Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Wil Wheaton demonstrates the liberal identitarian's obliviousness to class

My name is Wil Wheaton. I Live With Chronic Depression and Generalized Anxiety. I Am Not Ashamed has important things to say about mental illness, but it also has this:
as a white, heterosexual, cisgender man in America, I live life on the lowest difficulty setting — with the Celebrity cheat enabled
It's the standard identitarian list that straight white male neoliberals feel obliged to cite, but what's striking to this socialist is the list doesn't include class. Wheaton wasn't a poor white kid—his mom was an actress and his dad was a medical specialist. But class is not a privilege that matters to identitarians, so when they talk of checking privilege, that one gets a pass.

Monday, October 7, 2019

The point of a bourgeois ideology

The point of a bourgeois ideology is to make rich people feel good about doing little or nothing to help the poor. In Europe, this was originally done with institutional Christianity and Judaism. As the rich grew more skeptical, liberal philosophy filled the niche. Currently this is handled by left identitarianism, which does all it can to keep social identities in the intersection and class out.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Birds of Prey creator controversy, or Why team creators may deserve more credit than creators of individual characters

There will be a Birds of Prey movie, but currently, the creators of the team won't get any money or prominent credit because they didn't create the members of the team.

But in the history of comics, teams have often been more important than their members. This is most obvious with the X-Men and the Doom Patrol, whose individual members change, but the team continues, and with the possible exception of Wolverine, the team is more important than any of the members.

This also applies to the Fantastic Four. The members may not change, but alone, they're nothing special. The Human Torch is based on the 1940s Human Torch, Mr. Fantastic is a pale version of Plastic Man, the Thing is a variant of characters like the Heap, and Invisible Woman is a sex-changed Invisible Man. What makes the comic work is the team.

This applies to the Justice Society, the Justice League, and the Avengers. The line-up is less important than the team. As a kid, I didn't buy the comics of all the members of the Justice League or the Avengers, but I always bought the Justice League and the Avengers because I loved the teams.

A good team is not just a collection of characters. It is its own character, a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Its name matters. Its origin story matters. Its nature matters--is it a family, a business, an association of equals, a group with leaders and followers or teachers or students?

The creators of Birds of Prey deserve the first credit on the movie.

Monday, September 16, 2019

A little on the cancellation of James Tiptree

(I am adding new things to the end of this post today, and may add more as the discussion continues online.)

What I've said on social media:


James Tiptree, like HP Lovecraft, has been canceled.

Tiptree Name Will Be Removed from Award | File 770


I also support this theory about Tiptree and her husband.

A great female writer has been canceled because of her last tragic days.


I keep thinking about what's wrong with cancelling James Tiptree. I understand why her husband might want to die. I am fine with the idea of Emma killing me at such a time. I would only hope she would hide the evidence and go on to live a wonderful life.

Should they rename the Tiptree Award, too? / Boing Boing


Say what you will about 1984, it explains the authoritarian left's love of memory holes.


Neoliberals and socialists take very different views of #JamesTiptree/Alice Sheldon taking part in what seems to have been a suicide pact. Neoliberals blame individuals, so they blame her. Socialists blame society for not supporting people when they most need it.


When someone quibbled about her work for the government, I answered
That has nothing to do with the fact that she was a brilliant short story writer, and the award that bore her name had nothing to do with politics until its name was changed for political reasons.

I hate making artists' lives more important than their art.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Frederick Douglass showed that the Irish were always white in America

In 1853, referring to black people as us, Frederick Douglass wrote:
Every hour sees us elbowed out of some employment to make room for some newly arrived emigrant from the Emerald Isle, whose hunger and color entitle him to special favor. These white men are becoming house-servants, cooks, stewards, waiters, and flunkies.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

James Scaminaci's takedown of Mark Bray's book on Antifa

I found this quoted on Facebook and have not found the source. It deserves a wider readership.

"Mark Bray, a historian with a new book on the Antifa, is everywhere. His central claim, upon which everything depends, particularly in the current situation, is his false claim that no one took the fascists seriously in the 1920s and 1930s, and therefore the Antifa of today is compelled by historical necessity and moral duty to protect vulnerable populations with violence. This central claim is false. It is bad history. In fact, it is a complete distortion of the history of Weimar.

Here is Bray's central claim in Part 2 of his interview on Democracy Now!
So, in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, part of the problem is that, across the political spectrum, many people did not take this threat seriously until it was too late. By not confronting them with their fists, they ended up having to confront them with tanks.
I am not a historian and certainly not a scholar of Weimar Germany. But, Richard J. Evans, is a historian and recognized expert on Nazi Germany. His Volume 1, The Coming of the Third Reich, in various sections covers the brutal street battles between the Nazis, Communists, and Social Democrats. What is clear is that these street battles produced fear in Germany's middle class and had them turn towards the Nazis in the 1933 election.

The Nazis had at various times the Steel Helmets, the Fighting Leagues, and then the Brownshirts. The Social Democrats had the Reichsbanner. The Communists had the Red Front-Fighters League (page 73). All started around 1919-1920. So, the idea that no one took the Nazis seriously and did not fight them in the streets is ludicrous.

On pages 237-244, Evans writes about the Communist-Nazi clashes. The Communists had almost daily demonstrations and had declared parts of cities no-go zones for opponents. There were many reasons for Communist-Social Democratic hatred, but from 1928 onwards the Communists battled the Social Democrats.

On page 242, in a possible echo to today's Antifa, Evans wrote that the Communists' "hostility to the Weimar Republic, based on its extremist condemnation of all its governments, blinded it completely to the threat posed by Nazism to the Weimar political system."

On page 243, Evans noted that in the open street fighting "the Communists were slowly beaten back into their heartlands in the slums and tenement districts by the continual brutal pressure of brownshirt violence. In this conflict, bourgeois sympathies were generally on the side of the Nazis, who, after all, were not threatening to destroy capitalism or create a 'Soviet Germany' if they came to power."

