Monday, January 30, 2017

Liberty on the Loose

Liberty on the Loose
by Will Shetterly

She sets down her torch and book
Shrugs off her robe
Doffs her crown
Then looks
Not for long,
At its seven spikes.
Seven seas, seven continents
Where she is supposed to rule.
She sets the crown on her book and her robes
And, naked, jumps down from her pedestal.

She lands lightly, harming no one,
Yet people look up in awe
Some with wonder
Some with fear
She wades into the waters of America
She is walking toward its heart
The President has fired her,
But Liberty will not quit.

*
license: CC BY

If you blame Islam for Islamist terrorism....

...blame Judaism for the Deir Yassin massacre and the bombing of the King David Hotel.

...blame Buddhism for massacres of the Rohingya.

...blame Hinduism for massacres of Muslims.

...blame Christianity for massacres of American Indians.

...blame American Indian religions for massacres by American Indians.

...blame Protestantism for the conquest of Ireland and the Great Irish Famine.

...blame Catholicism for IRA bombings.

...blame the Church of Latter-Day Saints for the Mountain Meadows massacre.

Beneath every war blamed on religion is a war for wealth and power.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

5. The Rebel Jesus - The Rebel Followers of the Rebel Jesus


The Bible says Jesus had a core group of twelve followers who were called apostles, a name that comes from the Greek word for messenger. The Gospels disagree on their names. The number twelve may not be meant literally—it may simply be meant to evoke the belief there were once twelve tribes of Israel—or some apostles may have been known by two names.

Where "brother" is used below, it may mean a literal brother, a relative such as a cousin, or a best friend.

The Zealot

Simon, called the Cananean by Mark and Matthew, and the Zealot by Luke, is not mentioned by John. Cananean comes from the Hebrew kanai which was translated into Greek as zelotes. The Zealots were zealously devoted to God in their desire to drive the Romans out of Judea. The historian Josephus says the Zealots became Judea's fourth major sect after Judas of Gamala led a rebellion against Rome at the time of the Judean census.

The Sicarius

Judas Iscariot is identified by John as the son of Simon Iscariot. His epithet suggests he was a member of the sicarii, radical Zealots whose name came from their sicas, sickle-like daggers that they hid in their robes and used to kill Romans and Judean collaborators.

Some writers insist Iscariot meant Judas came from Kerioth. They note that Josephus says the sicarii appeared while Felix governed Judea, twenty years after the Gospels say Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to death.

But two better explanations exist. Josephus may be wrong. If so, the sicarii were less active before Felix's time and Josephus simply overlooked the earliest examples of Zealot assassinations. Or Josephus may be right. If so, early Christians may have identified the Zealot Judas, the sly betrayer of Jesus, with the sicarii, the most secretive and brutal of the Zealots. Then, a decade or two later, Mark recorded what he knew using the epithet for Judas that his readers would recognize.

The outlaw followers of the executed Baptist
Simon Baryona is best known as Peter, the Greek translation of the Aramaic name, Cephas, that Jesus gave him. Both Peter and Cephas mean "rock". Peter was a married fisherman in the town of Bethsaida, though we do not know if his wife died or he left her. (Yes, it is odd that for the last thousand years, celibate Catholics Popes claim they follow Peter's tradition.) Peter's death is not recorded in the Bible. Early Christians believed he died the rebel's death of crucifixion.

Jesus calls Peter baryona Matthew's Gospel. Traditional Christians say this means Peter was a son of Jonah, but baryona or biryona is the Aramaic word for outlaw or ruffian—in the Talmud, the Zealots are called biryonim.

Peter's brother Andrew was also believed to have died the rebel's death of crucifixion. The Gospel of John says Andrew was a student of the Baptist's who recognized Jesus as a messiah and introduced him to his brother.

The Sons of Thunder

James, son of Zebedee, is called one of the Boanerges. Strong's Concordance says that's an Aramaic term from bēn ("sons") and regesh ("of thunder, tumult"). James is the only apostle whose death is recorded in the Bible—in Acts, Rome's agent Herod Agrippa has James killed with a sword.

The other Son of Thunder is John, James's brother, the only disciple believed to have died of old age.

