Sunday, October 31, 2010

Is it Old Grudges Day on the web?

Okay, it's always Old Grudges Day on the web. But I was amused that right after I posted about Malcolm X and Katrina*, John Caruso did something similar (but snarkier!) about 2000 and Nader: A Tiny Revolution: Democratic Blame Calculus.

I'm looking forward to Aaron Burr's "That Hamilton, what a wanker" post.

* I don't know if it's of interest to readers of my main blog, but I made a special post on my LiveJournal that mostly consists of info I've covered before: Why fight? I'm right. (a SIWOTI post on Malcolm X and Katrina). I got flak from race reductionists (folks who prefer to talk about race instead of class when discussing the nature of privilege) for my comments when Ta-Nehisi Coates compared Malcolm X to Barack Obama, so I addressed them in a short post that I may keep updated for future reference.

Happy Halloween! Free netbook and Victorian men's western/steampunk wear!

via Golden Age Comic Book Stories, a classic horror comic cover I like for its design, lines, and narrative sense:

I'm giving away a netbook and external DVD drive, and a westerner's late 1800s vest and trousers. They're free. I'll even pay shipping if the winners are in the US.

The deal: if you want 'em, send email to shetterly at and I'll draw a winner. You can request all of them or just mention what you would like (I'm inclined to consider the DVD drive a package with the netbook, but I'll see what people ask for.) Deadline is Tuesday noon, AZ time. I'll ask the winner(s) for a shipping address then.

However, there's a catch, 'cause I'm a commie: if you're hurting for money or you can give them to someone who couldn't possibly afford them, say so, and I'll pick winners from the folks who couldn't get these sorts of things otherwise. Your request will be private, so if you mention you're having hard times, I'll be the only one who'll know.

(ETA: You don't have to spell out your hardship, unless you want to. If you say times are tough now, that's good enough for me.)

I'm wearing the Classic Old West Styles vest (almost certainly size medium) and WahMaker trousers (32" waist x 30" inseam) here:

I don't have a color picture handy of the vest; it's either undyed or beige. Here are the trousers:

The netbook is a black Gateway LT2005u, which comes with a black Asus external DVD drive. I installed Ubuntu 10.04 LTS and didn't bother to save a copy of Windows XP, but it is licensed for XP and I hear people run Windows 7 on it. I've been very happy with it, though I see a reviewer on Amazon is having trouble with the hinges on his.

Update: I already have a "hard times" entry for the netbook, so if you're doing okay, please don't ask for that. The vest and trousers are still available for anyone.

remember, when reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X...

from The missing Malcolm:
Malcolm did not have access to the final manuscript. He didn’t see it. And it was published nine months after Malcolm’s death. Betty Shabazz was in no shape to check and recheck facts. So all that says to me is you have to read the autobiography very, very carefully, very suspiciously. It’s a wonderful book. It is a great work of literature. But it is a work of literature. It is not an autobiography. It’s a memoir. And it’s gone through the prism of Haley who was a Republican, integrationist, and a defender of U.S. power.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Malcolm X on women

I've been checking out the evolution of Malcolm X's opinion of women after seeing Ta-Nehisi Coates quote some of his earlier thoughts. The latest I've found so far is this, from late in 1964, after he left NOI:

"I'm saying this: That it's noticeable that in these type of societies where they put the woman in a closet and discourage her from getting a sufficient education and don't give her the incentive by allowing her maximum participation in whatever area of the society where she's qualified, they kill her incentive. And killing her incentive, she kills the incentive in her children. And the man himself has no competition so he doesn't develop to his fullest potential." — El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)

Malcolm X on honorifics

MALCOLM X: I never accept the term "honorable."

BASS: That's a beautiful title.

MALCOLM X: Well, I'll tell you. Most people I've seen really end up misusing it, and I'd rather just be your Brother Malcolm.

ETA: Yes, he did say this after he broke with "the Honorable Elijah Muhammad".

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

when scifi writers could disagree

At Right Fans: Sci Fi from the Other Side: Pardon the Interruption: Politcal Correctness and the Death of Science Fiction Fandom, Stephanie S. shares a quote by Isaac Asimov:
...Fears were expressed at the time that [two competing statements written on the Vietnam War and signed by opposing blocks of science fiction authors] would create storms and divisions among science fiction writers and would break up our camaraderie in a tempest of controversy. Well, if the statements have done so, I haven't noticed it. Our mutual identification as fellow science fiction writers persists above and beyond lesser divisions.

To be specific, Poul [Anderson] knows that I am a "fuzzy-minded pinko" and I know that he is a "narrow-minded hardhat" (not that either of us would ever use such terms), but we love each other anyway, and our relations with each other in these last couple of years have not suffered at all.
I disagree with Stephanie's politics. I think she needs to learn the differences between the major schools of Islam, and especially needs to learn why Wahabism does not represent Islam in general. (I highly recommend Reza Aslan's No god but God.)