And on pages 269-270, Evans details the number of deaths and injuries incurred by these political paramilitary forces. In 1924-1929, "stable years," Nazis claimed 29 deaths by the Communists, while the Communists claimed 92 deaths from fascists. Steel Helmets suffered 26 deaths and the Reichsbanner 18 deaths. Injuries to all were counted in the thousands.

In 1930, the Nazis claimed "17 deaths, rising to 42 in 1931 and 84 in 1932." The Communists reported "44 deaths...in 1930, 52 in 1931 and 75 in the first six months of 1932 alone, while over 50 Reichsbanner men died in battles with the Nazis on the streets from 1929 to 1933." And. on page 273 Evans noted that the police sympathized with the Nazis.

Thus, an objective reading of the Weimar Republic would determine that the Nazi brownshirts did not rise up on the streets with nobody paying attention. The Social Democrats and the Communists were certainly paying attention and engaged them in brutal street battles.

Bray's entire argument rests on his bad history that the Nazis rose to power because no one confronted them in Germany. Thus, the current Antifa is absolutely correct in fighting the fascists in the streets in America and abridging their constitutional rights to speak and assemble.

No one interviewing Bray has called him on his bad history. They have accepted his ridiculous claim at face value and then let him pontificate on why the "illiberal" (his word for the Antifa) should be allowed to fight with the fascists.

If we go down this path of street fighting, democracy and the rule of law will be its victims. Bray ignores the correlation of forces in America. The Trump administration and his AG Sessions have all the tools they need to suppress all progressive protests under the guise of stopping leftwing and rightwing violence. Antifa violence and suppressing the constitutional rights of the fascists, even Trump supporters, plays into Trump's hands. I cannot see how this strategy works out for the better."

—James Scaminaci III

Friday, July 19, 2019

Narrativity: the convention I needed

I loved Narrativity for many reasons, but I've resisted writing this because one reason makes me sad.

I'll start as we tell people to critique writers in workshops and focus on the good:

Perhaps the best was a happy accident. When Emma came up with the name, we were just trying to find something that seemed descriptive and hadn't been overused, but the name encouraged something none of us had anticipated, a strong focus on story rather than writing. The name let us talk about writing, of course, but it reminded us there are many kinds of storytelling.

It was egalitarian, or at least as egalitarian as it's possible to be at an event like this. Joe Heaney noted that in Oh THIS is what a con can be: Narrativity Report: Part 1:
...that warm, welcoming feeling was perhaps the strongest feature of Narrativity. There was no ego, no stratification, no ranks expressed in the three days spent at the Crown Plaza. We were simply storytellers all, sharing our experiences and trusting that the experience of others passionate about our common art form would aid us in our own growth.
It was small, about 70 people. There are natural sizes for groups, which I first learned when I was involved with the Unitarian Universalists, and different sized groups function differently. Narrativity was the size of a village or a family gathering, which is the size of my ideal convention. You don't necessarily get to meet everyone, but it's easy to meet people, and you quickly develop a sense of community.

The panels were very good. I don't think there were any that I would recommend against. The last panel was a local tradition, the Different Panel, which consists of proposals by con members that the group votes on. An additional benefit of the Different Panel is the proposals that don't win make a fine place for next year's programming committee to start.

The selection of food and drinks in the con suite was especially good for a small convention.

The music circles were fun in what I think of as the Minneapolis music tradition—almost no fannish songs, but a good bit of folk and traditional music, including sea shanties, and show tunes and originals.

Hmm. So what wasn't good? Well, the hotel's restaurants were a bit pricey and generic, but there were a lot of good restaurants within a mile of the convention. The hotel was otherwise great—I'm hoping it'll be the site for next year's Narrativity.

And now for the small sadness. Narrativity reminded me enormously of Fourth Street Fantasy thirty years ago, before it grew and was gentrified. I suppose that's inevitable with successful conventions, but I hope Narrativity will learn from the mistakes of success and stay a place where people with different concerns gather as equals and freely discuss anything having to do with story. One thing I know: I'll encourage every writer I know and love to be at the next one.

ETA: Narrativity – a review – Dear Alien Anthropologists

Sunday, May 26, 2019

A list of the 105 postures of Yang family tai chi chuan

Posting this in case it's useful for anyone else. I don't know who created these sheets; I'll update this if I learn that.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Bernie Sanders, like Robin Hood, loved by poor, hated by rich

“Among Democrats making $100k or more, Sanders gets 19% of the vote. Among those making less than $50k, he receives 30% of the vote.” And yes, because the latter group is more diverse, it means he’s disproportionately supported by women and people of color.

Source: https://morningconsult.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Political-Intelligence-3.5.19.pdf

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Current Affairs and the Sacred Contract Between Writer and Editor

ETA: I’ve deleted the editor’s name. Everyone deserves a second chance.

During an internet flamewar, a Current Affairs editor tweeted this:
I commented there:
I hope you realize that few if any competent writers will want to submit to a magazine that tells the world about their first drafts. #ProfessionalismMatters
Then I shared her tweet with this comment:
This is a contender for the most unprofessional shit I've seen in 30-some years of publishing.
She did apologize in a later tweet.
And I added these tweets:
I've done stupid shit when I believed my friends were wrongly accused, so I am not entirely unsympathetic. But sympathy and an apology do not erase what [she] did. She broke the fundamental contract: Editors do not publicly speak about a writer's first draft. 
What @curaffairs can do to restore trust between writers and their editors now, I do not know. But I know I would be very reluctant to submit work to editors who are so cavalier about a writer's work. 
And I see [her] solution was to block me. I would say that's the opposite of taking responsibility for being astonishingly unprofessional. @curaffairs
When people questioned me, I added this:
It's not a question of whether a writer is the worst scum and you think the writer therefore deserves anything. It's purely about the editor's behavior. There are no exceptions: A writer submits work expecting it to be accepted or rejected discreetly. We trust our editors. 
When editors show they'll get upset and trash us, the person who looks awful is the editor because the editor has betrayed our trust about the work. The work is separate from the hissy fit. It's hard to come up with an analogy, but I'll try: 
A writer who exposes details about our first draft is like a tailor who shares details about our bodies to mock us. No sane person would go to a tailor who did that. And no sane writer would submit work to an editor who did that. 
I agree she shouldn't be fired. But the magazine needs to make a statement that this is not their policy and it will never happen again. She needs to make a separate statement to that effect—the tweet I saw from her was too glib to be meaningful.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

