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August 18, 2013


What do you notice?

a dead server

it appears to be back online.

i notice:

mostly white folks outside of cities.

the exception is the southeast, the old plantation states, where there are lots of black folks.

hardly anybody at all between the 100th meridian and the west coast. there's denver, salt lake, phoenix, and a great big whole lot of nobody.

my takeaway: the US contains an extremely wide spectrum of social environments.

The think I notice is how strongly artificial lines stand out. You can easily see the effect of zoning rules, with blank areas that are zoned for commercial or industrial use and darker and lighter areas zoned for multifamily or single family housing. Similarly, you can see that racial and ethnic segregation follows lines. Some cities in my area have reputations as being a place where specific groups live, and it's pretty clear that people are following those reputations when they choose where to live, since the actual city lines stand out with a color change.

I notice that the Red States have a whole lot more people of color than the (aptly named) blue states.

More Fun with Maps: 40 maps that help make sense of the world


I don't think that's actually true, though. If you look at the bottom 10 states (plus DC) by non-Hispanic white population, 7 (Hawaii, DC, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Maryland, and Florida) voted for Obama in the 2012 election and 3 (Texas, Georgia, and Arizona) voted for Romney. In contrast, of the 10 states with the largest percentage of non-Hispanic Whites, 6 (West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Kentucky, Wyoming, and South Dakota) voted for Romney vs. 4 (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Iowa) that voted for Obama.

I think that what you're actually seeing is a difference in the distribution of minorities between different areas of the country. Rural areas have been losing population to the cities for a very long time, so rural populations tend to mirror original settlement patterns, while cities are a mishmash of migrants. Our largest minority populations were originally African Americans in the South and Hispanics in the Southwest, plus a few Native Americans still living on their reservations. When those minority groups moved to the rest of the country, they tended to move into cities, where they don't look as important on the map, even if their population there is very large.

I don't think that's actually true, though.

If for 'red state' in sapient's comment we read 'the south', i.e. the southeast, then IMO he has a point.

The anecdote commonly offered as a way of characterizing the difference between racial composition and dynamics in The North vs The South is that folks in the more traditionally liberal north may well have close to zero interaction with black people (or people of color in general) during the course of an average day, whereas in the south interaction between the races is very very common.

And again, I'm referring basically to the right half of the map, west of the 100th the history and the dynamics are somewhat different, I think.

sapient has a point. In my opinion.

The anecdote commonly offered as a way of characterizing the difference between racial composition and dynamics in The North vs The South is that folks in the more traditionally liberal north may well have close to zero interaction with black people (or people of color in general) during the course of an average day, whereas in the south interaction between the races is very very common.

Thanks, russell. This is what I'm saying. I'm not valorizing the South in any way: I'm afraid of the "neo-Confederate" movement, and think it's real - much more real since I live in an area where it exists to a certain exten. But the rural north doesn't so much face the challenge of how to deal with diversity, so the South is in the trenches, and whenever we talk about race, we should remember that the good and bad reaction to the challenge of racism is being done mostly in the South (and, especially in terms of Hispanic people, the South-West).

Regarding the neo-Confederates.

the rural north doesn't so much face the challenge of how to deal with diversity

With some exceptions, I would say this is also the case in much or most of the urban north.

Our kind of people live in one place, those other people live someplace else. Maybe two blocks away, but someplace else.

Often, even in cities, there isn't all that much interaction.

And if rural New England is any kind of norm, the number of folks of color is almost at the noise level.

@russell: If for 'red state' in sapient's comment we read 'the south', i.e. the southeast, then IMO he has a point.

Well, yes, if you exclude a big part of the map where his observation is obviously untrue, then it's a slightly better one. But only slightly better. If you leave out anything west of the 100th Meridian, the states with the lowest non-Hispanic White population still favored Obama in 2012: 6 for Obama (DC, Maryland, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois) to 4 for Romney (Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana). Admittedly, the Whitest states now look slightly more favorable to Obama, since you drop out Montana and Wyoming for Wisconsin and Minnesota, but that still leaves you with the same 6-4 as for the least white states.

I'll actually extend my argument from the previous post a bit. I suspect that part of the problem is that we have a slightly outdated idea of where the blue and red states are. The South is no longer solid red. Virginia and Florida voted for Obama in both 2008 and 2012, and North Carolina voted for him in 2008.

But still, I think that the map is harder to read to give a picture of the racial makeup of states than you'd think. Just as a quiz, and just looking at the map, which do you think has a larger percentage of minorities (i.e. people who aren't non-Hispanic whites) and by how much: New York or Mississippi? Michigan or Oklahoma? Colorado or Pennsylvania? If you can't get the right answer by looking at the map, then any judgment you make by looking at the map is likely to be flawed.

[Answer key: Mississippi, 0.3%; Oklahoma, 7.9%; Colorado, 9.5%]

What caught my eye was a huge section of my home town which, according to the map, is almost entirely Asian -- red, red, nothing but red. The town as a whole is mostly white (blue), with some variation reflecting individual families, mixed marriages (including mine), etc. But that one big section?

I have a temptation to wander over there, maybe some afternoon as school is getting out, just to see if that can possibly be correct. If it isn't (and I have serious doubts), that rather throws the entire map into question for me. Whether the problem is the mapping software or the source data, it would indicate that something is seriously questionable.

I suspect that part of the problem is that we have a slightly outdated idea of where the blue and red states are.

That's a good point.

My comments (not sapient's specifically) was addressed more to what traditionally is referred to as 'north' and 'south', both of which have historically referred primarily to the right hand half of the map.

Mostly, I wanted to echo what I took (perhaps incorrectly) to be sapient's sense that the conventional wisdom about the liberal north being relatively more tolerant and inclusive, and the 'bigoted' conservative south being less so, was maybe not so wise after all.

My apologies to all if I mistook the thrust of sapient's point.

Your caveats are noted and are IMO well said.

"I have a temptation to wander over there, maybe some afternoon as school is getting out, just to see if that can possibly be correct."
The schools' web sites may give you quicker and more accurate information.


The way I've heard it described is that a Southern white is OK with an African American living next door, but not with one as his boss. A Northern white is OK with an African American as his boss, but not with one living next door. Of course, both of those are aimed more at New Englanders than New Yorkers. It's probably worth highlighting that New York and New Jersey have by far the lowest percentage of non-Hispanic whites in the Northeast.

And I'll be more than happy to admit that my take on this is strongly colored by being from part of the country that was being left out of the discussion, as we so often are. The Southwest has a different set of ethnic issues from the East, and it the longer term it's probably more significant because the Hispanic population is growing quickly as a fraction of the national population in a way the African American population isn't. And here in California, at least, Asian immigration is a big deal, too.

I think it's interesting because the dynamics are very different in the West. There's an obvious, strong correlation between minority population and election results. It's not perfect- Texas is much redder than you'd expect given its white population, and Oregon and Washington are much bluer- but it's a strong guideline.

Curious - I sent a link to a bunch of other maps that seems to have disappeared. Can someone check on that? Thanks.

Roger Moore, I'm not sure what your numbers mean or where you're getting them. Looking at the 2010 census if you count up and add together the columns other than "white alone" in New York versus Mississippi, you come up with 47% nonwhite in New York versus 67 percent nonwhite in Mississippi. So I don't get your .3% more minorities in Mississippi than New York, if that's what you meant. Sorry if I misunderstood what you're getting at, or if my math is incorrect, but I'm not seeing it.