But I share her belief that we should be free to disagree. I've been quoting Malcolm X lately. Here's another of my favorites, from shortly before he was killed: dearest friends have come to include all kinds -- some Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, and even atheists! I have friends who are called capitalists, Socialists, and Communists! Some of my friends are moderates, conservatives, extremists -- some are even Uncle Toms! My friends today are black, brown, red, yellow, and white!
May we all be able to disagree and still be friends.

Malcolm X on Afghanistan, I mean, Vietnam

His thoughts on Vietnam apply perfectly to Afghanistan if you substitute Karzai for Diem and the USSR for France. (Killing Diem doesn't apply, but I'm leaving it in 'cause I like the quote.)

Malcolm X in 1965, speaking about the US in Vietnam:
You put the government on the spot when you even mention Vietnam. They feel embarrassed - you notice that?... It's just a trap that they let themselves get into. ... But they're trapped, they can't get out. You notice I said 'they.' They are trapped, They can't get out. If they pour more men in, they'll get deeper. If they pull the men out, it's a defeat. And they should have known that in the first place. France had about 200,000 Frenchmen over there, and the most highly mechanized modern army sitting on this earth. And those little rice farmers ate them up, and their tanks, and everything else. Yes, they did, and France was deeply entrenched, had been there a hundred or more years. Now, if she couldn't stay there and was entrenched, why, you are out of your mind if you think Sam can get in over there. But we're not supposed to say that. If we say that, we're anti-American, or we're seditious, or we're subversive... They put Diem over there. Diem took all their money, all their war equipment and everything else, and got them trapped. Then they killed him. Yes, they killed him, murdered him in cold blood, him and his brother, Madame Nhu's husband, because they were embarrassed. They found out that they had made him strong and he was turning against them... You know, when the puppet starts talking back to the puppeteer, the puppeteer is in bad shape...

the Malcolm X I love is El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

He was killed in 1965. Here are some quotes from that year. I found them when I was looking for h

Two of the quotes in capitalists, please stop appropriating Malcolm X, his comment about capitalism and about the human family, are from 1965. Here's another:
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...

I've had enough of somebody else's propaganda. I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being first and foremost, and as such I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.
But he said many good things earlier, too:
In the past, yes, I have made sweeping indictments of all white people. I will never be guilty of that again — as I know now that some white people are truly sincere, that some truly are capable of being brotherly toward a black man.

When I speak, I don't speak as a Democrat, or a Republican... I speak as a victim of America's so-called democracy. You and I have never seen democracy; all we've seen is hypocrisy. When we open our eyes today and look around America, we see America not through the eyes of someone who have — who has enjoyed the fruits of Americanism, we see America through the eyes of someone who has been the victim of Americanism. We don't see any American dream; we've experienced only the American nightmare. We haven't benefited from America's democracy; we've only suffered from America's hypocrisy. And the generation that's coming up now can see it and are not afraid to say it.
He anticipated today, when x of black folks think there are now two black races:
On that same plantation, there was the field Negro. The field Negroes — those were the masses. There were always more Negroes in the field than there were Negroes in the house. The Negro in the field caught hell. He ate leftovers. In the house they ate high up on the hog. The Negro in the field didn't get anything but what was left of the insides of the hog.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

race, class, and hipsters

Richard Bensam emailed me:
It starts off sounding like a fashion/lifestyle piece, but takes a justified turn into race and class issues: What Was the Hipster? -- New York Magazine
My favorite line:
The hipster is that person, overlapping with the intentional dropout or the unintentionally declassed individual—the neo-bohemian, the vegan or bicyclist or skatepunk, the would-be blue-collar or postracial twentysomething, the starving artist or graduate student—who in fact aligns himself both with rebel subculture and with the dominant class, and thus opens up a poisonous conduit between the two.
I'm 55, so I can't guess how accurate the article is. I think the writer overstates the white roots, 'cause I sure saw a lot of Asian hipsters early on, and some black ones, too. But the description above is about perfect.

The phenomenon isn't new, of course. As soon as the middle class appropriates the working class's style, you get posers or wannabes or whatever the current word may be for the people who make the poisonous conduit.

Thanks, Richard!

uninviting a speaker is censorship: Elizabeth Moon, Wiscon, ACLU, and more

Many of the supporters of uninviting Elizabeth Moon from Wiscon claim it's not censorship. In Marginalizing vs. Silencing -- My hopefully final thoughts on the WisCon/Moon fiasco, Saladin Ahmed says "It's not censorship or silencing - it's marginalizing." K. Tempest Bradford asks in You People Are Out Of Your Goddamned Minds, "You people do not even understand what censorship means, do you?"

So I thought I'd look at some authorities and check on common usage. Random House says a censor is "any person who supervises the manners or morality of others." Wikipedia's at the intersection of authority and usage: "Censorship is the suppression of speech or other communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body."

