Saturday, December 31, 2011

My New Years Resolution: I'll use "Manichean" again

I used "binarian" for a while, but it never caught on. Today, I noticed a couple of writers I like are fond of "manichean". It just sounds good: man-uh-kee-an. It makes people think you know about history and religion as well as the subject at hand. It's grand.

And, most importantly, it's a resolution I can keep.

The examples:

Glenn Greenwald in Progressives and the Ron Paul fallacies: "Worse still is the embrace of George W. Bush’s with-us-or-against-us mentality as the prism through which all political discussions are filtered. It’s literally impossible to discuss any of the candidates’ positions without having the simple-minded — who see all political issues exclusively as a Manichean struggle between the Big Bad Democrats and Good Kind Republicans or vice-versa — misapprehend “I agree with Candidate X’s position on Y” as “I support Candidate X for President” or I disagree with Candidate X’s position on Y” as “I oppose Candidate X for President.”"

Adolph Reed, Jr. in The Limits of Antiracism"My position is—and I can’t count the number of times I’ve said this bluntly, yet to no avail, in response to those in blissful thrall of the comforting Manicheanism—that of course racism persists, in all the disparate, often unrelated kinds of social relations and “attitudes” that are characteristically lumped together under that rubric, but from the standpoint of trying to figure out how to combat even what most of us would agree is racial inequality and injustice, that acknowledgement and $2.25 will get me a ride on the subway. It doesn’t lend itself to any particular action except more taxonomic argument about what counts as racism."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ambrose Bierce on Labor and Land

From the Devil's Dictionary:

LABOR, n.
One of the processes by which A acquires property for B.
LAND, n.
A part of the earth's surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society, and is eminently worthy of the superstructure. Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that some have the right to prevent others from living; for the right to own implies the right exclusively to occupy; and in fact laws of trespass are enacted wherever property in land is recognized. It follows that if the whole area of terra firma is owned by A, B and C, there will be no place for D, E, F and G to be born, or, born as trespassers, to exist.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

abuse is no argument

I found "abuse is no argument" in Dot-dash-diss: The gentleman hacker's 1903 lulz. Googling the phrase brought up a similar expression I also like: "Abuse is no argument against proper use." (Bonus pretentious points for the Latin: "Abusus non tollit usum.")

Too much of the internet endorses too often the style of the Brooklyn Debating Society: "Fuck you!" "No, fuck you!" It's an old trick that politicians especially love: "When you have a weak case, abuse your opponent."

My googling also brought up ON ARGUMENT - Iftekhar Sayeed:
In the Gulistan, Sheikh Sa’di says: “Galenus saw a fool hanging on with his hands to the collar of a learned man and insulting him, whereon he said: 'If he were learned he would not have come to this pass with an ignorant man.'”

Sa’di concludes:

“Two wise men do not contend and quarrel,
Nor does a scholar fight with a contemptible fellow.”
To close, Monty Python's "The Argument Clinic":

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Learning to love Krismess

For many years of my life, I've hated Christmas and loved it and never been able to reconcile the conflict. I suspect I began hating it when I was old enough to see a greedy nation's celebration of consumerism built on sweatshops abroad and minimum wage labor at home. Then I hated it because it was presented as incompatible things, a religious holiday about a baby, angels, and a star, and a secular holiday about elves, flying reindeer, and trees with lights.

And yet, I still loved A Miracle on 34th Street and It's A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. I loved "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Good King Wenceslas" and "The Little Drummer Boy" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen". I loved people having traditional dinners, whether they were meat and potatoes, pizza, Chinese food, or tamales. I loved the excitement of people who were excited by the winter holidays.

So I've wrestled with a way to rationalize my love of the best of what Americans call Christmas. I tried thinking of it as Krismas, and the sprit of giving that I celebrated was Kris Kringle. I tried thinking of it as Christmas, and the spirit of giving that I celebrated was the Rebel Jesus. I tried thinking of it as Mithras' Day and the Feast of Sol Invictus and even my own holiday, World Week, when the spirit of giving was simply the best part of every one of us.

But now I've accepted that the midwinter holiday is just a mess. It's Kris's Mess or Christ's Mess or a neopagan's messy notion of Yule or an American Jew's messy notion of Chrismukkah. It isn't purely anything, and that's appropriate. Humans are a mess, and so are our holidays, and that's glorious.

I love this song because it catches that spirit:



Bonus! Five Christmas songs a Pagan probably shouldn’t like… but feels drawn to thanks to the power of a capella.

And:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Carol from Flanders by Frederick Niven

"A Carol from Flanders" by Frederick Niven

In Flanders on the Christmas morn
The trenched foemen lay,
the German and the Briton born,
And it was Christmas Day.

The red sun rose on fields accurst,
The gray fog fled away;
But neither cared to fire the first,
For it was Christmas Day!

They called from each to each across
The hideous disarray,
For terrible has been their loss:
"Oh, this is Christmas Day!"

Their rifles all they set aside,
One impulse to obey;
'Twas just the men on either side,
Just men — and Christmas Day.

They dug the graves for all their dead
And over them did pray:
And Englishmen and Germans said:
"How strange a Christmas Day!"

Between the trenches then they met,
Shook hands, and e'en did play
At games on which their hearts were set
On happy Christmas Day.

Not all the emperors and kings,
Financiers and they
Who rule us could prevent these things —
For it was Christmas Day.

Oh ye who read this truthful rime
From Flanders, kneel and say:
God speed the time when every day
Shall be as Christmas Day.

