Thursday, December 29, 2016

The simplest test for whether a society is Marxist or MINO

Karl Marx wrote in The German Ideology,
In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.
If everyone in a society has that freedom, it meets Marx's definition of communism. If not, the society is something else. You could argue that a society that's moving in that direction is becoming Marxist, but if that society limits the pursuit of happiness, it's Marxist in name only—Stalin and Mao were MINOs.

The best popular depiction of Marx's concept of communism continues to be Star Trek.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

On privileged black women and the middle class taking aid meant for the poor

For most of my life, my greatest sympathy was for black women. I didn't have the language of intersectionality to explain why, but like anyone who wasn't a sexist racist imbecile, I knew they took flak for being female and for being black—"intersectionality" just gave academics a polysyllabic way to talk about that. My sympathy is undoubtedly why the Feminist SF Wiki said my “work features strong women characters and people of color”.

I gave black women the benefit of the doubt until the Tawana Brawley story broke. Like most people, I was outraged when I heard a young black woman had been used horribly by white men. Then I learned she had lied, and I realized my complete faith in her was both racist and sexist—if black women are fundamentally no different than any of us, they're as flawed as any of us. So if bourgeois folk deserve to be criticized for their privilege, it's both sexist and racist to ignore bourgeois black women.

I was recently in a ludicrously long Twitter discussion with several privileged black women. I don't recommend visiting it, but it had a few interesting moments. It began when someone who follows me retweeted this from @JamilahLemieux:
RT if you've come to accept that Black feminist critique of a group you belong to (WW, BM, WM...) is hard to hear, but necessary.
Remembering how the privileged proponents of privilege theory omit or gloss over class, I tweeted back:
What if we think privileged black feminists need to listen to a critique that's hard to hear, but necessary?
Another woman tweeted,
The phrase "privileged black feminists" is just mindboggling. What about being a BW is privilege?
I replied,
The adjective refers to black feminists who went to expensive private schools.
And then several other people jumped in. I very much enjoyed the discussion with Sarah Walker. The rest behaved the way I've come to expect bourgeois folk of all hues to behave, with the smug condescension of people who think that because they've had the privilege of an expensive education, they have the proper understanding of privilege.

But in the course of that flurry of twittering, I found some useful data.

For example, the notion of "privileged black people" should not be mindboggling to anyone. Several of the Twitterers were graduates of Howard University, aka "the Black Harvard", the foremost school of the Black Ivy League. In 1984, Dr. Jackqueline Fleming wrote in Blacks in College, "...Black Ivy League colleges pull the best and most privileged black students..." (emphasis mine)

The Black Middle Class, an excerpt from Black Picket Fences by Mary Pattillo-McCoy is a work from 1999 that's subtitled "Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class".

Henry Louis Gates offers a useful brief history of privileged black folks in Black America and the Class Divide.

"Privilege" literally means "private law". It always referred to people whose wealth guaranteed they got better treatment than the rest of us. It's probably impossible to nominate the first privileged black woman in the USA, but I will propose the first very privileged black woman: 5 of the Wealthiest Blacks Who Owned Slaves in America notes, "Widow C. Richards and her son P.C. Richards owned a large sugar cane plantation and held the largest number of slaves–152–in Louisiana."

The primary complaint of privilege theorists is that privileged blacks and women don't enjoy all of the privileges of privileged whites and men. Throughout American history, that's been undeniably true. The Widow C. Richards couldn't vote because she was a woman, and racist white people believed she was inferior because of her skin. Yet for all that she was not as privileged as a white women who was her financial equal, she was more privileged than the men she owned and the men she employed, and she had luxuries that most Americans of any hue could only dream of.

In the US in the 20th century, when almost everyone identified as middle class, Martin Luther King mentioned in the Birmingham Letter "middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security ... have become insensitive to the problems of the masses". Privilege theorists from expensive schools ignore that, probably because it hits too close to home. King had a solution for black poverty; he said,
...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.
But privileged black privilege theorists have nothing practical to offer the black working class.


The discussion touched on scholarships at expensive schools. I noted that aid is being increasingly redirected from the poor to the middle-class. See:

Special report: Once geared toward poor, black students, now major shift in TOPS beneficiaries

Who Really Gets the Most College Financial Aid? | Paying for College | US News: "New study finds families earning less than $70,000, on average, don't get enough college financial aid."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Minnesota writer enjoying the sweet life


What one atheist doesn't understand about the Golden Rule

On Facebook, I shared this:

When an atheist objected, I googled, found Refuting the Golden Rule, and commented:
Amusingly, the first hit for"atheism golden rule" is an atheist who doesn’t get it.

Specifically, he thinks it’s about reciprocity, and it’s not. It’s about hypocrisy and understanding that good people uphold the standards they expect of others.

Meaning it’s not about reciprocity at all. It’s not “wait and see what others do.” It calls on you to act first.
Yes, many atheists do get it.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Walter Benn Michaels on identity politics as a form of class politics

What Is the Left Without Identity Politics? | The Nation:
Adolph Reed and I have been arguing that identity politics is not an alternative to class politics but a form of it: It’s the politics of an upper class that has no problem with seeing people being left behind as long as they haven’t been left behind because of their race or sex. That’s why elite institutions like universities make an effort to recruit black people as well as white into the ruling class. They’re seeking to legitimate the class structure, not abolish it.

Thomas Paine explains the problem with inheritance

"Hereditary succession has no claim. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have the right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and tho' himself might deserve some decent degree of honours of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them." —Thomas Paine

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

race is often code for class in the US—today's example

I just came across this sentence in Can Bernie Sanders Be Less White?:
Vermont is this bizarre state that cares about the issues that are important to African Americans while also being nearly devoid of black people.
The writer, Barrett Holmes Pitner, identifies as a young black guy. He's discussing the fact that because poverty is disproportionately "of color", class issues matter enormously to a larger percentage of black people than white. But because he's an American, he's approaching a class issue through a racial lens, in part because, as Adolph Reed noted,
race line is itself a class line, one that is entirely consistent with the neoliberal redefinition of equality and democracy

A short FAQ: Sanders would've easily beaten Trump

Q. Wasn't Sanders untested because he didn't face any concerted attacks?

A. Sanders faced constant attacks in the press and in the debates. In June of 2015, a Clinton surrogate attacked him for being a socialist. That September, a Clinton SuperPAC continued the "too socialist" attack by linking him to Hugo Chavez and Jeremy Corbyn. In January, Clinton began blatantly misrepresenting his positions on issues like universal health care and immigration, which is probably why, in March, Brent Budowsky emailed John Podesta, the chairman of the Clinton campaign:
Hillary should stop attacking Bernie, especially when she says things that are untrue, which candidly she often does.
But Clinton didn't take the advice. In the debates, she linked Sanders to Daniel Ortega and Fidel Castro. In April, she implied he was in the pocket of the gun lobby and didn't care about the victims of gun violence. The Clinton camp and the press both scoured Sanders' record for anything they could use against him—during one sixteen-hour period, the Washington Post released 16 negative stories about Sanders.

