Tuesday, May 29, 2012

And Other Stories

And Other Stories is a new collection of short stories by Emma and me. It's available...

...as a trade paperback at CreateSpace: And Other Stories

...for Kindle at Amazon: And Other Stories

...for Nook and other epub readers at Barnes and Noble: And Other Stories

...in many electronic forms at Smashwords: And Other Stories

The contents:

Stories by Emma Bull
"The Princess and the Lord of Night"
"Man of Action"
"The Last of John Ringo"
"De la Tierra"
"What Used to Be Good Still Is"
"Joshua Tree"
"Silver or Gold"

Stories by Will Shetterly
"The Princess Who Kicked Butt"
"Brian and the Aliens"
"Taken He Cannot Be"
"Little Red and the Big Bad"
"Secret Identity"
"The People Who Owned the Bible"
"Kasim's Haj"
"The Thief of Dreams"
"Black Rock Blues"
"Dream Catcher"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

wealth in Japan and the USA

more about toilets

The inevitable post about toilets | Almost Passive House: "Peter Yost recommended the Niagara Stealth, which he installed in his house more than a year ago. The Stealth ($300) is a single-flush, vacuum-assisted toilet that uses a mere 0.8 gallons per flush (most dual-flush toilets use that amount for only the small flush, and more for the big flush). It's very quiet (Peter let us test his) and by all accounts works great. We even asked a disinterested plumbing supply rep about it, and he told us that a customer with multiple rental properties is gradually buying them for all his units because it's saving him so much on water, and the tenants haven't had any complaints."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I want to write Disruptive Fiction

Literary Revolution in the Supermarket Aisle: Genre Fiction Is Disruptive Technology | Entertainment | TIME.com

It's oddly appropriate that a piece like this is in Time, a magazine I think too little of to despise or even consciously ignore. I don't agree with everything Lev Grossman says, but I completely agree with something he suggests, which I'll elaborate on: revolutions always come from below. Elites are conscious of their position, simultaneously smug and fearful, so they are only comfortable with tweaks to what they know. This applies to conservatives and liberals within the elite—they quibble over degrees of change within their worldview, but can't imagine anything outside it. And so they sneer at what they fear.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Emma at the Dancing Ferret

From Sabrepunk » Blog Archiv » My night in Bordertown:

Cuba leapfrogs the US on sex reassignment

LGBT Rights in Cuba, the United States and Beyond: "In 2010 the Cuban government began providing sex reassignment surgery free of charge as part of their universal healthcare."

Cuba leapfrogs the US on sex reassignment

LGBT Rights in Cuba, the United States and Beyond: "In 2010 the Cuban government began providing sex reassignment surgery free of charge as part of their universal healthcare."

Facts are Cool #2: crime and race, now with class!

Added this to Facts are Cool: race and gender, now with class!.

Facts are Cool: race and gender, now with class!

Inspired by Jim C. Hines' class-free look at race and gender in the USA in Facts are Cool, I'm doing a post about what happens when you add class.

1. Poverty

In 1967, Martin Luther King said, "In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike."

Today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are three times as many poor whites as poor blacks if you include Hispanics who identify as white, or there are still twice as many poor whites if you exclude white Hispanics:

from Table B. People in Poverty:
20092010Change in poverty
Race and Hispanic Origin
   White, not Hispanic
Hispanic origin

The Poorest Part of America is white:
Virtually all of the 20 poorest counties in America, in terms of wages, are on the eastern flank of the Rockies or on the western Great Plains ... The area does include several pockets of wretched Native American poverty, but in most areas the poor are as white as a prairie snowstorm.
Sherman Alexie alluded to that in Diary of a Part-time Indian. mentioning a place that's
...filled with the poorest Indians and poorer-than-poorest white kids. Yes, there is a place in the world where the white people are even poorer than you ever thought possible.
Dale Maharidge notes:
Four-fifths of us who work for salaries or wages make less than $20 an hour. This is a poor country. We're a nation of the working poor, and it's something that people don't want to acknowledge.
Regardless of race, Americans have less hope of rising to a higher economic class than people in Canada and Western European countries.

2. The drug war and the death penalty

You can find people of all races in US prisons, but you'll have to look hard to find anyone who wasn't poor. From Prison Legal News: "Most prisoners report incomes of less than $8,000 a year in the year prior to coming to prison. A majority were unemployed at the time of their arrest."

