Friday, May 22, 2015

Some feminisms I love, some I pity

A friend emailed me because she thought I was bashing all feminists with Dear feminists upset by last week's Game of Thrones. I was initially annoyed, because I thought the title should make it clear I was addressing a specific subset of feminists. But the friend identifies as feminist and tends to assume all feminists are the same, so I thought I would spell this out:

I identified as a feminist for most of my life, and am still happy to identify as a universalist feminist, a socialist feminist, or an equity feminist, though it's simpler to just be an egalitarian or equalist. My heroes include Sojourner Truth and Eleanor Marx and every woman who has ever worked for full equality for all women.

I pity bourgeois feminists because they channel their outrage against men instead of the system that has historically been primarily exploited by men. I pity academic feminists because they create elaborate theories of gender that have nothing to do with the real world they have never inhabited. I pity identitarian feminists because their obsession keeps them from looking for what lies beneath social identities. I can't hate any of them, because there is something real at the root of their anger, but what's real is misunderstood in a way that does not threaten their privilege or help the exploited. They tend to be more interested in the ability of queens to rule with all the rights of kings than in making a world where we're all free.

Links to cartoons by Toby Morris, whose observations about New Zealand apply to my country and probably yours

I clicked a link to The Pencilsword: On a plate with a little trepidation because it was described as a cartoon about privilege. I was pleased to find it's about economic privilege, not social privilege. (Yes, they're often related, but some rich people lose their wealth and kill themselves because they know they'll lose their social privilege too, and the New Rich always gain the social privileges of wealth, even if jealous members of the Old Rich sneer at them for retaining some traits of the lower classes. Most social privileges come with fine clothes and grooming, and disappear with them, too.)

If you like that cartoon, you can find links to more at Toby Morris - Contributor - The Wireless. The  recent work is stronger than the older work, which is how you want it to be, but they're all worth the minute or two they'll take to read, which is also how you want it to be.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dear feminists upset by last week's Game of Thrones

Spoiler warning: plot points from GoT and disagreement with modern feminism's understanding of art and sexual violence.

The torture and castration of Theon Greyjoy doesn't offend you, but the idea that a bad man might rape his wife does?

Like the castration of Theon, the message of Sansa's rape is simple: rape is horrible, one of the worst things a person can do to another. The show has had horrible people being horrible since it began; it is not called Game of Kiddie Chairs. The goal is to win an iron throne made from swords. What show did you think you were watching?

I realize that readers brought up on romance novels would expect Ramsay to be defeated by a virtuous knight or to fall in love with Sansa and be transformed into a husband who is worthy of her. But this ain't that show. The one thing you know is bad things happen to good people. Your only consolation is knowing that bad things will also happen to bad people. Sansa undoubtedly survives her marriage to Ramsay. It's not likely that Ramsay survives this season.

People obsessed with male and female gazes should note that the scene ultimately has a male point of view, but that POV is not Ramsay's thrill in using Sansa, but Theon's horror at what's being done.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Zumba versus Salsa for physical and psychological health

Zumba and salsa seem to do equally well for mental health, but Zumba has an edge for physical issues, based on a recent study. From Salsa dance and Zumba fitness: Acute responses during community-based classes:
There was a significantly higher (p < 0.001) total time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (51.2 ± 3.1 vs. 32.6 ± 5.9 min), total energy expenditure (411 ± 66 vs. 210 ± 46 kcal), and total step count (6773 ± 556 vs. 4108 ± 781 step) during Zumba fitness when compared to salsa dance. Significant pre-to post-class improvements in positive well-being (p < 0.01, partial η2 = 0.41) and psychological distress (p < 0.001, partial η2 = 0.72) were simultaneously observed for both salsa dance and Zumba fitness.
I don't know enough about the kind of salsa classes in the study to speak knowledgably, but since this is the internet, I won't let that stop me:

My guess is salsa is a little more connected to recreation than Zumba, which began when an exercise teacher had to improvise with his Latin dance tapes, so Zumba is a bit more focused on physical fitness. But "a bit more" is important in that sentence: Zumba only works if you focus on the same thing you should focus on with salsa: having fun moving.

You can derail agendas, but not conversations or investigations

I liked this bit in Establishment Journalists Pride Themselves on Staying on the Official Rails: "Rails, after all, are meant to keep a vehicle on a predetermined track. It’s not much of compliment to compare a journalist to a smoothly operating train, always showing up at the official stations."

I'll take that point further: When people say you're derailing, ask where they want to send you. And remember that to someone who thinks you're derailing, you're not in a conversation; you're in a lecture that allows some comments from the audience.

Derailing is rightly a scary metaphor. For people who thought they were in for a cozy ride, dealing with the unexpected is annoying or terrifying. But many passengers in history have been trapped on trains that they would have gladly derailed.

