Tuesday, November 30, 2010

the Shirky Principle, and the Shetterly Addition

"Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution." -- Clay Shirky

To which I'll add: When the problem has been solved, institutions dedicated to solving it will find it where it does not exist.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Most Socialist States in America


Hari Kunzru on freedom of speech

from Hari Kunzru's "Address to European Writers Parliament 25th November 2010":
The third area of concern for us as writers is the use of language to produce identity. In the European context this is particularly crucial, as the economic crisis is immiserating large numbers of people, who are  - as always in European history - turning towards xenophobia and atavistic nationalism in the hope of identifying an enemy more tangible than global capital.

It seems to me that multiculturalism, once a useful and progressive kind of politics, is no longer functioning as well as it did. The limits of identity politics are becoming clear. Instead of a playful, creative blending of the best of host and migrant cultures, the terms of multiculturalism are increasingly used by cultural conservatives of all stripes to police cultural boundaries. A liberal politics of absolute inclusivity, while presenting itself as pragmatic, has the disadvantage of obscuring genuine differences and antagonisms. Identity politics, which privileges categories like race and religion, is wilfully silent about class. Culture is, self-evidently, at the heart of this, and so we as writers have a central role to play. It sickens me to watch European bigots puffing up their chests about the values of the Enlightenment, as a badge of their superiority against poor and marginalised immigrant populations. Again, I say that opposition to this Enlightenment fundamentalism, isn’t moral relativism, but an ethical imperative. At this point, respecting difference is important, but so is asserting our common life across borders of race, class and religion. The fake pageantry of respect is no substitute for a genuine internationalism.

There are many weapons in the culture war, but chief among the techniques of policing thought and writing is that of offence. We are familiar with the use of the notion of offense by religious and ethnic minorities to gain identity-political purchase – from the Rushdie fatwa to the Mohammed cartoons, the martialling of sentiments of shame and abused honor have generated a lot of heat and not much light.

I believe that the right to freedom of speech trumps any right to protection from offense, and that it underlies all the other issues I’ve been speaking about. Without freedom of speech, we, as writers, can have very little impact on culture. In saying this, I’m aware that this is a prime example of a concept which has been degraded by the war on terror – that many European muslims misidentify it as a tool of Anglo-Saxon interests, a license to insult them, rather than the sole guarantee of their right to be heard.

advice for convention panelists #1

If there's a list of your events on the back of your badge, compare it with the program to be sure nothing's been omitted.

Or, my apologies to anyone who attended "SF at the Freeway’s End" and expected me to be there. It wasn't on the list on my badge. Often smaller panels are livelier ones, so I hope that was for the best.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Emma and scary sign #2 (rest stop near Yucca, AZ)

Emma considers her apple

Cheetos inflate at altitude (Flagstaff, AZ)

my LosCon schedule

Friday 1:30 p.m. – New Orleans
Stimulating Your Muse
Where do great ideas come from and how can you nurse those creative genes without a hangover?
Will Shetterly (m), Kathy Porter, Valerie Estelle Frankel, Aaron Mason, Gary Philips

Friday 3:00 – Chicago
SF at the Freeway’s End
Heinlein’s “crooked house” was in LA, and so was the lanai apartment in Ellison’s “Shattered Like A Glass Goblin.” Bradbury’s Venus sounds like LA in February! How have local sf and fantasy writers mined the experience of living in Los Angeles for fictional purposes? Is this city a uniquely fertile source of ideas?
Tim Powers, Gary Westfahl, Gary Phillips, Will Shetterly, Ken Estes

Saturday 11:30 a.m. – Boston/Atlanta
SF Noir and Its Relationship to Crime Stories
Cody Goodfellow, Mel Gilden, Will Shetterly, James Kerwin, Bill Warren
Saturday 4:00 p.m. – Philadelphia
Fantasy and Monarchy
Many fantasy novels revolve around kings and queens, princes and princesses, tyrannical emperors and long-lost heirs to the throne. How much of fantasy’s appeal is grounded in a monarchic setting, and how can this long-standing tradition of genre be updated or refreshed, or abandoned entirely?
Sherwood Smith, Will Shetterly, Rhondi Vilott Salsitz, Lynn Maudlin, Karen Anderson
Saturday 5:30 p.m. – New Orleans
Beyond the first draft (editing, or what to expect of the second draft)
Okay, so you finished that big first draft. Is it done, or are you just getting started on the real work? Pros discuss the top tips on what to look for and how to turn that rough draft into a polished gem.
Tim Powers, Will Shetterly, Marv Wolfman, Laurel Anne Hill, Todd McCaffrey

