Saturday, April 30, 2011

white trash, and the problem with one of Ta-Nehisi Coates' favorite quotes

Coates is fond of quoting Senator John C. Calhoun, who said 1848:
With us the two great divisions of society are not rich and poor, but white and black; and all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals.
I just left this note at Coates' blog:
The Calhoun quote is great, but remember that it was said by a rich man. Even slaves spoke dismissively of "white trash" who were never "respected and treated as equals" by rich whites.
From White trash:
The term white trash first came into common use in the 1830s as a pejorative used by house slaves against poor whites. In 1833 Fanny Kemble, an English actress visiting Georgia, noted in her journal: "The slaves themselves entertain the very highest contempt for white servants, whom they designate as 'poor white trash'".[4][5]In 1854, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote the chapter "Poor White Trash" in her book A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin. Stowe tells the reader that slavery not only produces "degraded, miserable slaves", but also poor whites who are even more degraded and miserable. The plantation system forced those whites to struggle for subsistence. Beyond economic factors, Stowe traces this class to the shortage of schools and churches in their community, and says that both blacks and whites in the area look down on these "poor white trash".[6]By 1855 the term had passed into common usage by upper class whites, and was common usage among all Southerners, regardless of race, throughout the rest of the 19th century.[7

socialist Bible verse of the day: Luke 6:20-26

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
25 Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

— Luke 6:20-26 (King James Version)

Brother Will's notes: I love Luke because he doesn't soften his message for rich folks. What the KJV translates as "woe unto you that are rich" is harsh language in the Greek. The Scholars Version is "Damn the rich."

What's "the kingdom of God"? Rich people say it's a wonderful place where good people go after they die, but they're denying a simple truth: the world is God's. (Psalm 24:1: "The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.")

And therefore, the world belongs to everyone.

For devout Christians there's a pun in "Son of man", and for sceptical readers, there's a possible misunderstanding: The term appears elsewhere meaning "child of humanity" or "person." So Jesus's "for the Son of man's sake" may also mean "for the people's sake."

Friday, April 29, 2011

the only female eagle hunter (berkutchi) in Kazakhstan




Kazakh woman takes on eagle hunting:
...despite Makpal's obvious talent for hunting with eagles, her father had to ask special permission from elders for his daughter to become berkutchi. The elders, first in doubt, then remembered a legend that once upon a time there was a famous woman berkutchi in the Kazakh steppe and granted Makpal a permission. Since then she participates in all the major eagle-hunting contests.
via The Town Scryer: Just Because I Like It

poverty link, especially for antiracists

Poverty Is a Persistent Reality for Many Rural Children in U.S. - Population Reference Bureau. Two bits for antiracists:

"Rural poor children are more likely than the urban poor to be white."

"...while many people move in and out of poverty as their circumstances change, spells of poverty last longer for rural children. They are the "forgotten fifth" of poor children because most programs and policies to help the poor are focused on urban areas."

socialist Bible note of the day: two comments from Bill Colsher

Bill Colsher sent two emails that I'm sharing with his permission. For folks less obsessed with the Bible or translation, I'll note that semitic refers to a family of languages in the Middle East. In Jesus's time, Hebrew had died out; it only survived as a scholarly language. People in the region spoke Aramaic: the semitic words in the New Testament are Aramaic, not Hebrew.

Bill's first email addresses the choice of Mammon in the King James Bible instead of an English equivalent like riches, which the Wycliffe and Geneva Bibles used:


Turns out that apart from proper nouns, there are 12 "for sure" Semitic words in the Greek NT and one of them is a "semiticised" Latin word. There are 5 more or less uncertain words, and of course the famous last words: "eli, eli...". [1]

