Sunday, September 29, 2013

4 ways to deal with unreasonable people

1.

2. "Don't worry about people talking 'behind your back.' It just means you are one step ahead of them, and they are exactly in the right position to kiss your posterior."—Old Vaquero Saying (according to Bob Boze Bell)

3. The Complete Guide to Not Giving a Fuck

4.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

two gods of fanatics

A few years ago, I noticed that "fanatic" comes from fanaticus: "inspired by a deity, frenzied, from fanum temple" and wondered who the god of fanatics might be. Bill Colsher left this comment:
Of course there's a goddess of fanatics! Two of 'em: 
Juvenal uses fanaticus in Satire 4 with reference to Bellona and in the 2nd (along with Livy) with regards to the priests of Cybele. The word is actually pretty rare - Perseus showed only 18 instances, mostly in Livy and those mostly refer to the galli.
Bellona was a peculiarly Roman goddess of war. The sister (or wife or daughter) of Mars, her temple is where the senate would convene to meet with persons who could not enter the city, e.g. commanders still holding imperium. Her priests, in a Spring festival, would dance and stab themselves in the arms and shoulders with knives. 
The galli, priests of Cybele, as is well known, would castrate themselves (presumably only once) in an ecstatic celebration on March 24th. Roman citizens were prohibited from joining this cult until the time of Claudius.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Loving grids: I'm an agnostic atheist left libertarian (if you trust grids)



ETA: Lines are one-dimensional, grids are two-dimensional, reality is multi-dimensional. So don't put too much faith in any model of human behavior.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Are SJWs mildly autistic?

That’s not autism: It’s simply a brainy, introverted boy - Salon.com: "Mildly autistic kids often don’t really comprehend irony, sarcasm, and absurdity. Mentally gifted kids, on the other hand, often thrive on irony, sarcasm, and absurdity."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Socialist Bible verses: Proverbs 14:31

As usual, the KJV is pretty:
He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.
But the NIV is clear:
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Brother Will says: Nothing. How do you improve on that?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A spoiler-free observation about this week's Breaking Bad, subtext, why Walter White's a great tragic hero, and good endings

1. A surprising number of people took the final speech in this week's episode at face value. I didn't expect that because two great performances—by the speaker and especially by the primary listener—should've told everyone that more was being said than the speaker's words implied.

But subtext is often missed.

2. Walter White's a great tragic hero because he never stops believing that he can fix everything if he just tries hard enough.

3. Most stories have one possible emotionally right ending. Two episodes short of the conclusion of Breaking Bad, I don't know whether the right ending is Shakespearean devastation, or some degree of redemption for the survivors, or a hollow victory in which Walter never fully realizes the price everyone has paid.

My socialism is democratic socialism

Continuing my thoughts in My socialism:

My socialism is Democratic socialism. Like most political terms, it encompasses competing ideas; I don't pick one because my stress stays on "democratic". I look at history and trust people to work things out as best they can.

Two quotes by democratic socialists:

Rosa Luxemburg:"Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element".

Eugene Debs: "I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition."

The problem with calling yourself a democratic socialist in the US is the Democratic Socialists of America are unwilling to run candidates against centrist Democrats, which effectively makes "democratic socialist" a synonym for "neoliberal". But their FAQ is still useful: What is Democratic Socialism?

Monday, September 16, 2013

How much puts you in the US's Top 1% by Wealth and Income?

Measuring the Top 1% by Wealth, Not Income - NYTimes.com: "The Times had estimated the threshold for being in the top 1 percent in household income at about $380,000, 7.5 times median household income, using census data from 2008 through 2010. But for net worth, the 1 percent threshold for net worth in the Fed data was nearly $8.4 million, or 69 times the median household’s net holdings of $121,000."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

If U.S. Land Were Divided Like U.S. Wealth


Rationalizing Animal: The Righteous Mind

Why Won’t They Listen? - NYTimes.com: "The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others."

