Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Three reasons "white supremacy" does not explain Trump's appeal

1. Approximately eight million Obama voters voted for Trump. Did they suddenly become racist?

2. 13 percent of African American men voted for Donald Trump. Did they suddenly become self-hating?

3. Noted at You Are Still Crying Wolf | Slate Star Codex:
Trump made gains among blacks. He made gains among Latinos. He made gains among Asians. The only major racial group where he didn’t get a gain of greater than 5% was white people. I want to repeat that: the group where Trump’s message resonated least over what we would predict from a generic Republican was the white population.
Did the idea of white supremacy suddenly appeal to those black Trump voters?

If the answers to those questions are no, what else explains his appeal?

For some black working-class men, like Melendez, Trump’s economic rhetoric resonated more than his racial rhetoric. In short, like their white working-class counterparts, they saw in Trump the man who would bring back their jobs and their dignity.
Just 29 percent of white, no-college Obama-Trump voters approved of Mr. Obama’s performance, and 69 percent disapproved. Similarly, 75 percent said they would repeal the Affordable Care Act. Only 15 percent believed the economy had improved over the last year, and just 23 percent said their income had increased over the last four years.
Bill Clinton's political advice always applies in capitalist countries: "It's the economy, stupid."

ETA: It’s time to bust the myth: Most Trump voters were not working class. - The Washington Post:
...when we looked at the NBC polling data, we noticed something the pundits left out: during the primaries, about 70 percent of all Republicans didn’t have college degrees, close to the national average (71 percent according to the 2013 Census). Far from being a magnet for the less educated, Trump seemed to have about as many people without college degrees in his camp as we would expect any successful Republican candidate to have.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

If people should earn their money, why do we let the rich give their children money?

This question is especially nagging at me today because it's official: The Richest 1% Now Own More Than 50% of the World’s Wealth | Fortune.

On Facebook, when I asked a similar question, someone said it's not about the children; it's about the right of people to do what they please with their money.

But that doesn't answer the question. Either we all deserve to inherit or none of us do. The wishes of the people who own the wealth are no more relevant than the wishes of the people who owned slaves.

The palmed card in the "right of the owners of wealth" argument is most of us are trapped in the economic circumstances we're born into. Remember the chart I shared in my previous post:
So if you make that argument, why did the people who have the wealth deserve to be given money?

I'm with Jesus and the Jewish prophets: the poor should inherit the earth.
...the poor will inherit the earth,
will delight in great prosperity.
—Psalm 37:11 (New American Bible, Revised Edition)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

This chart shows the flaw in John Scalzi's "lowest difficulty setting" in the US's game of life

Scalzi said something identitarians still cite, that in the game of life, "straight white male" is the "lowest difficulty setting". That's something you can only believe if you ignore class. Serious capitalists have to know the facts, which is why This chart shows that your parents’ income determines your future - MarketWatch is from a business site:

The apparent privilege of women is they are more likely to "marry up" while men "marry down".

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Why I'm an agnostic

In second grade, I understood why God approved of Samson burning the fields of the Philistines, but I couldn't understand why he approved of Samson doing that by setting fire to the tails of foxes. That was just mean.

Florida's schools were segregated in the early '60s, and Bible-reading was mandatory at the start of the day. I spoke up against both—think of me as the chibi version of the Klansman's favorite opponent, a godless commie niggerlover. By the end of the decade, the movements for civil rights and the First Amendment had been won in public schools: the Bible was out, black people were in. As I came into my teens, my side of my generation was famously focusing on sex, drugs, and rock and roll. People like lists of three, so the fourth usually gets left out: we were also trying alternatives to conventional Christianity and Judaism. I studied Theravada Buddhism and tried meditation and was fascinated by gnosticism and desperately wanted to know the answer to the great question, what's it all about?

Sometime in my teens, I learned about agnosticism. While I knew then that both theists and atheists included people who had doubts, agnosticism seemed the best description of what I was: I didn't know the truth, I was open to learning more, and since religion was no longer imposed by the government and public schools, I was concerned with other struggles.

I began seeing something that atheists mention while missing its full implication: if religious beliefs have little to do with whether we're good or bad, that applies to theists too. Their belief does not make them behave badly; their mistaken beliefs about goodness do. If that was not so, there would be no good people in any major religion, yet there are good people in all of them.

Lately, I've been thinking about something else: Only 3% of the US identifies as atheists and 4% identifies as agnostics. No one will make a better world without the help of the other 93%.

And I've been wondering about this: Why is the economic class I oppose the class that is most receptive to atheism?

It comes to this:

1. I don't feel obliged to take a side on something that can't be known.

2. I don't feel obliged to convert people to what I believe. If your understanding of the universe pleases you and you don't force it on others, I'm happy you found something that comforts you.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Occam's Razor vs. the Believer's Hammer

Perhaps because there isn't a single definition of Occam's Razor—a term Occam never used for an idea that may be older than Aristotle—the term gets misused. The principle doesn't imply that the simplest solution is right. It says the simplest solution should be chosen first and tested, and if it proves to be wrong, choose the next simplest and test that. The Razor lets you sort through ideas quickly until you find the one that's right—or that's too complicated for you to see why it's wrong. Either way, the Razor is the fastest way to eliminate false possibilities.

Several principles have been proposed for the opposite of Occam's Razor, but they don't describe what I'm interested in, so here's mine:

The Believer's Hammer takes a simple solution and smashes anything that doesn't fit.

The easiest example comes from religion: Literalist Christians add up the Bible's years between Jesus and Adam and conclude God made the universe about six thousand years ago. Dinosaurs and carbon dating don't support their timeline, so the Hammer comes down: Dinosaurs died in Noah's flood, or God put dinosaur fossils in the Earth to fool nonbelievers, and carbon dating is a lie.

Secular beliefs rely on the Hammer too. Racists, sexists, and flat-earthers hammer away objections to their beliefs about race and sex and the shape of the earth. The Hammer simultaneously prevents testing of a belief while making its users think they're being critical as they swing their favorite tool.

We all start as hammer users; the luckiest of us learn to shave. My favorite examples are W.E.B. DuBois and Malcolm X, two men who looked at racism in America and saw skin privilege, then took up the Razor and saw capitalism underlying it. Had they been content with the Hammer, they never would've said things like these:

"...back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen; that to maintain this privilege men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous..." —W.E.B. DuBois, preface to The Souls of Black Folk, Jubilee Edition (1953, 50th Anniversary)

"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

P.S. Another opposite principle for Occam's Razor: Procrustes' Bed. If it doesn't fit, rack it or hack it until it does.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The whiteness of Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein's sex scandal is inspiring a lot of identitarians to comment about white men. So far as I know, none of the "Jews are not white" crowd has tried to correct them.

I suspect this is because:

1. Race is often code for class in the US. When some speakers talk about black people, they mean poor people, and when talking about white people, they mean rich people. (The blog Stuff White People Like is mostly about stuff that richer people of all races like.)

2. Identitarians confuse "white privilege" with capitalism, so whiteness equals privilege, entitlement, and abuse of the less powerful.

