Monday, January 31, 2011

FDR and the maximum wage

From Too Much weekly:
In April 1942, just a few months after Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt asked Congress to enact a 100 percent top federal income tax rate, in effect a “maximum wage.” No individual, FDR told lawmakers, should be taking home, after taxes, over $25,000 — the equivalent of about $335,000 today.

FDR's call for a $25,000 personal income limit struck millions of patriotic Americans as right on the mark. A Gallup poll, in late 1942, found 47 percent of Americans supporting the notion of an income limit and only 38 percent in opposition. And the supporters of FDR's $25,000 cap even included some of Ronnie Reagan's fellow Hollywood stars.

“I regret,” the widely admired Ann Sheridan told reporters, “that I have only one salary to give for my country.”

Sheridan was following in the footsteps of an even more widely admired film star, Carole Lombard. In 1937, notes film historian Eric Hoyt, Lombard paid over $300,000 in federal taxes on $465,000 in income.

“I was glad to do it, too,” she told reporters. “Income tax money all goes into improvement and protection of the country.”

No other news item, the New Yorker magazine would later relate, probably “ever did so much to increase the popularity of a star.”

Most of America's highest income-earners, predictably enough, didn't share either Lombard’s or Sheridan's sentiments. They howled in protest at FDR’s 1942 income cap proposal, and Congress felt their pain — but only to an extent. Lawmakers didn't buy FDR's 100 percent top rate, but they came close.

America’s rich would end the war years facing a 94 percent tax rate on income over $200,000.

America's rich would see, after World War II, only limited relief from that 94 percent top rate. In 1948, over President Harry Truman's veto, the GOP-controlled Congress did drop the top tax rate down to 82 percent. But the top rate would jump back over 90 percent during the Korean War, and the top rate would sit fixed — at 91 percent — straight through the 1950s.

Not until 1964 did that top rate start dipping, down to 70 percent. In 1981, the newly elected President Ronald Reagan would make gutting that 70 percent rate his first major White House priority. By 1986, after two Reagan tax cuts, the top rate on the top income bracket had shrunk to a mere 28 percent.

Gap Between Rich And Poor Named 8th Wonder Of The World

Gap Between Rich And Poor Named 8th Wonder Of The World | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ayn Rand, a bigger hypocrite than we knew

Michael Ford: Ayn Rand and the VIP-DIPers:
An interview with Evva Pryror, a social worker and consultant to Miss Rand's law firm of Ernst, Cane, Gitlin and Winick verified that on Miss Rand's behalf she secured Rand's Social Security and Medicare payments which Ayn received under the name of Ann O'Connor (husband Frank O'Connor).

As Pryor said, 'Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out' without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn 'despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently... She didn't feel that an individual should take help.'

But alas she did and said it was wrong for everyone else to do so.
via eruditeogre

ETA: On a friend's Facebook, a right-libertarian left a comment about Rand paying her taxes. I left this comment there:
Diane, cancer treatment is very expensive. That's why we have socialist programs like Social Security and Medicare, and it's why people like Ayn Rand are perfectly willing to take advantage of socialist programs when they need to. The money quote: "'Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out' without the aid of these two government programs." When the chips were down, Rand accepted the logic of socialists: from each according to ability, to each according to need.

three black races in the USA? ghetto, muslim, middle class, and...?

Anyone who follows me knows I'm fascinated by the fact that African Americans see a widening gulf between the values of middle class and poor blacks, and nearly four-in-ten say that because of the diversity within their community, blacks can no longer be thought of as a single race. I've also been mulling Saladin Ahmed's claim that “Muslim,” in our current societal moment, connotes a racialized group. A couple of days ago, I ran across a blog where someone was complaining about the use of "ghetto", especially when describing young people, as a euphemism for "African American".

And, lo, I was enlightened.

My first realization was that the blog writer, a middle class antiracist, had missed the point. "Ghetto" does not mean "black." It means "poor black."

And then, the big one: If you're going to divide people into races, something I continue to think is the Age of Enlightenment's most foolish idea, there are at least three black races in the US:

1. Ghetto, formerly known as "urban", covers poor blacks.

2. Middle class, which in American means "not working class", covers the black middle and upper class.

3. Muslim covers Muslims of color and implies that white Muslims are culture traitors.

Have I missed any?

ETA: Yes. Philocrites pointed out in the comments that I missed:

4. Poor rural black folks. Does popular culture have a shorthand for them?

ETA 2: To clarify, I'm not accepting these racial categories. I'm seeing them being used and trying to understand how they're being used. I think the first two are favored by people who are avoiding talking about class, and the third, by people who're uncomfortable talking about ethnicity.

What's the most democratic nation?

According to the Economist, hardly a bastion of socialism, it's Norway. The US? Number 17, which is a cool number, but not one to be proud of. Malta and the Czech Republic kick our butts.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I support Isratine

The threat of a one-state solution - The Palestine Papers - Al Jazeera English.

from the last great State of the Union address

YouTube - LBJ State of Union War on Poverty:

Alas, the War on Poverty was defeated by the Vietnam War. When I was younger, I thought we would've had a better world if Kennedy hadn't been killed, but now I think the greater tragedy may've been LBJ's defeat by the military-industrial complex.

Here's a bit from the last great Presidential farewell:

tweeting with Adam Baldwin

It's the State of the Union, which I'm not watching, but I am reading twitter and retweeting faves, when I get the urge to tweet and write:

willshetterly
Who needs to tweet when you've got good people to retweet?

willshetterly
It's fun watching SOTU being livetweeted when I'm not watching it. 'Cause I know exactly what's being said, 'cause Obama is just Obama.

And then this appears:

QuesterMark
It's fun having @willshetterly and @adamsbaldwin on my twitter feed. Kind of like a tug of war.

So, without a clue who adamsbaldwin is, I type in response:

willshetterly
Cool! I'm going to follow @adamsbaldwin until my head explodes now.

I get off one more tweet:

willshetterly
Kids, can you say corporatocracy? I knew you could. Corporations and countries have presidents. Why shouldn't they be merged?

And this shows up:

adamsbaldwin
U like class warfare?

willshetterly
I hate class warfare. That's why, depending on your pov, I'm a christian or a commie or something anticapitalist.

adamsbaldwin
Make up your mind, and get back to us.

willshetterly
Dude, it's your pov. "Anticapitalist" is the big umbrella; the rest is just quibbling over details.

adamsbaldwin
Who owns the money (private property) you work for/earn?

willshetterly
Oh, you could also call me a hippie or a Native American: private property is a social fiction.

adamsbaldwin
Who taught you that?

willshetterly
Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Marx, Einstein... How long a list do you want?

Around this time, I get curious about who he is, so I check his profile and tweet:

willshetterly
P.S. Though we're on opposite sides politically, I love your acting.

adamsbaldwin
U believe Jesus teaches that Caesar owns the fruits of your labor?