Shorter version: Derailing is just a way to say someone is thinking freely. Authorities hate that.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Adam Smith quotes for supporters of Basic Income

"The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor. They find it difficult to get food, and the greater part of their little revenue is spent in getting it. The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess. A tax upon house-rents, therefore, would in general fall heaviest upon the rich; and in this sort of inequality there would not, perhaps, be anything very unreasonable. It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion." —Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

"All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind." —Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

"No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable." —Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

"Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all." —Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

"As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce." —Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Friday, May 15, 2015

Belle: highly recommended for fans of historicals, Regencies, and interracial romances

Just saw Belle. Maybe because I was afraid it would be self-important in its handling of a based-on-a-true-story about a mixed-race illegitimate woman raised by her noble family in England at the end of the 18th century, I wasn't expecting to like it much, but it was amusing and touching and pretty to look at. I gave it 9 stars on IMDb. At Rotten Tomatoes, it has an 83% for audience and critics, which seems fair.

They took some liberties with the script, but after reviewing Dido Elizabeth Belle - Wikipedia, I don't think the liberties are too extreme.

Very disconcerting fact: they refer to "Negroes" at a time when they would've said "nigger". To a modern audience, it's impossible to hear that word as it was used before the 20th century, which was much like "Jew": the attitude of the speaker told you what was meant.

Here's a picture of the famous painting of the historical Dido Belle and her sister. You can tell who the painter thought was more fun.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

For my fellow leftists who think most or all conservatives are racist

In the '50s and '60s, it was fairly safe to assume that the more conservative someone was, the more racist someone was. After Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam, he said, "It’s impossible for a white person to believe in capitalism and not believe in racism. You can’t have capitalism without racism. And if you find one and you happen to get that person into conversation and they have a philosophy that makes you sure they don’t have this racism in their outlook, usually they’re socialists or their political philosophy is socialism."

But some things have changed in fifty years. In 2013, 87% of Americans approved of Black-White marriage, vs. 4% in 1958. In 2011, Herman Cain was the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President until he was derailed for the same thing that took down Gary Hart and many other white politicians, allegations of infidelity.

Because I follow my conservative sister-in-law on Facebook, I see her sharing posts about her favorite candidate, Ben Carson, who is not a frontrunner like Cain (probably because he isn't as rich as Cain), but is doing well in the Republican polls. She and my brother have interracial grandkids who they adore. She's fond of Christian memes about how all races are one.

Calling people like my conservative relatives racists is not just rude. Because it's inaccurate, it casts doubt on anything else you might say.

And, yes, as my regular readers know (and are probably tired of hearing), I know all about Critical Race Theory and intersectionality and similar ideas promoted by liberals of color. But as a socialist, I have to look critically at ideas promoted by capitalists, conservative and liberal, regardless of their race. I end up agreeing with Adolph Reed Jr.'s short bit of required reading for anyone interested in contemporary liberal race theory, The limits of anti-racism.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Facebook disabled my account

I don't know why. Maybe someone reported me for something to harass me for my politics, because that's what keyboard crusaders do. Maybe it's a FB glitch. In any case, I've submitted my ID to prove to FB that I am who I am. With luck, I'll have the account back soon.

And then I may disable it, because FB is such a timesink. No decision yet; if I leave FB, I'd like to say goodbye there before I go.

ETA: And I have my account back, maybe 45 minutes after I sent in my ID. No explanation for what happened, so I won't waste time wondering about it.

Two short, useful videos showing how to deal with police harassment

I don't endorse the adjectives, but the basic approach in this seven-second video is hard to beat:

Under slightly more serious circumstances, this response is solid:

I have enormous sympathy for cops who are trying to protect and serve. I have very little for cops trying to meet a quota—they should be taking quotas up with their union reps. I have none for cops who're harassing people because they're bored or they want to try to impress somebody back at the station.

ETA: Yes, recording the encounter is helpful. Check on your local laws about recording cops. That there are any laws anywhere against recording cops doing their job is obscene: public servants should not have anything to hide from the public.

ETA 2: It's Perfectly Legal To Film The Cops. But there are states trying to change that, and cops who won't tell you that.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Four problems with work requirements for Basic Income

On twitter, Morgan Warstler, a very persistent fellow, has been trying to sell me on a version of basic income that requires everyone to register for jobs and forces them to accept any legal work that's offered. He misses these points:

1. Basic Income is not welfare. If you must think of it as something other than a benefit of citizenship, think of it as insurance. No matter how rich you are, disaster can strike. With Basic Income, you would always be financially able to survive.

2. Basic Income should be handled as simply and cheaply as Social Security: every month, citizens get money in the bank to use as they see fit. Only people who have been legally declared incompetent should have other people controlling their lives. Creating bureaucracies to test and monitor people only benefits bureaucrats.