As to misunderstanding "red states" and "blue states", I was really talking about the "confederacy" - so yes, my bad. Since I live in Virginia, a state that voted for Obama, but is gerrymandered to vote red (translate white) for Congress, I don't consider myself to live in a blue state, having to fight tooth and nail for every Democratic vote that might be possible.

Do explain your numbers please.

I left out the column "2 or more races" in my calculations.

just plucked dr ngo's comment from the spam bin. Feel free to comment on those maps as well.

What I noticed was that, they being part of a tiny minority in a particular area, I can find my father and brother on this map.


Two points:

A) I think your math is wrong. The second page of the document you're linking to has the percentages calculated and shows Mississippi as 59.1% white and New York as 65.7% white, so I can't see how you get 67% and 47% non-white.

B) Hispanic ethnicity is counted separately from race by the census. The blue dots on the map represent specifically non-Hispanic whites, so that's what I was asking about. Since New York has a much larger Hispanic population than Mississippi, and since on average more than half of Hispanics report their race as white, that has a substantial effect on the numbers. If I read that right, it shows that 1.1% of the population in MS is white Hispanic vs. 7.4% in New York.

I got my data from Wikipedia, who had it nicely laid out and sortable by category, but they indicate they got it from the Census. They show Mississippi as 58.0% non-Hispanic White vs. 58.3% for New York, which gives the 0.3% difference I quoted.

Not trying to fist-fight here, Roger Moore, and you're certainly right about what Wikipedia says, but I did add together all of the nonwhite categories in the actual census site (except for "two or more races, which aren't all that significant) in order to get my number, so check it out if you want.

And you're right, there's a page two of my link that I didn't look at. But still, the percentage of white people in New York is quite a bit higher than the percentage of white people in Mississippi - more than 6% higher, not .3% higher. So maybe it's Wikipedia's numbers that I'm not understanding.

And for New York, we have to remember that New York City is a huge part of that diversity, which means that rural New York is probably white as a ghost.

I was just on a trip to New England, coming from Virginia, and forget-about-the-map: in rural New England, no black faces to be found. Just anecdotally.

So, I'm not sure what your larger point is (forgetting about the math), but a whole lot of African-Americans live in the South, and that's where that particular racial battle is still being fought. It's not being fought in the non-urban North, because blacks don't live there.

That's my point. As to the battle for Latino (which sometimes coincides with immigrant) rights, that's a slightly different, more Southwestern story. Other nonwhite groups fare better, on the whole.

Still, if you care about what happens to racism against African-Americans, you care what happens in the South (the Confederacy) where the spread-out green is on that map that was originally posted.

in rural New England, no black faces to be found. Just anecdotally.

Not just anecdotally, he said, spoken as a resident of New England.

New York and New Jersey have by far the lowest percentage of non-Hispanic whites in the Northeast.

That's kind of a low bar.

The numbers on population distribution are all very interesting, likewise how that skews on the urban vs rural dimensions.

The ongoing evolution of states from red to blue to purple, also very interesting.

I guess the only point I was making with my comment is that, in famously liberal and tolerant 'north', by which I mean the northeast and the upper mid west, it's anecdotally less common for whites to interact with blacks or other minorities in the course of their daily lives. As compared with the famously conservative and less-tolerant 'south', by which I mostly mean what were once the confederate states.

If you get outside of the cities, you can replace the phrase 'interact with' with the word 'see'.

And I'm using 'famously' in my comment here to indicate 'per the conventional wisdom', the actual wisdom of which is open to debate.

Things are much much much better than they used to be, and appear to continue to improve by fits and starts, but the top right hand part of the country is pretty damned segregated. Both in terms of where folks live, and in terms of the social environment.

It seems to me.

@sapient: Not trying to fist-fight here

I don't take it as one. I think it's a genuinely confusing issue, as almost everything tied into American racial and ethnic discussions tends to be. Our beliefs about race and ethnicity are not entirely, or even mostly, rational, so they tend to produce a lot of confusion.

I think the point that you're missing is the distinction between "white" and "non-Hispanic white". The census tracks race and ethnicity separately, which is why the table you linked to doesn't have a "Hispanic" category; it's only about race. But that's not the way our racial rules see things; we wind up treating Hispanics as a separate minority category more like racial minorities, even Hispanics who classify themselves as white.

Because of this, census provided data is often divided into two or three separate versions. One will be broken down strictly by race, like the table you provided. There may be one that shows Hispanic vs. non-Hispanic, with further breakdowns by race within each ethnic category. Then there will be a final one that separates Hispanics of all races into a separate category and lists the racial categories without whatever subset of that racial category list themselves as Hispanic. When they do that, people other than the census often fail to label the racial categories as "non-Hispanic" whatever. But if the categories still add up to 100% even with Hispanics separated out, it means that the other groups have had their Hispanic subset subtracted.

That's important in this case because that's exactly what the map did; they have a separate color for Hispanics. That means the "white" dots on the map are actually non-Hispanic whites, even though they're only labeled as "white" in the legend. To get an accurate comparison to the map, then, you need to look not at the census's race table but at one that includes race and ethnicity and separates out non-Hispanic whites the same way the map does. That's what the article I linked to on Wikipedia does, and why I linked to that one rather than this one that replicates the data from the table you linked to at the census.

it's anecdotally less common for whites to interact with blacks or other minorities in the course of their daily lives.

That might be true if we're talking about rural environments, but the thing about rural environments is that...very few people live in them. Over 91% of the population of MA live in urban environments according the Census Bureau. (CT is similar). So, for those 91% of the population, seeing black people or hispanic people or arabs or asians or indians is a pretty common thing.

Even NH runs over 60% urban and VT and ME run about 40%. Of course, MA has a larger population than those other states combined.

Turb: Even NH runs over 60% urban and VT and ME run about 40%. Of course, MA has a larger population than those other states combined.

I've been in VT and ME, and I don't know what you mean by "urban" but to me the "urban" in VT and ME doesn't look like "urban" in NYC or DC or Richmond, or Atlanta. For example, I live in Charlottesville, VA, and it is twice the size of Augusta, ME, and about the same size as Burlington, VT. I don't really consider Charlottesville to be "urban" although maybe it is, technically. It's a very small place.

Roger: That's important in this case because that's exactly what the map did; they have a separate color for Hispanics.

Okay, I guess that explains (to a certain extent - too many alcohols to do the counting) the discrepancies in the math. I'm not sure what your larger point is.

My point is this: if discrimination is still a problem in America (I think it is), discrimination against African-Americans is probably the most severe and longstanding. Discrimination against Spanish speaking immigrants is also severe, especially in some areas of the country, especially against undocumented workers. I don't know how to assess discrimination against people of Hispanic heritage whose native language is English: my instinct is that it's not a huge problem. The map doesn't really tell us that, and neither do the census numbers. I'm not sure how helpful it is to determine the extent of anti-Hispanic racism by the maps or the census data, other than noting the obvious population centers (in the Slate map) in the Southwest.

I don't claim to have an answer to any of this. Urban centers (even in the South) seem to deal with diversity much more comfortably than rural areas. I was just pointing out that there is, of course, little racial struggle where the population is mostly homogeneous, and it's easy to feel guilt-free of racism when you rarely encounter anyone of a different race. Obviously people in large cities do encounter people of different races, and do better with it.