May we all have a Christmas Truce

Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas, Film) - Singing Scene - YouTube:


Based on a true incident:


(Joyeaux Noel link via Louis Proyect)

Friday, December 23, 2011

The vast majority of people thrown in prison are poor, but the racial picture is more complex than you believe.

Incarceration in the United States has this:

Estimated number of inmates held in custody in state or federal prison, or in local jails,
by sex, race, and Hispanic origin, June 30, 2009.[39]
MaleFemale
YearTotalaWhitebBlackbHispanicTotalaWhitebBlackbHispanic
20092,096,300693,800841,000442,000201,20092,10064,80032,300
Note: Detailed categories exclude persons who reported two or more races. All totals include persons under age 18.
aIncludes American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders, and persons identifying two or more races.
bExcludes persons of Hispanic or Latino origin.

White Hispanic and Latino Americans - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "In the 2010 United States Census, 50.5 million Americans (16.3% of the total population) listed themselves as ethnically Hispanic or Latino. Of those, 53.0% (26.7 million) self-identified as racially white."

So, this is the racial breakdown of the US prison population:
white, male and female: 1,037,279
black, male and female: 905,800
non-white Hispanic, male and female: 222,921
The percentages are pretty close to our percentages for poverty (approx. 50% white, 25% black, 25% Hispanic), though the black population is disproportionately high and the Hispanic population is disproportionately low thanks to drug laws that targeted the urban poor. (White and Hispanic poverty in the US is more rural than black poverty.)

So why you want to focus on class oppression that pushes black folks into selling drugs and becoming soldiers while ignoring class oppression that pushes white folks into selling drugs and becoming soldiers, I dunno. But the result is that you fail to see half of the picture.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

does fame override taste in art?

Being told painting is fake changes brain’s response to art - University of Oxford: "When a participant was told that a work was genuine, it raised activity in the part of the brain that deals with rewarding events, such as tasting pleasant food or winning a gamble. Being told a work is not by the master triggered a complex set of responses in areas of the brain involved in planning new strategies. "

Saturday, December 17, 2011

gleeporn vs rageporn, and a goodbye to frequent blogeration

The internet is for porn, and it comes in two forms, gleeporn and rageporn. Gleeporn makes people happy; it's lolcats and babies and bands that make you want to dance for the joy of dancing. Rageporn makes people angry: it's the subjects polite people avoid with strangers, politics and religion. The human brain is stimulated by both, and humans love to have their brains stimulated.

At least, this human sure does.

I don't mean to say that gleeporn is good and rageporn is bad. Gleeporn can make people complacent. Outrage is often necessary to change the world.

But on the net, glee and rage are often only tactics to get you to return to a site, to keep being the monkey clicking that button for its fix. The net may be infinitely superior to television, but ultimately, it's no different: it doesn't care what it's doing to you. It only wants you to keep paying attention to it.

Or, McLuhan still matters: the medium is the message.

I can't eliminate the net from my life now, but I can slip its leash more often, and when I return, I can favor the places that will make me a happier and more effective click-monkey.

In consequence, I'll be cutting back on blogging. If you see me making more than a couple of posts a week, please, gently mock me for my weakness.

Friday, December 16, 2011

a boycott is a choice to remain ignorant, says Sheik Qadhi about Lowes

This short clip is mostly about Muslims and Jews visiting Dachau and Auschwitz, but Lowe's cowardly decision to withdraw from advertising on American Muslim is mentioned toward the end, and I was struck by Sheik Qadhi's comment.

There have been times when boycotts were the right response, but too often, boycotts play into the hands of the people they're directed against. This has been especially true in the cases of calls for Arizona boycotts, because Arizona's conservatives are very happy to have their opponents stay away. My take: Don't boycott; educate.



ETA: For more on ways boycotts can backfire, see How a boycott meant to save Arizona is hurting it - White Knighting - Salon.com.

what Jesus would tell Tebow and Tebowers

Inspired by N.Y. teens suspended for Tebowing in school hallway:

"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." —Matthew 6:5-6

Thursday, December 15, 2011

racism at Racialicious, or Florence + The Machine and Bali

 I suspect antiracists are more obsessed with racial purity than racists are. Racists, at least, will happily eat fried chicken and not worry about whether they're appropriating a black thing.

Which doesn't really have anything to do with this post. For once, I'm grateful to Racialicious because one of their writers' accusation that Florence + The Machine had made a racist video taught me something about Balinese religion that I hadn't known.



In the comments at ‘No Light, No Light’: White Supremacy all dressed up in a pop video is still White Supremacy | Racialicious, SFFSzmutko writes:
What is shown in the video is not blackface, nor is it representative in Voodoo. The faith that is represented here is Balinesian (spelling?) and the ritual, which they actually brought in a shaman dancer of the faith for those scenes. The body paint is part of the ritual, it is a dark green body pain with red flashes on the face, to mirror the frogs of the region. To call it blackface is actually exceptionally offensive to the Balinese faith, and I hope the writer of this article apologizes. That is the equivalent of calling a Catholic Deacon Robe a Klan Robe. It is offensive and transferring the meaning of one onto something completely different and feels as if research was not done in the writing of this article. The immediate assumption of blackface and accusations of thus actually seem to be racially based against Miss Welch (an artist who has taken forefront involvement in many Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald Tribute concerts) caucasion roots.