It's better to separate social class and economic class than blur them as "socioeconomic" class

I don't find "socioeconomic" useful. Economic class and social class are distinct if you are willing to look closely—a member of the social elite can be unlucky enough to become working class, and someone who the elite consider "trash" can be lucky enough to join the rich. A sneer is a powerful weapon in a conflict about social class, but when the war is about economic class, only capital matters.

Some people insist social and economic class are too often aligned to separate, but that's obviously not true when your wealth grows or plummets: You keep your social class and lose your economic class. Social class is an identity like race or gender—it stays with you. Economic class is a relationship to capital—it can change in an instant.

Many who change their economic class try to pass as a member of the social class that’s associated with their new economic class. That the first generation in a different social class usually fails shows how hard that is. But with a change of economic class, they immediately gain or lose the things that come with that class, from health care to education to housing, clothing, and food.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Yes, Helena Bonham Carter, everything in life is art, but it is political too

Everything in life is also politics. In any system with rich and poor people, rich people are able to do more because most people are able to do less.

To those who object:

Tea is free? Pens are free? Clothes are free? Parties? Groceries? Homes? Even how you talk is dictated by your educational opportunities. Even your smile has a great deal to do with the dentists you can afford.

And if you say you prefer the world of art, you have a great deal of company. The rich always prefer the world where they ignore the poor who enable their world.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Marx and Adam Smith on productive labor and art

Talking about whether writers and freelancers are working class brought me to two quotes, one by Adam Smith and one by Karl Marx:

“There is one sort of labour which adds to the value of the subject upon which it is bestowed: there is another which has no such effect. The former, as it produces a value, may be called productive; the latter, unproductive labour. Thus the labour of a manufacturer adds, generally, to the value of the materials which he works upon, that of his own maintenance, and of his master's profit. The labour of a menial servant, on the contrary, adds to the value of nothing. Though the manufacturer has his wages advanced to him by his master, he, in reality, costs him no expense, the value of those wages being generally restored, together with a profit, in the improved value of the subject upon which his labour is bestowed. But the maintenance of a menial servant never is restored. A man grows rich by employing a multitude of manufacturers: he grows poor by maintaining a multitude of menial servants. The labour of the latter, however, has its value, and deserves its reward as well as that of the former.” —Adam Smith

”Milton, for example, who did Paradise Lost, was an unproductive worker. In contrast to this, the writer who delivers hackwork for his publisher is a productive worker. Milton produced Paradise Lost in the way that a silkworm produces silk, as the expression of his own nature. Later on he sold the product for £5 and to that extent became a dealer in a commodity. But the Leipzig literary proletarian who produces books, e.g. compendia on political economy, at the instructions of his publisher is roughly speaking a productive worker, in so far as his production is subsumed under capital and only takes place for the purpose of the latter’s valorisation. A singer who sings like a bird is an unproductive worker. If she sells her singing for money, she is to that extent a wage labourer or a commodity dealer. But the same singer, when engaged by an entrepreneur who has her sing in order to make money, is a productive worker, for she directly produces capital. A schoolmaster who educates others is not a productive worker. But a schoolmaster who is engaged as a wage labourer in an institution along with others, in order through his labour to valorise the money of the entrepreneur of the knowledge-mongering institution, is a productive worker. Yet most of these kinds of work, from the formal point of view, are hardly subsumed formally under capital. They belong rather among the transitional forms.” —Karl Marx

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Four hard questions for people who want reparations for slavery

1. How do you justify giving money to poor black people while ignoring 3/4 of the people in poverty?

2. How does a person prove they're ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery)? The historical records are incomplete, especially for people who were freed before the Civil War.

3. Does the one-drop rule apply? If so, a great many white people will be having DNA tests to see if they can get free money.

4. Do the descendants of rich black slaveowners like William Ellison get reparations?

Related: Answering #ADOS: The problem with reparations and King's better solution

What Americans Think About Reparations And Other Race-Related Questions | FiveThirtyEight. Reparations are unpopular with every group except for black Americans, and even a large minority of black people reject the idea.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Anna K’s observaton applies to Racefail 09 (aka RaceReductionistFail 09)

Anna Khachiyan wrote on Instagram:
The problem with allowing identity politics to overtake class politics is not just that progressive iconography has come to stand in for actual progress, but also that the mandate to honor the “subjectivity” of one’s “oppression” means that we are routinely held hostage by mental illness and personality disorder masquerading as a messianic fervor for social justice.
This especially applies to Racefail 09: perhaps the first person who attacked a white writer’s work and was then supported by the identitarians was a woman who admitted she had mental issues.

Now, I think the main problem with her critique was she hadn’t finished the book that she attacked—context matters—but her bad reading was reinforced by her mental problems, which was then validated by her “allies”.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Captain Marvel, the greatest Mary Sue ever? And a little bit racist?

As I hope my previous post made clear, I liked the movie and will probably see it again.

But, dear God, is the character a Mary Sue.

1. She's retconned as one of the most powerful characters in the universe. (Yes, it is a problem that Fury never called her before, though a later writer can always say he did and she was too busy to take the call.)

2. She is so important that she gave the Avengers their name. (Why she was called Carol "the Avenger" Danvers, we haven't a clue, because we never saw her do anything that would inspire anyone to call her the Avenger.)

