Thursday, October 29, 2009

How racist am I at Project Implicit? Plus linkies

Years ago, I did the race test at Project Implicit. I don't remember the result, which is probably significant. So I did it again today. (And was amused to find Project Implicit has its own implicit assumptions. Under politics, you can be "strongly liberal," but you can't be a socialist. Ah, well.)

The result:


Your data suggest a slight automatic preference for African American compared to European American.


To the best of my knowledge, I took the test fairly. But I noticed one thing: when it required me to post bad things and African Americans in the same category, it hurt.

I will have to work on my prejudice against white people.
ETA: I took their religion test, then left this comment at my Live Journal:
Oh my god! I'm prejudiced against Christianity! I'm prejudiced against white people and Christians!

Actually, this delights me too much, but it really wasn't the result I was expecting.

I got Islam on top, Judaism and Hinduism as equals, and Christianity below that. They were all grouped toward the middle, so I'm not extremely prejudiced against Christianity, but still, this is hard for someone who considers himself a Christian Unitarian Universalist metatheist.
ETA 2: To choose a test there, click Go to the Demonstration Tests.

links

A Hierarchy of Monsters

Girl's Refusal to Be Child Bride Inspires Nation

One-Man-Band Street Performer in Croatia (Cigo Man Band):

Monday, October 26, 2009

a question for capitalists who care about racism

I mentioned this to a capitalist anti-racist recently: "For years, I wrestled with whether Malcolm X was right when he said you can't have capitalism without racism. Clearly, liberals and conservatives are working desperately to create capitalism without racism. But I've finally come to see that Malcolm X was right: if you don't redistribute wealth, the distribution of wealth will be racially disproportionate. If you do redistribute wealth, capitalism ends. It's a Catch-22 that anti-racists ignore. Do you have an answer?"

She didn't.

So I'm wondering if anyone does. Remember two things:

1. The distribution of wealth in many countries is racially disproportionate. (In the US, though there are twice as many whites in poverty as blacks or Hispanics, less than 10% of whites are officially in poverty, but 25% of blacks and 22% of Hispanics are.)

2. Most people stay in their economic class or in the class nearest to them. (From the New York Times' "How Class Works": "The United States, with a more egalitarian political tradition than many European nations, does not have significantly more mobility. In fact, it has less than Scandinavian countries like Denmark and roughly the same as Britain.")

Is there an answer? And, if not, does this mean anyone who is not a communist is a racist? Malcolm X would seem to agree; he said that when you find a white person who has "a philosophy that makes you sure they don’t have this racism in their outlook, usually they’re socialists or their political philosophy is socialism.”

ETA: Bonus link for people interested in the state of racism in England today: Racism and the tabloids

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kurt Vonnegut explains drama

read this!

Does Economics Violate the Laws of Physics?: Scientific American
These thinkers say that the neoclassical mantra of constant economic growth is ignoring the world's diminishing supply of energy at humanity's peril, failing to take account of the principle of net energy return on investment. They hope that a set of theories they call "biophysical economics" will improve upon neoclassical theory, or even replace it altogether.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hope for Victims of Genital Mutilation

In the US, Hope for Victims of Genital Mutilation | Newsweek Health | Newsweek.com
In Colorado, a surgeon helps restore feeling—and so much more—to victims of female genital mutilation.
(This must be a record for me returning to the web after I said I would stay away, but this is a great story. And it's too good for comments mocking me for my weakness. Mock me if I post again in the next five days. And read the story before you say anything. It made me weepy.)

thinking about black women's hair

I grew up during the age of the Afro, and I thought it was the coolest. That's why the debate today among black women about hair interests me. miss_mu twittered, "Hair is looking so good today I would like to get my picture on @lecoil." So I followed a couple of links, and thought Team Zahara is well worth reading, and this pic at lecoil is well worth seeing.

Most of my blog posts are for Emma's sake, but this one is especially for her, 'cause when she was a girl, she wanted to look like Beverly Johnson. I wanted to look like Jimi Hendrix. To anyone who knows the time period, that says way too much about the kind of teens we were, and undoubtedly adds to the reasons we've been together for so long.

allies are equals: people who shut up and listen are never equals

What I find most frustrating about Critical Race Theorists and Whiteness Students is agreeing with much of what they say, then suddenly hitting something like this, from The Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Good Ally: "Do shut up and listen."

Equals don't shut up and listen. Equals discuss matters respectfully, and find compromises where they can't agree.

But if your goal is ideological purity, there's no room for compromise.