And then he makes this general tweet, referring to something Obama said about North Korea:

adamsbaldwin
NoKo "Keep promises"? Sure, cause commies don't lie, right? ~ #SOTU

willshetterly
What, you think capitalists don't lie?

adamsbaldwin
What, you think caveat emptor should be abandoned for "nanny statists know best"?

willshetterly
Dude, I want small government as much or more than you do. I just look at what plutocracies give us & am not happy.

adamsbaldwin
U evaded the question: Do U believe Jesus teaches that the fruits of your labor belong to Caesar?

willshetterly
Hell, I think Jesus evaded the question. Everything belongs to God. Nothing belongs to Caesar. Pay your taxes anyway.

adamsbaldwin
What percentage do U believe is a fair percentage for all people to pay to Caesar?

willshetterly
Jesus said people should pay what Caesar asked.

willshetterly
Gotta go have dinner. It's been fun, & I do love yr acting. Ciao for now!

adamsbaldwin
Peace, hippie!

Which made me grin. I don't like his politics, but I think I like the guy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Punished for being poor, black, and concerned about her kids' education

If you believe there's no class warfare in the US, read The Boyce Blog: Mother Jailed For Sending Kids to Wrong School District.

But if you think this is only about race, boy, do you need to learn about the schools that poor rural whites have to attend. Districted schooling is all about making sure the richer folks have the better schools.

to lower murder rate, try socialism

Cross-check: A modest proposal for curbing homicides: Socialism: "The best predictor of high homicide rates in a region, they asserted, is income inequality."

The article is tongue-in-cheek, but the research appears to be solid. It reminds me of Joe Bageant's section about guns in Deer Hunting With Jesus. Banning guns is not the solution; a more-caring society is.

quote of the day

“In the last 20 years, 56 percent of all income gains went to the top 1 percent of Americans, and more than a third went to the top one-tenth of one percent. That is one person out of every thousand taking a third of all income gains here in the United States. Meanwhile, the bottom 90 percent made do with only 16 percent of income gains. That is why we all feel so poor — because too much of our national income went to too few people.” —Richard Trumka, president, AFL-CIO

experimenting with a standing desk

JeffG kindly sent a link to IKEA Hackers: Wide Standing Desk, which reminded me that I haven't updated anyone on my standing desk experiment. What I learned:

1. Wear comfortable lace-up shoes. Otherwise, you may have a problem with your feet swelling.

2. Get a thick rug or mat to stand on.

I liked my improvised standing desk a lot, but I went back to sitting because of a major feet swelling problem—I was too fond of working in flipflops. Also, my improvised stander was an inch or two shorter than ideal. So I may try something like the Ikeahack.

Update: I went back to using a standing desk. I now prefer standing desks to sitting ones, so long as I have a stool available so I can easily switch between sitting and standing.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lazy Teenage Superheroes

YouTube - Lazy Teenage Superheroes - Short Film:

women saving men: Valkyrie and Airboy

Airboy's Valkyrie is a kind of character who shows up too often in comics: the female villain who is so great that she ends up becoming a supporting character and love interest. In the first example, she ain't saving Airboy, but so what?





[airboy_kida_1943jan.jpg]

via Golden Age Comic Book Stories: Search results for airboy

women saving men on Exciting Comics covers









Okay, the third image isn't exactly "saving", but you have to admit it's all kinds of awesome if there's any kid left in you. And the fourth is an example of saving with technology rather than wits or strength, but it does assume the woman's an amazing flier.

Images via Golden Age Comic Book Stories: Exciting Comics.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

US: Wrong on Honduras

US: Wrong on Honduras | The Nation:
...it's important to be clear how dangerous Obama's policies on Honduras have been. Thanks to a WikiLeaked cable, we know that Hugo Llorens, US ambassador to Honduras, informed the State Department in July 2009 that 'there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup.' Yet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton avoided using the phrase 'military coup,' chastised Zelaya when he tried to return to his own country and eschewed a full condemnation of post-coup de facto President Roberto Micheletti, treating him as Zelaya's equal during negotiations.

Llorens's leaked cable further calls into question the Obama administration's eager embrace of current President Porfirio 'Pepe' Lobo in a bogus November 2009 election, which was managed by the coup perpetrators and boycotted by most of the opposition and international observers. Since the coup, the United States has constructed two new military bases in Honduras (in Gracias a Dios and on the island of Guanaja), ramped up police training and, most recently, on December 27, announced that drones will be operating out of the joint US/Honduras air force base at Palmerola.

class notes: a book, an article, three quotes, two videos

Joe Bageant's Deer Hunting With Jesus is must-reading for anyone interested in what's wrong with the US left. Will gives it five stars.

Cutting Class, a fine short essay, provides these quotes:
Distribute the earth as you will, the principal question remains inexorable—Who is to dig it? Which of us, in brief word, is to do the hard and dirty work for the rest, and for what pay? Who is to do the pleasant and clean work, and for what pay? Who is to do no work, and for what pay?
—John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies, 1864

Let Catholic writers take care, when defending the cause of the proletariat and the poor, not to use language calculated to inspire among the people aversion to the upper classes of society.
—Pope Pius X, Apostolic Letter to the Bishops of Italy on Catholic Church Action, 1903

We are, by our occupations, education and habits of life, divided almost into different species, which regard one another, for the most part, with scorn and malignity.
—Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, 1751
and mentions these videos:

YouTube - Hoyt Axton - Boney Fingers:


YouTube - A Mansion On The Hill (Hank Sr ):

rereading the Communist Manifesto

After translating the introduction of the Communist Manifesto into American (a bogeyman is scaring America: the Declaration of the Fair Share Party), I was tempted to translate the rest, but I've given up that whim. The Communist Manifesto is both timeless and hopelessly of its time, like Swift's "A Modest Proposal—if you don't get it, an American version won't help.

Rereading the beginning, I saw something I hadn't noticed before. It anticipates neoliberalism:
The bourgeoisie ... has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade.
And I still love this observation of life under capitalism:
All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
Alas, it's a century and a half later, and what's solid is still melting.

Eta: Tweaked to correct a sloppiness.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

not public schools, but poverty

Dissent Magazine - Winter 2011 Issue - Got Dough? How Billion...:
Two of the three major international tests—the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study and the Trends in International Math and Science Study—break down student scores according to the poverty rate in each school. The tests are given every five years. The most recent results (2006) showed the following: students in U.S. schools where the poverty rate was less than 10 percent ranked first in reading, first in science, and third in math. When the poverty rate was 10 percent to 25 percent, U.S. students still ranked first in reading and science. But as the poverty rate rose still higher, students ranked lower and lower. Twenty percent of all U.S. schools have poverty rates over 75 percent. The average ranking of American students reflects this. The problem is not public schools; it is poverty.

on statistics and fat, plus links

Can you be both obese and healthy? notes: "Recent estimates suggest that approximately one in three obese individuals remain metabolically healthy (displaying normal blood glucose, blood lipids, blood pressure, and a healthy cytokine profile) despite their excess weight. These same individuals may have a similar risk of developing heart disease and diabetes as their skinny counterparts and they may actually become less healthy by losing weight!"