But none of the attacks stuck. Sanders continued to be the most popular politician of 2016.

For more, see A few links for Clintonites who still say Sanders was never attacked

Q. But the Clinton camp succeeded in defeating Sanders. How can you say he would've won the general election when he lost the nomination?

The nomination only involved Democratic Party members. Sanders did well in states with same-day registration like Minnesota where independents could support him. He did badly in states like New York and California that required party registration weeks in advance. (Yes, it is significant that he did worse in states where the Democratic Party makes it harder for people to vote.)

What's most relevant is the polls covered the general public, not just Democrats. Sanders did better with independents than Clinton, and because of that, he took votes from Trump that Clinton could not.

But the polls were wrong!

Some were wrong. But sites like RealClearPolitics that average the polls were right. Except for a brief post-nomination bump, Clinton stayed within the margin of error for losing,while Sanders stayed about 10 points ahead of Trump.

For more, see A reminder for Clinton fans that the polls were right all along.

Q. Why do you think Sanders would've done better than Clinton against Trump?

A. Because Clinton's weaknesses were easy for Trump to exploit, but Sanders' strengths cut into Trump's base. This was noticed in February 2016, when Nathan J. Robinson wrote, UNLESS THE DEMOCRATS RUN SANDERS, A TRUMP NOMINATION MEANS A TRUMP PRESIDENCY.

Q. Don't Americans hate socialists?

A. Americans hate dictators, regardless of their politics. Sanders is a democratic socialist. His platform focused on things that appeal to most Americans: a $15 minimum wage, free public higher education, and universal health care. See Bernie Sanders says Americans back his agenda — and he’s mostly right.

Q. If Sanders had gone against the Republicans, they would've thrown everything they had at him!

One reason for primaries is to find out what charges stick. The Clinton camp hated running neck and neck with an old Jewish socialist and were desperate to get him out of the race, yet they barely squeezed him out after a long, hard fight. Even most his opponents think Sanders is a good, honorable person who cares passionately about working class Americans of all genders and hues.

Q. Didn't Sanders do poorly with people of color?

A. Arab Americans overwhelmingly preferred Sanders. So did millennials of all races and genders. His work for civil rights as a young man made Sanders' credentials on racial issues much stronger than Clinton's, which is why the Clinton camp did all it could to discredit him. See Labor Secretary Advised Clinton To Cast Sanders As Candidate Of Whites To Turn Off Minorities

Q. What about Russ Feingold? He was a Sanders Democrat, and he lost badly.

Feingold had favorability problems that Sanders did not. See Three Reasons Why Russ Feingold Had A Terrible, Awful, No Good, Very Bad 2015 - America Rising. If Sanders had been the nominee, Feingold might've ridden his coattails to victory. Or Feingold might've lost no matter who the candidate was. Ultimately, this question is just a distraction from all the evidence that tells us Sanders, the country's most popular politician, would've easily beaten Trump, the least favorable politician the GOP has ever run.


I don't mean to do a long FAQ, but if I've left out any important points or if I've made any mistakes, please mention them in the comments.

ETA: It should be stressed that Sanders' work for racial equality never stopped. From Bernie Sanders: The Only White Guy to Show Up:
At the time of the elections, the black congressional caucus was aware of the voter suppression shenanigans going on in Florida, and they tried to gain support among their colleagues to bring attention to the debacle. The only white congressional member who supported and worked with them was Bernie Sanders.
And here's Sander's account in 2008 of working on an issue that historically has primarily affect poor black workers: 'The Harvest of Shame' .

(via @MCCindy64

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A few links for Clinton fans who still say Sanders was never attacked

The following links are from the first hits from "Clinton attacks Sanders" and some Twitter discussions. If you want more, Google's your pal.

June 2015

Hillary Surrogate McCaskill Attacks 'Extreme', 'Too Liberal' Bernie Over "Socialist" Views | The Daily Caller

September 2015

A Pro-Clinton Super PAC Is Going Negative On Bernie Sanders | The Huffington Post:
The group links Sanders to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and the United Kingdom’s new Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
January 2016

Hillary Clinton's dirty attack on Bernie Sanders:
Hillary Clinton took aim at Bernie Sanders' single-payer health care plan on Monday, characterizing it as "turning over your and my health insurance to governors," specifically naming Republican Terry Branstad. It's a pretty clear reference to the many conservative states that have refused ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion — implying that Sanders would allow conservative states to opt out of his plan, and hence partially destroy all federal health insurance programs. This is absolutely false.
February 2016

How a Washington Post Writer's Attack on Bernie Sanders' Civil Rights Record Completely Backfired | Alternet

March 2016

WikiLeaks - The Podesta Emails, Brent Budowsky writing to John Podesta:
Beyond this Hillary should stop attacking Bernie, especially when she says things that are untrue, which candidly she often does. I am one of the people with credibility to suggest Bernie people support her in November, and she and Benenson and others have no idea of the damage she does to herself with these attacks, which she does not gain by making.
In Democratic Debate, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders Clash on Immigration - The New York Times:
"Aiming her remarks at viewers watching on Univision, a Spanish-language sponsor of the debate, Mrs. Clinton threw his past support for Fidel Castro and President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua in Mr. Sanders’s face and repeatedly criticized him for opposing a 2007 bill that would have created a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the country illegally.

“We had Republican support,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We had a president willing to sign it. I voted for that bill. Senator Sanders voted against it.”
She refused to let up when Mr. Sanders explained that he thought the guest worker provisions in the bill were “akin to slavery.”
Hillary Clinton compares Bernie to Trump in ad - Business Insider

April 2016

Hours after losing the Wisconsin primary, Hillary Clinton fired a barrage of charges at Sen. Bernard Sanders on Wednesday, questioning his commitment to the Democratic Party and accusing him of enabling the gun industry to arm mass killers, as she seeks to regain liberals’ backing.
 Hillary PAC Spends $1 Million to ‘Correct’ Commenters on Reddit and Facebook:
FEC loopholes mean Correct the Record can openly coordinate with Clinton’s campaign.
Clinton's Internet Supporters, Allegedly Using Pornography, Shut Down Bernie Sanders' Largest Facebook Groups in Coordinated Attack

May 2016

Hillary Clinton wrong that no negative ads have hit Bernie Sanders | PolitiFact

The Myth That Sanders Hasn’t Been Criticized Won’t Go Away | FAIR

October 2016

Hillary Clinton Calls Bernie Sanders Supporters Basement Dwellers

Related: A reminder for Clinton fans that the polls were right all along

ETA: If I've missed any major ones, please leave a link in the comments and I'll add it.