And where there's no room for compromise, there's no room for equality.

astonishingly racist news of the day

From Snopes: Costco pulled a racially offensive "Cuddle With Me" doll from its store.

(Thanks, AlisaC!)

ETA: What makes this most interesting to me is that the "monkey" doll was available as any of the traditional racial groups.

the people who mock "class issues"

I love this bingo card:



And yet, I wonder what the people who made it would think of an "anti-racist bingo card" in which every square was "race"? Though many millions have suffered and died because of racism, far more have suffered and died because the rich exploit the rest of us.

For years, I wondered why the Angry Black Woman was so indifferent to the fact that 37% of blacks think there are two black “races”, one rich and one poor. I suppose the clue was that "class" is not in her list of concerns, but I finally figured it out when she attacked Harlan Ellison on her blog, then became indignant when he replied using the term N.W.A. Apparently, Ellison had thought from her handle that she had attitude and would have known that was a compliment. That's when I realized she's the Angry Bourgeois Woman who does not want class issues in her explanation of racism.

And that helped me understand a few more of the people who won't talk about class. People who consider themselves experts on Malcolm X who say his racial enlightenment was all about Islam, even though he said that when you find a white person who has "a philosophy that makes you sure they don’t have this racism in their outlook, usually they’re socialists or their political philosophy is socialism.” People who think Health care IS an anti-racist issue, even though improving US health care will help far more whites than people of color because health care is a class issue—the 45,000 deaths each year due to lack of health care affect people of every hue, but not one of them is rich.

The people who mock class issues aren't evil or stupid. They're smart, and they're driven by a passion for justice. They're middle class and upper class people who sense oppression all around them, but it's an oppression that benefits them, so they see its racial and sexual faces, but they're afraid to look at its heart. They're the people Upton Sinclair referred to when he said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."

Well, as Gandhi said, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Charlie Poole - White House Blues

I should check this out

Living Life To The Full
The course has been written by a Psychiatrist who has many years of experience using a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) approach and also in helping people use these skills in everday life. During the development phase of the course, each module has been used by a wide range of health care practitioners and members of the public.

Use of the site is entirely FREE!
CBT has been very helpful for Emma. Whether this site's any good, I dunno, but it is "supported by the NHS."

Monday, October 19, 2009

some things don't change


The World's First 'Terrorists'

Johann Hari: The World's First 'Terrorists'
Class war didn't seem like a metaphor to him: it was the reality of everyday life. The industrialist Jay Gould openly bragged: "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half." So Haywood -- some historians believe -- blew up the governor of Idaho, Frank Steunenberg, in 1907, and his trial was the biggest news story of the year. His lawyer, the legendary Clarence Darrow, urged the jury to side not with "the spiders of Wall Street" but with "the men who toil with their hands ... through our mills and factories, and deep underneath the earth. I am here to say that in a great cause these labor organizations have stood for the weak, they have stood for every humane law that was ever placed on the statute books. I don't care how many wrongs they have committed -- I don't care how many crimes -- I just know their cause is just."


links

Pollution free house with Natural Plants: Grow them and breathe freely | Home and Gardening

Norway | Penal System | Prison Rehabilitation
"The biggest mistake that our societies have made is to believe that you must punish hard to change criminals," explained Oeyvind Alnaes, Bastoey's then-prison governor. "This is wrong. The big closed prisons are criminal schools. If you treat people badly, they will behave badly. Anyone can be a citizen if we treat them well, respect them, and give them challenges and demands."



Michael Yates's "In and Out of the Working Class," by Louis Proyect

from Swans Commentary: Michael Yates's "In and Out of the Working Class," by Louis Proyect:
In the course of reading Michael Yates's collection of essays In and Out of the Working Class, it dawned on me that I prefer reading memoirs to novels in the same way that I generally prefer documentary to fiction films. If the essence of literature, as Henry James once pointed out, is character, then you are forced to stick with the truth. The explanation for this is socioeconomic and historical. Now that we have reached the end of the tether for American imperialism, which was correctly likened to Nero's Rome in Michael Moore's Capitalism: a Love Story, Hollywood and mainstream publishing have a vested interest in escapist fare that takes the minds of the citizenry off their real problems. Plots and characters become more and more removed from the reality we face, and hence less interesting.

