. But that fact, it turns out, is a result of ethnicity and history, not race.
Sickle cell is common in some parts of Africa, and some parts of Europe, but not others. As it turns out, most American blacks have ancestral origins in areas of sickle-cell prevalence, and most American whites do not. But if the geographic distribution of Americans’ ancestors were different — if, for instance, the country had been settled by South African blacks and Sicilian whites — the incidence of sickle cell in the white population would be higher than the incidence in the black population.
Race is a form of shorthand, in other words. It’s an approximation. In some situations, for some purposes, it’s a useful approximation. If you’re trying to tell someone which of your several friends named Jim you’re referring to, specifying that you mean “the white Jim” may be helpful, and if you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck in a sickle-cell awareness media campaign, targeting black media may have merit.
But the fact remains that Nelson Mandela is at less risk of sickle cell than Al Pacino.
See also Race and IQ: That Old Canard.
* Even the Onion wouldn’t stoop this low for a bit: Soldier In Charge of Sex Assault Prevention Accused of Abuse, Pimping.