Wednesday, April 30, 2014

anyone should be able to tell that "social justice warrior" is ironic, unlike "social justice worker", but Poe's Law rules online

Just left this comment at bingo cards go both ways | Fredrik deBoer: "The distinction between the internet meme, “social justice warrior”, and the social justice worker who works in the world is crucial. I want to think anyone would realize a “warrior” for peace is an ironic term, but alas, it’s the internet, where Poe’s Law rules."

And since I'm on the subject, I've seen a person or two suggest I coined "social justice warrior". Nope. I'm not sure where I found it first, but it's been around a while. Urban Dictionary had it long before me, and so did Be a SJ Ally, not a SJ Sally. I don't like it, but it's common, and I haven't found another name for identitarians who think raging online about social privilege will make a better world. If I was prone to conspiracy theory, I would think they were all provocateurs trying to discredit the real social justice workers who spend time in the world working to end poverty for everyone, regardless of their social identity.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When did the Hugos become the Dancing Bear Awards?

There's an old saying about dancing bears: "The marvel is not that the bear dances well, but that the bear dances at all." The uproar over conservatives nominating conservatives for the Hugo reminded me of that.

When I was young and reading f&sf, people like Samuel R. Delany, Ursula LeGuin, and Octavia Butler won awards because they wrote well. No one promoted them on the basis of their social or political or publishing identity. But now, houses like Tor provide lists of who they've published, and sites like 50books_poc provide lists of work by people of color, and Lady Business has feminist lists, and RetroHugoWomen lists women of the past who're eligible for RetroHugos. So far as I can tell, only the socialists have failed to provide slates. Which is entirely my bad. I didn't know that's how the game is played now.

I doubt there was ever a time when the Hugo Awards were not affected by backstage manipulation. But in the last few years, it seems how well the thing is done is less important than who is doing it. Everyone wants their bears to win the dance. Or maybe the awards are seen as an arena now, and the game is bear-baiting.

Whatever the case, may the best bear win.

Recommended: Asking the Wrong Questions: The 2014 Hugo Awards: Thoughts on Award-Pimping

Mark Twain shows politics on the internet are the same old same old

"Men think they think upon great political questions, and they do; but they think with their party, not independently; they read its literature, but not that of the other side; they arrive at convictions, but they are drawn from a partial view of the matter in hand and are of no particular value. They swarm with their party, they feel with their party, they are happy in their party’s approval; and where the party leads they will follow, whether for right and honor, or through blood and dirt and a mush of mutilated morals." —Mark Twain

That's from a great little essay, Corn-pone Opinions.

Writing is rewriting: Twain and the first line of Huckleberry Finn

First Half of 'Huck Finn,' in Twain's Hand, Is Found - New York Times: "The manuscript shows that Twain changed the opening lines of "Huckleberry Finn" three times. Twain first wrote, "You will not know about me," which he then changed to, "You do not know about me," before arriving at the final version: "You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer'; but that ain't no matter.""

Monday, April 28, 2014

The top three YA writers on NPR's 100 are female, plus When people learned J. K. Rowling was female

According to Best Young Adult Novels, Best Teen Fiction, Top 100 Teen Novels, the three most popular YA writers are, in order, J. K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, and Harper Lee. John Green, the first man, shows up at number four.

I looked that up because I fell into a discussion at Blindingly White: BookCon, John Green, and Knowing When It's Time to Speak Up, where Brenna Clarke Gray said,
we can’t pretend John Green’s whiteness, his maleness, and his heterosexuality aren’t central to his brand. They’re essential to his brand.
That got me curious about what's essential to a "brand" that leads to success in YA. A few people in the comments pointed out that Rowling had used her initials because her publisher thought she would sell better if she didn't write under a gendered name. I noted,
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was published on 26 June 1997. On 8 July 1997, this appeared in the Guardian: "Debut author and single mother sells children's book for £100,000" So it appears no one tried to hide her identity after the publisher decided to give her a major promotion.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Jim is not called "Nigger Jim" in Huckleberry Finn