Sunday 11:30 a.m. – Marquis 3
Shadow Unit
Find out more about Shadow Unit, the innovative, interactive, online science fiction project about a secret investigative unit at the FBI.
Emma Bull, Will Shetterly

They didn't take my suggestion for a "class and f&sf" panel, but I suspect I'll have some of the same fun on "Fantasy and Monarchy." Where it appears I'll be the token male. Which amuses me, 'cause it follows a couple of SF panels that are all-boy affairs.

We may draft some extra folks for the Shadow Unit panel.

Monday, November 22, 2010

still a driving fool

Just drove 600 miles. I need a T-shirt: "I am too old for this shit." But I'm not, really. The last 120 was under a nearly-full moon. I'll always love the road.

Also, it is good to be back in the Southwest. Tomorrow, the sky will be the right color.

Buddhism and violence

Martin E. Marty wrote in Sightings:
As an equal opportunity admirer and critic of the “faith communities” on this subject, I also have wondered how Buddhism gets its peaceful reputation. A review by Katherine Wharton of two books, Buddhist Warfare and The Six Perfections illuminates. Buddhist Warfare, says Wharton, “forms an accurate history of violence in the name of religion,” and cites sutras which shock, since they “justify killing with detailed reference to the Buddha’s central philosophical tenants. The book therefore presents a uniquely Buddhist ‘heart of darkness.’” Brian Victoria’s essay in The Six Perfections brings the issue to modern times: D. T. Suzuki (d. 1966), “the most influential proponent of Zen to the West in the twentieth century . . . gave his unqualified support to the ‘unity of Zen and the sword.’” Between ancient and modern times, as another contributor to these symposia finds and cites, was Chinese monk Yi-hiuan, who urged his hearers to “kill everything you encounter, internally as well as externally! Kill the Buddha! Kill your father and mother! Kill your closest friends!”
In the eyes of many apologists and observers, the Buddhist concept of “emptiness” is, from a distance, a guarantor of peace, over against the fullness of Warrior-God texts in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But Wharton is convinced by these books that “emptiness” can and does also promote violence, and is not by itself the solution.
Yes, "kill" is metaphorical in Yi-huan's advice. But most religious violence comes from people misunderstanding metaphors.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

quote of the day

Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey: 'Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me Elwood - "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.'

Friday, November 19, 2010

pics of us and others in New Orleans

Ellen Datlow's first of three flicker sets of her time in New Orleans is here:


I'm quite fond of this pic, of Ellen and Delia and Emma (and also me):


Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Orleans cemetery

Louisiana bridge

Louisiana swamp raccoon

angel behind bars in New Orleans

Emma, Klages, and Shawna's eye (Louisiana river boat)

Steve in a reflective mood

Emma & Rainey at Cafe du Monde

Emma is not going swimming in Louisiana

Emma in Louisiana

Emma at work in Texas

a good gunman

law west of the Pecos

Emma is skeptical (near AZ-NM border)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

classaliciousness, my political post for this week

I'm going to avoid "classism" from now on. That's just the word folks with academic pretensions use for "snobbery".


The Mississippi Pardons. When you think the US (in)justice system can't get worse....

The Cosmopolitan ‘Meritocracy’ and Class Stratification of Black Nationality. It's not about the rage of neoliberal antiracists, but it explains it:
This is a social layer that is insecure in its class position. It lacks the confidence exhibited by the bourgeoisie, even by the nouveau riche bourgeoisie. The propertied rulers—comprising only hundreds of families, not thousands—are a confident class (except during prerevolutionary crises or times of a rapidly accelerating breakdown of the capitalist order). Not only do they own, control, and hold the debt in perpetuity on the commanding heights of industry, banking, land, and trade. They also dominate the state and all aspects of social and political life, and finance the production of culture and the arts, including its “cutting edges.”

