Monday, December 31, 2018

On the end of 2018, taking a week off from social media, and false urgency

I think it's as funny as anyone does that I announce web breaks, then return as soon as the mood passes, which is why it surprises me that taking the last week off hasn't been hard. I rather like knowing comments are piling up on Twitter and Facebook. I'll be sad if any of them involve opportunities that have passed, but that's not how social media usually works. It's all about false urgency.

As I get older, I find myself missing two things that frustrated me when I was young, the mail only coming once a day and Sunday being a day with few things to do. I don't know that either made us better people, but they might've made us a little saner. Whether you think humans are the creation of God or nature. these things are true: we like having time to be lazy, and if we're under stress for too long, we break.

I am pleased with 2018, though I continue to wish the Democrats had paid attention to the polls and gone with the candidate who would've done better against Trump. There are two good things about him: he hasn't been as warlike as Hillary the Hawk would've been, and he makes the brutal crass nature of capitalism more obvious than she would have. Offhand, I can't think of a third.

I am especially pleased that the class-first movement is growing. Ten years ago, Adolph Reed, Walter Benn Michaels, and Kenan Malik were almost alone in their willingness to criticize identitarianism. Now there are bright younger mainstream writers like Matt and Elizabeth Bruenig and Briahna Joy Gray carrying on the fight to make a fair world.

As for my immediate world, I continue to be grateful to my family and friends, and especially to Emma, who is the best of both.

My love to you all!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Four quotes by Marx and Engels about democratic revolution, plus one against revolutionary dictatorships

“Above all, it will establish a democratic constitution, and through this, the direct or indirect dominance of the proletariat.” — Friedrich Engels, Principles of Communism, 1847

"the first step in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle for democracy" —The Communist Manifesto, 1848

“there are countries – such as America, England, and if I were more familiar with your institutions, I would perhaps also add Holland – where the workers can attain their goal by peaceful means.” —Karl Marx, 1872 speech in Amsterdam

From Frederick Engels' 1881 article in The Labour Standard,:
Thinking men of all classes begin to see that a new line must be struck out, and that this line can only be in the direction of democracy. But in England, where the industrial and agricultural working class forms the immense majority of the people, democracy means the dominion of the working class, neither more nor less. Let, then, that working class prepare itself for the task in store for it, — the ruling of this great empire; let them understand the responsibilities which inevitably will fall to their share. And the best way to do this is to use the power already in their hands, the actual majority they possess in every large town in the kingdom, to send to Parliament men of their own order. [...] Moreover, in England a real democratic party is impossible unless it be a working men's party.

"From Blanqui's assumption, that any revolution may be made by the outbreak of a small revolutionary minority, follows of itself the necessity of a dictatorship after the success of the venture. This is, of course, a dictatorship, not of the entire revolutionary class, the proletariat, but of the small minority that has made the revolution, and who are themselves previously organized under the dictatorship of one or several individuals." —Frederick Engels

Selections from Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme

I wish Marx had simply rewritten the Gotha Programme, but what he did instead was typical of him: he shredded it. In the shredding are essential elements of his thought, so I will pluck out the ones that strike me now:

Labor is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labor, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labor power.

The man who possesses no other property than his labor power must, in all conditions of society and culture, be the slave of other men who have made themselves the owners of the material conditions of labor. He can only work with their permission, hence live only with their permission.

In present-day society, the instruments of labor are the monopoly of the landowners (the monopoly of property in land is even the basis of the monopoly of capital) and the capitalists.

In England, the capitalist class is usually not even the owner of the land on which his factory stands.

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly – only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

It is altogether self-evident that, to be able to fight at all, the working class must organize itself at home as a class and that its own country is the immediate arena of its struggle – insofar as its class struggle is national, not in substance, but, as the Communist Manifesto says, "in form". But the "framework of the present-day national state", for instance, the German Empire, is itself, in its turn, economically "within the framework" of the world market, politically "within the framework" of the system of states. Every businessman knows that German trade is at the same time foreign trade, and the greatness of Herr Bismarck consists, to be sure, precisely in his pursuing a kind of international policy.

Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The farce called meritocracy, with supporting quotes

The rich claim institutions are meritocracies if merit is rewarded once you're in and overlook the fact that it's easier to get in if you're rich. If you want a meritocracy, you have to end poverty. In our current race to the top, many of the runners aren’t starting on the track—they’re starting in the swamp.

One of our planet's most privileged people shows how easy it is for meritocrats to lie to themselves:

“I loved working on Wall Street. I loved the meritocracy of it and the camaraderie of the trading floor.” —Chelsea Clinton

a few quotes

“America thinks of itself as a meritocracy, so people have more respect for success and more contempt for failure.” —Toby Young

“Modern meritocratic society, especially in the United States, ... seeks to justify domination on the ground of justice, virtue, and merit, to say nothing of the insufficient productivity of those at the bottom.” ― Thomas Piketty

“The meritocratic class has mastered the trick of consolidating wealth and passing privilege along at the expense of other people’s children." —Matthew Stewart

'And look, we have young people in this country who are thirty years old living with their parents. We have young people in this country who don't have jobs, who graduate from college and are fed the lie of meritocracy. "You get a degree, you get a job."' —Henry Giroux

“This argument has been codified in the twentieth century as meritocracy, in which those on top in the process of capitalist accumulation have merited their position.“ —-Immanuel Wallerstein

“the percentage of the world's population for whom such ascent was possible has gone up. But even though it has grown up, meritocratic ascent remains very much the attribute of a minority.” —Immanuel Wallerstein

“Meritocracy reinforced hierarchy. ...meritocracy as an operation and scientific culture as an ideology created veils that hindered perception of the underlying operations of historical capitalism.” —Immanuel Wallerstein

“Those who are able to climb up the ladder will find ways to pull it up after them, or selectively lower it down to allow their friends, allies, and kin to scramble up. In other words: 'Who says meritocracy says oligarchy.'” —Chris Hayes

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A short rant about "institutional racism"

"Racism is an attitude, and institutions can't have attitudes." —Adolph Reed

When I shared that on Facebook, someone I'll call R questioned it, so I said:

If racism is an institution, where is its headquarters? Who are its employees? Who decides its policies?

