Friday, July 29, 2016

Three fascinating facts about gender and apologies

Just read Sorry, but it’s complicated | language: a feminist guide This is more interesting than I expected it to be. Three essential bits for me:

1. "Some studies have found women apologizing more than men, but others have found no difference."

2. In a test of gender and class, gender matters, but class trumps gender: "the most effective apology was by a male manager, followed by a female manager, a male subordinate and finally a female subordinate."

3. Women apologize far more to each other: "More than half of all the apologies in the New Zealand data—55%—were cases of women apologising to other women. Apologies from women to men accounted for about 18% of cases, apologies from men to women for about 17%, and apologies from men to other men for just 8.5%."

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Eddie Glaude's impromptu definition of neoliberalism is pretty solid

From Michael Eric Dyson vs. Eddie Glaude on Race, Hillary Clinton and the Legacy of Obama's Presidency | Democracy Now!:
Well, a neoliberal economic philosophy involves a kind of understanding that the notion of the public good is kind of undermined by a basic market logic that turns us all into entrepreneurs, where competition and rivalry define who we are, where the state’s principal function—right?—is to secure the efficient functioning of the economy and the defense, and creating the market conditions whereby you and I can pursue our own self-interest. And part of what that does, if we only read it as an economic philosophy and not understand it as a kind of political rationale producing particular kinds of subjects, who are selfish, who are self-interested, who are always in competition with one another, then we lose sight of how neoliberalism attacks the political imagination.
You may think that's just a definition of liberalism, but historically liberals tried to balance public and private enterprise. Education's a fine example: liberals believed in good public schools, while neoliberals promote charter schools and organizations like Teach For America that undercut public education.

Bad behavior all around: on grumbling authors, agents who charge writers for pitches, and aspiring publishing people who shame writers

Because David Benjamin's post is still public, I'll share the link: My Latest Rejection, #319: Jennifer Johnson-Blalock. But if you're tempted to join the people who're mobbing him, please finish this post first. I'll make it as brief as I can.

I learned about this story in the wrong way. First I saw Steve Brust sharing a link to this tweet by John Scalzi:
In the comments, someone provided a link to a screen capture of the post and the existing comments at How to get yourself blacklisted, a blog by Passive Guy who "hopes to work at a publishing house one day".

Mention a blacklist, and my hackles rise—I was born during the Red Scare and grew up very aware of all the blacklisted leftists of the time. We didn't believe in blacklists. Dave Van Ronk tells this story:
"Years later, I was talking with him [Oscar Brand] and expressed my disgust that that he, or maybe someone else, had put on a show with Burl Ives, who had outraged us all by naming a string of names in front of HUAC. Oscar just quietly said, “Dave, we on the left do not blacklist.” Put me right in my place."
So I read David Benjamin's post as the writing of someone who was under attack for committing a social mistake, which means I read it about as charitably as anyone could, and I still winced at some of things he said about the agent in question. I doubt Benjamin himself would deny that the post is mean-spirited.

But I also had some sympathy for him. Scalzi's tweet left out a very important fact: Benjamin didn't just get rejected. He paid $50 for the privilege in what I consider a scam. Traditionally, money flows from agents to writers. Reverse the direction in any pay-to-play scheme and serious ethical issues arise. This doesn't mean agents should never take money for doing anything other than agenting—being paid to teach classes and give speeches about publishing is fine. But once you're engaging in one-on-one sessions at rates like $50 for ten minutes, to my mind, you've crossed a line. The US minimum wage is $7.25; if you're getting paid in ten minutes as much as a minimum wage worker is paid in seven hours, you should be doing more than exploiting the hopes of aspiring writers, and you should not be surprised when disappointed writers vent.

I have no idea how popular Benjamin's blog was, but the fact that his rant is his most popular post suggests he did not expect it to get the attention he's gotten. He seems to have been doing what humans do, grumbling among friends without realizing that on the internet, you're always one public post away from social suicide.