3. She immediately becomes Nick Fury's pal. (She and Fury are shown laughing together in scenes that seemed wrong to me. If I'd been directing, I would've told the actors to play the scenes more subtly.)

4. She doesn't seem to have any lovers in her past. (Perhaps because she's too amazing for any ordinary boy or girlfriend.)

5. Everything we know about her past is about things she did for herself instead of anyone else. We are supposed to believe she was a great friend because her cool black friend says she was, but we have no idea what she ever did that made her a great friend.

6. She gets her abilities not because she earned them like Wonder Woman or Batman or deserved them like Green Lantern or Captain America, but because she's the one who's standing there when the experimental power source explodes—and unlike many of the characters who have a similar origin, she wasn't even responsible for creating the thing that transformed her. She simply gets awesome powers because the writers wanted to write about someone with awesome powers.

As for how her story is a tiny bit racist, her awesomeness is established with the testimony of Nick Fury and Maria Rambeau—she's so cool, black people look up to her.

Okay, that all sounds like I didn't like the movie. I did. But I really hope the next Avengers movie manages to make her less of a Mary Sue.

ETA: Extra point on the little bit racist: Marvel had a black female Captain Marvel for a few years, but they sidelined her in favor of the white woman.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Captain Marvel—fun movie, but she didn't have to be a neoliberal Mary Sue (spoilers after first paragraph)

Lightly edited things I said elsewhere: Fun. Brie Larson is only okay, perhaps hindered by a character who's a bit of a Mary Sue, perhaps miscast. Good use of Samuel Jackson. Wanted more Coulson and Hill. Last act is the weakest. Would see it again.

I suspect both Jackson and Larson would’ve been better with a stronger script. Carol seems like a Mary Sue because she doesn’t have a well-defined character—she’s just a girl who gets up when she’s knocked down. It’s all about her, unlike my favorite, Steve Rogers, for whom it’s all about others. Or if the writers had been willing to give her some weakness, they could’ve gone with the egocentric hero, like Stark. She’s just a good pilot who got her powers by accident.

It's a neoliberal idea of strength. Stark has the virtue of being a guy with a problem. Unlike Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel didn't even have to earn her powers. And unlike Green Lantern, she did not get them because she was deserving. She just got them.

Which may be enough, of course. We’ll see how she does in the next Avengers movie.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Answering #ADOS: The problem with reparations and King's better solution

Anyone who knows US history knows black people were treated abominably. Today, as a group, they are almost as poor as Native Americans. After the Civil War, the plantations should've been broken up and the land given to homeless people.

But implementing reparations is impossible now.

1. If you give a cash payout to all American Descendants Of Slaves (ADOS), you will give money to well-off ADOS and the 1/4 of poor people who are black. No one who wants to end poverty can support ignoring 3/4 of the poor.

2. If you give an equal cash payment to all ADOS, you will create a new racial hierarchy in which all black people are richer than poor white, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans, but the rich are still disproportionately white.

3. There is no practical way to establish ADOS credentials. Should reparations go to anyone who has DNA linked to Africa? To anyone who can pass the brown paper bag test? To anyone who meets the one drop rule? To octoroons? To quadroons? To anyone who can submit a genealogy that proves an ancestor was a slave? Do the descendants of rich black slaveowners get reparations?

4. If you create a form of reparations that does not consist of cash payments, the primary beneficiaries will be the administrators, who will come from the black middle and upper class.

Reparationists insist justice calls for a race-specific solution, yet even fans of reparations admit that universal solutions are racial solutions:
"Because black families on average have considerably less wealth than white families, this kind of system or scheme would disproportionately benefit blacks." —William Darity
Martin Luther King had a better solution:
"...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. ... I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective—the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income." —Martin Luther King

Baby Bonds Only Modestly Reduce the Racial Wealth Gap – People's Policy Project:
It is not the middle that owns the wealth, but rather the very top. In 2016, the median white quintile owned just 3.7 percent of white wealth. For black families, the same figure was 2.8 percent. ... the top quintile owned over 85 percent of each group’s wealth.
The Reparations Puzzle:
Because wealth is distributed very unevenly within every racial group, any race-specific wealth transfer regime will either 1) open up massive racial wealth disparities going in the opposite direction of current disparities or 2) provide the vast majority of its benefits to the upper class.
On Reparations by Adolph Reed

Cornel West and Cedric Johnson on Ta-Nehisi Coates

Sorry Ta-Nehisi Coates, The NAACP’s Reparations Plan Looks Exactly Like What Bernie Sanders Is Proposing by Yvette Carnell

Bonus! An earlier post on the subject:
Two questions about reparations that no one will answer

Ta-Nehisi Coates' The Case for Reparations won't tell you that even slaves looked down on "white trash" or that Mississippi's poll tax law reduced the number of qualified white voters from 130,000 to 68,000, but it's well-written and well-researched. Yet, despite the title, Coates doesn't address the two most important questions:

1. How do you institute reparations for slavery in the 21st century? Coates mentions Conyers' bill, HR 40, that calls for studying how to institute reparations, but neither he nor Conyers actually offer a specific suggestion. I suspect the reason is in the answer to the next question:

2. How do you justify instituting reparations for generational black poverty while excluding the descendants of indentured servants, the American Indians and Mexican-Americans whose land was taken from them, the Japanese-American, German-American, and Italian-Americans who were put in concentration camps when the US fought the countries they came from, and the working class people of all hues who have been exploited by the rich for as long as this country has existed?

Jamelle Bouie tried to answer the first question in Reparations should be paid to black Americans: Here is how America should pay. I commented there:
One question is whether the descendants of black slaveowners, from Anthony Johnson, the first black slaveowner in English-speaking North America, to William Ellison, who may have been the richest at the time the Civil War began, should be rewarded for owning slaves.