“Institutional racism” is how liberals discuss the way that capitalism’s limited class mobility creates generational poverty for people of color—and how they ignore generational poverty affecting white people.

R pointed to redlining affecting black people, so I added this:

Have you done any reading about "place not race"? White people in redlined areas do not get a pass for being white. The areas are redlined because they are poor. That they are racially disproportionate is beside the fact.

Capitalism's headquarters are where the stock markets are. The terms of exploitation are regulated by the government—that's why the gender wage difference pretty much goes away when you compare pay for the same job.

R then did what Adolph Reed notes antiracists tend to do, which was to say, "Distilled, your claim seems to be, racism isn't a thing. It's misunderstood classism at best, an intellectual failure to apprehend a red herring." I replied:

The problem is your distillation. Of course racism is a thing.

But your use of classism points to the problem. When I first heard the word, I thought it referred to the way capitalism works. Then I realized that it's how liberals talk about class prejudice as though the problem is that the poor aren't treated with more respect.

And yes, you are wrong. Did King stop working on racism to fight the class war?

ETA: Thinking about this, I shared a thought on social media:

If you tell left identitarians that class matters more and identity matters less than they think, they hear you saying identity doesn't matter. They cannot imagine the class-first position, even though it was Martin Luther King's.

Yes, Adolph Reed noted this years ago.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Why I have muted or blocked you on Twitter

Yes, this is a form letter. I hope it doesn't hurt your feelings to learn that your behavior is so common that I've made this post for people like you.

I am muting or blocking you. It seems unkind not to tell you—you should know there's no point in sending me anything I won't see.

So you won't misinterpret this, I'll stress that I support your right to free speech. If someone tries to no-platform you in any way, I will do what I can to defend you. But free speech does not give you the right to make anyone listen to you. This is doubly true if you're relying on insults, the favorite tactic of people who know the facts are not on their side.

Please don't think I'm implying that I'm better than you. I do my best to abide by the Malcolm X Code of Conduct, but I fail sometimes too.

I usually unmute or unblock people after a week or two because I hate using those options. I only mute or block when I'm sure that letting you continue to rant will waste your time and mine.

Go in peace.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

In defense of "agreeing to disagree"

Two years ago on Facebook, I posted this:

I just saw someone say he didn't like the phrase and thought it was used by people who could not defend their position. I'm a great fan of the phrase. I use it when I choose to be merciful, which is more often than my readers may realize. I would prefer to have brambles in my view than scorched earth.
One meaning of the phrase is "you are not worth my time."
But the more common meaning is "I will tolerate this foolishness of yours because you are worth my time despite it."
Agreeing to disagree is at the heart of civility. It's also at the heart of being an ally, not in the sense that's used by cultists who think allies must think alike, but in the sense used by practical people: despite our disagreement, we can work together.
Ultimately, it's a mark of both maturity and liberty. It means you are sufficiently secure in your own belief that you do not need everyone around you to validate it, and because you want to be free to believe what you choose, you support the right of others to believe what they choose.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

So, kid, you want a shot at the old gunfighter? Advice to left identitarians who want to come after me.

I don't go out to fight with left identitarians and neoliberals anymore, but every now and then, one comes gunning for me. I'm writing this for the next one.

Kid, you're hoping to make a name for yourself, so listen up. I'll help you do better than the kids who came before you, not because I see anything special in you, but because I don't. I've been at this so long the usual scenario bores me. If you want to throw down, your play has to entertain me, so it has to be better than anyone who's come after me so far.

Here's how it always goes:

A kid rides onto my piece of the electronic range and shoots at my privilege. I just laugh. My wealth is below the US median. The idea that any form of "private law" (the literal and traditional meaning of privilege) applies to me only makes sense if you can't grasp the difference between a privilege and a right. One of my favorite old commies, W.E.B. Du Bois, would agree with me—he spoke of skin privilege during Jim Crow, when the law gave white people privileges that black folks didn't have. Later he wrote, "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...."

Next the kid shoots at my "class reductionism". I just laugh again. Socialists aren't reductionists—Charles Fourier, a male socialist, gave feminism its name, and Martin Luther King, a democratic socialist, fought for civil rights at events focused on class, as anyone who remembers where he gave his dream speech and what he was planning when he was killed should know. The only reductionists in fights for equality are liberals who think fairness can be achieved by creating a class system that's proportionate in terms of race and gender from top to bottom. Malcolm X has my back here—he said "You can't have capitalism without racism." He knew the only way to end the disproportional nature of the class system is to share the wealth, and liberals won't do that.

Then the kid shoots at my keyboard activism. I just keep on laughing. I've marched or petitioned for every major leftist cause since 1964, when I marched as a boy in northern Florida for integration.

And then the kid admits to being out of bullets by falling back on insults. I just laugh some more. I've been beaten and insulted by racists and war-lovers, which is why I laugh hardest if the kid accidentally uses an insult that the children of the Ku Klux Klan used when I was a boy.

Finally they flail wildly in the hope something will take me down. Yesterday's kid came up with a new one, calling me an incel. That made me laugh hardest. A visit to Wikipedia tells anyone I've been happily married for over thirty-five years.

Eventually, having fired wildly and hit nothing, they gallop away and block me, partly for fear I'll track them to their hideout and finish them off, partly for fear some of their gang will hear me and desert them.

So here's what you need to know if you hope to take me down:

Study up on Adolph Reed Jr. You can read damn near anything by him that talks about identitarianism or neoliberalism, but you better know The limits of anti-racism and The Case Against Reparations.