From List of Tom Sawyer characters - Wikipedia:

The words "nigger" and "Jim" appear side-by-side only once in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in Chapter XXXI, in a letter Huck writes to Mrs. Watson, but they are not used as a name. After "nigger Jim" appeared in Albert Bigelow Paine's 1912 Clemens biography, it continued to be used by twentieth-century critics, including Leslie Fiedler, Norman Mailer, Ernest Hemingway, and Russell Baker.
Bigelow's influence is amazing. If I hadn't read that, I wouldn't have noticed how Louis CK misremembers the book:

Also interesting:

Why Jim Needs to Remain Huck Finn’s “Nigger” - COLORLINES

What Would Frederick Douglass Say About ‘Huckleberry Finn’? - When a black college student won't read Frederick Douglass's autobiography because of the word "nigger", something's wrong with the world.

Twain's butler, who may have been part of the inspiration for the character: George Griffin (butler) - Wikipedia

Friday, April 25, 2014

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

On free speech in general, I still stand by what I said about this cartoon at XKCD doesn't understand free speech—or the difference between legal and moral rights.

But it took some discussion in the comments there before I realized how badly XKCD had addressed the issue if it's supposed to apply to Brendan Eich, the Mozilla CEO who donated $1000 to defeat gay marriage in California and, according to Mozilla Co-Founder Brendan Eich Resigns as CEO, Leaves Foundation Board, "repeatedly declined to answer when asked if he would donate to a similar initiative today."

Money is not speech. Eich was not stating his belief; he was using dollars most of us do not have to suppress a basic human right, the right to marry the person you love. His case is a  classic example of capital versus democracy. When the privileged use their wealth against the people, it's right to respond with the people's tool, the boycott.

That said, I agree with the gay folks who signed the petition at Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent: Why We Must Have Both: "People must be allowed to be wrong in order to continually test what is right. We should criticize opposing views, not punish or suppress them."

When people use words against you, respond with words. When the rich use their wealth against you, target their wealth.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

a "best art" award is not a "best person" award: on Vox Day and the Hugo, and Elia Kazan and the Oscar

The more repressive leftists of science fiction fandom are upset because Vox Day has a story on this year's Hugo Award ballot and are proudly announcing they will not read it and will vote against it. I, a free speech socialist who has worked and marched for many causes that Vox Day abhors, from integration to gay marriage, am entirely indifferent to his presence on the ballot and will shrug if he wins, because this is a truth: the art is not the artist.

When Elia Kazan, infamous for informing to HUAC rather than face the risk of being blacklisted by Hollywood, was chosen in 1999 for an Honorary Academy Award "in appreciation of a long, distinguished and unparalleled career during which he has influenced the very nature of filmmaking through his creation of cinematic masterpieces", I first thought he should not be honored. I don't like cowards and opportunists, and the anti-union subtext of On The Waterfront will always bug me.

But he was a great director. Whether some people who he informed on would've become even greater directors if they hadn't been blacklisted, we'll never know, but anyone interested in the art of film should know Kazan's work. If anyone deserves an Honorary Academy Award, Kazan does.

Whether Vox Day deserves a Hugo, I haven't a clue—I haven't read the nominated story. But I know this: anyone who votes for a literary award without reading all of the nominees is being intellectually dishonest. You don't have to see or read the whole story, but you should be able to say what it was about the work that stopped you from finishing it. "The reputation of the artist" is only valid if you're voting for Miss Congeniality.

Now, I'll happily agree with the argument that the Hugos and the Oscars are only popularity contests. Anyone who studies a field can make a list of works as good or better than the ones that won awards. But if that's your take, please leave art out of the discussion and just admit you're supporting your team.

ETA: At The Wheel of Time Nominated for a Hugo Award, Brandon Sanderson notes, "The Hugo Awards are a popularity contest—but they should be a fiction popularity contest, not an author popularity contest."