@sapient: I'm not sure what your larger point is.

My larger point is that I'm not sure how helpful this map is in judging ethnic distribution on a national scale. It's highly misleading for some of the reasons I've mentioned, especially the way maps like this one tend to exaggerate the significance of rural areas. I think it's more useful for qualitative judgment, e.g. that a specific area is mostly full of people from one group, than it is for quantitative ones. I also think it's most interesting on the small scale, where you can look at patterns in areas that you know something about and see if they match your expectations.

I don't know how to assess discrimination against people of Hispanic heritage whose native language is English: my instinct is that it's not a huge problem.

My impression is that it varies tremendously on circumstances. Hispanics who speak English like natives and look "white" blend in pretty well. Ones whose skin is darker are often treated as recent immigrants whether they are or not. I think the latter point is politically significant, since it winds up making immigration a personal issue even for Hispanics whose whole families have been here for generations.

There's also the issue of ethnic background being tied up with social class. There are a lot of places where Anglos have historically been socially dominant and Hispanics have been an underclass, and that hasn't gone away. And, of course, Latin American countries have their own messed up politics of race and nationality that immigrants bring with them when they come to the US.

Urban centers (even in the South) seem to deal with diversity much more comfortably than rural areas.

I don't know for sure that it is "much" more comfortably. One of the things this map shows is that urban centers that are diverse in the aggregate can still be highly segregated by city or neighborhood. That was the underlying principle behind white flight: people who weren't happy with integration left the diverse parts of their cities for suburbs that are voluntarily segregated. I see lots of signs of integration where I live, most noticeably multi-racial families, but I also know which nearby cities are mostly white, Asian, or Hispanic- and most of them are one or another. I don't think either one is somehow the true story of what's going on, but in the aggregate they show that there's still a lot of discomfort in diversity.

I've been in VT and ME, and I don't know what you mean by "urban" but to me the "urban" in VT and ME doesn't look like "urban" in NYC or DC or Richmond, or Atlanta.

See, this is the problem I was alluding to. Lots of people visit ME or VT on vacation; tourism is a major economic driver for those states. And when tourists visit, they end up in sleepy little towns where the population drops by a factor of 5 or 10 in the off-season, when all the tourists go home. And then the tourists conclude "this, this is new england". But it is not, or at least not wholly. Most people in new england don't live in tiny rural villages. Boston and Acton and Hartford are just as much new england as tiny fishing villages on the ME coast or skiing towns in NH. And a hell of a lot more people living in places like that than in tiny fishing villages.

I live in Cambridge MA and down the street from my house is a cricket bar. Do you have any idea how large a non-white population you need before a cricket bar makes economic sense? My spouse works in a distant outer suburb and the place is filled with non-white folks.

Turbulence, you're the one who mentioned Vermont and Maine, and the percentage of people who lived in "urban" areas. That's why I questioned your use of the word "urban" - because any "urbanness" of VT and ME is very small time urban. So I question what those percentages you quoted actually mean.

I don't doubt at all that Cambridge has a large nonwhite population - many nonwhites (especially cricket players who - my guess - aren't African Americans from the Great Migration) are probably associated with the universities nearby. That kind of "diversity" is tolerated in most university communities, including my own. And I'm sure that truly urban areas of New England have lots of skin colors making up the population.

But if within the percentages you cite for people who live "urban" environments, you were talking about Burlington VT or Augusta ME (which you were), it's not the kind of "urban" I think of as "urban". In other words, I think the percentage you cited is overstated.

Instead of people, could they do restaurants? (I'd really like to know where every Indian restaurant is. So I guess I need less broad categories.)

Vietnamese restaurants too, please.

sapient, Turb, I have the distinct impression that you two are using "urban" and "rural" in two entirely different senses. Yes, "urban" can mean "city, especially big city" -- that is, places with populations in the hundreds of thousands or millions. But it can also (especially if the only distinction is urban/rural) mean "a town with a post office and some stores" in the midst of lots of square miles without those things. Just as "rural" can mean anything from "not a big city" in the former sense to "an area where the nearest house to yours is at least a quarter mile away and probably a whole lot more."

On the former understanding, there are entire states with zero "urban" areas. But while that may be how someone from New York City or DC would actually see them, it definitely isn't how the people who live there see them.


The Census department definition- which I believe is the one that shows most people in Vermont and Maine as living in urban areas- is fairly loose. They start with an urban core that must meet some fairly basic criteria- an agglomeration of census tracts and/or census blocks each with population density of 1000/square mile or more- and then graft onto it additional areas with population density of at least 500/square mile. The grafted on blocks can be separated from the core, provided the separation is short and there's a road connecting them. This seems a lot closer to the "village and some stores" criterion than the "city, especially big city" definition, and it even allows outlying hamlets or low density developments of less than 1 person/acre to count as part of the urban area.

My city once had a prosperous Japan-town and a China-town but those areas were condemned during the urban renewal mindset of the 1960's to make way for a freeway and government office buildings.
Half of my metropolis is now a pretty clean blue and the rest seems pretty well integrated. I am amazed though that red is such a dominant color. Didn't notice that predominance in my day to day interactions.
I also notice that other than residential neighborhoods that are clean blue the are isolated ones that are clean red.

I found it most instructive to zoom in on cities in which I have recently lived to look at the localized demographics. There are some very stark lines evident in Austin and Albuquerque, for example; the latter (my current home) I think of as pretty diverse. Which it is -- just not as well mixed as I had imagined.

After zooming all over the USA I conclude that Sacramento is the most smoothly diversified city (except for the all white part). A history on how that came to be interests me, knowing that it was not always so.

note: The intensity/contrast of fire engine red distorts reality.

Sullivan gave this a Hewitt award.

“With the addition of Sunny, the Obamas now have two black Portuguese water dogs. The Obamas do not have any white dogs, ” - Patrick Howley, Daily Caller.

Of course they don't, but as we can see from the map, the white dogs live as far away from the Obamas as possible ... by choice.

White dog flight.

Purely white dogs are a tiny minority. The vast majority is at least partially brown or black and I'd bet there are far more dogs with no trace of white than pure white ones (Even when we start pure at 90% there). At least they tend to stay consostents as opposed to e.g. arctic foxes or hares that go brown in summer and white in winter. You might say many whites do that too but tanning beds have muddied the seasonal pattern.

Have noticed that in California it is easy to locate state prisons and county jails using this map.

Hartmut: Yes, but we don't have dog purity laws that insist any dog with just a trace of brown or black cannot be considered "white," as we have - or used to have, when it mattered - such laws for humans. If we had gone by color, rather than the "one drop of non-white blood" rule, the USA would be far more white - or at least beige - today.

my town is almost too small to show up.

but, nearby Raleigh is pretty much as i expected: all the black people live on the east side, and the north side is pure white.

the interesting parts are in the west, towards the airport (and RTP), where there's a high concentration of Asians. but, i'm thinking that "Asian" must include India & Pakistani, too, because i see far more of them than i do east Asians.

dr ngo, you have no idea how openly racist dog breeders are with regard to their canines* ;-)
Listening to them without knowing that they are talking about dogs one would believe to have stumbled over a bunch of Nazis. Not a coincidence though since the Nazis drew that analogy and part of their eugenicist vocabulary from dog breeding.

*not their teeth ;-)

Way up thread the comment was made that people in urban areas handle diversity better than people in rural areas.