Study up on Malcolm X. I know your gang loves the racist who was with the Nation of Islam, but I love the man who left NOI, apologized for his racism, and started praising socialists while condemning capitalism. At the very least, ponder this:
"I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice, and equality for everyone, and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think that it will be based upon the color of the skin." —Malcolm X
Study up on the last years of King's life. Check out his support for Basic Income, and think about why he said this:
"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." —Martin Luther King
Last, read any of Ta-Nehisi Coates' black critics. You can find links to several here. They cover the political spectrum, so if Jacobin is too red for you, read the fine piece at London Review of Books or any you please.

Then you might not bore me. I'm not optimistic, but I'll give you your shot. Make it a good one.

P.S. You get style points if you heed Malcolm X's advice to respect everyone. The full quote:
"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." —Malcolm X
He was speaking literally, saying that if someone puts a hand on you to hurt you, your right to self-defense extends to killing your attacker. Since I've found no examples of Malcolm X speaking ill of the dead, it's reasonable to conclude he thought you should respect your opponents even then.

Monday, October 29, 2018

People who say "Jews, Italians, and the Irish weren't white" don't understand the difference between whiteness and Protestantism

I tweeted
In the US, Jews, Italians, and the Irish were always racially white but tribally Not Protestant. People who say they became white miss the fact that you cannot change your race, but who may join a tribe can change, which is what happened to the US’s white not-Protestants.
I suspect the reason is religious differences are generally seen as unimportant today, with the exception of Muslims, who some people racialize even though Islam is one of the world's great universal religions.

The US's laws for immigration and its census have always made it clear that people from Europe are white, regardless of their religion. The Confederacy, which rivals Nazi Germany for being the world's most race-obsessed nation, had a Jewish Secretary of State, and many Jewish slaveowners fought for it. The Jim Crow south, which was even more racist than the Confederacy* gave white Jews and Catholics every privilege of whiteness. They just didn't give them the privileges of Protestantism.

Middle Easterners had to go to court to establish their whiteness in the US, but the whiteness of the Irish, the Italians, and European Jews was never seriously questioned until privilege theorists began redefining whiteness. Yes, some people insulted them by saying they were not white, but when I was a boy caught up in the civil rights movement, racists insulted me by saying I was not white. That did not make me not white in Florida in the early '60s.

* The definition of whiteness changed during Jim Crow from 3/4 or 7/8 white, depending on the state, to one drop of blood. See Four things Nikole Hannah-Jones doesn't know about race and class in the US.

ETA: Just shared this on social media:
If you think Protestantism is not important in the US:

23.9% of the US is Catholic. Only one of 45 Presidents has been Catholic.

13.4% of the US is black. One has been President.

Statistically, a black Protestant has a better shot at being President than a white Catholic.
 ETA 2: Just shared this:
The difference between racial and ethnic prejudice in the US is most easily seen in the US’s south, where
(1) white Jews and Catholics used white facilties and
(2) served in the military like other white people
yet both were hated by the Ku Klux Klan for not being Protestant. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Four things Nikole Hannah-Jones doesn't know about race and class in the US

The following tweets from a woman whose twitter bio announces that she writes about "race in the U.S. from 1619-present" were even more surprising than the things I noted previously.

1. The history of voting is more complex than she thinks.

Nikole Hannah-Jones tweeted:

I replied, "Respectfully, read more history. Poor white men could not vote at first either. Property was the first requirement."

Race reductionists cannot grasp that our founders prioritized class. During the colonial period, voting in the US was based on owning land.  Heads of households were usually male, but widows could vote because class trumped identity. In some colonies, wealthy people of the wrong religion (Jews, Catholics, etc.) or race (blacks, Native Americans, etc.) were excluded along with poor white men, but they kept the other privileges of wealth.

The principle that wealth mattered most continued after 1776. In New Jersey, wealthy white women as well as wealthy people of color could vote when poor white men could not. Rich black men could vote in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. The triumph of identity as a requirement to vote came decades later, when property requirements were being discarded. From Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the American People:

2. Seriously more complex than she thinks.

Ms. Hannah-Jones tweeted:

This conflates several historical processes. Racism in the US had been growing ever since Bacon's Rebellion, when the rich began dividing the working class by race. In parallel, the demand for democracy was growing. Most people know that correlation is not necessarily causation, but Ms. Hannah-Jones happily links two things to support her reductionist thesis.

3. There were very rich black slaveowners.

In the following exchange, Ms. Hannah-Jones tweeted:

I replied, "If you don't know about rich black slaveowners, you should not be writing about race or slavery" and suggested she start with William Ellison.

The existence of black slaveowners is a sore point with people who cannot see the contradiction in insisting slavery was an individual choice for white slaveowners so you should not say anything good about someone like Jefferson, but it was a systemic matter for black slaveowners, so you should excuse people like the Widow C. Richards. When someone offered a link to Black Slaveowners, a book by Larry Koger, who studied history at Howard, a historically black university, Ms. Hannah-Jones tweeted that offering inconvenient facts would result in being blocked:

Some of her followers insisted the number of black slaveowners was too small to be relevant, but any fact that does not fit a thesis is relevant. There were certainly more than a handful. R. Halliburton Jr. notes, "The census of 1830 lists 3,775 free Negroes who owned a total of 12,760 slaves."

We also know that some black slaveowners were extremely wealthy. See Henry Louis Gates' Did Black People Own Slaves? and Top 10 Black Slaveowners.

4. There were slaves who were legally white.

Ms. Hannah-Jones tweeted:

While it is true that slavery in the US was racialized, black people could buy white people. Many people assume the one-drop rule for whiteness was always the rule, but it was a creation of Jim Crow. They also assume that being black was the requirement for being a slave, but the actual requirement was being the child of a slave.

In the old South, whether you were white depended on which state you were in. In most states, you were legally white if you were a quadroon, a person who was 3/4 white. In a few, you were legally white if you were an octoroon, a person who was 7/8 white. Whiteness did not free you from slavery. Only an owner could do that.

New Englander George Fuller painted "The Quadroon" after visiting a slave sale in the south.

