Monday, July 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

Women show more gender bias than men in Implicit Association Tests

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

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

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


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

Monday, July 17, 2017

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

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

I'd prefer Mexican.

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How to make us believe characters are in love

Emma and I are watching an old TV show that currently has two sets of characters involved in romances. One couple convinces me they're in love; the other does not. My first thought was the actors in the second couple didn't have chemistry. Then I realized I was letting the writers off the hook by failing to ask why those characters didn't have the vague thing we call chemistry.

The answer is the writers didn't provide it. The first couple get to have fun together. The second couple, the unconvincing couple, never do. It's not enough to show that characters care for each other. You have to show why they care. For most of us, that means doing things that make us laugh together.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cultural appropriation theory criticized by people of color

Because identitarians believe the thoughts of people with "lived experience" matter most when discussing issues of social identity, here are some thinkers on race and culture who have unquestionable "lived experience":

Arun Gupta - I was sent this list below of "White-Owned Appropriative Restaurants in Portland.":
They want to fix all cultures as fossils in a museum, not allowing for adaptation, changing tastes, social roles, or fashion. It reminds me of how the National Front fetishizes a notion of the pure French nation.
In Defense of Cultural Appropriation - The New York Times by Kenan Malik:
Appropriation suggests theft, and a process analogous to the seizure of land or artifacts. In the case of culture, however, what is called appropriation is not theft but messy interaction. Writers and artists necessarily engage with the experiences of others. Nobody owns a culture, but everyone inhabits one, and in inhabiting a culture, one finds the tools for reaching out to other cultures.

... There are few figures more important to the development of rock ’n’ roll than Chuck Berry (who died in March). In the 1950s, white radio stations refused to play his songs, categorizing them as “race music.” Then came Elvis Presley. A white boy playing the same tunes was cool. Elvis was feted, Mr. Berry and other black pioneers largely ignored. Racism defined who became the cultural icon.

But imagine that Elvis had been prevented from appropriating so-called black music. Would that have challenged racism, or eradicated Jim Crow laws?
On ‘Maybellene’ and General Tso’s Chicken by Jonathan Zimmerman:
Berry never claimed to be the sole originator of anything. "Chuck Berry’s style … is only back to the future of what came in the past," he wrote in his 1987 autobiography. "And you know, and I believe it must be true, ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’ So don’t blame me for being first, just let it last."
Let White People Appropriate Mexican Food—Mexicans Do It to Ourselves All the Time by Gustavo Arellano:
The Mexican restaurant world is a delicious defense of cultural appropriation—that's what the culinary manifestation of mestizaje is, ain't it? The Spaniards didn't know how to make corn tortillas in the North, so they decided to make them from flour. Mexicans didn't care much for Spanish dessert breads, so we ripped off most pan dulces from the French (not to mention waltzes and mariachi). We didn't care much for wine, so embraced the beers that German, Czech and Polish immigrants brought to Mexico. And what is al pastor if not Mexicans taking shawerma from Lebanese, adding pork, and making it something as quintessentially Mexicans as a corrupt PRI?
 Of kimono and cultural appropriation | The Japan Times by Shaun O'Dwyer:
Manami Okazaki, whose book “Kimono Now” analyses modern kimono fashions, told me that her main worry was “that this (protest) will affect museums/ event organizers wanting to do kimono shows in the future, which is the last thing the industry needs.”

...That message, recently iterated to me by an employee at the Nishijin Textiles Center in Kyoto, is this: Anyone can appropriate and creatively modify kimono styles whenever and however they like.

...Kaori Nakano, a professor of fashion history at Meiji University put it to me this way: “Cultural appropriation is the beginning of new creativity. Even if it includes some misunderstanding, it creates something new.”
Japanese-American in Boston: Monet's La Japonaise Kimono Wednesdays at the MFA: "Kimono try on is an established part of Japanese cultural sharing. One of my friends reminded me that in Kyoto it's a big tourist thing to do something called "maiko for a day" (maiko are apprentice geisha) and it's popular with both Japanese people and international tourists. Another friend reminded me that it's common for non-Japanese to also wear kimono, yukata, and happi coats as obon festivals and other matsuris in places like Hawaii and California."

Japanese-American in Boston: Myths and facts about Kimono Wednesdays and the protests:
The MFA controversy clearly falls into the category of #firstworldproblems. I've continued to write about it because the protesters have continued to minimize and dismiss dissenting Japanese and Japanese American viewpoints which is not something I can accept.
Underneath the 'Orientalist' kimono | The Japan Times:
“The real reason why traditional kimono culture is about to (become) extinct,” wrote avant-garde fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto, “is because of its tendency to aspire to ‘perfection’ as a style that does not allow any other foreign item to be added to it. My advice for anyone wearing kimono is to challenge this rigidity; let’s forget about attending kimono lessons.”

 

From Jenner to Dolezal: One Trans Good, the Other Not So Much | By Adolph Reed Jr.:
When all is said and done, the racial outrage is about protection of the boundaries of racial authenticity as the exclusive property of the guild of Racial Spokespersonship. ... Beneath all the puerile cultural studies prattle about "cultural appropriation" ... lies yet another iteration in what literature scholar Kenneth Warren has identified in his masterful 2012 study, What Was African American Literature?, as a more than century-old class program among elements of the black professional-managerial stratum to establish “managerial authority over the nation’s Negro problem.”
Bonus thoughts by people from groups that some say are not white:

If you think Greeks are not white or are "imperfectly white":  "Why the Theory of Cultural Appropriation is Pro-Capitalist"—a guest post by Jonas Kyratzes:
...people from those countries are rarely threatened by “outsiders” taking on elements of their culture; in fact, they celebrate it. In Greece, when some element of Greek culture becomes popular worldwide, it tends to make the news. As a good thing. As in hey, we’re poor and miserable and everything is shit, but at least we’re still relevant in the world. People like our stuff! If you all start loving the bouzouki, we’re not suddenly going to run out of music over here.
If you think Jews are not white: The Myth of ‘Cultural Appropriation’ - The Chronicle of Higher Education by Walter Benn Michaels:
...one of the particular responsibilities of the humanities and social-science faculty is to help make sure that the students who take our courses come out not just richer than everyone else but also more virtuous. (It’s like adding insult to injury, but the opposite.)
Identity crimes — both the phantasmatic ones, like cultural theft, and the real ones, like racism and sexism — are perfect for this purpose, since, unlike the downward redistribution of wealth, opposing them leaves the class structure intact. Thus, for example, one can completely support (as I do) the actions of Middlebury College students in demonstrating their opposition to what they called Charles Murray’s "white nationalism" while at the same time noting that it’s not white nationalism that’s making poor people poorer; it’s capitalism. And when it comes to fighting capitalism, the Middlebury student body (median family income $244,300; about a quarter of Middlebury students come from the top 1 percent; three-quarters come from the top 20 percent) is not exactly in the revolution’s vanguard.
Update: Added several new bits about kimonos. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

On Zootopia and the problem with using species as a metaphor for race or ethnicity


I thought Zootopia was fun, but I hated its metaphor, something that's bugged me at least since Spiegelman's Maus. A human race is an artificial concept, a tribe allows outsiders to join and insiders to leave, but a species is an immutable aspect of identity. The fox and rabbit of Zootopia can be friends, unlike the cats and mice of Maus who are genetically driven to be enemies, but they cannot mate. Using species as metaphors for race or tribe validates the beliefs of black and white racists who babble about racial purity.

But I quibble. Zootopia and Maus both have something important to say, even though what they say is a bit muddled. That's human art for you.