Looking for usage brought me to Clark University President John Basset Cancels Norman G. Finkelstein, which includes a response from the ACLU. Some bits (with some typos corrected):
...the cancellation of his speech violates the basic principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom which are so fundamental to an institute of higher learning. The existence of an opportunity to speak at another time or in another location does not remedy the wrong of censorship.

...Nor may complaints from those disturbed by Finkelstein’s writings about the post-Holocaust “industry” justify a decision to prevent the lecture from taking place. Indeed, even if demonstrators came to protest against Finkelstein’s views, the obligation of a university is to protect the speaker’s right to be heard and prevent disruption of the speech by others. By censoring speech because of complaints about offensiveness or the controversial nature of the speaker, the university has essentially allowed what the courts call a “heckler’s veto” over what speech can be heard.
The writer quotes the president of Tufts University, which, like Clark, is a private school:
While Tufts is a private institution and not technically bound by First Amendment guarantees, it is my intention to govern as President as if we were. To put it another way, I believe that students, faculty, and staff should enjoy the same rights to freedom of expression at Tufts as they would if they attended or worked at a public university….During the McCarthy era, a number of university presidents in the United States failed to defend the principle of expression. Students, faculty, and stuff paid for this equivocation as the government sought to purge University campuses of those expressing particularly unpopular opinions. We must be vigilant in defending individual liberties even if it means that from time to time we must tolerate speech that violates our standards of civility and respect.
And there's this, from the Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences' free speech guidelines:
Because no other community defines itself so much in terms of knowledge, few others place such a high priority on freedom of speech. As a community, we take certain risks by assigning such a high priority to free speech. We assume that the long-term benefits to our community will outweigh the short-term unpleasnt effects of sometimes-noxious views. Because we a community united by a commitment to rational processes, we do not permit censorship of noxious ideas. We are commited to maintaining a climate in which reason and speech provide the correct response to a disagreeable idea.
My googling brought up other examples of "censorship" applied to canceling speakers:

NCAC Protests Cancellation of Ellen Hopkins Appearance at Teen Lit Fest in Texas -- NCAC
After Hopkins was disinvited to Teen Lit Fest 2011, five other authors dropped out in protest rather than participate in an event that had censored another author. Sadly for the students of the area, the program has been cancelled. Some might blame the authors who withdrew, but we think full responsibility rests on the school officials who made the decision to censor Hopkins.
I was amused by this comment at Censors and Heroes - The Texas Observer
Personally, I’m convinced that un-inviting Hopkins was indeed a form of censorship. You might disagree. However, I think we can all agree that it was very bad manners, and would never be tolerated in the Junior League.
See also:

Authors' boycott cancels Teen Lit festival after Ellen Hopkins 'disinvited' | Books |

Vanessa Redgrave: Censorship of the Worst Kind

Library Censorship Overturned

Censorship and Anti-Intellectualism UPDATED - Anthropologist Underground - Open Salon.

Panel on Islam Cancelled at ALA | LISNews.

Some of the defenders of canceling Moon's appearance cite Frederick Douglass. They obviously haven't read his A Plea for Free Speech. He writes, "To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. It is just as criminal to rob a man of his right to speak and hear as it would be to rob him of his money."

Henry Steele Commager sums it up nicely: "The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion."

links of nice things to look at, plus love experiment

The Pictorial Arts: That Time of Year: a black cat for Halloween.

Now That's a Tiny House: a couple of mobile homes from long ago.

Witches’ Sabbat in Paris, Revisited « Sexy Witch: If you don't like to look at cute naked women from the turn of the 20th century pretending to be witches, don't go there. Also, what's wrong with you?

No pictures here, just an excellent exercise in worship: The Journey: The Love Experiment

comment of the day

From the comments at coffeeem: The virus of jihad?:

2010-10-26 10:51 am UTC (linkTrack This
Indeed, there's a much more noticeable connection between terrorism and being trained as an engineer.

I know I personally feel very anxious whenever I board a plane and realize that some of the other passengers are engineers, all wearing their engineer garbs.

Monday, October 25, 2010

statistic of the day

Too Much weekly:
The average 2008 income for the bottom 90 percent of America’s households, after adjusting for inflation, amounted to about $900 less the bottom 90 percent average income in 1979. The average income for the top 1 percent ended 2008 “over $700,000 above its 1979 level.”
From Tax Data Show Richest 1 Percent Took a Hit in 2008, But Income Remained Highly Concentrated at the Top — Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

awesome Iranian activists!

IRAN: Apparent attempt at humiliating activist sparks widespread hijab backlash | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times

Solidarity with Majid Tavakoli in Paris_ 2

a class rant for the day

Bill Quigley: The Class War at Home

He's got some useful stats. For example, the next time an Asian anti-racist starts in on white privilege, I'm going to ask why white privilege means whites make less than Asians.