The problem with using the census for reparations is that it's self-reporting. For example, "An estimated net 1.2 million Americans of the 35 million Americans identified in 2000 as of “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin,” as the census form puts it, changed their race from “some other race” to “white” between the 2000 and 2010 censuses." If there are reparations available for being black, an awful lot of us who've been "white" will happily correct our forms to show we're "black".
Henry Louis Gates Jr. did a fine rebuttal of the rationale for reparations in How to End the Slavery Blame-Game (NYTimes.com):
While we are all familiar with the role played by the United States and the European colonial powers like Britain, France, Holland, Portugal and Spain, there is very little discussion of the role Africans themselves played. And that role, it turns out, was a considerable one, especially for the slave-trading kingdoms of western and central Africa. These included the Akan of the kingdom of Asante in what is now Ghana, the Fon of Dahomey (now Benin), the Mbundu of Ndongo in modern Angola and the Kongo of today’s Congo, among several others.

For centuries, Europeans in Africa kept close to their military and trading posts on the coast. Exploration of the interior, home to the bulk of Africans sold into bondage at the height of the slave trade, came only during the colonial conquests, which is why Henry Morton Stanley’s pursuit of Dr. David Livingstone in 1871 made for such compelling press: he was going where no (white) man had gone before.

How did slaves make it to these coastal forts? The historians John Thornton and Linda Heywood of Boston University estimate that 90 percent of those shipped to the New World were enslaved by Africans and then sold to European traders. The sad truth is that without complex business partnerships between African elites and European traders and commercial agents, the slave trade to the New World would have been impossible, at least on the scale it occurred.

Advocates of reparations for the descendants of those slaves generally ignore this untidy problem of the significant role that Africans played in the trade, choosing to believe the romanticized version that our ancestors were all kidnapped unawares by evil white men, like Kunta Kinte was in “Roots.” The truth, however, is much more complex: slavery was a business, highly organized and lucrative for European buyers and African sellers alike.
Eric Williams noted, “Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.” So the real question is not whether there should be reparations for slavery. It's whether there should be reparations for capitalism. I say yes, and I agree with Martin Luther King. The only viable reparation is Basic Income for everyone.


1. Coates says in the essay, "In the contest of upward mobility, Barack and Michelle Obama have won. But they’ve won by being twice as good—and enduring twice as much." But neither Obama's academic or political record suggests he was twice as good or endured twice as much as his rivals, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Class-first quotes: Du Bois, King, Malcolm X, Black Panthers

“...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.” —W.E.B. Du Bois

"...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

"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. ... but I don’t think that it will be based upon the color of the skin." —Malcolm X

“we believe our fight is a class struggle, not a race struggle.” — Bobby Seale, co-founder Black Panther Party

Monday, February 25, 2019

Why I will now say I am for reparations

When you try to pin down what being for reparations actually entails, it just means you want to end the racial wealth gap.

So like almost everyone, I am and have always been for reparations.

But I will call it democratic socialism.

Why I'll stop trying to quit all social media and that's a good thing

My latest attempt at a long social media break has failed, but I don't mind because I learned something this time, perhaps because I read Jaron Lanier's Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now and had to think about why I wasn't convinced.

My current answer: Social media is part of modern society. For most of us, it's better to work to become good citizens than hermits. I expect I'll still take the occasional day or week off as the electronic version of a camping trip, but I'll quit trying to quit.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Are Jews white? If you're a neoliberal identitarian, the answer is yes, so don't vote for Bernie Sanders

I am fascinated by young Jews who insist they're not white—until the 1980s, no one questioned the whiteness of European Jews except for a few antisemites. Most American antisemites hated Jews for the same reason they hated Catholics—they weren't Protestants.

But now the identity crowd wants someone with more conservative politics than Bernie Sanders. Since they can't admit that, their #1 attack is that he's another old white man.

But even if you think Jews are white, electing Sanders would be a blow for diversity. We've had a black President and a Catholic President, but we've never had a Jewish President.

The real Jussie Smollett story: Any pundit who believed him should be canceled

I somehow deleted the original, longer (and funnier, honest!) version of this post—whether Blogger or I goofed, I dunno. (Okay, I would bet on me.)

But the title of this post may be all that's needed. The Jussie Smollett story was plausible when it consisted of an anonymous hate letter. When the second part was added on the 29th, the story stank: you had to believe MAGA fans of Empire stalked Jussie Smollett to hang a rope around his neck and pour bleach on him. That's an awful lot of effort for someone as politically irrelevant as Smollett.

That's why I made this post on Facebook and Twitter on the 30th:
There’s a news story that doesn’t smell right. I’m not going to name it because it may turn out I’m wrong, but in case my instinct is right, I’m noting it now.

Don’t bother asking which story.

Yes, this does mean I can claim to be right later on about anything I please. :)
The only thing that surprises me now is that the truth came out because Smollett was so incompetent—not every hoax hate crime is exposed, just as not every actual hate crime is confirmed.

If anyone wants to make a list of pundits who don't think critically, Xeni Jardin has a couple of posts at BoingBoing expressing her support for Smollett that include a lot of quotes from gullible (though well-meaning) people.

Don't "believe the victim". Investigate all accusations. Sometimes people are wrong and sometimes they lie.

About The Umbrella Academy and the difference between superhero teams of the 1960s and 1970s

I like The Umbrella Academy more than most superhero TV shows, but the lineup feels oddly like something from the 1970s: only two of the seven team members are women. (In the 1960s, superhero teams with five or more characters had one woman, in the 1970s, they had two.) Making things even more traditional, the women in the Umbrella Academy don't have physical powers like strength or athleticism. I could point out more examples of benign sexism in the first season, but I don't want to give any spoilers.

And the old school approach is only a quibble. All the actors are very good, and there are ways the writers can do better by the women in the next season, so I'll plan to catch it.

Four stars out of five.