3. Basic Income addresses a fact of life in the modern age: there are not enough jobs for everyone—see Reminder: There Are Still 3 Times More Unemployed Workers Than Job Openings - The Atlantic: "With more than 11.7 million unemployed Americans still out there, the government estimates that there are 3.8 million jobs to be had -- a ratio of 3.1-to-1." As computerization continues, there will be even fewer jobs.

4. A work requirement assumes 100% employment is possible, so the palmed card of people who want work requirements must be the creation of make-work. While I'm a big fan of government job programs like the Works Progress Administration, even with the government adding meaningful work that the private sector cannot provide, achieving 100% employment is impossible without the creation of unnecessary jobs—which may be the intention of people who want bureaucrats to micromanage Basic Income.

ETA: Tangentially relevant: The power of stupid ideas: ‘three generations that have never worked’ | Working-Class Perspectives

George Orwell explains all fascists and too many pious (ie, spiritual and religious) people

“When one thinks of all the people who support or have supported Fascism, one stands amazed at their diversity. What a crew! Think of a programme which at any rate for a while could bring Hitler, Petain, Montagu Norman, Pavelitch, William Randolph Hearst, Streicher, Buchman, Ezra Pound, Juan March, Cocteau, Thyssen, Father Coughlin, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Arnold Lunn, Antonescu, Spengler, Beverley Nichols, Lady Houston, and Marinetti all into the same boat! But the clue is really very simple. They are all people with something to lose, or people who long for a hierarchical society and dread the prospect of a world of free and equal human beings. Behind all the ballyhoo that is talked about ‘godless’ Russia and the ‘materialism’ of the working class lies the simple intention of those with money or privileges to cling to them. Ditto, though it contains a partial truth, with all the talk about the worthlessness of social reconstruction not accompanied by a ‘change of heart’. The pious ones, from the Pope to the yogis of California, are great on the’ change of heart’, much more reassuring from their point of view than a change in the economic system.” ― George Orwell, "Looking back on the Spanish war", England Your England and Other Essays

Why rich people shouldn't argue that the US's poor are better off than most of the world

Because if that's your standard of good enough, there's no reason not to take from the rich until they live like the US's poor.

But I'll add that socialists want to raise the standard of living everywhere, so the rich should never be afraid that we will make them live as poorly as they make most people live now.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Socialist Bible Verses (and relevant to Basic Income): The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

Here's the King James Version of the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard :
For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
— Matthew 20:1–16, King James Version
The conventional interpretation is that this is only about heaven: people who come to Christianity late and people who come early will both be rewarded. But that ignores one of Jesus's most basic teachings: "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven."

What Jesus is describing in this parable is a world where we are all given enough to live on, no matter how little or how much we do.

Efficiency is not always the answer

I was spending too much time on Facebook, so I made radical use of the "unfollow" (but not the "unfriend") option. The result is I'm spending even more time on Facebook.

On Twitter, I simply unfollowed everyone, including Emma. It's now just a place to share my blog posts and, maybe once or twice a day, a link to one of my obsessions, like writing or dance or basic income or democratic socialism.

Clearly, I am immoderate in all things, including immoderation. Okay, maybe not. But I accept one of Jesus's harsher metaphors, "if thy hand offend thee, cut it off." That's not efficient—a radical solution is never the "minimum expense" to accomplish a goal—but sometimes it's the only way to be effective.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A link round-up for people who still think Charlie Hebdo is a racist magazine

What, more about this? Well, there are still people wrong on the internet....

And as a socialist, I find it especially sad when socialists are wrong. So, if you want to sound like you're not an Anglocentric jingoist on cartooning and racism, these are helpful:

America’s Literary Elite Takes a Bold Stand Against Dead Journalists - The Daily Beast

Understanding the socio-political context of Charlie Hebdo cartoons

In Paris, PEN Boycott Makes Americans Look Like Crude Provincials – Tablet Magazine

Neil Gaiman stands up for Charlie Hebdo: “For f**k’s sake, they drew somebody and they shot them, and you don’t get to do that” -

Garland and Garry Trudeau: Investigating the Myths Surrounding Charlie Hebdo - The Atlantic

No Charlie Hebdo Did Not Publish That Mediterranean Drowning Cartoon | Homo economicus' Weblog

Je suis Bezbozhnik | The Charnel-House

My earlier posts inspired by Charlie Hebdo:

For anyone who thinks Charlie Hebdo is a racist magazine

Without a right to free speech, you do not have a right to say you're offended

The love of censorship unites dictatorial communists, identitarian feminists, and rightwing Catholics

The curious contradictions of censorial socialists, and a few comments about Charlie Hebdo

 On the idea that Charlie Hebdo "punched down" — Answering Saladin Ahmed

On neoliberalism, "hate speech" suppression, Charlie Hebdo, Garry Trudeau

ETA: Non, « Charlie Hebdo » n’est pas obsédé par l’islam

My book gets mentioned in The Walking Dead comic

Thrill of the day for me: