Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Why talking politics is useless and necessary, so I'll do less but won't stop

Mark Twain wrote one of my favorite explanations of people's beliefs, "Corn-pone Opinions". It probably influenced my realization that few people are swayed by reason—most of us only change our beliefs when our circumstances change and our old beliefs no longer comfort us. I say this from experience as well as observation. I didn't become a socialist until I fell into hard times, and, forced to look harder at the world around me, saw that the best form of capitalism is no different than the best form of feudalism: the poor still pay for the privileges of the rich.

So I don't expect to change anyone's mind when I talk about politics. What I hope to do is what social workers, cultists, and pimps do when they go to bus stations and look for runaways: I want to offer my solution to someone who desperately needs one. When capitalism is failing people, I want to help them find democratic socialism instead of fascism, cultism, or identitarianism.

Politics are becoming less civil every day as the contradictions of capitalism increase. It's wearing me down, so I'll try to engage less online. But I'll always remember there are people who need to know there are better ways to shape the world than many people insist, so I'll keep offering a vision of a world community that shares its wealth with everyone.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Why Russiagate looks like nothing but an attempt to deflect criticism of the DNC

For the first forty-five years of my life, I treated polls the way most people do: I cited them when they supported me and ignored them when they didn't. That changed in 2000 when the polls said Gore won in Florida and should've been President. I realized two things:

1. Almost no one lies to pollsters. Voters believe they're making the right choices and don't hesitate to say so.

2. The people who pay for polls want accurate data. If they weren't getting it, they'd stop paying pollsters.

The first problem with the Russiagate narrative is the polls and the election results were consistent. Anyone who was paying attention to sites like RealClearPolitics knew Hillary Clinton could beat Trump in the popular vote by about 2%, while Sanders could beat him more decisively.

The second problem is the polls said the main concerns of the voters were economic. Russiagate is all about whether leaking memos that exposed Podesta's and Wasserman Schultz's attempts to boost Trump and sabotage Sanders had a significant effect on the election.

There are reasons beyond the polls to question the Russiagate narrative. Ask "Who profits?", and the answer is the DNC. Focusing on Russia keeps people from asking why the DNC worked so hard to run a historically unpopular candidate.

As usual, the Democrats continue to support the actual institution that has shafted them repeatedly, the Electoral College. Nor do they offer any significant opposition to Republican efforts to make it harder for poor people to vote, perhaps because the Democratic establishment continues to put its emphasis on wealthy donors.

Yes, the Russians probably tried to influence the election. But the evidence that they succeeded is elusive. Occam's Razor says Trump is President because the DNC failed to realize that almost any other candidate, including an old Jewish socialist no one had heard of, would do better against him.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

My reasoning for "Awkward US Independence Day facts for Americans"

This morning, still a bit sleepy, I tweeted (and Facebooked):
Awkward US Independence Day facts for Americans

If we had not rebelled:

1. Slavery would've ended decades earlier without a war.

2. The average citizen's life would've been effectively the same.

3. Our median wealth would be much higher.

4. Everyone would have health care.
Cathy Young, whose writing on identity issues I admire, retweeted it. Now her most jingoistic followers are throwing hissy fits over two things:

1. I offered speculations and therefore should not have said "facts".

2. They believe that without the United States of America, the planet would be a hellhole in which the Confederacy would have seceded and perpetuated slavery. Depending on the person's beliefs, the hellhole would be controlled by the Germans or the French because the US would not have been around to save the world. Surprisingly, no one has suggested the Catholic Church as a world-controller yet, but I'm still expecting that one.

If I'd been more awake when I made the post, I probably wouldn't have said "facts", but I was thinking of these facts that support my scenario:

1. Britain abolished slavery in 1833; by 1843, slavery had ended throughout the Empire.

2. The average Canadian and American have always enjoyed comparable freedom and prosperity.

3. "In 2011, Canada had a median household wealth of $89,014 to $52,752 for the United States."

4. Canada has provided every citizen with health care for decades, and their approach is very popular with Canadians.

Here's why I think my conclusions are likely, though I grant that other scenarios are possible when playing the alternate history game:

1. The Enlightenment began very early in the 1700s. Had the American Revolution failed, there's no reason to assume that would be the end of those ideals. The USSR's collapse did not kill the dream of socialism. The pressures that burst out in revolution in other countries would not be changed—the only question there is whether a French monarchy that had not been weakened by the cost of supporting the American Revolution would be more likely to suppress a revolution at home.

2. When Britain was deciding the issue of slavery in the altered timeline, American colonies would add to both sides of the debate. There's no reason to assume the South would be more successful in that timeline than in ours.

3. If the South seceded in response to abolition, they would be even more likely to fail because they would not only face the armies of the northern colonies—they'd certainly face Canadian troops, and they might face additional forces sent by Britain.