He wrote about it:
Who is this girl with eyes large and black? The blood of the white and dark races is at enmity in her veins—the former predominated. About ¾ white says one dealer. Three fourths blessed, a fraction accursed. She is under thy feet, white man. . . . Is she not your sister?
His use of "accursed" is poetic, not racist—note his question for white men who have the power to end slavery. Her curse is the law that lets her be a slave because her mother was one. Some racist abolitionists hated slavery primarily because it allowed for the enslavement of white people—see examples at White Slaves – The Multiracial Activist.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Things I learned from tweeting with Nikole Hannah-Jones

I was just in a long and much-too-distracting but still informative twitter war that began when I made this tweet citing How Obama Destroyed Black Wealth:

Numbered for convenience, not importance:

1. "Bemused" really wasn't the right word. I hates that, I do. But, as Twain noted, sometimes you reach for lightning and get a lightning bug.

2. When lots of identitarians attack me, I get more Twitter followers. Add this to the list of ways identitarianism constantly defeats itself.

3. I suspect I'd like Nikole if I knew her, and I completely understand why people who share her ideology admire her.

4. Like most privileged identitarians that I've met, she is extremely sensitive to any hint of condescension and extremely quick to ridicule people she disagrees with.

5. I do not have a clue what she thinks her political philosophy is. She insists she is not a neoliberal, she defends Obama's and Clinton's neoliberalism, and she agreed when I cited Malcolm X's observation, "You can't have capitalism without racism."

6. Her contradictions are magnified in her fans. The most ignorant claim I saw:

To say that, you have to believe all black people are homeless and anything that is done to hurt them is done by racists. What their ideology keeps them from seeing is that the policies which disproportionately hurt black people because black people are disproportionately poor were enacted by people who don't care enough about the poor of any race to hate them. They only care about maintaining Wall Street.

7. Identitarians don't understand that statistics are irrelevant when talking about individuals. A homeless guy sleeping next to Bezos's home is part of a two-person community with an average wealth of $78 billion dollars, but he still has none of it.

8. Her ideological contradictions are powerful, as this tweet shows:

9. People like this support her:

As you may guess, Shang Ho thinks white people are privileged for statistical reasons and doesn't care that Asian Americans are more economically privileged than white ethnically Christian Americans because US immigration laws ensure that, except for refugees, Asian immigrants are wealthy or well-educated.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The first three black female superheroes to star in their own comics from major publishers

In a different universe, DC Comics published the first book with a black female superhero as the headliner, but in our universe, their plan for a Vixen series in 1978 was cancelled at the last minute, not because of racism or sexism, but because DC was facing financial hard times, so they cancelled all their new books and a few existing ones as well.

In our world, these are the first three superhero comics named for their black female leads.


Marvel’s Monica Rambeau appeared in a one-shot issue that was released to protect Marvel’s trademark on Captain Marvel's name.


Marvel's Epic division offered Captain Confederacy as a four-issue series.


Marvel gave Storm a four-issue series.

Bonus! In 1990, Martha Washington was the star of Darkhorse Comics' Give Me Liberty and deserves to be remembered in any history of black female comics heroes, but she was a science fiction character, not a superhero, and the book wasn't named for her, so she's only a footnote in this particular list.

ETA: To put this in perspective, Miss Fury and the Invisible Scarlet O’Neill  had their own newspaper strips in 1941, and Sheena and Wonder Woman were given their own books in 1942.

Friday, October 19, 2018

If Basic Income can't work, why did Finland and Canada kill their tests before they had finished?

Two tests were begun, then cancelled early by conservative governments. The only conclusion I can draw is they were afraid the tests would prove Basic Income works.

Basic Income Experiment Killed in Ontario, Canada, Igniting Complaints | Fortune:
Ontario, Canada has scrapped its experiment with basic income—a hot but largely untested idea for reducing poverty—before any results could be gleaned, sparking criticism from researchers and outrage from program recipients.
Opinion | Universal Basic Income Didn’t Fail in Finland. Finland Failed It. - The New York Times
the demise of the U.B.I. experiment in Finland can’t be said to mean that U.B.I. has failed here. Not only are preliminary official results not even expected until 2019, but the Finnish government’s U.B.I. pilot project never really was about U.B.I.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Two useful studies found most Americans of all races reject "Political Correctness"

Large Majorities Dislike Political Correctness - The Atlantic

In 'political correctness' debate, most Americans think too many people are easily offended | Pew Research Center

Some people say the studies are not meaningful because the term is not precisely defined, but the term has been around for decades. There is a consensus on its meaning. While people may disagree on a few examples, this is clear: Americans don't like word-policing.

And further, most Americans realize that politically correct does not refer to good manners or civility—those who think they're the word police rarely show good manners or behave civilly.

Did I gaslight an identitarian friend? or To Crusaders, God's deniers are Satan's liars

I'm fairly tolerant of political disagreement, so long as you're not hurting anyone and not in a position to change the law, but I've lost a few identitarian friends over the years because their beliefs require constant validation. Believers in secular religions, whether theistic or atheistic, need to stay in the company of fellow believers.

I don't mean to sound glib—I miss the people I thought they were. And I don't mean to suggest they're bad people for demanding conformity or silence.  Many people do. They think that if they occasionally have to burn a witch to save the group, it's only hard on the witch.

At the time, that may be true. But years after the Salem witch trials, a judge and several jurors apologized for being "under the power of a strong and general delusion, utterly unacquainted with and not experienced in matters of that nature". The jurors' apology gives me hope for my species, even though it saved no lives. But so far as I know, some jurors never realized they were wrong. Belief systems have powerful ways to protect themselves.* We are, after all, rationalizing animals.

Which is why my former friend accused me of gaslighting when I offered facts that didn't fit his preconceptions. His charge made me see that "gaslighting" needs two definitions. The first: someone is trying to make you doubt your sanity by lying to you. The second: you declare someone a liar to keep from doubting yourself. The mental health industry cares for a great many people who are sure they're sane and being gaslit.