The meritocracy, to the contrary, is not confident. Dependent on cadging from the capitalists a portion of the wealth created by the exploited producers, these privileged aspirants to bourgeois affluence—a lifestyle they are convinced “society” owes them—nonetheless fear at some point being pushed back toward the conditions of the working classes. On the one hand, due to their very size as a stratum of society—it’s millions, if not tens of millions in the United States today—they recognize that the rulers find them useful to bolster illusions in the supposedly limitless “careers open to talent” under capitalism. At the same time, and despite their shameless self-promotion, many of them also sense that since they serve no essential economic or political functions in the production and reproduction of surplus value, they live at the forbearance of the bourgeoisie. In the end, large numbers of them are expendable, especially at times of deepening social crisis.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dresden Dolls and Jason Webley

I expected the Dolls to be great, and they were. The encore made me wish I'd seen Amanda Palmer in Cabaret.

I knew nothing about Jason Webley. More greatness.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

class rant of the day

Taking America Back to the Gilded Age. A snippet: "In Chicago, retail store magnate Marshall Field made $600 an hour and paid his clerks $3 to $5 a week, after they had put in three years of satisfactory service."

If you like Rumi

POETRY: “Me and Rumi’s Ghost” by Samer Rabadi :Apex Magazine

I'm looking forward to reading the fiction there, but I thought I'd call out this poem. I left this comment on it:

And because I just realized not everyone knows that’s high praise where I come from, this is the meaning I have in mind: “characterized by, showing, or requiring great accuracy, precision, skill, tact, care, or delicacy: nice workmanship; a nice shot; a nice handling of a crisis.”

Friday, November 5, 2010

a thought

You're not an adult until you forgive your parents.

Churchill joins Mao and Stalin in mass murder through starvation

The Most Powerful Scientist Ever: Winston Churchill's Personal Technocrat: Scientific American: "Winston Churchill remains perhaps the most admired statesman of modern times. Yet the politician who spearheaded the Allies' fight against the Nazis demonstrated a profound disdain for the well-being of denizens of Britain's largest colony, and his government's policy of neglect led directly to a famine in South Asia in the 1940s that killed millions."

Thursday, November 4, 2010


YouTube - ZAZ - Je veux: Embedding disabled, the bums, so you have to click through. But I love this. I'd call it fun French pop, and I love both her voice and her vocal styling.

Two versions of "Dans ma rue", one acoustic, one studio (with fan images):

YouTube - ZAZ - "Dans ma rue" acoustique


funny Mr. Lincoln and a race article

"If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?" —Abraham Lincoln

'They all look the same' race effect seen in the brain - life - 04 November 2010 - New Scientist

there shall be no poor among you: Deuteronomy vs. Jesus?

Rich people sometimes cite these bits of the Bible to justify their privilege:
"For the poor shall never cease out of the land" Deuteronomy 15:11
"For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always." Matthew 26:11
But they don't quote all of Deuteronomy 15:11:
"For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land." Deuteronomy 15:11
Or note the command a few sentences earlier:
"...there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it." Deuteronomy 15:4
As for Jesus, Matthew has a habit of making his teachings easier for rich folks. Mark gives the full version:
"For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always." Mark 14:7
Luke is the bluntest of the Gospelers. For those who do not wish to help the poor, he warns,
"But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation." Luke 6:24

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Snoburbia and a book about race and class that I should read

Via A Tiny Revolution: Sad Faces in Snoburbia:

Montgomery County mom takes a poke at her peeps is about snoburbia, the blog. I haven't made my mind up about the blog. The writer's observant, but I'm not sure she's insightful—she knows she's living in a mad society, but she's not about to start a commie stitch and bitch club. Still, I recommend snoburbia and race, and I quite liked her bit about Kung Fu classes.

Also: Book Review: Eugene Robinson's 'Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America'.

Tim Wise, time to cut the classist crap

Dear Tim,

In An Open Letter to the White Right, On the Occasion of Your Recent, Successful Temper Tantrum, you say:
And for y’all a bit lower on the economic scale, enjoy your Pabst Blue Ribbon, or whatever shitty ass beer you favor.
That should be "whatever shitty ass beer you can afford."

But you'd have to have some understanding of what life is like for hard-hit working-class folks to know that.

You're generally right that racists are falling on the dungheap of history. But you don't get that what we're facing now isn't about race. Look at who the Tea Party elected: Minorities ride GOP wave to groundbreaking wins - 2012 Elections - Salon.com

It's about class now. So decide which side you want to be on.

all the best,


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

even bigots must be free to speak

Here's a quote that's generally credited to Martin Niemöller:
They came first for the communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
I'm a red, which explains why free speech matters so much to me. If capitalists don't respect free speech, I'm silenced.

