The Nation smears vegetarianism

Here's a choice piece of anti-vegetarian dreck. This sort of thing can be found on blogs all over the internet, but this one was published in The Nation. Now I don't expect The Nation to publish anything explaining the strong case for progressives being vegetarian - it has never done so (with the partial exception of Peter Singer's short and rather tepid contribution to the food issue last year). But I do expect them to not publish muddled and ad hominem pieces like this one.

The first part of the article is a review of Tristram Stuart's The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism From 1600 to Modern Times. It's a fine review, tho Lazare spends a suspicious amount of time talking about Nazi vegetarianism (only a minor part of the book, which focuses primarily on Enlightenment-era England according to other reviews). Then we get this:
The idea is that instead of reigning supreme over nature, humanity should take its place within nature alongside its fellow animals. Instead of domination, this implies sharing, harmony and other New Age virtues. But the trouble with sovereignty is that it cannot be fragmented or reduced; either it's supreme and indivisible or it's not, in which case it's no longer sovereignty. Although vegetarians may think that surrendering human supremacy will reduce the harm that people do to the environment, any such effort is invariably counterproductive. Denying humans their supreme power means denying them their supreme responsibility to improve society, to safeguard the environment on which it depends and even--dare we say it--to improve nature as well.
First of all, since when have "sharing" and "harmony" been exclusively New Age values? Second of all, this is a ridiculous argument. Does anyone who lacks supreme power thereby lack all responsibility? How exactly could humans improve nature? If Lazare stopped playing word games and offered some sort of example, at least his point might make sense.

Instead we move on to this:
Regardless of whether they are consuming more meat and poultry than is good for them, it is yet another reminder, as if any more were needed, of how thoroughly Malthusian myths about limits to human productivity have been shattered. Scarcity no longer serves as an argument for vegetarianism, and neither, for that matter, does health, since we know from studies of Okinawan centenarians and others that small amounts of meat and dark-fleshed fish are good for you; that moderate amounts of alcohol (which vegetarians for some reason appear to avoid) is good for you as well
I think he's right that the health argument for vegetarianism is a bad one (altho it's pretty clear that most Americans would dramatically improve their health if they went vegetarian). The scarcity argument, on the other hand, is probably less discredited than Lazare believes since current plenty is being bought at the cost of environmental destruction that might severely limit future plenty. And where is he getting this idea about vegetarians avoiding alcohol? I've never even heard that stereotype before.

I'll end with Lazare's conclusion, which could have come from the pen of George Will but for the Castroite slogan:
So the next time you tuck into a plate of tagliatelle Bolognese, a leg of lamb or a proper coq au vin made from some rangy old rooster that's had more lovers than most of us can dream of, you should see it not just as a chance to fill your stomach but, rather, as an occasion to celebrate humanity's ongoing struggle to create abundance out of scarcity. Venceremos! It's a lot better than wallowing in the silly defeatism of a diet of tofu and sprouts.


Zionist hysterics

Here's a classic and hilarious example of Zionist excess - in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who can be blamed for supporting widespread and serious - but nonfatal - human rights abuses, is transmogrified into an evil far worse than Saddam Hussein, who incidentally is directly responsible for killing a couple hundred thousand people. The speaker is Abe Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League.
“There is a difference between Ahmadinejad and even a Saddam Hussein,” Foxman rejoined. “Here is a man who says time and again, ‘I will wipe this nation’ ” — Israel — “ ‘off the face of the earth,’ and says afterward that the Holocaust never happened. This is not ‘Israel as victim’; this is the destruction of Jewish identity.”

Foxman made a beseeching gesture, his fingertips cupped before his mouth. “Plus, it has happened before,” he went on. “It’s not an abstraction. By a man, by a government, who aids, abets, fuels suicide bombers, makes them martyrs, celebrates them, who asks for volunteers from his country, and I don’t know what they have, 40,000 now, who have volunteered in future to go kill Jews!” Foxman was now shouting at me across the table. “And you arm yourself to take out as many Jews as possible!” Foxman’s hands were wheeling in circles before him; this possible Holocaust, so remote to many of us, seemed to rise up before him with a terrible clarity. “Oh, my God!” he cried, as if reeling in horror before the vision he had himself conjured.


Are Asian Americans becoming white?

There's a long article today in The New York Times about the dominance of Asian Americans in the University of California system. California as a whole is 12 percent Asian, but the freshman class at UC Berkeley is 46 percent Asian, at UCLA 43 percent, and at UC Irvine 56 percent. In all these schools, there are more Asians than whites, and blacks and Latinos are even more underrepresented than whites.

You would think that even a short article would concern itself with how such dramatic imbalances could emerge, but the reporter only makes gestures at addressing the problem. To the extent we can conclude anything, based on the quotes he includes, the reporter endorses a cultural explanation: Asian families teach their kids to value education, so they succeed. One expert explains the cultural imperative that Asians, Jews, and WASPs have shared: "work hard, defer gratification, share sacrifice and focus on the big goal". Another notes, "many Chinese-Americans are a lot like Caucasians in some of their values and areas of interest."

But the explanation is much simpler I think: the success of Asians in entering college is simply a feature of class reproduction. In 1965 immigration laws were finally changed to end the tight restrictions on Asian immigration. But the new law gave strong preference to professionals, and as a result first-generation Asian Americans are unusually well-educated. Today 47.9 percent of foreign-born Asian Americans have a college degree, compared with 26.8 percent of the population as a whole. (The stat is from this webpage, an excellent compilation of demographic and socioeconomic information on Asian America.)

The magic of class reproduction also explains why all those Asian college students are the children of Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Filipinos, Indians, and Pakistanis, and why we don't see many Vietnamese, Cambodian, or Laotian students. Most immigrants of the first group were professionals brought over to meet the demands of American capital, most of the latter group were refugees from the American war against Indochina.

So just like professional parents of all races, Asian American professionals have the resources to get their kids into college, they know the tricks of applying, and they impart the (rather arbitrary) habits and knowledge that allow them to succeed. It's just that there are more Asian American professionals.

The interesting question is whether all this will allow Asians to follow the well-worn path of the Germans, Irish, Italians, Jews, &c into a reformed dominant race that embraces both whites and Asians and excludes blacks and Latinos.

Some of the racial barriers remain strong, which explains why Asians easily join the ranks of professionals but have had a hard time entering the highest levels of the ruling class. But in other ways Asians are already settling down within the new racial formation: they increasingly live among whites, marry them, and work with them. Blacks and Latinos remain segregated from whites and Asians and typically only interact with them as their servants or as objects of their control (unemployed, jailed).

The Asian path has thus far followed the Jews, who became white thru education, rather than the Irish or Italians, who used numbers to force their way into government. Alas, there are far fewer Asians than there were Jews interested in socialism and racial justice.