The part of the criminal system that most disproportionately targets poor people of color is the drug war. John McWhorter notes, "the primary reason for this massive number of black men in jail is the War on Drugs. Therefore, if the War on Drugs were terminated, the main factor keeping race-based resentment a core element in the American social fabric would no longer exist. America would be a better place for all."

Class is the uniting factor in the death penalty, too: "Ninety-five % of defendants charged with capital crimes are indigent and cannot afford their own attorney to represent them. They are forced to use inexperienced, underpaid court-appointed attorneys."

To make sense of class, race, and the death penalty, we need the racial breakdown of the 46.18 million Americans living in poverty. Using the 2010 census, here's how poverty looks in racial terms:

Number% of U.S. Poor
   White, not Hispanic

Hispanic origin


And here's the US population:

White persons, percent definition and source info White persons, percent, 2010 (a)72.4%
Black persons, percent definition and source info Black persons, percent, 2010 (a)12.6%
American Indian and Alaska Native persons, percent definition and source info American Indian and Alaska Native persons, percent, 2010 (a)0.9%
Asian persons, percent definition and source info Asian persons, percent, 2010 (a)4.8%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, percent definition and source info Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, percent, 2010 (a)0.2%
Persons reporting two or more races, percent definition and source info Persons reporting two or more races, percent, 20102.9%
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, percent definition and source info Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, percent, 2010 (b)16.3%
White persons not Hispanic, percent definition and source info White persons not Hispanic, percent, 201063.7%

Here are the racial percentages for people legally executed for murder since 1976:
WHITE: 56%
BLACK: 35%
The races of their victims:
WHITE: 77%
BLACK: 15%
The breakdown of murder victims is relatively closer to that of the US population; the racial breakdown of murderers is closer to that of US poverty, though in both cases, the Hispanic population seems to be under-represented. This may be due to differences in rural and urban poverty: the black poor are more urban. Or there may be other factors. At Race and the Death Penalty, John McAdams says:
...it is clearly the case that blacks who murder whites are treated more harshly than are blacks who murder blacks. This looks like racial disparity if you assume that the circumstances are similar in the two cases. Unfortunately, it's vastly unlikely that they are. Most murders are among people who know each other. Murders done by strangers are much more likely to be regarded as heinous than are murders growing out of domestic quarrels, drug deals gone wrong, and such. It might seem reasonable to compare the punishment received by blacks who murder whites with the treatment received by whites who murder blacks. Unfortunately, while black on white crime is relatively rare, white on black crime is even rarer. There simply isn't an adequate statistical base to allow us to generalize about whites who murder blacks, which pretty much leaves us to compare the way the system treats blacks who murder blacks with the way it treats whites who murder whites. When we do this, we find some fairly solid-looking evidence that the system is unfairly tough on white murderers -- or if you prefer, unfairly lenient on black murderers. But even this finding is one we have to be skeptical about. Is the average black on black murder quite similar to the average white on white murder? Or are there systematic differences?
 When I wrote about this in 2005, someone who identified himself as Carl commented:
For the past 20+ years I’ve worked in the criminal justice system – the past 8 years for a criminal defense firm, and the 14 years before that as a court clerk – I’ve done more death penalty cases than I want to think about (very few attorneys or judges ever want to do even one, and once you’ve done one, you never want to do another – they’re brutal on everyone involved), and can honestly say that in my experience (in California – your state may be different), the vast majority of DP felons (and felons in general) tend to be poor, poorly educated, and not very bright in general, with very poor social and coping skills. While there are occasional exceptions, they are damned rare.

The only notable exception I worked on was a wealthy woman who went even more psycho (she was bizarre at first, and went completely around the bend when her husband dumped her in favor of Next Year’s Model), and murdered the ex and his new wife in their beds. That one showed up on TV, both in the news and in movies-of-the-week, and she managed to avoid the death penalty, where poorer killers were far more likely to get Death. (Yes – you can probably guess the name).

In my experience (and hers, and OJ’s), money plays a far greater role than ethnicity.
Carl's reference to OJ Simpson points to a truth about race, class, and crime: Middle and upper-class black folks are no more likely to be in prison than white middle and upper-class folks.

3. Gender, prison, and rape

Carrie Lukas offers a conservative take on the gender wage gap in There Is No Male-Female Wage Gap:
The Department of Labor's Time Use survey shows that full-time working women spend an average of 8.01 hours per day on the job, compared to 8.75 hours for full-time working men. One would expect that someone who works 9% more would also earn more. This one fact alone accounts for more than a third of the wage gap.

