Wednesday, December 28, 2011

More signs the times they are a changin'

Twenty years ago, I tried to get a piece making a similar argument published in 'The Crisis' the 'house organ' of the NAACP.  It was roundly rejected.  It does my heart good to see more and more black people who are not gay coming forward and telling the community, particularly the black church which is the undeniable well-spring of anti-gay sentiment in the black community, that they are on the wrong side of history. 

Monique Ruffin: It's Official: Gay Is the New Black

Gay is the new black. And some Christian blacks must be willing to look into their hearts and find the seeds of fear that would have them deny the humanity of another in the name of God (just the way it was done to them not that long ago). Let's ask ourselves: do we fear gays or fear being gay? Why must gay leaders in our churches and communities serve clandestinely? Consider what the power of love and acceptance might offer if we are willing to stand courageously with gays as we stood for ourselves decades ago. Our freedom will not truly be granted until we can pass it forward. Gay is the new black, sadly, because many blacks haven't been willing to embrace their own practices, secrets, fear, and shame about homosexuality. Many blacks have not been able to reconcile their real-life experience with their faith, and until they do this, they are oppressed people who are also practicing the oppression of others.

The Mark of the Barbarian

(in ancient times) a member of a community or tribe not belonging to one of the great civilizations (Greek, Roman, Christian).
• an uncultured or brutish person.
of or relating to ancient barbarians: barbarian invasions | barbarian peoples.
• uncultured; brutish.

We live in a time and place that puts high value on emotion, and that views emotions as self-validating. To feel something is thought by many to be sufficient evidence of its truthfulness, or at least its authenticity. This is a mark of the barbarian. I understand why post-Sixties liberals make the mistake of believing that nonsense. But conservatives?
This is another one of those “scary-to-write” posts because what I am going to say so breaks with standard Left orthodoxy that it feels as if I am writing religious heresy. The above quote is taken from a post at Frum Forum written by a conservative about older conservatives (Fox Geezers) who get all their news from FOX News. My concern in this post is not with the Right-leaning people who think that it is sufficient that they feel that the HCR law leads to ‘death panels’ or that Obama is a Marxist Islamist. My concern here is with the Left-leaning people, my own political tribe, that think it is sufficient to ‘feel’ something in order for it to be ‘true’ or ‘authentic’. The barbarian I speak of is in the second sense of the uncultured or brutish person.

The examples I have are too numerous to count. It is such a commonplace on the Left that whenever two or three of us are gathered together, it is a near certainty that someone will make a statement of the ‘George W. Bush was worse than Hitler’ species. If challenged, that person will then claim that “well, that’s true for me” as if that makes a difference. “That’s true for me” is just another way of saying “I felt it, that settles it.” The Left, generally, and the Queer-Left specifically has a disturbing tolerance for these kinds of statements. What’s more there is a colossal blind spot that people willfully ignore even though it causes all manner of problems. If your feelings are accurate barometers to what is going on in the real world then by what logic are my feelings not an accurate barometer?

In other words, if one leans left and believes that, for instance, the Republican party has active plans for the elimination of queer people in America and you believe that the mere fact that you feel it means it must be true how can you turn around and argue that the FOX News watcher who believes that Barack Obama wants to enslave white people is wrong? They aren’t working off of a basis having any more foundation than your belief.

I have had this conversation so many times in online lesbian circles that I have now had to leave two online lesbian communities because of it. The first time was when someone insisted that there were clauses in the 2009 stimulus package that were demonstrably not there. This woman kept posting ‘as if’ those statements were there and when I pointed out to her that they weren’t and that she was clearly lying about it, I was told by a moderator that we had to be ‘tolerant of diverse opinions’. Except she wasn’t expressing an opinion, she was making a statement of fact. Either the stimulus package had language about reparations for slavery or it didn’t (for the record it didn’t) but this woman kept insisting that it did, along with language about a train from Disney to Vegas. On another board, there was a discussion about whether quantum mechanics explained telepathy and telekinesis (it doesn’t) and when I pointed out to my interlocutor that the brain is too large and too hot for quantum effects to be observed, they kept insisting that in their quantum mechanics it did. On that same board, I did a post on how humanity has become less violent over time. As an example, I offered up the fact that slavery is no longer legal in most of the world and is certainly illegal everywhere in the West. Someone then responded to say that slavery still happened in the United States and the rest of the world. Now, it is important to note that I was talking about the legality of slavery and its being socially acceptable. This person was using the (cough) logic (cough) that if slavery happens anywhere then it might as well be legal everywhere. Their response was about emotionalism. They want, perhaps even need, to be able to see America as a nation that is singular in its malevolence and so the idea that things might have improved in America was anathema to them.

There was a time in the West that we thought that self-control and particularly control of our emotions was a virtue. Now, we believe pretty much the opposite. To practice self-control and control of the emotions is seen as inauthentic and is, perhaps, even a vice. At least it is a vice when it is oneself who is expected to show some self-discipline. On the other hand we still like it when others show self-control since it makes them easier to deal with. I have a sign “keep calm and carry on” on the wall outside my office at home. Can you imagine people giving that advice in contemporary Left-leaning circles in America? I can’t.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ben Nelson Retiring Ahead Of 2012 Election

Someone will miss Nelson, I’m sure but I don’t know who that Democrat is but I’m sure he’ll be missed by someone. I wonder if he’s measured the drapes for his lobbying office on K street yet.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is expected to announce that he will not run for reelection in the 2012 election cycle, Politico reported Tuesday. Nelson is currently in the middle of his second term. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000.

Ben Nelson Retiring Ahead Of 2012 Election

Egads I'm such a geek!

My lovely wife got me a Bag of Holding for Xmas! If you ever played ‘books and dice’ Dungeons and Dragons you know what these wonderful items were. A bag that is larger on the inside than it is on the outside! Egads I’m such a geek!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The times they have changed

This made my day! Oh and welcome home sailor!


Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta and Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell share the first kiss after the USS Oak Hill returned home.
[Photo credit: Brian J. Clark/Associated Press]

At least Newt is being honest

You've got to admire Newt for his honesty.  He doesn't want our vote and is explicit in saying so.  It's still insanely stupid but it's honest stupidity.  Would that the GOP, as a whole, adopt this level of honesty and just tell the voters they don't want voting for them that they can vote for the other side.  It would save the GOP a lot of pain gotten from contorting themselves to try to appeal to blacks while using racially charged and dog-whistle politics.  It would save them the trouble of turning themselves into four dimensional toruses trying to court the Latino vote while simultaneously trying to scare the bejeezus out of the base at the thought of hordes of Mexicans coming over the border.  And then there's Arab and Muslim Americans who it is manifestly obvious the GOP does not want their vote.  They could at least be polite enough to tell Arab and Muslim Americans to just piss off.  