Here they are, with citations and usage in KJV
’abba’ - father - Mark xiv. 36 - indirect speech, not translated.
beyth hesda’ - house of grace - John v. 2 - used as in the Greek, i.e. "called in Hebrew Bethesda".
gabb’tha’ - hill - John xix. 13 - used as in the Greek, i.e. "called in Hebrew Gabbatha".
gulgalta’ - skull - Matthew xxvii. 33 - used as in the Greek, i.e. "called Golgotha".
’eth ’phattah be opened! - Mark vii. 34 - indirect speech, not translated, passage then translates.
keypha’ - rock, cliff - John i. 42 - indirect speech, not translated, passage then translates.
l’ghyon - Latin Legio - Mark v. 9 - indirect speech, the demon naming himself, in Latin !?
mamona’ - money - Matthew vi. 24 - not translated.
m’shiha - anointed one - John i. 41 - indirect speech, not translated, passage then translates.
satana’ - opponent - Matthew iv. 10 - indirect speech, not translated.
sikhra’ - intoxicating drink - Luke i. 15 - translated. This is the "wine and strong drink" passage. Since distillation had not yet been discovered one wonders what is meant.
tabhy’tha - gazelle - Acts ix. 36 - Used as a name & translated.

The uncertains:

ῥαββουνί - Mark x. 51 - Translated as "lord", presumably with the assumption it's a corrupt form of "rabbi".
βοανεργές - Mark iii. 17 - A name, explained as "Sons of Thunder".
ῥακκά - - Matthew v. 22 - untranslated, presumably a curse.

The Very Uncertains:

Μαρανα θα - I Corinthians xvi. 22 - untranslated.
Ταλιθα κουμ - Mark v. 41 - indirect speech, not translated, passage then translates.
So... what do we have here? There are only 5 instances of Semitic words left untranslated in the KGV which do not also have an "in text" explanation:
’abba’
mamona’
satana’

ῥακκά
Μαρανα θα
The pattern here is simple and completely consistent: in each case, the translators have chosen to use the Semitic word "as written" (recall that the teams were explicitly instructed NOT to add explanations). This is exactly the same approach used with the words that are translated to Greek "in text". Unless there are specific notes left by the translators (and there might well be) there doesn't appear to be any agenda here. Each of those passages is well translated and accurately reflects the Greek.

The doubtful case of ῥαββουνί has an obvious explanation, but without knowing exactly which manuscript(s) they were using one can't draw any conclusions.

-bc

[1] Hebrew, Aramaic, and the Greek of the Gospels Author(s): W. Leonard Grant Source: Greece & Rome, Vol. 20, No. 60 (Oct., 1951), pp. 115-122


Bill's second note is about the Geneva Bible's translation of James 2:6, "But ye haue despised the poore. Doe not the riche oppresse you by tyrannie, and doe not they drawe you before the iudgement seates?":

As it happens, there's no mention of tyranny in the Greek text. What it says, more or less literally is:
You have been treating the poor with contempt. Do not the wealthy oppress you and do they not drag you into court (with lawsuits)?
As to tyranny... note that "tyranny" had a rather different meaning back in the day. It was just another form of government, and while any given tyrant might be resented or even assassinated (typically by the opposing "party's" thugs so they could set up their guy) "tyranny" per se was not viewed as completely evil as it tends to be today. In times of unrest, tyranny was generally seen as a good thing. The Romans even had an official way to appoint a tyrant, though they called him a dictator, for a limited period (at least until Julius Caesar got appointed "dict. perp.").

The Geneva Bible version exhibits two of the cardinal sins against good translation. It inserts a clause ("by tyrannie") that is unjustified by the original and it uses the phrase in a contemporary way, rather than they way the word would have been understood by the writer's audience. The KJV is the more accurate translation in this instance.

Now, being the close reading classicist wannabe that I am, I just noticed that this passage (in context) implies an at least 3 layer economic system with regards to getting into heaven:

The Poor - presumably those who literally do not know where their next meal is coming from and, according to the text, dress in rags. They've got it made in the shade as long as they have faith.

The People Being Addressed - who are holding the poor in contempt - apparently retail level merchants, craftsmen, brothel owners, etc. In any case, they have enough wealth to be worth dragging into court. If this was Rome, that gold ring would indicate senatorial rank. Better not be mean to poor people or you won't get in.