It should be mentioned that while four pieces are labeled fiction, they are very closely related in subject matter and perspective to those labeled nonfiction -- namely the conflicted lives of working people from the vantage point of the author, a lifelong academic who emerged -- or escaped -- from their world. Michael Yates's writing is interesting in the same way that the literature of the 1930s remains interesting. Despite the fact that American society is made up in its vast majority by people who sell their labor power -- to use a bit of the Marxist lexicon -- they are almost invisible today. Like African-American Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, a novel about a black man's search for identity in racist America, the worker is of little interest to the professional writer, except perhaps as an object of ridicule as in television shows like The King of Queens.


why TV, not Facebook or Twitter, is going to revolutionize the world

College Choice and the Success of Working-Class Students

College Choice and the Success of Working-Class Students « Working-Class Perspectives
At flagship universities, only 68% of lower-income students graduate in 6 years, compared with 83% of higher-income students. Across state systems, the numbers are even worse (for both groups): 55% of lower-income students finish in 6 years, while 74% of higher-income students graduate in that time.

Bowen, Chingos, and McPherson identify two primary causes for this disparity.


Read this.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

update on Sony Pocket Reader, plus thinking about ebooks

I continue to be fond of the Sony Pocket Reader, and I still can't recommend it. I keep thinking it should cost about $50. Okay, $99.99. (Yes, I'm old and cheap.) I don't mind the flicker as pages change—what's annoying to me is not being able to make notes and correct files. (Google's free books have more typos from the scanning process than I like, and no easy way to fix them, which infuriates this one-time copy editor.) The second annoying thing is the Pocket Reader doesn't play audio files. I don't expect it to be a multimedia player, but in the modern age, books are to be read or heard.

I'll be diving into epubbing soon. Some useful reading:

Mark Coker: Why E-Books are Hot and Getting Hotter

Mark Coker: Why We Need $4.00 Books

A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: Kindle Numbers: Traditional Publishing Vs. Self Publishing

Steve Ross: "Can't We All Just Get Along?" -- A Manifesto of Sorts

Chip O'Brien: Why New Books Don't Sell on the Kindle: The Price of the Intangible

The Daily Beast Seeks to Speed Up the Publishing Process for Books - NYTimes.com

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wanna have an adventure?


via XKCD, of course

I Fell For A Commie



via Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blog (where you can read the rest of the story—or skip to the last page, as I did, because they just don't write 'em like that anymore).

ETA: Actually, skip to the second-to-last page, because the horrible thing that the pinkos are planning is engaging in the democratic process. Which makes me wonder if the writer believed what he was saying or was commenting on the witch hunts of the day.

ETA 2: The panel in question:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Class vs Race: Diabetes

From Diabetes in the US:

They don't mention class, but they mention this:
Colorado, Minnesota, Montana and Vermont have low rates, with Vermont the lowest at 6.1 percent for people 30 to 59 and 19.9 percent for people over 60. Southeastern states have the highest rates, and Mississippi, where 11.4 percent of people 30 to 59 and 27.7 percent of those over 60 are diabetic, has the highest of all.
Compare the race rates with the percentages of each race in poverty:
Blacks: 24.7 percent
Hispanics: 21.9 percent
non-Hispanic Whites: 8.6 percent
Asians: 9.8 percent
Correlation is not necessarily causation, but I'm guessing these are highly related. If so, White deaths may be higher than the poverty rate for other races because the people in rural poverty get less health care. (See yesterday's links about the lack of health care in places like Appalachia.)

Diabetes deaths by race...and class?

From Diabetes in the US:

They don't mention class, but they mention this:
Colorado, Minnesota, Montana and Vermont have low rates, with Vermont the lowest at 6.1 percent for people 30 to 59 and 19.9 percent for people over 60. Southeastern states have the highest rates, and Mississippi, where 11.4 percent of people 30 to 59 and 27.7 percent of those over 60 are diabetic, has the highest of all.
Compare the race rates with the percentages of each race in poverty:
Blacks: 24.7 percent
Hispanics: 21.9 percent
non-Hispanic Whites: 8.6 percent
Asians: 9.8 percent
Correlation is not necessarily causation, but I'm guessing these are highly related. If so, White deaths may be higher than the poverty rate for other races because the people in rural poverty get less health care. (See yesterday's links about the lack of health care in places like Appalachia.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Calvin Trillin hasn't lost it

What Whoopi Goldberg ('Not a Rape-Rape'), Harvey Weinstein ('So-Called Crime') et al. Are Saying in Their Outrage Over the Arrest of Roman Polanski

And, yes, I am appalled that there are socialists who think a rich man who might have had to face another 45 days in jail is a folk hero for fleeing to the soft life in Europe. I understand why capitalists think that way—money is supposed to buy the very best for the rich.

