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August 23, 2022


Pelosi's district used to have a large Cantonese Chinese-American population (so Taiwan and Hong Kong), but demographic change has had immigrants with roots from the mainland supplant that group, so from an electoral standpoint, Pelosi might responding to a situation that no longer holds.

But immigrants with roots from the mainland likely left because they were not enchanted with the PRC government. So visiting Taiwan might be an electoral plus after all.

I've also been reading quite a bit about Confucianism (see bite #3) and I'm wondering if Taiwanese versus Mainland Chinese has different understandings of key points about gender.

Alternatively, different views regarding gender (and gender roles) may have less to do with communism vs Confucianism, and more to do with how much people, especially leaders, have been exposed to the wider world.

(This post is so long that I'm thinking I'll respond piecemeal.)

Yeah, it is a bit long, sorry about that.

I also didn't mean to suggest that Taiwan v the mainland differences might all stack up with Confucianism, I'm sure if there are differencs, it is due to a hodgepodge of reasons. It's quite interesting to me that Taiwan has a relatively benign view of Japan as it didn't have the same experience with Japanese occupation. I'm sure there are a lot of other differences that would factor in.

One of our most upper class presidents would be FDR, perhaps this is going too far back, but it suggests to me that you can't really have a true candidate of the left, which is why it shouldn't really be a surprise that the person most identified with the left is an 80 year white guy from Vermont. A minority candidate is always going to be within that line and never pushing it.

Arguably, a minority candidate who gains high office, and is even slightly left of center (e.g. Obama), is advancing liberal goals just by being there. If he (or she) tries to be seriously left of center, he simply won't get elected. Whereas an OWG can be very liberal and remain electable.

It comes down to this. People generally have a limited tolerance for (perceived) change. To be successful, a candidate can be seriously liberal and white (and male), or minority or female and centerist or conservative. There can be local exceptions, but for anyone running for an office with a statewide or national demographic, those are the viable options. You may find this to be a bad thing, but for the moment that's the real world.

Another ObWi edition of Feature or Bug! lol

What you point out is 'the real world', and I'm not busting you for observing this, but this is what people talk about when they note the "invisibility" of white privilege. The minority candidate becomes just a place-holder. We see that a lot in discussions about Harris and if Biden doesn't go a second term, Harris is going to be savaged coming and going. I'm sure that there are tons of further examples and I feel like it handicaps the left in many ways.

So yes, I definitely think it is a bad thing and I wish everyone would realize that it is. I don't think there is anything anyone can do about it, but if more people realized the problem and its extent, they might have a more critical eye when stories that play up on this stuff come out.

I think that the difference between China's reaction to Gingrich visiting Taiwan in 1997 and Pelosi's recent visit is that China has changed in the interim. China wants to be a world power and sees itself as well on the way to getting there. The “belt and road” initiative is an example of that.

In 1997, China was weaker, so it complained about Gingrich's visit, but in terms that wouldn't risk damaging relations with the United States. Since then, China basically stood up to Trump, and doesn't feel that it has to be as deferential to the United States as it did 25 years ago.

Also, the fact that China got Hong Kong in 1997 might have made their lack of control over Taiwan less irksome for a time.

What you point out is 'the real world', and I'm not busting you for observing this, but this is what people talk about when they note the "invisibility" of white privilege. The minority candidate becomes just a place-holder.

No offense taken. "White privilege" is invisible in many ways.

I do have a problem, however, with "just a placeholder" [emphasis added]. Being the first guy thru the glass ceiling does impose some restrictions along the way, especially when you have to get votes. But, in my experience anyway, once thru even the first movers are far from being placeholders.

And that's aside from their very real impact in reducing some of that invisible white privilege. For instance, Harris will doubtless get hammered by the bigots. But, thanks to Obama, far more people will notice that it is flat out bigotry, and discount it.

Still some white privilege going on. But no longer invisible. And significantly more space for someone notably more liberal. Not as liberal as Sen Sanders, but quite a bit more than Obama. And, note, Obama also made it conceivable that a black man could even be considered by an extremely conservative party.

Ken, good point. Though I wonder how gender plays into how China deals with things.

And wj, I guess that's the (weak) pun in the title, bite as a noun vs. bite as a verb. But that is in line with my definition of pioneer: the person you find lying on the trail with all the arrows in them...

definition of pioneer: the person you find lying on the trail with all the arrows in them...