Who were the Sons of Thunder? Thunder was the voice of God, so Sons of Thunder were Sons of God who opposed the Romans with their many gods.

The tax collector and five others

Whether the remaining six apostles were associated with rebellion, the Bible doesn't suggest. They were Philip, Thomas the Twin, Bartholomew who is named in three Gospels and may be Nathanael to John, James the son of Alphaeus who is not mentioned by John, Thaddeus who appears in Matthew and Mark and may be Jude to Luke and John, and Matthew the tax collector who is not mentioned by John.

But Matthew's former job gives him a whiff of rebel—he went from serving Rome to serving the rebel that Rome would kill.

Friday, January 27, 2017

4. The Rebel Jesus - Before the Rebel Jesus, the Rebel John

The story of one rebel starts with the end of another, John the Baptist. His title means he baptized people, washing away their sins in a ritual bath.

Mark starts his story by telling about the Baptist living in the country near the Jordan River. He wears simple clothes and eats simple food. Many people come to hear him teach and be cleansed of sin. John washes Jesus, and then Jesus goes into the desert to meditate.

John also starts his story by telling about John the Baptist. Rich Judeans send priests and Temple guards to John, demanding to know who he is and what he is doing.

John answers by quoting Isaiah, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

That's a rebel’s answer, a cry that the maker of the universe has declared the current order is wrong and must be set right.

Matthew starts his story with Jesus's birth, but before Matthew tells about the adult Jesus, he tells about crowds going to the Baptist. Among them are Sadducees and Pharisees. The Baptist calls them “children of vipers” and demands they change their ways.

That's a rebel’s answer, a rejection of the elite who prey on Palestine's people like snakes.


Luke also starts his story with Jesus's birth, but Luke links Jesus and John before either is born. Luke says the pregnant Mary goes to stay with her pregnant relative Elizabeth. When Elizabeth sees Mary, the unborn John leaps in her womb to acknowledge that Jesus in Mary's womb is a miraculous child. In Luke's story, John is only six months older than Jesus, but, as in the other gospels, John is still the first to become famous, and Jesus goes to him to be washed.

Luke tells what the Baptist teaches.

The crowd asks, "What should we do?"

John answers, "If you have two shirts, give one to someone who has none. If you have food, do the same."

A tax collector asks, "What should we do?"

John answers, "Take no more from people than you're supposed to."

A soldier asks, "What should we do?"

John answers, "Don’t take bribes. Don’t accuse people of things they haven’t done. Be content with your pay."

Telling the rich to share equally?

Telling their servants, the tax collectors and soldiers, to be honest?

That's a rebel’s answer, an accusation that the current social order is not just.

The Baptist’s teachings, his isolation from Judean society, and his criticism of Judea’s two largest sects imply he was a member of the third, the Essenes. Only one detail argues against that. Matthew says John lived on locusts and honey. If so, he was an unusual Essene because Essenes were vegetarians.

But the oldest copies of Matthew are in Greek, and the Greek word for locusts, akris, is very close to the Greek word for flatbread, egkris. What John ate may have been misspelled in an early manuscript and faithfully copied ever since.

Or perhaps John's group of Essenes were not strict vegetarians.

This we know: The Baptist's teachings made poor people love him and rich people fear him. He lived by the Jordan in Perea, where Rome's servant was Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Perea and Galilee. Antipas married Herodias, the former wife of his brother Philip, and the Bible says John called that incest.

Insulted, Herodias asks Antipas to kill John. In Mark's story, Antipas refuses because he believes John is a good and holy man. In Matthew's story, Antipas refuses because he is afraid killing John will spark a rebellion.

Then Herodias's daughter, Salome, dances at a feast. Antipas is so pleased that he tells her, "Whatever you ask, I'll give you, up to half of my kingdom."

Salome asks her mother, "What shall I ask?"

Herodias replies, "The head of John the Baptist."

Antipas is not willing to go back on his word in front of his guests, so the Baptist’s head is given to Salome on a platter.

Josephus tells a simpler story. He says Antipas was afraid the Baptist would raise a rebellion. He had John imprisoned at Macherus near the Jordan River, then killed.