via Chalicechick and DairyStateDad


Cyd Charisse: It's always fair weather

Cyd Charisse in 'Meet me in Las Vegas'

YouTube - Cyd Charisse in 'Meet me in Las Vegas'. Sammy Davis Jr. sings. If the beginning seems slow, skip to 3:30.



while sad that the same news inspires sympathy and schadenfreude

America's Best Days - Rasmussen Reports™
Only 14% of African-Americans now feel society is fair and decent. That number has dropped 41 points from 55% a month after Obama took office. Sixty-six percent (66%) of black voters think society is unfair and discriminatory, up 26 points since early February.

The majority of white voters (65%) say society is fair and decent. Seventy-two percent (72%) of all other voters agree.
The Intuitive Edge
Perhaps the most unfair thing about possessing a creative spark is that it demands to be used. If your soul lights up when you sit down at a keyboard or leap out onto a dance floor, it’s going to keep asking you to do those things, and you’re going to end up feeling a little bereft if you don’t. You’re not going to like yourself, and you’re not going to like other people. Life will be a little duller than it ought to be. Nothing will taste as good as it used to. It’s not fair, but it’s the way things are. You can shut your talents up in a box, you can spend your life answering emails from your boss at 1 AM, but you can’t make yourself happy doing it.

On the other hand, you have one little thing you can do that is almost guaranteed to put the savor back into your life. Take an hour. Just an hour. Sit down with your work. Pick up where you left off – or maybe start something completely new.
Smile! It Could Make You Happier: Scientific American
Charles Darwin first posed the idea that emotional responses influence our feelings in 1872. “The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensi­fies it,” he wrote. The esteemed 19th-cen­tury psychologist William James went so far as to assert that if a person does not express an emotion, he has not felt it at all. Although few scientists would agree with such a statement today, there is evidence that emotions in­volve more than just the brain. The face, in particular, appears to play a big role.
CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names
I am not the first Jew to find the founding concept of Zionism unacceptable, and long ago a much more committed Jew went further than I. Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, expressed himself as follows - in 1944: "The concept of a racial state - the Hitlerian concept- is repugnant to the civilized world, as witness the fearful global war in which we are involved. . . , I urge that we do nothing to set us back on the road to the past. To project at this time the creation of a Jewish state or commonwealth is to launch a singular innovation in world affairs which might well have incalculable consequences."
The Remote Area Medical Health Expedition in Wise, Va.
Remote Area Medical
They begin arriving before dawn. When the team from Remote Area Medical sets up shop, thousands of men and women needing medical and dental care are served by a dedicated force of volunteer health care providers. We visit Wise, Virginia, for a look at the current health care crisis in America.
Essentials of Group Psychology | PsyBlog
Psychologists have long known that the practice of 'brainstorming' is a sure road to fewer new ideas and less innovation than that produced when we work individually. In groups we loaf, feel anxious and our own ideas are soon forgotten while we listen to others.

It turns out that groups are better at evaluating ideas than they are at their generation. Despite its longevity, brainstorming is best avoided for its original purpose.
Mark Twain: Corn-pone Opinions
"You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is."

I can never forget it. It was deeply impressed upon me. By my mother. Not upon my memory, but elsewhere. She had slipped in upon me while I was absorbed and not watching. The black philosopher's idea was that a man is not independent, and cannot afford views which might interfere with his bread and butter. If he would prosper, he must train with the majority; in matters of large moment, like politics and religion, he must think and feel with the bulk of his neighbors, or suffer damage in his social standing and in his business prosperities. He must restrict himself to corn-pone opinions -- at least on the surface. He must get his opinions from other people; he must reason out none for himself; he must have no first-hand views.
A sign of our strange economy: KVOA News 4 | Tucson, Arizona |Tucson companies hiring now

And something awesome: YouTube - Abida Parveen Sings Bulleh Shah


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hero of the day: Dr. Pedro Jose Greer

‘Dr. Joe’ treats uninsured with dignity - Health care- msnbc.com
Greer, known to his patients as "Doctor Joe," tells them all: If they lose their insurance while under his care, that's OK — he'll continue to treat them, regardless of how much, or little, they can pay.

"When did it become acceptable in my profession," says the 53-year-old physician, "to say 'No' to somebody because they have no money?"

...Even today, even after receiving the Medal of Freedom from the president in August, Greer doesn't mince words when talking about insurance companies and the impact they have had on U.S. health care.