The Wealthy - Since they're dragging people into court, these guys are are citizens, possibly Roman, but at least of the local "polis". It's pretty clear that when James uses the words οἱ πλούσιοι he's talking about a specific subset of wealthy persons (the ones who can oppress the regular guys who have gold rings and colored clothing). Now, since this epistle was written in the late first to early second century, that is, within the first generation after the sack of Jerusalem, and James is writing to Jews, those specific wealthy persons are almost certainly Roman tax farmers and land speculators who've come in to try to make some quick profits. These guys are screwed unless they straighten up and fly right.

So the take-aways for James 2 are:

1) be nice to poor people or else
2) It's probably a bad idea to oppress your neighbors or sue them
3) If you violate even the smallest part of "the law" you're truly fucked
4) You must have faith and do good deeds, otherwise you're out

-bc


Brother Will says: Many thanks for the research! I love this stuff too much. But I have to disagree with two of your conclusions:

King James' agenda is in the instructions. By not putting explanations in the text and by not translating obscure words, the ability to interpret the Bible is kept in the hands of priests who have royal approval. Translators are always torn between the desire to be faithful to the text and faithful to the meaning. When Wycliffe made the Bible available to anyone who could understand English, he chose to favor meaning; the Geneva Bible followed his example.

Now, whether the Geneva scholars followed that example too far when they added "by tyranny" to James 2:6 is a trickier point. They wanted it to be clear that though the "judgement seats" were legit legally, they were not legit morally.

Today's "I could live here"

Pine Top Homestead

socialist Bible verse of the day: 1 Timothy 6:10

"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." — 1 Timothy 6:10 (King James Version)

Brother Will's commentary: Rich people love to stress that it's the love of money and not money that's the root of all evil. They're right technically:  Most translators say "love of money" is the root or a root of all evil. The Geneva Bible and a few others use "desire of money." Tyndale and Wycliffe chose something simpler: "covetessness." The clearest modern translation for the root of all evil is probably "greed."

But while it's true that greed, not money, is a root of all evil, the rich can't answer this: If they don't love money, why don't they share their wealth with the poor?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

why hard numbers for race and poverty matter more than percentages

Poverty in the US is racially disproportionate, but if you focus exclusively on that fact, you lay the grounds for two lies:

1. The racist lie: People of color are disproportionately poor because they're lazy or incapable.

2. The antiracist lie: Poverty is primarily a problem for people of color.

Poverty in the US cuts across race and gender. Antiracists think the solution is to make the class system racially proportionate. Socialists think the solution is to end the class system.

The last time I checked, the poverty percentages looked like this:
Poverty rates for Blacks: 24.7 percent
Hispanics: 21.9 percent
Non-Hispanic Whites: 8.6 percent
Asians: 9.8 percent
The hard numbers looked like this:
Asian persons in poverty: 992,856 (2.92% of the people in poverty)
Black or African American persons in poverty: 9,168,000 (25.17% of the people in poverty)
Hispanic or Latino persons in poverty: 9,368,000 (22.68% of the people in poverty)
non-Hispanic Whites persons in poverty: 16,227,000 (49.23% of the people in poverty)
The hard numbers of Americans in poverty continue to increase, but the racial percentages haven't changed in decades. Shortly before his death, Martin Luther King wrote:
In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.

The Cost of Being Poor

The Cost of Being Poor
Via: OnlineSociologyDegree.net

I spotted one problem with this: the final graphic suggests lower income families are mostly black. But the truth is half are white, a quarter are non-white Hispanic, and a quarter are black.

two videos via Tiny House Blog

YouTube - QTvan mobility scooter caravan: ""

YouTube - Lego-style apartment transforms into infinite spaces: ""

The first birthers attacked Andrew Jackson and Chester Arthur. Racist?

Birthers are nuts—they think conservative Democrats could only find one black guy in the USA to run for president, and unfortunately he was born abroad.

But that doesn't mean birthers are racist. From 6.1. The U. S. Constitution and the President:
There have been stories about a couple of presidents who were said to not have been born in the U.S. Some have claimed that Chester Arthur was born in Canada. Political ememies of Andrew Jackson claimed he was born on a ship on the way to America.
Word-nerd note of the day: xenophobia is not racism.