ETA 2: Larry Correia responds to the uproar at An explanation about the Hugo awards controversy | Monster Hunter Nation

ETA 3: Roman Polanski and the sin of simplification | Victoria Coren Mitchell: "When Roman Polanski, who has lived in exile from America and its justice system for decades, was nominated for an Oscar for directing The Pianist, Samantha Geimer called on the Academy to "judge the movie, not the man"."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Haters hate haters, and the intolerant are intolerant of intolerance

Sometimes when talking about free speech and tolerance, someone will proudly say they're intolerant of intolerance. Sometimes when talking about hate, someone will say they hate haters. I've been that person. I thought I was clever, which made it harder to see I was wrong.

I've found a quote for repressive anti-racists:

"The political core of any movement for freedom in the society has to have the political imperative to protect free speech." —bell hooks

For repressive Democrats, here's one from Clinton's Secretary of Health and Human Services:

"You can't have a university without having free speech, even though at times it makes us terribly uncomfortable. If students are not going to hear controversial ideas on college campuses, they're not going to hear them in America. I believe it's part of their education." —Donna Shalala

For repressive socialists, an anarchist poet:

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

Refraining from silencing the people you see as enemies falls under a truth shared by all major religions and many great thinkers: love your enemy. A few quotes:

“It is easy enough to be friendly to one's friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

"Hatreds never cease through hatred in this world; through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law." —Buddha

"He whose heart is in the smallest degree set upon Goodness will dislike no one." —Confucius

"I treat those who are good with goodness, And I also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained." —Lao Tzu

"The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo!, he between whom and you there was enmity shall become as though he were a bosom friend. But none is granted it save those who are steadfast, and none is granted it save a person of great good fortune." —Qur'an 41.34-35

“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (from "Loving Your Enemies")” ― Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

My favorite gospel is Luke's, so here's his version of Jesus's advice, Luke 6:27-36:
27“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29“Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30“Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33“If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34“If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the sameamount. 35“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Gayatri Spivak on silenced white men

Gayatri Spivak (1990) The Postcolonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, Dialogues. Routledge: London, pp. 62-63:
I will have in an undergraduate class, let’s say, a young, white, male student, politically-correct, who will say: “I am only a bourgeois white male, I can’t speak.” In that situation – it’s peculiar, because I am in the position of power and their teacher and, on the other hand, I am not a bourgeois white male – I say to them: “Why not develop a certain degree of rage against the history that has written such an abject script for you that you are silenced?” Then you begin to investigate what it is that silences you, rather than take this very deterministic position – since my skin colour is this, since my sex is this, I cannot speak. I call these things, as you know, somewhat derisively, chromatism: basing everything on skin colour – “I am white, I can’t speak” – and genitalism: depending on what genitals you have, you can or cannot speak in certain situations.

From this position, then, I say you will of course not speak in the same way about the Third World material, but if you make it your task not only to learn what is going on there through language, through specific programmes of study, but also at the same time through a historical critique of your position as the investigating person, then you will see that you have earned the right to criticize, and you will be heard. When you take the position of not doing your homework – “I will not criticize because of my accident of birth, the historical accident” – that is a much more pernicious position.

In one way you take a risk to criticize, of criticizing something which is Other – something which you used to dominate. I say that you have to take a certain risk: to say “I won’t criticize” is salving your conscience, and allowing you not to do any homework. On the other hand, if you criticize having earned the right to do so, then you are indeed taking a risk and you will probably be made welcome, and can hope to be judged with respect.
via Doug Henwood

Monday, April 21, 2014

on equalism, egalitarianism, and feminism—and who's appropriating who. ETA: masculinism, too!

Someone on Reddit claimed egalitarians were "appropriating" from feminism, so I just went word nerd at the Oxford English Dictionary and found their first usages: In English, egalitarian appears in 1885 and feminism in 1895. Both words come from the French, but egalité was first there, too; Charles Fourier didn't coin feminism until 1837. So if anyone's appropriating, it's feminism.