3. Identitarians have an inconsistent approach to identity. With poor groups, anything good is attributed to race while anything bad (like crime statistics) is attributed to class. But with richer groups, talking about class would suggest Jewish Americans, Hindu Americans, and Asian Americans are more privileged than white Christian Americans. So the "Jews are not white" crowd avoids that with another approach: Jews are white when, like Weinstein, they do something bad.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sexually abusive men and class: Harvey Weinstein vs Clarence Thomas

Meryl Streep is quoted in “Appalled” By Harvey Weinstein News | Deadline:
The disgraceful news about Harvey Weinstein has appalled those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported. The intrepid women who raised their voices to expose this abuse are our heroes. 
One thing can be clarified. Not everybody knew. Harvey supported the work fiercely, was exasperating but respectful with me in our working relationship, and with many others with whom he worked professionally. I didn’t know about these other offenses: I did not know about his financial settlements with actresses and colleagues; I did not know about his having meetings in his hotel room, his bathroom, or other inappropriate, coercive acts. And If everybody knew, I don’t believe that all the investigative reporters in the entertainment and the hard news media would have neglected for decades to write about it. 
The behavior is inexcusable, but the abuse of power familiar. Each brave voice that is raised, heard and credited by our watchdog media will ultimately change the game.
Weinstein appears to have taken one traditional approach to sexual abuse: he targeted women he saw as subordinates.

During the Clarence Thomas hearings, several of his subordinates defended him, saying he'd always treated them respectfully. If Anita Hill testified honestly (which I mention only because her story has not been verified—I find it perfectly plausible), Thomas took the second approach to sexual abuse with her; she was his professional equal, so he saw her as someone to belittle.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Why socialists should support Basic Income

Socialists should support Basic Income for the same reason we should support universal health care: though it has nothing to do with socialism, it reduces desperation.

Why would socialists oppose Basic Income? Because it shares income rather than wealth, which reduces the economic gap without threatening capitalism. Worse, Basic Income may slow down the march for socialism by ending economic desperation, making people less wiling to work to overthrow capitalism.

We can live with that. When economic desperation ends, people can make decisions calmly. So long as the gap between the rich and the rest of us stays wide, humans will ask why. The best people will always demand something better. Our species resents inequality--that's why the rich work so hard to rationalize a system that they know is unjust.

Basic Income helps the working class. That's enough reason for socialists to support it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Beat up old women and get paid? On terfs and trans folk in a time of nazi-punching

You would think people could agree that it's wrong to hit old women for saying things you don't like. You would be wrong—it's now so acceptable that you can make hundreds of pounds doing it. Before Tara Flik Woods announced that she was going to go beat up some people at Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park who, she said, were as bad as "fash" (fascists), her gofundme was at five pounds ($6.76 US). After punching a 60-year-old woman, her gofundme is, at the time I write this, at 615 pounds ($831.36 US).

I doubt there are any purely objective accounts of what happened, but the honest ones include videos so you can judge what happened and ignore the writer's politics if you please. So you could check the story at sites like these:

WATCH: Trans Activist Men Attack, Beat Dissenting 60-Year-Old Woman | Daily Wire

Timeline of Trans Activists Beating a Woman in Hyde Park | GenderTrender

A radical feminist reddit has a linkfest: Trans activists attack 60 year old feminist woman in Speaker's Corner, London.

I sympathize with people on both sides of the war between radical feminists and radical transwomen. So long as we don't hurt anyone, we should all be free to live as we please, but this is not always true for cis or trans women. Radical feminists want to focus on cis women's issues. Radical trans women want to focus on trans women's issues. They are related struggles—all struggles in a world controlled by capitalists are related—but they're not identical. Some conflict was inevitable.

What wasn't inevitable was trying to smash an old woman's camera and punching her.

All my life, I've supported people who want to live on their terms without harming anyone. If you're oppressed, I'm your ally in the original sense of the word—I may not agree with your understanding of power, but I will support you.

All my life, I've supported underdogs. If you're weaker or smaller or outnumbered and all you want to do is talk, I will support your right to speak no matter how much I wish you would shut up.

So when I have to decide between underdogs, I ask who's trying to silence who. If the answer's clear, those who are being silenced get my support to speak.

Nazi-punchers, there's a reason police provocateurs are paid to do what you do. If you truly care about making a better world, start with better tactics.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

3 reasons "white privilege" is not like being tall when reaching for tuna on the top shelf

This compares "white privilege" to being tall: Omar Ismail's answer to I am white. That's all you know about me. Am I privileged based on that alone and assuming I am, should I feel guilt and what should I do about it? - Quora

I left three comments there:

This is a perfect example of the way privilege theory ignores class. By making everything about height, it erases the people who own ladders.

And it hides the few people who stand on the backs of most people, whether they're tall or short.

As for comparing height to the ability to get a can of tuna from the top shelf, an even larger erasure is in effect: we’re all squabbling over a can of tuna and failing to ask why the store isn’t a co-op.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Understanding the Internet 101: Kill All Normies

Someday I may make a list of books that should be required reading for understanding the internet. Most of the serious contenders are about human interaction; Judy Blume's Blubber and Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciating Correct Behavior are almost sure to make the final cut. The only one that's explicitly about the internet is Angela Nagle's Kill All Normies, a fine brief look at the alt-right and the alt-light.

The book is controversial because, like any good book about a conflict, it discusses both sides. In this case, the other side is the identitarian left, and Nagle's observations are too accurate for left-identitarians to forgive.

Her book was published a few months before Charlottesville. She's written a short follow-up, Goodbye, Pepe, that should be the final chapter of Kill All Normies' next edition. Whether the alt-right survives the repercussions of killing Heather Heyer or mutates into something new, Nagle has written the book that anyone who wants to understand the last few year's of online warfare should read.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Gender didn't exist before 1955. It was briefly useful. We can get rid of it now.

I was born the year that gender was invented. I didn't notice it until I was in my teens, when it came up in my reading about feminism. I thought at first that "gender" was only a politer word than "sex", but I slowly learned what everyone learns who studies this: gender is about sex roles, which were very limited in the 1950s and were only beginning to open up in the '60s. As a way to analyze the roles of the sexes, "gender" was useful for several decades.

But now we live in a time when people invent their own genders. It's fun defining how we're different from others, but it's not particularly useful. The simplest solution is to say we're done with gender and go back to the division that's relevant for science and medicine, sex.

If you doubt that gender is a recent concept, start your research with this bit from Gender - Wikipedia:
Sexologist John Money introduced the terminological distinction between biological sex and gender as a role in 1955. Before his work, it was uncommon to use the word gender to refer to anything but grammatical categories. However, Money's meaning of the word did not become widespread until the 1970s, when feminist theory embraced the concept of a distinction between biological sex and the social construct of gender. Today the distinction is strictly followed in some contexts, especially the social sciences and documents written by the World Health Organization (WHO).
ETA: This generation will have an infinite number of genders. The next will have none. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Three quotes about the fascist hatred of free speech, especially for Antifa

"Freedom of speech is always under attack by Fascist mentality, which exists in all parts of the world, unfortunately." -Lawrence Ferlinghetti

"Fascist movements kill off their critics, literally or metaphorically, while democratic movements value, invite and even welcome criticism." -Parker Palmer

"In a fascist shift, reporters start to face more and more harassment, and they have to be more and more courageous simply in order to do their jobs." -Naomi Wolf


"We’ve eliminated that conception of political freedom which holds that everybody has the right to say whatever comes into his head.” -Adolf Hitler

On the Nazi opposition to free speech: Nazi Propaganda and Censorship

More Hitler quotes about free speech and the free press: Trump's crusade against the media is a chilling echo of Hitler's rise - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Hypocrisy of Privilege Theory

The intersectionality crowd is a cult, and cults are more concerned about having people adopt their beliefs than they are about changing the world. The reason for that is cultists think the only way to change the world is to get everyone to adopt their beliefs. Then something will happen to change the world, but they never say what.

The protesters who changed this country could tell you their goals:

Give all men the vote.

Give women the vote.