Possibly of interest: Black Birthers and the Problem of Bad Information - Uptown Notes

the argument for alternative voting

socialist Bible verse of the day: James 2:6

"But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who drag you into court?" —James 2:6 (Revised Standard Version)

The King James Version is reasonably clear:
But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
The Geneva Bible is blunter:
But ye haue despised the poore. Doe not the riche oppresse you by tyrannie, and doe not they drawe you before the iudgement seates?
Brother Will loves that "by tyrannie", but King James clearly didn't. To those who believed in the divine right of kings, tyranny was just another name for the game.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

socialist Bible note of the day: King James hated democracy

Translator's beliefs influence their work. I'd like to think that's self-evident, but fans of the King James Version blithely say it's unbiased because James chose respected scholars to create it.

But I could choose respected left-leaning scholars and produce a very different and still technically accurate Comrade Will's Version. James wanted a Bible that validated hierarchy, so he chose scholars who would deliver what he paid for.

A little background from Authorized King James Version - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Instructions were given to the translators that were intended to limit the Puritan influence on this new translation. The Bishop of London added a qualification that the translators would add no marginal notes (which had been an issue in the Geneva Bible).[9] King James cited two passages in the Geneva translation where he found the marginal notes offensive:[42] Exodus 1:17, where the Geneva Bible had commended the example of civil disobedience showed by the Hebrew midwives, and also II Chronicles 15:16, where the Geneva Bible had criticized King Asa for not having executed his idolatrous grandmother, Queen Maachah.[42] Further, the King gave the translators instructions designed to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology of the Church of England.[9] Certain Greek and Hebrew words were to be translated in a manner that reflected the traditional usage of the church.[9] For example, old ecclesiastical words such as the word "church" were to be retained and not to be translated as "congregation".[9] The new translation would reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and traditional beliefs about ordained clergy.[9]
Here's Luke 16:13 in the annoyingly democratic Geneva Bible: "No seruaunt can serue two masters: for either he shal hate the one, and loue the other: or els he shal leane to the one, and despise the other. Yee can not serue God and riches."

But James' faithful translators followed the example of the previous official Church of England Bible, the Bishops' Bible: "No man can serue two maisters: For either he shall hate the one, and loue the other: or els, he shall leane to the one, and despise the other. Ye can not serue God, and Mammon."

P.S. Don't miss Bill Colsher's excellent note about this verse.

interracial kissing in comics: Blackhawk and Chinese woman, 1943

socialist Bible verse of the day: Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13

Brother Will says: Because I love metaphor, here's the King James Version:
No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. —Luke 16:13

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. —Matthew 6:24
The KJV's choice of "mammon" instead of an English equivalent was almost certainly an attempt to obscure a message that's profoundly at odds with feudalism and capitalism. No one ever worshipped a god named Mammon or Mamon or Mamona. It's simply an Aramaic word for "wealth" used poetically. John Wycliffe, whose wording of the Bible was often kept by James' lackeys, had abandoned metaphor for clarity: "Ye be not able to serve God and riches." Other translators have gone with "wealth" or "money." I like the Weymouth version a lot: "You cannot be bondservants both of God and of gold." If I was doing a version, I'd be torn between the metaphorical ("You can't serve God and Wall Street") or, for the socialists in the crowd, something more literal: "You can't serve God and Capital."

Existential Star Wars

YouTube - Existential Star Wars (In French): ""

via The Town Scryer: Existential Star Wars

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

socialist Bible verse of the day: Exodus 16:16-18

Brother Will says: To understand the following bit of Biblical communism, it helps to know that an omer is an ancient Israelite unit of measure. Wikipedia breaks it down here, but what matters isn't the amount. It's the principle.

Moses tells the people to gather the manna from heaven:
This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer[a] for each person you have in your tent.’” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. —Exodus 16:16-18
It doesn't matter how much anyone gathers. Everyone gets an omer, and that's plenty.

Monday, April 25, 2011

my standing desk

I got an Ikea desk in the '90s that I've modified over the years: It's been painted a couple of times, and I used a sabre saw to cut out two of the shelves. Recently, wanting a standing desk, I rearranged the shelves and added 8" plastic bed risers from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It's perfect now for standing. The mat is a $10 kitchen mat from Target. I don't always wear the shoes when I work, though I probably should: if you stand a lot, good shoes help prevent problems like swollen feet.