ETA: Useful: Bernie Sanders says Americans back his agenda — and he’s mostly right

ETA: 15 of the 16 negative stories that the Washington Post ran about the Sanders campaign over a 16-hour period:
(click to enlarge)
(pic thanks to !)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

God save us from people who think they're the fire brigade

Winston Churchill said, "I decline utterly to be impartial as between the fire brigade and the fire." It sounds like a good line out of context. In context, it tells you a great deal about how awful Churchill was. He meant that the desperate miners who took part in the General Strike of 1926 were the fire, and he was the fire brigade.

Context: 1926 United Kingdom general strike - Wikipedia: "On 5 May 1926, both sides gave their views. Churchill (at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer) commented as editor of the government newspaper British Gazette: "I do not agree that the TUC have as much right as the Government to publish their side of the case and to exhort their followers to continue action. It is a very much more difficult task to feed the nation than it is to wreck it"."

The "fire brigade" line was made two months later, when he defended his choice to slant the news for the side he favored—see EMERGENCY SERVICES. (Hansard, 7 July 1926).

Monday, December 5, 2016

One reason why assholes love capitalism

I left a comment at Ask Me Your Dumb Questions About Socialism that Jon Carey "re-posted for truth", so I thought I'd post it here too:
Critics of socialism love to talk about their concept of human nature, which tends to bore socialists, mostly because capitalists’ assumptions about human nature are like feudalists’ concepts: self-serving.

But I do think there’s one interesting element. Under any system, most people like to help others. Emergencies regularly bring out the best in people. But when there’s a choice and all things are equal, nice people are more likely to be helped sooner than assholes. Capitalism changes that: the asshole with money gets helped while the nice person without money hopes some help will trickle down.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The alt-center, censorship, and the weaponizing of poverty: a scattershot note

1
I love this quote. I have seen too many examples of people online trying to silence their opponents with financial threats instead of simply refuting them.

Perhaps the best thing I can point to about Trump's election is fewer people who claim to be on the left are mocking "freeze peach". It's a little sad that the ACLU's support is divided between people who believe in free speech and people who would like to censor their opponents but are afraid they're in danger of losing that fight, but I suspect that's always been the case. During McCarthyism, the left strongly supported free speech. During the rise of left-identitarianism, the right did. What we'll have under Trump's gonzo conservatism, I can't guess, but I know we'll need the ACLU at least as much as we always have.

2

I don't know who coined "alt-center", but I love it for at least two reasons:

1. The people who fall under labels like "social justice warrior" and my previous alternative, "censorial left-identitarian" are not leftist in any meaningful way. They tend to support Clinton's right-of-center neoliberalism. They are extremely conformist and they love trying to get people banned or fired for expressing ideas they disagree with. Their solution to the problems of racism and sexism is not to redistribute the wealth to end economic inequality but to advocate the ancient solution of education, which for all its virtues only helps the poor people who're lucky enough to have the resources that will let them graduate with honors. The US's two-party system makes these angry identitarians think they are leftists because they're to the left of the far right, but the fact that their champion in the current election, Hillary Clinton, won many wealthy neighborhoods that had traditionally voted for Republicans should show that their politics are consistent with those of moderate Republicans.

2. What distinguishes the alt-center from the center is what distinguishes the alt-right from the right: they're loud and obsessed with social identity. "Alt" is shorthand for smug, furious, and superficial—both the alt-right and the alt-center are content with a skin-deep analysis of injustice that ignores capitalism.

Yes, there are self-proclaimed socialists like Sady Doyle whose identitarianism made them support Clinton's neoliberalism. Their existence does not mean we need a category for them like alt-left or one I had liked, ctrl-left. The internet has countless videos of animals who seem to think they're a different animal—but just as a prancing cat is not a horse, someone who supports a neoliberal is not a socialist.

Now, I'm not saying alt-center is the perfect name for the loud group of people who've taken the religious concept of social justice and turned it into something that would embarrass social justice workers like Dorothy Day and Dom Hélder Câmara, but it's the best I've found. If ever the alt-center adopts a name, I'll happily use it—I believe you should call people what they like to be called so long as that name does not create confusion. Until they adopt a name, I'll just follow along with what works best at the time. Right now, that's "alt-center".

Monday, November 28, 2016

Liavek 7! Now available! Longest collection yet, only $3.99!


Contains five stories:
"Portrait of Vengeance" by Kara Dalkey
"The Skin and Knife Game" by Lee Barwood and Charles de Lint
"Strings Attached" by Nathan A. Bucklin
"The Tale of the Stuffed Levar" by Jane Yolen
"An Act of Love" by Steven Brust, Gregory Frost, and Megan Lindholm

And a poem:
"Spells of Binding" by Pamela Dean
 Originally published in 1987 in Spells of Binding. For more information, see A Liavek publication FAQ.

Available now at:
Amazon.com: Liavek 7: Spells of Binding 
Barnes & Noble: Liavek 7: Spells of Binding 
Smashwords: Liavek 7: Spells of Binding
praise

"A colorful, likable setting: a crowded port city so well-drawn that readers soon feel they could walk through it..." —Publisher's Weekly

"Fresh and compelling tales." —Science Fiction Review

"...fast-paced entertainment as well as an exercise in shared-world fiction." —Fantasy Review

"Beautifully written, with detailed characterizations, the short stories are amazingly well integrated...a collection of quality fiction...Liavek is a place worth visiting. Get there before another volume comes out." —Voya

"For a world conceived in the 1980s, Liavek was notably forward-looking... As a counter to the default whiteness of fantasy at the time, Liavekans are dark-skinned, as are the indigenous S'Rian people on whose older town the city was built. A same-sex relationship is central to some of Dean's stories, and the city has multiple religions, but also atheists — no easy feat when the various gods regularly take an interest in human affairs." —Elizabeth Graham, NPR

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016

No, identity politics is not civil rights


I left this comment at Stop Calling It Identity Politics — Its Civil Rights:
It’s sad that you’ve appropriated King to argue that identitarianism is civil rights. Two things he said may illustrate the problem:

“In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.” — Martin Luther King

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

Left-identitarians prefer the King of 1963 to the later King who spoke more bluntly about justice. They fail to note that the 1963 Dream speech was given at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, not the March on Washington for Racial Respect. To democratic socialists like King and Bayard Rustin, fighting racism and sexism were just part of what socialists do. That’s no different for the most famous democratic socialist in the US today, Bernie Sanders.

King’s unfinished project, the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, was not the Black People’s Campaign. He wanted poor people of all hues to march together and call for Basic Income to end poverty for everyone.

But left identitarians only want to fight racism and sexism. If you doubt this, notice how many of them denigrate the white working class. 
And if you ask for specifics about how they can fight racism and sexism alone, their solutions are vague. They have to be vague because wealth in the US will always be disproportionately distributed without a solution like Basic Income. Which is why Malcolm X was right when he said, “You can’t have capitalism without racism”.