Because the internet is vindictive, Passive Guy at How to get yourself blacklisted is providing screen grabs to make sure Benjamin cannot try to escape punishment. I think Benjamin's right to leave his post public; I advised that in How to survive a mobbing (that mostly happens online).

But Passive Guy is wrong to join in the Name and Shame Game. Publishing etiquette includes the principle that you don't shame people lightly. (You save those stories for the bar.)

Scalzi was right not to name Benjamin or link to anything that did name him. I'm naming him because (1) he hasn't taken the post down after a day of mobbing, and (2) the poor bastard can use some defenders because people who hear of the uproar will google his name.

I admit, I'm not the best defender because I agree that his insulting of the $50 for 10 minutes agent went far beyond her not providing him with anything useful in return for his time and money.

But humans vent with people they consider their friends, when they think they're in the equivalent of a corner of the bar where no one else is listening. People who have not been mobbed online or who do not have massively popular sites do not expect to get mobbed for griping.

Yes, it would be lovely if we were all saints, but we're not, so the best we can do is have pity for those who fuck up.

Part of the pity should go to the agent who took part in the pay-to-play scheme. It's become commonplace; there's no reason for her to feel bad for doing what many do not question. But now that this has happened, the best thing, so far as I'm concerned, would be for her to simply refuse to do more.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Captain Fanboy on Wonder Woman, Justice League, and Dr. Strange trailers, plus Iron Man 2


When I heard DC was going to set Wonder Woman's origin in World War I, I thought it was a silly change done just to make it different from the Captain America movie.

But after seeing the trailer, I realized the change is brilliant for two reasons:

1. Wonder Woman's purpose is to end war—she should be there for the first world war.

2. Wonder Woman's role is to be a hero for women and men who love women—she should be there during the first wave of feminism.

Also, I love the look of the period.

Their take on Steve Trevor and Etta Candy appears to be damn fine. I'm not crazy about the current interpretation of Wonder Woman as a warrior—I prefer the classic Wonder Woman who relies on her wits, physical perfection, and the advanced science of Paradise Island—but my expectations for this movie have soared dangerously high.


I've seen very few of the DC superhero movies because the movie people seem to think we want grim, and while grim superheroes were an interesting thing to do when Alan Moore and Frank Miller experimented with them, ultimately, grim superheroes are stupid because superheroes call for more suspension of disbelief than any other genre, including funny animals.

Why, you ask? Because funny animals have their own universes where they make sense in that universe's terms, but most superheroes are supposed to exist in our real world. Most fantasy and science fiction set in the real world has one change—time travel is possible, vampires are real, etc. But superhero movies have to rationalize things like why Batman dresses up in a suit and beats up petty criminals instead of promoting something like Basic Income to make a world where no one turns to crime out of desperation. Mind you, I'm not knocking superhero stories—I just think any attempt to make them "realistic" is misguided. This doesn't mean I think they should be silly. It means I think that in general, Marvel found the approach I want for superhero movies and DC has not, so far.

Like the Wonder Woman trailer, the Justice League trailer suggests DC finally figured it out. Part of me is sorry they're not connecting their movie and TV universes, but I completely understand the commercial needs at work, and this version of the Flash looks like fun. This Aquaman seems more like Marvel's Submariner, but I forgive that, and I feel a bit prescient for having said a few years back that a rebooted Aquaman should look vaguely like a Pacific Islander. There isn't much Cyborg in this, but he appears solid. I find myself really liking Affleck's Batman. I'm kind of hoping Superman doesn't show up in the first Justice League movie, but I'm sure he will.


I didn't want Benedict Cumberbatch to be Dr. Strange, not because I don't love his Sherlock (I do), but because there are so many fine actors who would do great jobs. Casting him seemed like blatant fan service. But once he was cast, I knew he would do a damn fine job, and the trailer confirms that.