Because it's nice to go between standing and sitting, I bought a stool on clearance at Target.



You might think the stool would be too high for a cat to get into your lap, but Barnabas would prove you wrong.

Paranoia article of the day: Sitting All Day Is Worse For You Than You Might Think : NPR

Update: experimenting with a standing desk

socialist Bible verse of the day: Leviticus 25:35-37

If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit. —Leviticus 25:35-37
Brother Will says: The subject is "your fellow Israelites", but for the sake of hasty readers, I'll note that this is universal advice. Fellow, foreigner, stranger— It doesn't matter. Help everyone, help them equally, and don't make a profit.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

the janitor and the millionaire

socialist Bible verse of the day: Acts 2:44-45

Acts 2:44-45: And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
Brother Will's comment: That's Luke describing the first Christians. The last clause may have inspired Louis Blanc's "à chacun selon ses besoins, de chacun selon ses facultés," which Karl Marx repeated and made famous: "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

cool cat, maybe from Russia



This pic and the previous one are from here. Alas, no pics there are credited.

toy soldiers



via The Town Scryer: Toy Soldiers

socialist Bible verse of the day: Mark 10:21-27, Matthew 19:21-26, Luke 18:22-27

In the books of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Jesus gives advice to a man who is admirable in every way but one: he's rich. Jesus tells him:
Mark 10:21 One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Matthew 19:21 If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

Luke 18:22 Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
The rich man goes away sad because he can't give up his possessions. Jesus then stresses his point:
Mark 10:24-25: Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:23-24: Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Luke 18:24-25: How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Rich people try to rationalize that in several ways. Some say "the eye of a needle" was a narrow gate that a laden camel could barely squeeze through. Others say "camel" is a mistranslation of the Aramaic word for rope. But we know the names of Jerusalem's gates, right down to shit gate. There was no gate called The Eye of the Needle. And even if Jesus had meant a rope instead of a camel, a rope still won't go through the eye of a needle. The meaning of his metaphor is simple and clear: it's impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

That idea was extremely clear to Jesus's followers. Apparently forgetting for a moment that they had all already done exactly what Jesus advised, at least one asked how, if that was so, anyone could be saved. Jesus answered:
Mark 27: With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

Matthew 26: With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

Luke 27: The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
Rich people rationalize that by saying God will make a special exception for them. But the meaning is much simpler: Some rich people will eventually realize that in God's kingdom, everyone shares. Whether the rich young man who walked away sadly ever took Jesus's advice to give up his wealth, we don't know. But Jesus offered this hope to all communists: with God, all things are possible.

Friday, April 22, 2011

it's a crime for poor people to use rich people's schools

Homeless woman prosecuted for enrolling son in Conn. school - Yahoo! News

socialist Bible verse of the day: Acts 4:32-5:11

Brother Will's intro: Jesus's first followers were communists, as the first part of this shows. The second part, the story of Ananias and Sapphira, isn't mentioned very often. I used to think it was one of the Bible's problem stories, like the story of Jephthah's daughter, because God seems to be flashing back to his harsher ways in the earliest books of the Bible. Now I think it just shows how much God hates hypocrites who don't share.


4
 32And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
 33And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
 34Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
 35And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
 36And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,
 37Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

5
 1But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
 2And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
 3But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
 4Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
 5And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
 6And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
 7And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
 8And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
 9Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
 10Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
 11And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

rice cooker meal: lentils and rice

Tonight's experiment was putting a half cup white rice in the rice cooker, pouring in one can lentil soup (I like Progresso's), and stirring it before starting the cooker. Didn't add any extra water. About fifteen minutes later, the light went out: dinner for two!

Next time, I think I'll add some broccoli and carrots, or maybe some spinach, a dash of garlic powder, and some pepper and cayenne.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

when hipsters were hip

YouTube - Opus 12EEE - Harry "The Hipster" Gibson: ""

YouTube - Slim GAILLARD & His Trio " Dunkin' Bagel " !!!: ""

YouTube - Slim Gaillard & The Stargazers - Selling Out: ""

socialist Bible verse of the day: Ezekiel 16:49

Ezekiel 16:49 (New International Version): Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.

