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.

7. "Our adopted term ‘Socialist' has nothing to do with Marxian Socialism. Marxism is anti-property; true Socialism is not." —Adolph Hitler

Hitler, a capitalist, doesn't distinguish between personal and private (or venture) property. All socialists that I know of believe in private property (the stuff we use). But we believe property that generates passive income should belong to us all.

More: Capitalism and Nazism

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.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Observations of the Day

Identitarianism is the politics of ad hominem.

Richer people live in a bubble. Richer academics live in two.

While it is essential to learn from the past, it is also essential to remember that the present is not the past. Revolutionaries, like generals, love to fight the last war.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Polls as accurate as they have ever been, study says | Politics | The Guardian

Polls as accurate as they have ever been, study says | Politics | The Guardian:
Looking at polls for the last week of campaigns for 220 national elections in 32 countries over the decades to 2017 – with data for a handful of countries stretching back to 1942 – errors have held steady at about 2%. When the team looked only at the 11 countries that had regular polling over several decades, polling errors were found to have dropped over time.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Weaponized idpol

Weaponized idpol: "(T)he cynical emphasis on personal identity over political beliefs in order to advance candidates whose interests are inapposite to the needs of the groups they’re presumed to represent." —Definition by Briahna Joy Gray, noted by John Halle
You might argue that "weaponized idpol" is redundant, but an argument can be made that identity politics have been used to remind groups to band together for the good of the entire group. But I couldn't offer an example from the last thirty years.

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

On fannish gentrification and ostracism

When I was googling before posting An update on the gentrification of fandom, I came across a comment that I was tempted to share in that post, then decided it was a distraction from the point I was trying to make, partly because I'm used as the example. But it's fodder for a related post about the manners and practices of bourgeois fans, so here it is.

In the comments at Social Gentrification | Status 451, Titanium Dragon claimed that the people who get ostracized are awful human beings. Non Sum Qualis Eram replied,
I don’t know that I agree.

I mean, yes, I’m sure that some dangerous asshats might be kicked out, but I’ve rarely seen that. Mostly, the figure of hate du jour is someone quite, quite harmless who just _will not_ shut up when arguing with someone who has greater social capital. Someone who embodies the fandom value of being pedantic and ornery when it comes to dispute. A good example is Will Shetterly who is as nice a fellow as you could hope to meet but who would not shut up about (in our now painfully distended analogy) the shoddy architecture or substandard building material of the gentrifiers.

Indeed in my history of following fandom drama, the people being castigated are usually people who’ve engaged in crimethink or telling jokes not on the approved list, or like Shetterly ornery interlocutors. Occasionally it is someone with a claim of harassment against them which is sometimes substantiated. But very rarely is it a _legitimately_ terrible person, though of course, occasionally it is: Applebaum comes swiftly to mind.

However, the chief labor of the gentrifiers isn’t concerned with individuals so much, I find, as it is with cleaning up the, ah, architecture and street plan. By doing so, it makes the infrastructure itself hostile to those it wants gone. Just like (as was mentioned on this blog earlier) imposing certain prosocial norms like the necessity of small talk conducted in a society-approved fashion on coding companies helps the newcomers, sure enough, but harms people for whom small talk is difficult.
I can't speak for many of the people who've been demonized by the genre's identitarians, but I've often heard from their friends that they didn't deserve to be driven out. I have no doubt that was true of William Sanders. I assume it's true about Rene Walling, who was defended by Jo Walton, who is quick to condemn people she doesn't know. The charges against other men ostracized for hitting on women seem always to be about uninvited advances, but none that I know of have been about someone forcing himself on anyone—these men all seem to have accepted that no means no, for all that they were persistent in their attentions. I want to think some true "dangerous asshats" have been excluded for good reason, but if that's so, I don't know their names, perhaps because they're excluded more quietly than the safe people declared to be asshats.

Fandom's great virtue was that it was a place where the outcasts could come. Now it's another place for creating them.

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.

Funny critique of the left by a leftist

Note: like many funny things, it starts slowly, then cranks the dial.