I mention that for two reasons:

1. Not all fat people are unhealthy.

2. Statistics don't apply to individuals. If your doctor hasn't told you you're healthy, don't assume you're healthy. I thought my sister was one of the healthy overweight people because she was very active. Then she died of a heart attack.

Links:

Where women of India rule the roost and men demand gender equality | World news | Guardian Weekly

Kate Bush set to release new music in 2011 | Music | guardian.co.uk.


Starbucks Trenta, Illustrated: How The New Size Compares To The Human Stomach

Lenore Skenazy: Eek! A Male! - WSJ.com

Not Always Right | Funny & Stupid Customer Quotes » You Couldn’t Make It Up

Monday, January 17, 2011

a bogeyman is scaring America: the Declaration of the Fair Share Party

The Declaration of the Fair Share Party

A bogeyman is scaring America — the bogeyman of sharing the wealth. The rich and powerful of old America — preachers and politicians, liberals and conservatives, local cops and federal agents — have made a pact to drive out this bogeyman.

Is there anyone who wanted to help the poor who wasn't called a red? Even conservative Democrats say liberal Democrats are socialists.

This tells us two things:

1. The rich and powerful know fair-sharers are powerful.

2. It's time for fair-sharers to tell everyone their beliefs, their goals, their ideas, and answer the fairytale of the Bogeyman of Sharing Fairly with a declaration of their party.

To do this, fair-sharers from different countries met in London and outlined this declaration, to be published in many languages.

To be continued?

ETA: I don't know how serious this is. I was just thinking that Americans have a lot of reasons for not understanding what Marx and Engels were trying to explain. One reason is their writing is, in many ways, dated. The Communist Manifesto wasn't meant to be a sacred text. It was meant to be a living document that would inspire change.

So I'm tempted to translate it into American. Maybe I'll do a little more tomorrow. Suggestions are, as always, welcome.



ETA 2: I've made a few tweaks after the comments, and I'll probably make more.

Martin Luther King talking about poverty

King always denied that he was a socialist, but that was part of his strategy: He knew the word had been poisoned in American discourse, so he framed his critique of capitalism in terms that only American hypocrites can deny. Here are three minutes of clips from many sources, under a title King would have quibbled with: YouTube - Martin Luther King was a Socialist!:

Captain Israel

Captain Israel vs. The world makes me want to write more about the propaganda value of nationalistic superheroes:

If I ever write an article about rape...

I would reference things like this, from When Is It RAPE?:
Catherine Comins, assistant dean of student life at Vassar, also sees some value in this loose use of 'rape.' She says angry victims of various forms of sexual intimidation cry rape to regain their sense of power. 'To use the word carefully would be to be careful for the sake of the violator, and the survivors don't care a hoot about him.' Comins argues that men who are unjustly accused can sometimes gain from the experience. 'They have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. 'How do I see women?' 'If I didn't violate her, could I have?' 'Do I have the potential to do to her what they say I did?' Those are good questions.'
And articles like Judge attacks CPS after rape acquittal:
A judge has attacked prosecutors whose decision to charge a medical student with rape was based on allegations made by a woman who had previously accused another man of the same offence. The man had subsequently committed suicide.

Jurors who took only 45 minutes to acquit Olumide Fadayomi of attacking the 21-year-old Sheffield woman were later told by Judge Patrick Robertshaw that the case should never have come to court.

...One of her friends told Sheffield Crown Court that the woman had danced with and kissed Mr Fadayomi in the club, boasting: “I’m going to have his body tonight.”
And young women disgusted with contemporary feminism's approach to rape, like MarinaIsTEHSEX at youtube:



Lest I be misunderstood, I'm not quibbling with the conclusion of many studies that rape charges may be accurate 98% of the time. That doesn't sound unreasonable to me; most people are honest. I'm simply appalled at the number of feminists who think general statistics apply to individuals. If those odds are accurate, two out of every hundred people charged with rape are innocent.

Martin Luther King's call for class justice

In Washington, they're building a Martin Luther King memorial. It'll cost $120 million. A lot of people will make money from it. The dedication is scheduled for August 28, the date of his 1963 "I Have A Dream" speech.

Don't expect anyone to mention the work he did after that, when his love of justice made him speak against imperial wars and speak for poor people of all hues. Michelle Chen's Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Call for Peace as Racial Justice Still Rings has the wrong title. She quotes this part of King's "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam" speech and fails to notice the sentence I've put in italics:
So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.
Before he was killed, King planned a Poor People's Campaign. He had a solution to poverty that went beyond race. He said, when talking about the guaranteed income social dividend,
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.
Before he could truly begin that work, he was silenced.

YouTube - Martin Luther King, "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam"



ETA: From King's final crusade: The radical push for a new America - CNN: "'It didn't cost the nation one penny to integrate lunch counters ... but now we are dealing with issues that cannot be solved without the nation spending billions of dollars and undergoing a radical redistribution of economic power,' King said during a trip to Mississippi in February 1968."

worst helmet and jetpack ever?



via Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine

Fairness Doctrine fight goes on

Fairness Doctrine fight goes on - Keach Hagey - POLITICO.com: "...it’s hard to overstate the importance of the Fairness Doctrine to conservative commentators — its demise in 1987, through an executive order signed by President Ronald Reagan, is credited with the creation of modern-day talk-radio, because broadcasters no longer had to offer competing views on the same broadcasts. (The Fairness Doctrine sometimes gets confused with equal-time provisions that still apply to modern broadcasting, but equal-time rules only apply to political candidates, while the Fairness Doctrine applied to controversial issues.)"

Sunday, January 16, 2011

a screwball comedy of manners

I dunno how Emma and I missed Midnight (1939), but I'm glad Netflix suggested we try it. Maybe we loved it because we didn't expect anything more than a fun performance from Claudette Colbert. But Don Ameche was great, and so was John Barrymore and, well, everyone, and it feels surprisingly mature for a Hollywood comedy of the time. 1939 was an amazing year for Hollywood.

The title of the post isn't my coinage. It came up when I googled the title, and it's about perfect.

It's probably a four-star film, but I'm giving it five at Netflix just so their algorithm knows we like that kind of thing.

kyriarchy: redundant word of the day

I got email pointing me to a word that was new to the writer, "kyriarchy". It was coined in 2001 by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, a Catholic feminist, in Wisdom Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation. Its glossary has her definition:
Kyriarchy - a neologism coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and derived from the Greek words for "lord" or "master" (kyrios) and "to rule or dominate" (archein) which seeks to redefine the analytic category of patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination...Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression.
It's meant to help feminists see the world in more complex ways. She defines the old view like this:
Patriarchy - Literally means the rule of the father and is generally understood within feminist discourses in a dualistic sense as asserting the domination of all men over all women in equal terms. The theoretical adequacy of patriarchy has been challenged because, for instance, black men to not have control over white wo/men and some women (slave/mistresses) have power over subaltern women and men (slaves).
My Ecdysis: Accepting Kyriarchy, Not Apologies expands on the meaning of kyriarchy:
When people talk about patriarchy and then it divulges into a complex conversation about the shifting circles of privilege, power, and domination -- they're talking about kyriarchy. When you talk about power assertion of a White woman over a Brown man, that's kyriarchy. When you talk about a Black man dominating a Brown womyn, that's kyriarchy. It's about the human tendency for everyone trying to take the role of lord/master within a pyramid. At it best heights, studying kyriarchy displays that it's more than just rich, white Christian men at the tip top and, personally, they're not the ones I find most dangerous. There's a helluva lot more people a few levels down the pyramid who are more interested in keeping their place in the structure than to turning the pyramid upside down.