* See “My-side bias” makes it difficult for us to see the logic in arguments we disagree with

Surprisingly relevant: Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture

Monday, October 8, 2018

Orwell on virtue-signalling and toothpaste-sellers

John Halle shared this on Facebook:
Here's the beginning of Orwell's review of a forgotten book by a self-described supporter of Indian independence which both defines and describes virtue signaling in something like a pure form. Unfortunately, it's not available as text so can only post an image from google books. It's enough to give an idea-which is that even back then, the same tendencies being discussed above were apparent to Orwell and, evidently, prevalent, in his opinion at least.

more here:
and here:
key passage: "This is just the mistake a toothpaste advertiser would not make. But then the toothpaste advertiser is trying to sell toothpaste and not get his own back on that Blimp who turned him out of a first-class carriage fifteen years ago."  
Bottom line: much of what passes for politics is not in that politics, by definition involves convincing others in order to change their views and behavior. But it is clear from both the content and tone of the passages such as the above that that is *not* the intention. Thus, it must have a different objective-and that's where the term "virtue signaling" comes in and is useful. 
I had always thought that virtue-signaling was something one did for others, so the community would accept you and the mob would not make you its next victim. But as Orwell explains it, it's as much or more something you do for yourself, to tell yourself you are a good person though you know you have lost. All believers in a Lost Cause act this way, and their fellow believers appreciate it.

I recommend the discussion that follows this at John's post.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The heart of my universalism

"I am human, I consider nothing human alien to me." —Terence the Playwright, originally a slave from Roman Africa, but whose race no one knows because race didn't matter then.

When I shared that on Facebook, someone commented, “Really? Where does barbarian derive from?“ I replied:
Barbarian comes from a Greek word that meant “people who sound like they’re saying bar-bar”. It’s about culture, not race.

It’s why the story of the tower of Babel is about people being divided by language, not race.

It’s why the New Testament says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female” and does not mention race.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Was Mark Twain the first to speak of white privilege?

From Following the Equator:
January 30. What a spectacle the railway station was, at train-time! It was a very large station, yet when we arrived it seemed as if the whole world was present—half of it inside, the other half outside, and both halves, bearing mountainous head-loads of bedding and other freight, trying simultaneously to pass each other, in opposing floods, in one narrow door. These opposing floods were patient, gentle, long-suffering natives, with whites scattered among them at rare intervals; and wherever a white man’s native servant appeared, that native seemed to have put aside his natural gentleness for the time and invested himself with the white man’s privilege of making a way for himself by promptly shoving all intervening black things out of it. In these exhibitions of authority Satan was scandalous. He was probably a Thug in one of his former incarnations.
Lest anyone miss this, the "white man's privilege" that Twain refers to is the privilege of thinking you're better than everyone else. Twain is not validating the concept. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A few people who killed themselves after false accusations of rape—including the mother of a man falsely accused

Yes, some guilty people may kill themselves while claiming to be innocent. But there is no doubt in these cases that the accusations were false:

Medical student cleared of raping woman whose earlier claim drove man to suicide - Telegraph:
Some jurors broke down in tears when they heard the 21 year old woman had wrongly accused another man of rape which led to him killing himself.
Forklift driver, 38, killed himself after being falsely accused of rape... despite texts 'proving sex was consensual':
A FORKLIFT truck driver took his own life after being falsely accused of rape – despite texts which “proved the sex was consensual”. Ross Bullock, 38, met his accuser in February … 
Mother of son who hanged himself after being accused of rape commits suicide a year later:
The family of Karin Cheshire, 55, said she “could not see a future” without her son, Jay, whose body was found in a park near their home after being accused of rape.  The rape complaint was withdrawn after two weeks...

Title IX cases that resulted in suicide, a suicide attempt at two colleges prompt fresh debate: Two lawsuits -- one involving accused student’s suicide and another about an attempt -- have added fire to the continued debate over how colleges handle complaints of sexual assault.

Police officer contemplated suicide after a woman falsely accused him of rape | Metro News

A handy list of "believe the victim" cases where "the victim" was wrong

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Tidings of doubt and joy

On Facebook, I was telling a friend we should always be aware that any and every part of a memory may be false. He replied,
You often bring doubt and discouragement to my days, Will, and yet I'm very glad I know you! 
I quote the second part because what he meant would sound much bleaker without it. But it made me realize I need to work harder to bring doubt and joy. The greatest human mistake may be certainty. Most evil deeds, from suicide to genocide, start with certainty. Progress starts with doubt—can I make something better? Finding the truth is a process of embracing doubt—Can I stop searching for the truth or do I continue, suspecting that more truths remain to be found?

Yes, there’s a dark side to doubt—Is there nothing good ahead? But giving into despair has nothing to do with doubt. That’s a failing of certainty.

My goal is to go through life in a state of joyful doubt. Doubting means I cannot know where a path will take me, but doubt does not keep me from enjoying the journey. Doubt only requires that I be watchful as I go, and being watchful only means I must try to see and hear all I can. To doubt is to live open to the possiblity of unimagined joy.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Nazis were not socialists—the updated FAQ