Because anti-racists read with a race-reductionist filter: yes, racism still exists and still sucks, and it's wrong that Asians face racism from some folks of other races.

But really, talking of privilege and ignoring the privilege of wealth is almost always a mistake.

Unless you're talking about the greatest privilege: The Journey: The Greatest Privilege

YouTube - "Cement Mixer" / Slim Gaillard

If you want to skip the uploader's intro, the clip begins around 1:10:

YouTube - "Cement Mixer" / Slim Gaillard

how to watch Kevin Costner's Wyatt Earp

Start at 1:18:12, or maybe a few seconds off from there. Costner will be riding through the Texas plain, and there'll be the kind of music the credits could roll under, and then he'll enter Fort Griffin, Texas. In the next minute or so, he'll talk to a bartender and meet Doc Holiday, and their dialogue will tell you all you need to know about what happened before.

Properly, you should stop at 2:59 something, when it segues to the older Earp in Alaska. Structurally, the ending isn't great that way, but the Alaska sequence doesn't work for me either. No one's really managed to do a great ending to the Tombstone story.

Why you should watch it: Dennis Quaid as Doc Holiday is fantastic. The bits with the Earp family are generally quite good. Joanna Going is an infinitely better Josie Marcus than Tombstone's Dana Delany. Catherine O'Hara as Allie Earp and Isabella Rossellini as Big Nose Kate are great, and if I'd been in charge, I would've given them more screen time.

What's interesting but wrong about it: It's all from the point of view of Wyatt, so you never get a decent sense of who the bad guys are and what they want. (If I'd been in charge, the cowboy gang would get another scene or two.)

Even skipping the parts that don't contribute to the story, Wyatt Earp just isn't as much fun as Tombstone. Costner deserves the Razzie that he got for his performance (Wyatt Earp needs to be played cold--James Garner probably came closest to getting his tone right), but if you like Tombstone stories, the piece I recommend is worth seeing. If you feel like it when you hit 2:59, watch the end and then the early parts as if they're DVD extras.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Elizabeth Moon talks about Wiscon

Texas author un-invited as convention Guest of Honor over remarks on Islam |

the prophet and the dog

From Respect One of the Foundations of Faith in Islam || Imam Reza (A.S.) Network:
Once Allah asked one of the Prophets to go around the lands and find the worst, most useless creature in existence. The prophet went around looking. He saw many things, then at last he saw a dog. The dog was old and crippled, had fleas and was in a terrible state. He looked at the dog and answered to Allah, Oh Allah, I have wandered around and have seen many sights which I thought were terrible, but this dog is the worst. Oh Allah, but even after seeing this dog, I still can not do what you have asked me, because how can I call useless anything which You have created?

Allah told him that this was the lesson that He wanted the Prophet to learn.

replying to Saladin Ahmed: one more about Elizabeth Moon, Wiscon, and free speech

I started to leave a comment for Saladin Ahmed here that became so long I'm making it a post instead:

Saladin, I agree with everything you say except your conclusion. Just as it was wrong for the University of London to cancel the Hizb ut Tahrir speaker after people objected to his politics, it was wrong for Wiscon to cancel Elizabeth Moon after people objected to her politics. I don't think the offer to speak should be withdrawn from lesbian speakers or Tony Judt or Noam Chomsky or Norman Finkelstein or Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan or, well, anyone.

Yes, not being invited to speak is not a speech issue. But being uninvited to speak is.

I would make this argument if Moon had been Wiscon's only speaker, but I'm completely baffled about why people ignore Nisi Shawl, the co-GoH. Ain't no one gonna call her an Islamophobe.

Now, I strongly support people's right to protest a speaker. If I'd planned to attend Wiscon with Moon as co-GoH, I would've made a green armband to show which side of Islamophobia I'm on.

I think what I hate most about the affair is a bad solution was found for a problem. What Moon said was all kinds of bigoted and stupid and embarrassing, especially for a woman who studied history. But taking away her invitation to speak and engage with people at the con is wrong.

Mind you, this is an issue that I'm perfectly cool with agreeing to disagree on. Just as she isn't responsible for Islamophobia in the US, most of the people who support uninviting her are not responsible for the decision to do that.

There's an interesting article here on Islamic speech. I agree with much of its criticism of westerners who promote free speech—until they conclude that free speech is a capitalist issue. Like anything, free speech is abused by capitalists, but it's a human issue.

In the quick google on Islam and free speech, I found this, which may explain why this child of the '60s' is obsessed with free speech:

Contemporary understandings of freedom of speech, however, owe even more to developments in the 1960s, during which first civil rights protesters and then objectors to the Vietnam War found the courts upholding their activities against governmental efforts to restrict them. Increased public acceptance of such activities followed. In this respect, the modern protection of freedom of speech is partly fortuitous, for the protection of civil rights demonstrators, paraders, and picketers in the 1960s was largely an adjunct to judicial protection of the civil rights movement generally. Nevertheless, the First Amendment principles developed to further the civil rights movement remained in place to be used for other speakers promoting other causes.