Who's at the bottom of the pyramid? Who do you think are at the bottom of the pyramid who are less likely to scheme and spend extravagant resources to further perpetuate oppression? I think of poor children with no roads out of hell, the mentally ill who are never "credible," un-gendered or non-gender identified people, farm workers, modern day slaves...But, the pyramid stratifies itself from top to bottom. And before you start making a checklist of who is at the top and bottom - here's my advice: don't bother. The pyramid shifts with context. The point is not to rank. The point is to learn.
I told the person who emailed me that I'd run into the term before and:
I think it's an interesting attempt to expand what feminism traditionally covers, but it falls short. Basically, they're creeping toward addressing hierarchy, and kyriarchy is their step in that direction. The examples they give are significant--they're not ready to think about Condi Rice or Oprah Winfrey benefitting from a system that has twice as many white people as brown ones at the bottom.
I was typing quickly without my morning coffee: There are actually twice as many non-Hispanic white people as black or brown ones at the bottom of the US pyramid. But if you include Hispanic and non-Hispanic white people, there are nearly three times as many white people as non-white at the bottom.

Feminists who use "kyriarchy" have reinvented an idea that was understood long before Marx: oppression is a pyramid. Today, the person at its top is a Mexican-Lebanese man, Carlos Slim, who would not be considered "white" by traditional white racists. While the world's five richest people are all men, only two are white. The five richest women are among the world's fifty richest people; four are white (two members of the Walton dynasty, a French woman, and a Swede) and one's Indian.

Feminists who talk of kyriarchy want a fair pyramid of wealth that is simultaneously proportionate in race and gender while accurately representing ability instead of privilege—they subscribe to the myth of meritocracy. As I said recently about other middle-class radicals, they don't dream of a world without hierarchies; they dream of being the benevolent hierarchs.

I'm an equalitarian. I'm not interested in quibbling about pyramids. I want to level them so we can all live in a fair world.

Possibly of interest: Life Inc. - China leads list of world's richest women

Thursday, January 13, 2011

reclaiming words: FAGGOT SNAPPIN' by SGT. SASS

Nothing against the first rapper, but my favorite part of this starts about two minutes in: YouTube - FAGGOT SNAPPIN' by SGT. SASS:

quote of the day: Tertullian

"Tertullian says, Malunt nescire, quia iam oderunt: “They prefer not to know, because they already hate.”"

from Hey, Kids! Let’s talk about BLOOD LIBEL! « Ambrose & Elsewhere:

Oh, Canada, really?

Canada Bans Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing" for Being Too Offensive. No, I'm Not Kidding - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine. I recommend playing Andy Newman's "Rednecks" there.

the marauder’s guide to “wagenplätze”

the marauder’s guide to “wagenplätze” | click clack gorilla

creepy things creepy people do, the Obama edition

In the comments at Frank Marshall Davis’s warning to Barack Obama, somebody leaps in to claim that Davis's porno novel from the '60s was autobiographical. I don't know why it is so hard for some people to understand that a novel is, you know, made up stuff that might have some autobiographical elements or might not and no one but the writer can know.

Doing a little googling to learn whether Davis ever claimed the novel was autobiographical, I found the claim gets repeated on creepy sites that have pictures they say are nudes of Obama's mom. They're not. As usual, all you have to do is check snopes.com: Ann Dunham Soetoro. Answer? False. They're actually a pinup model named Marcy Moore.

I have my complaints with Obama's neoliberalism, but really, if you have to lie to attack someone, you should ask yourself why you're bothering.

But then, creepiness is its own reward.

Yes, I am having empathyfail just now. Posting nudie pics to smear someone's dead mom and claiming that a novel is the same as nonfiction? These people need therapists.

ETA:

Two things I'd like to make as clear as possible:

Regarding the nude pictures, I completely approve of nude photographs. If the pics in question were Obama's mom, I would think that perfectly fine. It's the use of them that's creepy.

Regarding the porn novel, erotica has been part of human art for as long as we know. Here, it's the logic that offends me. Do these people think Daniel Dafoe was actually Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Larry Wilmore on "Huckleberry Finn"

Mark Twain Controversy - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - 01/11/11 - Video Clip | Comedy Central

Julian Assange, Ladies in White, the NED, the CIA, and the terrorist that Republicans love

The notion that Anna Ardin might be involved with the CIA came up on August 23, the same day her name was published by the Swedish press. From the comments on Newzglobe confirms Anna Ardin as one of the women that made the rape allegations against Assange:
Anna Ardins cousin and near friend is Lieutenant Colonel Mattias Ardin, Deputy Head of Operations, Swedish Joint Forces Land Component Command, who works with Nato Operations ... in Afghanistan. There´s a possible CIA connection.
The case for a CIA connection was argued most famously by Israel Shamir and Paul Bennett in "Assange Beseiged". Since it's been publicized that Shamir is a Holocaust-denier, the possibility of CIA involvement has roundly been mocked.

But it hasn't been examined.

We know that she was in Cuba and suspected of being a spy. From her thesis:
In June 2006 I traveled to Cuba with the intention of staying for at least two months interviewing leaders, members and supporters of various Cuban political parties. Only a couple of days after my arrival to José Martí International Airport in Havana I managed to get my first interviews. During the first two weeks I met one or two representatives from each of the four chosen parties and a few other organizations, including my field tutor, the ex-diplomat Miriam Leiva. Miriam is also a key person for the network known as Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) which fights for the rights of political prisoners in Cuba. I owe Miriam greatly for the help she has given, having provided me with, addresses, phone numbers and other input for this thesis, but maybe it was my frequent visits to her and her dissident husband Oscar Chepe’s home that upset the authorities.