The history of left identitarianism in the US begins after King died. Privileged black academics in the Ivy League under the guidance of Derrick Bell developed Critical Race Theory as an alternative to King’s universalism. One of Bell’s students, Kimberle Crenshaw, coined “intersectionality”, but her intersection was only about race and gender — the black bourgeoisie is no more interested in the working class than the white bourgeoisie. Later thinkers have tried to add class to the identitarian intersection, but the problem is class is not a social identity. It’s an economic identity, and very few poor people want to preserve their identity as poor people.
ETA

On Facebook,David Hajicek said,
Will, I don't quite get the second paragraph. I can see that capitalism is good at creating poor people. And as you noted, poverty is not unique to blacks. So why, “You can’t have capitalism without racism”?
I answered,
Because generational poverty from our history of chattel slavery and wage slavery means the class system will look much like it does today without a huge change in the way we distribute wealth: disproportionately black, Hispanic, and American Indian at the bottom, with large groups of poor whites in places like Appalachia and the Dakotas, and disproportionately Jewish and Asian at the top, with large groups of rich whites in the places where the rich gather.

Interestingly (to me, at least), the distribution of white people in general is not as disproportionate as anti-racists think. A while back, Walter Benn Michaels noted, "White people, for example, make up about 70 per cent of the US population, and 62 per cent of those in the bottom quintile."
David said,
Or is it because racism is a useful too to get poor whites to accept their unfair circumstances?
I said,
It is, but I think most capitalists really would like to see an end to racism so they could feel that capitalism was fair. They just don't want to redistribute the wealth to do that, so we're stuck in this situation where capitalists talk endlessly about diversity and never offer anything that will actually help the people at the bottom of the pyramid.
ETA 2

Marcus H. Johnson, the author of the piece that inspired this post, responded to my comment with
There are plenty of socialist countries where Black people are at the bottom of society with the least money, the fewest resources, and the least power. Socialism =\\= antiracism. Not even close.
I replied,
I notice that you don’t name any examples of those countries, but I agree that many countries still have a problem with racism.

A few relevant facts:

During the height of Jim Crow, the Communist Party USA took up one of the most famous court cases of the day when they defended the Scottsboro Boys from charges of raping two white women. CPUSA also ran black candidates for office when segregation was the law of the land—James W. Ford was their candidate for Vice President three times.

W.E.B. Du Bois, who first wrote about white skin privilege, was a member of the Communist Party. He said in the foreword to the 50th anniversary edition of Souls of Black Folk, “I still think today as yesterday that the color line is a great problem of this century. But today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen; that to maintain this privilege men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous, and the excuse for this war continues largely to be color and race.”

Famous black people who didn’t join a communist party but worked with communists and attended some of their meetings include Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes, and Paul Robeson.

That said, I agree that socialism =/= anti-racism. Derrick Bell had no interest in socialism; he liked being at the top of the US’s class system. So he took a different path than King and Rustin and Malcolm X and Rosa Parks did when he began developing Critical Race Theory.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Why leftists criticize the extremely profitable Southern Poverty Law Center

Two organizations are being promoted by those of us who want to fight Trump. I've always loved the first, the ACLU.

But I've had doubts about the Southern Poverty Law Center since I learned about their profiteering ways in the '90s. Wikipedia has a little on the controversy over its finances.

In 2010, I learned how very white its ten highest-paid executives were: SPLC — “Whites Only” 2010 « Watching the Watchdogs.

The Wayback Machine makes This Week in Babylon—By Ken Silverstein (Harper's Magazine, March 2, 2007) available. Here's the entire part about the SPLC:
Southern Poverty: richer than Tonga

Back in 2000, I wrote a story in Harper's about the Southern Poverty Law Center of Montgomery, Alabama, whose stated mission is to combat disgusting yet mostly impotent groups like the Nazis and the KKK. What it does best, though, is to raise obscene amounts of money by hyping fears about the power of those groups; hence the SPLC has become the nation's richest “civil rights” organization. The Center earns more from its vast investment portfolio than it spends on its core mission, which has led Millard Farmer, a death-penalty lawyer in Georgia, to once describe Morris Dees, the SPLC's head, as “the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil rights movement” (adding, “I don't mean to malign Jim and Tammy Faye”).

When in 1978 the Center's treasury held less than $10 million, Dees said the group would stop fund-raising and live off interest when it hit $55 million. As he zeroed in on that target a decade later, Dees upped the ante to $100 million, which the group's newsletter promised would allow it “to cease the costly and often unreliable task of fund raising.” At the time of my story seven years ago, the SPLC's treasury bulged with $120 million, and the organization was spending twice as much on fund-raising as it did on legal services for victims of civil-rights abuses–yet its money-gathering machinery was still running without cease.

It's still going. Last week, a reader sent me the SPLC's 2005 financial filing with the IRS, which is required by law for charities. In five years, the SPLC's treasury had grown by a further $48 million, bringing its total assets to $168 million. That's more than the annual GDP of the Marshall Islands, and has the SPLC rapidly closing in on Tonga's GDP.

Revenues listed for the 2005 filing came to about $44 million, which dwarfed total spending ($29 million). Of that latter amount, nearly $5 million was spent to raise even more money, and over $8 million was spent on salaries, benefits, and other compensation. The next time you get a fund-raising pitch from the SPLC, give generously—but give to a group that will make better use of your money. Like Global Witness.
Since the Bakkers aren't as famous as they were, I'll note for young readers that Jim and Tammy Faye were notorious televangelists.

Sadly, a couple of the original articles on the Southern Poverty Law Center's profiteering are behind paywalls:

The Conscience Industry - Alexander Cockburn - The Nation | HighBeam Research

The church of Morris Dees - Ken Silverstein - Harper's Magazine

But if you wonder how very profitable SPLC is, this article includes pics of Morris Dees' mansion: Southern 'Poverty' Law Center's Cayman Islands bank account.

King of the Hate Business by Alexander Cockburn concludes,
...How about attacking the roots of southern poverty, and the system that sustains that poverty as expressed in the endless prisons and Death Rows across the south, disproportionately crammed with blacks and Hispanics?
You fight theatrically, the Dees way, or you fight substantively, like Stephen Bright, who makes only $11,000 as president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights. The center’s director makes less than $50,000. It has net assets of a bit over $4.5 million and allocates about $1.6 million a year for expenses, 77 percent of its annual revenue. Bright’s outfit is basically dedicated to two things: prison litigation and the death penalty. He fights the system, case by case. Not the phony targets mostly tilted at by Dees but the effective, bipartisan, functional system of oppression, far more deadly and determined than the SPLC’s tin-pot hate groups. Tear up your check to Dees and send it to Bright, (http://www.schr.org/)
ETA:

An example of SPLC estimates running high, perhaps to encourage donations: The SPLC estimates
...that there are between 5,000 and 8,000 Klan members, split among dozens of different - and often warring - organizations that use the Klan name.
The ADL estimates
...there are still approximately 3,000 Klan members and unaffiliated individuals who identify with Klan ideology — but turnover and lack of stability have diminished most groups’ numbers. Even the largest Klans don’t appear to have many more than 50 to 100 active members, and most Klans have fewer than 25 members."
ETA: SPLC: $238M assets, Bermuda acct, co-owns foreign $$ firms

If you're looking for alternatives to the SPLC, consider the Anti-Defamation League. But the ADL is also imperfect, as that link will show, and there's this; ADL Tells Cops To Infiltrate Antifa — And Film Protests – The Forward.