Some of John's students went with Jesus. Others stayed true to John and his teaching. Today, the Baptist is revered by Mandaeans, a gnostic sect numbering about 70,000 people worldwide. They call Jesus an apostate. Considering how Jesus's path diverged from John's, that's understandable. The gospel writers are reluctant to say why Jesus was washed by John like all who went to went to hear him, but the Mandaeans say clearly that Jesus was a student of John's who went his own way.

What Jesus did when he was young and why he felt he needed to be washed by John, the Bible does not suggest. Mark, whose gospel is the oldest in the Bible, tells his story without explanations:
In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Immediately coming up from the water, he saw the heavens parting, and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. A voice came out of the sky, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
In Mark's story, Jesus is not called God's son until John washes him. The later gospel writers were clearly troubled by what that implied. That Jesus was washed by John must have been too well known for the writers to omit, so they said Jesus was washed by John to fulfill a prophecy. That was enough of an answer for them. They never asked why one son of Abba needed to be washed by another before he could do what God expected.

All four gospels make one thing clear: Jesus began under the influence of a man who died a rebel's death, killed by Rome's approved ruler for criticizing the ways of the rich.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

3. The Rebel Jesus - The Childhood and Appearance of the Son of the Father

Matthew says when Jesus was twelve, he and his family went to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Joseph and Mary began to go home, then realized Jesus was not with them. They spent days hunting for their missing son. They found him in the Temple courtyard, sitting with the religious teachers.

The Aramaic word for father, Abba, was a common name for God. Jews still use it when they recite the kaddish, the traditional hymn of praises. The Bible mentions a rebel named Barabbas—Bar Abba is Aramaic for “son of Father.” The Essenes called themselves sons of God. When Judean rebels used the term, it separated them from the Romans who worshiped many gods.

The Bible does not say what Jesus looked like. Being the son of a Palestinian woman, he would have had dark skin and dark hair.

The Bible does not say how he dressed or wore his hair. In Mark’s Gospel, he’s called a tekton, a builder, and in Matthew, the son of a builder. His hands would have been hard from labor. He may have cut his hair short in the Greek and Roman fashion like most Judeans of the time.

But Palestine had holy men called nazirites who let their hair grow long. Some took vows to live as nazirites for a period of time. Some, like the Bible's Samson, lived as nazirites their entire lives.
The Bible says Jesus was called the Nazarene because he came from Nazareth. But early Christian writers may have failed to understand that he was a Nazirite, a long-haired son of God. Or he may have been both a Nazirite and a man from Nazareth.
Long hair did more than identify a holy man in Palestine. It showed the world he rejected the ways of Rome.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

2. The Rebel Jesus - Two Stories of One Birth


Matthew's Birth Story

The Gospel of Matthew says the life of Jesus begins while King Herod rules Judea.

In Matthew’s story, Joseph the son of Jacob lives in Judea in the town of Bethlehem. He learns his wife Mary is already pregnant when she comes to live with him. Wondering if he should send her away, he goes to sleep. When he wakes, he decides to keep her and raise the child as his own.

After Jesus is born, three priests come from the Parthian Empire and give the baby presents of gold and rare perfumes. They say he will be the king of the Jews.

King Herod the Great hears about this. Believing the boy may be a threat to his rule, Herod sends soldiers to kill every boy in Bethlehem who is two years old or younger.

Joseph and his family flee to Egypt. When they hear Herod is dead and his son Archelaus rules Judea in his place, Joseph wants to go to home but fears Herod’s son is a danger to Jesus. So Joseph settles in Galilee in the town of Nazareth.

Luke's Birth Story

The Gospel of Luke says the story of Jesus begins when Quirinius orders everyone to go to their family homes to be counted in a census.

In Luke’s story, Joseph the son of Heli lives in Galilee in the town of Nazareth. He takes his pregnant wife Mary on the long trip south into Judea. When they arrive in Bethlehem, Jesus is born. A feeding trough is used for his bed.

Shepherds come to see the baby. They say he will be an anointed one, a savior of the Jews like King David in the Book of Samuel and the Emperor Cyrus in the Book of Isaiah.