One night a young man from the interior ministry came to the house where I rented my room. He told me that I had to stay home the next day because someone would come and ask me a few questions. At eight-thirty the following morning two uniformed men in a police Lada came to take me in for interrogation. They took me to Control de Extranjeros (foreigner control) and put me in a hot waiting room. Finally, after many hours, three anonymous men in civilian clothing questioned me: With whom had I spoken? Why? What did I ask them? How did I get their contacts? What had I been doing the other times I had visited Cuba? Who paid for my trip? Who was my boyfriend in Sweden? Was the cook my Cuban boyfriend? Was I going to publish the facts? This is just an indication of the type of questions I was asked during the two-hour interrogation. After the interrogation they told me the ”truth” that I did not appear to understand: All of the Cubans I had met were liars. They were not opposing to the political system because “here in Cuba we have unity”[1]. They were not political opponents but mercenaries who were paid to say whatever they said to me. They also told me that with a tourist visa I was supposed to do “touristy things”, and their suggestions were: going to the beach, dancing salsa, going to the pool and visiting museums. If I did something else they would kick me out of the country. I could not interview the people I had chosen with the kind of visa I had. So I asked if it was possible to get another visa for this type of interview, to which they replied ”no”. I explained that I had to say goodbye and cancel the appointments I had already made but again they said ”no”. I had to break the contact immediately to be able to stay in the country, and they would know what I did, as they knew what I had been doing until then. At three o’clock they let me out to walk the long way back, in the Cuban summer sun.

It had become too difficult to continue, and I did not want to put my informants at risk, so I decided to leave Cuba. Instead I went to Miami in December 2006 and continued interviewing Cubans there.
So, who are Las damas de blanco? They're an anti-Castro group that has at least one former CIA operative for a supporter, the terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles. (See The devil wore white: Luis Posada Carriles and Ladies in White go out on a limb in Miami with Gloria Estefan, and the CIA File on Luis Posada Carilles.)

Just as the CIA-funded Reporters Without Borders chose a name to sound like a better group, Doctors Without Borders, Cuba's Ladies In White took their style from an Argentinian group. From Ladies in White:
Hebe de Bonafini, president of the Argentine Madres de Plaza de Mayo, has criticized the symbolic use of the white scarf, stating 'Our white scarf symbolises life while those women, that you are talking about Ladies in White, represent death.' Bonafini went on to remark that 'the so-called Ladies in White defend the terrorism of the United States, the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo symbolise our love for our children who were murdered by tyrants imposed by the United States.'
After Ardin left Cuba, she wrote two articles, Vad Händer När Castro Dör? and Kuba Behöver en Ny Politik for Revista de Asignaturas Cubanas, which is published by Misceláneas de Cuba and edited by Alexis Gaínza, who, according to the Cuban press, has CIA ties. Misceláneas de Cuba is associated with Unión Liberal Cubana, whose president is Carlos Alberto Montaner, a supporter of the illegal coup in Honduras and another suspected CIA agent.

Oh what a (not so) tangled web we weave: Is Carlos Montaner Really a CIA Agent? has this about the NED connection to anti-Castro activity:
...the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), accused by some of being a CIA front, gave $225,000 dollars to the Asociación Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana this year, which edits Encuentro, among other things. It’s known that historically, this group has been a recipient of funds coming from the United States, specifically from USAID and the CIA, and so this figure should be surprising to no-one.
Macheteria needn't have qualified the CIA connection. One of the NED's founders, Allen Weinstein, admitted, "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA." (For more about the NED, see National Endowment for Democracy - SourceWatch or click here for my posts about the National Endowment for Democracy.)

However, as Macheteria notes in On Anna Ardin, Israel Shamir and glass houses, these connections do not mean Ardin ever received a penny from the CIA. Anyone who says with certainty that she's working for the CIA is making an association fallacy, just like the people who say Assange must be guilty of rape because the majority of men who are accused of rape are guilty. The intellectually honest position is simple: don't reject possibilities, and don't embrace them. Everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt until something conclusive is known.

ETA: Possibly relevant: Wikileaks Honduras: State Dept. Busted on Support of Coup | Just Foreign Policy.

ETA 2: Expanded the middle part of this after a quibble in the comments.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Who got their right from FDR's second Bill of Rights?

Franklin D. Roosevelt - American Heritage Center, Inc.:
We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.
It's a great list, except for the one tucked in the middle about large businessmen. They're the only one who got theirs.

Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth

YouTube - Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth:

some women lie about rape

For most of my life, I believed the only women who lied about rape were white racists; I was very young when I learned about the Springfield Race Riot of 1908 and the Scottsboro Boys. So, in 1987, when I heard about Tawana Brawley's rape allegations, I believed her. She was a young black woman who claimed she had been raped by white men; I was a liberal who opposed sexism and racism. The possibility that she was lying never occurred to me. I made all the traditional arguments, beginning with the classic "women almost never lie about rape."

But she was lying.

I learned my lesson then: The presumption of innocence means you should not assume the accused or the accuser is lying. Withhold judgment until you're sure all the facts are known.

Anyone who thinks the testimony of two women must be conclusive should read Who says women never lie about rape?:
'Thank goodness,' writes New York prosecutor Linda Fairstein in her book 'Sexual Violence,' '[the victim's] testimony -- when it is credible -- is all that is needed to convict a rapist, as it is any other criminal.'

But what is 'credible'? In 1996, Los Angeles police officer Harris Scott Mintz was accused of rape by two women who were said to be 'very credible': a woman in the neighborhood he patrolled, then his own wife. At a pretrial hearing, the judge pronounced that he had no doubt about Mintz's guilt. Then, Mrs. Mintz admitted that she made up the charge because she was angry at her husband for getting in trouble with the law; subsequently, Mintz's attorneys uncovered evidence that the first accuser had told an ex-roommate she had concocted the rape charge in order to sue the county, and that she had tried a similar hoax before. By the time the case collapsed, Mintz had spent five months in jail.
Finding examples of women lying about rape is surprisingly easy, and sometimes shocking:

Cops: Woman's lie about rape led to lover's beating, sodomy - Philly.com

Duke lacrosse case - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

DANMELL NDONYE: Hofstra Rape Accuser Dropped Claim After Hearing Of Video Recording

Tucker Carlson: Your biggest fan! - Salon.com

Biurny Peguero Gonzalez: Woman Who Lied About Rape Sentenced To 1-3 Years - Gothamist

Heidi Jones WABC: Heidi Jones Suspended From WABC After Fake Rape Allegations | Long Island Press

Tamara Anne Moonier - Gang Rape Was a Lie, O.C. Woman Concedes - Los Angeles Times

Mother of three jailed after making false gang rape claims - to win back her former lover | Mail Online


A number of blogs have been dedicated to the subject. Some of them are undoubtedly by bitter, sexist men, but the bigger question is whether they're right. Cry Rape - Beware Of These Liars seems to accurately collect mainstream accounts of false accusations of rape.

And there's always Wikipedia: False accusation of rape.

*ETA: I included the Kobe Bryant article because it's phrased as a question and includes relevant examples. When the case was dropped, Bryant made a statement: "Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did."

Lie To Me, polygraphs, and command rape

Emma and I have seen the first two episodes of Lie To Me. I like it in general because its writers are happy to point out that polygraphs cannot be trusted as lie detectors; I like the second episode in particular because it's a smart examination of rape in the military.