Also the Dog Days video, the Gospel Choir is used to represent Florence's Gospel roots in terms of her music. Its like why the 60s mod women are there, because the 60s inspire her. Also she does not make herself "whiter" in the video, whe is dressed in Japanese Kabuki Garb complete with Kabuki Makeup. The reason everything blows up at the end is that it is the removal of inspiration until only Florence is left. It is a representation of her roots in music.

Also, maybe it is because I have research the Balinese Faith, but the ritual's meaning is similar to the song the choir is singing. I took the video to be ABOUT running from the unfamiliar and taking shelter in the familiar. I thought that it was ABOUT ignorance.
Other commenters dismiss that, because antiracists have a powerful streak of US imperialism which says other cultures don't matter. If something makes antiracists think of something that had racist connotations in the US, those connotations matter more than, well, the truth.

When antiracists waved away the Balinese origin of the imagery, Ohmansteve wrote:
I find the insinuation that the Balinese body paint used to become the frog in the ritual dance that the shaman in this video is showcasing is blackface, and that it is a representation of Voodoo, instead of the Balinesian faith, to be racist and to reek of poor research. Shame on this site for not doing research, and jumping to the conclusion that body paint in a white person's video must be blackface. Thank you for the bald faced racism here, go research the Balinese religion.
Sunmelive added:
RACISM? WHERE?! Flo is a woman who has just gotten out of a relationship. She still loves this person so she holds on to his memory and all the negative energy that came with their relationship. It is making her self destructive, the asian man painted dark green with bright red lips tries to help her through a Balinese ritual dance called a sanghyang but she refuses because that's all she has at this point. So he uses the doll to weaken her and force her to see reason.
ETA: Sanghyang - Wikipedia

Sanghyang dan kecak 1926 (Silent) - YouTube :

ETA 2: The existence of Balinese voodoo.

wisdom of John (Fire) Lame Deer

“Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men, we didn’t have any kind of prison.
Because of this, we had no delinquents.
Without a prison, there can be no delinquents.
We had no locks nor keys and therefore among us there were no thieves.
When someone was so poor that he couldn’t afford a horse, a tent or a blanket, he would, in that case, receive it all as a gift.
We were too uncivilized to give great importance to private property.
We didn’t know any kind of money and consequently, the value of a human being was not determined by his wealth.
We had no written laws laid down, no lawyers, no politicians, therefore we were not able to cheat and swindle one another.
We were really in bad shape before the white men arrived and I don’t know how to explain how we were able to manage without these fundamental things that (so they tell us) are so necessary for a civilized society.”

— John (Fire) Lame Deer

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

read charitably; or, what you read in a story vs. what you read into one

A few truths about reading:

1. Everyone thinks they read well.

2. No one reads as well as they think.

3. Criticism of a writer says more about the critic than the writer.

4. What characters believe may not be what their writers believe—and, for many writers, should not be what their writers believe.

All of which is to say, please, in life and art, read charitably.

my Christmas story: "Oldthings"

"Jeffy got silver bullets, Jill got a matched pair of big golden crosses, and I got a lousy wooden stake. I sat crosslegged on the floor, looking at this three-foot-long pointed stick, and said, “What’s this? A carve-your-own-cane kit?”

Full story: "Oldthings"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Phil Ochs on liberals

"In every political community there are varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals. An outspoken group on many subjects. Ten degrees to the left of center in good times. Ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally" —Phil Ochs

From the beginning of "Love me, I'm a liberal":



Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon updated it:

Capitalism turns tribes into racists

The Cherokee aren't the only tribe who now use concepts of race instead of culture to define tribal identity. From California Indian Tribes Eject Thousands of Members:
One of Mr. Roan’s daughters, Ruby Cordero, is also considered a cultural pillar of the tribe because she is expert at basket weaving and among the last native speakers of the Chukchansi language. But at 87, she, too, has been disenrolled.

Monday, December 12, 2011

David Ben-Gurion answers the lie that Palestinians were "invented"

"Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul, Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta, Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis, and Kefar Yehushua in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population." —David Ben-Gurion, one of the most important inventors of contemporary Israel

Emphasis mine.

When was Palestine "invented"? Edward Said answers that in "The Question of Palestine":
Palestine became a predominately Arab and Islamic country by the end of the seventh century. Almost immediately thereafter its boundaries and its characteristics — including its name in Arabic, Filastin — became known to the entire Islamic world, as much for its fertility and beauty as for its religious significance...In 1516, Palestine became a province of the Ottoman Empire, but this made it no less fertile, no less Arab or Islamic...Sixty percent of the population was in agriculture; the balance was divided between townspeople and a relatively small nomadic group. All these people believed themselves to belong in a land called Palestine, despite their feelings that they were also members of a large Arab nation...Despite the steady arrival in Palestine of Jewish colonists after 1882, it is important to realize that not until the few weeks immediately preceding the establishment of Israel in the spring of 1948 was there ever anything other than a huge Arab majority. For example, the Jewish population in 1931 was 174,606 against a total of 1,033,314.
Highly recommended: The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict by Jews for Justice

race, class, and Glee; or, how the rich see diversity


We've been Netflixing Glee for the last few weeks—we're through Season 2. We'll probably wait for the official release of Season 3 before we watch more, so please, no spoilers. For those who haven't seen it, don't worry about me spoiling it. This post is about race and class, not plot.

Much as I enjoy the show, I'm struck by its bourgie idea of diversity. Here's the racial, ethnic, gender, and class mix of the glee club through Season 2:

female
Rachel Berry: white, Jewish, middle/upper class
Tina Cohen-Chang: Asian-Jewish, class unknown
Quinn Fabray: white, middle/upper class
Mercedes Jones: black, class unknown
Santana Lopez: Hispanic, lesbian, working class
Brittany S. Pierce: white, lesbian, class unknown
(2nd season) Lauren Zizes: white, class unknown
male
Artie Abrams: white paraplegic, class unknown
Blaine Anderson: white, gay, upper class
Mike Chang: Asian, class unknown
Finn Hudson: white, working-class
Kurt Hummel: white, gay, working/middle class
Noah Puckerman: Jewish, class unknown
(1st season) Matt Rutherford: black, class unknown
(2nd season) Sam Evans (2nd season): white, working-middle class (homeless)
That inspired my recent post, wealth in the USA by race, religion, and gender. If the cast of Glee "looked like America", there would be more working class kids, more black and Hispanic kids, and a Muslim or Hindu kid. There would be fewer Jewish and Asian kids, and fewer gay kids.

Now, it's a glee club; it's not supposed to "look like America." The arts traditionally attract a high percentage of GLBT folks, and extra-curricular activities reflect class privilege in America because they usually come with extra expenses. Glee shouldn't look like America.

But if you want to know the disproportionate nature of privilege in the USA, Glee reveals it. It's white, Jewish, and Asian. It's concerned with ending oppression within the class system, so civil rights matter, but it doesn't question the class system itself: note that Glee is set in a high school where no one's politics are more extreme than right-of-center Obamaism.

That said, it's a fun show within its mainstream broadcast limits. I may be tempted to catch up on Season 3 before Netflix gets it.

ETA: Considering where Glee's set, Wikipedia's article on Ohio demographics suggests its percentage of Hispanics may be reasonable, but its percentage of black folks is still off. (Not that Hollywood cares about local demographics, mind you. Where were the Hispanics in Roswell, a show set in a town that's nearly half Hispanic?)

ETA 2: In the comments, serialbabbler adds, "According to the internet, Glee is set specifically in Lima, Ohio sort of.

So this would be the demographics you'd be looking at."

Friday, December 9, 2011

US electoral racism drops to 3%

From What's Race Got to Do With Herman Cain? | The Nation:
In 1958, 53 percent of voters said they would not vote for a well-qualified black candidate for president; in 1984 it was 16 percent; by 2003 it was 6 percent; now it stands at 3 percent.
Except for that bit, I can't recommend the article. The writer confuses institutional classism with institutional racism: Yes, there are still racists in the world and yes, black and brown folks are disproportionately poor because they had no wealth or wealth was taken from them, but today, their main problem isn't racism; it's the same problem that twice as many poor white folks suffer from: economic inequality.

It's a little surprising that the writer didn't figure that out, as he does give an example of bourgie black prejudice against poor folks:
The poorer the woman, the more vulnerable she was to these attacks. Sharon Bialek, the first to go public with accusations of sexual harassment, was dismissed by his campaign primarily because she was broke. Cain’s opponents, his spokesperson claimed, “have now convinced a woman with a long history of severe financial difficulties, including personal bankruptcy, to falsely accuse the Republican frontrunner of events allegedly occurring well over a decade ago for which there is no record, nor even a complaint filed.”
(Thanks, DSD!)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

wealth in the USA by race, religion, and gender

Race

The racial composition of the United States:
White persons not Hispanic: 63.7%
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin: 16.3%
Black persons: 12.6%
Asian persons: 4.8%
Persons reporting two or more races: 2.9%
American Indian and Alaska Native persons: 0.9%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 0.2%
Race and wealth:



Asians: ...by 2009 Asians lost their place at the top of the wealth hierarchy. Their net worth fell from $168,103 in 2005 to $78,066 in 2009, a drop of 54%. Like Hispanics, they are geographically concentrated in places such as California that were hit hard by the housing market meltdown. The arrival of new Asian immigrants since 2004 also contributed significantly to the estimated decline in the overall wealth of this racial group. Absent the immigrants who arrived during this period, the median wealth of Asian households is estimated to have dropped 31% from 2005 to 2009. Asians account for about 5% of the U.S. population.
The wealth gap exists within race, too:



Though poverty and wealth are racially disproportionate, there are, as in Martin Luther King's day, still twice as many white people in poverty as black:

People in Poverty
20092010
NumberPercentNumberPercent

White
29,83012.331,65013.0

   White, not Hispanic
18,5309.419,5999.9
Black
9,94425.810,67527.4

Asian
1,74612.51,72912.1
Hispanic origin
12,35025.313,24326.6

Religion

Religious ethnicity:



Wealth and religious ethnicity:



Gender


Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender:"As of April 2011, approximately 3.5% of American adults identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, while 0.3% are transgender—approximately 11.7 million Americans."

Women and wealth:
The U.S. Census's report on the wage gap reported "When we account for difference between male and female work patterns as well as other key factors, women earned, on average, 80 percent of what men earned in 2000… Even after accounting for key factors that affect earnings, our model could not explain all of the differences in earnings between men and women."
Same-sex couples and wealth:
While the median income for same-sex couples' households is slightly higher than for straight couples, the figure drops significantly when raising children is factored in. Same-sex couples raising children reported a median income of $46,200, compared to $59,600 for straight couples.

A large part of this gap is due to the fact that even if same-sex couples are fortunate to enjoy domestic partner benefits, such as health insurance, those benefits are taxed. Spousal benefits for straight couples aren't taxed. One lesbian couple interviewed in Arizona described the impact of this extra tax for them. Tina Merrell estimated this penalty at about $10,000 per year to cover her partner and their child on her health insurance.
ETA: At G+, Steven Sudit left this comment: "Google not only covers the family insurance, it pays extra to counteract the tax hit. I've never seen a more LGBT-friendly company."

Stephen Hawking on the enemy of knowledge

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge." —Stephen W. Hawking

Major General Smedley Butler & The Fascist Takeover Of The USA - A Warning From History

Major General Smedley Butler & The Fascist Takeover Of The USA - A Warning From History - YouTube:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Record inequality between rich and poor: video

Record inequality between rich and poor - YouTube:

plagiarism parade: St. Martin's and Lenore Hart's The Raven's Bride

This seemed interesting: Publisher says Poe novelist did not lift material. So I followed the link to the source of the charge: The Debrief.

I try to keep from rushing to judgment, but in the case of Lenore Hart's The Raven's Bride vs. Cothburn O'Neal's The Very Young Mrs. Poe, I'm inclined to go with "Guilty, guilty, guilty". St. Martin's must assume they don't have to pull a book when a dead writer, who is not likely to sue, has been plagiarized.

A CBS account has this:
In an interview in May with the online magazine www.bookslut.com, Hart acknowledged reading O'Neal's book, but only after she had turned in a "corrected draft" of her novel."I was engaged with it in some places and bored in others," she said, adding her "apologies to the late Mr. O'Neal."
I'm guessing she was bored with the parts she didn't use in her own book.

Accents, Class, and White Singers Black Folks Thought Were Black

People's class assumptions often have more to do with accent than skin color; there were hotels and restaurants in the segregated South that would not serve African-Americans, but they would serve Africans. I remembered that when I stumbled on this, and realized accent and vocal style affects people's assumptions about race, too: 10 White Singers We Once Thought Were Black | Madame Noire.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Martin Luther King on race, class, and war

“The problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.” —Martin Luther King

Friday, December 2, 2011

fictional Benjamin Franklin on treason

"Treason is a charge invented by winners as an excuse for hanging the losers." —Benjamin Franklin in the musical, 1776, by by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

quote: Oliver Wendell Holmes on courtesy

“Don't flatter yourself that friendship authorizes you to say disagreeable things to your intimates. The nearer you come into relation with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become.” -- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

where even debt is a privilege

I think all education should be free, but I still eyeroll once at people in debt to extremely expensive schools. Their debt is a form of capitalist privilege—poor kids from places with underfunded schools won't get loans to attend the universities of the ruling class.

But after I eyeroll, I'm completely sympathetic. No one should be blamed for believing the American Dream. I tossed and turned in my sleep for forty-some years and didn't truly wake until I fell into the American Nightmare of deep debt. That woke me the hard way.

Which may be the only way most dreamers wake.

class is not identity

Richard Seymour makes a valiant effort to define a sensible form of identity politics in LENIN'S TOMB: Cultural materialism and identity politics, but he doesn't succeed for me.

In the comments, Evildoer claims, "Socialism is also identity politics. When Marx described the process as moving from a class "in itself" to a class "for itself", isn't that exactly "the politicization of identity"?"

I replied:
Socialism is not identity politics. Identity politics describe the world in terms of being: people are male or female, black or white, Californian or Welsh, Coke drinkers or Pepsi drinkers. Socialism describes the world in terms of doing: the capitalist class controls the world's wealth; the working class works to survive. That many people do not recognize their role under capitalism has nothing to do with identity. It only has to do with ignorance that is promoted by the ruling class.

Identity politics see the world in fixed terms: race and gender cannot be changed, and their concept of class is feudal, so birth is very important to what you are. But socialists see the world in mutable terms, tribal rather than racial.

Mind you, this view of capitalism is not unique to socialism. Many capitalists recognize that under capitalism, what matters is your relationship to capital. Which is why socialists and capitalists see Obama as being true to his class, but identitarians see him as a traitor to his race.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Legend of Red Ghost

The Legend of Red Ghost - True West Historical Society: "One of the enduring, outrageous legends in Arizona is that a demonic, rogue camel with a skeleton on its back, killed and terrorized the country side for a decade in the 1880s. The "Red Ghost" was allegedly finally killed in a rancher's garden in eastern Arizona."

more about folic acid and B12

Not just important for the elderly. It affects vegan and near-vegan vegetarians, too. Vitamin B12 Deficiency Can Cause Symptoms That Mimic Aging - NYTimes.com: "Large doses of folic acid can mask a B12 deficiency and cause permanent neurological damage if normal levels of B12 are not maintained."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

stealth opulence: how the upper class recognize each other

There's a false assumption in The rise of quiet luxury: Understated chic that is very, very expensive. - Slate Magazine: " In a last-ditch attempt to escape the guillotine, the top 1 percent are resorting to ever more devious tactics. First and foremost, they have adopted a bizarrely nondescript way of dressing: It’s spare simplicity with foncy labels; it’s a white gold Rolex that resembles a plain old tin Timex; it’s L.L.Bean-style basics with haute-couture prices. Simply put: The 1 percent are occupying Hermès (the luxury retailer most synonymous with understated extravagance)."