I don't think this is true, although I can't site a study or anything of that nature.

I just think that the division based on ethnicity in urban areas argues against an acceptance of diversity.

Also I think people can be pretty accepting when they don't feel threatened and not having any contact with other ethnicities is an easy way to feel unthreatened.
In other words I don't think it is a case of urban areas being more accepting and rural areas less so; I think its a case of all white areas being more accepting in theory until a significant number of minority people start moving in, whereupon the lack of acceptance developes.

The whole phenomenon of "they are taking over the neighborhood, they are taking over he schools, this area used to be good before it went black" etc comes from contact.

Some anecdotes

I had a Native American acquaintance in college many many years ago. She grew up in South Dakota where really overt racism was the norm. In Iowa being Native made her exotic and interesting, rather than threatening. I remember her laughing about this. She was kind of annoyed, I think, that some of her art school professors expected her to have some sort of tribal influence in her art, but she wasn't interested in that.

Another anecdote: I had an acquaintance, African American, who went up to a rural white area in eastern Washington with her white boyfriend who worked for the Forest Service. She was the only black person in the county, the only black person in a hundred miles.

As such she was regarded as interesting. People asked her about being black, asked about how to care for her hair, did she need sunscreen, naïve questions like that. She was a self-confident happy person, and thought the questions were rather sweet. She had grown up in Houston or Dallas, and was used to racism, but a racism that was unspoken, secretive but relentless.

In my rural county, I doubt if anyone thought enough about Central Americans to develop a prejudice against them, until they started immigrating here in numbers.

Up thread a comment was made, as part of a jocular exchange, that we don't have dog purity laws wherein a basically white dog with a trace of black is considered black.

To respond seriously: there is a pattern of prejudicial thinking about a "breed" of dog that closely parallels a pattern of prejudicial thinking about African Americans.


Breed-specific legislation.

For one thing, the term "pitbull" is ambiguous but people treat it as if there is an agreed-upon meaning and as if the meaning is based on science and provides basis for conclusions about an individual dogs.

In fact "pitbull" is a catch all term for smooth coated rat tailed floppy eared dogs, most of whom are mixed breed dogs that might or might not have some American Pitbull Terrier or AmStaff in the mix. But a touch of the tarbrush...

And anyone who makes assumptions about a particular mixed breed dog based on a stereotype associated with a physical appearance is a bigot.

Yet, based on that bigotry literally millions of mixed breed dogs are euthanized in "shelters" every year on the assumption that they are pitbulls and that pitbulls are inherently dangerous.

Of course as soon as I writer this someone will chime in with an anecdote about how a "pitbull" killed a kid or a cat or a small dog.

The dog equivalent of Willie Horton stories, serving the same purpose.

Just for the record: American Pitbull Terriers are, like many pure breeds rated by a professional organization that does temperament testing on behalf of the AKC every year. And every year purebred pits score the same as golden retrievers for sociability with humans.

So the stereotype of real pitbulls as dangerous is bullshit. Andto extend that bullshit stereotyped to dogs that merely look like Ampits is really, really irresponsible.

But prejudice is fear and ignorance plus reinforcing anecdotes. The fearful ignorant person uses the anecdotes as a filter to screen out facts so as to retain the fear. That's how prejudice is maintained. And not only are facts rejected, but anecdotes that don't support the prejudice are rejected, too.

And pure bred American Pitbulls aren't a common breed. Mixed breed dogs that are called "pibulls" are one of the most common types of dogs found in the US. But they get euthanized by the million because of looking like AmPits, and Ampits are the current boogey dog of the middle class imagination.

It's bad enough that people apply stereotypes to fellow humans, but to impose a fear and ignorance based stereotype on a dog is really unfair. Dogs can't fight back.

Sorry about the thread jack.

There is no jacking an open thread. Well, what I mean is, you can't jack an open thread because it's open. When I say "can't" I don't mean you're not allowed to. I mean it's just not possible.

Remember the skit on SNL way back in the 70's that was a spoof on The China Syndrome, where the chief operator on his last day at the nuclear plant told everyone, "You can't put too much coolant in the reactor"? They didn't know if he was warning them not to put too much coolant in the reactor or if he was telling them that no amount of coolant was too much.

It's sort of like that. Anyway, good info, Laura, thread jack or not.

Has anyone caught the Rolling Stone article on the student-loan/tuition bubble? That might make for a good topic for a post.

Thanks, Hartmut and Laura, for shedding a little light into my all-but-invincible ignorance about dogs.

By way of partial compensation, I give you some uplifting comments on a particular dog by my sister:
A Musing Amma

(That is "A Musing," as in one who muses, rather than "Amusing," although she can also be that at times.)

The dog racism got connected with the human one recently by US congresscritter Steve King (R-Iowa).

Sorry about the thread jack.

Petey and Tige were pit bulls. I rest my case.

Pit bulls are mostly damned by association with their owners, who all too often seem to thrive by proxy on the pit's reputation for violence and invincibility.

All of that said, I wouldn't want one to bite me.

King is sponsor of an amendment which he wishes to attach to the agriculture bill. The effect of the amendment would be to nullify state level legal protections for animals. Kathleen Parker has an editorial about it in the Post.

Thank you, Dr. Ngo, for the link to the essay. I also have a dog that makes me laugh. Actually all of my dogs have been like that.

There always seems to be a boogey dog in America, Whatever dog is associated with ghettos and trailer parks becomes the boogey dog of the middle class imagination. It used to be Dobies and before that Rotties.

The statistics, at least over here, are led by German shepherds. Dachshunds (the 'hairless' variety) is notorious for biting but due to lack of size they are not considered dangerous.

I used to take vibraphone lessons from a guy who had an Italian Mastiff, aka cane corso, as the family pet.

They're supposed to be aggressive guard dogs, I guess, and I'm sure some are, but this particular dog was an extraordinary sweetheart. Really beautiful kind of dark lavender coat.

Very drooly, very very wrinkly, but very friendly and well behaved.

She would get impatient at the end of the lesson, though, and would pace the room and whine, because my teacher always gave me fat hours and it would intrude on her walk time.

Okay you said "statistics" and that's my opening to be a total bore!

This is from memory, but you all can do the research if so inclined.

About 2% of our population gets dog bit each year badly enough to report the bite . Of those bites about half are from mixed breed dogs. The remaining half is divided in any given year between thirty or more breeds but the following ten are the most common: pitbulls (but remember that's a catch all term for dogs that might or might not be American Pitbull terriers or Staffordshire terriers or bull terriers or mixes), German shepherds, shar peis huskies, chows, Great Danes, Rotties,akitas,and Dobies,and I can't remember the other two.

Given the number of dogs of each of the listed breeds, this means that no breed is represented in number sufficient to draw a conclusion. There are about three million pitbull type dogs in America. There are about seventy thousand shar peis. No breed has a bite record large enough in proportion to the breed's numbers to indicate a tendency to bite people.

Most dog bite incidents involve the family dog biting a family member. The second most common incident involves a dog and a neighbor that comes on to the dog's area. Random attacks by dogs on passersby are even more rare that stranger danger sexual assaults on children.

According to the Humane Society the pattern with dog bites is the biting dog is an unneutered male that lives chained up in the yard. This is consistent with the pattern of dogs biting a family member first and a neighbor on he family's property second.