I also checked my favorite: equalist is from 1661. The OED notes it's rare, but still, it's a fine old word, and best of all, it's short.

Dora Montefiore objected to the word feminism in 1901, but she was too late. I love her objection, so I'll quote her again, italicizing my favorite line:
"I cannot help regretting that the word “feminism” has crept into the debate. It is a word of which we have no need in England, and which we might very well have left in its native land, France, where it was coined by men to express the contemptuous lack of understanding of the Boulevard for a phase of strenuous belief on the part of some French men and women, that woman possessed other functions and aspirations outside those of sex; in a word, was a human being as well as a female. It is a lop-sided expression, and leads to lop-sided thinking, just as the term “masculinism” might do, if used in a similar connection. Where education, professions, political rights and public duties are concerned, there is no necessity to emphasise sex; we all meet on the common ground of human beings, having common human interests. In 1897, when speaking at the Women’s Congress in Brussels, I made a similar protest against the word “feminism,” suggesting that we should substitute for it “humanism,” as the advancement of humanity, and not of one sex over another, was the aim and object of the women at that time assembled in conference. The late Madame Potonié Pierre, one of the most large-minded among the French workers in the cause of equal rights for women, felt the justice of my plea, and wrote several articles in the same spirit; but the word “feminism” proved too attractive to the esprit gaulois, and it still reigns supreme in French bourgeois circles, and threatens to invade England." -Dora Montefiore, A Bundle of Fallacies
ETA: Masculinism ("Advocacy of the rights of men; adherence to or promotion of opinions, values, etc., regarded as typical of men; (more generally) anti-feminism, machismo" is from 1911. The first two citations are interesting because things didn't go the way the writers hoped:
1911 Freewoman 30 Nov. 24 "Masculinism and feminism are relative terms, and when one is strong enough to equate the other both will become merged in a common doctrine of humanism."
1916 H. Ellis Essays in War-time viii. 88 "The advocates of Woman's Rights have seldom been met by the charge that they were unjustly encroaching on the Rights of Man. Feminism has never encountered an aggressive and self-conscious Masculinism."

Friday, April 18, 2014

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

The cartoon

Its mouseover text: "I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express."

My analysis

Panel One: This only refers to the legal right of free speech, and it's objectively wrong. Every country can arrest you for what you say. Julian Assange and Edward Snowden will happily assure you that the US government has that power, and the Pirate Party will add that you can be arrested for sharing things corporations claim through copyright, trademark, or patent law. The list of limitations to legal free speech in the US is long—see Wikipedia's United States free speech exceptions.

But the difference between the law and morality matters. I have a legal right to try to silence anyone I want to, but I have a moral obligation to support everyone's right to speak, no matter how much I disagree with them.

ETA: An example of free speech that's legal but generally considered immoral: "outing" people by sharing information they would prefer to keep private.

Panel Two: If anyone can link to anyone who says everyone should have to listen to everyone or host everyone, I'd be grateful. Otherwise, the stickman is arguing with a strawman.

Update: I got email from someone who offered this as a possible example: 
It's hard to tell too much from a tweet, but Jindal's a Republican, so I think we can safely assume that Jindal believes the marketplace should decide who gets to be on commercial TV. Since Duck Dynasty wasn't canceled, things worked out as Jindal thought they should.

Panel Three: More strawman.

Panel Four: When you've been invited to speak and then are prevented from speaking, the principle of free speech has been violated, even when it's legal. When Clark University invited Norman Finkelstein to speak, then canceled the speech in response to protesters, Sarah Wunsch of the ACLU wrote:
...the cancellation of his speech violates the basic principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom which are so fundamental to an institute of higher learning. The existence of an opportunity to speak at another time or in another location does not remedy the wrong of censorship.
...Nor may complaints from those disturbed by Finkelstein’s writings about the post-Holocaust “industry” justify a decision to prevent the lecture from taking place. Indeed, even if demonstrators came to protest against Finkelstein’s views, the obligation of a university is to protect the speaker’s right to be heard and prevent disruption of the speech by others. By censoring speech because of complaints about offensiveness or the controversial nature of the speaker, the university has essentially allowed what the courts call a “heckler’s veto” over what speech can be heard.
Panel Five: Every censor makes that argument.