Ideological antiracists are desperately seeking a reason to hate this movie. I would've cast Michelle Yeoh as the Ancient One, but there's nothing wrong with the choice of the androgynous Tilda Swinton as the head of an international mystic order. The silliest complaint I've seen so far was by someone who claimed that the movie calls Tibetans savages, even though anyone with half a brain should be able to see the line is a joke at the expense of the white guy.


I heard the second Iron Man movie was mediocre, so I never got around to seeing it until last night. When it started, I saw its running time was 2 hours and 4 minutes, so I turned to Emma and said, "It's fifteen minutes too long." I was right; simply trimming fifteen minutes would've made it a better forgettable movie. But it wouldn't fix how incompetent the storytelling is. The industrialist villain is painful to watch, and the reveal of the Black Widow is boring—we shouldn't have found out who she was until she went into action. It felt like Agent Coulson was stuck in to promote Marvel's next movie, and Nick Fury's only job is to tell Stark about his daddy. The script needed one more pass before shooting began. The only virtues are amusing bits by Downey and a short fight scene with the Black Widow.

The trailer and this Black Widow action clip are all you need to see if you like Marvel superhero movies but aren't obsessive about seeing every single one:


Captain Fanboy's ratings:

Iron Man movie: C-. The grade is harsher because the first Iron Man was solid work—without that, I might've given this a C+—but there's no excuse for getting it right, then falling so far.

Dr. Strange trailer: A-. I'm not convinced the movie is going to be great, but I'm convinced it might be.

Justice League: A. The movie may not live up to the trailer, but all the things in the trailer make me want to see more.

Wonder Woman trailer: All the As in the world. Please, DC, don't stumble.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

How does privilege theory explain what I just saw?

About ten minutes ago:

I'm waiting on my bicycle at the corner of Hiawatha and 35th. In the middle of the street is a young white man with a cardboard sign—I can't read it from where I am, but it's undoubtedly a variation on "Homeless. Please help." Maybe he's a vet—many homeless men and women served in the military before the US's leaders abandoned them.

A pristine SUV stops beside him. The driver appears to be a Somali woman—she's dark-skinned and wearing a scarf, and this neighborhood has many Somali-Americans. She hands him what looks like a cup of coffee or juice, then gives him a folded bill that's clearly US currency—whether it's $1 or $20, I can't tell—then drives away.

How does privilege theory explain this?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A short timeline of socialism and feminism


Charles Fourier, a utopian socialist, coined the word "féminisme".


"If the rule of the wife over her husband—a natural consequence of the factory system—is unnatural, then the former rule of the husband over the wife must also have been unnatural." —Friedrich Engels, discussing female factory workers who supported their husbands in The Condition of the Working Class in England


"...the emancipation of the productive class is that of all human beings without distinction of sex or race..." —Karl Marx


"In an old unpublished manuscript, written by Marx and myself in 1846, I find the words: “The first division of labor is that between man and woman for the propagation of children.” And today I can add: The first class opposition that appears in history coincides with the development of the antagonism between man and woman in monogamous marriage, and the first class oppression coincides with that of the female sex by the male." —Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State


"There is no doubt that there is a women’s question. But for us – who gain the right to be counted among the working class either by birth or by working for the workers’ cause – this issue belongs to the general working-class movement. We can understand, sympathise, and also help if need be, when women of the upper or middle class fight for rights that are well-founded and whose achievement will benefit working-women also. I say, we can even help: has not the Communist Manifesto taught us that it is our duty to support any progressive movement that benefits the workers’ cause, even if this movement is not our own?" —Eleanor Marx


Voltairine de Cleyre wrote that marriage laws make "every married woman what she is, a bonded slave, who takes her master's name, her master's bread, her master's commands, and serves her master's passions."


"I demand the independence of woman, her right to support herself; to live for herself; to love whomever she pleases, or as many as she pleases. I demand freedom for both sexes, freedom of action, freedom in love and freedom in motherhood." —Emma Goldman


Eugene V. Debs, the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of America, supported the right of women to vote—a right that American women would not win for another 20 years.