1. Capitalists supported Hitler's rise to power.

From Fritz Thyssen - Wikipedia:
In 1923, Thyssen met former General Erich Ludendorff, who advised him to attend a speech given by Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party. Thyssen was impressed by Hitler and his bitter opposition to the Treaty of Versailles, and began to make large donations to the party, including 100,000 gold marks ($25,000) in 1923 to Ludendorff.
From Adolf Hitler's wealth and income - Wikipedia:
While hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic had crippled the German economy and plunged millions of German workers into unemployment, Hitler and his party received lavish donations from wealthy benefactors at home and abroad. The iconic American car maker and anti-Semite Henry Ford was reported to be one of the foreign supporters. Helene Bechstein, part of a rich aristocratic family who sold pianos, supported Hitler financially and gave him a top hat and business suit. The Ruhr steel barons Fritz Thyssen and Gustav Krupp donated almost five million Reichsmarks to the Nazi Party over the course of the war. The Berghof, Hitler's private retreat, was renovated at a massive cost, all of it paid for with Nazi Party donations
Much of the party donations were used to pay off many of Hitler's private projects, such as the Berghof and Eagles Nest. He caused a minor controversy within leading elements of the party when he, in 1925, purchased a luxury Mercedes-Benz and a chauffeur to drive it for a total expenditure of 20,000 Reichsmarks. After examining Hitler's tax records from the Bavarian State Archives in Munich, economics journalist Wolfgang Zdral said, "He's driving a Mercedes, which cost incredible amounts of money at the time, can afford to go on travels and has enough money to finance his propaganda appearances. All of this is financed through a system of slush-funds, essentially the donation of larger and smaller benefactors."
From American Capitalism Funded Hitler & Nazi Germany:
I.G. Farben (controlled by Rockefeller’s Standard Oil) funded 45% of Hitler’s campaign in 1930

German radio (controlled by GE) was one of the primary distributors of Hitler’s propaganda

Focke-Wulf manufactured military aircraft during WWII (30% owned by J.P. Morgan & Co)

Opel and Volkswagen (controlled by General Motors and Ford, respectively) produced military vehicles. And Volkswagen used good ol’ concentration camp slave labor to make their vehicles.

Vereinigte Stahlwerke (Rockefeller bank) partially funded Hitler’s campaign during 1932 elections and became a major contributor to the Nazi war effort during WWII
From Ford 'used slave labour' in Nazi German plants - Telegraph:
Henry Ford is mentioned in Mein Kampf, and was hailed by Hitler, who kept a portrait of the industrialist above his desk, as "my inspiration". 
2. Socialists support nationalization. Nazis support privatization.

From Privatization - Wikipedia:
The first mass privatization of state property occurred in Nazi Germany between 1933-37: "It is a fact that the government of the National Socialist Party sold off public ownership in several state-owned firms in the middle of the 1930s. The firms belonged to a wide range of sectors: steel, mining, banking, local public utilities, shipyard, ship-lines, railways, etc. In addition to this, delivery of some public services produced by public administrations prior to the 1930s, especially social services and services related to work, was transferred to the private sector, mainly to several organizations within the Nazi Party."
3. The Nazis' first victims were communists.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
— Martin Niemöller
4. The "socialism" in "National Socialism" is like the "democratic" in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, aka North Korea: it's meant to sound good.

Socialism was very popular in the Weimar Republic, so the Nazis added the word to their name, even though "national socialism" is a contradiction in terms. See FACT CHECK: Were Nazis Socialists?

5. The 25-point plan or National Socialist Program that the Nazis made in 1920, when they added "National Socialist" to the original name, is a jumble of xenophobia and racism.

Only a few points look vaguely like socialism to capitalists, and they were ignored when the Nazis came into power thirteen years later:

Point 11 calls for the end of unearned income and usury. If that's socialism, the Catholic Church's long opposition to usury made it socialist.

Point 13 calls for nationalizing major industries. If this was ever meant seriously, it did not last. Companies like I. G. Farben were major supporters of the Nazis. See IG Farben German Industry and the Holocaust.

Point 14 calls for sharing profit, not ownership. If that's socialism, Alaska has been socialist since 1976, when a Republican governor convinced the state to adopt the Alaska Permanent Fund and pay part of the oil industry's profits to every Alaskan.

Point 15 calls for Social Security. If that's socialism, the US has been socialist since 1935.

Point 16 calls for supporting small businesses by offering them cheap storage facilities and a degree of preference for government contracts. That's not socialism; that's government support for struggling capitalist enterprises.

Point 23 calls for national censorship. That is an explicit rejection of Karl Marx's love of the free press.

6. The very first definition of capitalism that you will find if you google makes it clear that the Nazis were capitalist:
capitalism: an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.
Though Nazi Germany's trade and industry were regulated by the state just as capitalist businesses are in every capitalist country today, Nazi Germany's trade and industry were controlled by private owners for profit.

Monday, September 24, 2018

This old universalist admits he sometimes fears the identitarians are right

In a discussion with a socialist who has an identitarian streak, I left this comment:
You haven’t seen people say that white privilege includes a lower risk of being killed by cops? I don’t feel like googling, but I’d swear I’ve seen that often. Maybe I’m wrong.

Yes, if you ignore class, black people are statistically more likely to be killed by cops. The odds are only the same if you include class.

I think we win by emphasizing what we have in common. Perhaps I’m wrong. I do know I’m in the minority. I think we would be much further along on police reform if BLM had not insisted on focusing on 1/4 of the problem. But again, perhaps I’m wrong. I often wonder if Americans are so uncomfortable talking about class that the only way to reach them is to talk about race and gender.
The second paragraph refers to the fact that poor whites and blacks are equally likely to be killed by cops, and rich whites and blacks are equally unlikely, so the only privilege that matters in police killings is class privilege. See Why #BlackLivesMatter should be #PoorLivesMatter—now with graphics.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Addressing class reduces racism. Addressing race increases it.

Race reductionists say ending poverty won't cure racism. People who want to end poverty agree—some racists will be racists until they die. But there is evidence that ending economic inequality reduces racism.

From Sons of Rich Black Families Fare No Better Than Sons of Working-Class Whites:
The authors, including the Stanford economist Raj Chetty and two census researchers, Maggie R. Jones and Sonya R. Porter, tried to identify neighborhoods where poor black boys do well, and as well as whites. 
...The few neighborhoods that met this standard were in areas that showed less discrimination in surveys and tests of racial bias. They mostly had low poverty rates.
What else works? Living in multicultural environments. From Move to Hawaii, Become Less Racist - Pacific Standard:
New research does just that, taking advantage of the existence of a multicultural American environment: Hawaii. A group of young white adults demonstrated a decline in racist beliefs and enhanced cognitive flexibility after living in the state for nine months. These promising findings, reported by a team led by psychologist Kristin Pauker of the University of Hawaii–Manoa, are published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
As for the fact that focusing on race increases racism, see Antiracism campaigns: Twenty years of making racism worse.