Chained up dogs frequently become neurotic and fearful. Unsocialized, they fear people. Chained up, they can't flee so they fight. BSL does not reduce biting incidents. Laws which require owners to spay and neuter and require dog owners to limit the amount of time the dog is chained out do work as a way of reducing dog bite incidents. Possibly this is because such laws cause irresponsible owners to relinquish their dogs.

American Pitbull Terriers and Staffordshire Terriers are big terriers. That means, like all terriers, they are likely to have a prey drive and be unsafe with cats or other small creatures. However prey drive toward small animals does not translate into prey drive toward people. Dogs have thousands of years of domestication behind them so they know the difference between humans and other animals.

The American Pitbull was originally bred from an English breed ( created by crossing English bulldogs with rat terriers), for dog fighting. Ampits can be aggressive with other dogs although most are dog selective, rather than dog aggressive. One hundred years ago when the breed was being developed, aggression toward humans was selectively bred out for practical reasons: it is dangerous to break up a dog fight. So the breeding goal was a dog that would fight other dogs but not transfer aggression toward people.

Of the fifty some dogs rescued from Micheal Vick, only one had to be euthanized for aggression toward people. Ten or so were too dog aggressive to be immediately adoptable. The balance were safe with humans and dogs from the day they were rescued. And these were dogs that had been exposed to horrendous abuse.

Five or six have since become trained service dogs. BTW none of Vick's dogs were pure bred Ampits.

Okay, I'll stop now.

I love rotties. And other animals.

But since this is an open thread, I'm wondering people think about Syria, and what, if anything, should be done about the chemical weapons attacks that occurred today. Just let'm go? It's their business after all.

The reason I mentioned the lead the German shepherd has over here is that it shows the difference between perception which breed 'means trouble' and the reality. Most people see Kampfhunde (breeds associated with dogfighting, esp. pitbulls) as inherently dangerous and many attribute it to their mixed heritage while the 'noble' purebred German shepherd is maybe not seen as harmless but as a dog that will only become dangeorus when abused (either maltreated or specially trained to become 'mannscharf'). In reality there are far more incidents of severe injuries involving German shepherds than the 'inbred killing machines'. It is my impression that the pattern is different. Pitbulls have become the status symbol of a certain kind of people that should not own dogs in the first place because they want the killer image but are often unable or unwilling to exert control over their potentially dangerous pets. The German shepherd on the other hand is unwisely treated as a family dog with many not realizing that there is still a lot of pack behaviour in it. There have been many cases of them being model dogs up to the moment that a baby joins the family. Then they see their position threatened and try to eliminate the new challenger. So, a pitbull becomes dangerous because the owner wants it to be aggressive, the GS because the owners (and the victims) underestimate the potential danger. If people see a pitbull, they smell danger and tend to be cautious. When they see a well-groomed GS they usually don't. Many kids get bitten when they try to pet a GS without its consent. They would not normally try to pet an 'ugly beast' like a pitbull in the first place. As a result there are far more accidents with GS but they are less spectacular and 'suitable' for media treatment than 'pitbull tears kid to pieces' stories. The 'noble' breed makes for a less believable villain than the ugly, mixed 'fighter dog'. Not even the nazi/holocaust (or the Berlin Wall) connection was able to ruin the good rep of the GS and to draw it down into the nether realm of the bloodhound.

People impose their fantasies on animals. The GS as the noble dog, the pittie as the boogeydog, the Maltese as arm candy, the expensive purebred as status symbol.

I'm the kind of person who can't live without one. I've had a pug, a corgie cross and a Maltese and my husband in the same time period had a collie and a GS. None of them were without behavior problems although only the corgie and the Maltese bit people. The Maltese is a killer attack dog, or would be if he had any teeth.

I tend to go for the homely dogs, the passed over sad ones. All of my dogs have been basket cases either physically or emotionally. Both of my husband's dogs were just sweet to the bone, big brown eyes, flirts.

I don't have any idea what to do about Syria. Is there anything we can do? I don't think it's just their business, but I also don't know what we can do or where to draw the line between when we have an obligation to intervene in another country and when we don't.

I agree with Hartmut. Not all dogs are right for all people. Among humane dog people, some people are "alpha" people and can manage any dog, and there are people who shouldn't ever have a dog.

Like German Shepherds, Rotties are beautiful, wonderful, loyal, gentle-with-their-people dogs. I will never love a dog more than I love my Rottweiler (who has lived peaceably with cats and dogs). But she is territorial, and suspicious of some people. She's not a cuddly stuffed toy. I'm not sure that in my old age I'll be up for another Rottweiler, as much as I absolutely love the one I now have.

Syria. Is there anything we can do? I don't think it's just their business, but I also don't know what we can do or where to draw the line between when we have an obligation to intervene in another country and when we don't.

I don't know yet - I'm in favor of the UN investigation, and working with the UN, and the international community. But if the evidence is clear, and we have some support (which doesn't necessarily mean the support of the Security Council since Russia is not going to support action) I think we should act.

This is when I disagree with so many people here. I believe we have a duty to act against this kind of atrocity if there's anything at all we can possibly do. Will it end well? Will we "win"? I don't know. We, and our allies, shouldn't tolerate it. The international community shouldn't tolerate it without acting. Period.

There was no guarantee that we would win against Hitler. If we'd lost, lots of lives lost for nothing. Still, we should have done the work.

Without wishing to head off a useful discussion of the issues involved in Syria, I will respectfully ask one and all to leave aside references to Hitler.

Not all analogies are apt. Most, in fact, aren't.

Other than that simple request, I have no comment to make about Syria. I have no idea what action would be best. There is likely no ideal option.

There is likely no ideal option.

Not sure whether that's true or not. All I can say is this: if someone does make a decision about one option or another, I hope you aren't among the chorus of "Wrong Decision!!!!!"

Because now is the time to decide which decision is right or wrong.

I will respectfully ask one and all to leave aside references to Hitler.

Why? WWII is a pretty important lesson.

Again, why?

"Never forget."

Or in russell's mind: "Forget! Always forget!"

Because it was a polite request by one of the front-pagers?

If you want to lay out how the US, absent any (afaict) international support for intervention, can get boots on the ground there to deal with the situation, I can put it up as a guest post.

If you want to lay out how the US, absent any (afaict) international support for intervention, can get boots on the ground there to deal with the situation, I can put it up as a guest post.

I actually prefaced my comment with this: "I'm in favor of the UN investigation, and working with the UN, and the international community. But if the evidence is clear, and we have some support (which doesn't necessarily mean the support of the Security Council since Russia is not going to support action) I think we should act."

Sorry to quote myself.

I'm not suggesting "boots on the ground" without international support.

What I am suggesting is that people not censor discussion of the most obvious and salient history lesson of the last century. Thanks.

Oh, and I get that russell is "polite", and that I am "rude".

'Or in russell's mind: "Forget! Always forget!"'

I'm going to forget you wrote that.

"Because now is the time to decide which decision is right or wrong."

Now is the time to make a decision. Later, it'll be decided whether it was right or wrong.

"I think we should act."


"The international community shouldn't tolerate it without acting. Period."

I can't forget what I don't know yet. This acting you speak of --- what is it?

There will be no "period" after the acting. More likely another decade or so of bloody question marks drenched in blood given the experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the last 65 years of history in the Middle East, not to mention the last 2000+ years of history in the Middle East, wherein larger and more dangerous dragons are spawned by each action.