The article's worth reading, especially for the point that conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives. A successful socialist party will have to promote values that appeal to both groups.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Steve Brust has a socialism FAQ

Answers to A Few Things I’m Tired of Hearing

Essential fact about sexism in genre writing

SEXISM IN GENRE PUBLISHING: A PUBLISHER’S PERSPECTIVE « Tor Books: "The sad fact is, we can’t publish what we’re not submitted. Tor UK has an open submission policy – as a matter of curiosity we went through it recently to see what the ratio of male to female writers was and what areas they were writing in. The percentages supplied are from the five hundred submissions that we’ve been submitted since the end of January. It makes for some interesting reading. The facts are, out of 503 submissions – only 32% have been from female writers."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

An awkward fact for feminist social justice warriors

What Witchcraft Is Facebook? - Laura Dimon - The Atlantic: "Typically, mass hysteria is confined to a group of girls or young women who share a common physical space for a majority of the time. Bartholomew has studied over 600 cases, dating back to 1566, and said that the gender link is undeniable; it’s just a question of why. It is accepted within the psychiatric community that conversion disorders are much more common in females. There are also social, biological, and anthropological theories that have to do with how and why females might cope with stress."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My socialism

Robin Hood, Superman, Jesus, and John the Baptist made me a socialist. Robin Hood taught me that heroes take from the rich and give to the poor. Superman taught me that an advanced society like Krypton shares the world's resources with all its people, and if you can't live in an advanced society, you help people where you are to make a better world. Jesus taught me it's easier for a camel to get through a needle's eye than it is for rich people to get into Heaven, and John the Baptist gave the simplest explanation of how a sharing society works: If you have more, share with someone who has less.

Karl Marx only helped me understand how capitalism works: the ruling class owns most of the things that make wealth, and the working class works to survive.

Though I suspect I've always been a socialist, for decades I thought I was a liberal. I believe passionately in democracy, and one-party systems in Cuba, China, and the USSR made me accept the logic of people who do not believe in progress. Like them, I thought what had not been, could not be.

But then, like the first people who dreamed of democracy, I realized that what had not been, must be. That's my definition of progress.

In my life, the world has made enormous strides toward increasing personal freedom while the gap between the rich and the rest of us grows greater. People who don't understand the United States say this is a rich country, but the truth is it's a country ruled by the rich. The US's median wealth is not first in the world—that's Australia's, which is $193,653. The US's median wealth is 27th in the world, at $38,786. Half of Americans live below or near the poverty line80 Percent Of U.S. adults face near-poverty and unemployment.

Tell me Americans are lucky because we're not as exploited as people in some other countries, and I'll tell you house slaves should not be grateful that they're not field slaves. The world is rich enough for everyone to live in comfort, if only the resources were shared.

So I'm a socialist. I'm not an ideological socialist—I don't feel like I know enough about Marx to be called a Marxist, and I certainly don't know enough about Marxism's many splinter groups to claim membership in any of them. In his lifetime, Marx looked at one group of self-proclaimed Marxists and said, "If that is Marxism, I'm not a Marxist." I suspect he would say that of every group which wastes time sniping at potential allies.

I'm a pragmatic socialist. Defining my socialism calls for two adjectives:

1. Democratic—I would rather lose under a fair system than win under a biased one.

2. Libertarian—I believe adults should be free to do as they please, so long as they do not limit anyone else's freedom.

If you need a label for me, the best is probably left-libertarian, but you could also call me a Christian who believes in Jesus's teaching about how to live in this world.

To come: Why I believe socialism is practical.

ETA: Top 1% of USA take biggest income slice on record

The social chasm in America

Friday, September 6, 2013

Down with kerfuffles, up with celebrations!

I do not want to know about any more kerfuffles. By "kerfuffle", I mean an internet outrage focused on something said or done by someone who has no power to change society. This includes every News At 11 issue I can imagine:
  • Men complaining about women
  • Women complaining about men
  • Old people complaining about young folk
  • Young people complaining about old folk
  • White people complaining about black folk
  • Black people complaining about white folk 
  • Trans people complaining about cis folk
  • Cis people complaining about trans folk
  • Fans of one kind of art complaining about fans of other kinds of art
  • And anything else in which anyone with no power is declared to have the wrong opinion.
I do want to know about people doing great things for people, because I love people who do great things for people.

And I want to know about powerful people doing bad things, because I want to do whatever I can to stop powerful people from doing bad things.

But the one bad thing I can stop right now is participating in outrage culture. So I'm opting out. If you tweet about a kerfuffle, I'd appreciate a kerfuffle warning of some sort. If you don't, I'll forgive you, but odds are good that if you keep doing it, I'll quit following you, no matter how much I love you.

The best advice St. Peter and Malcolm X ever gave was "Respect everyone." That doesn't leave any room for outrage culture, but it leaves all the room you need to work to make a better world.