Newt To Gay Voter: Support Obama | TPM2012

If you’re a gay American, don’t vote for Newt Gingrich. That’s not a Democratic talking point — that’s reportedly what Newt himself said to a gay man in Iowa Tuesday.

Put a fork in it, Boehner is done

When the WSJ abandons you and you're a GOP politician, you're done.  The Journal has abandoned Boehner, calling him out by name.  David Frum, over at Frum Forum, makes another interesting observation that the Journal is responsible for the GOP being in this position because they taught them that this is what they are supposed to believe as good conservatives.  At some point, the GOP is going to have to decide that governing is more important to the nation than campaigning.  It's clear, though, that they aren't there yet. 


Another GOP Domino Falls In Payroll Fight After WSJ Cries Uncle | TPMDC

“Both Republicans and Democrats have agreed that this is going to happen and probably the best thing to happen now is just to get it over with — one more policy blunder— but just get it over with and move on because now it’s been framed as a tax increase which it’s not,” he said. “I know what’s going to happen and I agree with the editorial this morning in the Wall Street Journal,” Corker went on. “Probably the best thing to do at this point is just get this behind us and move on and hopefully figure out a way to deal with the real issues that our country needs to deal with.”

How Dare The WSJ Blame The House GOP? | FrumForum

The Journal also of course as always favors tax cuts too. But not this one. The payroll tax holiday is the rare example of a tax cut the Journal strongly dislikes. In today’s editorial, the Journal suggests that its dislike is based on the holiday’s temporary nature. Yet the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 were temporary too, and that time limit did not disqualify them in the Journal’s eyes.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Huffing-woo Post goes all in with the 2012 Mayan flapdoodle

So to answer the question of whether 21 Dec 2012 will be the end of the world; in a word, no.  Do I know exactly what is going to happen on 21 Dec 2012?  No, but I'll hazard a guess:

The Sun is going to rise in the East and set in the West.  People are going to be born and others are going die. The American news media will be patting themselves on the back and/or flaggelating themselves because of their horrible coverage of the 2012 elections.  Dogs will be walked.  Cats will clean themselves.  The kids will be alright.  

The thing I'm waiting for is 22 Dec when we will be treated to a lot of talk about 'a spiritual change' or 'spiritual evolution' that will have taken place. You can already see the shift if you are in an environment where the woo is thick on the ground.  Two years ago, people were wondering if the 'polar shift' was going to happen (there were people who *genuinely* believed that the Earth was going to turn 'upside down' so that the continents in the Southern hemisphere would suddenly be in the Northern hemisphere!) or if there was going to be this or that cosmic calamity.  As each potential calamity was thoroughly debunked, goal posts got moved until the 'end of the world' became 'there will be a spiritual evolution' or 'the beginning of a new spiritual vibration'. Now the really neat things about spiritual 'vibrations' and 'evolution' is that the evidence for them is anything you want them to be. So it's very convenient.  But somehow, when people are trying to sell their books or whatever other woo flapdoodle is going to separate the gullible from their money they aren't talking about spiritual evolution but real, actual, 70s-style disaster movie events.  But those can be verified and so aren't nearly as escapable.  

Dec. 21, 2012: Will End Of Mayan Calendar Bring Doomsday? (VIDEO)

No one knows exactly what will happen on Dec. 21, 2012 -- the day that the Mayan calendar runs out -- but it's safe to say there will be a lot of hype regarding what might happen.

Newt as GOParasite

It is one of the true delights of a bizarrely entertaining Republican presidential contest to watch the apoplectic fear and loathing of so many GOP establishmentarians toward Newt Gingrich. They treat him as an alien body whose approach to politics they have always rejected.

Friday, December 16, 2011

This is either the laziest or the dumbest person on the planet

Okay this is a truly majestic level of either laziness or stupidity. An end-user opens a ticket saying that he is unable to download from our web site. We have a tool that allows us to impersonate users so I logged in as him, thinking that perhaps he had not registered his product. That wasn’t the case. The way our downloads page works is this: you select what software you are interested in and then the page refreshes with links for the operating system you are using. So if you are on Windows you would click that, if you are using Linux or Solaris you would click those. Pretty simple, right? Not for this guy. He sees the page below and doesn’t even bother clicking the Windows link, he opens a ticket because he believes he cannot download the software.

What kind of thinking process would someone have to have, someone who works in information technology (we do not sell commercial software, if you are using our stuff you are in IT) to not even think to click the Windows link and see if he can download the software from there. Like I said, he’s either the laziest or the dumbest person on the planet.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I got on The Daily Dish!!!

I had responded to a post on The Daily Dish and Andrew Sullivan put it on the blog in full!
A reader writes:
I appreciate the comparison you highlighted between the gay vet who confronted Mitt Romney and the black veterans in history observed by Ta-Nehisi.  I am a former soldier, having served in the US Army from 1985 until 1989 before being discharged after a witch hunt.  My sister is a retired soldier and my son is currently serving.  We have a tradition of military service going back to at least the Second World War.  It is my father, who fought with the storied 761st Tank Battalion (the Black Panthers) and his generation for black soldiers and airmen that I want to talk about briefly.  
On my mother’s side, there were three Tuskegee Airmen.
My father, as I said, was a tanker.  Before WWII, both my father and my uncles had lived every day of their lives in either Louisiana or Alabama, respectively.  My father joined the Army the week following the attack on Pearl Harbor because the Army would let him fight as either infantry or a tanker but the Navy would have had him shining shoes or being a cook.  My father wanted to fight.  
He spent four years in the Army, was decorated with the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.  When he came home at the end of the war, he went to college where he met my mother, who had spent the war building airplanes as a ‘Rosie’.  Because my father served, he and my uncles got the GI Bill that allowed them to go to college.  World War II made my father who he was.  
My parents stayed in Alabama, where I was born, until 1968 when they moved us to California.  The 1968 election was the first time my father ever cast a vote in the nation he had fought and bled for. When I joined the Army my father was very opposed to it - partially because my sister had joined four years earlier, partly because of his memories of serving in a segregated military.  To convince him that my reasons were good, I told him that it takes a special kind of man to go and fight for a country that does not consider him enough of a human being to go to school where he wishes, to vote in elections, to live where he can afford and to work in any job he is qualified for.  That generation of black men who signed up and served knowing that they would return home and not be able to vote were very special men.  
When I think of the generations of gays and lesbians who served in our military, I think that whether the likes of Romney (or a non-trivial swath of the GOP for that matter) realize it or not, they are in the debt of these folks and are in the presence of the very best of America.  
I am not trying to blow my own horn.  This is not about my service.  I went in because I felt that I had grown up in a nation that did consider me an actual citizen and if my father could put on the uniform when he was, at best, a second-class citizen I could do no less.  I just want us, as Americans, to acknowledge that gays and lesbians have served and continue to do so and that these are the very best of our nation.  They get up and they do their duty knowing that the man or woman they love back home is not considered their actual, wedded spouse and yet they do it anyway.  We should honor them as the exceptional Americans they are.
As a quick aside, I also want the gay community to get off their Left-leaning, anti-American high horse and recognize that our queer vets are the very best of us and give them our full support and thanks for their service.