Panel Six: And that's every censor's goal.

Mouseover: When you cite free speech, you are only asserting a right to speak. By definition, you cannot convince ideologues you are right, but when they have the power to silence you, you can hope they have enough respect for free speech to let you speak despite their belief you're wrong.

Note: Many fans of censorship think only governments can censor. Not true. From the ACLU’s “What is censorship?”:
Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional. 
In contrast, when private individuals or groups organize boycotts against stores that sell magazines of which they disapprove, their actions are protected by the First Amendment, although they can become dangerous in the extreme. Private pressure groups, not the government, promulgated and enforced the infamous Hollywood blacklists during the McCarthy period. But these private censorship campaigns are best countered by groups and individuals speaking out and organizing in defense of the threatened expression.
ETA: Turning off comments. I completely agree that no one has an obligation to host discussion they do not want to hear. On free speech, I will always be on Voltaire's side, and I hope I'll always be on the ACLU's side.

ETA 2: It bugged me to turn off the comments, so I turned them back on.

ETA 3: Wikipedia has a nice short article on the Marketplace of ideas.

ETA 4: There are many fine comments on this post, so please skim them before adding another. In particular, I recommend Kasper Brohus Allerslev's long comment, which makes these points, among others:
"Freedom of speech is, at least to me, more an ideal than an actual right."

"Taking away a person's right to speak is not the same as not listening."

"We do not want to live in a society where opposition is quelled. We want to live in a society founded on reason. "

"When people go out of their way to punish you for your beliefs, that's an affront to the freedom of speech."
ETA 5: Actually, what XKCD doesn't understand is that money is not speech (XKCD doesn't understand free speech, take 2)

ETA 6: RE: xkcd #1357 free speech | Sealed Abstract

ETA 7: I made a short response in a cartoon: Explaining free speech to XKCD, a cartoon

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What 92% of Americans consider ideal is only possible under socialism

This is a few years old, but I happened on it again today, and was struck by this: The distribution of wealth that 92% of Americans want is impossible under capitalism, but very possible under socialism.

Here's the reality:

In case you missed it:

Monday, April 14, 2014

I just figured out how to do racial reparations!

I'm a great fan of Matt Bruenig's work, but I was disappointed with Glaring limits of the Civil Rights Act: We need to redistribute wealth. He says, "Ideally, we could work towards reparations in the form of redistributing wealth along racial lines."

In the comments, I said,
How do you redistribute along racial lines? Do you exclude the descendants of black slaveowners? And when you do the redistribution, what do you do about the white poor? Should one racial group suffering from generational poverty be helped and another ignored? In 1967, Martin Luther King said something that's still true today: "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."

I like King's solution, Universal Basic Income, for a lot of reasons. One reason is that it doesn't try to examine the many reasons different groups are poor. It cuts to the chase and eliminates poverty.
But thinking about it a bit more, I tweeted Bruenig:
So how do you implement reparations for black folks? Give money to everyone who checks "black" on the census?
He replied:
Yeah I think that would work.
I tweeted back:
Cool! End of US white majority overnight! (And I like the idea that white racists would pay for their commitment to whiteness.)
And then:
Okay, if you said people had to stick with what they put on the last census, I guess that'd work.
But there would still be the biggest problem with racial reparations: How do you justify giving nothing to the white poor? Very, very few of them are descended from people who owned slaves, and the argument that the white poor benefitted from slavery is hard to make if you know history: the US's free poor of all races competed with slave labor, and the ones who benefitted were the rich of all races.