But that quote isn't addressed to reds. It's addressed to people who oppose them. A modern equivalent for antiracism theorists would start, "They came first for the bigots, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a bigot."

Censors love a foothold, so they start with the things that the majority opposes, then use what they've gained to censor more. That's why I agree with the ACLU: lovers of free speech must speak up for a bigot's right to speak.

ETA: I wouldn't have thought of the quote if I hadn't seen it being used by one of the supporters of Wiscon's decision to cancel a speaker. The notion that Niemöller believed in silencing bad people before their ideas could spread just croggled me.

Yes, many notions croggle me.

ETA 2: This post follows from uninviting a speaker is censorship: Elizabeth Moon, Wiscon, ACLU, and more.

Chris Rock, classist creep

YouTube - Chris Rock-Niggas Vs. Black People Pt 1

He focuses on poor blacks for most of this, then gets to poor whites at the end.

Mind you, this is from 1996. But it's fascinating that he saw, in a raw, despise-the-poor way, the class divide that has 40% of black Americans saying there are now two black races.

I was reminded of his routine by David Mills: The 'Nigger' Top 10.

ETA: Note the venue. The only poor folks in there were either showing the people who could afford those tickets to their seats or waiting to clean up after the audience had left. Now, Rock is funny. But his humor here is all about class rage.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Malcolm X on the limits of Black Nationalism

From Excerpts from an interview printed in Malcolm X Talks to Young People given to Young Socialist Alliance leaders Jack Barnes and Barry Sheppard on January 18, 1965:

Young Socialist: How do you define Black nationalism, with which you have been identified?
Malcolm X: I used to define Black nationalism as the idea that the Black man should control the economy of his community, the politics of his community, and so forth.
But when I was in Africa in May, in Ghana, I was speaking with the Algerian ambassador who is extremely militant and is a revolutionary in the true sense of the word (and has his credentials as such for having carried on a successful revolution against oppression in his country). When I told him that my political, social, and economic philosophy was Black nationalism, he asked me very frankly: Well, where did that leave him? Because he was white. He was an African, but he was Algerian, and to all appearances, he was a white man. And he said if I define my objective as the victory of Black nationalism, where does that leave him? Where does that leave revolutionaries in Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Mauritania? So he showed me where I was alienating people who were true revolutionaries dedicated to overturning the system of exploitation that exists on this earth by any means necessary.
So I had to do a lot of thinking and reappraising of my definition of Black nationalism. Can we sum up the solution to the problems confronting our people as Black nationalism? And if you notice, I haven’t been using the expression for several months. But I still would be hard pressed to give a specific definition of the overall philosophy which I think is necessary for the liberation of the Black people in this country....

Malcolm X on "white women's tears"

From an interview with Gordon Parks, two days before he was killed:
[L]istening to leaders like Nasser, Ben Bella, and Nkrumah awakened me to the dangers of racism. I realized racism isn't just a black and white problem. It's brought bloodbaths to about every nation on earth at one time or another.

Brother, remember the time that white college girl came into the restaurant—the one who wanted to help the [Black] Muslims and the whites get together—and I told her there wasn't a ghost of a chance and she went away crying? Well, I've lived to regret that incident. In many parts of the African continent I saw white students helping black people. Something like this kills a lot of argument. I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I'm sorry for now. I was a zombie then—like all [Black] Muslims—I was hypnotized, pointed in a certain direction and told to march. Well, I guess a man's entitled to make a fool of himself if he's ready to pay the cost. It cost me 12 years.

That was a bad scene, brother. The sickness and madness of those days—I'm glad to be free of them.
— El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)
It may be presumptuous to extrapolate from a dead man's words, but my suspicion is that Malcolm X would not have thought much of antiracism theorists who delight in white women's tears.

email from Manning Marable about Malcolm X

An email exchange with Dr. Marable (links added for folks who want to know more, and an obvious typo corrected):
In your interview with the International Socialist Review, you say Malcolm X said, “All my life, I believed that the fundamental struggle was Black versus white. Now I realize that it is the haves against the have-nots.” You say that might be from a CBC interview in January of '65. I found the interview, and it's not there. I've tried googling it and haven't had any luck. Do you have a source handy? I've be ever so grateful.