Joseph and Mary take the child to the Temple at Jerusalem and dedicate him to God. A holy man and and a holy woman at the Temple each say the boy will grow up to do great things.

The problems with Matthew’s story?

1. When Judea was divided after Herod's death, his son Antipas became the tetrarch of the central region, which included Galilee.  If Herod's children were a threat to the baby, he would not be safe there.

2. The historian Josephus wrote about many horrible things Herod did, but Josephus does not mention babies being slaughtered in Bethlehem.


The problems with Luke’s story?

1. Luke says Herod was alive at the time of Quirinius's census, but the census was ordered ten years after Herod’s death, when Archelaus was banished for abusing his power and Rome installed the first of many Roman governors in the province of Judea.

2. Quirinius’s census, like any census, counted people where they lived. Having people travel to the place their families would be an unnecessary disruption in people's lives.

3. If the census had required people to travel to be counted, it only affected people in the province of Judea. No one would have had to travel from Galilee.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

1. The Rebel Jesus - One Thousand Years in a Land with Many Names

You know the end of this story.

The rebel goes to the city ruled by the empire’s governor. He attacks bankers. He is arrested. The rich decide he must die. The governor sentences him to the traditional death for rebels, fastened to a stake called a crux in a public place where his suffering will tell passersby what happens to those who defy the empire.

How rebels die is a common story. I will not tell that part.
This is the story of the life of the rebel Jesus.

One Thousand Years in a Land with Many Names

Every story about a rebel is a story of a place and power. The place in this story is a strip of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Its neighbors are Egypt in the southwest, Arabia in the southeast, and Syria in the northeast. Egyptians called it Peleset. Assyrians called it Pilistu. The Greek historian Herodotus called it Palaistine. The Bible’s Hebrew writers called it Peleshet, and some English Bibles translate it as Philistia. Its common English name is Palestine.

Its history is a story of conquest and independence and conquest again. When its people called it Canaan, its city-states became vassals of Egypt. As Egypt grew weak, independent kingdoms grew again, including Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Archeology tells us they were small, but the Bible says they were great.

The Book of Samuel calls David, their most famous king, a messiah, a Hebrew word that translates into Greek as Christos. It means “an anointed one”, a person who has scented olive oil poured onto his hair by a priest to show he is God’s choice to lead the people.

The land was conquered by Assyria, then Babylon. Hebrew became a language for scholars. The people adopted the Aramaic that their conquerors spoke.

Babylon fell to Persia. The Persians believed in one god, Ahura Mazda, whose priests were called magi and whose prophet was Zoroaster. Persia’s Emperor Cyrus was a Zoroastrian, but the Book of Isaiah calls him a messiah because he let Judah’s exiled nobles return to Jerusalem and built a Temple so Judeans could worship the one god in their own way.

Persia’s empire fell to Alexander the Great. The Seleucid Empire brought Greek culture into many parts of Palestine. In the region that had been Judah and was now Judea, the Hasmonean dynasty ruled as vassals of the Seleucids until civil war weakened that empire. The Hasmoneans united Palestine to form an independent kingdom called Judea after its Judean rulers

Then Rome came.

Judea became a client state of the Roman Empire. The Hasmoneans rebelled with help from the Parthian Empire that had risen in the east. The Romans defeated them and installed a new vassal in Judea, King Herod the Great, who built forts and palaces and expanded the Temple of Jerusalem.

When Herod died, three rebellions broke out. Each leader claimed to be a messiah who would drive out the Romans. The largest revolt was in the region of Galilee. Rome crushed it, and two thousand people were crucified

The kingdom of Judea was divided among Herod’s children. Philip got the north. Salome got the southwestern coast. Herod Antipas got the center, including Galilee. Herod Archelaus got the south, including the original land of Judea.

Ten years later, Rome banished Archelaus for incompetence. The province of Judea was put directly under Rome’s control. The first of many Roman governors ordered a census to count and tax the Judeans. Rebels led by Judas the Galilean opposed it. To complete the census, the governor of Syria brought troops to restore peace, and so the census is remembered by his name as the census of Quirinius.