The most important manifestation of this transfer started in the late 1960s, when the Supreme Court with some consistency recognized the right of speakers in the "public forum" to articulate ideas that not only were in opposition to established military and political authority but also were highly likely to offend unwilling listeners or viewers. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Court protected with some frequency those who desecrated the American flag, who displayed offensive language, such as obscene words on an article of clothing, and who conveyed messages often as likely to be harmful as they were offensive. Operating on the assumption that underregulation of even harmful speech was the only way in an imperfect world to protect against the overregulation of harmless speech, the Court went from the protection of Vietnam protesters to the protection of the speech of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, it was the Klan case of Brandenburg v. Ohio that in 1969 established the current extraordinarily strict understanding of the Holmesian idea of "clear and present danger." Speech leading to violence or other unlawful activities can be restricted only if the ensuing lawless activity is likely to be "imminent" and even then only if the speaker has explicitly urged that activity. By 1977 it was considered an "easy case" when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, sitting in Chicago, upheld the right of the American Nazi party to march in a community (Skokie, Illinois) heavily populated by Holocaust survivors, a decision the Supreme Court refused to review.

I also found a quote from the Qur'an that I like, which isn't about free speech, but is about forgiving people for their shortcomings:

The recompense for an injury
is an injury equal thereto (in degree),
but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation,
his reward is due from God,
for God loves not those who do wrong.
But indeed, if any do help and defend themselves
after a wrong done to them,
against such there is no cause of blame.
The blame is only against those who oppress men
with wrongdoing and insolently transgress
beyond bounds through the land,
defying right and justice.
For such there will be a penalty grievous (in the Hereafter).
But indeed, if any show patience and forgive,
that would truly be an affair of great resolution.
Qur'an 42:40-43

Forgiving bigots is hard. I've been beaten by racists; I know how hard forgiving them was. But if you believe in institutional injustice, why blame anyone other than those who control the institutions?


P.S. Anyone reading this, I recommend Saladin's fiction. You can find some of it free on the web, and I'm looking forward to his novel.

today's quote: forgiveness

"The lover of goodness loves every little sign of goodness. He overlooks the faults and fills up the gaps by pouring out love and supplying that which is lacking. This is real nobility of soul. Religion, prayer, and worship, are all intended to ennoble the soul, not to make it narrow, sectarian or bigoted. One cannot arrive at true nobility of spirit if one is not prepared to forgive the imperfections of human nature. For all men, whether worthy or unworthy, require forgiveness, and only in this way can one rise above the lack of harmony and beauty, until at last one arrives at the stage when one begins to reflect all that one has collected." —Hazrat Inayat Khan

Saturday, October 23, 2010

You can call me Niggerlover

In a recent discussion, Kynn asked me not to call her "Dude," and then called me "William", which no one has ever done. I said I preferred "Will" or "Shetterly" or "Your Awesomeness." But I forgot to add that "Niggerlover" is fine, too. That's what racists called me when they beat me back during the civil rights struggle, so I earned it with blood. And after taking the race test at Project Implicit, I found I'm in the surprisingly large minority of white people who have an implicit preference for black folks, so it's very accurate.

Hmm. Which makes it a little surprising that I ended up with a white woman. There is a black woman in my romantic history who I often wished I could see again.

But then, there was a black guy who never knew Emma had a crush on him. Maybe her crush and mine are very happy together now, but once in a while, they think wistfully of us....

That made me think of jungle fever, so I googled it, and found this, which I do not remember from 1972:

YouTube - Jungle Fever - The Chakachas (1972)

(Warning: It's not very good. But it was a top 100 hit, apparently, and I find it an interesting look at an odd time.)

I was more of a Moody Blues fan then:

YouTube - The Moody Blues - Nights In White Satin´67

(Yes, that's from '67, but it was a hit in '72. Go figure.)

And when I think of sexy songs from that year, I got to add this:

YouTube - The Hollies - Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress

But I liked me some James Brown too:

YouTube - James Brown - Good Foot / S Power / Make It Funky (ST 1973)

If you don't like it, skip to around a minute and 45 seconds and watch the man move.

"Said the long hair hippies and the afro blacks
They all get together across the tracks
And they party..."

ETA: This post went weird. I started it wanting to write something profound about insults and love, because I've always thought "niggerlover" was a bizarre insult, especially in an ostensibly Christian culture. But I just wasn't in the mood for serious. So, apologies for making a Jackson Pollock kind of post. Maybe these thoughts will cohere into something more satisfying someday.

If nothing else, you can try to figure out how a man who dances as well as James Brown could have such awful hair.