I agree, sapient, that we should pursue avenues via the UN, and I would not be adverse to limited surgical "action" in Syria, but these surgeries in the Middle East tend to start with the notion of an easy appendectomy and end up with a blood-spattered surgical theater and the surgeon --- us ---- losing a leg and an arm and hundreds of thousands of innocent bystanders outside the hospital being blown to smithereens.

Whatever "action" we take, I fully expect the roiling mass of splintered Syrian opposition on whose behalf we take the action to very soon turn on us and hunt us down as a show of appreciation, the latter of which we will once again in our sunny uncomplicated American way expect like the usual idiots in a Graham Greene novel.

Same with Egypt.

I've no doubt had Morsi remained in power he would have deserved a bullet in the head, but I also believe the Egyptian General deserves to be set upon by the Muslim Brotherhood and butchered like a dog.

Israel can kiss my ass too, under its current government.

I imagine there is a "realpolitik" avenue for us with this mess, but what? And if the what? is put forth by someone who sounds suspiciously like the fake Texan accent of Bush 43, I'll wanna puke.

Sapient, if someone makes a polite request, that doesn't automatically make the other person 'rude', unless they choose to be.

I also said you could write a guest post and explain how the US could act (as you said you think we should) in the absence of any support. Unless your point is that we should only act with support and since there is no support, then we shouldn't act. If that's the case, I'm not sure who you are disagreeing with.

Last time we put boots on the ground, we ended up with stumps on the ground waiting in line for prosthetic devices at a VA that wasn't ready for the carnage.

Probably because they believed the glib horseshit put forth by Rumsfeld and company.

A few days to Baghdad, shock and awe, maybe a week later democracy for all and let the shopping begin.

Glib horseshit all reasonable people regardless of political persuasion now hate.

So now we have a more circumspect Administration some are now calling feckless and no doubt we'll learn to hate that too as we clamor for a return to glib horseshit, in our 21st century schizoid way of dealing with the world.

Again, why?

Because Assad is not Hitler, Syria is not Nazi Germany, and Europe ca. the 1930's is not the Middle East ca. 2013.

If you want to explain how I am, in fact, wrong about any of that, and that Assad is like Hitler, and Syria is like Nazi Germany, and the Middle East is like Europe ca. the 30's, the floor is obviously open.

That, in fact, would be a 'discussion of the most obvious and salient history lesson of the last century'.

Assertions are not discussion, and you aren't being censored. You've been asked, politely, by me, to not Godwinize the discussion of Syria.

You're under no obligation to do anything I ask. Do as you wish.

An important difference between WW2 and today is that then the US were willing to go to an all-or-nothing war and ready to accept significant losses in lives for the home team. The idea that the loss of 3000 over several years would critically undermine public support at home would have been seen as absurd then. Today the US are just willing to blow huge amounts of money on war but have become extremly sensitive to losses in personnel. And any potential opposition knows that and acts accordingly. I do not advocate a return to the old model of expendable grunts but one should not forget the limits that imposes on the options menu. I seriously doubt that the US would have prevailed in WW2 with the mentality of today. Sooner or later there would have been an arrangement with the totalitarian governments in Europe and Asia. I would not even exclude the possibility that in the end the US would have backed Hitler (or his successor) against Stalin.
So, I agree with russell here that WW2 analogies are not overly useful for the current situation. The US could easily flatten any opponent at low costs (not yet an option in WW2) but that would not be a real solution to the problem of civil wars. One does not stop an ongoing war between ant colonies by dropping a hand grenade on both and then going in with the sledge hammer.

Although the "international community" hasn't spoken with one voice, there certainly does seem to be support for military action from France and Turkey. I think that after the weapons inspectors have completed their mission, there might be additional support.

No one is talking about "boots on the ground". They're talking about blowing up military targets. The jury is still out regarding who is responsible for these chemical weapons attacks, but if Assad is gassing people, I believe that the international community should support bombing military targets in Syria.

liberal japonicus, thanks for the invitation to do a guest post. I don't have time to offer a lot of original writing, but the NYT link I provided says a lot about what the international community is discussing. In addition, there is a emergency security council meeting that's been called. It's premature to say that there is no international support for military action.

This being an open thread, I've been thinking about something of late. This thinking hasn't led me to what I consider to be an end condition just yet, but I am just going to throw this out there and let y'all beat up on it some, just to see how much damage these thoughts can sustain.

And because I seem to have a masochistic streak.

Events of late, particularly those involving Greenwald, have me recalling things that he wrote years ago that I was rather dismissive of. I was mostly dismissive of his treatment of "Bush authoritarian cultists" because they seemed to me to be childish attempts at amateur psychology.

It's possible that I was reading him the wrong way, but I don't want to dredge up his writings of the time and reread. Partially because I haven't the time, and partially (this is correlated, here) because I find Greenwald to be tedious and long-winded. His words-to-ideas ratio is quite large. It's far preferable for me to read about what Greenwald is doing when written by someone else. But this isn't about making style points; I'm just laying out the background.

See, I think Greenwald had a certain point that we have a couple of distinctly different groups in the US: those who are inclined to trust authority, even to excess, for the reason that it can insulate us from external harm, and those who distrust authority and the hazard that internal harm (e.g. loss of privacy and other freedoms) presents to our quality of life.

I think for a while I was willing to grit my teeth and endure what I thought to be temporary measures, on the supposition that they were both temporary and necessary. But it was in fact teeth-gritting endurance and not embrace of state infringement on my freedoms. The Department of Homeland Security and the USA Patriot act raised my hackles. Start naming departments and legislation in a way that you define yourself as anti-American for opposing, and you've stepped into territory that Orwell had envisioned.

All of this rah-rah our country bullshit is bad enough if one can assume that our authorities truly do have our best interests at heart. That their missions are to protect us, including protecting our freedoms. But that is in fact not their mission. Their mission is to stand their ground, as departments and agencies, and continue justifying themselves. Their mission is to achieve and exert and maintain authority, and to defend their authority against all challengers. We don't have agencies whose charter is to do their job so well that they become obsolete in a decade. We have a coral-reef accretion of overlapping and agencies whose collective power only grows; never shrinks.

Some may think of that as a good thing. I say that (getting back to Greenwald) these people are authoritarian cultists. It doesn't seem to matter who is in the White House or in Congress; what matters is what we permit our federal, state and local agencies to do, and how intrusive we permit them to become. Things are looking up, yet government scrutiny into the affairs of private citizens continues to escalate. My prediction is this: government power rarely sees setbacks. This is not temporary; today's excess will be status quo in a few years and in a decade or two will be looked back upon with nostalgia. That's the nature of things, I think. It's not that we have a group of people who will automatically accept increases in government authority irrespective of who is in office, it's more that we have people who are willing to accept said increases provided it was their people who introduced them. We have enough of such people that things ratchet upward, seemingly irreversably.

This all came out in a sort of unproofread bolus, so my apologies if it's incoherent. My intent is not to attack anyone in particular, just sort of get back to this schism that I see that doesn't divide across D/R lines, but more divides between those who think the government is inherently trustworthy (as long as their people are at the helm, to some extent) and those who think that government power and abuse thereof bears some watching. And it's not that I think individuals are particularly trustworthy; it's more that I think that individual freedom is really the whole point of our country's existence from the get-go.