Stealth opulence is old in the US. The upper class have long been trained to instantly see the difference between Brooks Brothers and Sears. I read a YA novel (title forgotten, alas) in which a poor kid was taught how to pass among the rich: don't spend your money on a lot of slightly expensive clothes: use it to buy instead one very expensive thing, a watch or a belt or shoes that say, "I'm one of you; the rest of my clothes are just slumming."

Anti-racism: brown bag lunches are racist?

I missed an anti-racist brouhaha in the Unitarian-Universalist blogosphere in 2007: Melissa Mummert reported:
My seminary, Starr King School for the Ministry, had a program called "Educating to Counter Oppressions." The faculty and students took the work to destroy racism and all of the "isms" that plague us quite seriously. At an all-school meeting one afternoon, a faculty member announced, "Because of the racist connotations of the phrase brown bag lunch, we will now be using the term BYOL, 'bring your own lunch'."
Brown bags have a place in the history of US racism. From Discrimination based on skin color: "The "brown paper bag test" was a ritual once practiced by certain African-American and Creole fraternities and sororities who discriminated against people who were "too dark." That is, these groups would not let anyone into the sorority or fraternity whose skin tone was darker than that of a paper lunch bag, in order to maintain a perception of standards. Spike Lee's film School Daze satirized this practice at historically black colleges and universities."

But if "brown bag lunch" has any connotation, it's classist: brown paper bags are the cheapest lunch bags. Claiming "brown bag lunch" is racist is like arguing cotton T-shirts celebrate slavery.

The Left Coast Unitarian defended the announcement:
For me the actual matter of dispute is fairly simple. If a person of color, especially an elder, suggests that a particular term is not the most inviting way to title or describe a gathering, I will take them at their word absent a good deal of evidence.
I suspect the LCU didn't think that through: I've never met an anti-racist who accepts the opinion of Rev. Thandeka or Adolph Reed Jr. or any person of color who disagrees with anti-racism theory—that's doubly true in the case of conservative critics like Winkfield F. Twyman, Jr.

Tom Schade replies to LCU in a post I highly recommend:
In order to raise these questions, which could conceivably require more research and reflection, one has to be able to hold as a possible answer: this fact about brown bags is interesting, but essentially unimportant. But in an intellectual environment where the value of information is determined by who provides it, such criticism is not welcome. The only question really allowed, is "Please, I don't understand and it troubles me, explain some more, so I can be reunited with you."
CK commented:
I think that if I were a guest speaker at a school in, say, the Netherlands, and I wanted them to rename their local dike because I was offended by the term, they'd have every right to say that they wouldn't, that they were sorry I had been hurt by homophobia, but that "dike" isn't a hurtful term in that context, and never had been.
the Socinian wrote:
...perhaps most significant, is the supposition that “anti-oppression” is a valid religious principle to which all sincere UUs should commit both private devotional practice and public prophetic advocacy. I deny the premise on its face. Justice, equity, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, karma, dharma, atonement, salvation – these are all legitimate religious concepts worthy of devotion that can stand on their own merits. Negative principles, however, are by nature antitheses that cannot exist without a thesis against which they are defined. Valid religious principles therefore cannot be negative, but must be affirmative.

Oppression is objectionable and worth resisting, yes; though not because “anti-oppression” is a valid principle, but rather because justice, equity, and compassion are valid principles, and oppression corrupts them. Oppression is overcome not by promoting “anti-oppression”, but by promoting forgiveness and reconciliation. “Anti-oppression”, just like the nemesis against which it necessarily defines itself, falsely divides the world into the worthy “us” and the unworthy “them”. But in reality, it’s all a broken world, we’re all them, and the most valuable lessons of any religion help us come to terms first with the element of that reality that abides within ourselves before we can even attempt to cure it in those other evildoers over there.
In the comments on that post, the Socinian added:
I don't like the way AR/AO has been promoted recently as a core collective value within the UUA, or as a necessary part of our collective identity. I don't like the way it divides the world into the self-righteous "us" and the contemptible "them". I don't like the way it replaces a soteriology of grace with a soteriology of victimhood and conflict. I don't like the way it sanctifies victims for things they had no choice over and demonizes even unwitting "oppressors" for harm they may never have intended (or even have participated in), or the way it eagerly and gullibly finds oppression and victimization even in the most unlikely and dubious of instances. (Like a "brown bag lunch", for instance.) I don't like the fact that too often its response to oppression, whether real or imaginary, fails to include any meaningful physical, emotional or spiritual ministry or healing to the actual victim -- other than perhaps nurturing and encouraging the victim's sense of anger and injustice. I don't like the overemphasis of faultfinding, and underemphasis of our historic Universalist gospel of love and forgiveness even (or especially) when it has not been earned. And I especially don't like it when the extraordinary attention and resources that are devoted to AR/AO in some corners of UU-dom seem to crowd out nearly any other avenue or approach to faith formation.

There are many effective ways to combat racism and oppression, and it is a worthy undertaking, but standing like the Pharisee in the Temple court and piously proclaiming the purity of one's observance of the AR/AO mitzvot is not a particularly good way to do it.
Philocrites offers a useful term for this sort of thing in Brown bag landmines, culling the affiliates, and more.: "terminal earnestness"

There's A Collection of all the Brown Bag Posts (and a side note) at Elizabeth’s Little Blog.

Incidentally, though the brown bag test has become a historical footnote, colorism is not dead: From Columns: The paper bag test:
The most recent case making news in the black press involves two employees of an Applebee's restaurant in Jonesboro, Ga., near Atlanta. There, Dwight Burch, a dark-skinned waiter, who has left the restaurant, filed a lawsuit against Applebee's and his light-skinned African-American manager.