PS. Wondering if I was right about when superhero teams started having (shock!) *two* female members, I googled. It looks like the Justice League added a second woman in 1969 when Black Canary joined, the Teen Titans added a second girl in 1970 when Lilith joined, and the Avengers added a second woman in 1973 when Black Widow joined. Now, for the most hardcore fanboys out there, I will note that the Black Widow was the third female member of the team, but the Scarlet Witch did not join until the Wasp quit, so the 1960s status quo of one chick per team was not broken until the Black Widow became a member.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Why the black bourgeoisie loves race reductionism, plus reading Margo Jefferson’s Negroland

The black bourgeoisie loves race reductionism because it makes them heroes. They hate adding class to the analysis because that make them part of the problem.

This bit from Margo Jefferson’s Negroland about the black elite before the Civil War is fundamentally true today:
What did it mean to be a privileged free Negro?
...Free in the North to agitate against slavery and for voting rights while excluding Negroes with fewer accomplishments from your social circles.
Free in the South to lobby for your fluctuating rights while deeming it wise to ignore the claims of poorer, darker free Negroes.
Free to labor for privilege in the hopes that your children would be entitled to it.
I’ve just started the book, but I’m very impressed with it, both for Jefferson’s observations and her quotes. She notes that W.E.B. DuBois described the black bourgeoisie as “...a group of selfish, self-indulgent, well-to-do men whose basic interest in solving the Negro problem was personal; personal freedom and use of the world” with no “arousing care as to what became of the mass of American Negroes.”

Recommended: Cedric Johnson’s Black Political Life and the Blue Lives Matter Presidency

Black Political Life and the Blue Lives Matter Presidency is the sequel to “The Panthers Can’t Save Us Now”. It's filled with smart observations for people who care about race and class. Here are a few:

“Many left activists and academics continue to abide the notion of black exceptionalism, that there is something unique and incommensurable about the experiences of blacks that prohibits any substantive discussion of class position and interests whenever the black population is concerned.”

“the myth that Trump rode into office on a wave of resurgent white supremacy has only entrenched liberal anti-racist posturing, over-generalizations about and demonization of white workers, and a prevailing sense that popular left politics are not only out of reach, but not even worth pursuing.”

“Of the ten cities with the highest per capita fatal police shootings of civilians, only one approaches a majority-black population — Baton Rouge (50.4 percent black), followed closely by St. Louis (49.2 percent) with Las Vegas trailing well behind (11.1 percent). Of the remaining cities, the black population constituted less than 3 percent: Kingman, Arizona (.04 percent black); Las Cruces, New Mexico (2.4 percent); Billings, Montana (.08 percent); Pueblo, Colorado (2.4 percent); Rapid City, South Dakota (1.1 percent); Westminster, Colorado (1.23 percent); and Casper, Wyoming (1 percent). Black Lives Matter protests have galvanized opposition to police abuse, but clearly, there are neighborhoods and communities in the US hinterlands that some on the Left have written off, that endure over-policing, violence, and precarity but fall out of the race-centric, metropolitan framing of these problems favored by activists and academics.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Links and Thinks - Feb 20

On temporarily deactivating Facebook and Twitter

So far, I like it. I hadn't realized that I felt a bit obliged to be on social media, and that included an obligation to interact with everyone who was officially part of my community, so it's an unexpected relief in some ways. But I also miss it—I've always loved venting with friends, and suspect that's on the short list of things I would count as human nature.

I can't say I've broken my online habit, though. I've redirected it today by focusing on Quora, where I asked Should Black Lives Matter change its name to Poor Lives Matter?

Miscellaneous thoughts

The world would be a much nicer place if everyone remembered that other people are real.

Anything that claims to be the only thing you need to read about a subject is propaganda.


I'm a Sanders supporter, but I like Basic Income as a way to help people until we have socialism, so I'm noting this as a useful resource: The Freedom Dividend - Andrew Yang for President

Remember: Guns don't kill people. Dogs with guns kill people. German hunter shot by dog refused gun license | News | DW | 19.02.2019 (Other cases mentioned in the article.)


United States presidential elections in which the winner lost the popular vote - Wikipedia

Monday, February 18, 2019

The woman who invented micro aggressions was a plagiarist who may have committed a hoax hate crime

Madonna G. Constantine, an academic who promoted the idea of micro aggressions, was fired by Columbia University in 2008 for plagiarism. While she was being investigated, a noose was found outside her office. The perpetrator was never found, but many people (including me) find this detail suspicious:
After the October incident, cops were rebuffed – by Constantine herself – in their efforts to catch the person behind the alleged hate crime.

The professor was one of several faculty members who objected to the idea of posting surveillance cameras in her hallway, according to sources familiar with the campus investigation.

'Microaggression' Is the New Racism on Campus

Hanging Nooses: Hate or Hoax Upsurge

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Review: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now is 3/4 Very Good

Will Shetterly's Reviews > Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now

Things I did not share on social media on Feb. 15

Three rules for readers:
  1. Read charitably.
  2. Read skeptically.
  3. Read widely.
  4. Read deeply.
Yes, the first two and the second two are at odds with each other. That's why they're on the list.


A woman insisted mass shooters do not suffer from mental health issues but from white male entitlement syndrome. How that explains Brenda Ann Spencer or John Allen Muhammad, she did not say. #CannotMakeThisUp


Dear socialists, capitalists treat some people as subhuman. Don't do the same thing.


The question for modern journalism is who it is supposed to serve, and the unintended consequence of commercial journalism is it serves the publisher, not the public, so we continue to live in the world of 'if it bleeds, it leads.' Why it bleeds stays irrelevant.


Good manners are weapons and the left needs to learn how to wield them.


People who talk about "the wrong side of history" are on the wrong side of originality.


Romantic love: Platonic love with benefits.


I'm beginning to think it might not be possible to read all of Facebook.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Things I did not share on social media on Feb. 14


Life's too short to give negative reviews. If you must give bad reviews, do them after you're reviewed everything that's good.

We should not talk about gun violence in America when there's been a recent major incident, or when it's old news, or when it's a day that ends with "day".

People who make straw man arguments are not malicious. We argue with what we hear. They only hear two possibilities, their own and the straw man's.