I've said, when discussing the Assange case, that no means no and consent can be withdrawn at any time, but once you give consent, you have to withdraw it if you want to charge someone with rape. However, that only applies in situations of equivalent power. When one person has the power, meaningful consent is impossible. Sexual relationships between masters and slaves, and adults and minors, may be loving, but they cannot be considered consensual. In the military, where an officer can place a soldier in great danger, the relationship goes beyond that of boss and worker and becomes very, very close to that of master and slave.

Recommended: The private war of women soldiers - Middle East - Salon.com. But I'll add that command rape can occur between people of the same sex.

modern liberal feminism and rape culture

I found two articles from conservatives which may have been thoroughly refuted somewhere that I haven't noticed, but they're interesting, even if they're flawed:

Researching the "Rape Culture" of America by Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers

The Campus Rape Myth by Heather Mac Donald

Googling them, I came across Hateful Quotes From Feminists. Remembering the folks who claimed Dworkin never said all men are rapists, I was amused to find this:
'Under patriarchy, every woman's son is her potential betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman,' Andrea Dworkin, Liberty, p.58..
I should add that I agree with this quote from there:
"Only with the occasional celebrity crime do we allow ourselves to think the nearly unthinkable: that the family may not be the ideal and perfect living arrangement after all - that it can be a nest of pathology and a cradle of gruesome violence,... Even in the ostensibly "functional," nonviolent family, where no one is killed or maimed, feelings are routinely bruised and often twisted out of shape. There is the slap or the put-down that violates a child's shaky sense of self, the cold, distracted stare that drives a spouse to tears, the little digs and rivalries... Barbara Ehrenreich in Time Magazine
The "traditional family" is a myth, a retcon, like the traditional Christmas. It works for some people, and I'm happy for them, but it can be a prison, too. I figure people should find what works for them, and if it does, it ain't nobody else's business.

ETA: Treat the quotes at Hateful Quotes From Feminists with caution; at least one appears to be wrong: snopes.com: Catherine MacKinnon 'All Sex is Rape' Quote.

ETA 2: If you only have time for one essay, read Sommers.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tucson sign


LONGVIEW: Deer Hunting With Jesus

YouTube - LONGVIEW: Deer Hunting With Jesus:

His site: Joe Bageant

via Douglas Lain

quote of the day: Emma Bull

"If being a good person were easy, everybody would be doing it." —Emma Bull

In Defense of Inflamed Rhetoric

The awesome stupidity of the calls to tamp down political speech in the wake of the Giffords shooting. - By Jack Shafer - Slate Magazine

Thousand-Hand Guan Yin

YouTube - Thousand-Hand Guan Yin:


via Christina Bryant

civility or silencing?

In Clinton denounces extremism after Arizona shooting, she said:
The extremists and their voices, the crazy voices that sometimes get on the TV, that's not who we are, that's not who you are, and what we have to do is get through that and make it clear that that doesn't represent either American or Arab ideas or opinions.
Is she suggesting we silence those who disagree with the Democrats and the Republicans? On a number of issues, including taxing the rich, the "crazy voices" are the majority of the American people.

A few months back, I wrote on "fail" and "the tone argument" and noted that the assumption that working class folks can't be polite is all kinds of classist: A famous working class response to rude folks is "Didn't your mama raise you right?"

But the people who cite the tone argument are not completely wrong. The upper class wants to control the discourse. They will sidestep substance by objecting to style.

So, while it's awfully disingenuous of graduates of expensive private universities to make "the tone argument" in their own defense, they're right. It ain't how you say it; it's what you say.

The footnotes:

This post was inspired by The Crow's Eye: Lessons from the last two days of professional liberalism.

Two examples of private school grads defining the tone argument: The Angry Black Woman: The Privilege of Politeness by Naamen Gobert Tilahun and coffeeandink: nice is different than good.

Googling for examples, I came on Think Galacticon’s Statement on Privilege, which begins, "Think Galactic is a pro-woman, pro-queer, and anti-racist group that dreams of a world without oppressive hierarchies." That's a perfect example of middle class radicalism: they don't dream of a world without hierarchies; they dream of being the benevolent hierarchs.

Frederick Douglass on the goodness of people

I'm reading Douglass's third autobiography now. I recommend the first highly, but only dipped briefly into the second and moved on to the third when I realized that was where he told the story of his escape, which he omitted in the earlier books for fear of compromising people who worked the underground railroad.

Anyway, I'm up to the part where he's managing the penultimate stop on that run to freedom. He writes that when they needed to raise money to help runaways make the last leg into Canada,
...we seldom called in vain on whig or democrat for help. Men were better than their theology, and truer to humanity, than to their politics, or their offices.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The truth about tax havens

The truth about tax havens: part 2 | Business | The Guardian:
In the Caribbean, the modern offshore system traces its origins back to the time when organised crime took an interest in the US tax code.

When Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion in 1931, his associate Meyer Lansky became fascinated with developing schemes to get mob money out of the US in order to bring it back, drycleaned. A slick mafia operator, Lansky would beat every criminal charge against him until the day he died in 1983. Lansky began with Swiss banking in 1932, where he perfected the loan-back technique.

First he moved money out of the US in suitcases, diamonds, airline tickets, cashiers' cheques, untraceable bearer shares or whatever. He would put the money in secret Swiss accounts, perhaps via a Liechtenstein Anstalt (an anonymous company with a single secret shareholder) for extra secrecy. The Swiss bank would then loan the money back to a mobster in the United States and the money would return home, clean.

By 1937 Lansky had started casino operations in Cuba, outside the reach of the US tax authorities, and he and his friends built up gambling, racetrack and drugs businesses there. It was, effectively, an offshore money-laundering centre for the mob.

Lansky then moved to Miami and plotted to find his next Cuba, small enough and corrupt enough to be able to buy the political leadership, and close enough to the United States for the gamblers to come and go at will.

David Wynn Miller, another possible rightwing influence on Loughner

David Wynn Miller: "On April 6, 1988, Miller invented what he calls the Mathematical Interface for Language or Quantum-Math-Communications and Language or Correct-Language. According to Miller, his language is "for the stopping-claims of the Theft, Cheating, Fraud, Slavery and War." Some people have used features of Miller's language in attempts to defend themselves in courts of law."

ETA from comments below: Milwaukee man's website mirrors suspect's conspiracy statements - JSOnline

the likely influences on Jared Lee Loughner: Jared Taylor, David Icke, Alex Jones, Lyndon LaRouche, and Glenn Beck

When I first read about Loughner's postings on the web, I thought his beliefs were a mad mashup: a flag burner obsessed with thought control and creating his own currency who cites Mein Kamp and the Communist Manifesto? It seemed impossible to put his politics anywhere on the traditional US political spectrum.

Which doesn't stop people from trying. A conservative argues, Left-Winger JARED LOUGHNER – He Likes Watching US Flags Burn & Favorite Book is Communist Manifesto. A liberal friend claims he must be rightwing because he's pro-life, anti-Fed, and supports the gold standard.

I've encountered a few pro-life communists, and people on the left and right oppose the Fed, but the gold standard is the big clue to Loughner's politics. It's an obsession of right-libertarians.