Choice of occupation also plays an important role in earnings. While feminists suggest that women are coerced into lower-paying job sectors, most women know that something else is often at work. Women gravitate toward jobs with fewer risks, more comfortable conditions, regular hours, more personal fulfillment and greater flexibility. Simply put, many women—not all, but enough to have a big impact on the statistics—are willing to trade higher pay for other desirable job characteristics.

Men, by contrast, often take on jobs that involve physical labor, outdoor work, overnight shifts and dangerous conditions (which is also why men suffer the overwhelming majority of injuries and deaths at the workplace). They put up with these unpleasant factors so that they can earn more.

Recent studies have shown that the wage gap shrinks—or even reverses—when relevant factors are taken into account and comparisons are made between men and women in similar circumstances. In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts. Given that women are outpacing men in educational attainment, and that our economy is increasingly geared toward knowledge-based jobs, it makes sense that women's earnings are going up compared to men's.
Hanna Rosin offers a liberal take in The End of Men:
Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same.
How to determine wage equality today is tricky, but it's clear that while the economic gap between rich and poor is growing, the one between men and women is narrowing.

The rape gap has also narrowed for victims: "The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women."

The "likely" matters, because not all inmates are male, but the overwhelming majority are. From Women in Prisons:
Although the statistics can vary, approximately 2.5 million people are incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails. Of these, according to a study conducted by the Institute on Women and Criminal Justice (IWCJ) in 2006, the number of women in prison is approximately 105,000.
Since most prisoners are poor, we know most of those rape victims are poor.

One point that isn't tied to class, but is often cited by liberals. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey,  nearly one in five women have been raped. Christina Hoff Sommers has a conservative response in CDC study on sexual violence in the U.S. overstates the problem:
...where did the CDC find 13.7 million victims of sexual crimes that the professional criminologists had overlooked?

It found them by defining sexual violence in impossibly elastic ways and then letting the surveyors, rather than subjects, determine what counted as an assault.
Whatever the real numbers for sexual assault may be, even outside prison, poor people are more likely to suffer.

Recommended: Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being (pdf)

An Analysis of the Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women PREPARED FOR: U.S. Department of Labor (pdf)


11 things the wealthiest Americans could buy for the U.S. that most families can't afford for themselves.

11 things the wealthiest Americans could buy for the U.S. that most families can't afford for themselves.

Monday, May 21, 2012

on Killing Rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks

it's all one thing: on Killing Rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks

The Killing Rage of Bell Hooks

My hasty review at Goodreads, where I gave it one star:
The opening essay of Bell Hooks' Killing Rage: Ending Racism is very much worth reading, though not for the reasons she offers. Think of her as a Nabokovian unreliable narrator, and it's both sad and hilarious. It's the story of a ticket mix-up on a plane. A white man has a ticket for a seat, and due to some error, a black woman believes the seat is hers, but her ticket says otherwise. To Hooks, all the whites who observe what happens are complicit in racism because they don't ignore the ticket and accept the black woman's word.

It never occurs to Hook that she might be mistaken. She defines herself as an anti-racist, and therefore she must find racism to oppose wherever she goes. Like many middle class black folks, she has an especially odd take on Malcolm X: she talks about his rage rather than his demand for getting and giving respect, and she prefers what he said when he served the Nation of Islam to what he said later.

She also has a double-standard on class that I find among many of her fans: she'll mention that class matters, but she expects full deference from those who wait on her. If working-class folks are trying to finish another task before getting to her or goof up when they're helping her, it's because of their racism. If people always served me instantly and perfectly, I might give her claims more weight.

This is not to say that hooks has never faced racism. An old joke applies: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. The tragedy of racism is that folks who might be its victims have to wonder if they're its victims whenever a person of another race does anything that hurts or inconveniences them.

I didn't start this book expecting to agree with her, but I expected to find more substance for her beliefs. Her desire to "liberate subjectivity" explains why there's not.

I strongly recommend that anyone interested in anti-racism theory google Adolph Reed Jr.'s "The limits of anti-racism." He never mentions hooks by name, but his critique of the vagueness of the theory applies.
If you want to read that essay from her book, it's here.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Is "Straight White Male" The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is? Part Five

In a discussion at G+, a friend brought up the issue of "passing", of being perceived as straight or white, and noted that straight people who're seen as gay can be bashed. I answered:
I grew up being called queer and niggerlover. I know about those problems from the hard side of a fist. No one's saying racist and sexist assholes no longer exist. They come in every skin tone and every gender. But really, how do you change things by running around blaming white men, 99.9% of whom have far less power than Obama or Oprah or Condi Rice or Herbert Cain or...?