Nancy Kress on Wiscon and Elizabeth Moon

Nancy's Blog: Late to the Debate

A Perjurer on the US Supreme Court

A Perjurer on the US Supreme Court:
On Friday, former federal prosecutor Lillian McEwen, one of Thomas’s girlfriends in the 1980s, broke a long silence and confirmed that Thomas did engage in sexual harassment of women at work and did discuss pornography in the way that Anita Hill and other women described to the Senate during Thomas’s confirmation hearings in 1991.

Vive la France!

France on strike - The Big Picture -

Friday, October 22, 2010

class quote of the day

At The Dalai Lama at Stanford | MetaFilter, Faze said,
If a paunchy, middle-aged Christian with a working class accent and the wrong shirt uttered the same sentiments as Mr. Lama, you'd all turn deaf.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A sad day in the commons: on the suppression of error at NPR and WisCon

I've learned of two decisions made by organizations I had respected:

NPR Fires News Analyst After Remarks About Muslims

Wiscon withdraws its invitation to Elizabeth Moon

disagree vehemently with Islamophobes. But the greater wrong has been done by those who are punishing them for saying what they believe. I'm rarely a binarian, but on this, I'm comfortable with a simple division: There are those who support free speech for all and those who silence others.

Frederick Douglass said, "To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker."

John Stuart Mill said, "The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."

I'll add this to Mill's point: when you suppress speech, the issue changes from their ideas to your suppression.

The danger to free speech comes whenever people forget that the ends and the means are the same. That happens on the left and the right:

Frank Hague said, "We hear about constitutional rights, free speech and the free press. Every time I hear those words I say to myself, That man is a Red, that man is a Communist. You never heard a real American talk in that manner."

Vladimir Lenin said, "When one makes a Revolution, one cannot mark time; one must always go forward -- or go back. He who now talks about the freedom of the press goes backward, and halts our headlong course towards Socialism."

Americans have an especially troubled relationship with free speech. As Alexis De Tocqueville noted, "In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them."

At NPR and Wiscon, the majority has raised its barriers. Whether they'll stand depends on those of us who are not within their walls.

Capitalists talk about the "marketplace of ideas" because they think everything is for sale. I don't think speech should be for sale, so when I'm feeling pretentious, I talk about the agora, but really, we're all just talking about the intellectual commons, the sphere of ideas that belongs to all of us. If we can't agree to disagree, we can never hope to coexist. We can only hope to conquer, and I want no part of a world where ideas, no matter how much I may love them, are imposed by force.

another reason to check your B12

Low levels of vitamin B12 linked to Alzheimer's - health - 21 October 2010 - New Scientist

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

time for a blogging break

Dear you,

I'm researching my next novel, so I expect to disappear from the net for a while--maybe hours, maybe days, maybe more, 'cause I feel like I haven't been contributing anything useful online.

If anyone tells you class can be left out of the discussion, look around to see what they're missing or what they're hoping you are.

your pal,


coffeeem: It's not just those people--it's everyone.

coffeeem: It's not just those people--it's everyone. My wife is the smart.

I left this comment there, then decided I should share it here, too:
I've been blogging too much today, but these are relevant here:

Which points out class aspects that are slighted in this piece about mean girls:

today's stupid article about class

Scholars Return to ‘Culture of Poverty’ Ideas -

There are twice as many white folks in poverty as black folks, but this article is all about black poverty. Is the invisible man of the 21st century a poor white man?

Now, by focusing on race, it does make the problem of poverty look like it's half the size it actually is. So I understand why the New York Times, capitalism's paper of record, would want to address the problem by diminishing it.
Why, yes, the first paragraph is a reference to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.

the dangerous intolerance of intolerance

I just left this comment at Jesse Bullington's Tolerance, Bigotry, and Tolerating Bigotry. It covers some old ground, but I think there's enough new in it to justify posting it here:
Jesse, the whiteness of prominent (and very well paid) neoliberal anti-racism theorists like Tim Wise, Judith Katz, and Peggy McIntosh has troubled a number of black folks.

Layo, I've never said classism is "The problem." I've been beaten by racists; I'll never deny racism exists.

The idea that race and class are tangled is fairly new to scifi fandom's anti-racists; it's hard to find any of them acknowledging it before 2009. I'm delighted that class is finally being recognized, though I wish it wasn't recognized in order to be dismissed. When the elephant is in the intersection, you need to do more than say, "Yes, I agree there's an elephant at the intersection of First and Main, but I want to talk about First Street as if Main Street isn't there, so let's ignore the elephant now."

Now, this is an extremely flawed metaphor, I grant, because I'm using the anti-racist assumption that race and class are only intersecting. But as Thandeka notes in "The Whiting of Euro-Americans: A Divide and Conquer Strategy", "we must not forget that white racism was from the start a vehicle for classism; its primary goal was not to elevate a race but to denigrate a class. White racism was thus a means to an end, and the end was the defense of Virginia’s class structure and the further subjugation of the poor of all "racial" colors."

