Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Actresses put their tongues in my mouth, a memory inspired by the charge against Al Franken

I was an actor in New York City for a year or so. I was awful, but I was young and, though I didn't really believe it at the time, fairly handsome, so I got a few jobs: a supporting role in an off-off-Broadway play, a bit part in a dreadful horror movie, and a few modeling gigs for romance magazines.

The first time I was directed to kiss an actress--I am deliberately using the more sexist form of the word to stress that I'm speaking of a female actor--I wasn't quite sure what we would do. Obviously, we were actors, so we would act out kissing. But what did that mean? I assumed it would be a mime show in which our mouths made contact but nothing happened between our lips, much like what very young children do when they pretend they are kissing romantically.

The actress's tongue gave me a different answer.

I don't remember if every actress who kissed me used her tongue, because it didn't seem like a big deal after the first time. It was a pleasant part of the job. I know more than one did. I was shy and insecure and strongly believed men should not force themselves upon women, so I never went further than putting my lips to an actress's. What happened next was always up to her.

Now, it may be that these actresses assumed they would use their tongues because the part called for passion, or maybe they thought I was cute and decided to add a bit more realism than they might provide for every actor they kissed. I will not claim that there was an expectation that romantic kisses would involve tongues. I will only say I stopped being surprised when actresses used theirs.

I don't know if Franken's accuser is accurately telling what happened. Maybe he was an opportunistic lech. I can say fairly objectively that I was handsomer than he, and my shy friendliness probably made me seem about as safe to kiss as any male actor could be. An actress who used her tongue with me might very well have chosen not to use her tongue with him.

But I do not doubt there were actresses who initiated tongue contact with him. He was funny and influential, and no one who didn't already dislike him would call him repulsive. That he remembers the kiss with his accuser differently than she does would not surprise me, even if he initiated the use of the tongue.

I'm not fond of the "times were different then" excuse for bad behavior because men forcing themselves on women has been considered bad behavior for thousands of years. But I'm now curious about whether the kisses I got were the exception or the rule for actors in the 1970s, and what's expected in a staged kiss today.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Two reasons critics of "social justice warriors" should not refer to "cultural Marxism"

1. To people who have studied the origins of the identitarian left, you'll sound ignorant.

2. To people who have studied the origins of "cultural Marxism", you'll sound like a Nazi.

Most left-identitarians are liberals, not socialists, because identitarianism does not fit in Marx's universalist framework. The primary founders of left identitarianism, Derrick Bell of Critical Race Theory fame and Kimberle Crenshaw, coiner of "intersectionality", have no links to Marxism or socialism. They were products of the Ivy League who never criticized the class system that benefited them. Their concerns were limited to racism and sexism. Unlike socialists like King and Malcolm X, Bell and Crenshaw wanted to tweak capitalism, not overthrow it.

"Cultural Marxism" is a translation of the Nazi term, Kulturbolschewismus, which literally means "cultural Bolshevism". After the fall of the USSR, fascists began speaking of "cultural Marxism" because the Bolsheviks no longer existed and "Marxism" was shorter to say and write.

So, if you're a Nazi, keep speaking of "cultural Marxism". Your fellow Nazis will recognize you.

But if you're not a Nazi, look more critically at the people who taught you the phrase. They may be right about the problems with left-identitarians and wrong about everything else.


The Man Who Changed Middle-Class Feminism, or Derrick Bell and Critical Race Theory, Where Racism and Anti-Racism Intersect

On black racism, and Adolph Reed Jr.'s comment about Derrick Bell, father of Critical Race Theory

The Socialism of Fools, Part 1: Antisemitism and Malcolm X, Derrick Bell, and Louis Farrakhan

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Three reasons "white supremacy" does not explain Trump's appeal

1. Approximately eight million Obama voters voted for Trump. Did they suddenly become racist?

2. 13 percent of African American men voted for Donald Trump. Did they suddenly become self-hating?

3. Noted at You Are Still Crying Wolf | Slate Star Codex:
Trump made gains among blacks. He made gains among Latinos. He made gains among Asians. The only major racial group where he didn’t get a gain of greater than 5% was white people. I want to repeat that: the group where Trump’s message resonated least over what we would predict from a generic Republican was the white population.
Did the idea of white supremacy suddenly appeal to those black Trump voters?

If the answers to those questions are no, what else explains his appeal?

For some black working-class men, like Melendez, Trump’s economic rhetoric resonated more than his racial rhetoric. In short, like their white working-class counterparts, they saw in Trump the man who would bring back their jobs and their dignity.
Just 29 percent of white, no-college Obama-Trump voters approved of Mr. Obama’s performance, and 69 percent disapproved. Similarly, 75 percent said they would repeal the Affordable Care Act. Only 15 percent believed the economy had improved over the last year, and just 23 percent said their income had increased over the last four years.
Bill Clinton's political advice always applies in capitalist countries: "It's the economy, stupid."

ETA: It’s time to bust the myth: Most Trump voters were not working class. - The Washington Post:
...when we looked at the NBC polling data, we noticed something the pundits left out: during the primaries, about 70 percent of all Republicans didn’t have college degrees, close to the national average (71 percent according to the 2013 Census). Far from being a magnet for the less educated, Trump seemed to have about as many people without college degrees in his camp as we would expect any successful Republican candidate to have.
ETA: How Despair Helped Drive Trump to Victory:
Economic, social and health decline in the industrial Midwest may have been a major factor in the 2016 US presidential election, Monnat and Brown’s INET research finds, with people living in distressed areas swinging behind Trump in greater numbers. Trump performed well within these landscapes of despair – places that have borne the brunt of declines in manufacturing, mining, and related industries since the 1970s and are now struggling with opioids, disability, poor health, and family problems.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

If people should earn their money, why do we let the rich give their children money?