Katy Perry as Jungle Queen - Roar

Katy Perry - Roar (Official) - YouTube:

Read what you want without apology: on the Paul Cook Kerfuffle, and misogyny vs misandry in f&sf

The kerfuffle du jour is about Paul Cook's When Science Fiction is Not Science Fiction. The buzz words are "girl cooties" and "misogyny". Cook's post may make you roll your eyes wildly—mine spun. I think his silliest notion is that Orson Scott Card influenced Gene Wolfe. But that's not the reason for the kerfuffle.

Cook starts his piece by praising Marion Zimmer Bradley. He praises Lois Bujold's early work in the middle of the piece. In the comments, he says one of his favorite books is by Pamela Sergeant. And yet he's accused of being anti-female. The most roundly mocked part of his post is in this:
Bujold tips her hand in the eloquence of her language (normally a good thing) and the attention to detail that only women would find attractive: balls, courts, military dress, palace intrigues, gossiping, and whispering in the corridors. All of this is right out of Alexander Dumas. True, these intrigues and flourishes do happen in the real world (or they used to), but Bujold, over time with novels such as Miles in Love and Cordelia’s Honor, you can see that Bujold is a closet romance writer. Not that this is a bad thing, but some of us aren’t that interested in romance.
Whether Cook's being ironic or sloppy when he says "attention to detail that only women would find attractive" is "right out of Alexander Dumas", I dunno. At that point, my eyes were still spinning over his distaste for The Shadow of the Torturer, and his not liking Dumas only made them spin harder. But I strongly suspect he knows Dumas was a male writer who is loved by male readers. So calling him misogynistic for not liking work that he says was influenced by Dumas seems odd to me, especially given his "not that this is a bad thing".

What Cook seems to like are Boy's Books. He doesn't like major romance plots, and he doesn't want fantasy tropes in his scifi. He has a traditional male taste in reading that I, a Dumas-lover who believes most great books include romance and who couldn't imagine writing a book without romance, simply don't get.

But I also don't get women who only or mostly like Girl's Books.

And that's fine. It's okay if you like the kinds of stories that are traditionally associated with your gender. Liking old school scifi is not misogynous; liking romance is not misandrous. No one should apologize for what they like to read.

For some people appalled by Cook's taste, my last sentence may be controversial. Would they mock a woman who chose to marry and stay home? Would they mock a man who supported her? It seems to me that in real diversity, there's room for everyone.

Perhaps the oddest criticism of Cook's post is that because he doesn't like zombies in steampunk, he's sexist. Or perhaps he's sexist because he doesn't like zombies and doesn't like romance. In any case, I agree that no one should recommend any zombie love stories to him.

There are people claiming they're speaking up and calling out because dangerous opinions must be opposed. But where is Cook's power? He's a geek in the old sense, someone who likes something that's not popular. He can't influence the field. If you're concerned about power, call out Patrick Nielsen Hayden or another white man who publishes a lot of books by white men with white men on their covers. I'll think you don't understand capitalism if you do, but at least you'll be bravely calling out someone with power in publishing.

ETA: Don't miss Emma's observation in the comments.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

antiracists or neosegregationists?

The Miley Cyrus kerfuffle, with people complaining she "appropriated" a black dance style and is "exploiting" her black backup dancers is an interesting example of how some people just hate it when white people dance like or with black people.

Noah Berlatsky at The Atlantic added that white people shouldn't sing like black people when he complained about Janis Joplin.

I may have first noticed the curious hatred of miscegenation by many anti-racists in the Save the Pearls kerfuffle: the book is about an interracial romance, yet it was denounced as racist. I suspect some of the people who denounced it have also complained about the shortage of "eligible" black men and about white women "stealing" black men, but I haven't bothered to verify that.

Is anti-racism the love child of the Nation of Islam and the Ku Klux Klan?