Give us an 8-hour work day.

End legal segregation.

End the Vietnam War.

Today, socialists can tell you their goal: share the wealth.

Ethical capitalists can also tell you their goal: share enough of the wealth to end poverty with Basic Income.

Yet when those of us who prioritize class talk about class-based solutions, the intersectionalists say, "How will that end racism and sexism?" When you ask them what they would do to end racism or sexism, some of them will roll their eyes in exasperation because they believe you just don't get it in the same way that a Christian knows sinners just don't get it. The rest of them realize they have to be able to offer something that sounds like a solution, so they will suggest a vague idea like reparations. When you ask them how to implement something like that today and why other poor people shouldn't be helped also, those intersectionalists will then give you the eye roll. The point is not having a solution. The point is believing a solution will come someday, so these economically privileged believers in privilege theory can enjoy their own economic privilege today.

They are like Robert E. Lee, who knew slavery was wrong and believed it should and would end someday, but had no interest in ending it in his time. The belief that slavery was wrong comforted him. It told him he was a good person in an unjust system because he knew the system was unjust, and he knew the ways he benefited from it were wrong, and knowing this was all he needed to do to sleep well while others suffered.

Here ends the sermon. Happy Labor Day!

ETA: Intersectionalists often suggest that people who prioritize class are class reductionists. I love this response to them:

"If any class-reductionist leftists actually exist they would still be 100 times more helpful to black people than neoliberals." —Leslie Lee III

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Four reasons Antifa needs to reject black bloc tactics and embrace nonviolent resistance

1. Violence changes the subject to violence. The greatest strength of non-violent resistance is it keeps the focus on the protesters' message. See:

An interview with Al Letson, who intervened in the Berkeley antifa beating | Salon

Antifa Broke My Camera | New Republic

Masked anarchists disrupt peaceful Berkeley protest, attack pro-Trump demonstrators | Slate

Berkeley: Professor used bike lock in beatings, police say. Alleged Antifa bike lock attacker Eric Clanton held in Berkeley jail

2. Leftist violence helps the right. Just as Hitler exploited the violence of the 1930s Antifa to sell himself as the candidate who could bring peace to Germany, the alt-right's strategy is to get Antifa to attack first so the left looks bad. See:

The Antifa Protests Are Helping Donald Trump | The New Yorker

Noam Chomsky: Antifa is a 'major gift to the Right'

In chat rooms, Unite the Right organizers planned to obscure their racism | Reveal:
This desire to provoke counterprotesters into throwing the first punch was a theme throughout the chats – and has continued since then as well. In a post about a June event in Charlottesville, lead Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler urged people to “help bait antifa into attacking the Proud Boys,” a group that’s been called the “alt-right Fight Club.”
3. Masks make protesters look like criminals or terrorists. I first saw the black bloc in action in the 1990s. People who had come for a peaceful protest moved away from them—we know strangers in masks are rarely our friends.

4. Masks help police spies and provocateurs blend in with the crowd. No one knows how often black bloc violence is committed by provocateurs, but we know it has happened:


Five things about Antifa and non-violent reisistence

Antifa vs speech: the right to discuss and the LD50 gallery

On Antifa and my 20-year-old revulsion with black bloc tactics

The killing in Charlottesville obscured the magnitude of the alt-right's failure

Rosa Luxemburg knew "the free battle of opinions" is essential to socialism


Elizabeth Gurley Brown: The IWW and the Fight for Free Speech

Friday, September 1, 2017

Five things about Antifa and non-violent reisistence

In a private Facebook group, I said:

1. Antifa is not endorsing self-defense as people like Malcolm X understood it. Antifa is endorsing attacking people who speak in support of things they oppose.

2. Social media is where public discussions occur, for better or worse, and when people are seeking public attention as Antifa does, public discussion is inevitable. Did Germany's first critics of violence avoid public discussion?

3. Antifa can put far more people into the field than the alt-right can. If the alt-right matters, Antifa matters too.

As for the simplicity of the discussion, the people who criticize Antifa are willing to criticize it both as a strategy and a goal.

4. The idea that King and Gandhi were privileged is curious, and I'd be hard-pressed to call Thoreau privileged. Ultimately "privilege" is irrelevant here. What matters is which history should be followed, that of the successful campaigns of King and Gandhi or the failed campaigns of 1930s Antifa.

5. If you have friends on the other side of a debate, saying they support an absurd position is not friendly. Consider that King thought nonviolent resistance was the best way to fight white supremacy, and remember that we are no longer a legally apartheid state because of those practitioners of nonviolent resistance.

Bonus: The US alt-right hopes to recreate Hitler's playbook by making the left look dangerous in order to win support for themselves. From In chat rooms, Unite the Right organizers planned to obscure their racism | Reveal:
This desire to provoke counterprotesters into throwing the first punch was a theme throughout the chats – and has continued since then as well. In a post about a June event in Charlottesville, lead Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler urged people to “help bait antifa into attacking the Proud Boys,” a group that’s been called the “alt-right Fight Club.”

That was clearly the intent of last weekend’s right-wing protests in the San Francisco Bay Area, where organizers disavowed white supremacy, but reveled in inciting confrontations that would make their opponents appear violent and unhinged.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Rosa Luxemburg knew "the free battle of opinions" is essential to socialism

"Without general elections, without freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, without the free battle of opinions, life in every public institution withers away, becomes a caricature of itself, and bureaucracy rises as the only deciding factor." —Rosa Luxemburg

I share this today because the poor guy who was attacked by Antifa for holding a sign saying "The Right to Openly Discuss Ideas Must be Defended" would've really put Antifa on the spot if his sign had said "The free battle of opinions must be defended. Rosa Luxemburg was right."

"Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters." —Rosa Luxemburg

Antifa vs speech: the right to discuss and the LD50 gallery

I'm posting the following things by people I know little about and may disagree with on everything other than the content of the guy's sign: "The Right to Openly Discuss Ideas Must be Defended."

I don't care what he believes. He should be able to stand on the street with his sign. It is only a threat to those who want to silence anyone who disagrees with them.

I was in Copenhagen for work one day earlier, and decided to attend alone, and make a counter-protest, in support of freedom to discuss ideas, and against intimidation. I made a sign saying “The Right to Openly Discuss Ideas Must be Defended” (the reverse side said “Stand-up to Violence and Intimidation”) and came in the morning and stood against the gallery wall. I’d only been there for a moment when a crowd started to form. Almost immediately, I was surrounded by a group of people screaming Nazi at me — “Nazi”, “white supremacist”, “fascist”, etc. I said I was Jewish, and also an anti-fascist, and I believed in discussion. The crowd jeered. It wasn’t unexpected. I stood my ground until a guy appeared — Garry McFarlane, a Black Lives Matter leader, and ripped it from my hands, symbolically. Led by him, the crowd pushed me away. “Don’t worry, I got the whole thing on video,” I heard a voice next to me say, and she disappeared. You can see her video here. Later, I noticed Andrew Osborne in a military jacket standing near the back.

At the demonstration journalists had asked me for my name, and I’d supplied it, on the basis that I wanted to stand-up for something, as an individual, in my own name. In retrospect, that wasn’t a smart move. When I logged back on the internet, I was an hero. There were dozens of hits on my Facebook pages, and Andrew Osborne was retweeting an Antifa account called FashXKilla threatening to punch me in the face.