As for the notion the free white poor got to feel superior to someone, that worked both ways. From White trash:
In 1833 Fanny Kemble, an English actress visiting Georgia, noted in her journal: "The slaves themselves entertain the very highest contempt for white servants, whom they designate as 'poor white trash'".
So I guess the title of this post is a lie. But I came closer to figuring out the "how" of racial reparations than anyone else I've noticed discussing the idea.

ETA: In the discussion, someone wanted to keep the focus on black injustice, so I asked this:
Let's say you're only interested in African American unfairness and not interested in Hispanic American, American Indian, or Poor White American unfairness. How do you set up a reparations system that only benefits black Americans? How do you justify giving money to Herman Cain instead of a homeless white veteran?

An essential point about averages

At Are Americans really jingoistic yahoos? A cautionary statistical tale, Gibby the Fifth commented, "My boss taught me another lesson about averages – always look at the range as well as the mean. To illustrate, he pointed out that the average American has one tit and one ball."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

a bad day for feminism and social work, and a fine example of fooling a mob

via Sociopath woman pushes a man off a ledge, then gets cheered by a crowd for the deed:

MTSU student jailed in assault of preacher: "A female Middle Tennessee State University student was booked for simple assault at the Rutherford County jail Tuesday after a confrontation with a visiting preacher a few hours earlier at the university. Michaela Morales, a junior social work major, according to Sidelines newspaper, faces charges after visiting preacher John McGlone fell in an altercation with Morales at MTSU. McGlone was being treated at MTMC emergency room where he was in stable condition, a hospital spokeswoman said."

MTSU Student Accused Of Assaulting Preacher includes the most important detail:
"From what we saw, we felt that she crossed the line," said Lt. Jim Fanguy, MTSU police department. "She was making comments that she was being inappropriately touched. However, the video showed otherwise."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Regarding Damien Walter's "Science fiction needs to reflect that the future is queer"

At Science fiction needs to reflect that the future is queer, I left this comment: "I'm surprised Walter thinks SF didn't get to the subject until the 1960s. Theodore Sturgeon's "The World Well Lost" is from 1953."

I read Sturgeon as a kid. Maybe he made me think the field is more accepting than it is, but Sturgeon seemed to set the tone for the field as I have known it all my life. I rather like Tom Cram's comment on the article:
Sci-Fi has been at the forefront of exploring/exploding gender roles since its inception. The future of Sci-Fi isn't "queer," the entire history of Sci-Fi is "queer." 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

simplifying my online life

I'm doing a little online life simplification. I'll confine link-sharing to my twitter account. My G+ and Facebook accounts will be for interacting there—and I don't plan to do that much. This blog will be my only active one, and what it'll become, I dunno. I suspect I'll be focusing more on basic income, which I continue to like because it's a program that capitalists and socialists can support.

ETA: And there will be dancing—because Emma Goldman was right.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Would Basic Income administrators become corrupt?

At reddit, historyandproblems noted, "That is a LOT of money feeding through the system to tax and then distribute a basic income to everyone."

Indon Dasani ansered,
You know what part of the US government has very little problem with corruption? The Social Security Administration. You know what part of the US government is rife with corruption despite there being far less money passing through it? The Department of Defense. Basic Income is less prone to corruption than the average government program, because it's simple, easily trackable, and it goes straight into people's pockets already. Stealing that money is magnitudes more difficult than getting a defense contract that doesn't do anything useful, because someone's probably going to notice they're not getting money anymore.

Monday, April 7, 2014

this week's quote on the state of the plutocracy

“Since the 1960s, the richest one-thousandth of U.S. households, with a minimum net worth today above $20 million, have more than doubled their share of U.S. wealth, from around 10 percent to more than 20 percent. Take a moment to process that. One-thousandth of the country owns one-fifth of the wealth.” —Jordan Weissmann, The Shocking Rise of Wealth Inequality: Is it Worse Than We Thought?

why you should doublecheck your Google directions

Let's say you're planning to take the light rail to the Mall of America to see Captain America today, so you google the directions. Google says you'll arrive at the Transit Station and take 8 minutes to walk 0.5 miles to the Mall of America.