Will Shetterly
He replied:
The quotation that I give in the interview is not accurate, but the sentiment is correct. The quotation below comes from an interview Malcolm X gave on the Pierre Berton television show in Toronto on January 19, 1965. The interview is mentioned in George Breitman’s book The Last Year of Malcolm X. In the interview, Malcolm explained to Berton “a man should not be judged by the color of his skin but rather by his conscious behavior, by his action.” Malcolm continued by stating, “I believe in a society in which people can live like human beings on the basis of equality.… There will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. 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 don’t think that it will be based on the color of the skin.”

I hope this clarifies Malcolm's position at the end of his life. As you can see, he renounced race-based politics in favor of a class analysis. You should also see my website on Malcolm X at http://mxp.manningmarable.com. My biography of Malcolm X will be available from Viking Press this coming March, 2011.


Manning Marable
I thanked him and said I'd suspected that was a paraphrase. I'm reserving judgment on his theory about Malcolm X's murder, but I'm looking forward to his book. His analysis of the evolution of Malcolm's thought is dead on.

Malcolm X on "house niggers"

I got email from a younger white woman from the Midwest who was upset by what I'd said when Ta-Nehisi Coates compared Malcolm X and Barack Obama. Here's my reply:

You seem to think that “house nigger” is simply a racist term, and anyone who uses it is being racist. Malcolm X used it in a much more specific way. Wikipedia is useful here:
He characterizes the house Negro as having a better life than the field Negro, and thus unwilling to leave the plantation, and potentially more likely to support existing power structures that favor whites over blacks. Malcolm X identified with the field Negro. The term is used against individuals[1][2], in critiques of attitudes within the African American community,[3] and as a borrowed term for critiquing parallel situations.[4]
I did not make the comparison between Malcolm X and Barack Obama; Ta-Nehisi Coates did. I only pointed out what Malcolm X said about black folks like Obama who promote capitalism and imperial wars on people of other races. Though there's no draft with the AfPak War, in one regard for Malcolm X, it's even worse than Vietnam: it’s against Muslims.

If you google “obama” and “house nigger” (or “nigga” or “niggah”), you’ll find I’m not the only person to remember Malcolm X’s words. One of the first hits I got was about American Muslims who call Obama a house nigger. The Urban Dictionary has this as a popular definition:
1. A black man in the White House, generally one exhibiting a toned-down version of African-American culture.
2. Barack Obama after November 4, 2008.
Black guy: Aw yeah, Obama won. That's mah niggah.
White guy: Aw yeah, Obama won. That's mah House nigger.
I'm grateful for your letter, because it helps me understand antiracists who have grown up knowing little about racism. You think certain words indicate racism, no matter what context they have, and you know less about the history of racism than I'd expected. You say, with the very best motives,
It is a hideously hurtful thing to do to another human being. Where does it end? Do you then turn to another black person approvingly and say, "now, you, *you* are instead a field nigger, good for you"? "I feel certain that 200 years ago, you would have died in agony from dehydration and being beaten to death, and I am so glad for you"? Where does this analogy end? Nowhere good. It ends nowhere civil or humane.
Do you think “field nigger” is a term for a rebel? Slave revolts came from both house and field negroes. “Field nigger” just means a black slave who works outside. No one would automatically beat any slave or keep water from them. Slaves were very expensive, and they were not entirely without rights—at least one white owner was convicted of murder for killing a black slave.

And yes, calling anyone a "house nigger" is a hurtful thing. Why do you think I or anyone would make a division between house niggers and field niggers if the subject isn't Malcolm X and black capitalists? The term is Malcolm's. It's only appropriate when talking about his thought.

Frankly, I can’t even begin to make a comparison between Malcolm X and Obama—to do that, you have to be a capitalist. Obama got the chance to join the ruling class and took it. Malcolm X would’ve had a much more comfortable life if he’d stayed in the Nation of Islam, but, unlike Obama, he could see beyond what life had given him.

ETA: I deleted the video I had used in favor of an earlier one. Around 1:50, he says, "In those days he was called a "house nigger." And that’s what we call him today, because we’ve still got some house niggers running around here." This is from "A Message to the Grassroots", given on Oct. 10, 1963. There's a full transcript here.