Why do people have such trouble with error messages

So a colleague of mine took a call from a user who got a “cannot open file located in <path>” error. This person asked “what could it mean”. This begs the question of why this person didn’t immediately just go to the path and see if the file existed. I just responded to someone who got an error “cannot create project in directory <path> because a project already exists in that location”. Once again, the user asked “what could that mean”. Now, given that the error messages actually tells you “here’s where the problem lies” why on Earth would someone not just go and put eyes on the issue? What is it about error messages that computer professionals have trouble with “look, go here, the problem exists at this location”?

MacJournal 6.0!!!

Since I bought my Mac in 2008, MacJournal from Mariner Software has been one of my staple apps. I just noticed in my RSS feed of MacUpdate that MacJournal 6.0 has finally been released. This is my first entry with the new version and even though it’s been a long wait for it to come out (I paid my $15 for my upgrade back in late September) it has been well worth the wait! The timeline function alone is fantastic as it allows me to see how active (or not) I’ve been with my journaling and blogging. I can now set word count goals for my writing week. I’m only just beginning to scratch the surface of all of the new features in this release.

If I Were A Middle Class White Guy

Now, I'm not a middle class white guy, I'm a middle class black woman who grew up upper-middle class (and needless to say black) but sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. So since Gene Marks, the Forbes columnist, feels qualified to tell poor black kids what they should do I think it only fair to tell middle class white guys what they should do.  

So if I were a middle class white guy, I would start early, certainly no later than my junior year of high school, reading deeply in American history.  I would go much deeper than the history that I was taught in high school paying particular attention to how American history looks from the point of view of blacks and Native Americans.  I would read some slave narratives and then work my way up through DuBois and Washington.  I would spend a great deal of time reading the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.  I would watch Glory until I had it memorized and The Color Purple and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman until I had no more tears to shed.   I would ask more questions than I made statements when talking about race so I didn't come off as an entitled jerk who was blind to the realities that others face.

I would take some time studying, in depth, the exploits of the black men who fought in WW II.  I would seek out Invisible Man and Native Son.  I would buy a seat for an entire run of "A Raisin in the Sun".  I would try to familiarize myself with what blacks have said about life in America so that I might have some idea what I was on about.  When I heard a black person talking about racism, I wouldn't dismiss them out of hand or assume that the black person in question was making it up or 'whining'.  I would have a sense of historical perspective, recognizing that 1967 isn't a time what no living human can remember but recent history as these things are measured in most countries. I would recognize that I have a perspective and that while it is the dominant perspective in America, it isn't necessarily the most accurate perspective.  

I would avoid assuming that poor people are poor because of some fault of their own.  If I were a middle class white guy, I would recognize the role that luck and random circumstance played in my own life.  I'm not saying that white people who 'make it' or (if they were born with it) 'keep it' don't deserve what level of comfort they have.  But luck plays a role and I would never forget it.  I would train my brain to think outside of my own context. I would avoid using phrases like 'my black friend' or 'why don't blacks just...'

No sane person thinks that being white is a trip down the primrose path in America.  White people have to get up and go to work just like everyone else.  Whties get laid off, have car accidents, get divorced, have dogs that chew up their remote controls and teenage kids who listen to music their parents don't like or get.  Life happens to white people too, just like it happens to everyone.   But if I were a middle class white guy, I would try to remember the things that don't happen to me because I'm a middle class white guy.  I would, for instance, remember that because I'm white and male, my intellect or competence will be decided after I open my mouth or act instead of having it dismissed before I do either as happens to, for instance, black women.  If I were a straight, middle class white guy, I would recognize that I can marry the person I love and that it was injust that my gay neighbor or lesbian sister can't and that this was an injustice crying out for rectification.  

If I were a middle class white guy, i would stand up and shout everytime I heard another white guy say that blacks just need to 'develop a habit of work'.  I would put as much daylight between myself and the likes of Newt Gingrich as I possible could.  

If i were a middle class white guy the very last thing I would think of myself was that I was in any kind of position to tell poor black kids what it was they should be doing in order for me to think that they 'deserve' success. If I were a middle class white guy, I would do everything in my power from being the kind of middle class white guy who writes articles in Forbes telling blacks what's wrong with them.


If I Were A Poor Black Kid - Forbes

I am not a poor black kid.  I am a middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background.  So life was easier for me.  But that doesn’t mean that the prospects are impossible for those kids from the inner city.  It doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities for them.   Or that the 1% control the world and the rest of us have to fight over the scraps left behind.  I don’t believe that.  I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed.  Still.  In 2011.  Even a poor black kid in West Philadelphia.

Destroy a company, lose a nomination?

This could be interesting and, quite honestly, I would love to see Mittens have to pay a price for destroying jobs--because despite the rather typical Republican denials that we have to destroy jobs in order to keep them--when you destroy a company in Anywhere, USA and move the jobs to Someplace Else, Indonesia you haven't really created jobs in America!  

Republicans Warn Bain Capital Could Cripple Romney’s Campaign | TPM2012

Mitt Romney’s career at Bain Capital buying up and restructuring companies — sometimes with major job cuts along the way — has been a glaring vulnerability since his earliest political runs. But it’s rarely come up in his two presidential campaigns, where the GOP’s investor-friendly ethos has made rivals hesitant to use it against him. Until now, that is. Newt Gingrich got the toughest shot in on Monday, suggesting that Romney’s time at Bain showed he was heartless and out of touch with the average American. “I would just say that if Gov. Romney would like to give back all of the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain, that I would be glad to listen to him,” Gingrich told reporters. Jon Huntsman’s been hinting at Romney’s investment capital years as well, albeit more subtly, making extensive use of a now infamous photo of Bain-era Romney awash in dollar bills in his new website and an accompanying web video (This is the same Huntsman whose father is a billionaire). Why is the issue coming up all of a sudden? Despite the Tea Party’s anti-bailout streak, it isn’t because Republicans have suddenly decided they hate investors — Gingrich, for example, got pilloried in the conservative press as anti-capitalist over his “layoffs” line and conspicuously rededicated himself to a “positive” campaign the very next day. The real subtext is electability. President Obama has made it absolutely clear that this race is going to about the 99% vs. the 1% on taxes, entitlements, and regulation. Sure we think Bain Capital is a paragon of free market values, Romney’s Republican critics argue, but what about those swing voters who are all too easily swayed the first time they see an ad featuring workers Romney laid off?

Whites and Blacks have a different view of race in America? Say it ain't so!