The Book of Acts of the Apostles says Judas the Galilean was killed and his followers scattered. His influence did not end with his death. The historian Josephus says Judea had three sects before that rebellion, and a fourth one after

Judea’s rich liked the Sadducees, whose  name means they were descended from Zadok, the first High Priest. Sadducees welcomed Greek and Roman customs.

Judea’s middle class liked the Pharisees, whose name means “the separated.” Pharisees rejected foreign ways.

Most Judeans liked the Essenes, whose name means “the holy”. Essenes were also called Ebionites, which means "the poor", because they lived simply in communes in the cities and the country, sharing all they had.

Josephus called Judas the Galilean the father of a fourth sect, the Zealots, who "agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord." In pursuit of their goal, Zealots killed Romans as well as the Judeans who worked with them.

Into this troubled world, the rebel Jesus was born.

cc by 3.0 Andrew c.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Many of my heroes were killed by people who answered speech with violence

I wish I could go offline until people have forgotten about a coward sucker-punching a wimpy Nazi. Only a couple of hundred people knew or cared about Richard Spencer until the media decided to profit by making him famous. Now that this delusional and politically impotent man is famous, he's a convenient scapegoat for all the evils in the world, so many people are celebrating the masked person who hit him when he wasn't looking and ran away.

The unavoidable fact is those who cheer this are cheering the answering of speech with violence.

And so many of my heroes were killed by people who answered speech with violence.

Some I learned about from Sunday School and my love of reading history:
Jesus.

John the Baptist. 
Hypatia of Alexandria.
Joan of Arc.

Michael Servetus.
Some I admired while they lived:
John F. Kennedy.

Malcolm X.

Martin Luther King.

Robert F. Kennedy.
That isn't meant to be a complete list. How could I list the thirteen million people of different political and religious beliefs who were murdered by the Nazis? How could I list the thousands of leftists murdered after Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected leader of Chile with the help of the CIA? The history of humanity is a history of answering speech with violence.

Nor do I excuse the killings of speakers done in the name of communism and socialism. Stalin inspired George Orwell to write his most famous books. Orwell said of them, "Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it."

My father was a civil libertarian. He first told me Evelyn Beatrice Hall's paraphrase of Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

There is no freedom where people may not say what they believe. So long as I hate hypocrisy and want the right to speak, I must support the right to speak of people whose beliefs I abhor. Call it morality or self-interest if you wish. Both are true.


ETA: The hardest part of defending free speech: you must defend the right to speak of people you really wish would shut up.

Related: On responding to speech with violence, where I quoted two people who know more about answering vile speech than anyone I know:

"No matter how emotional your opponents are, you must be calm." —Martin Luther King

"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." —Malcolm X

Sunday, January 22, 2017

On responding to speech with violence, or why a coward in a mask is nothing like Captain America

When I was a kid, I got beat up more than once for supporting civil rights. I say this with a mix of pride and shame, pride for speaking up, shame for being beaten. A part of me will always wish I could've beaten the racists more badly than they beat me. That's how it works in popular culture. The righteous hero soundly thrashes the bad people. That's what Captain America does.

Richard Spencer is a Nazi who no one heard of until the media saw thar's clickbait in them hills and promoted him for all he was worth. The other day, while he was talking to an interviewer, someone in a mask ran up and hit him when he wasn't looking, then ran away. As a result, many people are comparing the puncher to Captain America:


This is the Captain America who inspired me as a boy:


This is the Captain America who knows tactics matter as much as principles because your tactics reveal your principles.

If you want to respond to speech with violence, show your face, challenge your opponent, and stay for the consequences. Otherwise you look like a coward, and people who know history will wonder if you're a police provocateur who is trying to change the subject to whether violence is a proper response to speech.

Here's what two of my heroes said about how to deal with ideological opponents:

"No matter how emotional your opponents are, you must be calm." —Martin Luther King

"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." —Malcolm X

King answers hard questions about nonviolence in this short interview:


ETA: How Malcolm X dealt with Nazis when he was in the Nation of Islam: When Malcolm X Met the Nazis - VICE

Thursday, January 19, 2017

We're making it possible for anyone to use the shared world of Liavek—under many conditions, for free


Our goal is to make Liavek as easy for anyone to use for low-paying projects as it would be if it was in the public domain while protecting the rights in case a company wants to use Liavek for something like a TV show, movie, or game. The Liavek Independent Creator’s License does that. If a major commercial project happens because of something an independent creator makes, the license specifies that the independent creator and Liavek's original writers (aka the Liavek Co-op) will all benefit.