The woman who took the video was then targeted:

ETA: Socialist quotes for free speech

Sunday, August 27, 2017

On Antifa and my 20-year-old revulsion with black bloc tactics

For people who are new to discussions about Antifa and black bloc tactics: Antifa is short for anti-fascist. It does not refer to a formal group like the Weathermen or Students for a Democratic Society. It refers to groups who share the same ideology. "Black bloc" is also not a group: it refers to dressing up in black and wearing masks to make it harder to be accountable for illegal actions ranging from vandalism to assault and battery.

This is the bulk of a comment that I left at Being mean online: a few observations | Cautiously pessimistic:
As for the description of the black bloc in “Oakland’s Third Attempt at a General Strike”, it’s consistent with the first time I observed black bloc tactics. In the 1990s at a protest against Iraq sanctions that was supposed to be peaceful, their violence sent adults with children fleeing and ended the protest early. Which must have pleased the police.

Hieronymous’s account tells how the black bloc hindered rather than helped:

“The masked-up black bloc opted for breaking a few windows and spraying some graffiti instead of something in solidarity with the workers inside the store.”

“…we did see some of the destruction at the Wells Fargo Bank at 12th and Broadway, where a circus of moral indignation was no longer directed at the banks, but was directed at the black blockers instead.”

“The tactics of the black bloc quickly hit a practical dead-end and brought on the same pointless violence vs. non-violence debates that are just as divisive today as they were in 1967…”

“Without a strategy, the black bloc becomes a form devoid of a theoretical basis in the content of what is being struggled for, which can be summed up as a form of violent activism. It is clearly not class struggle…”

“…black bloc activists think it possible to smash a social relationship away by mere might…”

“The insurrectionists in the black bloc want to create an orgy of destruction, believing that social relations can be simply removed through negating their forms, by smashing them, totally oblivious to the content of capitalism – both in theory and in practice – as well as the possibility of finding working class allies in the stores they are smashing. Those low-income hyper-exploited wage slaves often hate work as much as — or more than — the black blockers.”

And Gerard had this comment:

“The smashing of windows of course led to lots of arguments. I took turns defending the black blockers and criticizing them, just to try to get conversations going. My own criticism is based on tactics. I couldn’t see any long-term good coming out of the destruction, no matter how much I may hate banks or supermarkets. The young people in black were well organized but it seemed like theatrics more than anything else, and not the kind most working-class people are attracted to. People were working in those banks. I was a lot like the young people in black once, so I sympathized, but, as the saying goes: “I wish I knew then what I know now.””
A reminder that police provocateurs love how easy it is to infiltrate groups that wear masks:

Quebec police admit they went undercover at Montebello protest - Canada - CBC News


Boots Riley on black bloc tactics.

Free speech, not street violence, ended Milo Yiannopoulos's career. (Yes, my title underestimated Milo, but my point doesn't change: black bloc tactics just gave him free publicity. What hurt him were revelations about his past.)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The killing in Charlottesville obscured the magnitude of the alt-right's failure

At the end of July, the Southern Poverty Law Center posted this in Neo-Nazi Misfits Join Unite the Right | Southern Poverty Law Center:
Over the weekend, the country’s largest neo-Nazi group announced plans to attend an alt-right rally next month in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is expected to draw thousands of extremists.
The actual turnout? The best estimates I've seen were around 500.* The killing of Heather Heyer overshadowed the truth: Charlottesville was supposed to be a show of strength. It was instead a show of political irrelevance. My suspicion is the leaders of the alt-right were grateful for the counter-protesters who gave them an excuse to cancel their own protests. They knew the numbers that would show up on their side would be tiny.

I congratulate the peaceful counter-protesters who came out in the thousands and tens of thousands to show how very insignificant the alt-right is. It's a shame a few on the left used this an excuse to engage in violence instead.

* The estimates I've seen range from 300 to 700. Based on the videos, the lower numbers look more plausible than the higher ones.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

An unnecessary, incomplete, and probably inept defense of Adolph Reed

The identitarian left has ignored Adolph Reed since 2009 because they believe "lived experience" trumps all and no one can deny that Reed has lived his life as a black man. So they said nothing about him and hoped he would go away.

Inconveniently, he didn't.

So now they're attacking him. In the facile White Marxism: A Critique of Jacobin Magazine, Uday Jain offers examples of the people he tries to damn with the silly concept of "white Marxism": Vivek Chibber, Walter Benn Michaels, Nivedita Majumdar, and Adolph Reed. Of the four, the only one who could be called white is a Jew. Jain relies on the same tactic that neoliberals use to attack fans of Bernie Sanders: Pretend they're all white men and trust their readers will never notice the truth.

Mark Harman's Identity crisis: Leftist anti-wokeness is bullshit is a smarter attack that focuses on Reed. It's long and mistaken, so if you'd rather not read it, here are a few comments I left there that may be useful out of context:
I give you credit for addressing Reed, but your ideological filter is keeping you from seeing many things. Here's a hasty response:

1. When Reed says, "I’m increasingly convinced that a likely reason is that the race line is itself a class line..." he's pointing to a truth: The class system provides a structure for racism. In the US today, we do not have a racial system that's separate from the class system as existed during Jim Crow or in apartheid South Africa. Instead, racism affects Americans within the class system like an extra weight that some members must bear.

2. The Black Panthers were working in the black community, but they rejected identity politics while fighting racism, just as Malcolm X did after he left the Nation of Islam. For example:

“Working class people of all colors must unite against the exploitative, oppressive ruling class. Let me emphasize again — we believe our fight is a class struggle, not a race struggle.” — Bobby Seale, co-founder Black Panther Party

And here's the Hampton quote with the parts that don't fit your thesis:

“We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.” —Fred Hampton

3. You say, "Reed has also dismissed “intersectionality” specifically, reducing it to merely campus activism and simply an extension of neo-liberal identity politics, ignoring that it emerged as the work of black feminists addressing specifically the failures of struggles in the ‘60s."

"Intersectionality" was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw who, like her mentor Derrick Bell, was trying to address a social problem while rejecting the anti-capitalism of people like King and Malcolm X. She is a bourgeois black feminist who has not said anything in support of socialism that I've been able to find. Why any socialist would think the concepts of the bourgeoisie are good when they come from its black members, I have not a clue, and yet some do.

You might ask yourself why neoliberals love Crenshaw's approach. David Harvey has the answer in his book on neoliberalism:

"Neoliberal rhetoric, with its foundational emphasis upon individual freedoms, has the power to split off libertarianism, identity politics, multi-culturalism, and eventually narcissistic consumerism from the social forces ranged in pursuit of social justice through the conquest of state power. It has long proved extremely difficult within the US left, for example, to forge the collective discipline required for political action to achieve social justice without offending the desire of political actors for individual freedom and for full recognition and expression of particular identities. Neoliberalism did not create these distinctions, but it could easily exploit, if not foment, them." —David Harvey
One commenter mentioned Mark Fisher, so I added:
Something from Mark Fisher's "Exiting the Vampire Castle" since it was mentioned:

"I’ve noticed a fascinating magical inversion projection-disavowal mechanism whereby the sheer mention of class is now automatically treated as if that means one is trying to downgrade the importance of race and gender. In fact, the exact opposite is the case, as the Vampires’ Castle uses an ultimately liberal understanding of race and gender to obfuscate class."
A commenter called Khawaga insisted my comments about Crenshaw were only ad hominem and noted Marx had a middle-class background, so I said,
The difference is Marx was rejecting his class; Crenshaw was embracing hers.