Do not confuse the ADL with the Jewish Defense League: "According to the Anti-Defamation League, the JDL consists only of "thugs and hooligans".[14] The group's founder, Meir Kahane, "preached a radical form of Jewish nationalism which reflected racism, violence and political extremism,"[1] attitudes that were replicated by Irv Rubin, the successor to Kahane.[15] " 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Why am I surprised that Cory Doctorow, Laurie Penny, and Patrick Neilsen Hayden are demonizing the working class?

I just saw People who voted for Trump knew their shot at the elites was fired through the guts of their neighbors / Boing Boing. Cory Doctorow approves of Laurie Penny's elitist sentiment in a post that he found thanks to Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

I suppose I'm disappointed because I thought they were too smart to believe the reason the Rust Belt voted for a black president in 2008 and 2012, and for a Jewish socialist in this year's primaries, but not for a rich white neoliberal in this year's election, is racism. I'm not sure whether they believe the black Rust Belters who stayed home or voted for Trump are also racist.

As a palate cleanser, I recommend Juan Cole's Why the White Working Class Rebelled: Neoliberalism is Killing Them (Literally) and Connor Kilpatrick's This Didn’t Have to Happen.

ETA: understanding the election—the best links I've found

A reminder for Clinton fans that the polls were right all along

ETA 2: The identitarian left othering white workers is as evil as the identitarian right othering people of color, women, Muslims, and GLBTQ folk.

ETA 3: Three Myths About Clinton's Defeat in Election 2016 Debunked | naked capitalism:
White voters cared even less in 2016 then in 2012, when they also didn’t care; most of that apathy came from white Republicans compared to white Democrats, who dropped off a little less. Voters of color, in contrast, continued to care – but their care levels dropped even more, by 8 points (compared to the 6 point drop-off among white voters). Incredibly, that drop was driven entirely by a 9 point drop among Democratic voters of color which left Democrats with only slim majority 51% support; Republicans, meanwhile, actually gained support among people of color.
ETA 4: It’s Class, Stupid, Not Race:
During the Presidential campaign of 1988, the Reverend Jesse Jackson was asked, “How you are going to get the support of the white steelworker?” He replied: “By making him aware he has more in common with the black steel workers by being a worker, than with the boss by being white.”
For people who don't get how that applies to this election, the Clinton camp ignored both black and white workers in the rust belt, and as a result, her support fell with both black and white workers.

ETA 5: Fairfax County, USA | Jacobin: "Hillary Clinton won rich suburbs in record numbers. But her campaign failed to mobilize workers of all races."

Friday, November 11, 2016

understanding the election—the best links I've found

From 2017:

The Boring Story of the 2016 Election – MattBruenig | Politic

What really happened in 2016, in 7 charts - Vox

From 2016:

Among Republicans, Trump supporters have slightly lower incomes. But what really differentiates them?

Debunking myths about Trump voters, with exit polls.: "Trump’s Voters Don’t Support Deportation. And other surprises."
Trump did surprisingly well among groups he was thought to have fatally offended. He got 8 percent of blacks (Mitt Romney got only 6 percent in 2012), 29 percent of Latinos (Romney got 27 percent), and 41 percent of moderates (Romney also got 41 percent). Trump trailed Clinton among women by 12 percentage points, but that wasn’t much worse than Romney, who lost them by 11 points. Trump also got 31 percent of voters who said they hadn’t been born as U.S. citizens. These figures complicate the theory that racism and sexism carried Trump to victory.
CBS News Exit Polls: How Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency - CBS News:
How did Trump win when many of his core positions were so unpopular? Some people voted for him regardless of that. Among those who favored giving illegal immigrants a chance to apply for legal status, one in three voted for Trump. Thirty-five percent of people who said international trade creates jobs voted for Trump. And even 27 percent of white voters who said they want the next president to change to more liberal policies voted for Trump.
Why the White Working Class Rebelled: Neoliberalism is Killing Them (Literally) | Informed Comment:
The Democratic Party has been the Establishment for eight years, and the Clintons have arguably been the Establishment for 24 years. Since the late 1990s, members of the white working class with high school or less have seen their life-chances radically decline, even to the point where they are dying at much higher rates than they have a right to expect. 
A year ago Anne Case and Angus Deaton, Princeton University economists, published a study with the startling finding that since 1999 death rates have been going up for white Americans aged 45-54. It is even worse than it sounds, since death rates were declining for the general population.
Don't Panic:
So yeah, be upset for as long as you want. Get drunk. Do whatever you have to do. After that, I want you to sober up, splash water on your face, and consider some facts:

Gay marriage has overwhelming support nationwide -- 55 percent to 37 percent against.

Legal abortion is favored by 56 percent, with 41 percent opposed.

The vast majority of the population supports background checks for gun buyers -- up to 90 percent in some polls.

A majority of Americans support some kind of universal health care, 58 percent to 37 percent.

64 percent of Americans are worried about global warming. Only 36 percent are not.

And -- get this -- Americans overwhelmingly agree that immigration helps the country more than it hurts, by a 59 percent to 33 percent margin.
ETA: The Pendulum Swings Both Ways – Medium:
We have to return to our base. This is my biggest takeaway from last night. I’ve been reading a lot of comments from our side about how dumb Americans are and how they are all racists and misogynists. It’s all said in the most condescending tone. While some of that may be true, we need to lose that. To be frank, we on the left have forgotten a large chunk of our base — white, working class people. Look at the numbers. The same amount of Republicans showed up last night as in 2008 and 2012 — about 59 million. But, on the left, 5m fewer voters than 2012 and 10m fewer than in 2008 showed up. We lost the entire rust belt (Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania). Let that sink in. States we EASILY won in 2008 and 2012. It’s not because the racists and pussy grabbers suddenly showed up. There wasn’t some great turnout on their side — they got the EXACT same votes they always have. Think about it — we lost these states by about 600,000 votes total. That’s it. OUR side in these states didn’t show up. That’s the simple truth. And, to be clear, they didn’t show up because we had nothing for them. We really need to be introspective at this point and acknowledge that. Bernie wasn’t wrong about this. Michael Moore wasn’t wrong about this. Our party was built on the backs of working class people. We got outflanked and took our base for granted. We all have fears. One of the most primal is putting bread on the table and having a roof over our heads. What did we have to allay those anxieties? In the absence of a real plan that addressed what these voters were feeling, hatred and division was allowed to fill the void. 
More election links at it's all one thing: A reminder for Clinton fans that the polls were right all along.

ETA:
 

You Are Still Crying Wolf | Slate Star Codex:
Trump made gains among blacks. He made big 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.