For more information: The Liavek Independent Creator's License

Was Obama so awful that he turned 4 million of his voters into racists?

In 2008, Obama got 69,498,516 votes. In 2012, he got 65,915,795 votes. In 2016, Hillary Clinton got 65,844,954 votes. Did Obama make four million voters racist?

For more perspective, here are the Republican numbers:

2008: McCain got 59,948,323 votes.
2012: Romney got 60,933,504 votes.
2016: Trump got 62,979,879 votes.

Some of Obama's 2008 voters stayed home in 2012 and 2016, and some voted for someone else. Saying racism is the reason is to say that Obama's neoliberal politics were irrelevant, but his style in office was so awful that he made his own voters hate an entire race.

And yet there are Clinton Democrats who insist the reason he lost support and Clinton didn't get more support is racism.

ETA: For example, Toni Morrison: Fear Of Losing White Privilege Led To Trump's Election.

ETA: Behind Trump's victory: Divisions by race, gender and education | Pew Research Center: "Clinton held an 80-point advantage among blacks (88% to 8%) compared with Obama’s 87-point edge four years ago (93% to 6%). In 2008, Obama had a 91-point advantage among blacks."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Dear Clinton Democrats, respectfully, this is why I'll no longer engage with you

I understand you are committed to your support for Hillary Clinton. Humans cling to their beliefs for as long as they can. Admitting you're wrong is one of the hardest things we can do.

But you're wrong about many things.

You tell yourselves the polls were wrong, but they were not. I followed RealClearPolitics and knew Clinton was expected to win the popular vote by about 2%, which meant she was within the margin of error for losing either the popular vote or, as happened, the Electoral College.

Just as RealClearPolitics was accurate about Clinton, it was accurate about Bernie Sanders. He would've won decisively because his focus on economic issues took voters away from Trump. For more, see A reminder for Clinton fans that the polls were right all along.

You want to pin Clinton's loss on racism and sexism because those are things Clinton could not have battled, rather than economic desperation, which she could have fought if she'd been willing to adopt more of Sanders' issues.

Racism does not explain why voters who supported a black man and a Jew did not support a white Christian. However, this piece does: Why the White Working Class Rebelled: Neoliberalism is Killing Them (Literally) | Informed Comment.

And so does this short video by The Guardian:



For more, see Understanding the election—the best links I've found.

Now, I realize many Clinton supporters don't understand what neoliberalism is. This is a decent quick introduction:



The Republicans can be defeated. Martin Luther King's dream of a world without poverty can be won. But to do that, you must accept that the Democratic Party made a mistake when it chose the candidate who did better among registered Democrats only. To win, a Democrat must be popular with Independents too.

Yes, Clinton won the popular vote. Console yourself with that. But her politics kept her from winning it strongly enough to defeat Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders knows Martin Luther King was right when he said, “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.”

When you're ready to accept that Clinton was the wrong choice, we can talk. You don't have to agree that Bernie Sanders was the best choice. If the Democrats had simply wanted to elect a woman this year, Elizabeth Warren would've been the stronger choice, or if the goal was to repeat 2008 with a relative unknown, Tulsi Gabbard would've made a fine nominee. All you have to do is accept that the poorer half of this country is desperate, and they want the solutions that Sanders offered.

If you doubt that:

Majority in U.S. Support Idea of Fed-Funded Healthcare System | Gallup

5 facts about the minimum wage | Pew Research Center

Over 60% of Americans back tuition-free college, survey says

So mourn if you must, but if you can, heed Joe Hill's words: "Don't waste any time mourning. Organize!"