The brilliance of "intersectionality" is it is effectively disconnectionality: instead of seeing the world in terms of interrelated forms of oppression, it makes each form unique and says they only intersect sometimes. It takes racism in particular from its historical roots in slavery and turns it into a psychological flaw. The result is an ideology that lets the bourgeoisie continue to divide us by race and gender.
A commenter called radicalgraffiti provided a quote from Crenshaw that had a token mention of class. I answered,

Quoting Crenshaw in 2014 does not change the fact that her original conception of intersectionality was limited to race and gender. When I did a little researching, I saw another feminist brought in class about a year later, if I remember correctly.

In my experience, intersectionalists tend to talk about "classism" rather than class, continuing their focus on prejudice rather than economic relationships.
And when Khawaga continued to insist I was engaging in ad hominem, I said,
I am not saying Crenshaw should be ignored because she's bourgeois. I'm saying intersectionality is a bourgeois ideology. When neoliberals like Hillary Clinton cite it, you should suspect it's not a concept that's on our side. It is an approach to justice that focuses on identity proportionality, so to an intersectionalist, if the classes were equally representative, they would be fair. Whereas I would say the problem is not proportionality; it's the existence of a class system that must be ended no matter what form it takes.
The discussion there continues. If I decide to stay in it, I may update this post.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Mark Fisher on Class Reductionists

I reread Exiting the Vampire Castle and was struck by this (italics mine):
I’ve noticed a fascinating magical inversion projection-disavowal mechanism whereby the sheer mention of class is now automatically treated as if that means one is trying to downgrade the importance of race and gender. In fact, the exact opposite is the case, as the Vampires’ Castle uses an ultimately liberal understanding of race and gender to obfuscate class.  In all of the absurd and traumatic twitterstorms about privilege earlier this year it was noticeable that the discussion of class privilege was entirely absent.  The task, as ever, remains the articulation of class, gender and race  – but the founding move of the Vampires’ Castle is the dis-articulation of class from other categories.
Two more bits from his essay:
The bourgeois-identitarian left knows how to propagate guilt and conduct a witch hunt, but it doesn’t know how to make converts. But that, after all, is not the point. The aim is not to popularise a leftist position, or to win people over to it, but to remain in a position of elite superiority, but now with class superiority redoubled by moral superiority too. ‘How dare you talk – it’s we who speak for those who suffer!’
We need to learn, or re-learn, how to build comradeship and solidarity instead of doing capital’s work for it by condemning and abusing each other.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Mobbings of Mark Fisher, Freddie deBoer, and Leftists who Criticize the Identitarian Left

I can't say for sure that Mark Fisher killed himself because he was mobbed by the identitarian left, but I suspect it, and I'm not alone in that.

I can't say for sure that Freddie deBoer broke because he was mobbed by the identitarian left, but...

I can't say for sure that the leftists I see suffering online (whose names I will protect) are suffering because they were mobbed by the identitarian left, but...

I can say for sure that the identitarian left broke me.

I was mobbed in 2009. My sins were rejecting race reductionism and, because I didn't know about Poe's Law at the time, being ignorant enough to ironically say I was outing someone who was using her full legal name in public posts on her public LiveJournal. My mob was more heavily weighted toward neo-liberals than those that targeted Fisher, deBoer, and others—my mob hated talking about class so much they made it a square on their racist bingo card—but the differences in the mobs are smaller than the similarities. All of the mobs involve peers who ought to have been able to engage in civil debate, but instead relied on everything from mischaracterizations to anonymous death threats.

After I was mobbed, a friend, a tough guy who I never would've expected this recommendation from, told me that Judy Blume's Blubber should be required reading for everyone on the internet. If you understand the fifth-graders who bully with name-calling, lies, and innuendo, you understand half of the problem.

But the second half, the effect on the victim, gets less attention. After I was mobbed, I couldn't understand why I was so depressed, why I couldn't concentrate on my work, why suicide seemed like a reasonable solution. So I began researching mobbing. That resulted in these posts:

Mobbing drives people a little—or a lot—mad

How to survive a mobbing (that mostly happens online)

We humans are pack animals. The cruelest thing we can do is drive our fellows out of the pack, and yet we do it with hardly a thought. Now that I understand mobbing, I'm a bit surprised it leads to few mass murders—but then, if it led to more, it would get more attention. The mobbed usually turn on themselves. Their suicides are assumed to come from depression, and few people ask what factors made the depression fatal. The slower ways that mobbing kills, the stress-related heart attacks and deaths from drug or alcohol-abuse, are even more easily disconnected from mobbing. Those who have not been mobbed think it's something that can be easily shaken off. One friend doubted the possibility that Mark Fisher's suicide was connected to a mobbing that had happened four years earlier. I pointed out that my mobbing happened eight years ago and its effects are still with me. I expect to die with them.

Mobbers are bullies who use everything but fists. When their targets break, they mock them for breaking. That's already happened in Freddie's case—you can see a few despicable people at work at Freddie DeBoer's Dank Meme Stash*.

Good luck, Freddie deBoer. Rest in peace, Mark Fisher.


*Facebook group either deleted or private now.


I’m fed up with political correctness, and the idea that everyone should already be perfect  by Fredrik deBoer

Exiting the Vampire Castle by Mark Fisher

Journey back into the vampires’ castle: Mark Fisher remembered, 1968-2017

Mark Fisher, 1968–2017

Purity leftism – MattBruenig

All Worked Up and Nowhere to Go | Amber A’Lee Frost

Leslie Lee III on class reductionists

"If any class-reductionist leftists actually exist they would still be 100 times more helpful to black people than neoliberals." —Leslie Lee III

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The shortest history I've ever written of Privilege Theory

A comment I left at Facebook:
Privilege theory comes from Kimberle Crenshaw's fusion of bourgeois feminism with Derrick Bell's Critical Race Theory, which comes from the black churches. Privilege theory ignores the working class because its believers want bourgeois women and people of color to have all the privileges of bourgeois white men.
Here's a more complete post: The Problem with Privilege Theory

And here's an example of how privilege theory ignores the working class: Why #BlackLivesMatter should be #PoorLivesMatter—now with graphics

Friday, August 18, 2017

Paul Robeson rejects identitarianism

"Here was the first understanding that the struggle of the Negro people, or of any people, cannot be by itself. That is, the human struggle. And so ... my politics embraced also the common struggle of all oppressed peoples, including especially the working masses. Specifically the laboring people of all the world. And that defines my philosophy. It’s a joining one of ‘we are a working people, a laboring people, the Negro people.’

"And there is a unity between our struggle and those of white workers in the South. I’ve had white workers shake my hand and say ‘Paul we’re fighting for the same thing.’ And so this defines my attitude toward socialism and toward many other things in the world. I do not believe that a few people should control the wealth of any land, that it should be a collective ownership in the interests of all." —Paul Robeson

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Shetterly's Free Speech FAQ

NOTE: This FAQ is about the principle of free speech. There's a little about the law, but if you want to research the legal limits of speech in the US, try the ACLU's Defending First Amendment Rights.

1. How old is the idea of free speech?

At least 2500 years old. In 399 BC, Socrates said, "If you offered to let me off this time on condition I am not any longer to speak my mind... I should say to you, "Men of Athens, I shall obey the Gods rather than you.""

2. Isn't censorship something that only a government can do?

No. From What Is Censorship? | American Civil Liberties Union:
Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are "offensive," happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional.
3. Does free speech give you a right to lie, slander, or engage in false advertising?

No. Free speech gives you the right to say what you believe. It does not give you the right to say what you do not believe. Lying cannot be defended as free speech.

4. Does free speech give you a right to harass or threaten people?

No. Free speech does not give you the right to make anyone listen to you, and it does not give you a right to hurt anyone. Credible threats of danger are grounds to have people arrested, not for speaking, but for promising to do harm.