Those are (unsuccessful) travelers. The (unsuccessful) pioneers are the ones lying around their new cabin, or in their new fields, with all the arrows.... :-)

hmm, pioneer means first to explore, not first to settle. I'm sure some of those folks were just travelling to say they had gone to places that no one (white) had ever been before, but travellers sounds a bit anodyne.

Anyway, more grist for the mill


I stand corrected on the word.

As for the Finnish PM, she demonstrates that it's possible to be "authentic" without it being a total sham/scam.

A pioneer was originally a foot soldier who prepared a trail for an army to march on. cf peon, pawn.

FWIW, and I have some relevant knowledge because of HK (historically - when loads of mainland Chinese were escaping from China in the 60s, and more recently from friends), I think there is a lot to what Kenneth Almquist says.

Of course, and partly as KA says, although China was already feeling its oats in 97 because of the HK handover, its sense of weakness was still recent enough that the mindset was different regarding the US.

You'd hardly know from reading this piece on Liz Truss in today's NYT that she is widely regarded by most people in the know about the political world as a complete lightweight, convictionless opportunist.


This assessment by Matthew Parris, a columnist who used to be a Tory MP and was an aide to Margaret Thatcher, is much closer to most insiders' opinions, despite the opportunists swearing fealty in the hope of getting cabinet jobs. Again, I copy the column in case not all can read the original:


More than six years ago I wrote on this page about an expanding star in the Tory sky. “Steadily,” I said, “almost imperceptibly, an absurd idea has crept upon us.” The idea, I said, was that Boris Johnson might prove fit to be prime minister. Laughable, I wrote, “. . . yet still the idea has grown: shrewdly, assiduously, flamboyantly puffed by its only conceivable beneficiary. Where else in politics can such self-validating, self-inflating nonsense be found?” My column teetered between indignation and incredulity. It described him as “a blustering, bantering hole in the air”. It drew embarrassed attention to his moral carelessness.

And it built towards a conclusion that was magnificently wrong. Surely, I argued, neither his colleagues nor the electorate would ever fall for this.

I well recall the response, and still keep some of the messages to prove it. Colleagues in political journalism, and former parliamentary colleagues too, agreed. Some were later to write in praise of him, others to serve in his government, even in his cabinet.

The mood changed as it became apparent the impossible was going to happen. There is in all of us a habit of which we are rarely conscious, impelling us towards the suspicion that if Destiny is taking someone or something seriously, then Destiny might be right.

Some genuinely forgot their earlier opinion; others concluded there was, after all, more to this man than met the eye. Commentators and colleagues willed him to be what they wanted him to be. He’d always been (many noted) a man of liberal instincts. Others opined that as a charming pragmatist he might steer Brexiteers away from the wilder shores of xenophobia. It became the conventional wisdom that, aware of his limitations, Johnson’s great talent had always been to pick a good, strong and sensible team to carry his leadership forward. There might be (it was felt by some wise heads) so much more to this man than surface charm, froth and bubble.

There never was. First impressions had been right all along. Save yourself the trouble of second thoughts. Margaret Thatcher turned out to be exactly what she at first seemed, for good or ill. Keir Starmer seems at first sight to be a man who knows what he should do but keeps losing his nerve. On the second, third and fourth glances too we’re unlikely to refine that judgment.

“Intelligence takes many forms,” wrote Michael Gove after interviewing Donald Trump early in 2017. We forget it now but there was a belief and argument that we had underestimated the then president. Our first impression had been that the man was an unhinged and ignorant egomaniac. The first impression was right.

And so to the choice facing Tory members now pondering whether to vote for Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak as — effectively — our next prime minister. Truss is reported to be the likely victor. We ringside commentators love struggles for power, and admire politicians who show flair in its accumulation. But ability to acquire power has never entailed an ability to exercise it.

In Times columns I’ve offered my first impressions of this candidate. They were that she was intellectually shallow, her convictions wafer-thin; that she was driven by ambition pure and simple; that her manner was wooden and her ability to communicate convincingly to an electorate wider than the narrow band of Tory activists was virtually non-existent; that she was dangerously impulsive and headstrong, with a self-belief unattended by precaution; and that her leadership of the Conservative Party and our country would be a tragedy for both. “There’s nothing there,” I wrote last December, “nothing beyond a leaping self-confidence that’s almost endearing in its wide-eyed disregard for the forces of political gravity.” I likened any decision to follow Johnson with Truss to the doner kebab which, after a night on the tiles, momentarily seems like a good idea — until you open the bread pouch.