More about the Rationalizing Animal: Politics Wrecks Your Ability to Do Math

Science Confirms: Politics Wrecks Your Ability to Do Math | Mother Jones

Monday, September 2, 2013

the privilege theorist's anti-scientific understanding of race

In a wide-ranging discussion about racism and race reductionism at Lake Hermanstadt: Fools don’t claim that cats bark, but they talk about cats when everyone else is talking about dogs, Anubis said:
the definition I use is based on Paul Mecheril’s: Racism is the (institutionalized) power to differentiate groups of people by physical and/or social traits, and to ascribe these traits to national, ethnic or cultural origins.
I answered:
Mecheril's definition may work in Europe, but in the US, racism continues to be based on physical traits; tribalism and bigotry are based on social traits. While I agree that the goal is to end the nation state, that's not to end racism; that's to end tribalism. Racism is a very distinct concept, the idea that whiteness is good or bad. For example, people who like Christian Africans and hate Muslim Africans are not racist in US terms (though you could speak poetically of the race of Christians and the race of Muslims). People who hate Muslims, regardless of their race, are bigots. Their bigotry has nothing to do with the nation state, because it's targeted against a religion that transcends nation states.
Anubis said:
The reason why it’s good to work with Mecheril’s definition is that it comes very close to the definition used by (primarily Latin American) theorists who are concerned with the question how racism shapes international relations. So I don’t think it’s a definition that works only in a local context, although I live in Europe and I’m primarily concerned with racism in Europe. To be sure, a different definition might be needed in the US context (which I don’t know personally). Talking about the historical origin of racism, it is important to note though that racism wasn’t invented in the US (or the North American colonies).

The talk about tribalism doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because it sounds unscientific, to say the least.
I said:
We simply have to disagree on whether racism was invented in the Americas. Yes, tribalism is ancient. But racism was an Age of Enlightenment rationalization of the African slave trade: if people of the time wanted to believe all men are equal but some should be enslaved, they had to conclude that there's a racial hierarchy. It is significant that the first appearance of "white people" in North America's historical record was around 1680.
But I've been thinking about Anubis's "it sounds unscientific, to say the least".

Anti-racists fail to distinguish between two very different kinds of prejudice, one based on what people can change and one based on what they cannot. An immigrant may adopt the religion, clothes, manners, and, with great effort, speech of a culture, but cannot change race or sex. Whether the different kinds of prejudice ultimately matter, I don't know—I oppose them all—but I fully expect that history's most recent form of prejudice, racism, will disappear long before the older forms like tribalism and sexism. We're seeing that disappearance now as the word "racism" is being used for other prejudices.

But what's fascinating is the self-righteousness of claiming that failing to distinguish between very different things is scientific. A crow is not a crane. The scientific attitude is to find both differences and similarities in order to be precise in addressing problems. Tell me that prejudices are ancient, and I'll happily agree. Tell me that racism is ancient, and I'll have to insist that history disagrees. Historian and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Eric Williams continues to be right:
Slavery in the Caribbean has been too narrowly identified with the Negro. A racial twist has thereby been given to what is basically an economic phenomenon. Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery. Unfree labor in the New World was brown, white, black, and yellow; Catholic, Protestant and pagan. (Italics mine.)
ETA: Anubis says I've misunderstood her position; see the comments at Fools don’t claim that cats bark, but they talk about cats when everyone else is talking about dogs.

For those who love dance: DID I MENTION I LIKE TO DANCE- Flynt Flossy

▶ DID I MENTION I LIKE TO DANCE- Flynt Flossy (@Turquoisejeep) - YouTube:

Updating Thomas Paine on wealth-sharing and the basic income guarantee

If I had to pick one American everyone should know, I'd choose Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, the book that made the argument for the American Revolution. If I had to pick one quote to sum up my philosophy, I'd choose this, from his The Rights of Man: "I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good."

Paine noted in Agrarian Justice:
It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.
Because we are all the world's shareholders, he thought governments should:
Create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property. And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.
 Perfectly calculating what money was worth in other times is impossible, but it can be done in broad strokes. 1000 Pounds notes, "A typical landless farm laborer might earn £30 a year--- about the same wage as a school teacher."

The median American school teacher pay is $54,270, so, if the US had adopted Paine's proposal, today, at the age of twenty-one, every US citizen would get about $25,000, and would be paid $18,000 a year for life on becoming fifty.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The liberal outlook vs liberal politics, or Why there are liberals in every political philosophy, and not all political liberals are philosophical liberals

I became aware of the problem with "liberal" when I was active with the Unitarian Universalists, who define their faith as a liberal religion. It's a religion that rejects authority and respects difference of thought. Though Unitarian Universalism attracts many politically liberal capitalists, it also attracts people to their right and left, from right-libertarians and Goldwater Republicans to left-libertarians and anarchists.

Bertrand Russell's "liberal decalogue" from “The best answer to fanaticism: Liberalism” explains the liberal attitude well:

Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:
  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
Censorship is the easiest test of philosophical liberalism. Political liberals who try to silence their opponents are not philosophical liberals; political conservatives and socialists who believe in free speech are liberal conservatives and liberal socialists.