ETA: A reminder about the shape of the future: More young people voted for Bernie Sanders than Trump and Clinton combined — by a lot - The Washington Post

The Real Story Of 2016 | FiveThirtyEight:
Trump outperformed his national polls by only 1 to 2 percentage points in losing the popular vote to Clinton, making them slightly closer to the mark than they were in 2012.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Furious at Martin Luther King, President Johnson says why he matters so much

After King publicly opposed the Vietnam War:
President Johnson stopped taking meetings with King. “What is that goddamned nigger preacher doing to me?” Johnson reportedly remarked after the speech. “We gave him the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we gave him the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we gave him the War on Poverty. What more does he want?”
From What the “Santa Clausification” of Martin Luther King Jr. Leaves Out 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Why Martin Luther King would have supported Bernie Sanders: four facts

On Twitter, I said,
From Martin Luther King's writing, it's clear he wouldn't have supported the same candidate that Lewis did.
When someone objected, I explained why:
...you seem to be forgetting that King was also a democratic socialist whose focus was on poverty.

His Dream speech was given at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

He was killed while he was planning the Poor People's Campaign.

Supporting Basic Income, he said he would focus on poverty that "affects white and Negro alike."
“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children." —Martin Luther King

ETA: King supported this:

ETA: What the “Santa Clausification” of Martin Luther King Jr. Leaves Out

Monday, January 9, 2017

Why it's right to reserve judgment on the claim Russia hacked the US election, a mini linkfest

The argument that Russia hacked the US election is backed by 17 intelligence agencies. The problem with assuming they're right? Colin Powell explained his support for the claim there were new WMDs in Iraq by saying: "16 intelligence agencies had agreed to it, with footnotes. None of the footnotes took away their agreement."

The US has a long history of blaming Russia without hard evidence: Before Snowden, Nixon Admin Pioneered Evidence-Free 'Russian Spy' Smears Against Daniel Ellsberg

We know the DNC hack could've been done by the most amateur hacker: How Podesta became a cybersecurity poster child - POLITICO

Ex CIA analyst Larry Johnson argues ‘Clinton quite effective at discrediting herself, doesn’t need Putin’s help’ at RT Op-Edge. (People who love ad hominem should try to engage with Johnson's argument rather than his publisher. As I keep having to remind people, if a message is true, it's true no matter who says it or where it's said.)

Now, it's entirely possible that this time the US intelligence agencies are telling the truth—that's why I advocate reserving judgment.

But if Russia really did leak information to the American people that the DNC wanted to hide? "It Matters, Yes, But How Much?" at Current Affairs notes, "Since we’re in the habit of deferring absolutely to intelligence agencies’ judgments these days, the head of the NSA thinks the DNC stories didn’t make a difference."

Sunday, January 8, 2017

I am the man that trolls ban

On Facebook, a Clintonite troll showed up on one of my posts to argue about whether Russia is unequivocally behind the leaks, and specifically about whether this article should be dismissed out of hand because it was published by RT: ‘Clinton quite effective at discrediting herself, doesn’t need Putin’s help’ - ex CIA analyst — RT Op-Edge.

The ex-CIA analyst is Larry Johnson. The quick google suggests his credentials are legit and he wasn't misquoted.

But to the Clintonite troll, RT is suspect because it's owned by Russia. I pointed out that all major news sites are owned by states or rich people; you should always look for bias. But the troll doubled down as trolls do, insisting anything from a Russian site should be ignored.

That's classic ad hominem. The people who love the tactic are trying to hide a simple fact: when the message is true, the messenger is irrelevant.

The troll soon gave up. And though I had never commented on any of his posts, he banned me.

I'm writing about this because of my fascination with the way people protect their belief systems. The troll came into my space on a mission to correct me for badthink. He expected to expand his echo chamber. When he failed, he could not simply retreat to his own part of Facebook. To prevent the possibility of being refuted on ground he currently holds, he had to ban me. Defending his echo chamber demanded no lesss.

Humans. We are such silly, insecure creatures.

I'll add that I completely agree we all have a right to ban trolls. If he had kept on as he did, I might've banned him, not because he was disagreeing with my ideas, but because his disagreement was boring. In debate, that's the greatest sin.

Friday, January 6, 2017

quick take on Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom

Emma and I are big fans of Sorkin's Sports Night and The West Wing. Our politics became more radical than Sorkin's, which may be why we stopped following his work. Or not. A friend said she loved The Newsroom, so we decided to catch it on Amazon.