This article definitely falls into the ‘this should come as no big surprise’ category. Saw this over at ‘The Nation’ and, of course, my first thought was ‘and in other news ice has been determined to be cold’. No one should be the least bit surprised that whites think that more racial progress has been made than blacks, on average. As the author, Jamelle Bouie rightly notes, given that a white person could go through their entire life and have no real substantial contact with blacks depending upon their location, it would be rather astonishing if whites and blacks did not, on average, hold wildly different views.
One of my favorite demographic tidbits is the fact that there are roughly six white Americans for every person labeled as “black” in the census. Which means, given the extent to which African-Americans are concentrated in a few geographic regions, that there are large numbers of white people who have minimal to nonexistent contact with black people.
With that in mind, it’s not too surprising to discover the extent to which white Americans have a far more optimistic view of race relations than their black (and even Latino) fellow citizens. According to the latest survey by the Greenlining Institute—“a national…institute working for racial and economic justice”—just 16 percent of whites believe that there is a lot of discrimination in America today, compared to 59 percent of African-Americans and 22 percent of Latinos.
Overall, the institute found, whites have an incredibly skewed view of racial progress in this country. Despite the fact that African-Americans and Latinos earn significantly less money and have less wealth than their white counterparts, only 37 percent of whites believe that blacks make less money than whites, and a small majority believe that blacks’ and whites’ incomes are about the same. Likewise, a majority of white Americans believe that blacks’ health is “about the same” as their own, despite all evidence to the contrary.
The one problem I have with Mr. Bouie’s post, and it is a very small quibble, is this:
In addition to the relative lack of contact between whites and blacks, it’s simply true that elite blacks have achieved an unprecedented level of influence in American life (see: President Obama). Absent contact with everyday black communities, it’s easy to think that African-Americans are doing as well as everyone else.
As a middle-class black person, I do have some problem with the construction of blacks in America either being ‘everyday’ (read poor) or elite (read rich). Are not blacks who have middle class careers and lifestyles also ‘everyday blacks’? Aren’t all of those black college professors, ministers, lawyers, doctors and various cubicle drones also ‘everyday’ and are we not part of ‘everyday black communities’? I understand why black identity has been equated, for the last four decades at least, with poor, urban blacks but I remain unconvinced that this should be the touchstone of black identity. All of that said, Bouie does go on to say that our perception of race in America is not necessarily correct but perhaps more accurate.
It would be interesting to know why so few Latinos (only 22%, less than 10% more than whites) think that there is a lot of active discrimination in modern America. It makes me ponder whether somewhere between the overly optimistic view of whites and the potentially overly pessimistic view of blacks there is an accurate picture of race relations held by Latinos. That view would be ‘yes, there is still racial discrimination but, on the whole, it is not your grandparent’s discrimination

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Narrowing down the Higgs boson

Well done Mittens!  Realistically, though, it's just a coincidence.  That doesn't mean he shouldnt' get a ribbing for it though!  :)

Mitt Romney's Slogan Used By Ku Klux Klan, Anti-Immigrant 'Know Nothing' Party

It's the type of coincidence every politician dreads. On Tuesday, political commenters reported that one of Romney's go-to campaign catch-phrases, "Keep America American," was a central theme of Ku Klux Klan publications in the 1920s, and served as a rallying cry for the white supremacist group's campaign of violence and intimidation against black Americans, as well as Catholics, gay people and Jews. The progressive Americablog first posted examples of the overlap, and a spokeswoman for Mitt Romney declined to comment on the matter when reached by HuffPost. The Republican primary debates have ignited issues of immigration and poverty in this country, both of which disproportionally affect minorities. But Romney, a multi-millionaire, has steered away from some of the more drastic positions his rival candidates have taken on these issues.

Trying a more disciplined approach to blogging

So for the half-dozen of you who follow my blog, you might have noticed that I've been a very busy girl today.  That's because I'm trying to take the blog in a slightly different direction although I'm not certain what that direction is quite yet.  One thing I'm trying to do, however, is blog more often. I've got great tools but get lazy about doing the writing. I'm hoping that this will actually keep me writing which I hope will make me more productive as a writer.

Narrowing down the Higgs boson

CERN has announced that they have 'intriguing hints' that the Higgs boson exists.  
Higgs Boson Search: CERN Releases New Data Said To Narrow Hunt For 'God Particle'
Scientists hunting for an elusive subatomic particle say they've found "intriguing hints" – but not definitive proof – that it exists, narrowing down the search for what is believed to be a basic component of the universe. The researchers added that they hope to reach a conclusion on whether the particle exists by next year. The latest data show that the mass of the Higgs boson – popularly referred to as the "God particle" – probably falls in the lower end of the spectrum of mass that can be produced by smashing protons together in the huge Large Hadron Collider, researchers from two independent teams said Tuesday. The two teams said their data indicates the particle itself may have a mass of between roughly 114 and 130 billion electron volts. One billion electron volts is roughly the mass of a proton. The most likely mass of the Higgs boson is around 124 to 126 billion electron volts, the teams said. Until Tuesday, the most likely mass was seen as between 114 and 141 billion electron volts. There is still a small possibility that the Higgs could be much more massive and found above 476 billion electron volts, physicists said. The revelations Tuesday were heavily anticipated by thousands of researchers who hope that the particle, if it exists, can help explain why there is mass in the universe. British physicist Peter Higgs and others theorized the particle's existence more than 40 years ago to explain why fundamental particles – building blocks of the universe – have mass.

Things getting worse before they get better

Andrew Sullivan over at Daily Dish has this to say about the problems of the GOP.  Like him, my fondest hope for 2012 is that the Republicans lose so badly that they have no choice but to reform themselves.  I think that it would be the best thing for both the Republican party and the United States.  

But in many ways, this is all a simple result of the intellectual and ideological collapse of the Republican party. All they have, it seems, are some visceral reactions to social change - Latino immigrants, gay spouses, tolerant Millennials - and an argument that remains unchanged for thirty years, regardless of a hugely changed world. So we have a Cold War mentality without the Soviet Union - and a crazy endorsement of pre-emptive war and torture as core elements of American exceptionalism! We have a myth of massive new regulations by the Obama administration. We have more tax cuts, as if Reagan's supply side policies have been vindicated in the long term. And we have more tax cuts, while revenue is at 50 year lows. Or we have truly utopian ideas like abolishing the Fed, bringing back child labor, and fracking our way out of climate change. The whole caboose is a sign of a party that has long since unmoored itself from the country it exists in. If one of the GOP's problems is that it has lost the last two generations, nominating a 68 year-old curmudgeon who told OWS to get a job and take a bath is not likely to help. Newt's still a boomer, with all that boomer baggage. But here's what he'd do. He'd clarify dramatically the options in front of us. In refusing any tax hikes on the wealthy, and pledging to end Medicare as we have known it, and proposing a pre-emptive war on Iran as Israel's proxy, he'd help put the real GOP agenda on the table. To have that destroyed by Obama, and to have him handily re-elected would reform that party in a way nothing else would. I always said it would get worse before it gets better. The hope now is that it will get much, much worse, and thereafter much, much better. But it's just a hope, not a prediction. Only a fool would predict anything at this point.