A reminder for Clinton fans that the polls were right all along

From a post I wrote shortly before the election:
This would've been a boring election if the Democratic establishment hadn't been committed to nominating another neoliberal. In May, Sanders was polling with the general public at 10 points over Trump.
That wasn't a fluke. In the many polls of public opinion taken from July 2015 to May 2016, only six showed Trump having an advantage and only one showed them in a tie.
Compare that with Clinton. Currently, she has a 1.8% advantage in the aggregated polls at RealClearPolitics, so she's the safer bet but not a sure bet. Over the same period that Sanders stayed well ahead of Trump, Clinton was only a point or two ahead on average, with 29 polls showing her losing and 13 in a tie.
Here's a clip of Keith Ellison saying that Trump could win, only to have the usual talking heads laugh at him:


And here are a few more people who looked at what we've known all along and pointed out that we knew it all along:

If anyone doubts Bernie Sanders would've crushed Trump, show them this

Hillary Clinton lost. Bernie Sanders could have won. - The Washington Post

Polls Showed Sanders Had a Better Shot of Beating Trump–but Pundits Told You to Ignore Them | FAIR

ETA: New Pre-Election Poll Suggests Bernie Sanders Could Have Trounced Donald Trump | The Huffington Post: "The national survey of more than 1,600 registered voters, conducted by Gravis Marketing two days before the general election, found that Sanders would have received 56 percent of the vote while Trump would have won 44 percent. The poll was commissioned and financed by outgoing Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, a Democrat who endorsed Sanders in the presidential primary."

ETA: Why Sanders defeats Trump, but Trump defeats Clinton | TheHill

ETA: The Real Story Of 2016 | FiveThirtyEight:
Trump outperformed his national polls by only 1 to 2 percentage points in losing the popular vote to Clinton, making them slightly closer to the mark than they were in 2012.
ETA: From June, 2016: Why does Sanders do better than Clinton against Trump? | MSNBC:
...those who would vote for Sanders but not Clinton against Trump are evenly split when it comes to party identification – 35 percent identify as Republicans, 33 percent as Independents and 31 percent as Democrats. This is not particularly good news for Clinton as more than two-thirds of those who would support Sanders but not Clinton do not identify as Democrats.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Alan Moore's joke behind naming the Marvel Universe the 616 universe

Some people believe the Number of the Beast is 616. See Number of the Beast - Wikipedia: "The Number of the Beast (Greek: Ἀριθμὸς τοῦ θηρίου, Arithmos tou Thēriou) is a term in the Book of Revelation, of the New Testament, that is associated with the Beast of Revelation in chapter 13.[1] In most manuscripts of the New Testament and in English translations of the Bible, the number of the beast is 666. In critical editions of the Greek text, such as the Novum Testamentum Graece, it is noted that 616 is a variant.[2]"

Thoughts after learning a fan killed herself because she feared she would lose her health care

I just found out that a fan of our work killed herself yesterday. She had depression and she was concerned about her health care.
I will take a moment before I continue.
Emma and I are concerned about our health care. She has type 1 diabetes. I hate to think what would happen if we lost our health care through the state of Minnesota.
But while there are many reasons to be worried about President Trump, health care could turn out well. From http://www.ontheissues.org/2016/Donald_Trump_Health_Care.htm:
Speaking at the Iowa Freedom Summit in January, Trump said ObamaCare is a catastrophe that must be repealed and replaced. In 2011, Trump suggested that the health insurance industry have more ability to cross state lines. In "The America We Deserve" Trump wrote that he supported universal healthcare and a system that would mirror Canada's government-run healthcare service.
No, this does not mean you shouldn't be concerned. You should be ready to fight for what matters. The first thing is to join the ACLU if you haven't, because they are always on the frontlines of protecting our rights. The second is to start learning how to strengthen the institutions that your state currently has for low-income people. Then do what you can to support an organization that's working to promote universal health care for everyone.
The first fight for universal health care has already been won: the polls show most Americans want it. It's much of the reason Sanders' popularity cut across party lines. Now we have to make our politicians give it to us.
And if you're depressed, talk to a friend. Talk to a suicide-prevention organization. I won't say there are always reasons to keep living because I believe we should have the right to die when we're ready, but I will say there usually are good reasons to keep going another day, and you need to remember that not seeing them now doesn't mean you won't see them later.

In defense of "agreeing to disagree"

I just saw someone on Facebook say he didn't like the phrase and thought it was used by people who could not defend their position. I'm a great fan of the phrase. I use it when I choose to be merciful, which is more often than my readers may realize. I would prefer to have brambles in my view than scorched earth.

One meaning of the phrase is "you are not worth my time."

But the more common meaning is "I will tolerate this foolishness of yours because you are worth my time despite it."

Agreeing to disagree is at the heart of civility. It's also at the heart of being an ally, not in the sense that's used by cultists who think allies must think alike, but in the sense used by practical people: despite our disagreement, we can work together.

Ultimately, it's a mark of both maturity and liberty. It means you are sufficiently secure in your own belief that you do not need everyone around you to validate it, and because you want to be free to believe what you choose, you support the right of others to believe what they choose.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Essential data for analyzing the 2016 election

CBS News Exit Polls: How Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency - CBS News:
Exit poll voters were asked whether most illegal immigrants working in the U.S. should be offered a chance to apply for legal status or deported to the country they came from. Fully 7 of 10 voters said they should be allowed to apply for legal status. Similarly, more people opposed building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico than supported it. And virtually as many voters (38 percent) said trade with other countries creates more U.S. jobs as said it takes away jobs (42 percent).

How did Trump win when many of his core positions were so unpopular? Some people voted for him regardless of that. Among those who favored giving illegal immigrants a chance to apply for legal status, one in three voted for Trump. Thirty-five percent of people who said international trade creates jobs voted for Trump. And even 27 percent of white voters who said they want the next president to change to more liberal policies voted for Trump.
I italicized the most fascinating fact there. It may be the greatest reason why the polls consistently showed Sanders trouncing Trump. Everyone who was paying attention knew Clinton was only promising to keep on the neoliberal course.

A quick reminder for gay and trans folks that most Americans are still on your side

Americans Want Legal Protections For Transgender People, Poll Says - The Atlantic:
A poll released today by the Public Religion Research Institute found 72 percent of Americans now favor passing laws to protect lesbian, gay and transgender people from discrimination, including three-quarters of Democrats and two-thirds of Republicans. A majority of Americans also oppose so-called “bathroom bills,” which require transgender people to use the restrooms that correspond to their sex at birth.
Public Opinion on Gay Marriage in the U.S. | Pew Research Center:
Based on polling in 2016, a majority of Americans (55%) support same-sex marriage, compared with 37% who oppose it.
ETA: Don't Panic 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Two versions of "Here in This Land" by Karl Kraus

On Facebook, John Michael Colón shared this translation of Karl Karus's "Here in This Land":
Here in this land no one is deemed absurd
but who should speak the truth. And all defenseless
he stands before the sneering, grinning herd,
which holds a sense of honor senseless.