"I do get outraged," he says. "Is it acceptable when an insurance company refuses someone for a pre-existing condition? Where in hell is that acceptable? Hell is going to be filled with insurance people. I hope they enjoy all the money they're making."


Monday, October 12, 2009

Boris Dolgov

Golden Age Comic Book Stories just posted a lot of Boris Dolgov's work. Most of it is very Weird Tales, which I like, but some is lighter in tone, and that's what I'm in the mood for now:




Christian women: deacons or servants? - Part 2

The King James Version of Romans 16:1-2 makes Phoebe sound insignificant:
I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:

That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.
Most English translations follow the KJV's lead, but more and more people are noting that the word translated as "servant" is the same word that's used elsewhere for "deacon," a position of considerable authority. Bill Colsher left this comment on Christian women: deacons or servants?:
Συνίστημι, the word usually translated as "commend" can also mean "put in charge" (kings do it to generals right before they march off to war). Its position at the start of the sentence makes it rather more emphatic as well. So it might really be saying:

I put Phoebe in charge of you all, she being a deconess in the church in Cenchrea; as a result, accept her amoung yourselves...
I would use "deacon" instead of "deconess," but otherwise, that rocks.

For a little more about her role: A Reexamination of Phoebe as a “Diakonos” and “Prostatis”: Exposing the Inaccuracies of English Translations.

Christian women: deacons or servants?

The King James Version of Romans 16:1-2 makes Phoebe sound insignificant:
I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:

That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.
However, Controlling the Words notes,
...the King James Version identifies a woman named Phoebe as a "servant." The same Greek word is translated elsewhere as "deacon." But since women were not allowed to be deacons in King James' church, the more generic translation was adopted. The Greek word can certainly mean servant, but in the context of the New Testament it was also used to designate a particular office.
Bill Colsher said:
Συνίστημι, the word usually translated as "commend" can also mean "put in charge" (kings do it to generals right before they march off to war). Its position at the start of the sentence makes it rather more emphatic as well. So it might really be saying:

I put Phoebe in charge of you all, she being a deconess in the church in Cenchrea; as a result, accept her amoung yourselves...
I would use "deacon" instead of "deconess," but otherwise, Bill's version rocks.

For a little more about her role: A Reexamination of Phoebe as a “Diakonos” and “Prostatis”: Exposing the Inaccuracies of English Translations.

Race vs. class in the USA: poverty

This is an updated version of several old posts, inspired by the following observation from Dale Maharidge Interview: Covering The Economic Pain Of Real Americans:
Four-fifths of us who work for salaries or wages make less than $20 an hour. This is a poor country. We're a nation of the working poor, and it's something that people don't want to acknowledge.
For most of my life, I would have guessed that the worst poverty in the US was in Watts, Appalachia, or Mississippi. Not true. From The Poorest Part of America*:
Virtually all of the 20 poorest counties in America, in terms of wages, are on the eastern flank of the Rockies or on the western Great Plains...
The race of the people in the poorest part of the US?
...it is largely white. The area does include several pockets of wretched Native American poverty, but in most areas the poor are as white as a prairie snowstorm.
From U.S. economy leaving record numbers in severe poverty:
...nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 - half the federal poverty line - was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period...
Nearly two out of three people (10.3 million) in severe poverty are white, but blacks (4.3 million) and Hispanics of any race (3.7 million) make up disproportionate shares. Blacks are nearly three times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be in deep poverty, while Hispanics are roughly twice as likely.
According to the US Census Bureau’s Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005,  the racial makeup of poverty in the United States of America looks like this:
Asian persons in poverty: 992,856 (2.92%)
Black or African American persons in poverty: 9,168,000 (25.17%)
Hispanic or Latino persons in poverty: 9,368,000 (22.68%)
non-Hispanic Whites persons in poverty: 16,227,000 (49.23%)
It's very true that US poverty is racially disproportionate. According to the U. S. Census Bureau Poverty: 2004 Highlights, comparing the percentage of poverty within racial groups to the general population gives this result:
Poverty rates remained unchanged for Blacks (24.7 percent) and Hispanics (21.9 percent), rose for non-Hispanic Whites (8.6 percent in 2004, up from 8.2 percent in 2003) and decreased for Asians (9.8 percent in 2004, down from 11.8 percent in 2003).
Regardless of race, in the US, you have very little real hope of rising to a higher economic class. (See the "Country by Country" graph at the New York Times article, A Closer Look at Income Mobility.)