Monday, December 12, 2011

How long will we continue in the same pit?

Ian Flether has a fairly devastating critique of the American Left and our utter fecklessness on economic issues. Full article here but the part I wanted to highlight is below in yellow.
This points to the second problem with the contemporary American left: it has exchanged equality as its primary goal for diversity. Now one can argue this either way, and I don't do culture-war issues, but the hard fact is that one can't prefer diversity to equality and expect equality to be the outcome. They are simply not the same thing. One can claim to be in favor of both, but strategic choices have to be made, and either one or the other must come out on top.
The real problem with diversity, from a leftist point of view, is not that it's a bad thing per se. The real problem is that diversity intrinsically tends to reduce human solidarity. Solidarity is the emotion people feel towards others that makes them care about the fate of people who would otherwise be strangers. It is thus an essential basis of any political tendency that would impose policies designed to reduce economic inequality. (It's no accident this is a word unions talk about all the time.)
Without solidarity, people don't hate each other. They just don't care. Not really, whatever they may say. Solidarity comes from having something in common with other people, and the less people have in common with each other, the more American society devolves to a model of pure individual self-interest. Which may be a leftist model in cultural or social questions, but it's a rightist model in economics.
I live in San Francisco, where there are an extraordinary number of people about who consider themselves liberal on economic issues. And so they are, when they write checks to liberal causes or participate in local political clubs and other organizations. But the other 29 days of the month or 5 days of the week, they go back to work downtown for the same corporate economy they claim to oppose on their days off. And they work hard to become rich, i.e. to acquire a nice juicy piece of inequality for themselves.
One can't blame a person for having a day job or for working for a living, but one also can't help wondering why they expect a certain economic outcome when they spend five days pushing one direction and only one pushing the other.
How long will the American Left continue to engage in identity politics at the cost of being effective? It seems at least a few more years.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

NYPD on Facebook: West Indian Day Parade Flap Is Overblown

John McWhorter has some interesting observations about race here
This week the big news on the Racism Watch is the New York City cops who have been discussing on Facebook black attendees of Brooklyn's West Indian American Day Parade in classically unsavory terms: "Animals." "Savages." "Drop a bomb and wipe them all out." And it would hardly be hasty to assume that terms even meaner than those were bandied about; we are only being told about snippets of a thread since erased from the site.
Typically, news like this is classified as evidence that racism in America is still "out there," and in ways more significant than what is acknowledged by those who claim it is on the wane. People like, yes, me.

What Republicans used to be

We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.
No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered — not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective — a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate. (Teddy Roosevelt)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Please get off my side!

Yet more hysterical nonsense from people who think that holding blacks accountable for our actions is racist.

All these comments about the ethnicity makes me sick to my stomach... Stealing candy REALLY?? We persecute! What about stealing Countries and... people from their countries, what about stealing cultures and lives of innocent people, what about stealing freedom from those who fight so hard to keep it... Who are the masters of this theft craft?? Lets not point fingers -look at the cause of Africans in America and how they got here! Before we blame Ethnicity. Give them education don't outlaw it from them I blame signs like (White's Only!) Take a look at what Africans have contributed and judge them as American children- this is the repercussion of a failing system! If we do not fix this... This 7 eleven will be your home in a short time and that gun in your house will need more bullets... Lets give them something to live for because right now they will Die for your Iphone!

Police in Maryland investigating a mass shoplifting have released stunning footage of an estimated 50 teenagers ransacking a Silver Spring 7-Eleven location.

Officers who responded to the call around 11:20 p.m on Saturday said that young people congregated in surrounding parking lots quickly scattered upon seeing the police vehicles, NBC Washington reports.

The alleged shoplifters took items such as beverages and snacks, according to WXYZ.

Police said that they stopped six people -- each between the ages of 16 and 18 -- and found that all had food or drinks, but no receipts.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Social responsibility and personal responsibility

Andrew Sullivan over at Daily Dish posted a three-way discussion on personal responsibility and social responsibility and the degree to which liberals put emphasis on either. This is a discussion that the Left desperately needs to pay attention to and do some serious soul searching.
Will Wilkinson recently pointed out that liberals tend to emphasize luck's role in success while conservatives focus on the role of hard work. Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias countered that liberals do support an ethos of hard work and personal responsibility. Tyler Cowen moderates the debate:
I would not quite say that progressives are "against such an ethos," but where does it stand in their pecking order?  Look at fiction, such as famous left-wing or progressive novels, or for that matter famous left-wing and progressive movies.  How many of them celebrate "an ethos of initiative, hard work, and individual responsibility"?  Is there one?  Maybe as part of a broader struggle against a corrupt system or against "The Man," but that tripartite of values is not celebrated in its own right. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Can this be done?

Niall Ferguson has a very thought provoking article at Daily Beast, calling for a ‘reboot’ of America.

He makes this argument:

The West first surged ahead of the Rest after about 1500 thanks to a series of institutional innovations that I call the “killer applications”:
1. Competition. Europe was politically fragmented into multiple monarchies and republics, which were in turn internally divided into competing corporate entities, among them the ancestors of modern business corporations.
2. The Scientific Revolution. All the major 17th-century breakthroughs in mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology happened in Western Europe.
3. The Rule of Law and Representative Government. An optimal system of social and political order emerged in the English-speaking world, based on private-property rights and the representation of property owners in elected legislatures.
4. Modern Medicine. Nearly all the major 19th- and 20th-century breakthroughs in health care were made by Western Europeans and North Americans.
5. The Consumer Society. The Industrial Revolution took place where there was both a supply of productivity-enhancing technologies and a demand for more, better, and cheaper goods, beginning with cotton garments.

        6.        The Work Ethic. Westerners were the first people in the world to combine more extensive and intensive labor with higher savings rates, permitting sustained capital accumulation.

There really is no way of arguing with very large parts of it. We might argue that it isn’t necessarily causative or we might argue that it puts insufficient emphasis on softer, more communitarian values, but we cannot argue that Europe in the 8th century was an insignificant backwater and by 1800 was fairly established as the most powerful civilization the world had yet seen. Two hundred years later, one of Europe’s progeny became the most powerful nation-state the world has yet seen. We might wish it were otherwise. We might be wholly unimpressed but we cannot deny that these are the facts. Nor can we deny that, as Ferguson lays out above, the major breakthroughs in all of the sciences in the 17th century that really started to accelerate the modern world into existence happened in the West. We might wish that history had played out otherwise but we cannot deny that history played out as it did.