Here in this land, where God is bought and sold
and manhood is pursued with execration,
all infamy is coined to purest gold
and lords it high in honor's station.

Here in this land you run a gauntlet's lane
of cut-purses who fervently despise you
and either get your purse by some chicane
or pat your back to show they prize you.

Here in this land, whatever be your boast,
you are not the master of your own decision.
The pest of greed obtrudes by every post,
effectively to blight your vision.

Here in this land you beat the empty air
as you denounce one evil or another,
and every grinning rascal debonair
in this land hails you as his brother.
Googling for more about it, I found another take:
Here in this land no one gets ridicule
but he who tells the truth. He then must stand
defenseless and attract some smirking, cool
disdain. Nothing dishonors in this land.

Here in this land a person's wickedness,
which elsewhere would lead straight to prison's door,
mints him pure gold, brings glory and success,
and garners honor for him evermore.

Here in this land a gauntlet you must run
of petty thieves with deep contempt for you,
who wish to steal your purse and, when it's done,
will try to win, besides, your handshake too.

Here in this land you never will find rest
when fleeing from contaminated schemes,
for to your house the post comes like the pest
and mercilessly kills your pleasant dreams.

Here in this land you strike an idle blow
if you attempt to hit this wily band,
and every knave will grin and let you know
you're his compatriot here in this land.

Why I Vote—and Who I Voted For



Not voting is acquiescence—the only way to protest is to register your choice.

As a third-party voter in a blue state, I didn't have to decide whether I should support a lesser evil, but I was still torn. I worked with Dan Vacek when I ran for governor with the Grassroots Party and I liked him, but of the parties that were sufficiently organized to get on the ballot, the Green's platform is closest to what I believe. So I did what anyone who values democracy should do and flipped a coin. Jill Stein won. That pleased me. I ended up voting for the Susan B. Anthony candidate.

Clinton fans are doing their best to appropriate Anthony, but here are a few quotes that suggest Anthony would've preferred Sanders and Stein.

on public education

"If all the rich and all of the church people should send their children to the public schools they would feel bound to concentrate their money on improving these schools until they met the highest ideals."

on unions

"Join the union, girls, and together say Equal Pay for Equal Work."

on imperialism

"I really believe I shall explode if some of you young women don’t wake up — and raise your voice in protest against the impending crime of this nation upon the new islands it has clutched from other folks — Do come into the living present & work to save us from any more barbaric male governments."

Down-ballot, I went with Democrats and the tax raise for our schools. Minnesota's Democratic Party fused with the Farmer Labor Party long ago, and while much of the spirit of the FL has been lost, there's enough to make this a good state.

PS. Yes, that is a Captain America hoodie. He grew up a working class guy in New York during the Depression—he was either a Roosevelt Democrat or a red. There are two kinds of patriotism. I believe in the kind that says when you love the place you live, you work to make it better.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Antiracism campaigns: Twenty years of making racism worse

Studies over twenty years come to the same conclusion: Antiracism fails because it reduces complex problems to race, which strengthens the idea that race matters enormously.

I've quoted this one before. In 1998, a government study in Australia found,
The problem with anti-racism campaigns is that there is no clearly understood or agreed method of changing people's prejudices, values, attitudes or behaviour. What is known is that direct confrontation is likely to be counter-productive.  ... In 1997 the Council of Europe coordinated a year of anti-racism campaigns and activities throughout Europe. A survey at the end of the year, conducted in European Union countries by the polling organisation Eurobarometer, found that rather than a decline in racism, it had been marked by a growing willingness on the part of Europeans to openly declare themselves as racist.
A 2011 study at the University of Toronto found a similar result:
Aggressive anti-racism campaigns might actually increase bias toward other groups...
Today, the situation hasn't changed. From Why Diversity Programs Fail:
Do people who undergo training usually shed their biases? Researchers have been examining that question since before World War II, in nearly a thousand studies. It turns out that while people are easily taught to respond correctly to a questionnaire about bias, they soon forget the right answers. The positive effects of diversity training rarely last beyond a day or two, and a number of studies suggest that it can activate bias or spark a backlash.
That report includes a fact my father told me about when I was a boy:
Evidence that contact between groups can lessen bias first came to light in an unplanned experiment on the European front during World War II. The U.S. army was still segregated, and only whites served in combat roles. High casualties left General Dwight Eisenhower understaffed, and he asked for black volunteers for combat duty. When Harvard sociologist Samuel Stouffer, on leave at the War Department, surveyed troops on their racial attitudes, he found that whites whose companies had been joined by black platoons showed dramatically lower racial animus and greater willingness to work alongside blacks than those whose companies remained segregated. Stouffer concluded that whites fighting alongside blacks came to see them as soldiers like themselves first and foremost. The key, for Stouffer, was that whites and blacks had to be working toward a common goal as equals—hundreds of years of close contact during and after slavery hadn’t dampened bias.
The same effect has been observed time and time again in labor struggles: nothing unites us like the sense we're working together to make a better world for everyone.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Why Clinton supporters should be happy even if she loses

Q. Why should Clinton fans be happy even if she loses on Tuesday?

A. Because they'll get their second choice: a democratic socialist won't be president.

This would've been a boring election if the Democratic establishment hadn't been committed to nominating another neoliberal. In May, Sanders was polling with the general public at 10 points over Trump.

That wasn't a fluke. In the many polls of public opinion taken from July 2015 to May 2016, only six showed Trump having an advantage and only one showed them in a tie.

Compare that with Clinton. Currently, she has a 1.8% advantage in the aggregated polls at RealClearPolitics, so she's the safer bet but not a sure bet. Over the same period that Sanders stayed well ahead of Trump, Clinton was only a point or two ahead on average, with 29 polls showing her losing and 13 in a tie.

The Clinton camp knew they had to do two things if they hoped to win the Presidency. The first was to defeat Sanders, which they managed to do because their base didn't care that Sanders did better with independents and cut deeply into Trump's base with his economic policies. The second was to run against someone Clinton had a chance of beating, which they did by promoting Trump.

It'll be interesting to see how the Clinton camp's calculations pay off on Tuesday. If she loses, I won't feel bad for her supporters—they'll have their second choice. I'll only feel bad for the rest of us.

Minnesota is a blue state. I don't have to wonder if I should vote for Clinton. I'll flip a coin before I go into the booth, then vote for Jill Stein because her platform is closest to mine or for Dan Vacek because I liked him when I ran for governor on the Grassroots Party ticket.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Dr. Strange mini-review, no spoilers


The boy in me is happy: his two favorite comic book characters have had good movies made about them. I say "comic book characters" instead of superheroes because unlike Captain America, Dr. Strange isn't a super hero; he comes from the pulp tradition of the mystic guardian. The movie gets that well enough that the few mentions of other characters from the Marvel universe threw me a little; the movie isn't hurt by them, but I would've cut them.

