Five myths about anti-Semitism

Yair Rosenberg at www.washingtonpost.com: “For a phenomenon often dubbed ‘the world’s oldest hatred,’ anti-Semitism is not well understood.”

Jews in the US are annually subjected to the most hate crimes of any group in the US, even though we comprise only 4% of the population. In France, Jews are target of 51% of racist attacks, even though Jews comprise only 4% of the population.

Anti-Semitism crosses boundaries of left and right.

It’s OK to criticize Israel. Jews in Israel and everywhere in the world criticize Israel. But if you hold Israel to a different standard than other countries, congratulations, you’re an anti-Semite! The United Nations is a particular offender here, its “Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more often than all other countries combined, including Syria, North Korea, Iran and Russia.”

I quibble with the author’s fifth point — that anti-Semitism is unique among prejudice in that it harms the oppressors as much as the oppressed.

That’s because it often takes the form of a conspiracy theory about how the world works. By blaming real problems on imagined Jewish culprits, anti-Semitism prevents societies from rationally solving them. In one of the most famous examples, Nazi scientists shunned Einstein’s advances as “Jüdische Physik,” as opposed to “Deutsche Physik,” enfeebling their understanding.

As Bard College’s Walter Russell Mead has put it: “People who think ‘the Jews’ dominate business through hidden structures can’t build or long maintain a successful modern economy. People who think ‘the Jews’ dominate politics lose their ability to interpret political events, to diagnose social evils and to organize effectively for positive change. People who think ‘the Jews’ run the media and control the news lose the ability to grasp what is happening around them.” For this reason, Mead has warned, “Rabid anti-Semitism coupled with an addiction to implausible conspiracy theories is a very strong predictor of national doom.” This is one case where the hatred ultimately destroys the hater.

Partially true, but it is also true that societies based on bigotry are handicapping themselves no matter what the nature of the bigotry. Oppressed populations are, by the nature of oppression, blocked from contributing to the society as a whole to the fullest extent they might. And every oppression has its unique problems. Antebellum white American Southerners lived in terror of slave uprisings and had to devote considerable resources into policing the enslaved populations. The slaves themselves had no incentive to work harder than necessary to avoid the lash, and every incentive to undermine the system. In any society where members of an oppressed minority are closed to business, members of that minority will often turn to crime when they can’t get ahead any other way. And so on.

But, yeah, many societies, sadly, do manage to prosper, for a while at least, despite racism, whereas widespread anti-Semitism in particular seems to be a symptom of a society in its death throes.

We finally found election fraud [The Washington Post]

We finally found election fraud and Republicans are the ones doing it, running an operation in North Carolina to illegally pick up absentee ballots from African-American voters and keep them from being turned in. Disgraceful and criminal.

The Republicans have a record of making accusations against Democrats — usually, though not always, baseless — and then it turns out that the Republicans themselves are doing that thing. This dates back to Monicagate, when it turned out Clinton’s loudest Republican accusers were also having sex with their subordinates.

Baby boomers are taking on ageism — and losing

Lydia DePillis, The Washington Post:

In a weak economy, companies are sometimes all too happy to dump veteran employees, with their higher health-care costs and legacy pensions, for younger ones who expect neither.

Not a problem for me — yet. At 55, maybe I’m not old enough for ageism to be an issue. And I’m blessed with good genes.

Keeping physically fit helps limit age discrimination. You move like a younger person. But you can’t do anything about your genes.

Trump is right: He didn’t kick a baby out of a campaign rally

Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post, writes that the mother was already on the way out when Trump made the comment on kicking her out. The mother, Devan Ebert of Virginia, was and continues to be a staunch Trump supporter and has written in his defense. She later returned to the same seat at the rally, with her now-quiet baby.

The Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale says he was there, saw the whole thing, and corroborates the mother’s story.

Dale says he chooses not to get press credentials for rallies, preferring to sit with the people for what he might see and hear. Which is what journalists at political rallies should do routinely.

plus.google.com

This crazy doodle is the shortest possible path through every zip code in the U.S.

Robert Kosara, a research scientist at data visualization software company Tableau, has been solving puzzles using the US’s nearly 4,2000 ZIP codes for years, writes Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post. Kosara had a question:

What would it look like if you drew a single line through all Zip codes in the lower 48 in numeric order? Kosara wrote some code and let it rip, and what he ended up with was a map that clearly delineated state boundaries and gave a reasonable approximation of population density to boot. Since it looked as though it were created by scribbling in arbitrary regions of a U.S. map, he dubbed it the ZIPScribble map.

Kosara ran some calculations and discovered that if you started at the lowest-numbered Zip code (00544, Holtsville, NY) and walk through every Zip code in the continental U.S. in numeric order all the way up to the highest-numbered Zip code (99403, Clarkston, WA), the path you’d need to take would be roughly 1,155,268 miles long. Which naturally brought up a second question: What would be the shortest route you could take through all 37,000 of those zip codes?

This type of problem actually has a storied history in computer science. It’s known as the Traveling Salesman Problem: Say a salesman has a bunch of cities in his route — what’s the shortest trip he can take through all of them? This type of computation is used as a benchmark in computer science because it has a lot of applications, from route-finding to the creation of circuit boards, and because it gets complicated really, really quickly. For instance, a network of only 20 points contains roughly 1.2 quintillion(1,200,000,000,000,000,000) possible solutions, only one of which can be the shortest. That’s on the order of magnitude of the number of grains of sand on earth.

What, then, of a traveling salesman problem with more than 37,000 points?

Kosara took a crack at it. He called it the Traveling Presidential Candidate Problem, after a hypothetical presidential candidate who wanted to visit all 37,000 contiguous Zip codes to clinch the nomination.

Trump was refreshingly statesmanlike in his statements this morning

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post excerpts Trump’s statements:

We must restore law and order. We must restore the confidence of our people to be safe and secure in their homes and on the street.

The senseless, tragic deaths of two motorists in Louisiana and Minnesota reminds us how much more needs to be done….Our nation has become too divided. Too many Americans feel like they’ve lost hope. Crime is harming too many citizens. Racial tensions have gotten worse, not better. This isn’t the American Dream we all want for our children.

This is a time, perhaps more than ever, for strong leadership, love and compassion. We will pull through these tragedies.