Remember, it was white men who gave the vote to women and people of color. As a group, they don't want identity privilege.

Friday, May 18, 2012

L'Hôte: anti-racism as social sorting

L'Hôte: anti-racism as social sorting: "I felt more hopeful for the end of racism when opposing racism was an end and not a means."

Balloon Juice: Scalzi and White Poverty

Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » Talking About White Poverty: "I wish that Scalzi had done more to look specifically at economic class. Because class is incredibly important, both theoretically and in practical terms of social mobility and equality. I understand that Scalzi embeds that discussion in his talk about different distributions for “attribute points” and such, and I largely agree with that metaphorical analysis. But by being so arch about class, he takes the risk that some readers will miss that point entirely—and they’re the ones who need to understand class the most. To me, the people who need educating are not just the aggressive, privileged straight white men who Scalzi is targeting. It’s also the educated white savvy set that is endlessly linking and tweeting his piece."

L'Hôte: how long are we going to keep doing this shit?

L'Hôte: how long are we going to keep doing this shit?: "There appear to be two rational explanations for this behavior. One is that Scalzi and the commenters who aped his behavior have a simply atrocious grasp on psychology, human behavior, and politics, and sincerely believed that mocking people would lead to their enlightenment. The other is that John Scalzi's purpose was never to actually contribute to education and social justice, but rather to demonstrate his superiority to those people he claimed to want to educate, and in doing so show what a brilliant and enlightened guy he is to the liberals he is in cultural competition with."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Banned “Tax the Rich” TED Talk slides and text here - SlashGear

Banned “Tax the Rich” TED Talk slides and text here - SlashGear: "If the typical American family still got today the same share of income they earned in 1980, they would earn about 25% more and have an astounding $13,000 more a year."

Is "Straight White Male" The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is? Part Four

I just left a comment at “Lowest Difficulty Setting” Follow-Up which went into moderation. In case it never comes out, here 'tis. The quotes are Scalzi's claims:
"wealth and class are not an inherent part of one’s personal nature"

Under capitalism, wealth and class are at least as much a part of one's personal nature as race, a social construct that was a creation of the slave trade.

"speaking as someone who has been at both the bottom and the top of the wealth and class spectrum here in the US, I think I have enough personal knowledge on the matter to say it belongs where I put it."

Herman Cain could make the same argument.
Since I'm at my blog now, I'll unpack this a little:

I haven't been at the top of the wealth and class spectrum, but I spent two years at Choate, so I've lived with those folks. However, I spent my earlier years at public schools in northern Florida, and I graduated from Western High School, an inner-city Washington school that was mostly poor and black, and I've mostly lived in working class neighborhoods since then. So I think I have enough personal knowledge on the matter to say it belongs where I put it.

Which is the bogusest of bogus argument, of course. Let's look at a couple of people who know more about this than John or me.

Regarding racism and slavery, historian Eric Williams noted in Capitalism and Slavery:
Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.
As for classism and racism, Rev. Thandeka, author of Learning to Be White: Money, Race and God in America, wrote 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 and end, and the end was the defense of Virginia’s class structure and the further subjugation of the poor of all "racial" colors.

RACE - The Power of an Illusion at PBS.

Race, class, and "whiteness theory" by Sharon Smith

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Is "Straight White Male" The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is? Part Three

Emma Bull has the best answer yet. (Why, yes, I'm prejudiced, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.)

From her comments at Scalzi’s Latest: But I didn’t get MY say!:
Our host is saying, I think, that ALL identitarian bickering is obscuring the real issue, which is that all but the richest people live in a world that’s unnecessarily limiting and unjust. When you focus on the minor imbalances of ethnicity or gender or sexuality or religion, you help obscure the real problem. In other words, whether you’re assigning “privilege” to white males or Asians or Latinos or women, you’re playing the socially approved game, and failing to acknowledge that the game itself is deplorably rigged.
The issue is not whether women have an advantage over men, or men have an advantage over women. As long as we frame the injustice in terms of, “I am struggling because I am X,” we can’t understand the real rules and rewrite them. We are struggling because a small percentage of humanity–male and female, of many skin colors, religions, and national origins–owns a disproportionate amount of the world’s wealth and has made the game rules to give themselves the points. They’ll win no matter how hard we try to outplay them.