Thinking of poverty as a racial problem ignores 49% of the problem. Poverty is a human problem, and the solution is the same for all racial categories: better work, housing, food, health care, education... Poverty does not need to be made "proportionate." It needs to be eliminated.

* Linked to a blog because that's from an Economist article that you have to pay to view.

Race vs. class in the USA: the drug war

This is a lightly updated version of two posts I made in 2007:

After looking at Race vs. class in the U.S. death penalty, I thought I would look at the rest of the prison system.

As noted before, the racial mix of Americans who live under the poverty line is 50% white, 25% black, 22% Hispanic, and 3% Asian. If prison reflected poverty, the figures would be the same for all crimes. But Drug War Facts gives this picture for drug offenses: "Of the 250,900 state prison inmates serving time for drug offenses in 2004, 133,100 (53.05%) were black, 50,100 (19.97%) were Hispanic, and 64,800 (25.83%) were white."

This might be because white poverty tends to be rural and black poverty tends to be urban, but I can't find the statistics to test that theory. Even when you adjust for class, the drug war is racist.

There's another way to see whether poverty or race might be the major factor in a statistic. According to the US Census Bureau's Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005, the number of non-Hispanic blacks and whites in poverty looks like this:
White: 16,227,000
Black: 9,168,000
Divide the number of poor whites by the number of poor blacks, and you get 177%. That's a very useful figure for testing race and class in numbers like these for RACE OF DEFENDANTS EXECUTED IN THE U.S. SINCE 1976:
White: 618
Black: 365
Since almost everyone executed in the US is poor, simply divide the number of whites by the number of blacks: 169% is within tolerance for racial fairness.

But compare that with this, from Race, Prison and the Drug Laws: "Of the 250,900 state prison inmates serving time for drug offenses in 2004, 133,100 (53.05%) were black, 50,100 (19.97%) were Hispanic, and 64,800 (25.83%) were white."

Selecting just for blacks and whites:
White: 64,800
Black: 133,100
The math? 49%. That disparity can't be explained by poverty.

Still, you shouldn't ignore class in the drug war. Prison Sentencing Study: Whites, Women, Non-Poor, and U.S. Citizens Are Given Lighter Sentences quotes this from a 2001 study by David Mustard called “Racial, Ethnic and Gender Disparities in Sentencing: Evidence from the US Federal Courts":
Having no high school diploma resulted in an additional sentence of 1.2 months. Income had a significant impact on the sentence length. Offenders with incomes of less than $5,000 were sentenced most harshly. This group received sentences 6.2 months longer than people who had incomes between $25,000 and $35,000.
I also found this claim, which, alas, isn't footnoted, so it may sound right and still be wrong:
Among those entering prison in 1991, about 70 percent earned less than $15,000 a year when they were arrested, and 45 percent didn’t have a full-time job. One in four prisoners is mentally ill, and 64 percent never graduated from high school.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Race vs. class in the USA: the death penalty

This is a lightly updated version of a post I made in 2007:

If you're one of those Americans who believe we live in a classless society, race is clearly an enormous factor in the death penalty: we're about 66% white, 13.5% black, 1% American Indian, 4.5% Asian, and 15% Hispanic/Latino. But according to the Death Penalty Information Center, these are the racial percentages for people legally executed for murder since 1976:
BLACK: 34%
HISPANIC: 7%
WHITE: 57%
OTHER: 2%
The same page has another interesting set of numbers, the races of the victims:
BLACK: 14%
HISPANIC: 5%
WHITE: 79%
OTHER: 2%
The victims are surprisingly representative of the population of the US; it's the racial breakdown of murderers that's disproportionate. Someone who only considers race would conclude that blacks murder more than whites, and blacks are more likely to get the death penalty than whites.

But there are other factors. In a discussion by various experts at Race and the Death Penalty, John McAdams says:
...it is clearly the case that blacks who murder whites are treated more harshly than are blacks who murder blacks. This looks like racial disparity if you assume that the circumstances are similar in the two cases. Unfortunately, it's vastly unlikely that they are. Most murders are among people who know each other. Murders done by strangers are much more likely to be regarded as heinous than are murders growing out of domestic quarrels, drug deals gone wrong, and such. It might seem reasonable to compare the punishment received by blacks who murder whites with the treatment received by whites who murder blacks. Unfortunately, while black on white crime is relatively rare, white on black crime is even rarer. There simply isn't an adequate statistical base to allow us to generalize about whites who murder blacks, which pretty much leaves us to compare the way the system treats blacks who murder blacks with the way it treats whites who murder whites. When we do this, we find some fairly solid-looking evidence that the system is unfairly tough on white murderers -- or if you prefer, unfairly lenient on black murderers. But even this finding is one we have to be skeptical about. Is the average black on black murder quite similar to the average white on white murder? Or are there systematic differences?
So what might cause systematic differences?