5. What about illegal forms of pornography?

Free speech gives you the right to try to change laws, but it does not give you the right to break them.

While art is a form of speech, and pornography is a form of art, when we talk about illegal pornography, we’re talking about recordings that are evidence of crimes. Keeping those forms of pornography illegal is not about speech—it's about targeting the market that promotes the crime. The principle is no different than targeting people who pay for prostitutes, drugs, or contract killings.

If you don’t like those laws, use your free speech to try to change them. If the subject of illegal pornography becomes legal, the pornography will become legal too.

6. What about firing people for saying things that do not directly affect their job?

People should be fired because of their job performance. If companies need to address something an employee has said off the job, they only need to say, “The opinions of our employees are their own.”

7. What about protesters speaking out to silence speakers and intimidating venues into canceling their events?

If you don't want to hear people speak, don't go to their speeches. Preventing people from speaking is the opposite of free speech.

8. What about protesting speakers in ways that don't silence them?

Yes! Protest outside events, but don't block passage to them. Go to events wearing armbands or T-shirts that show you reject a speaker's message. When speakers take questions, point out the problems with their beliefs.

9. Does free speech mean we have to let everyone speak wherever they want?

No. Groups have a right to invite the speakers they want to hear. They have no obligation to invite people they don’t want to hear.

10. Doesn't free speech let us cancel a speaker's invitation to speak?

No. When Clark University invited Norman Finkelstein to speak, then canceled the speech in response to protesters, Sarah Wunsch of the ACLU wrote:
...the cancellation of his speech violates the basic principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom which are so fundamental to an institute of higher learning. The existence of an opportunity to speak at another time or in another location does not remedy the wrong of censorship. 
11. What about copyright?

Free speech does not give you a right to claim someone else's expression as your own or to use their expression as you please. Copyright laws vary from country to country—in order to be true to free speech, copyright laws must allow for Fair Use.

12. Isn't free speech used by the powerful to abuse the powerless?

Free speech lets the powerless speak. Without it, the weak will be silenced by the rich and powerful.

13. What about silencing people who oppose free speech?

Free speech belongs to everyone, including people who oppose it.


XKCD doesn't understand free speech—or the difference between legal and moral rights

Actually, what XKCD doesn't understand is that money is not speech (XKCD doesn't understand free speech, take 2):

Explaining free speech to XKCD, a cartoon

Frederick Douglass and Henry Louis Gates on free speech and hate speech

Socialist quotes for free speech

Two examples of the unexpected consequences of banning (pornography and swastika)

On responding to speech with violence, or why a coward in a mask is nothing like Captain America

Friday, August 11, 2017

Google memo outrage reveals the dream and flaw of left-identitarianism

One of the better pieces about Damore's memo, Sabine Hossenfelder's Backreaction: Outraged about the Google diversity memo? I want you to think about it. notes:
The bigger mistake in Damore’s memo is one I see frequently: Assuming that job skills and performance can be deduced from differences among demographic groups. This just isn’t so. I believe for example if it wasn’t for biases and unequal opportunities, then the higher ranks in science and politics would be dominated by women. Hence, aiming at a 50-50 representation gives men an unfair advantage. I challenge you to provide any evidence to the contrary.
This idea that every job will someday have 50-50 gender representation is part of the identitarian dream. Whether it'll come true, I haven't a clue. Because nature gives the sexes different physical strengths and weaknesses, we'll either have to modify human bodies or use advanced tech to realize that dream.

But if there are subtle mental differences between men and women, those differences will always manifest themselves in some of the things people do. There may always be more men than women doing work like The 10 most dangerous jobs for men.

In a fair world, the requirements for doing a job are about ability, not gender. Whether that results in some jobs being disproportionately male or female should be irrelevant, so long as every individual can compete fairly.

The problem is our only way to test whether people have equality of opportunity is to look for equality of outcome. People will always be right to wonder about the reasons for disproportionate results.

Hossenfelder suggests,
One way to deal with the situation is to wait until the world catches up. Educate people about bias, work to remove obstacles to education, change societal gender images. This works – but it works very slowly.
Belief in change through education is another part of the left-identitarian dream, but education doesn't work slowly: It doesn't work at all. As noted at Wealth inequality is even worse than income inequality
If we equalized education levels between black and white Americans, we'd barely dent the racial wealth gap.
What does work? Sharing the wealth. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Some political whimsy from Twitter today

I tweeted this quote by an unknown writer: "Socialist jokes are only funny if everyone gets them."

Which inspired these responses:

"I'd tell you the joke about capitalism but I doubt you'd buy it." —@jaymiejmoore

"I'd tell you the joke about socialism but I doubt you'd share it." —@WillShetterly

"i'd tell you the joke about communism, but it's never really been tried" —@chaosprime

"I'd tell you the joke about anarchy, but it never really comes together." —@jaymiejmoore

"don't worry if you don't get the joke about anarcho-transhumanism, it won't be long before it gets you" —@chaosprime

"if you don't get the joke about accelerationism, i'll tell you worse and worse jokes until we find one that you get" —@chaosprime

'Anybody can tell a joke about nihilism. There's nothing to it." —@CPetersen_CS

"there are exactly ninety-six jokes about syndicalism, all of them equal" —@chaosprime

"I'd tell you a joke about philosophy but you'd all just argue about the answer & whether it was funny long after the rest of us went home." —@jamesmsix

Friday, August 4, 2017

By Ta-Nehisi Coates' logic on Confederate, The Handmaid's Tale should be cancelled

In Don't Give HBO's 'Confederate' the Benefit of the Doubt, Coates argues that

1. "Hollywood has churned out well-executed, slickly produced epics which advanced the Lost Cause myth of the Civil War."

Hollywood has also produced slickly sexist work.

2. "...while the Confederacy, as a political entity, was certainly defeated, and chattel slavery outlawed, the racist hierarchy which Lee and Davis sought to erect, lives on."

Sexism also lives on.

3. "...comparisons between Confederate and The Man in the High Castle are fatuous. Nazi Germany was also defeated. But while its surviving leadership was put on trial before the world, not one author of the Confederacy was convicted of treason."

No one has ever been convicted for the suffering caused by sexism. To pick one example from countless many, the men responsible for so many women dying in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire were not indicted for manslaughter.

4. "The symbols point to something Confederate’s creators don’t seem to understand—the war is over for them, not for us."

The struggle against sexism is also not over for women.

5. "Confederate is a shockingly unoriginal idea."

In prose, yes, it's been done many times, but it's rarely been addressed by Hollywood, just as stories about sexist societies are shockingly unoriginal in prose, but have rarely been addressed by Hollywood.

6. "African Americans do not need science-fiction, or really any fiction, to tell them that that “history is still with us.”"

Nor do women.

7. As an after-thought, Coates notes that half of the team creating Confederate is black, but he suggests they are subordinate to the white writers who are more famous. The Handmaid's Tale TV show has a male producer, Bruce Miller, who is called its creator on the IMDB page because he created the TV show and wrote the pilot. Its executive story editors are a woman and a man, Nina Fiore and John Hererra. If Confederate is flawed because of the social identity of its creators, so is The Handmaid's Tale.

ETA: On Facebook, Mike Wolf commented,
Actually, a great number of Nazis were back in positions of power after WWII, mainly because most Germans preferred to stick their head in the sand and forget the whole war and genocide had ever happened.

Despite the massive re-education by the Allies on the horors of Nazism, it took the student revolts of the 60s to weed out the remaining Nazis.