That's because Google thinks you're drunk:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Basic Income: Mincome vs. SIME/DIME

When discussing Universal Basic Income, proponents cite a Canadian study, Mincome, and opponents cite a US study, the Seattle-Denver Income Maintenance Experiment, aka SIME/DIME. When googling for comparisons of the two, I found Evelyn L. Forget's THE TOWN WITH NO POVERTY, which includes this about SIME/DIME (italics dime):
When Nixon came to office, he appointed Donald Rumsfeld to head the poverty programme, and Rumsfeld brought along an assistant named Dick Cheney. Robert Levine, one of the original experimenters who went on to work for the Rand Corporation, credits Rumsfeld for saving the poverty programme by shifting them in a republican direction, towards “experimentation rather than action” (Levine et al. 2005: 98).

The experiments generally found a 13% reduction in work effort from the family as a whole, with one-third of the response coming from the primary earner, one-third from the secondary earner and the final third coming from additional earners in the family (Levine et al. 2005: 99). Since the primary earner generally worked many more hours than the secondary and tertiary earners, this implied a relative small reduction in the number of hours on the part of the primary earner. Female spouses reduced their hours and re-entered the workforce less quickly after a break. Tertiary earners tended to enter the workforce later, which implies that they stayed in school longer. The biggest effects, that is, could be spun as either an economic cost in the form of work disincentives, or an economic benefit in the form of human capital accumulation. The general result that secondary earners tend to take some part of the increased family income in the form of more time for household production, particularly staying home with newborns, was found in all the experiments.

The most damning result came in the form of family dissolution rates in the SIME-DIME experiment. These results seemed to imply that black experimental families had a divorce rate 57% greater than the controls, and white experimental families had a divorce rate 53% greater than the controls. This finding caused Senator Moynihan to withdraw his support for the GAI and was largely responsible for the failure of Jimmy Carter‟s welfare reform scheme. Further analysis of the data, published in 1990, rejected these findings as a statistical error, and no other experiment found any effect on marital stability (Cain 1990).

In North Carolina, children in experimental families showed positive results on elementary school test scores. In New Jersey, data on test scores was not collected, but a positive effect on school continuation rates was found. In SIME-DIME there were positive effects on adult continuing education (Levine et al. 2005: 100). These results are all the more remarkable when juxtaposed to the academic literature that shows it is almost impossible to affect test scores, dropout rates or educational decisions by direct intervention.

Inconsistent attempts were made to collect health data, specifically on issues such as low birth weight which can be associated with significant deficits in later life. The Gary, Indiana study found positive effects on birth weight in the most at-risk groups (Levine et al. 2005: 100).

For a moment, it looked as though the war on poverty might take a new twist. The political right, however, mobilized. Opponents of welfare reform seized upon the results of the experiment to prove that a GAI was impossible. By the late 1970s, results showing very modest effects on work effort were portrayed as disastrous for the labour market. Senator Moynihan, who was initially a strong political advocate for the scheme, dropped his support when the initial (erroneous) effects on family dissolution came in. More extreme reactions came from Senator Williams from New Jersey, an opponent of the FAP, who argued that the experimental families were “double-dipping” and should be prosecuted for welfare fraud. David Kershaw, who was then running the experiments, went to great lengths to protect the confidentiality agreement experimenters had with subjects and prevent the congressional investigators unleashed by the General Accounting Office from seizing the files. Whatever the scientific merit of the experiments, the political moment for a general GAI in the US had passed.

Capitalism makes American Indians expel members for money

Native Americans left 'culturally homeless by tribal expulsions

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Reginald D Hunter on white people who are afraid they're racist and don't know it

Reginald D Hunter live at Róisín Dubh - YouTube: The bit I'm referring to is about 4 minutes in.