The DHS is following at least one rightwing lead. From DHS probing shooter's ties to fanatical group:
A Department of Homeland Security memo quoted by Fox News says the agency is looking into whether Loughner is “possibly linked” to the fanatical group American Renaissance.

The group promotes views that are “anti-government, anti-immigration, anti -ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti-Semitic,” the DHS memo says.

It’s not immediately clear that Loughner was actually a member.

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the target of Loughner’s firing frenzy, is “the first Jewish female elected to such a high position in the US government. She was also opposite this group’s ideology when it came to immigration debate,” according the DHS memo.
American Renaissance "is a monthly conservative racialist magazine published by the New Century Foundation." Its editor, Jared Taylor, is "somewhat unique among American white nationalists for his opposition to anti-semitism."

So Giffords being Jewish may not be part of the reason Loughner targeted her. Then again, it may, because prejudice against Jews turns up in others who seem to have infuenced Loughner.

The obsessions with new currency and the dream world point to David Icke, who thinks the world's rulers are reptilian space aliens. The motto on Icke's site is "exposing the dreamworld we believe to be real." From Wikipedia: "Some of Icke's theories have attracted the attention of the far right and the suspicion of Jewish groups; for example, he has argued that the reptilians were the original authors of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a 1903 Russian forgery purporting to be a plan by the Jewish people to achieve world domination. Icke strongly denies there is anything antisemitic about this claim."

Loughner's concerns also point to Alex Jones, who thinks Fiat Currencies May be Replaced by Gold Standard. Wikipedia says, "Jones sees himself as a libertarian, and rejects being described as a right-winger. He has also called himself a paleoconservative. In a promotional biography he is described as an 'aggressive constitutionalist'." Alex Jones wants control of the Tea Party and despises the neocons who are taking it over.

Another rightwinger comes up with Loughner's obsessions: Lyndon LaRouche, a former leftist who officially opposes abortion and wants currency change.

And then there's Glenn Beck, who's big on the gold standard.

The Tea Party unites these folks. From Tea Party Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right:
Tea Party events have become a magnet for other groups and causes — including gun rights activists, anti-tax crusaders, libertarians, militia organizers, the “birthers” who doubt President Obama’s citizenship, Lyndon LaRouche supporters and proponents of the sovereign states movement.

It is a sprawling rebellion, but running through it is a narrative of impending tyranny. This narrative permeates Tea Party Web sites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and YouTube videos. It is a prominent theme of their favored media outlets and commentators, and it connects the disparate issues that preoccupy many Tea Party supporters — from the concern that the community organization Acorn is stealing elections to the belief that Mr. Obama is trying to control the Internet and restrict gun ownership.

WorldNetDaily.com trumpets “exclusives” reporting that the Army is seeking “Internment/Resettlement” specialists. On ResistNet.com, bloggers warn that Mr. Obama is trying to convert Interpol, the international police organization, into his personal police force. They call on “fellow Patriots” to “grab their guns.”

Mr. Beck frequently echoes Patriot rhetoric, discussing the possible arrival of a “New World Order” and arguing that Mr. Obama is using a strategy of manufactured crisis to destroy the economy and pave the way for dictatorship.
Ultimately, what's clear is that Loughner needed therapy. The national debate about his attack should include a discussion about the state of mental health in the US. I wonder if Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer regrets signing off on a $36 million reduction in funding to the Arizona Department of Health Services?

P.S. On twitter, Doug Lain mentioned Larouche, Jones, and Icke when I was wondering about Loughner; he should get any credit, but no blame, for pointing out the dots.

ETA: See also David Wynn Miller, another possible rightwing influence on Loughner.

The Value of a Human Life? Bankers, firefighters, Iraqis, Afghanis, Insurance Patients

What Is the Value of a Human Life? « Kenneth Feinberg | This I Believe:
After September 11, I confronted the challenge of placing a value on human life by calculating different amounts of compensation for each and every victim. The law required that I give more money to the stockbroker, the bond trader, and the banker, than to the waiter, the policeman, the fireman, and the soldier at the Pentagon. This is what happens every day in courtrooms throughout our nation. Our system of justice has always been based upon this idea — that compensation for death should be directly related to the financial circumstances of each victim.

But as I met with the 9/11 families and wrestled with issues surrounding the valuation of lives lost, I began to question this basic premise of our legal system. Trained in the law, I had always accepted that no two lives were worth the same in financial terms. But now I found the law in conflict with my growing belief in the equality of all life. “Mr. Feinberg, my husband was a fireman and died a hero at the World Trade Center. Why are you giving me less money than the banker who represented Enron? Why are you demeaning the memory of my husband?”

9/11 Life Worth $1.8 million; Iraqi Life, $2,000. What Does It Mean? | World | AlterNet:
Using publicly available numbers, one can calculate that the U.S. government values an innocent civilian slaughtered by al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001 at $1.8 million, and an Iraqi civilian killed by Marines at $2,000.

How much are Iraqi and Afghan lives worth? The thorny debate over compensation payments and why it matters to the U.S. war effort. - By Will Oremus - Slate Magazine:
In 2007, an Iraqi civilian from Baghdad filed a claim for damages against the U.S. Army. In the paperwork he completed, he explained that his son Wa'ad had been driving a taxi one February morning and was on his way home to refuel when a passenger flagged him down. Moments later, a U.S. tank stationed half a mile away opened fire, hitting the taxi with two missiles. Wa'ad was found burned to death inside.

The Iraqi asked the United States for $10,000 in compensation: $5,000 for his son's death, and $5,000 for the ruined taxi.

The claim was more or less typical of the thousands filed by Iraqis against the United States under the Foreign Claims Act since the war there began in 2003. Many were denied, often based on technicalities. But this man was among the luckier ones: The United States paid him $2,800 for son and taxi combined.

The Value of a Human Life: $129,000 - TIME:
In theory, a year of human life is priceless. In reality, it's worth $50,000.

That's the international standard most private and government-run health insurance plans worldwide use to determine whether to cover a new medical procedure. More simply, insurance companies calculate that to make a treatment worth its cost, it must guarantee one year of "quality life" for $50,000 or less. New research, however, would argue that that figure is far too low.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

McCain just doesn't get it: the attack on Gabrielle Giffords

McCain: Giffords Shooter Is A 'Disgrace To Arizona, This Country And The Human Race' | TPMDC.

What happened to Gabrielle Giffords and everyone with her is horrible. But it is also horrible to simply pretend this was the result of something done by a "disgrace to the human race." We don't know the motive, but we know a young man chose to take lives. John McCain's call for "contempt and punishment" will do nothing to address the failure here. Those who pray should include the young man and his family in their prayers, too.