Liberals love left-identitarianism because it lets them feel guilty about their past instead of their present. #UnderstandingTaNehisiCoates

"Contrarian" is only an insult to conformists.

You learn more from your opponents than from your echo chamber.


This Is How AIPAC Really Works:
Has anyone ever seen so many members of Congress, of both parties, running to the microphones and sending out press releases to denounce one first-termer for criticizing the power of… a lobby?

By its own admission, AIPAC has 100,000 members out of an American Jewish population of about 6 million. Of that number, most are Jewish but, as it proudly proclaims, many are evangelical (and other) Christians.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Israel and Palestine FAQ that Zionists don't want you to see

Who attacked first in 1948?

“Menahem Begin, the Leader of the Irgun, tells how ‘in Jerusalem, as elsewhere, we were the first to pass from the defensive to the offensive...Arabs began to flee in terror...Hagana was carrying out successful attacks on other fronts, while all the Jewish forces proceeded to advance through Haifa like a knife through butter’...The Israelis now allege that the Palestine war began with the entry of the Arab armies into Palestine after 15 May 1948. But that was the second phase of the war; they overlook the massacres, expulsions and dispossessions which took place prior to that date and which necessitated Arab states’ intervention.” Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest

Who attacked first in 1967?

“The former Commander of the Air Force, General Ezer Weitzman, regarded as a hawk, stated that there was ‘no threat of destruction’ but that the attack on Egypt, Jordan and Syria was nevertheless justified so that Israel could ‘exist according the scale, spirit, and quality she now embodies.’ ... Menahem Begin had the following remarks to make: ‘In June 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.’“ Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle

“I do not think Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent to The Sinai would not have been sufficient to launch an offensive war. He knew it and we knew it.” Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s Chief of Staff in 1967, in Le Monde, 2/28/68

Who is responsible for the 1929 Palestine riots?

On August 17, a Jew named Avrahim Mizrachi was stabbed in a fight with neighbors. He died a few days later. Over the next four days, the Jerusalem police reported 12 attacks by Jews on Arabs and seven attacks by Arabs on Jews. On the morning of the 23rd, several Arabs were killed in Jerusalem's Mea She'arim neighborhood. Soon after that, violence erupted throughout Palestine with Jews killing Arabs and Arabs killing Jews. During the Hebron Massacre, a mob killed 63 Jews while over 400 were saved by local Arab families. The riots ended with almost equal numbers of people killed on each side, 133 Jews and 116 Muslims.

For more: 1929 Palestine riots and the Hebron Massacre

Didn’t Zionists legally buy their land?

“In 1948, at the moment that Israel declared itself a state, it legally owned a little more than 6 percent of the land of Palestine...After 1940, when the mandatory authority restricted Jewish land ownership to specific zones inside Palestine, there continued to be illegal buying (and selling) within the 65 percent of the total area restricted to Arabs.

Thus when the partition plan was announced in 1947 it included land held illegally by Jews, which was incorporated as a fait accompli inside the borders of the Jewish state. And after Israel announced its statehood, an impressive series of laws legally assimilated huge tracts of Arab land (whose proprietors had become refugees, and were pronounced ‘absentee landlords’ in order to expropriate their lands and prevent their return under any circumstances).” Edward Said, The Question of Palestine

Was the partition plan fair?

“Arab rejection was...based on the fact that, while the population of the Jewish state was to be [only half] Jewish with the Jews owning less than 10% of the Jewish state land area, the Jews were to be established as the ruling body — a settlement which no self-respecting people would accept without protest, to say the least...The action of the United Nations conflicted with the basic principles for which the world organization was established, namely, to uphold the right of all peoples to self-determination. By denying the Palestine Arabs, who formed the two-thirds majority of the country, the right to decide for themselves, the United Nations had violated its own charter.” Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest

When did Zionists begin seizing more land than the UN plan allowed?

“Before the end of the mandate and, therefore before any possible intervention by Arab states, the Jews, taking advantage of their superior military preparation and organization, had occupied...most of the Arab cities in Palestine before May 15, 1948. Tiberias was occupied on April 19, 1948, Haifa on April 22, Jaffa on April 28, the Arab quarters in the New City of Jerusalem on April 30, Beisan on May 8, Safad on May 10 and Acre on May 14, 1948...In contrast, the Palestine Arabs did not seize any of the territories reserved for the Jewish state under the partition resolution.” Henry Cattan, Palestine, The Arabs and Israel

How many massacres were committed by Zionists in 1948?

“For the entire day of April 9, 1948, Irgun and LEHI soldiers carried out the slaughter in a cold and premeditated fashion...The attackers ‘lined men, women and children up against the walls and shot them,’...The ruthlessness of the attack on Deir Yassin shocked Jewish and world opinion alike, drove fear and panic into the Arab population, and led to the flight of unarmed civilians from their homes all over the country.” Simha Flapan, The Birth of Israel

“...according to the former director of the Israeli army archives, ‘in almost every village occupied by us during the War of Independence, acts were committed which are defined as war crimes, such as murders, massacres, and rapes’...Uri Milstein, the authoritative Israeli military historian of the 1948 war, goes one step further, maintaining that ‘every skirmish ended in a massacre of Arabs.’” Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Is Israel an apartheid state?

"I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government." —Bishop Desmond Tutu


The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict

NY Times Op-Ed article written by prominent American Jews (including Albert Einstein) critical of Menahem Begin's visit to the States, Dec. 2, 1948

Iran Didn't Actually Threaten to Wipe Israel Off the Map

Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
Israeli spokesmen have their work cut out explaining how they have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them civilians, compared with just three civilians killed in Israel by Hamas rocket and mortar fire. But on television and radio and in newspapers, Israeli government spokesmen such as Mark Regev appear slicker and less aggressive than their predecessors, who were often visibly indifferent to how many Palestinians were killed.