In the suit, Burch alleged that during his three-month stint, the manager repeatedly referred to him as a "black monkey" and a "tar baby." The manager also told Burch to bleach his skin, and Burch was fired after he refused to do so, the suit states.
Related: Nalo Hopkinson and "Killa Wog"

Monday, November 28, 2011

get great stuff and support editor extraordinaire Terri Windling!

Emma has details: Dark Roast - It's MAGICK MONDAY!

the visual devolution of Red Sonja

Via The Pictorial Arts: Flavorful, Frank Thorne's drawing of three versions of Red Sonja. I always liked the Barry Smith costume, even though the panties are silly, but Krenkel's is best.

The 1% is Political Poetry: excellent explanation of class

thelivelytradition: The 1% is Political Poetry: "Class is not about income. Class is not about whether you have an income, a profession, a job or a benefit. Class is not about culture. Class is not about wealth. A "Class" is a historically formed group of people who have a particular relationship to economic order."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

USA: at war for 209 years (and counting)

Also illustrates the fact that "wars" which were conducted by the Department of War are now "operations" conducted by the Department of Defense.


ETA: This makes me wonder if the Department of War Defense's next name will be the Department of Freedom.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Boots Riley on black bloc tactics

Boots Riley on black bloc tactics « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist: "If we are in the middle of one of the biggest, most overtly class conscious acts of the last 65 years- one that has the unity of action of 50,000 ppl-one that caused millions in damage through an action that teaches class analysis and builds an apparatus for future action-why would u think breaking a window at whole foods is taking it to another level? Its not. The message it gives to most is one of futile frustration."

He makes another point that I like a lot: "...when a group of masked white kids break windows in a city that’s many ppl of color, it feels like the white kids are claiming ownership, not saying that this city is all of ours. It makes it harder to build a viable mass movement. I’m saying this knowing the truth, many masked blac bloc folks are NOT white. But, if everyone perceives u as white cuz u have a mask on-then it has the same effect."

He reminds me that the only defenders of Black Bloc tactics I've encountered are white guys like Nick Mamatas. Me, I figure any tactic that makes revolutionaries look like thugs is a stupid tactic.

Do follow the link for more good arguments against Blackblockheads. His point about vanguarding is as strong as any of the rest.

Re Wikileaks and Julian Assange: Is Israel Shamir a Holocaust-denier?

In the smear campaign against Julian Assange, the phrase "Holocaust-denier" keeps coming up because of one writer who worked briefly with Wikileaks, Israel Shamir. Here is his answer from Mother of All Smears:
As for the accusation of “Holocaust denial”, my family lost too many of its sons and daughters for me to deny the facts of Jewish tragedy, but I do deny its religious salvific significance implied in the very term ‘Holocaust’; I do deny its metaphysical uniqueness, I do deny the morbid cult of Holocaust and I think every God-fearing man, a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim should reject it as Abraham rejected and smashed idols. I deny that it is good to remember or immortalise such traumatic events, and I wrote many articles against modern obsession with massacres, be it Jewish holocaust of 1940s, Armenian massacre of 1915, Ukrainian “holodomor”, Polish Katyn, Khmer Rouge etc. Poles, Armenians, Ukrainians understood me, so did Jews – otherwise I would be charged with the crime of factual denial which is known to the Israeli law.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

every ideology ever and confirmation bias

I could write a long post about confirmation bias and antiracism theory or feminism or any identitarian issue. But any elaboration would be gratuitous; all you need to know is that confirmation bias is the tendency to trust what you believe and doubt what you don't.

To be fair to identitarians, suffering from confirmation bias is just part of being human.

I was reminded of this by CultureLab: Bias rules the way we judge the world.

Sojourner Truth on Hell

"The newspapers of my childhood used to have pictures of hell. I bought one once in New York, and there was one whole side covered with such a picture. On one side there was a narrow stair leading to heaven and the rest of the picture was a terrible abyss, with smoke rising up out of it, and numberless human beings swimming around in the flames. Then there was the old Evil One, with a long snout and a tail, stirring the others up with a pitchfork and I gazed upon that picture, I said, "My God, that is hell, sure 'nuff." There are probably persons here who can remember these things. As I got older I found out that there wasn't no such thing as hell, and that the narrow stairs only showed the narrowness of the mind that conceived the picture. I have found out and know that God's brightness and goodness and glory is hot enough to scorch all the sinners in the world." —Sojourner Truth

What should we call the US version of Thanksgiving?

"I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land." —Jon Stewart

This is the day Americans celebrate the Wampanoags saving their ass. Given what our leaders did afterward, Ethnic Cleansing Day, Racism Day, and Imperialism Day all cover US policy toward the continent's First Peoples. Or, given Jesus's comments about people who make a show of their goodness, Hypocrisy Day works just fine.

If you want to imagine what was lost, I'll repeat an old recommendation: read 1491.

The saddest thing about Thanksgiving Day is it's a celebration of what rich people stole. The best that poor folks of any hue can hope for is a free meal from a civic group—not exactly a fair trade.

Which reminds me of what David Stemple would tell his kids when they complained about fairness: "In a fair world, you would be starving in a hut in Africa."

Though there is plenty of food in the world for everyone, today, in the US, millions of people are malnourished and hungry, and in the world, every 3.6 seconds, someone will die from hunger.