A few years ago dr ngo referred to me as a Bush apologist, which pissed me off at the time. I've had my turn as an observer of apologism, and it pains me to say that to an extent, he was correct. I was willing to make excuses when it was people I preferred in office. I was never really a fan of George W. Bush, but I did extend him a great deal of leeway that I now wish that I hadn't.


You hit a lot of hot buttons there, Mr. Slarti. Good show. I recall some old geezer soon to be ex GOP president nagging us about a "military-industrial complex". The National Security State is its logical outgrowth.....


Slarti, I've been really uncomfortable with the discussions over the latest domestic spying issues because it seemed to me that people were rationalizing actions taken during the Obama admin. that would not have been rationalized if taken during the Bush admin.

The discussion here turn into such a welter of detail that, to be honest, I got lost. But it seems like lots of people are lost in the trees examining the moss, drawing conclusions based on the state of the lichens on one branch when maybe we should be looking at the whole forest.

I don't read Greenwald either mostly because he...I have the impression that he has a personal ax to grind with Obama for not being Hilary Clinton. Which doesn't mean he's wrong on substance, of course, but there's lots of other people covering the same issues without the personal grievance.

About Syria: our foreign policy has, over history, swung wildly all over the place. We are still recovering from the glib obscenity of our intervention in Iraq. Well, that's more to the point, Iraq is still suffering the consequences of that and so are the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees that fled to Syria.

In a post-massive screwup period, I think a reluctance to get involved is sort of inevitable.

Which doesn't make it wise, of course. But we would have been wise. if we had some some realistic thinking before barging into Iraq, so I appreciate an administration that is going to think before acting on Syria.

If it was up to me, I'd start out with the assumption that there is an obligation to intervene when something evil is being done, but that obligation is tempered by the cold equations of reality: our resources, the factors we cannot control or influence which contribute to the situation, the collateral damage of our actions, and so on.

what slarti said.

not an unproofread bolus, imo it was eloquent and precisely on point.

thanks slarti.

I think that one of the main points about WWII was 'boots on the ground'.

I'm not sure if France (with its historical links to region) and Turkey (bordering Syria) can be equated with 'international support'. And I'm not convinced that bombing Syrian military targets at a distance is going to be a way to resolving anything. I'm not dismissing that something needs to be done, but I think that a bunch of people blovilating on a blog is pretty meaningless. I'm more than happy to read links and get more information, but when someone posts a link-free comment that goes Godwin off the bat, you aren't making your case very well.

The Guardian reporting gets at some of the problems and Fabius' 'a reaction of force' is a collocation that I've never seen before. Any Francophones around to explain that phrase?

The Guardian also points this out

France, the former colonial power in Syria, has been walking a difficult diplomatic tight-rope. Still haunted by the images of former president Nicolas Sarkozy welcoming Bashar al-Assad to Paris's Bastille day military parade in 2011, it has been keen to use a firm stance on Syria to make up for early misjudgments in the Arab Spring — namely Tunisia — and also to establish itself with Gulf allies.

Again, I don't think you are necessarily wrong, but there is unfortunately a lot to sort out.

Even if it was an "unproofread bolus", I hope the proofreader never decides to remove the phrase "unproofread bolus".

Shorter sapient: L'audace! L'audace! Toujours l'audace!!

people were rationalizing actions taken during the Obama admin. that would not have been rationalized if taken during the Bush admin.

i like to think that, someday in the future, this kind of flexible rationalization will be as unremarkable as people applauding rough play from their local sports team while decrying it from the visitors; or people excusing behavior among relatives that they would call the cops for, were it anyone else. but right now, we're all witnessing the second internet-era Presidency, and easy access to past arguments makes it impossible to deny that people reflexively change their perspective on things when their team moves from offense to defense. a whole bunch of things that were vitally important six years ago are distractions now, and things we ignored in 2007 are the most important things in the history of politics today. and when the next Republican wins, the priorities will move around again. it's human nature. the things we argue about are just things we argue about: they aren't always our most deeply-held beliefs.

perhaps, at some point, some people who have been around for a while are going to realize that this is a thing that happens and accept it. i know that most won't.

I am interrupting my self-imposed sabbatical from ObWi to (1) second Slarti's comments and (2) suggest respectfully to those with whom Slarti's comments resonate on the security state angle, that Slarti was speaking more broadly than the security state and was addressing gov't in general. At least, that is my take on it.

What's worse is when people are flexible about pointing out the flexibility of other people's arguments. That should remain remarkable - "You only whine about the other guy only whining about the other guy's other guy."

Divide by zero error. NaN or Inf may result.

I agree with Slarti (even about Greenwald's excessive wordiness, though I wouldn't go as far in my criticism there).

Andrew Bacevich has a column about this at the Washington Post


On Syria, I might cut and paste an email I sent to the New Yorker a couple months back. They almost published a shortened version, but went with someone else's letter instead. My point was that if you look at the Syrian Observatory of Human RIghts figures, they're rather confusing. Far more Syrian soldiers and militia and "informants" (read civilians accused of support for Asad and executed by the glorious resistance) seem to be dying than rebels. This could mean a number of different things--

A) The glorious Syrian resistance is actually doing amazingly well considering that they are heavily outgunned, outtanked, and out air-supported. Miraculously, they are killing twice as many as they are losing. Either this is because their strength is the strength of ten because their hearts are pure, or else their tactics include a lot of effective car bombings, or who knows?

B) The info we're getting from Syria isn't terribly reliable. And maybe some of those reported dead Syrian soldiers are actually civilians. Or don't exist, or whatever.

C) Both A and B

What does seem clear is that both sides have a human rights record that would make a buzzard puke. Naturally we should pick a side and call them freedom fighters, as this has always worked out so well in other cases.

BTW, I know some lefties online who go to the opposite extreme and think that Asad is fighting the good fight against Sunni fundamentalist extremism, and that's not totally wrong, except for the "good" part. I also know that some Christians are terrified of a rebel victory, as are some Alawites. Robert Worth had a superb article on Syria in the NYT Sunday Magazine some weeks back.

Divide by zero error. NaN or Inf may result.

That's the best case scenario. Integer divide by zero is undefined behavior (at least in C/C++) so the compiler is under no obligation with respect to generated code for dealing with that case. It can make demons come out of your nose.

Here's a NYT article about the casualty figures as of last June. At the moment I can't find the Facebook entry on the Syrian Observatory page that gives the breakdown that I used, which included dead "informers". I did find another from May 30.

NYT article

My previous post with a link to the NYT article didn't go through. Anyway, I found a May 30 entry on the Facebook page of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which gave this breakdown--

Documented deaths by the SOHR from 18/3/2011 to 29/5/2013

96,066 people killed since the beginning of the uprising.

The dead:

35418 civilians (including 4945 children and 3179 women)

12542 rebel fighters

1962 defected soldiers

24591 regular soldiers

17016 pro-regime gunmen (Shabiha, Popular Committee, National Defence Forces)

2459 unidentified persons

2111 unidentifiable rebels

Note that out of 96,000 dead, about 40,000 are allegedly pro-regime soldiers or militia. (I don't see the informants listed here.)

I went to my New Yorker email, where I had copied a page from the Syrian Observatory that said this--

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has documented 100,191 casualties since the beginning of the uprisings in 18/3/2011, from the first casualty in Dera'a, up till 24/06/2013.