I bring this up because I find it rather sad that on the Left no one is talking about this. In fact, on the Left no one even wants to look at this stuff. The comfortable tale that the West is in its current position because of a unique rapaciousness and evil on its part is much more to the liking of altogether too many people whom I have walked with proud solidarity all these years. Mr. Ferguson does miss some things. When even someone as conservative as David Frum or a good old fashioned Tory like Andrew Sullivan see the massive income disparity as something the United States might want to address you know things have gotten serious.

There’s something I think a lot of my American friends on the Left fail to grasp--this kinder, gentler, let’s slow down, let’s not compete, make everyone feel good by being not by doing isn’t actually what’s being taught in other parts of the world. It’s not. Kids in Japan, China and South Korea are learning something quite the opposite. They are being infected by the very same memes that made the West so powerful in such a short time.

The irony of this is that the nation that the Left says it wants, by its rhetoric, requires the six items above. I would add one more, reason. If anything should keep people up at night, worrying about the United States it is this fact: both the Right and the Left in this country are driven by ideological assumptions that are fundamentally at odds with the way the world works or is most consonant with social harmony and human happiness and both sides denigrate reason. Reason is that faculty that leads people to understandings such as: if I want you to not push me in the mud, I cannot reserve for myself the right to push you in the mud. Can religious teachings get you there? Yes, of course, the Golden Rule however, religious teachings can just as easily put you on the other side while there is no conclusion reason could lead you to that would prompt you to say, “Please refrain from pushing me in the mud, in the meantime I reserve the right to push you in the mud with impunity. I expect you to abide by this agreement.” Doesn’t that just sound absolutely ludicrous? Yet it is reason and only reason that boxes you in so you have nowhere else to go? Had a bad day? So what, maybe the other person did too. Beaten as a child? So what, this isn’t then and at any rate, shouldn’t you who knew violence when you were at the mercy of others now want to minimize the violence in the world? See how that works?

Yet, this tool which was hard won and is just lying around for anyone to pick up and use is reviled on the Left. Reviled. People will, when challenged, typically launch off into some obligatory and half-hearted hand-waving in the general direction of ‘well, of course, I think reason is important but I don’t want to be a robot’. Then they will start talking about their crystals and their Reiki master or Planet X. When confronted with the idea that the only fair position to take with all non-evidentiary claims is “equally false” and that there is no privileged place for any parochial religious beliefs they seem to not understand what the issue is or what is at stake. It is as if they think that their belief that there are these things called ‘vibrations of energy’ which effect them in various, non-specific ways sometimes bringing them boons and sometimes bringing them woe in accordance with the Law of Attraction. This ‘Law’ is that whatever you mentally give energy to, even in the sense of ‘I don’t want this to happen’ is what will happen to you. It is claimed that this law is backed up by a very idiosyncratic reading of quantum mechanics and string theory. But that is just to give it a scientific patina. It is pure magical thinking, all the way down.

If it were the case that these same people who hold to beliefs that are patently ridiculous could be consistent then that would at least be something. Instead, when confronted with beliefs that they dislike--say certain strains of evangelical Christianity--they are quick to say that those beliefs are ‘stupid’ or nonsensical and then will turn around and justify that position with a statement is just as over-the-top as the Rapture.

Friday, October 21, 2011

This is what I was afraid would happen to OWS

A common class background made it a little easier for working class youth – employed and unemployed, housed and homeless – to come together across the color line. This unity is complicated by the dominance of petty bourgeois folks in these occupations. The petty bourgeoisie are small shop owners, as well as professionals who serve in a managerial capacity, such as cops, judges, bosses, transit security, etc. Many of them are losing their jobs, houses, and businesses, and are being thrown into the ranks of the working class, so they are joining this movement. They are part of the 99%, but they have had very different experiences than the groups we have discussed so far, and this shapes their political outlook. Many higher paid workers are not petty bourgeois, but they still share petty bourgeois outlooks and ideas, especially the illusion that they are part of the “middle class”.

I had hoped this time it would be different. This time we’d keep our focus, be smart and not alienate people who it would be profitable to have on the side of the angels. Then I saw this and I knew, just knew, that OWS is doomed. I hope that before it tears itself a part in an orgy of “more-left-than-thou” accusation and counter accusation, somethings get done. I hope that before it alienates educated professionals that income inequality, joblessness and the fact that corporations are not people in any sense gets pushed to the front of the national consciousness enough that it won’t be at all easy to pretend, in six months, that it never happened and for the Beltway media to revert to “What joblessness? The deficit will kill us all!” But I knew that inevitably it would come to this, the inevitable ‘we must smash capitalism’ talk.

Later, in a demonstration that they only love certain *kinds* of working class people--those who aren’t, for instance cops or soldiers--there’s this bit:

They lecture working class youth when we chant “fuck the police” or “cops, pigs, murderers”. They don’t understand that we face police brutality all the time, and we’ve been struggling against it for a long time. Unlike us, these folks (used to) own property , and are used to the police protecting it. They have not yet learned that being part of the working class means owning nothing of significance, it means being dispossessed, and that means getting pushed around by the police who function as enforcers of the rule of the 1%. The police exist to make sure we don’t steal the luxury cars of the wealthy- or occupy the factories that make those cars.

We lecture you because cops ARE working-class people! We lecture you because the cop who deters you from stealing the luxury car is *also* the cop who deters some rapist from breaking into your house at night and violating you or someone you love.

We need to reach out to everyday people in our communities, those of us who are people of color, who are unemployed, who are mothers working more than 1 job to care for our children, who are workers and students. We do not need self-appointed leaders, more interested in their bureaucratic positions, and politicking, than in our collective liberation from white supremacy, police brutality, patriarchy and capitalism.

Best of luck with that.

It is difficult to speculate about where this movement is headed.

Actually, no, it’s not at all difficult to speculate about it. To the degree that OWS listens to this kind of campus radical bullshit the movement is doomed. Capitalism is not going to be overthrown and a whole lot of people aren’t going to trust anyone who is talking about overthrowing capitalism. Some of us--the writers of this piece are not among them--know some history and know how the movie that starts with people shouting about the glorious day when all will own everything in common turns out. It turns bloody and brutal and resembles nothing like a free society. It does not become more equal and just. Rather it becomes more unjust. It didn’t work in Russia. It didn’t work in China, or Cambodia, or Vietnam or North Korea or anywhere else.. It always went wrong, it always turned oppressive. We know this movie.

Earlier in the piece the authors say:

When we work, we produce goods and services to sell for profit, not to meet each others’ needs and desires.

Yes, in fact that’s precisely what we do. I do not go to work because I love my CEO. I do not work hard because I love the people who own the company. I go to work because when I do, I get paid and I can then take that money and buy the things I need and pay others who then go and buy the things they need and so on. There is nothing inherently wrong with that system. It should be a regulated system, but there is nothing inherently wrong with it. They are not going to do away with capitalism and they aren’t going to get all that many people to WANT to do away with it. The authors seem to forget that OWS started out as a protest about jobs. People who want to be able to work aren’t trying to ‘smash the system’ but to reform it so that they can be part of it.