And of course Neo-Nazis exist to this day and probably will in perpetuity.
Earlier: Six hard questions about HBO's Confederate

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Why the Libertarian Party should, by their logic, be a socialist party

Simon Kongshøj wrote in a comment at Facebook:
Granting for the sake of argument that personal liberty requires economic liberty and that we value personal liberty, then every person ought to have economic liberty. Economic liberty is impossible for a person whose economic means are so meagre that he/she cannot make meaningfully free choices (slaves and serfs are the extreme of that; but the same can be said for the modern working poor), so no person ought to have so meagre economic means.

That would form the basis for a libertarian argument for socialism.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Goldfish Bowl Fallacy, aka The Lived Experience Fallacy

The Goldfish Bowl Fallacy: the idea that a local knows a situation better than an outsider, and a person who has lived an experience knows it better than people who have researched it.

This fallacy appears regularly in the writings of people who want to justify their local customs—defenders of slavery and apartheid claimed outsiders couldn't know what was best in their land.

The name comes from the old observation that relying on subjective experience leaves us like goldfish in a glass bowl, with no understanding of what limits us and no idea what may exist beyond it.

This does not mean our experiences are worthless. But without researching them, we have no way to know if our experiences are common or unique, and we have no way to test the conclusions we draw.

The fallacy might also be called the Flat Earth Fallacy. Flat-Earthers can honestly say they've never experienced the curvature of the Earth. By rejecting outside evidence, they do not have to be troubled by the idea they might be wrong.

ETA: This might also be called the Satan Fallacy: Just because you credit the worst things you've experienced to Satan does not mean Satan is the cause

ETA: Or this could be the Inverted Ad Hominem Fallacy. Ad Hominem assumes you are wrong because of your identity; the Lived Experience Fallacy assumes you are right because of your identity.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

If the Black Panthers were class reductionists, I'm one too

“Working class people of all colors must unite against the exploitative, oppressive ruling class. Let me emphasize again — we believe our fight is a class struggle, not a race struggle.” — Bobby Seale, co-founder Black Panther Party

“Those who want to obscure the struggle with ethnic differences are the ones who are aiding and maintaining the exploitation of the masses of the people: poor whites, poor blacks, browns, red Indians, poor Chinese and Japanese... We do not fight exploitative capitalism with black capitalism. We fight capitalism with basic socialism.” — Bobby Seale

“We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.” —Fred Hampton

Friday, July 28, 2017

Six hard questions about HBO's Confederate

To write alternate history well, you have to be accurate about history up to the moment that you change, and you have to make your changes matter to your audience, which means your story should be as complex as the history we know. With that in mind, here are some facts and questions for the Confederate showrunners:

1. Who is "white" in this timeline?

Before the Civil War, different southern states had different definitions of whiteness. In most, if you were a quadroon (a person who had three white grandparents and one black one), you were legally white. In a few, you had to be an octoroon (a person who had seven white grandparents and one black one) to be legally white.

Yes, the system was so insane that you could be white in one state and black in another.

In our history, the one drop rule (which made you black if there were any black people among your ancestors) was a creation of Jim Crow, the period of legal segregation that followed Reconstruction. The first state to impose the one drop rule was Tennessee in 1910. In a timeline where the Confederacy loses, it's very unlikely that the one drop rule would be implemented.

More: One-drop rule - Wikipedia

2. Who is a slave in this timeline?

In the United States, a slave was a person who was born to a slave. This meant people could be legally white by being quadroons or octoroons, yet still be slaves because their mothers were slaves. Legal whiteness did not free slaves. Only their owner could do that.

Slavery perverted the relationships among families of all races. For example, from Free Negro owners of slaves in the United States in 1830, together with Absentee ownership of slaves in the United States in 1830:
Slaves of Negroes were in some cases the children of a free father who had purchased his wife. If he did not thereafter emancipate the mother, as so many such husbands failed to do, his own children were born his slaves and were thus reported by the enumerators. Some of these husbands were not anxious to liberate their wives immediately. They considered it advisable to put them on probation for a few years, and if they did not find them satisfactory they would sell their wives as other slave holders disposed of Negroes. For example, a Negro shoemaker in Charleston, South Carolina, purchased his wife for $700; but, on finding her hard to please, he sold her a few months thereafter for $750, gaining $50 by the transaction.
More: Slavery and the Making of America . Timeline | PBS

3. Who is rich in this timeline?

There were very rich black slave owners in the south, and one of the richest was a woman, the Widow C. Richards. When the south seceded, rich free blacks in Louisiana formed an army unit to fight for the Confederacy, but their service was turned down.

More: Did Black People Own Slaves? by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Yes, There Were Black Confederates. Here’s Why by John Stauffer

The Free Men of Color Go to War - The New York Times

William Ellison - Wikipedia, the United States' richest black slave owner

Black Slave Owners by Robert M Grooms

4. Why does slavery still exist in this timeline?

In our history, slavery in the Americas ended when Brazil freed its slaves in 1890. While slavery still continues illegally, it's legal nowhere now--the last country to make it illegal was Mauritania. Both social and economic forces were at work to end slavery. It's easier to assume a modern segregated Confederacy than a slave state, so the writers should be prepared to rationalize their artistic choice.

5. What happens when the principle of secession has been established?

At the start of the Civil War, four slave states stayed in the Union: Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and Delaware. If the South successfully seceded, would those slave states join the Confederacy? Who else might secede from the Union or the Confederacy?

When I wrote Captain Confederacy, I created a fragmented North America:

6. What is your story about?

If your answer is only "racism", your story will be shallow. I don't offer my own work as an example of quality, but as an example of how an alternate universe story can be about something more than its ostensible subject: My primary concern when writing Captain Confederacy was not racism—it was patriotism. To address that, I wrote about people who wrapped themselves in their national flags.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Malcolm X "Respect Everyone" Flowchart

"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." - Malcolm X

Has someone put a hand on you?

No                                                           Yes

Be peaceful, courteous,                           Send them to the cemetery
law-abiding, and respectful                       but stay respectful—the
                                                                   Prophet Muhammad said,
                                                                         "Do not speak ill of the dead."

If you think following Malcolm's advice will make you less effective when protesting, ask whether it made Malcolm less effective when he protested.

Related: Respect everyone: the wisdom of St. Peter and Malcolm X

Monday, July 24, 2017

The "shake" of Shakesville is for Shakedown Artist—on the greed of Melissa McEwan

I usually ignore Melissa McEwan because life's too short for feminists who don't realize that because poverty is disproportionately female, Bernie Sanders' policies would do more to help women than Hillary Clinton's would have.

But she's attacking the dirtbag left, and I love the dirtbag left.

One member of Chapo Trap House, Felix Biederman, made a joke that went too far—it was about rape. I agree it went too far, he agrees it went too far, everyone agrees it went too far. He apologized and said he would donate the rest of the month's income to CRR. I assume that's the Center for Reproductive Rights. The tweet right after his is from a survivor who approved of what he did.
But Melissa wants the money for herself instead of for an organization that would help others:
How much does she make from defending neoliberalism? The only clue I've seen is at Shakesville:
These fuckers make $72,706 a month for their podcast. A MONTH. That is significantly more than I make in an entire year. 
How significantly, she doesn't suggest. The US median household income is $56,000, so if she's doing anywhere near that, she has no grounds to complain.

Some people say Biederman's apology wasn't good enough. The word police loves to police apologies. I see nothing in what he wrote to suggest it's insincere. The test will be whether he keeps from repeating what he did. Until then, this is no one else's business.