4. But it is less likely that the South would secede, because in that timeline, they would not have any hope of being recognized as an independent nation by Britain or France.

5. Since Canada gained independence in 1867 in our history, it's likely Canada and the American colonies would have become part of the Commonwealth around then.

6. American troops would have entered World War 1 in 1914 when Canada did. With an earlier entry by more troops, World War 1 would have been shortened. Whether the Russian Revolution would have happened anyway in 1917, I leave to other historians. An earlier victory would probably end with fairer terms than the Treaty of Versailles, which strongly suggests Hitler would've never risen to power in that timeline, and so there would've been no Holocaust.

7. If you assume Hitler or another German leader went to war in the 1940s, American troops would have entered World War 2 in 1939 when Canada did. Whether that earlier entry would significantly change history depends on your other assumptions—if Russia's history stays much like it is in our world, the USSR would still deserve most of the credit for defeating Germany.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Why left-identitarians hate Martin Luther King

Just had an identitarian block me on Facebook after she insisted white men should not quote King. And I realized this, which I shared there and on Twitter:
I am often surprised by how much identitarians hate Martin Luther King. But then I remember that he opposed economic as well as social privilege, while they tend to oppose the second and hope to enjoy the first.
In a discussion about it on Twitter,  I clarified:
I get identitarian hate when I quote the King of '67. They really don't like that guy.
And after a mention of "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", I said:
It's good, but "Beyond Vietnam" is better. So is this very short piece, which begins with a rejection of identitarian logic: "Where Are We Going?"

What Harlan Ellison's haters won't tell you #2: A tiny bit about Ed Kramer

Ellison's haters accuse him of, to use one hater's phrase, "being supportive of child rape" because, like many writers, he had been friendly with Ed Kramer, a founder of Dragon Con who was exposed as a child molester. Among the insane stories told is that Ellison mortgaged his house to help pay for Kramer's defense. The truth is that Ellison did what good people do when their friends have been accused and guilt has not been established: he gave him some support:

"My assistance to Ed, on the basis of a long acquaintanceship, and in gratitude for many kindnesses shown by him, was to halp him obtain a good lawyer. Otherwise, I have had no contact with Ed Kramer, his defense, or this matter in a substantial number of years." —Harlan Ellison

Saying that makes him "supportive of child rape" is like saying people who oppose the death penalty are supportive of crimes that traditionally get the death penalty.

That these stories go around is both appalling and not surprising. F&SF fans, by definition, love a wild story even more than most people do.

What Harlan Ellison's haters won't tell you about the Connie Willis groping incident

Sunday, July 1, 2018

What Harlan Ellison's haters won't tell you about the Connie Willis groping incident

There are awful people in fandom who're taking full advantage of Harlan Ellison's death. The most obvious are going to the pages of his grieving friends and posting their take on why Ellison was a monster. The subtler ones are writing about him and saying without explanation that he groped Connie Willis.

On Facebook, Sheila Finch shared a fair account of their history:
I was at the 2005 Nebula Awards in Tempe, AZ, when Harlan was made a Grand Master. Connie Willis was (I think) Toastmaster. At some point, she made a speech about him -- and called him up to sit at her feet while she roasted him. It went over the edge, and many people felt quite uncomfortable (as did I) At the Awards ceremony itself, Harlan came up to the stage and returned the "friendly" insults. He got the better of her, I think, but both were out of line.Nobody seems to remember how this one started when they talk about Harlan's bad behaviour. I have a feeling that this back-and-forth had become something of an in-joke between them -- there's at least one clip on You Tube showing juvenile behaviour at a World Con.But it was inappropriate when celebrating Harlan's well-deserved GM.
I added this about what happened a year later, in 2006, at WorldCon:
The groping incident will probably be mischaracterized forever. They were doing a skit in which Harlan was supposed to be a baby. He tried to improv something to be funny that was a total failure. What Willis made of it, no one knows because she has not said. You would think people would honor her silence, but that’s not what humans do.

So far as I know, in a long and public life, that was the only thing he did that could be called groping. It’s odd that it’s so talked about when there are grandmasters who were infamous for groping.
To people who live in black and white worlds, context doesn't matter. Ellison was not a writer for them.

ETA: Despite her silence, I have no doubt that Willis thought Ellison had gone too far. He thought so too. That's why he apologized.

Related: A few words about Harlan Ellison

ETA 2: One of his haters insists that he denied groping her. That's based on an attempt Ellison made to clarify what happened. He said "there was the slightest touch. A shtick, a gag between friends, absolutely NO sexual content."

The video exists. You may decide for yourself whether, in going too far, he went as far as his haters insist:



Related: What Harlan Ellison's haters won't tell you #2: A tiny bit about Ed Kramer