So why are we still playing? And worse, why are we participating in identitarian side combats that only offer us the illusion of winning, when in the real game we’re nothing but cannon fodder and non-player characters?

Infographic: What Congress Would Look Like If It Really Represented America - News - GOOD

Infographic: What Congress Would Look Like If It Really Represented America - News - GOOD: "One thing not noted on this infographic is that, besides being nothing like America in terms of race, sex, or religion, our senators and representatives are also wholly different from most Americans in terms of wealth. We've said this before, but it bears repeating: The average American's net worth is $96,000. But the average Senator's net worth? $13.4 million. For House members that sum drops to "just" $5 million."

Is "Straight White Male" The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is? Part Two

The richest ethnic groups in the US are Jews and HindusAsian Americans were briefly richer than white Christians, but much of their wealth was in housing, so the crash set them back. I agree with people who say Jews are white—the Confederacy had a Jewish secretary of state—but it's awfully hard to argue that Hindu Americans, who're primarily Indian American, are white.

So "white" isn't the only option if you're playing the US game to optimize your odds for wealth.

about Dog Land, the place, and Dogland, the novel

About Dog Land, the place, and Dogland, the novel

about Captain Confederacy

On the short list of things that make me proud is creating the first black female superhero with her own comic book series from a major publisher.

But when Vince Stone and I started Captain Confederacy in 1986, I didn't dream of that. My initial idea was simple: In an alternate universe where the South seceded, Captain America, a blond male patriotic hero with a shield, would be Captain Confederacy, a blond male patriotic hero with a whip. Then I started thinking about why someone would appear on TV wearing a country's flag, and I made Captain Confederacy part of a propaganda campaign to shape public sympathy—an idea that The American explored a year later—with enhanced abilities thanks to a serum that had been tested on black folks—an idea that Truth: Red, White and Black explored sixteen years later.

I set the story in a Confederacy that had given up slavery but kept people of color in second-class positions. When I made that choice, I knew I was making a simplistic assumption about what would happen if the South seceded. The economic and political pressures to end slavery were in place in the 1860s, and without the heavy hand of Reconstruction, the brutal backlash of Jim Crow might never have occurred. A successful Confederacy could have become a more enlightened place than the South that rose from the North’s victory.

Or it could have become worse. Southern slaveowners were multicultural—there were white, black, and Cherokee plantation owners—but they were united in their greed. As the South industrialized, they would’ve hunted for ways to keep slavery profitable. In the game of If, there are no correct alternate histories; there are only plausible alternate histories.

The critics have been kind:

"...plots are intricate and creative.... This is not a comic book for children." - Southern Magazine

"...excellent alternate-Earth science fiction."
Comics Buyer's Guide

"Written with intelligence and no fear of controversy. Buy it!" - Graffiti 

"From the retooled Stars and Bars of Captain Confederacy's costume to the mapping of urban and rural southern places, the series takes up the symbols of the South and imaginatively reconstructs them, shaking loose the stock figures, geographies, and temporalities of southerness. If Octavia Butler and Kara Walker alter the meaning of the southern lady, Shetterly reconfigures the southern gentleman, unfixing his location in an idealized Civil War past, instead deploying him for a different understanding of our present." -Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender, and Nostalgia in the Imagined South, by Tara McPherson (Duke University)

The books can be bought at Amazon, but Vince and I get more of the cover price if you buy them at CreateSpace:

Captain Confederacy 1

Captain Confederacy 2

Ebooks are available too, at Barnes & Noble as epub files for most readers:

BARNES & NOBLE | Captain Confederacy 1: the Nature of the Hero

BARNES & NOBLE | Captain Confederacy 2: Hero Worship

and at Amazon for the Kindle:

Captain Confederacy 1: the Nature of the Hero: Will Shetterly, Vince Stone: Amazon.com: Kindle Store

Captain Confederacy 2: Hero Worship: Will Shetterly, Vince Stone: Amazon.com: Kindle Store

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Is "Straight White Male" The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is? Part One

John Scalzi makes that argument in Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is by comparing the real world to a computer game where everyone starts as equals.

But that ain't the real world. Here's what Martin Luther King knew in 1967 that's still true: "In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike."