(In 1905, Debs met Susan B. Anthony, who told him, “Give us suffrage, and we’ll give you socialism.” Debs replied, “Give us socialism and we’ll give you the vote.”)


"I cannot help regretting that the word “feminism” has crept into the debate. It is a word of which we have no need in England, and which we might very well have left in its native land, France, where it was coined by men to express the contemptuous lack of understanding of the Boulevard for a phase of strenuous belief on the part of some French men and women, that woman possessed other functions and aspirations outside those of sex; in a word, was a human being as well as a female. It is a lop-sided expression, and leads to lop-sided thinking, just as the term “masculinism” might do, if used in a similar connection. Where education, professions, political rights and public duties are concerned, there is no necessity to emphasise sex; we all meet on the common ground of human beings, having common human interests. In 1897, when speaking at the Women’s Congress in Brussels, I made a similar protest against the word “feminism,” suggesting that we should substitute for it “humanism,” as the advancement of humanity, and not of one sex over another, was the aim and object of the women at that time assembled in conference. The late Madame Potonié Pierre, one of the most large-minded among the French workers in the cause of equal rights for women, felt the justice of my plea, and wrote several articles in the same spirit; but the word “feminism” proved too attractive to the esprit gaulois, and it still reigns supreme in French bourgeois circles, and threatens to invade England." —Dora Montefiore, "A Bundle of Fallacies"


"A revolution does not deserve its name if, with all its might and all the means at its disposal, it does not help the woman—twofold and threefold enslaved as she has been in the past—to get out on the road of individual and social progress." —Leon Trotsky, The Struggle for Cultured Speech


Valentina Tereshkova of the USSR became the first woman in space. (The second was another communist, Svetlana Savitskaya, who later became was the first woman to walk in space.)


“The fight against male chauvinism is a class struggle—that’s hard for people to understand.” —Bobby Seale, Black Panther


Barbara Ehrenreich wrote in What is Socialist Feminism?
The social system which industrial capitalism replaced was in fact a patriarchal one, and I am using that term now in its original sense, to mean a system in which production is centered in the household and is presided over by the oldest male. The fact is that industrial capitalism came along and tore the rug out from under patriarchy. Production went into the factories and individuals broke off from the family to become “free” wage earners. To say that capitalism disrupted the patriarchal organization of production and family life is not, of course, to say that capitalism abolished male supremacy! But it is to say that the particular forms of sex oppression we experience today are, to a significant degree, recent developments. A huge historical discontinuity lies between us and true patriarchy. If we are to understand our experience as women today, we must move to a consideration of capitalism as a system.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A short timeline of socialism and anti-racism

Note: "Anti-racism" in the title is used in its general sense of "opposing racism". The word was rarely used until academics at Ivy League schools began promoting it in the 1980s as a synonym for Critical Race Theory, but now it's also used by people who oppose racism and reject Critical Race Theory.


Karl Marx, congratulating President Lincoln on his re-election, wrote,
While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war.

The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes.

Karl Marx wrote in Capital, 
In the United States of America, every independent workers' movement was paralyzed as long as slavery disfigured part of the republic. Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the Black it is branded.

Karl Marx wrote, "...the emancipation of the productive class is that of all human beings without distinction of sex or race..."


Lucy Parsons' husband was executed after the Haymarket affair, but she continued organizing and writing for decades. In the 1920s, the Chicago Police Department said she was "more dangerous than a thousand rioters". Her explanation of why the black man was persecuted in the US:
It is because he is poor. It is because he is dependent. Because he is poorer as a class than his white wage-slave brother of the North.

Eugene V. Debs, a founder of the Industrial Workers of the World and five times the Socialist Party of America's candidate for president, wrote in The Negro In The Class Struggle,
The history of the Negro in the United States is a history of crime without a parallel.