As for me stomping into discussions, I've been an active part of the f&sf community since the early 1980s. My first Wiscon was ages ago--before Emma was a GoH. When I see my community becoming intolerant of disagreement, when I see banning and censoring and calls for blacklists and anonymous death threats, I become very, very troubled.

Elizabeth Moon's comments were seriously misguided, as I told her at length. (That was lost when she deleted the comments, but there's a copy of my part of the discussion with her here.)

But much of the reaction to her is very misguided. The free debate of ideas matters. The power to silence others is seductive, and few who have a devout faith in the rightness of their cause can resist it, but it gives rise to Jacobins and Maoists and witch-hunters and crusaders, and ultimately hurts the cause it springs from. If you have faith that anti-racism theory is right, trust that it can survive being tested by those who doubt it.
ETA: The discussion there continued, and I added this:
Saying that canceling a speaker is only "a repercussion for choosing to exercise her free speech" suggests your definition of free speech and mine cannot be reconciled: either speakers are allowed to speak, or they are not. Under Joe McCarthy, people suspected of being communists were equally free to exercise their free speech and accept repercussions that included banning and blacklisting.

Moon is a religious bigot, but the work that she did has not changed: If it deserved to be honored, it still deserves to be honored.

Something you and I share: "desiring equal rights for all human beings is such a simple premise that when confronted with people who think otherwise I sometimes lose my shit." Classist assholes can make me go ballistic, but even so, my definition of "all" includes people I disagree with, and my definition of "rights" includes the right to say things I disagree with.

Racist Email Flap Blows Up Virgina Beach GOP | TPMDC

Racist Email Flap Blows Up Virgina Beach GOP | TPMDC. Just for the record, there are twice as many poor white folks as there are black ones.

There is always money to be made taking pictures of poor people.

Levis & Braddock: Exploitation or Visibility? | Working-Class Perspectives. I particularly like the comment by Jan McMannis, who quotes "one 70 year old life long African American Braddock resident" who said, “There is always money to be made taking pictures of poor people.”

Sunday, October 17, 2010

stupid article, good comments

Uh, not counting my own hasty comment there among the good ones, and a couple are even worse than mine. But, oh, is this writer clueless: Why do Americans resent upward mobility? - By Anne Applebaum - Slate Magazine

Saturday, October 16, 2010

David Harvey defines neoconservatism

From A Brief History of Neoliberalism:
US neoconservatives favour corporate power, private enterprise, and the restoration of class power. Neoconservatism is therefore entirely consistent with the neoliberal agenda of elite governance, mistrust of democracy, and the maintenance of market freedoms. But it veers away from the principles of pure neoliberalism and has reshaped neoliberal practices in two fundamental respects: first, in its concern for order as an answer to the chaos of individual interests, and second, in its concern for an overweening morality as the necessary social glue to keep the body politic secure in the face of external and internal changes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

David Harvey on Neoliberalism and Identity Politics

Not only do I argue with neoliberals about antiracism and identity politics, I argue with neomarxists, people I think of as hyphenated marxists: feminist-marxists, antiracist-marxists, etc. I'm old school; I think if you hyphenate "marxist", you're probably being redundant (Marx was about as egalitarian as they come) or you're missing the point.

Mind you, I still dunno if I'm a marxist. Maybe I'm a hyphenate too, a christian-marxist, which certainly isn't what Marx or Engels were. I just like Marx's tools for analyzing power.

Anyway, after some discussion about Adolph Reed Jr. and Walter Benn Michaels, two of my favorite leftist critics of antiracism, at Lenin's Tomb and pink scare, I decided I needed to read David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism to discuss this more knowledgeably.

So far, I'm quite enjoying it. He's a good writer, and while I had a rough idea of the beginnings of neoliberalism, I hadn't connected it to US aid to Pinochet.

Much of the reason I'm enjoying it is Harvey's providing ammo for my side. This is from his second chapter:
Neoliberal rhetoric, with its foundational emphasis upon individual freedoms, has the power to split off libertarianism, identity politics, multi-culturalism, and eventually narcissistic consumerism from the social forces ranged in pursuit of social justice through the conquest of state power. It has long proved extremely difficult within the US left, for example, to forge the collective discipline required for political action to achieve social justice without offending the desire of political actors for individual freedom and for full recognition and expression of particular identities. Neoliberalism did not create these distinctions, but it could easily exploit, if not foment, them.
ETA, from the same chapter:
Civil rights were an issue, and questions of sexuality and of reproductive rights were very much in play. For almost everyone involved in the movement of '68, the intrusive state was the enemy and it had to be reformed. And on that, the neoliberals could easily agree. But capitalist corporations, business, and the market system were also seen as primary enemies requiring redress if not revolutionary transformation; hence the threat to capitalist class power. By capturing ideals of individual freedom and turning them against the interventionist and regulatory practices of the state, capitalist class interest could hope to protect and even restore their position. Neoliberalism was well suited to this ideological task. But it had to be backed up by a practical strategy that emphasized the liberty of consumer choice, not only with respect to particular products but also with respect to lifestyles, modes of expression, and a wide range of cultural practices. Neoliberalization required both politically and economically the construction of a neoliberal market-based populist culture of differentiated consumerism and individual libertarianism. As such it proved more than a little compatible with that cultural impulse called 'post-modernism' which had long been lurking in the wings but could now emerge full-blown as a both a cultural and an intellectual dominant. This was the challenge that corporations and class elites set out to finesse in the 1980s.