Why opponents of abortion should be socialists

73% of women who have abortions say the reason is that they cannot afford to have a child now. Eliminate economic need, and you eliminate the economic need for abortion.

James Baldwin on race

“It's up to you. As long as you think you're white, there is no hope for you. As long as you think you're white, I'm going to be forced to think I'm black.” —James Baldwin

socialism is not asceticism

At What is a good counter-argument against "you're a socialist writing from a Macbook" type of argument?, Viciobrasil asked, "Everytime I try to have a discussion with my mostly reactionary and/or right-wing friends, they always use some argument like: "You're socialist and you have a MacBook" or "You read about Socialism in your iPhone". I know this is some kind of fallacy, but I don't know how to counter-argument them. Can someone shed a light for me?"

I answered, "The point of socialism is not to deprive anyone of computers and phones—it's to make sure everyone who needs one has one. Your friends are confusing socialism and asceticism. We don't want to withdraw from the world. We want to make sure everyone can engage with it."

The best answer might've been red-rooster's "Bloody socialists, always wearing shoes."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

George Orwell on new ideas and Karl Marx


February 25, 1944

Looking through Chesterton's Introduction to Hard Times in the Everyman Edition (incidentally, Chesterton's Introductions to Dickens are about the best thing he ever wrote) , I note the typically sweeping statement: ‘There are no new ideas.’ Chesterton is here claiming that the ideas which animated the French Revolution were not new ones but simply a revival of doctrines which had flourished earlier and then had been abandoned. But the claim that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ is one of the stock arguments of intelligent reactionaries. Catholic apologists, in particular, use it almost automatically. Everything that you can say or think has been said or thought before. Every political theory from Liberalism to Trotskyism can be shown to be a development of some heresy in the early Church. Every system of philosophy springs ultimately from the Greeks. Every scientific theory (if we are to believe the popular Catholic press) was anticipated by Roger Bacon and others in the thirteenth century. Some Hindu thinkers go even further and claim that not merely the scientific theories, but the products of applied science as well, aeroplanes, radio and the whole bag of tricks, were known to the ancient Hindus, who afterward dropped them as being unworthy of their attention.
It is not very difficult to see that this idea is rooted in the fear of progress. If there is nothing new under the sun, if the past in some shape or another always returns, then the future when it comes will be something familiar. At any rate what will never come — since it has never come before — is that hated, dreaded thing, a world of free and equal human beings. Particularly comforting to reactionary thinkers is the idea of a cyclical universe, in which the same chain of events happens over and over again. In such a universe every seeming advance towards democracy simply means that the coming age of tyranny and privilege is a little bit nearer. This belief, obviously superstitious though it is, is widely held nowadays, and is common among Fascists and near-Fascists.
In fact, there are new ideas. The idea that an advanced civilization need not rest on slavery is a relatively new idea, for instance; it is a good deal younger than the Christian religion. But even if Chesterton's dictum were true, it would only be true in the sense that a statue is contained in every block of stone. Ideas may not change, but emphasis shifts constantly. It could be claimed, for example, that the most important part of Marx's theory is contained in the saying: ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’ But before Marx developed it, what force had that saying had? Who had paid any attention to it? Who had inferred from it — what it certainly implies — that laws, religions and moral codes are all a superstructure built over existing property relations? It was Christ, according to the Gospel, who uttered the text, but it was Marx who brought it to life. And ever since he did so the motives of politicians, priests, judges, moralists and millionaires have been under the deepest suspicion — which, of course, is why they hate him so much.

—George Orwell, February 24, 1944


We sold our beloved 2000 Toyota Echo a few days ago and have no plans to replace her. (Yes, we loved her enough to give her a gender. She was silver, but we named her Ruby. It just seemed right.)

My big recent discovery is that Google's bus schedules are great. If you plug in your location and click "More options and times", you get the walking time between the bus, home, and your destination.