To the degree that OWS buys into this campus-socialist crap it dooms itself to irrelevance. It breaks my heart, though, I so wanted it to be different this time. I wanted my side, the side that is for the people and not for the rich and the powerful, to be smart. Alas, it isn’t so.

The whole sorry thing is posted at People of Color Organize!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Herman Cain thinks we're that embarrassing uncle at the BBQ

Some people go through a struggle and make it out on the other side and think, "Man, that was hard. It shouldn't be so hard for people. I made it, but think of all those who didn't. We need to change our system so that it isn't holding people back, but instead making things fairer for everyone."
Then there are those who experience something similar and think, "I succeeded because I was special. You're not special. You don't deserve what I have because you weren't willing to do what I did to get it. You're weak and you make excuses. I did it, so why can't you?"
The above is from the very excellent blog, The Black Snob in a post riffing on the always brilliant Leonard Pitts column on Herman Cain. Both authors make excellent points about the psychological bag of rocks all black people carry around with us. We all have it and we should probably admit this. If you are a black person who is at all successful, who did well in school, you’ve probably had some period of life where it started to get you down.

For me, it started in junior high school. I started hearing ‘why you trying to be white’ and it was coming from other black students. I was psychologically prepared (or so I thought) for that kind of sentiment coming from white students and even white teachers. I was not at all prepared for that sentiment to come from my own people! Some of that was probably being sheltered in amongst a horde of black academics and white-collar professionals in the Sacramento area in the 1970s. Our AME church was not someplace anyone was going to say that those of us who were doing well in school were trying to be white. The adults had all struggled too much to say it and any youth who thought to speak that way to another young person was not going to have a pleasant go of it should their words fall into the ears of an adult. The extended family in California were all middle-class or upper-middle class so the expectations on us were the same. The extended family in Alabama and Louisiana didn’t necessarily get my sister and I and they probably resented us because our parents provided us with a level of material comfort my aunts and uncles (particularly on my father’s side) didn’t. But again, no one would have dreamed of discouraging academic excellence. The young black families who rented from my parents wouldn’t have dared to say anything about trying to be white. My sister and I were cheered on as the vanguard of what was going to be a glorious generation that, when we were adults, would march forth and really show America a thing or two!

So when I ran into this sentiment as a seventh-grade student I didn’t know what to make of it. It was a kind of psychological perfect storm because along with the racing hormones and gangly body that makes the early teens just a cavalcade of fun, the attack of ‘you trying to be white’ hit me in the precise spot I had absolutely no psychological defense for. High school was no more fun than junior high in that respect. It may be hard out there for a pimp but that is a day at the spa compared to the life of a black geek in high school in the 1980s. Dante himself wouldn’t have put such exquisitely sadistic characters in his Divine Comedy. I got angry. I mean really, really angry. For reasons I did not understand at the time, I blamed my black skin. The logic being that if I had not been born black, I might have been a nerd but no one would claim that I was not really white. To this day, three decades on and counting, the term Oreo is like nails on a chalkboard for me. So through my high school years, I tried hard not to be black. I didn’t want to but by the time I was in the Army I realized that wasn’t changing so I had damn well better make peace with it.

Sometime around the early 1990s, after I had come out (which, honestly, was made much easier by being estranged from the black church and the mainstream black community) I had the psychological epiphany that is highlighted above from The Black Snob. I realized that I was lucky, privileged, gifted and special and that with all of that I still had to work harder. I thought of my own circumstances, the ways in which I had to do more just to get the same recognition and I thought of my parents and how much more they had to do and my thought was not “I’m special, you’re not” but “I had so many things going in my favor and this is how hard I have to work. How much harder would it be for someone who didn’t have the advantages I did. Life is hard, anything with a decent payoff is going to require a lot of us, but it shouldn’t be that hard on people. Certainly not for something so completely arbitrary as skin color”. At that point a psychological weight lifted off my shoulders and kept me from becoming the kind of black person personified by Herman Cain and, even more poignantly, Clarence Thomas.

I am not calling either of these men Uncle Toms. I won’t throw that accusation around, certainly not cavalierly. I am saying that both of them seem to be, well, embarrassed by most of the rest of us. It seems as if they believe that if it weren’t for all of us blacks who aren’t conservative Republicans their lives would be substantially better. We are the relatives who are an embarrassment. It’s like there’s them and all the rest of us are that uncle who shows up at the BBQ that everyone knows is going to get sloppy drunk, say something really inappropriate and embarrass your parents.

For Mr. Cain to claim, as he has a couple of times now, that racism just doesn’t hold anyone back any more is not right. It’s not even wrong. I’m not saying that in any given situation where a black person does not get the job, the promotion or the grade they believe they deserve that race is a factor. It may be but it is not always a factor. This isn’t 1957 or, for that matter, 1967. I’m not saying that too many of us are too quick to jump at the racism explanation for our disappointments when, chances are, we’re the cause of our own problem or, for that matter, simple bad luck or timing. When I was laid off from a start-up in 2000 it wasn’t because I was black, it was because the dot com bust was upon us and my timing was, in a word, crappy. It would have been wrong (and demeaning) for me to claim that I was singled out for layoff because I was black when my boss and I were the ones to turn out the lights for the last time. Somewhere in between Mr Cain’s fanciful notions that racism simply doesn’t intrude in people’s lives and the knee-jerk excuse making is the real world. It would be nice if Mr. Cain and Justice Thomas were to join us there but, alas, there is no sign of that happening soon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It could be worse

Got a nail in one of my tires on the sidewall. Which means I have to replace the tire. Which means I have to replace all *four* tires. Because I have an all-wheel drive vehicle and the way the AWD transmission works either I can replace all four at once or I can eventually have to replace the center-differential on the transmission. Probably going to run about $700 for the set.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Now THIS is the life

It’s a bit past four, I’m streaming Duke Ellington to my iPhone and listening using Bluetooth headphones so if the phone rings I can just answer and immediately put on my tech-goddess hat. I feel like the weight of a certain amount of pretending to believe certain things for the sake of having the community I live in has passed from me because I realized, earlier this week, I couldn’t stop pretending that things that are nonsensical really made sense provided you just didn’t think about it too much or didn’t try to apply it to the real world. If you simply put that stuff to the side, the ideas were as solid as possible.

I also realize that I have been squandering my mental energy and writing talent on message boards for far too long. The ideas that I’ve been trying to communicate over on ButchFemmePlanet are altogether too complicated for a message board format and there is a kind of persistent reflexive pseudo-egalitarianism that I think is, ultimately, toxic to really good, meaty intellectual discussion. Plus it’s all on a message board so it’s never going to be seen by a publisher or editor or blog aggregator or, for that matter, anyone else who might be able to help me move toward publication.