If these, my first impressions, were expressed extravagantly, they nevertheless reflected a judgment expressed more soberly by most political commentators — and, I suggest, felt by the majority of her fellow Tory MPs, for whom Sunak was plainly the preferred candidate. There was incredulity as to how she had got to where she was.

I have noticed since that some are revising their first impressions. MPs and ministers are cleaving to her, some doubtless out of naked opportunism but others persuading themselves they’ve now spotted talents they perhaps missed when Truss was further from power. Journalists, meanwhile, some of them simply reaching for something new to say, but others seriously thinking again, are venturing the thought that there may be more to her than meets the eye: a resolute, “steely” strategist, perhaps? A woman with a quirky but shrewdly Trumpian eye for connecting with voters? A hard worker (unlike Boris) and someone who can be talked out of mistaken plans if an intelligent effort is made? Hell, she’s going to win so maybe she’s a winner? Shouldn’t we at least give her the benefit of the doubt?

No. Ignore those whispers of precaution. Stick to your first impressions. Liz Truss is a planet-sized mass of overconfidence and ambition teetering upon a pinhead of a political brain. It must all come crashing down. Her biggest job has been foreign secretary. Does she join her new best friend, Tom Tugendhat, in condemning the UN security council for its criticism of illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory? Does she really want to “review” (as she’s suggested) Britain’s decision not to join the Americans in moving our embassy to Jerusalem? What did she mean by saying Britain’s civil service culture “strays into antisemitism”? These explosive hip shots are only indicative.

And now that she moves her attention to domestic politics, does she really believe that “freedom” and deregulation will help red-wall England? Mansfield isn’t being held back by big government; it’s being held together by it. What are her instincts — not the corrections she’s been forced to row back to, but her personal instincts — on help for the poor, on Theresa May’s “good that government can do”? I think we know.

I’ll wager that at the outset most readers thought Liz Truss a bit weird, curiously hollow and potentially dangerous. This summer a short period will see such rushes to judgment revised. Then government will descend into a huge effort to contain and defang an unstable prime minister; and we shall revert to our first impressions. Save yourself the detour and stick with them. She’s crackers. It isn’t going to work.

Nothing is more intersectional than Israel- Palestine. Examples too numerous to list, but here is one—


Gosh, I'm so sorry, I just realised I put my Liz Truss stuff on this thread, instead of the Open Thread. Apologies, lj!

Gosh, I'm so sorry, I just realised I put my Liz Truss stuff on this thread, instead of the Open Thread. Apologies, lj!

What, a long piece on a race between a woman and a dark-skinned man? You don't think that's appropriate for a thread about intersectionality?

I thought it fit right in.


This is pretty well on topic, and interesting throughout (long read).

The Guru Who Said No

… The next hurdle took longer to clear. Exactly who, officials demanded, counted as khwaja sira? The court’s sympathies were predicated on an essentialist understanding — that they are all intersex — even though the khwaja sira describe themselves in more abstract terms, as people possessing feminine souls. Paying no heed, the government announced that if affirmative action in the form of, say, public-sector jobs was to accrue to the benefit of the community, imposters had to be weeded out. It announced mandatory medical examinations.

Outraged, Bindiya and medical student Sarah Gill petitioned the high court to scrap the policy. Always game for some drama, Bindiya drove her point home by confronting officers at the head office of NADRA, the authority in charge of national identification. “A team of doctors is on its way,” she proclaimed. “I have reason to believe there is a khwaja sira among you, so you must all undergo a medical check-up.” She smirked at the recollection. “When the sword dangles over your own head, when your own clothes are taken off, then you understand what another person goes through.”

This appeal to privacy proved surprisingly effective. In 2018, when Pakistani parliament began codifying the Supreme Court’s directives into anti-discrimination legislation, the definition of gender enshrined into law was, by any standard, a radical one: “gender identity means a person’s innermost and individual sense of self as male, female, or a blend of both or neither, that can correspond or not to the sex assigned at birth.” There was no more talk of medical examinations. Now, according to the state of Pakistan, your gender was what you said it was. …

Nigel, thanks for that. Doing linguistics has one bump into anthropology and there are several other cultures that have a cultural 3rd gender, (berdache for Native Americans, katoey in SE Asia) The 3rd gender for Hawaiian/Tahitian, mahu, were supposed to be healers, which brings to mind Patroculus being called a 'therapon' (where we get the word therapeutic) and both he and Achilles were supposed to have a connection to the centaur Chiron, who was also supposed to pass down the arts of healing to mankind.

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