Well, except McEwan's, because she'll trumpet it for as long as she can hope to get a penny from it.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Women show more gender bias than men in Implicit Association Tests

There Are Problems With the Gender-Bias IAT, Too -- Science of Us:
The first thing to know about implicit-sexism IATs is that they follow a pattern not really seen in other areas of IAT research. Generally speaking, for IATs dealing with some oppressed class of people, nonmembers of that group score higher, and are therefore seen as more implicitly biased against the group. White people generally score higher on a so-called black-white IAT than black peoples for example, for example, while ethnic Germans generally score higher than ethnic Turks on IATs involving traditionally German and traditionally Turkish names (Turks are a marginalized minority group in Germany).

Sexism IATs are different. As Greg Mitchell and Phil Tetlock put it in a book chapter that is very critical of the IAT, “One particularly puzzling aspect of academic and public dialogue about implicit prejudice research has been the dearth of attention paid to the finding that men usually do not exhibit implicit sexism while women do show pro-female implicit attitudes.” This appears to be a pretty robust finding, and if you translate it into the same language IAT proponents speak elsewhere, it means men don’t have implicit sexism and are therefore unlikely to make decisions in an implicitly sexist manner (women, meanwhile, will likely favor women over men in implicitly-driven decision-making). Even weirder, when you switch to IATs geared at evaluating not whether the test-taker implicitly favors men over women (or vice versa), but whether they are quicker to associate men versus women more with career, family, and similarly gendered concepts, the IAT somewhat reliably evaluates women as having higher rates of implicit bias against women than men do.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Is there any evidence that Bernie Sanders ultimately helped or hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign?

There are two narratives that annoy me because I see no evidence for them. The first is the Clinton camp's insistence that Sanders hurt her chances of winning. The second is the authoritarian socialist insistence that Sanders helped the Democrats by running.

I followed the polls at RealClearPolitics. So far as I can tell, Sanders had no effect on Clinton—the only effect he had was to make people realize a democratic socialist could win.

My belief hangs on this fact: For most of the race the polls at RealClearPolitics said Clinton would beat Trump by one or two points, as she did—which meant she was within the margin of error to lose to the Electoral College, as she did. Those polls also said Sanders would beat Trump by eight to ten points. (Neoliberals dismiss that by citing their gut feeling that wouldn't happen, but their guts are irrelevant here. The fact remains that people knew Sanders's positions, they knew he called himself a socialist, and he quickly became and remains the country's most popular politician.)

Because the terms of competing for the presidency as a Democrat included endorsing the winner of the primaries, when Sanders was squeezed out by DNC shenanigans, he endorsed her.

And the polls showed no bump for Clinton because of his endorsement.


With Sanders out, his supporters settled for their second choice. Democratic lesser-evilists went for Clinton, Republican lesser-evilists went for Trump, third-partiers went for a third party, and stay-homers stayed home.

Clinton's fate can't be credited to Sanders. It's all on Clinton and the country's rejection of the neoliberalism that's been widening the gap between rich and poor for over thirty years now.

A reminder that Obama could have passed single-payer in 2009 if he had wanted to

Crossing National Public Radio (NPR) Off My List for Health Care Coverage | naked capitalism:
“Cobble together the votes” is sloppy language that conflates two arguments: First, a sin of commission: The argument that Democrats needed 60 votes to pass the bill against a filibuster. This is a lie, since the filibuster rules can be changed with a majority vote, which Reid did in 2013 (but for something important like judicial nominees, not saving American lives). Second, a sin of omission: ObamaCare was passed under reconciliation with a majority vote, so Democrats could have passed a real solution like single payer, as opposed to the best possible Republican plan, ObamaCare, which, as good neoliberals seeking a markets-first solution, is what they did.
Click the link in that paragraph for a longer explanation.

ETA: Read "Obama and the Democrats" if you wish, because it's true the Democrats needed to be willing to give us single payer, and they didn't even try.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Emma Bull's take on how the writers should handle the change of gender on Doctor Who

I wrote,
They don't need to do more than have the doctor glance in a mirror and react visually, or say something casual like, "That's interesting."
Emma wrote,
I remember when he complained about never regenerating as a ginger. Which would itself be a pretty great comment on this regeneration: "STILL not a ginger."

Monday, July 17, 2017

Speech, not skin or gender, matters most when recasting characters

On Twitter, talking about the new star of Dr. Who, John Bullock said,
Oh hang on. I'll accept a lady doc, black doc, gay doc, trans doc... but make the doc not British and I'm out. Some lines you don't cross!
Someone asked why, and I replied,
Because what ultimately characterizes people is speech, not skin. Batman must talk like a rich New Yorker, and the doctor, like a Brit.
This is why it makes perfect sense for Idris Elba to play James Bond and Jodie Whittaker to star on Doctor Who. It's why, in the 1990s, when a movie was made of the British Avengers TV show, I wanted Chow Yun-Fat to play Steed and Michelle Yeoh to play Emma Peel--Hong Kong's culture was sufficiently affected by British rule that Chow and Yeoh would have worked, while people with American accents would've just seemed wrong.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

On Sandwichfail, Hipsters, and Foodie Privilege: Why Liberals Quibble with the Wrong Part of David Brooks' Essay

David Brooks, a conservative, talks about culture and class in How We Are Ruining America - The New York Times. The liberal internet is generally ignoring the parts about class—thereby showing class continues to be the US's last taboo—and focusing on this paragraph:
Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.
Alyssa Rosenberg has one of the nicer liberal responses in How good manners would have saved David Brooks from his deli disaster. She, like many others, thinks Brooks should have educated the friend rather than going somewhere else. Her take is what's expected from an American who is able to talk about going on vacation in Vietnam. Foodie culture is all about being the recommender, the discoverer, the one who is able to do the equivalent of calling "First!" on a culinary experience, and fellow foodies are delighted at the opportunity to be second because they know they'll share the new cuisine with their own friends.

For the rich and for adventurous members of the working class, finding and sharing new foods is a delight. What Brooks gets right is that this attitude is promoted in universities, and especially in expensive private universities, the finishing schools of the rich. But it's not limited to universities, of course—as a young man, my Dad traveled the world in the Merchant Marine and loved eating what the locals ate. Science fiction fans, perhaps because they tend to be university grads, have delighted in new cuisines for as long as there've been fans. People who live in major cities tend to take new cuisines for granted and look forward to the chance to try something new.

But people from limited backgrounds can feel like their ignorance is a reason for embarrassment. I don't know if David Simon based this scene in The Wire on something he experienced, but it rings true:

Some writers agree about the upper class's cultural barriers in ‘It’s Not the Fault of the Sandwich Shop’: Readers Debate David Brooks’s Column - The New York Times.

What the people who say Brooks should've educated his friend miss is that would put Brooks in the position of being the educator rather than the friend. People who assume everyone is like them would insist on eating at the gourmet shop and would show off their knowledge, and it's entirely possible that their guest would end up enjoying it.

But those of us who don't think all people are alike know this isn't the only possibility. The guest might be forced to pretend to be happy. Considerate people try to read the situation: is it better to push to go to the place that seems to make someone uncomfortable, or is it better to find an option that both of you like?

Brooks and his friend went for Mexican. There's an odd assumption from some people that this was condescending. I have to wonder if they associate Mexican food with working class food—the only information about class that's clear in Brook's anecdote is that the first choice was a gourmet sandwich shop.

I'd prefer Mexican.

PS. I'm sidestepping Brooks' class analysis here—as a socialist, I agree it's facile. I'm simply agreeing that there are cultural obstacles which richer people want to deny or downplay because the alternative is to acknowledge that they think their culture is better than that of the working class.