Comrade Will's homily: That's God speaking, so it's about as authoritative as the Bible gets. What are Sodom's first and most important sins? Being rich and not sharing. In the next verse, there's more: "They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen." "Haughty" suggests Sodom's primary sins came from arrogance: its people thought they deserved to be rich while others were poor. As for the "detestable things" that are mentioned, see Genesis 19, where you'll find the only specific example: the mob tries to rape the newcomers. It's a powerful image showing how the rich try to take anything they want.

the Norse were tribal, not racist

Regarding The misguided "Thor" race controversy, both racists and antiracists are starting from a false assumption. We have no evidence that the Norse were racist, and we have strong evidence that they were tribal: their pantheon of gods come from two groups, the Vanir and the Aesir, which probably represent a merging of religious traditions, much as the El and Yahu stories represent a merging of Canaanite tribes from the north and the south who were the beginnings of the Jewish people.

Which means that a thousand years ago, if a black guy spoke Norse and wore Norse clothing and knew Norse customs like a Norseman, he was a Norseman, and anyone who heard him speak would've agreed, though they might've asked him when he or his family came to Norway.

Also, Idris Elba is awesome. If you think he can't play Heimdall as well as anyone else, please stop embarrassing yourself on the internet.

Plurality of Americans believe capitalism at odds with Christian values

Public Religion Research - Research: "Overall more Americans believe that Christian values are at odds with capitalism and the free market than believe they are compatible. This pattern also holds among Christians. Among Christians in the U.S., only 38% believe capitalism and the free market are consistent with Christian values while 46% believe the two are at odds. There are significant differences by gender, party and income."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

socialist Bible verse of the day: Isaiah 10:1-3


Isaiah 10:1-3 (New International Version):

 1 Woe to those who make unjust laws,
   to those who issue oppressive decrees,
2 to deprive the poor of their rights
   and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
   and robbing the fatherless.
3 What will you do on the day of reckoning,
   when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
   Where will you leave your riches?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

funny advice for artists

Today's Sinfest cartoon.

bonus quote of the day!

From Property: Benjamin Franklin to Robert Morris:
The Remissness of our People in Paying Taxes is highly blameable; the Unwillingness to pay them is still more so. I see, in some Resolutions of Town Meetings, a Remonstrance against giving Congress a Power to take, as they call it, the People's Money out of their Pockets, tho' only to pay the Interest and Principal of Debts duly contracted. They seem to mistake the Point. Money, justly due from the People, is their Creditors' Money, and no longer the Money of the People, who, if they withold it, should be compell'd to pay by some Law.

All Property, indeed, except the Savage's temporary Cabin, his Bow, his Matchcoat, and other little Acquisitions, absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the Creature of public Convention. Hence the Public has the Right of Regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the Quantity and the Uses of it. All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it.
via The Crow's Eye: QED

quote of the day (though it should be for Tax Day)

"It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion." -Adam Smith "The Wealth of Nations" 1776

via Dave Worley

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

how identity politics work

First Black Presidency Has Driven Many African Americans Insane | Black Agenda Report:
The insanity is documented in the Pew Research Center’s recent report, “How the Great Recession Has Changed Life in America,” which shows that Black America, the group that has been the most damaged, by far, in the Great Recession, is also the most enthusiastic about the state of the economy. Twenty-five percent of Blacks tell pollsters that the economy is doing good or excellent; that’s almost twice as high as the number of whites that think so – even though Black unemployment is about twice that of whites. Eighty-one percent of Blacks say America is still a land of prosperity, while only 59 percent of whites think that way, even though Blacks make only 61 cents for every white dollar earned, the same as 30 years ago.
The tl;dnr: Those who think race is more important than class will rationalize what "one of their own" does to them.

Note: that's from 2010. People of all hues are a bit saner now.