The dead include:

36,661 civilians (including 5,144 children and 3,330 women aged above 18 years).

13,539 rebel fighters.

2,015 defected soldiers and officers.

25,407 regular soldiers.

2,571 unidentified casualties (documented with pictures and footages).

2,518 unidentified and non-Syrian rebel fighters (most of which are non-Syrians).

17,311 combatants from the popular defence committees, national defence forces, shabiha, and pro regime informers.

169 fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah.

The death toll does not include more than 10,000 detainees and missing persons inside of regime prisons, nor does it include more than 2,500 regular soldiers and pro regime militants held captive by rebel fighters. We also estimate that the real number of casaulties from regular forces and rebel fighters is twice the number documented, because both sides are discreet about the human losses resulting from clashes.


Those are the numbers listed in the NYT article, including the informants, but I can't find the page now. It would be from the end of June unless they removed it. (Can you do that with Facebook? I don't use it.)


".... Slarti was speaking more broadly than the security state and was addressing gov't in general."

Yeah, but ....

If the NSA was monitoring all Americans to make sure they are receiving healthcare, I'd elevate it to a Cabinet position.

I can trust one thing (verify, too) and not the other.

To wit, if government is so universally dangerous, untrustworthy, and incompetent, why entrust it with the function deemed most important by many .... national defense and security?

Maybe let it cut the grass on the Interstate medians at most, but run the Armed Forces?

One thing I'm against is MckT imposing moratoriums on his presence here. Self-determination is one thing but when we suffer his absence, I think we need government to have a good look-see and apply whatever coercive measures are deemed necessary, I whined.

Also, what cleek wrote.

AND ... what Donald Johnson wrote.

Go ahead, America, lower yourself once again into that nest of vipers.

And finally, here's a piece by Patrick Cockburn from June 30 complaining about how gullible much of the Western media is, particularly in portraying the rebels as the good guys. (Though in fairness I think there's been less of that lately.)

foreign media portrayals of the conflict in syria are dangerously inaccurate

So anyway, I'd like to know--do we bomb both sides?

That would at least have the upside of being refreshing.

We actually do bomb both sides in many instances, just not at the same time. One side first, and then when the other side turns on us a few months or years later, we rain vengeance down on them.

I would favor a bi-lateral, highly secretive, super-international agency equipped with a fleet of satellites and given the trigger button to the world's entire nuclear arsenal.

The word would go out that should anyone start troubles, both sides have 24 hours to cease and desist or they will be vaporized.

In the interim between troubles, this agency would justify its existence by zapping ALL armament manufacturing facilities across the globe.

it would be funded by crowd-sourcing.

We could get granular over time, pinpointing individuals who raise a gun of any kind, a knife, an SUV, or a vial of poison for the purpose of harming another human being.

I suppose we could branch out to inter-species conflict as well.

Donald and I would run it.

Anyone got a problem with that? You have 24 hours to submit your objections and be aware that anonymity has been eliminated by our staff of hackers.

To tell you the truth, I'm more worried about the groups that would favor such an agency -- religious end-of-worlders of all stripes.

They get zapped first -- gratis -- as a warmup.

The initial power struggle between and Donald and me would probably delay implementation but we would have ways of resolving that.

The world would unite as one to destroy us, natch, so they could get back to slaughtering everything that moves.

I read today that Ted Cruz, of all people, is in favor of increasing government funding to identity and destroy all asteroids that threaten to hit the Earth, killing the insured and uninsured alike.

I would be in favor of our new super-agency lassoing one small chunk of careening rock and directing it to conk him in the head, for other reasons.

Already, I've gone rogue.

how about we do nothing?

i vote we do nothing in Syria, and focus on getting our own house in order instead.

the world is not our responsibility. we are not the police. we are not the moral compass. we should get the fnck over ourselves.

An important difference between WW2 and today is that then the US were willing to go to an all-or-nothing war and ready to accept significant losses in lives for the home team.

I'm not sure this is true.

Another way of reading events might conclude that the lack of willingness to make significant sacrifices is evidence that the situation is not, in fact, all or nothing, and therefore does not deserve an all-or-nothing effort.

No tax breaks for high earners in WWII. Frex. Notably, no Truman Committee, either.

Those were the days, weren't they?

So - nominally an existential crisis, but something which the market, as it were - the collective wisdom as measured in millions of individual choices - rated as something less. Something that that other guy's kid could go fight.

All of that said, I'm not sure how we'd do if faced with something that actually was an existential threat. That - a true all-or-nothing situation - is a hypothetical that I think we assume away, these days.

No tax breaks for high earners in WWII. Frex. Notably, no Truman Committee, either.

Sorry, awkwardly put.

No tax breaks in WWII.
No Truman Committee now.

Hope that's clearer.

Here for linking completeness is that Robert Worth NYT Sunday Magazine article on Syria that I praised upthread--


And I am willing to join the Count in becoming the world's policeman, smiting wrongdoers with all the explosives necessary to enforce our righteous will, lest they resurrect Hitler and kill us all, as Godwin warned long ago. Only thus can we ensure that goodness and freedom triumph, as they did in Southeast Asia and many other places since the time of the Good War. And we are willing to distribute rings to our allies, to assist us in this quest to make--oh,nevermind. Different mythology.

Because now is the time to decide which decision is right or wrong.

Sadly I think that time was quite a ways back. A limited intervention to impose a no fly zone along the Turkish border at the beginning of the conflict - before Aleppo was flattened - might just have had a chance of limiting the conflict.
Now, I think there is little possibility of an effective intervention without risking outcomes every bit as bad as will happen without intervention.

In any event, the US military seems exceedingly unenthusiastic about getting involved;

To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

To an Asianist, all the world's problems look like Asia.

I don't have any idea what's happening in Syria, but what I flash on when the rottenness of the regime is discussed (and I agree that gassing your own people is rotten, if that's what's happening) is Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.

Which was pretty much worse (to its own people) than any government anywhere has been, and that'll include your Nazi Germany. But it wasn't clear what was happening, so we did nothing. Probably rightly, since we had done so much to precipitate the situation in which the KR took over and commenced its murderous regime.

And then when, after almost three years, Vietnam finally came in and threw out the Khmer Rouge in 1978, we decided it was time to take sides. So we sided *against* the Vietnamese (because they were linked with the USSR, etc.) and therefore, by default, with the KR (in exile), which we supported diplomatically and otherwise for more than a decade!

I could go into more detail, but that's not relevant. What is relevant is the perception that "action" may not only be less helpful in a bad situation than inaction, but that in a convoluted situation there's always a chance that if we *do* act, it will be on the wrong side.

(Other examples drawn from Southeast Asian history available upon request - which I understand is unlikely to be forthcoming.)


I have to agree with russell that American willingness to get involved in WW II was not all that apparent. At least until we were directly attacked. (There was a reason that the Japanese admiral argued strongly against the Pearl Harbor attack. He had lived in the US, and had a good idea what would follow.) And there is no sign that Assad has the inclination, or the capability, to directly attack us.

Which is why I just can't see us getting involved in a boots-on-the-ground way. Which doesn't mean that air attacks are off the table. Syria's geography doesn't lend itself to military disruption the way the Libya did. But we could do a lot of damage to Assad . . . and his position is weak enough that he can't afford that. And air strikes have the advantage that they don't involve a lot of weapons and other supplies that the opposition (who aren't choir boys) could grab later.

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