We liked it a lot. Sorkin's politics are still a sweetly naive version of liberalism in which the only problem with capitalism is that some rich people don't behave well, but the politics are mostly an excuse for characters to say clever things, which they did. It has an excellent cast and plenty of good bits.

I will now say a few things vaguely to avoid being spoilery.

The three seasons come to a satisfying conclusion, but not a perfect one. I feel like Sorkin ended one character's storyline in a lazy way, and the final episode, which has many flashbacks to things that happened shortly before the pilot, is not all it should be. There's an episode of Firefly that I love which does something similar, but what it revealed about the past of Firefly's characters were big things we couldn't expect. What the final episode of The Newsroom reveals are minor mysteries that didn't need to be resolved.

I give the show an A-, and give the final episode a B.

I'd happily watch a sequel that told us what these characters are doing now.

And I'd probably love a half-hour sitcom featuring Sloan and Don.

Liavek 8! Longest collection of all, only $3.99!

In the City of Luck, luck runs wildest in Festival Week.

"Consequences" by Walter Jon Williams
"As Bright as New Coppers" by Bradley Denton
"A Hot Night at Cheeky's" by Steven Brust
"A Prudent Obedience" by Kara Dalkey
"The True Tale of Count Dashif's Demise" by Jane Yolen
"Six Days Outside the Year" by Will Shetterly
and six Festival Week poems by John M. Ford

"Liavek is a place worth visiting. Get there before another volume comes out." —VOYA
Currently available at:

Amazon.com: Liavek 8: Festival Week eBook

Barnes & NobleLiavek 8: Festival Week (eBook)

Smashwords: Liavek 8: Festival Week

These stories were first published in the out-of-print paperback anthology, Liavek: Festival Week.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Will no one confront the growing toddler threat?

On Facebook, I shared With 2016 over, a toddler has now shot a person every week in the US for two years straight and said,
I blame toddler ideology. We have always been at war with toddlerism, but toddlerism is still winning.
Handy Zee noted,
If you run the numbers on percent of toddlers in the general population against toddlers in prison, you can easily make some assumptions about sentencing bias in this country. There are currently no toddlers on death row in any state. Not one.
Relevant: Toddlers Killed More Americans than Terrorists in 2015.

Note: I'm not offering this to say we should ban guns or that we need looser gun laws to defend ourselves from toddlers. Like most Americans, I believe guns should be sensibly regulated rather than banned.

And if you own a gun, keep it in a safe or use a trigger lock and hide it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

For people who say Nazis were socialists, a sort-of FAQ

1. The Nazis imprisoned communists, not capitalists.

2. The "socialism" in "National Socialism" is like the "democratic" in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, aka North Korea: it's meant to sound good. Socialism was very popular in the Weimar Republic.

3. Capitalists like Henry Ford loved Nazis. Alfried Krupp was a member of the SS.

4. Hitler loved capitalists like Henry Ford. From Ford 'used slave labour' in Nazi German plants - Telegraph:
Henry Ford is mentioned in Mein Kampf, and was hailed by Hitler, who kept a portrait of the industrialist above his desk, as "my inspiration".
5. The Nazi's 25-point plan or National Socialist Program has very little that resembles socialism. Most of it is a jumble of xenophobia and racism. Only a few points look vaguely like socialism to capitalists:

Point 11 calls for the end of unearned income and usury. If that's socialism, the Catholic Church's long opposition to usury made it socialist.

Point 13 calls for nationalizing major industries. If this was ever meant seriously, it did not last. Companies like I. G. Farben were major supporters of the Nazis. See IG Farben German Industry and the Holocaust.

Point 14 calls for sharing profit, not ownership. If that's socialism, Alaska has been socialist since 1976, when a Republican governor convinced the state to adopt the Alaska Permanent Fund and pay part of the oil industry's profits to every Alaskan.

Point 15 calls for Social Security. If that's socialism, the US has been socialist since 1935.

Point 16 calls for supporting small businesses by offering them cheap storage facilities and a degree of preference for government contracts. That's not socialism; that's government support for struggling capitalist enterprises.

Point 23 calls for national censorship. That is an explicit rejection of Karl Marx's love of the free press.