There is a reason for this enhancement of the PR skills of Israeli spokesmen. Going by what they say, the playbook they are using is a professional, well-researched and confidential study on how to influence the media and public opinion in America and Europe. Written by the expert Republican pollster and political strategist Dr Frank Luntz, the study was commissioned five years ago by a group called The Israel Project, with offices in the US and Israel, for use by those "who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel".
The Department of Corrections:'Ben-Hur', the LA Times & A Place Called Palestine
Despite the claim that "the Romans didn't rename Judea as 'Palestina' until a hundred years after the death of Jesus," contemporaries of Jesus also routinely referred to Palestine as, well, Palestine. For instance, in the first decade of the 1st Century CE, the Roman poet Ovid mentioned Palestine in both his famed mythological poem Metamorphoses and his erotic elegy The Art of Love. He also wrote of "the waters of Palestine" in his calendrical poem Fasti. Around the same time, another Latin poet Tibullus wrote of "the crowded cities of Palestine" in a section called "Messalla’s Triumph" in his poem Delia.


On depression, cancel culture, and why I’m taking a month off from Facebook and Twitter

"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." —attributed to Cardinal Richelieu

I was canceled ten years ago. This isn’t the anniversary quite yet—it’s in March. The occasion was a huge flamefest in the science fiction community called Racefail 09, which I think of as RaceReductionistFail—the participants hated mentioning class so much that one of them made it a square in a bingo card for identifying racists.

I tried to sell a book after I was canceled, but even though I’d recently been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award, I had no luck. One young editor was so excited about it and so sure there’d be no problem that she told my agent she wanted to buy it, but then a higher-up vetoed her. I’ve been fighting depression ever since and have pretty much lost my interest in the field I had loved. Depression is common after mobbing or canceling or whatever you want to call it. So are suicidal thoughts. And so is suicide. One of the targets of cancel culture, Mark Fisher, killed himself. Another, Freddie deBoer, fled social media to stay sane. I’m going to follow his example for a month.

What Fisher, deBoer, and I have in common is a class-first approach to understanding privilege under neoliberal capitalism. Another class-first socialist, Adolph Reed, said this:
I’ve been struck by the level of visceral and vitriolic anti-Marxism I’ve seen from this strain of defenders of antiracism as a politics. It’s not clear to me what drives it because it takes the form of snide dismissals than direct arguments. Moreover, the dismissals typically include empty acknowledgment that “of course we should oppose capitalism,” whatever that might mean. In any event, the tenor of this anti-Marxism is reminiscent of those right-wing discourses, many of which masqueraded as liberal, in which only invoking the word “Marxism” was sufficient to dismiss an opposing argument or position. ... This sort of thing only deepens my suspicions about antiracism’s status within the comfort zone of neoliberalism’s discourses of “reform.” More to the point, I suspect as well that this vitriol toward radicalism is rooted partly in the conviction that a left politics based on class analysis and one focused on racial injustice are Manichean alternatives.
Reed is right. Identitarians on the right and left realize universalist politics are existential threats. They have to do everything they can do destroy heretics, and therefore left identitarians have abandoned traditional leftist values like free speech. They think they wield Satan's tools in God's service and fail to see that when they do, Satan laughs. They often quote Audre Lorde's "the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house" without noticing that censorship and identitarianism are two of the master's favorite tools.

If I could go back to 2003, I would tell myself to keep my blog and stay away from LiveJournal, Facebook, and Twitter. Blogs are places to think. Social media are places to react.

Freddie deBoer has been doing stealth blog posts—-they appear and disappear quickly. This bit from today’s speaks to me:
As someone who went from frequent (to the point of pathological) engagement on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to none quite suddenly, this plays out in very odd ways. I am not a news-avoiding monk; I certainly pick up, in time, on what’s going on in national news. But I find it deeply disorienting to speak with people who are compulsively online, as they refer to dynamics and debates that appear totally obscure and unimportant. My generic response to “what’s your opinion on X?” is “…what?” And it’s not merely that people are steeped in this culture, but that they appear unaware that anyone isn’t a part of it. That would be disturbing in general; when it comes to journalists, I find it truly troubling.
While I agree it’s wrong to think of life offline as “the real world”, life online is only the real world in the same way academia or prison or the wealthy 1% is the real world: those who primarily live online inhabit a tiny, isolating piece of the real world. It’s too easy for people to forget echo chambers may comfort and enrage,  but they cannot provide the truths you do not know you need.

So I’m stepping away from Facebook and Twitter for a month. I’ll still use them to share blog posts and news that’s either personal or professional, but I’ll look for my distractions elsewhere, and what I have to say, I'll say here.

P.S. I'm reading this now: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The intersectionalist's mythical history: Combahee River Collective or Derrick Bell?

On social media, I posted,
Intersectionality question: Was Kimberle Crenshaw influenced by the Combahee River Collective? Obviously, she was influenced by Derrick Bell, a very problematic figure. Do intersectionalists cite the CRT to avoid discussing Bell? He and Crenshaw were far to the right of the CRT.
A Facebook friend who is not a socialist but who is often a better researcher than I replied,
Mostly an attempt by what I have seen of creating a history. I can't find direct links from the 80's 90's with combahee, I find that after 2014.
It is very important to intersectionalists that the theory comes from a black woman. When most intersectionalists were liberals, they simply ignored Crenshaw's connection to Bell. But as intersectionality was adopted by some leftists, its roots mattered more. Bell was a male antisemite who had no interest in socialism, which makes three reasons to erase him from intersectionality's official history. The Combahee River Collective were black lesbian socialists who said this in The Combahee River Collective Statement:
We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else's oppression.
That may be the most selfish statement I've seen from people who claim to be socialists. Compare their take with that of a far more important socialist woman:
"I am just as much concerned with the poor victims on the rubber plantations of Putumayo, the Blacks in Africa with whose corpses the Europeans play catch […] they resound with me so strongly that I have no special place in my heart for the ghetto. I feel at home in the entire world, wherever there are clouds and birds and human tears." —Rosa Luxemburg