David Harvey defines neoconservatism

From A Brief History of Neoliberalism:
US neoconservatives favour corporate power, private enterprise, and the restoration of class power. Neoconservatism is therefore entirely consistent with the neoliberal agenda of elite governance, mistrust of democracy, and the maintenance of market freedoms. But it veers away from the principles of pure neoliberalism and has reshaped neoliberal practices in two fundamental respects: first, in its concern for order as an answer to the chaos of individual interests, and second, in its concern for an overweening morality as the necessary social glue to keep the body politic secure in the face of external and internal changes. 

David Harvey anticipated Obama's reaction to economic crisis

" the event of a conflict, neoliberal states typically favour the integrity of the financial system and the solvency of financial institutions over the well-being of the population or environmental quality." --David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, 2005

your David Harvey on neoliberalism moment

This is the conclusion of the fourth chapter, which discusses neoliberalism in a number of countries, including Mexico, Argentina, South Korea, and Sweden: "The incredible concentrations of wealth and power that now exist in the upper echelons of capitalism have not been seen since the 1920s. ... It has been part of the genius of neoliberal theory to provide a benevolent mask full of wonderful-sounding words like freedom, liberty, choice, and rights, to hide the grim realities of the restoration or reconstitution of naked class power, locally as well as transnationally, but most particularly in the main financial centres of global capitalism."

Yeah, the metaphor is mixed. Hmm. Unless the mask broadcasts sounds, which a modern mask could do. So, uh, nevermind. The sentiment is very, very true.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Village Voice can't tell the difference between racism and conservatism

An article I won't be reading: White America Has Lost Its Mind. To make its point, there's cover art. Notably absent are folks like Michelle Malkin and Michael Steele. But then, if they did that, it wouldn't be all about race, eh?

Macey and Moxon on the failure of anti-racism theory in Britain

"An Examination of Anti-Racist and Anti-Oppressive Theory and Practice in Social Work Education" by Marie Macey and Eileen Moxon is not available online for free. I got a copy from a friend. (Thanks, France!)

From the Abstract: "The authors suggest that much of the anti-racist social work literature is theoretically inadequate, being informed by neither sociological, political nor economic theory or research on racism in Britain. This has made it vulnerable in a climate which is hostile to struggles for racial and other forms of social equality. The authors conclude that a radical, yet realistic, way forward is to move away from the current narrow focus on anti-racism to a broader anti-oppressive framework. This recognizes the need to continue the fight against racial, alongside class, gender and other forms of oppression, whilst setting achievable objectives within the social work process."

I just typed up the bits I thought were most useful for a general audience and bolded my favorite bits:
...there is a failure to problematize such key terms as "black' and 'white', both of which are used in a unitary way. One consequence of this is that an edifice of theory and action has been constructed on the simplistic 'explanation' of racism as being the outcome of power plus prejudice. Not only does this inaccurately assume a single cause and type of racism but it dangerously implies that there is a single solution to the phenomenon (Gilroy 1990; Husband, 1987; Miles, 1989).

The view that racism is an attribute of the monolithic category of people termed 'white' who hold all the power in society is equally confused and confusing. At one level of abstraction, it is true that a certain sector of the (white, male) population holds much of the economic and decision-making power in Briitish society. It is also true that some members of this group are statistically likely to be racially prejudiced. However, though this knowledge should inform social work education, it has limited utility at the operational level of social work or, often, in the everyday lives of black and white service workers.

Furthermore, if a Pakistai Muslim male refuses to have an African-Caribbean or Indian Hindu female social worker for reasons which, if articulated by a white Christain would be condemned as racist, one has to ask what the point is of denying that this refusal stems from racist (or sexist or sectarian) motivations? Similarly, if one compares the structural position of a white, working class, homeless male with that of a black barrister, would the statement that 'only whites have power' make sense or be acceptable to either of them?

the approaches [of anti-racism theory] are theoretical and thus closed to the canons of scientific evaluation and because the discourse itself prohibits the open, rigorous and critical interrogation which is essential to theoretical, professional and personal development.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Legalize Them All!

Five Ways the Democrats Can Avoid a Catastrophe and Pull Off the Mother of All Upsets

Bible verse of the day: Psalm 137:9 "Blessed is he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks."

Qur'an verse of the day: 5:32 “…if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”

Yes, I could just as easily have picked verses that make Judaism and Christianity look good and Islam look bad. That's the point, y'all.