Well, that's enough reality for 24 hours. Our Thanksgiving will consist of eating too much great food with good folks. I wish everyone's would.

Happy Thanksgiving!

ETA: I should've just posted this:


ETA 2: It's not Shopping Day, but it might be Shopping Eve.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Do the poor suffer from financial PTSD?

Poor Concentration: How Poverty Changes the Way You Think - The Curious Capitalist: "The results: shoppers with above-average incomes did just as well on the tests whether they were faced with the $150 or $1,500 repairs, but those with below-average incomes did significantly worse when the repairs were going to cost $1,500 (as opposed to just $150). Even imaginary financial strain diminished the low-income group's ability to think straight."

Antiracism Theory can't explain US slavery

Nnedi Okorafor posted a short bit from her unpublished autobiographical novel in Born Naijamerican, which included this:
But, well, she wasn’t a direct descendant of slaves, not the slaves brought to America. She wasn’t trying to be arrogant. Hell, she thought, my ancestors may have been the sellers of the slaves! Ugh, that’s even worse. But she didn’t like Carre’s assumptions. Here she was in a class full of blacks and never had she felt so alone.
There's an assumption in the US that all black folks are the descendants of slaves, which fits the antiracist narrative the power is primarily racial, but the reality is more complex.

From Unit 2: Early Industrialization: "3,800 black slave owners were registered in the 1840 Census"

Frederick Douglass noted, “The savage chiefs of the western coasts of Africa, who for ages have been accustomed to selling their captives into bondage and pocketing the ready cash for them, will not more readily accept our moral and economical ideas than the slave traders of Maryland and Virginia. We are, therefore, less inclined to go to Africa to work against the slave trade than to stay here to work against it.”

President Mathieu Kerekou of Benin, Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, and others have apologized for their ancestor's part in African slavery.

back on Twitter

I'm back on Twitter as WillShetterly. Mostly it's autolinks to posts here and some retweets of the few Twits I follow, but occasionally I'll tweet a link that I don't post here or get in a short conversation with someone.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

the problem with academics — and people who grew up rich

When I was fourteen, my Dad, who had entered the University of Florida as a freshman at the age of forty thanks to the GI Bill, told me, "Take everything you hear from academics with a big grain of salt. These are people who have been institutionalized all their lives."

I always remember that when I hear academics trying to explain a world they rarely visit.

This post was inspired by Susannah Breslin's comment in Men's strip club confessions:
My main problem with feminism and sex work is that the majority of feminists talking about sex work are in the academy. They took women’s studies classes and 99 percent of what they learned about sex work is, like, on the Internet or from one porn star they met once. If you have something to say about it, you should go into that world and study it and get to know those people and spend time there. Instead, feminism is just manufacturing abstractions about what sex work is, and they’re too chicken to go in and really explore the industry. So for the most part, feminism can’t tell me anything about sex work because they’re too busy posturing as feminists to find out what that world is really like.
A few years after Dad's comment, after I'd spent some time among people who grew up rich, I realized they've also been institutionalized all their lives, though they haven't a clue, because the upper class are in an institution with branches anywhere it might occur to them to go. There's a reason why the biggest difference in luxury hotels around the world is the accent of the cleaning staff.

Though I think I'm fairly cynical about the ignorance of the rich, they still surprise me. When Emma and I went to New Orleans for a friend's birthday party last year, we took a riverboat ride with a New Yorker who could not believe Americans still lived in shacks along a river. When I was younger, I would've cringed as I saw the tour guide's sidewise glance at her, and then I would've taken her aside to talk about the kinds of people I've known most of my life. But I just made the mental note and let it pass. The woman in question is very sweet. It's not her fault that her economic comfort makes her simultaneously a woman of the world and one of the most provincial people I've ever known.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Emma Bull's essay on the Weird West

Home on the Strange by Emma Bull | Fantasy Magazine

on blackface and actors playing other races

Inspired by talk about whether Florence + The Machine's "No Light, No Light" is racist:

This is a classic image of blackface, a white person wearing makeup to mock black people:



Note the exaggerated lips and the unnaturally dark skin—blackface was done with black shoe polish or a very dark skin dye to make a white person look like a black version of a whiteface clown.

Some people think any attempt to portray someone of another race is racist. They say this white model portraying a black woman is racist:



And Beyonce Knowles betrayed all black and Asian Women by modeling as a white woman:


Beyonce was also accused of doing blackface when she darkened her skin:



If you accept the logic that portraying someone of another race is always racist, John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me is a racist book; when segregation was legal in the US, he darkened his skin and hair to have a first-hand experience of being black:


Whites who play Othello get accused of doing blackface:



But people rarely accuse Orson Welles of blackface because he plays the character with respect:



While Lawrence Olivier's makeup and eye-rolling crosses into parody:



The question of respect for the character is crucial. Harry Connick was caught up having to judge a bad parody of the Jacksons in Australia:



These people aren't parodying the individual Jacksons; they've made themselves up to look like golliwoggs, and the humor comes from the idea of, as Connick puts it, portraying black folks as buffoons.

That's the simple rule for deciding whether someone is indulging in blackface: If they're mocking a race by pretending to be of that race, they're being racist. If they're not, they should be prepared for identitarians to misunderstand. But ultimately, we're all human. If you want to look like your race or sex or age or class is different, that's your right as part of the human race.

Which applies to non-human races, too. Here's a cultural artifact from the 1960s:



See also: racism at Racialicious, or Florence + The Machine and Bali