…As a social party we receive the Negro and all other races upon absolutely equal terms. We are the party of the working class, the whole working class, and we will not suffer ourselves to be divided by any specious appeal to race prejudice; and if we should be coaxed or driven from the straight road we will be lost in the wilderness and ought to perish there, for we shall no longer be a Socialist party.

W. E. B. Du Bois, author of The Souls of Black Folks, joined the Socialist Party.


Hubert Harrison wrote in The Negro and the Nation
...they tell us that we are free. But are we? If you will think for a moment you will see that we are not free at all. We have simply changed one form of slavery for another. Then it was chattel-slavery, now it is wage-slavery. For that which was the essence of chattel-slavery is the essence of wage slavery. It is only a difference in form. The chattel-slave was compelled to work by physical force; the wage-slave is compelled to work by starvation. The product of the chattel-slave's labor was taken by his master; the product of the wage-slave's labor is taken by the employer.
A. Phillip Randolph, who would go on to head the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Martin Luther King gave his "Dream" speech, co-founded The Messenger. From Wikipedia:
...Randolph and Chandler Owen founded the Messenger[7] with the help of the Socialist Party of America. It was a radical monthly magazine, which campaigned against lynching, opposed U.S. participation in World War I, urged African Americans to resist being drafted, to fight for an integrated society, and urged them to join radical unions. The Department of Justice called theMessenger "the most able and the most dangerous of all the Negro publications." When the Messenger began publishing the work of black poets and authors, a critic called it "one of the most brilliantly edited magazines in the history of Negro journalism." [4]

John Reed, a founding member of the Communist Labor Party, said in his address to the Second Congress of the Communist International,
Communists must not stand aloof from the Negro movement which demands their social and political equality.

The Communist Party USA paid for the defense of the Scottsboro Boys, nine black teenagers accused of raping two young white women.


James W. Ford, a black man, was the Communist Party USA's candidate for Vice President.


Leon Trotsky wrote in "What Is National Socialism?":
To investigate retrospectively the genealogy of ideas, even those most reactionary and muddleheaded, is to leave not a trace of racism standing.

Albert Einstein (who made his politics clear in "Why Socialism?") wrote in "The Negro Question":
Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man's quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition. 
The ancient Greeks also had slaves. They were not Negroes but white men who had been taken captive in war. There could be no talk of racial differences. And yet Aristotle, one of the great Greek philosophers, declared slaves inferior beings who were justly subdued and deprived of their liberty. It is clear that he was enmeshed in a traditional prejudice from which, despite his extraordinary intellect, he could not free himself.

Martin Luther King wrote in a letter to Coretta Scott, capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.

 In the preface to the new edition of The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois wrote,
I still think today as yesterday that the color line is a great problem of this century. But today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen; that to maintain this privilege men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous, and the excuse for this war continues largely to be color and race.

Bayard Rustin, a gay man who had been a member of the Communist Party, was one of the leading organizers of the civil rights movement. Rustin went on to become the National Chairman of the Democratic Socialists, USA.


W. E. B. Du Bois joined the Communist Party at the age of 93.


Malcolm X 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.”

Martin Luther King said,
Call it what you may, call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

#BLM, we're in this together: The odds of being killed by US police are not significantly different, regardless of your race

Dear Reader, I majored in English, so if my math is wrong, please don't hesitate to say so. I'm always grateful for the chance to correct a mistake.

If you hang out in the places I do, you'll constantly hear it's more likely for a black person to be killed by the police than a white person, but you won't hear the actual odds, so I thought I'd run the numbers using data from United States Demographic Statistics and The Counted: people killed by police in the United States – interactive.

Since I'm lazy and 97.6% of Americans identify as being of a single race, I'll just use the numbers for people who identify as black only and non-Hispanic white only.