Bonus: An example of what white and black people have in common: A Third of Americans Now Say They Are in the Lower Classes | Pew Social & Demographic Trends: "a virtually identical share of blacks (33%) and whites (31%) now say they are in the lower class."

Private schools focus on race instead of class because it's cheaper

How Much Do You Pay for College? - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Addressing class inequality is more expensive than addressing racial and gender inequities because low-income students need financial aid, which may mean smaller budgets for libraries or faculty salaries.
The Liberals Against Affirmative Action -
The liberal critics of affirmative action believe that many of these approaches would be better than the current one. Racial discrimination obviously continues to exist. But the disadvantages of class, by most measures, are larger today. A class-based system would be more expensive, forcing colleges to devote some money now spent on buildings and other items to financial aid instead, but it would also arguably be more meritocratic.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Which groups are more privileged than you? A handy list.

All numbers are for US median household income in US dollars, rounded to the nearest dollar.

Note: Many people say education explains income. They fail to note that education is expensive, so it's easier for richer groups to get the education for jobs that pay well. The old observation applies: correlation is not always causation.

The takeaway: Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, and Hindu Americans are the most privileged groups in the US.


Asian Americans: $81,431
Caucasian White Americans (not Hispanic): $65,041
Median household income: $56,516
Hispanic Americans (of any race): $47,675
Native Americans: $39,719
Black Americans: $39,490

Sources: Median household income by race or ethnic group 2016 | Statistic2016 ACS shows stubbornly high Native American poverty and different degrees of economic well-being for Asian ethnic groups | Economic Policy Institute


Source: How income varies among U.S. religious groups | Pew Research Center

More: List of ethnic groups in the United States by household income - Wikipedia

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

An update on the gentrification of fandom

Neil Gaiman shared this, making it one of my most popular tweets:
In 1960, you could buy 10 comic books or three 35 cent paperback books for about $1, the minimum wage. Today, an hour's work at minimum wage, $7.25, will buy two comics or one paperback.
When a few people noted that it's hard to find a paperback under $7.95, I added:
To be precise, an hour's work at minimum wage will buy you a paperback for children, but not for adults or young adults: "School Library Journal: The list of average book prices for 2016 and 2017 to date."
I also recently shared Who Reads Science Fiction? - SFWA:
The Bowker Review says about sixty-five percent of book buyers make more than $50,000. My survey indicates science fiction readers are wealthier: seventy-two percent make more than $50,000. A majority of Sci Fi readers make more than $80,000.
That didn't generate much attention, probably because fans tend to be wealthy enough now that it doesn't surprise them. I suspect, like people who go to Disneyland, that they just take that for granted.

But fandom was more accessible to the working class back in the day, and not just because books were cheaper when compared to the minimum wage. I would love to know the cost of a Worldcon membership over the years—I do know it's usually been too expensive for me. My bet is that when compared to the minimum wage, it's far more expensive now.

That cost of admission affects everything about fandom. I've talked about gentrification of the genre before, so I googled to see if I'd said anything relevant now and found Simon Penner's Social Gentrification | Status 451, which begins:
Earlier this week a friend of mine was talking about nerd culture, and was surprised when I mentioned that I don’t like it. I avoid nerd culture and, despite being the exact target demographic, find it uncomfortable and unwelcoming. My friend found this puzzling and asked why. 
“It got gentrified,” was my reply.
I recommend reading the whole thing. Penner has smart observations about fandom and gentrification, both the good and the bad.

I also stumbled on a fair summary of my position at A response to George R. R. Martin from the author who started Sad Puppies | Monster Hunter Nation. Keranih commented:
People have said “I’m going to try to read more written by women.” They’ve said “I’m going to try to read more translated works” or “I’m going to try to read more by minorities.” (As Will Shetterly pointed out, they hardly never say “I’m going to read more by low income writers.”) 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Did anyone ever say women are destroying science fiction? No.

 I shared this on Facebook and Twitter:
Has anyone in the last fifty years actually said women are ruining science fiction? When I was a boy in the early '60s, one of my first faves was the ubiquitous Andre Norton. By then, her readers knew she was female.

Because of her, I thought Andre was a girl's name.
A lot of discussion follows on both sites, but after several days of discussion and googling, the answer seems clear. No one ever said that. Based on the evidence, no one ever even thought it.

Some readers suggested one of the Sad Puppies might've said it, but two of the five most prominent Sad Puppies are women, Sarah Hoyt and Kate Paulk. Their Hugo Award lists include winners like Nnedi Okorafor, Hao Jingfang, and Naomi Kritzer. It couldn't have been said by a Sad Puppy.

Others have suggested Vox Day or one of the Rabid Puppies must've said it. But a glance at the Rabid Puppies' slates show VD also recommended women every year, including one winner, Hao Jingfang. So if anyone associated with the Rabids said women were destroying science fiction, it had to be someone who disagreed with VD's slate.

If no one said it, where did the idea that someone believed women are destroying science fiction come from? It's especially odd since most scholarly fans believe Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was the first modern science fiction novel. Who would say women were destroying a genre begun by a woman?

The phrase was bandied about in 2014 (see Women Destroy Science Fiction! - Lightspeed Magazine and Review: 'Women Destroy Science Fiction!' : NPR). It appears to have come from a speech by Pat Murphy in 1991:
What seemed significant about my friend’s confusion was that it related to a persistent rumbling that I have heard echoing through science fiction. That rumbling says, in essence, that women don’t write science fiction. Put a little more rudely, this rumbling says: “Those damn women are ruining science fiction.” They are doing it by writing stuff that isn’t “real” science fiction; they are writing “soft” science fiction and fantasy.
The people who cite Pat don't seem to notice that she said "put this a little more rudely"—she was commenting on her impressions, not on what anyone actually said. The end of her paragraph reveals the real source of the disagreement: fans of hard f&sf dislike soft f&sf, regardless of the gender of the writer.