It's surprisingly difficult to find the percentages for class and race and the death penalty. We know that the rich are rarely charged with the death penalty, regardless of their race (OJ Simpson, for example was facing life imprisonment, not the death penalty). In 2005, I ran a lot of numbers here. If those numbers are wrong, no one's told me yet. To save you from clicking, here's the whole post:
From Capital punishment in the United States:
Approximately 58 percent of the defendants executed were white; 34 percent were black; 6 percent were Hispanic; and 2 percent were from other races.
Unfortunately, they don't give a breakdown by wealth. Death Penalty Information Center has useful information, but their focus is also on race, not class. So I googled "poverty death row" and came up with a number of sites, including a New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty FAQ, that offers this:
Ninety-five percent of defendants charged with capital crimes are indigent and cannot afford their own attorney to represent them.
Here's a reminder of the racial breakdown of poverty in the USA:

Asian persons in poverty: 2.92% (or 3%)
Black or African American persons in poverty: 25.17% (or 25%)
Hispanic or Latino persons in poverty: 22.68% (or 23%)
non-Hispanic Whites persons in poverty: 49.23% (or 49%)

So, remembering that nearly everyone who's executed is poor, let's line this up:

Percentage of people in poverty who are white: 50%
Percentage of people executed who are white: 58%

Percentage of people in poverty who are black: 25%
Percentage of people executed who are black: 34%

Percentage of people in poverty who are Hispanic: 23%
Percentage of people executed who are Hispanic: 6%

Percentage of people in poverty who are Asian: 3%
Percentage of people executed who are "other": 2%

It may be that the white and black poverty-to-execution ratio is high because there's more crime in cities, and a higher percentage of the Latino poor is rural. Or maybe Latinos simply commit fewer crimes of the sort that result in execution. Or maybe we need a lot more study before trying to conclude anything.

But I'm comfortable concluding this: the death penalty is based on class, not race.
Looking for more evidence, I found two surprising supporters: Attorney General John Ashcroft gave this conclusion of a government study in 2001, "There is no evidence of racial bias in the administration of the federal death penalty." In this case, I don't see a reason to disagree with him. Bush and his cabinet (which was more racially diverse than Clinton's or any previous president's) were much more interested in money than race.

While I oppose the death penalty for everyone, the Death Penalty Paper at prodeathpenalty.com has interesting figures regarding race and the death penalty. (The section on Christianity is also interesting, and has some of the reasons why I'm a Christian who doesn't much like Paul, Augustine, or Aquinas, who were far happier than Jesus to suck up to the princes of the world.)

P.S. #1 About the theory that the death penalty is a deterrence:

1. Murderers don’t drive their victims to states without the death penalty and kill them there.

2. There is a suggestion that the death penalty is an incentive to kill: “I could get death for this, so I’d better not leave any witnesses.”

3. The states with the greatest number of murders per capita are the ones with the death penalty.

 P.S. #2 When I made the post in 2005, someone who only identified himself as Carl left this comment:
For the past 20+ years I’ve worked in the criminal justice system – the past 8 years for a criminal defense firm, and the 14 years before that as a court clerk – I’ve done more death penalty cases than I want to think about (very few attorneys or judges ever want to do even one, and once you’ve done one, you never want to do another – they’re brutal on everyone involved), and can honestly say that in my experience (in California – your state may be different), the vast majority of DP felons (and felons in general) tend to be poor, poorly educated, and not very bright in general, with very poor social and coping skills. While there are occasional exceptions, they are damned rare.

The only notable exception I worked on was a wealthy woman who went even more psycho (she was bizarre at first, and went completely around the bend when her husband dumped her in favor of Next Year’s Model), and murdered the ex and his new wife in their beds. That one showed up on TV, both in the news and in movies-of-the-week, and she managed to avoid the death penalty, where poorer killers were far more likely to get Death. (Yes – you can probably guess the name).

In my experience (and hers, and OJ’s), money plays a far greater role than ethnicity.

Meditation Retreat Gypsy Wagon

I want to build a Meditation Retreat Gypsy Wagon.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

how liberals and socialists see race and class, plus MetaFilter

Note: This was going to be a short post focusing on MetaFilter. It, uh, grew.