Total US population: 281,421,906
Total number of people killed by the police in 2015: 1146
Which means:
The average American's chance of being killed by the police in 2015 was .0004%.
The police killed four Americans per million in 2015.
Total US black population: 34,658,190
Total number of black people killed by the police in 2015: 306
Which means:
The average black American's chance of being killed by the police in 2015 was .0009%.
The police killed nine black Americans per million in 2015.
Total US non-Hispanic white population: 194,552,774
Total number of non-Hispanic white people killed by the police in 2015: 581
Which means:
The average white American's chance of being killed by the police in 2015 was .0003%.
The police killed three white Americans per million in 2015.
So it's true that a black American is three times more likely to be killed by the police than a white American.

But to put those numbers in perspective, according to Guns are now killing as many people as cars in the U.S. - The Washington Post: "In 2014, the age-adjusted death rate for both firearms (including homicides, suicides and accidental deaths) and motor vehicle events (car crashes, collisions between cars and pedestrians, etc) stood at 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people." 10.3 divided by 100,000 equals 0.000103. Which means:
The average American's chance of being killed by an automobile in 2014 was the same as the chance of being killed by a gun, .01%.
Guns and automobiles each killed one hundred Americans per million.
Now, I'm not offering these numbers to excuse a single police death. Many other countries show that the US could and should do much better—see By the numbers: US police kill more in days than other countries do in years.

I'm offering these numbers to show that we're all in this together. Privilege theorists may insist that being in a group that has three police killings per million per year is an example of privilege and being in a group that has nine police killings per year is an example of oppression, but that's missing the point: American police need to be demilitarized so they can put all their effort into protecting and serving everyone.

Related: The 3-to-1 rule, or Using race to ignore class

ETA:  From The Counted, a breakdown of people per million killed so far in 2016 by the police:
3.4 per million Native American
3.28 per million Black
1.59 per million Hispanic/Latino
1.42 per million White
0.56 per million Asian/Pacific Islander
ETA 2: Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings - The New York Times

ETA 3: This study found race matters in police shootings, but the results may surprise you - The Washington Post: "we found that officers were slightly more than three times less likely to shoot unarmed black suspects than unarmed white suspects."

A primer on jailhouse suicides - The Washington Post: "Men are much more likely to kill themselves in jail than women. White people are more than three times more likely to kill themselves than black people."

ETA 4: Police Kill Too Many People—White and Black | TIME.

ETA 5: I decided to do what race reductionists don't—I included class in the analysis. The result: Why #BlackLivesMatter should be #PoorLivesMatter—now with graphics.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The 3-to-1 rule, or Using race to ignore class

A Multi-Level Bayesian Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States, 2011–2014 is fascinating for what it reveals and what it leaves out—the writers don't think class is worth including, so they provide statistics like this:
The median probability across counties of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is 3.49 (PCI95: 1.77, 6.04) times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police}.
A three to one ratio also applies to how much more likely a black person is to be poor: According to National Poverty Center, "In 2010, 27.4 percent of blacks and 26.6 percent of Hispanics were poor, compared to 9.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 12.1 percent of Asians."

Here are the numbers on race, poverty, and police killing in the US today:

This year, according to the Counted, 279 white people and 136 black people have been killed by the police.

In 2014, according to Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity,19,796,700 white people and 10,145,200 black people were living in poverty.

Since the ratio of black and white people in poverty and the ratio of black and white people who are killed by the police is the same—there are twice as many poor whites and white victims as poor blacks and black victims—here's the question that race reductionists cannot ask: Are black people being disproportionately killed because they're black or because they're disproportionately poor?

The answer matters enormously. The solution to racism is sensitivity training, but the solution to poverty is ending it with Basic Income or some other form of sharing the wealth.

We know that most people in violent encounters with the police are poor, regardless of race. We also know that about 50% of police victims suffer from mental health issues, which are strongly related to poverty. To know whether most black police victims are killed because of their race or their class, we would need numbers comparing poor black victims with poor white victims, middle-class black victims with middle-class white victims, and rich black victims with rich white victims. Without that data, we can't know whether a three to one racial discrepancy is hiding a war on the poor of all races.

But we can conclude that the goal is not to make police killings racially proportionate. The goal is to end them.