For as long as the genre has existed, subsets of writers have loved their subgenre and thought the others ranged from foolish to destructive. But those writers didn't make their division on the basis of gender. Andre Norton was SFWA's sixth grand master, chosen before Clarke, Asimov, Bester, or Bradbury. For decades, everyone knew Leigh Brackett was female—she was the first woman to make the short list for the Hugo in 1956. Three years later, three women were finalists: Zenna Henderson, Katherine MacLean, and Pauline Ashwell. The idea that science fiction was for men could not be defended after the 1950s, and as more women entered the field, the Hugo Award reflected their presence—see the list of women who won Hugos at Hugo Awards | Geek Feminism Wiki.

Does this mean women didn't encounter sexism in the last fifty years? Of course not. The field still has sexists of all genders. It only means that "women are destroying science fiction" is a meme, and like all memes, it obscures at least as much as it reveals.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

There are no male or female brains

Scans prove there's no such thing as a 'male' or 'female' brain | New Scientist:
...there is no such thing as a female or male brain, according to the first search for sex differences across the entire human brain. It reveals that most people have a mix of male and female brain features. And it also supports the idea that gender is non-binary, and that gender classifications in many situations are meaningless.
Though the article is very good, it does have the common confusion about sex and gender:
Joel envisions a future in which individuals are not so routinely classified based on gender alone. “We separate girls and boys, men and women all the time,” she says. “It’s wrong, not just politically, but scientifically – everyone is different.”

But other scientists contacted by New Scientist don’t think that will ever be possible – as a sexually reproductive species, identifying a person’s biological sex will always be of paramount importance to us, they say.
Sex is not gender. Sex is what your genes say you are; gender is what society says you are. I believe we will have a future in which gender no longer matters and sex is seen as only sex, so instead of people imagining fundamental differences between men and women, there will be the soft differences we have between people who are tall or short, or right-handed or left-handed. Gender, like race, is a social construct that was of limited use and can be discarded now.

Though we only have proof now that there are no fundamental differences between men and women, we have known this for thousands of years. From the Christian Bible:

"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female." —Galatians 3:28

Monday, August 13, 2018

Yes or no? Superman was the first superhero

" the pulps before them, comic books and comic strips contained all the elements of the superhero — the powers, the mission, the identity — but it took Siegel and Shuster to put them all together into Superman." —Peter Coogan


Superheroes owe so much to Superman that they use his name—if Superman had the name of his first imitator, Wonder Man, we would speak today of wonderheroes.

Coogan's attempt to list the defining elements is probably as good as any, so I'll expand on it:

1. The powers are an extraordinary ability. Even human superheroes like Batman are far, far better at what they do than almost anyone else.

2. The mission is a commitment to justice. The "hero" in "superhero" matters. Monsters like the Heap and the Hulk are sometimes called superheroes, but they usually do what they do out of necessity, not choice. Superheroes may wish someone else could do their jobs, but they follow the code that is Stan Lee's best line (though the idea is at least as old as the Bible): "With great power comes great responsibility."

3. The identity is a public persona that includes a distinctive name and appearance, which is separate from a private persona that lets the person pass in public without being easily recognized. Even the superheroes who don't have secret identities are best known in their superheroing roles—like other celebrities, they won't necessarily be recognized in common clothes.


The Oxford English Dictionary says the word was borrowed from the French and has examples of it being used as a noun before Superman's appearance in 1938:

1899   Daily Mail 29 Sept. 4/4   M. Clémenceau suddenly burst out with, ‘All the world knows that Colonel Picquart is a hero, but..if Colonel Picquart is a hero, Mathieu Dreyfus is a super-hero.’
1917   ‘Contact’ Airman's Outings 211   The super-heroes of the war.
1924   N.Y. Times 16 Dec. 28/1   It is all very well to have a super-hero in such narratives, but this man among men should occasionally show signs of being human.
1937   Thrilling Wonder Stories Aug. 120/2   The strip started off very well, but I must agree with others that it is rapidly degenerating into the juvenile antics of a musclebound superhero.

And as a compound:

1916   Harper's Weekly 11 Mar. 245/2   A super-hero bill... This was a bill to give more than their regular pensions to soldiers who had been more heroic than their duty called for.

Merriam-Webster's definition points out that the superness of a superhero only calls for superheroes to be extraordinarily good at what they do:
a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers; also an exceptionally skillful or successful person
If we use the three categories that Coogan and others cite to say Superman is the first superhero, we can eliminate many of the popular candidates.  The Scarlet Pimpernel and Robin Hood did not have costumes—most predecessors of the superhero wanted to be able to blend in rather than be recognized. Spring Heeled Jack was a villain. John Carter and Tarzan used the names they had grown up with and did not have private lives that were separate from their public ones. Mandrake was a magician—if you say he's the first superhero, you have to explain why Merlin or Circe is not.

But masked heroes like the Scarecrow (who appeared in 1915, several years before Zorro) meet the three requirements. The Lone Ranger and the Phantom both abandoned their private lives, but they still kept their identities a secret and sometimes mixed in society in street clothes.

My conclusion

It's fine to be inconsistent. If you're only talking about comic books, Superman is the first superhero. If you include newspaper comics, the Phantom is. If you include popular fiction, either the Scarecrow or Zorro is—the Scarecrow appeared first, but in his original appearances, the Scarecrow is a less virtuous figure than Zorro. But if you're just speaking colloquially, the first superheroes are the oldest heroes of myth and legend. It's all good.

Related: Skintight costumes—why the Domino Lady may have been as important as the Phantom in the creation of Superman

ETA: While I was writing this, comments were being made on a Facebook post, Wrong on several counts, that are relevant, and since I wrote this, it's become part of the discussion there.