And they should include John McCain. The absence of compassion in political discourse is, at this moment, the one thing I would give anything to change to make a better world.

the difference between neoliberals and neoconservatives

The glib answer: What difference? David Harvey's book, probably the best on the subject, is titled A Brief History of Neoliberalism; there isn't even a subtitle mentioning neoconservatism. But Harvey addresses neoconservatism:
US neoconservatives favour corporate power, private enterprise, and the restoration of class power. Neoconservatism is therefore entirely consistent with the neoliberal agenda of elite governance, mistrust of democracy, and the maintenance of market freedoms. But it veers away from the principles of pure neoliberalism and has reshaped neoliberal practices in two fundamental respects: first, in its concern for order as an answer to the chaos of individual interests, and second, in its concern for an overweening morality as the necessary social glue to keep the body politic secure in the face of external and internal changes.
In the US, the difference seems greater than it does in countries with a wide range of political parties: Barack Obama and most Democrats since Bill Clinton are neoliberals; George Bush and most Republicans since Ronald Reagan are neoconservatives.

The neoliberal relationship to identity politics is complex. David Harvey notes:
Neoliberal rhetoric, with its foundational emphasis upon individual freedoms, has the power to split off libertarianism, identity politics, multi-culturalism, and eventually narcissistic consumerism from the social forces ranged in pursuit of social justice through the conquest of state power. It has long proved extremely difficult within the US left, for example, to forge the collective discipline required for political action to achieve social justice without offending the desire of political actors for individual freedom and for full recognition and expression of particular identities. Neoliberalism did not create these distinctions, but it could easily exploit, if not foment, them.
In the US, neocons tend to reject identity politics, with a significant exception: Christian and Jewish neocon Zionists will claim critics of Israel are antisemitic, even when those critics are Jewish. (For example, see Stéphane Hessel.) Otherwise, this is how neocon identity politics tend to play out:
  • If you're X: "Stop whining and get a job."
  • If you're not-X: "Why do you care? You're not-X."
Neoliberals are more amenable to identity politics, so their approach is more likely to be along these lines:
  • If you're X: "We want to make a world where being X won't keep anyone out of the ruling class."
  • If you're not-X: "We want to make a world where everyone in the ruling class can feel like they earned their privilege fairly."
It's true that some of the strongest advocates of identity politics claim they aren't neoliberals, but their tactics serve neoliberalism. Here's David Harvey again:
Civil rights were an issue, and questions of sexuality and of reproductive rights were very much in play. For almost everyone involved in the movement of '68, the intrusive state was the enemy and it had to be reformed. And on that, the neoliberals could easily agree. But capitalist corporations, business, and the market system were also seen as primary enemies requiring redress if not revolutionary transformation; hence the threat to capitalist class power. By capturing ideals of individual freedom and turning them against the interventionist and regulatory practices of the state, capitalist class interest could hope to protect and even restore their position. Neoliberalism was well suited to this ideological task. But it had to be backed up by a practical strategy that emphasized the liberty of consumer choice, not only with respect to particular products but also with respect to lifestyles, modes of expression, and a wide range of cultural practices. Neoliberalization required both politically and economically the construction of a neoliberal market-based populist culture of differentiated consumerism and individual libertarianism. As such it proved more than a little compatible with that cultural impulse called 'post-modernism' which had long been lurking in the wings but could now emerge full-blown as both a cultural and an intellectual dominant. This was the challenge that corporations and class elites set out to finesse in the 1980s.
Doing a little googling, I came across Neoliberalism: Neoconservatism Without a Smirk, which has a great title and makes some good points, like:
Both neolibs and neocons are authoritarian statists each with their own definition of political correctness.  Politically correct neolibs are expected to be pro-abortion, pro-gay-lesbian, pro-affirmative action, pro-Israel, pro-gun control, anti-clerical, pro-big government, and pro-American Empire.  Anyone who does not conform to this litany or who associates with those who do not, is at risk of being attacked by a left wing truth squad such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and accused of the likes of homophobia, racism, anti-semitism, religious fundamentalism, or even hate crimes.  Politically correct neocons are more likely to be pro-life, anti-gay-lesbian, anti-affirmative action, pro-Israel, anti-gun control, pro-clerical, pro-big government, and pro-Empire.  Both are vehemently opposed to secession.

Above all, what neoliberals and neoconservatives have in common is that they are technofascists.  Benito Mussolini defined fascism as “the merger of state and corporate power.”  Technofascism is the melding of corporate, state, military, and technological power by a handful of political elites which enables them to manipulate and control the population through the use of money, markets, media and the Internet.
ETA: Tweaked the middle section about identity politics.

Rubberbandits - Horse Outside

YouTube - Rubberbandits - Horse Outside


via 5 Satirists Attacked by People Who Totally Missed the Point | Cracked.com

The funniest piece of class warfare ever written?

Today's contender: Jonathan Swift - A Modest Proposal

Friday, January 7, 2011

a generic political post so I can stop sharing political news

Neoliberals obstructed significant social change by insisting everyone focus on identity politics. Neoconservatives laughed all the way to the bank.

My hope: I won't post any more political news until the above no longer applies. Begin the countdown....

good article on Assange by leftist woman

Why feminists and the left must defend Julian Assange | activ8change.net

good article on Assange by conservative woman

Julian Assange, Feminism, and Rape - Reason Magazine

Is neoliberal feminism the same as traditional sexism?

Traditional sexists and neoliberal feminists have the same beliefs about rape:

1. Names of rape accusers should not be published.

2. Accused rapists should be assumed to be guilty. (In the 19th and early 20th century, this belief led to many lynchings of black and white men.)

Recommended:

Overholser favors naming rape victims | Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication

Naomi Wolf: Take the shame out of rape | UK news | The Guardian

Moon Girl



Her origin: EC's only superhero(ine)

Covers of her comic: Pop: Moon Girl

Frederick Douglass on poor whites

from his first autobiography:
The impression which I had received respecting the character and condition of the people of the north, I found to be singularly erroneous. I had very strangely supposed, while in slavery, that few of the comforts, and scarcely any of the luxuries, of life were enjoyed at the north, compared with what were enjoyed by the slaveholders of the south. I probably came to this conclusion from the fact that northern people owned no slaves. I supposed that they were about upon a level with the non-slaveholding population of the south. I knew they were exceedingly poor, and I had been accustomed to regard their poverty as the necessary consequence of their being non-slaveholders. I had somehow imbibed the opinion that, in the absence of slaves, there could be no wealth, and very little refinement.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

wondering about interracial romance in fantasy and science fiction

When Emma made the romantic lead in War for the Oaks a black man, it didn't seem like a big deal because we were total Delany and Sturgeon fans: we knew interracial romance—meaning human interracial romance, not Space Princess romance involving white men and green or red women—had been written by the time we were teenagers, which meant it was ancient history.

But now I'm wondering how common it was. My google fu is weak; I keep thinking some genre historian must've made a list of interracial f&sf romance stories, but I'm not finding any.

The lead in Starship Troopers is a black South American Filipino*, but I can't remember if there's even a romance in that book. If I had to bet money, I would guess Sturgeon got to interracial romance first.

* Thanks to Anonymous in comments for correcting that.