At least one commenter at John's blog got it. Michael Kirkland said, "I’m thankful for all the advantages I have over Herman Cain’s daughter. I really dodged a bullet there."

The lowest difficulty setting in any capitalist game is being born rich.

ETA: I have no success explaining the problem with identitarianism to identitarians, but I've found a blogger who may do better because he starts closer to them: Identitarianism’s class problem | MattBruenig.

ETA 2: And because identitarians see the world in Manichean dichotomies, as Adolph Reed Jr. notes in The limits of anti-racism, no, this doesn't mean I think there's no more racism.

ETA 3: Class and intersectionality | MattBruenig.

ETA 4: Steve Brust's reply is better than mine: Scalzi’s Latest: But I didn’t get MY say!

ETA 5: Yeah, I keep trying to figure out how to explain this. Rev. Thandeka did a good job in Why Anti-Racism Will Fail:
The privilege that, according to the anti-racists, comes with membership in white America, actually belongs to a tiny elite. Let me illustrate this point.

Imagine that business and government leaders decreed that all left-handed people must have their left hand amputated. Special police forces and armies are established to find such persons and oversee the procedure. University professors and theologians begin to write tracts to justify this new policy. Soon right-handed persons begin to think of themselves as having right-hand privilege. The actual content of this privilege, of course, is negative: it's the privilege of not having one's left hand cut off. The privilege, in short, is the avoidance of being tortured by the ruling elite. To speak of such a privilege -- if we must call it that -- is not to speak of power but rather of powerlessness in the midst of a pervasive system of abuse -- and to admit that the best we can do in the face of injustice is duck and thus avoid being a target.

My point is this. Talk of white skin privilege is talk about the way in which some of the citizens of this country are able to avoid being mutilated - or less metaphorically, to avoid having their basic human rights violated. So much for the analogy. Here are the facts about so-called white skin privilege.

First, 80 percent of the wealth in this country is owned by 20 percent of the population. The top 1 percent owns 47% of this wealth. These facts describe an American oligarchy that rules not as a right of race but as a right of class. One historical counterpart to this contemporary story of extreme economic imbalance is found in the fact that at the beginning of the Civil War, seven per cent of the total white population in the South owned almost three quarters (three million) of all the slaves in this country. In other words, in 1860, an oligarchy of 8,000 persons actually ruled the South. This small planter class ruled over the slaves and controlled the five million whites too poor to own slaves. To make sense of this class fact, we must remember that the core motivation for slavery was not race but economics, which is why at its inception, both blacks and whites were enslaved.

Second, let us not forget the lessons of the 1980s. As former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips reminds us in his book The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and the American Electorate in the Reagan Aftermath, "For all workers, white-collar as well as blue-collar, their real average weekly wage -- calculated in constant 1977 dollars -- fell."

Third, let us also not forget that today, numerous companies are opting to lower standards for job qualifications for their work force rather than raise wages and thus cut into profits. Jobs paying $50,000 a year or more have twice the share of the job-loss rate than that they did in the 1980s.

The result of these contemporary economic trends is the most acute job insecurity since the Great Depression. As economist Paul Krugman has pointedly argued in the November 3, 1997, edition of the New Republic, the modern success story of America's booming economy rests on the bent backs of the American wage earners. The economy is booming because wages, the main component of business costs, are not going up. And wages are not going up because the American worker is presently too fearful to stand up and make demands. Downsizing has shaken worker confidence. Unemployment insurance last only a few months, and the global labor market has undermined the American worker's bargaining power. These basic economic facts, Krugman argues, have created one basic psychological fact for the typical American worker: anxiety.

A strong economy no longer means job security for most white middle-class Americans -- and they know it. This awareness, however, has not produced a rebellion against the rich but, rather, frenzied attempts by downwardly mobile middle-class whites trying to keep up the appearance of being well-off. Such appearances, however, include a penalty: debt. As Harvard social theorist Juliet B. Schor reminds us in The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting, and the New Consumer: "between a quarter and 30 percent of all American households live paycheck to paycheck; and In 1995, one-third of families whose heads were college-educated did no saving."

I do not call this economic condition in white America, white skin privilege. I call it white middle-class poverty. Talk of white skin privilege is a distraction from this pervasive problem in white America. Talk of white privilege, to paraphrase a statement of Martin Luther King Jr. can feed the egos of poorer whites but not their stomachs.
ETA 6: There's a little bit more in Part Two, but the best reply to Scalzi is Emma Bull's in Part Three.

thinking about toilets


I sometimes think anyone seeking public office should have to answer two questions:

Have you cleaned up your own shit?