I may return to MetaFilter when I finish a draft of the current book, and I'll definitely keep reading the front page, and I may lurk on a few discussions, because I like MeFites. They're generally smart, literate, snarky, and capable of great kindness and cruelty with astonishing speed. The stupidities of the world frustrate them enormously, and, because they tend to be liberals, they're sure that an ameliorated form of capitalism is the solution. Twenty years ago, I fit the demographic perfectly. That I don't fit perfectly now isn't a comment on them or me. For better or worse, I've become a red.

Perhaps the greatest difference between liberals and socialists is that liberals suffer from liberal guilt, and socialists don't. Liberals want to make the class system that benefits them more just, but at some level, they know that under any class system, minorities will suffer disproportionately, so they feel guilty. Socialists want to chuck the class system—we've got zip to feel guilty about.

This makes discussion of race and class painful for liberals, which may be why they hate trying to consider both at the same time. They'll make token comments like "I do think class is a significant axis of oppression separate from but interacting with race and gender," but they quickly move the conversation away from class to more comfortable topics like race and gender.

Their discomfort may be why when I say class is more significant than race, they often hear "Racism doesn't exist." The idea that class oppression might not be "separate from" but intertwined with racism is simply too painful for some to conceive. Others will acknowledge that class and race are intertwined—and then they'll keep talking about racism as a spherical cow.

For years, I've been flipflopping on whether Malcolm X was right when he said, "You can't have capitalism without racism." Liberals and conservatives are working hard to create post-racial capitalism. Sometimes I've thought they might succeed. But I'm back to thinking Malcolm X is right. Here's why:

First, the racial mix of the USA:
Asian alone: 4.4% (13.1 million)
Black or African American alone: 13.4% (40.9 million)
Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, of any race: 14.8% (about 44.3 million)
White (not including White Hispanic and Latino Americans): 66% (198.1 million)
Some other race alone: 6.5% (19 million)
Two or more races: 2.0% (6.1 million)
American Indian or Alaska Native alone: 0.68% (2.0 million)
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander alone: (0.14%) 0.43 million
Now, the racial mix of US poverty:
Asian persons in poverty: 2.92% (992,856)
Black or African American persons in poverty: 25.17% (8,549,879)
Hispanic or Latino persons in poverty: 22.68% (7,703,925)
non-Hispanic Whites persons in poverty: 49.23% (16,723,778)
The only way liberals could hope to make the class system racially proportionate would be to give enough wealth to minorities that their percentages throughout the class system would be the same.

Which, I'd like to think, even liberals would agree is a stupid idea, for all that freed slaves should've gotten at least forty acres and a mule. Do you also compensate the heirs of black slaveowners? What about poor whites still suffering in generational poverty because their ancestors came to this continent as prisoners or indentured servants and never had the chance to acquire wealth? What about the native peoples who were dispossessed?

The simple fact that liberals are, perhaps, ideologically incapable of seeing is that so long as the rich won't share wealth, wealth distribution will be racially disproportionate. It's a Catch-22.

One thing I like about conservatives is they just don't care about inequality. So long as wealth keeps flowing to the folks at the top, they don't care if it's going to Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates. In 2001, the distribution of wealth in the US looked like this:
1% had 38.1% of the wealth
4% had 21.3%
5% had 11.5%
10% had 12.5%
20% had 11.9%
20% had 4.5%
40% had .2%
That wealth gap continues to grow.

Googling for information for this post, I came across a conservative blog with two things that struck me:

1. This quote: "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent vice of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries." —Winston Churchill

It reminded me of a saying I prefer: "Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow."

2. This cartoon:


I think it'd be more accurately titled, "Capitalism illustrated...": The rich take from those who have less to give a pittance to those who have nothing.

quote of the day

"You are kept apart so that you may be separately fleeced of your earnings. You are made to hate each other because upon that hatred is rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both. You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars you both." —Tom Watson, 1892

(thanks, Louis Fallert!)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

I signed this

COUNTER-PETITION: Roman Polanski Must Face Justice. If you've done any work for Hollywood, you can sign it, too.

And, if not, you can check on a few of the Hollywood folks who understand that "no" means "no," and rich guys shouldn't be held to a separate standard of justice.

PS. The site has a lot of rightwing nonsense. I signed the petition because of Ed Bernero's Polanski Apologists Don’t Speak for All of Us in Hollywood. Rape is not about politics.