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".