(Link thanks to JM, who gave it in a comment on the war between Obamabots and Obamabashbots*.)

my favorite Sherlock Holmes story (so far)

I've been reading Sherlock Holmes stories to Emma while she knits—yes, we can be astonishingly domestic—and most of them I find entertaining for the Holmes-Watson dialogue, but the plots tend to be obvious or ludicrous or both. But "The Yellow Face" is different. I don't want to spoil it by saying why, though there's one thing I'll mention that should be obvious to any discerning reader: when Holmes shares his theory before he has a chance to prove it, you know his theory is wrong.

And while it's great to have a story where Holmes is wrong, Holmes being wrong is not why this story is great.

If you google it, you might get spoiled, so here's a link to Project Guttenberg's online copy: Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Adventure II. The Yellow Face.

it's Commies Beat Capitalists Into Space Day!

YouTube - yuri gagarin flight video:


A commenter at Youtube notes that the USSR had the "First successful human flight to space, first successful satellite put into space, first ever spacewalk, first ever woman astronaut, and first ever space station."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

material for a great movie or novel

Rany on the Royals: Abd el-Kader and the Massacre of Damascus.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on speech codes

from Presidential Lectures: Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: Commentary: J. Slaughter:
People do bad things, things they know that are bad, for what they feel at the moment were good reasons. One is to institute speech codes. Trample all over the First Amendment, the right of free speech, because we decide that using certain language hurts our fellow human beings--it demeans their humanity. While that might seem like a good idea, the long-term consequences on the right to free expression are far greater than whatever immediate hurt or pain a woman would feel for being called a bitch or a black would feel for being called a nigger. If we're talking about actual physical harm, laws against that exist already. It's not worth it to me to assuage the pain by killing off the First Amendment.
Speech codes are symbolic acts. They let a group of people say, 'This symbolizes that we at the University of Wisconsin are not the sort of community where we would tolerate someone saying the word 'rigger.'' Well, big deal. But there are other symbolic consequences, like what's the effect on freedom of inquiry. I think we're all bigger and more secure than that. I think we have to allow people to say even unpopular things and nasty things in order to protect the right of us to attack our government and say whatever's on our minds.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

con appearances: World Fantasy Con 2011

If the universe is kind, Emma and I will be there.

othering otherers, or the tragedy of identity

The title of this post is a note to myself for an essay I may never write about the ways people who practice identity politics end up "othering" the people they accuse of othering. In the meantime, have some links and hasty thoughts:

I highly recommend The Interstitial Arts Foundation: Projects: Interfictions Zero: Oscar Wao, Murdering Machismo, but for all that I like it, there's something a bit smug in its conclusion that it's best to be a liberal academic American.*

I have a lot of doubts about Strange Horizons Columns: Race, Again, Still, by Nisi Shawl. She's a fine person working on a novel that I really want to read, but when she asks if she's too sensitive to the presence of racism, the answer, based on her examples, is yes. At conventions, people dressed at all unusually are often assumed to be in costume, and are often misidentified. I forget what I was wearing when someone mistakenly asked if I was supposed to be Indiana Jones. Should I charge that person with racism because I was not asked if I was supposed to be Shaft? Young people are ignorant, and they're especially ignorant about old pop culture. As Geetika Tandon Lizardi said recently, "Ignorance of a foreign culture isn't racist; it's just ignorance."

The Evolution of Prejudice: Scientific American is worth a look, though I think the researchers are straining to conclude something obvious: critters besides humans develop ways to tell "us" from "not us." The question I'd like someone to explore is why humans develop so very many ways to define "not us", why, for example, dark skin was irrelevant to the Romans, but pertinent to Arab slavers a thousand years later.

How Slavery Really Ended in America - NYTimes.com is well worth reading if you don't know about Beast Butler and the problem of contrabands.

* ETA: I like a lot about liberal academics. But I may've gotten overly sensitive to the smugness of the folks in the ivory towers.

Manning Marable died, but his book lives

Manning Marable has suffered the writer's saddest fate: he died just before the publication of his new book, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.

Insert joke about how some writers will do anything to publicize their work.

I never met him, but I exchanged email with him: email from Manning Marable about Malcolm X.

Since he's dead, I feel no guilt about getting his book from the library. It's been reserved.