This question is especially nagging at me today because it's official: The Richest 1% Now Own More Than 50% of the World’s Wealth | Fortune.

On Facebook, when I asked a similar question, someone said it's not about the children; it's about the right of people to do what they please with their money.

But that doesn't answer the question. Either we all deserve to inherit or none of us do. The wishes of the people who own the wealth are no more relevant than the wishes of the people who owned slaves.

The palmed card in the "right of the owners of wealth" argument is most of us are trapped in the economic circumstances we're born into. Remember the chart I shared in my previous post:
So if you make that argument, why did the people who have the wealth deserve to be given money?

I'm with Jesus and the Jewish prophets: the poor should inherit the earth.
...the poor will inherit the earth,
will delight in great prosperity.
—Psalm 37:11 (New American Bible, Revised Edition)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

This chart shows the flaw in John Scalzi's "lowest difficulty setting" in the US's game of life

Scalzi said something identitarians still cite, that in the game of life, "straight white male" is the "lowest difficulty setting". That's something you can only believe if you ignore class. Serious capitalists have to know the facts, which is why This chart shows that your parents’ income determines your future - MarketWatch is from a business site:

The apparent privilege of women is they are more likely to "marry up" while men "marry down".

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Why I'm an agnostic

In second grade, I understood why God approved of Samson burning the fields of the Philistines, but I couldn't understand why he approved of Samson doing that by setting fire to the tails of foxes. That was just mean.

Florida's schools were segregated in the early '60s, and Bible-reading was mandatory at the start of the day. I spoke up against both—think of me as the chibi version of the Klansman's favorite opponent, a godless commie niggerlover. By the end of the decade, the movements for civil rights and the First Amendment had been won in public schools: the Bible was out, black people were in. As I came into my teens, my side of my generation was famously focusing on sex, drugs, and rock and roll. People like lists of three, so the fourth usually gets left out: we were also trying alternatives to conventional Christianity and Judaism. I studied Theravada Buddhism and tried meditation and was fascinated by gnosticism and desperately wanted to know the answer to the great question, what's it all about?

Sometime in my teens, I learned about agnosticism. While I knew then that both theists and atheists included people who had doubts, agnosticism seemed the best description of what I was: I didn't know the truth, I was open to learning more, and since religion was no longer imposed by the government and public schools, I was concerned with other struggles.

I began seeing something that atheists mention while missing its full implication: if religious beliefs have little to do with whether we're good or bad, that applies to theists too. Their belief does not make them behave badly; their mistaken beliefs about goodness do. If that was not so, there would be no good people in any major religion, yet there are good people in all of them.

Lately, I've been thinking about something else: Only 3% of the US identifies as atheists and 4% identifies as agnostics. No one will make a better world without the help of the other 93%.

And I've been wondering about this: Why is the economic class I oppose the class that is most receptive to atheism?

It comes to this:

1. I don't feel obliged to take a side on something that can't be known.

2. I don't feel obliged to convert people to what I believe. If your understanding of the universe pleases you and you don't force it on others, I'm happy you found something that comforts you.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Occam's Razor vs. the Believer's Hammer

Perhaps because there isn't a single definition of Occam's Razor—a term Occam never used for an idea that may be older than Aristotle—the term gets misused. The principle doesn't imply that the simplest solution is right. It says the simplest solution should be chosen first and tested, and if it proves to be wrong, choose the next simplest and test that. The Razor lets you sort through ideas quickly until you find the one that's right—or that's too complicated for you to see why it's wrong. Either way, the Razor is the fastest way to eliminate false possibilities.

Several principles have been proposed for the opposite of Occam's Razor, but they don't describe what I'm interested in, so here's mine:

The Believer's Hammer takes a simple solution and smashes anything that doesn't fit.

The easiest example comes from religion: Literalist Christians add up the Bible's years between Jesus and Adam and conclude God made the universe about six thousand years ago. Dinosaurs and carbon dating don't support their timeline, so the Hammer comes down: Dinosaurs died in Noah's flood, or God put dinosaur fossils in the Earth to fool nonbelievers, and carbon dating is a lie.

Secular beliefs rely on the Hammer too. Racists, sexists, and flat-earthers hammer away objections to their beliefs about race and sex and the shape of the earth. The Hammer simultaneously prevents testing of a belief while making its users think they're being critical as they swing their favorite tool.

We all start as hammer users; the luckiest of us learn to shave. My favorite examples are W.E.B. DuBois and Malcolm X, two men who looked at racism in America and saw skin privilege, then took up the Razor and saw capitalism underlying it. Had they been content with the Hammer, they never would've said things like these:

"...back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen; that to maintain this privilege men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous..." —W.E.B. DuBois, preface to The Souls of Black Folk, Jubilee Edition (1953, 50th Anniversary)

"I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think that it will be based upon the color of the skin." —Malcolm X

P.S. Another opposite principle for Occam's Razor: Procrustes' Bed. If it doesn't fit, rack it or hack it until it does.