Have you cleaned up other people's shit?

Those questions are not metaphorical. If you can't answer "yes' to both, I don't want to vote for you.


Emma and I have lived in homes that only had one toilet, but we spent the last five years taking care of a place with four, counting two in guest areas. Now we're in a small house with one. I'm thinking about installing a second toilet, which has led to thoughts about privacy, luxury, and waste of many sorts.

I've always lived in homes with flush toilets, though when I was a kid, those were homes with one toilet for a five-person family. But Grandpa had a cabin by Lake of the Woods which only had an outhouse, and because I loved my grandpa and the lake, outhouses have always had good associations for me.

Which is why I may try to convince Emma that instead of installing a second flush toilet, we should build a closet with a humanure toilet.


This post was inspired by this:

Lack of Sanitation

Monday, May 14, 2012

looks like our house has a radon problem

Just got the results of our short-term radon test, and the level is 8.9 pCi/L. The recommendation is to do another short-term test, but since radon's a common problem—'1 of 15 US homes, 1 of 3 Minnesota homes and 4 of 10 metro area homes exceed 4 pCi/L, the EPA’s “action level”'—and that number's high enough to worry me, we called our favorite realtor and got a rec for a radon removal firm.

More when I know it.

Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. Scary.

looks like our house has a radon problem

Just got the results of our short-term radon test, and the level is 8.9 pCi/L. The recommendation is to do another short-term test, but since radon's a common problem—'1 of 15 US homes, 1 of 3 Minnesota homes and 4 of 10 metro area homes exceed 4 pCi/L, the EPA’s “action level”'—and that number's high enough to worry me, we called our favorite realtor and got a rec for a radon removal firm.

More when I know it.

Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. Scary.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Will Shetterly's Finest-Kind Cookies

Continuing the blog's biggest hits:

This began as a recipe from the back of a Quaker Oats box, but it's evolved over the years, and Quaker Oats, for reasons known only to them and their God, have switched to an inferior recipe. Evil does walk the Earth. But Emma Bull says this cookie can thwart the powers of darkness; I say it tastes pretty darn good.
3/4 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
1/8 cup apple juice (or water, if you're as boring as Quaker Oats)
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups uncooked rolled oats
1 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 - 1/2 cup coconut (optional, but nice)
1 bag (12 or 16 oz.) Guitard's (my favorite, but you can use similar deluxe) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup raisins
1 cup almonds, pecans, and/or walnuts (sliced or chopped)
Preheat oven to 350 degree F.

Beat the butter, sugar, honey, egg, juice, and vanilla together until creamy.

Combine the oats, flour, salt, soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a separate bowl, then mix them with the wet ingredients. Add chocolate chips, raisins, coconut, and nuts to the batter last.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.

Eat some of the batter while the first batch is cooking. You're the cook; you deserve it.


I once got a great fan mail for these cookies:
I tweaked the recipe a bit; I believe we had apple cider rather than apple juice, so I figured I’d give that a shot. I also tossed in toffee bits and white chocolate chips.

The cookies went over rather well. I believe the technical term for what happened to them is “inhaled”. And they resulted in one of my favorite compliments of all time. Since the main credit goes to you, I hereby pass it on:

“Tracey! These cookies could bring world peace!”

There followed a brief discussion of the possibilities of dropping cookies on miniature parachutes over various war zones.
This recipe is astonishingly forgiving. You can add anything you love and leave out just about anything you don’t, and it’ll be swell.


I found a tweaked version at String Notes: Cookie nomnomnom. I especially like adding the cocoa nibs. And I like that this has become an open source recipe. That's the fate of all good recipes.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Misfits: working-class superheroes

If I was still a blogging fool, I would do a long post about the first two seasons of Misfits. The quick version is this may have been my favorite TV superhero show ever, but having just seen the first episode of the third season, I'm prob'ly stopping now.

Warning: it's not a show for everyone. Not only do you have to like superheroes, you have to like all kinds of things that are too adult for US broadcast TV and too immature for HBO. My inner fourteen-year-old was pretty happy. Not as happy as he was with The Avengers and Captain America movies, but happy.