Cumberbatch was not my first choice for the role—I had a long list that included actors of all races and genders—but he's an excellent choice. He's not playing Sherlock Holmes, but he is playing a smart and arrogant man, which he does very well. And the fanboy in me thinks he looks perfect. (Emma especially appreciated the shaving scene.)

Swinton does a fine job, but I would've gone with Michelle Yeoh for the Ancient One.

Benedict Wong is great as Wong.

The cape of levitation nearly steals the movie.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, one of my favorite actors, has a nice character arc. As do most of the characters—almost everyone we meet is a bit different by the end of the movie.

If the trailers disappointed you a bit, as they did me, with no apparent Ditkoesque supernatural dimensions, be reassured.

The tone becomes lighter in the second half of the movie, which may indicate the work of the second team of writers. I would've minded that more if the funny bits hadn't worked, but they work very well.

Fanboy Will gives it 9 out of 10 stars. Film critic Will gives it 7.5. It is not a great movie, but it's a very good example of "If you like this sort of thing, you'll like this." And I do.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Hypocrites, or Hissyfit Jesus versus Vulcan Jesus

I was talking online with a Christian who believes in Tough Love Jesus, which left me thinking about the Biblical Jesus calling people hypocrites. If you believe the word is an insult, it doesn't belong in the mouth of a teacher who said the greatest commandments are to love God and to love people.

That got me thinking about Hissyfit Jesus, the Jesus many Christians believe in, the furious man who rages at Pharisees and Sadduccees because they won't follow him. That's a comforting Jesus for angry and self-righteous people.

But "hypocrite" is only an insult when it's spoken in anger. It's a precise word: it means your words and deeds don't mesh. Hypocrites consist of two groups, those who lie to others and those who lie to themselves. The first group aren't actually offended by the word; they're terrified of being exposed, so they act indignant to deny the charge. The second group aren't actually offended either, though they may believe they are. Their anger comes from cognitive dissonance—they believe it's right for them to have their privileges because they're sure they're good people who do what privileged people are supposed to do to be considered good people. The only way for them to keep their comforting illusions is to rage at anyone who tries to shake them into seeing the world.

If I was writing a Jesus story, he would speak to Pharisees and Sadduccees like Star Trek's Spock. He would simply tell them that hypocrites live in worlds of their own making, so if they hope to become the people they think they are, the first step is rejecting the illusion they love.

In the Gospels, Jesus never applies "tough love" to the poor, but he constantly applies it to the rich. He tells the rich young man who wants to study with him to do what his other students did and share his wealth with the poor. The young man can't and goes away. But the story includes a bit of hope for all rich people. After the young man leaves, Jesus says all things are possible with God.

That doesn't mean God gives a pass to some rich people—the Gospels don't have any examples of that. They only tell of rich people who know they must share. They fall into two groups. Some, like Zacchaeus the tax collector, follow John the Baptist's teaching to give half of what you have to the poor. The ones who follow Jesus's teaching share everything.

The log in a hypocrite's eye makes them see anyone who tries to remove it as angry or jealous or any of the many things rich people call those who suggest there's no virtue in hoarding wealth while people suffer. If I wrote a Jesus story, I wouldn't change the traditional interpretation of Sadduccees and Pharisees leaving in a righteous huff.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Eleanor Marx explains why sometimes socialists should support liberals

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

Emma's observation about Jesus and tough love

Emma: What are you thinking about?

Me: I was just in a discussion with a conservative who thinks Jesus was about tough love.

Emma: Yeah, if you were a money-changer.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Peasant or Whatever Diet, Day 4: Lost 3 pounds

Because our scale isn't the most precise, I'm not sure if I lost four pounds or two and a half, so I'm calling it three.

When I was in seventh grade, I decided I wanted to lose weight. I did it partly by having a growth spurt and partly by eating my usual sandwiches with one slice of bread instead of two and bicycling to school instead of taking the bus. Sadly, I can't count on a growth spurt now, but the rest of what I figured out then is the basis of every diet: get moving and don't eat what you don't need. The nice thing about calorie-counting is you learn what the food industry doesn't want you to think about: almost everything's more caloric than you assume. The bulk of their profit comes from selling food to entertain us instead of sustain us.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Peasant Diet could take three forms

1. Recreationist. You only use what would've been available to the peasants you're choosing as inspiration for your diet. Bonus points if you cook the food exactly as they would've. Super bonus points if you grow and hunt your own. Any of the recreationist approaches would be difficult and expensive because many foods have changed over the centuries as farmers grew them for different characteristics.

2. No-counting, all you can eat. The "all you can eat" would be potatoes or brown rice or oatmeal, green vegetables, and, once a day, a moderate serving of eggs or dairy or beans.

3. Counting-calories. This is great for people who like puzzles: you get to put the pieces together every day to eat in a range where you won't feel like you're starving but you'll still lose weight. The basic principle is to focus on simple foods and avoid things that would've been time-intensive luxuries in older times.

I'll probably go with #3. I'm too fond of variety in my diet. Which, I realize is part of the reason I'm not thin.

I'll do a concluding post on this tomorrow, and find out whether I've managed to lose any weight.

Wikileaks identifies Feminists Against Women and Antiracists Against Blacks

From WikiLeaks - The Podesta Emails:
Working with bloggers and columnists to write about this from a racial justice and reproductive rights perspective, including a few people who joined us on a call to talk about the "Bernie Backlash" that was unfolding even before his remarks last night—current list is Elianne Ramos, Jessica Valenti (who is writing a column on this as we speak), Jamil Smith, Sady Doyle, Aminatou Sow, Gabe Ortiz, and others
Because poverty is disproportionate both in terms of race and gender, the better candidate for women and black folks was Bernie Sanders, whose platform would've helped them disproportionately. But bourgeois identitarians don't care about that. They supported the candidate who has their interests at heart by using social identity to divide and defeat working people.

Peasant Diet, Day 3: the more complex the diet, the more you have to count calories

I'm still in the calorie-counting phase, which may be a necessary first step to creating a modern version of a peasant diet. Today's surprise was learning margarine is more caloric than I'd thought. On average, it's the same as butter, 102 calories for a tablespoon.

An advantage of calorie counting is the peasant got to eat half a pizza today. And I haven't figured out how a fun-size Snickers fits under the Peasant Diet. Maybe this is a game, and staying under your goal lets the peasant steal a treat from the lord.

The pizza was one of my favorite prepared food hacks: I chopped up a third of a bag of frozen asparagus and spread it on a Trader Joe's Pizza Margherita, then sprinkled that liberally with garlic powder and pepper. Mmm. The extra ingredients call for an extra minute or two in the oven.

How I did today:

oatmeal150
apple95
soup & bread250
apple juice120
1 fun snickers80
1 red wine125
1/2 pizza550
skim milk90
1 slice bread79
dab peanut butter40
skim milk90
That's 1669 calories. All's good.