The third season has a bad replacement for a character that I hadn't realized I would miss. I'll spoil no more than that. I don't think the problem with the episode can be pinned on the replacement actor or character, though. It just felt like the writers stopped having fun.

Monday, May 7, 2012

about Cats Have No Lord

Cats Have No Lord is my first novel. I had tried to write several more ambitious—meaning, more pretentious—books and gave up on them because they were awful, so I finally decided to learn how to write by writing something with everything I'd loved as a kid. If I missed any fantasy cliches of the '70s, I don't know what they were: this book has a spunky female thief, a mysterious swordsman, a magician, and a big barbarian. Oh, and a talking horse.
It sounds awful, but my love must've shown through, or maybe readers were more desperate or more kind in those days. Booklist said, "The first-rate world building, the unique cast of characters, and the author's clever whimsey make it absorbing reading. Recommended."

"Unique" must mean they thought I did good things with the characters, but every single one began with a trip through Central Casting to see who was available. Literally. I wrote the first draft of the first four chapters without a clue where I was going. I just thought, "I need a cool swordsman," and wrote a chapter. Then I thought, "He needs sidekicks," and wrote the big barbarian's chapter, then the magician's, and finally the love interest's. But something happened that I hadn't expected in what was originally the fourth chapter. I gave her a telepathic horse because she needed someone to talk to, and the two of them stole the show

So I began again with Lizelle and Darkwind as the stars, and made Catseye, Thraas, and Merry their sidekicks, and soon my first novel was done. I wrote an odd prequel to it a couple of years later. I really should write a proper sequel someday, because I still love those characters.

I've put the book back in print. The CreateSpace page, where I get the biggest share of the cover price, is here: Cats Have No Lord. It'll also show up sometime soon at Amazon and other "discerning booksellers."

The ebook's also available from discerning ebooksellers for $2.99:

Amazon.com: Cats Have No Lord

BARNES & NOBLE | Cats Have No Lord

Smashwords — Cats Have No Lord

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

interracial romance in comic books

The earliest interracial kiss in a comic from a major publisher that I've found was in 1943, when Blackhawk kissed a Chinese woman:

It's not quite what it looks like, though—the woman gets her dying wish, a kiss from Blackhawk.

Though they never kiss, there's a strong hint of interracial romance in a 1952 comic book of King Solomon's Mines. On the cover, a white man and a black man appear to be fighting for the love of a black woman.

Sure, she's paler than the black guy, but she's still black in a time when interracial marriage was illegal in many states. As Gallup notes, only 4% of Americans approved of marriage between blacks and whites then, while 77% approved by 2007:

DC Comics missed a chance for a semi-interracial kiss in 1970 when Lois Lane became black for a day:

To give them a tiny bit of credit, they did have her ask if he could love her if she was black:

He responded with a variant of the standard superhero cop-out line of the time: "my enemies, blah blah, deadly danger, blah, blah..." (There's a copy of the full story here, but I only recommend it to folks obsessed with comics, race, and romance.)

The first straight-up romantic kiss in comics didn't come until 1975, in a Killraven story in Marvel's Amazing Adventure #31:

But the first interracial kiss involving superheroes came in 1977, when Iron Fist and Misty Knight finally snogged.

Interracial romance in comic books

pimpage: Shadow Unit 11 is now available!

Contains "The Small Dark Movie of Your Life" by Leah Bobet, "Walking Back To Houston" by Chelsea Polk, "Bulletproof" by Emma Bull, "Down the Rabbit Hole" by Sarah Monette, and more. Available now at Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords for only $2.99, and at other major ebook sellers soon.

What's Shadow Unit? Find out with the first volume. It's got novellas by Emma, Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, and me, for only 99 cents at Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

Or you can read all the stories free at Shadow Unit. Just check out Episodes or Getting Started.

Capitalism and communism cartoons

Common searches for this blog include "capitalism cartoon" and "communism cartoon", so here's my attempt to make both groups happy:

This one's titled "socialism illustrated", but it's a better example of "capitalism illustrated":

Three bonus items!

1. Superman supports socialism:

2. "I Fell For A Commie" via Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blog:

My favorite panel:

What's the horrible thing that the commies want? To take part in the democratic process, which makes me wonder if the writer believed what he was saying or was commenting on the red scare witch hunts of the day.

3. Not a cartoon, but my favorite illustration of the way the rich feel about the poor:

The first thing most people see is the girl giving the beggar the finger. But the two girls who're oblivious to the old woman are part of the comment.