So the energy that doesn’t go into writing my book is going to go here.

There are two projects that I have been going back and forth with (my writing habits appear to mirror my reading habits) committing to neither. One is a sci-fi spy novel set in the Pacific Republic, a Asia-bloc nation that spun off when the United States breaks up. The lead character, Grace Nakamura, is a spy-master who specializes in defections.

The other, the scarier book, is non-fiction. What I am after is nothing less than to show, from the point of view of one of the people who is supposed to benefit from the postmodernist/deconstructionist ideas that have seeped out of the left-leaning academy and made it into the mainstream of left-leaning (but not necessarily liberal) thought. There are a whole lot of ideas and theories that have been bandied about, most of which do not appear to have been checked to see if reality was at all in agreement. The goals of postcolonial thought are the right ones, from my estimations. The methods, on the other hand, I know won’t help.

The Left in America needs a reset, which is the working title of the book. I intend to call it Reset. Sometime last night or perhaps this morning I had an epiphany. If I took all the little scraps of writing I did when posting on those message boards, sometimes casting--forgive me for saying it--pearls before swine, and redirected it into my actual writing I could get this book to a place that I’d feel comfortable trying to find a publisher. So that is my goal. I’m either going to write a spy novel (which I’ve always wanted to do) or I’m going to write a non-fiction book (which I’ve also always wanted to do).

I’m about to go mix myself a cocktail, in 37 minutes I can log off the phones and then take a nice hot bubble bath to just let it all go and then spend a weekend with my wonderful and beautiful wife. Damn I’m a lucky woman.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Good bye, good luck and I tried to warn you

We used to be on the same side. I used to sit next to you and thought we were all rowing in the same direction. I have to leave you now because I cannot ally myself with the Left any longer. For twenty years I tried to ignore the evidence of my own eyes and ears. I tried to tell myself that the things I read that seemed nonsensical did make sense but I didn't understand them. I was wrong.

I thought that the Left, more than the right, wanted to build a society where people would not be judged, as much as is humanly possible to do so, on the basis of their skin color. I thought that the Left wanted a society where a black woman and a white man were seen as having the same legal and political rights. I thought that the Left wanted a society where anyone who worked hard and play by ’The Rules’ would not be left behind unless things had gone wrong for everyone. I thought that the Left conceived of the problem as being a matter that a qualified woman could only rise so high in corporate America. Instead I found that they thought the problem was that people had jobs in corporate America at all.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came today when someone on a message board where we were discussing race posted the following from Russell Means:

At this point, perhaps I should be very clear about another matter, one which should already be clear as a result of what I've said. But confusion breeds easily these days, so I want to hammer home this point. When I use the term European, I'm not referring to a skin color or a particular genetic structure. What I'm referring to is a mind-set, a worldview that is a product of the development of European culture. People are not genetically encoded to hold this outlook; they are acculturated to hold it. The same is true for American Indians or for the members of any culture. 

It is possible for an American Indian to share European values, a European worldview. We have a term for these people; we call them "apples"--red on the outside (genetics) and white on the inside (their values). Other groups have similar terms: Blacks have their "oreos"; Hispanos have "Coconuts" and so on. And, as I said before, there are exceptions to the white norm: people who are white on the outside, but not white inside. I'm not sure what term should be applied to them other than "human beings."

This idea that the people who disagree with you, particularly if they share your skin color, are fair game for slurs like apple, Oreo or coconut was a bridge too far for me. Perhaps that is because I well remember the stings of being called that because I did well in school and read for pleasure The same argument was made ‘you’re black on the outside, but you think like a white person’. If we took those words and put them in the mouths of a white man, there isn’t a person anywhere on the North American continent who calls themselves Left, Socialist, Liberal, Progressive, or anti-globalist who would not, in heartbeat, condemn the speakers. But since the speaker was not a white man but an American Indian, no statement he could make would invite condemnation.

I can no longer call myself a woman of the Left because to do so puts me in bed with people who, while claiming to be against racism, cannot bring themselves to call it bad or wrong. This raises the question of whether or not we should care about racism if we aren’t ready to put a judgement on it and call it wrong. If it’s not bad, if it has no more moral or ethical weight than whether one likes science fiction or mystery novels then there’s no point in expending energy about it. Who cares? Racism should only concern us if it is bad behavior but on the Left we have decided that there are very few actual bad behaviors.

Being a conservative is bad behavior and being a Republican is just this side of homicide to the Left. But racism? No. Not bad. Something that white people do and should feel guilty about, yes but not bad. Capitalism? Yes, that’s bad. We don’t much like that on the Left.

This is disingenuous. Either racism is actually bad--in which case we should be prepared to stand up and say that it is unacceptable behavior or it isn’t. If it really is bad but we’re not going to say that it is so that people will ‘feel heard’ or ‘feel listened to’ when they make racist statements we are lying. We are pretending that our motives are noble and in this case we will do rather ethically dubious things in service of our agenda. There is very little concern about that behavior.

The list could go on and on. The Left likes to mock right-wing populists for their creationism and for their denial of climate-change but they are no more pro-science than those they oppose. The following, again from Russell Means:

"This is what has come to be termed "efficiency" in the European mind. Whatever is mechanical is perfect; whatever seems to work at the moment--that is, proves the mechanical model to be the right one--is considered correct, even when it is clearly untrue. This is why "truth" changes so fast in the European mind; the answers which result from such a process are only stopgaps, only temporary, and must be continuously discarded in favor of new stopgaps which support the mechanical models and keep them (the models) alive. "

This was plucked out and posted to the thread by someone who claims to ‘love science’ but that is because he has mixed up actual science for New Age interpretations of quantum physics. Those interpretations have as much to do with actual science as Neo-Nazi historical revisionism has to do with actual historical study of Germany during the Nazi period. The language is the same but the methods could not be further from one another.

I used to see these right-wing populists on the message boards, screaming at people because they felt liberals were hypocrites. I still think they are out to lunch but I have a bit more sympathy for them. I don’t think they’re out to lunch because liberals aren’t hypocrites, I think they’re out to lunch because they’re solution was to buy into ideas that are no more grounded in reality than the Leftist idea that quantum mechanics means that we can wish ourselves rich or other such New Age nonsense.

The Left is going to go into 2012 with a profoundly confused mindset. They are not going to know what hit them. No small number of people on the Left will, ultimately, vote for a Green candidate or not vote and encourage others not to vote as a way of “teaching Obama a lesson”. Obama is going to lose next year and they will wake up January 2013 and will then try to ignore the fact that President Perry is being inaugurated. There will be a lot of gnashing of teeth and wailing. Then they will paint their signs and fire up the chants of “Hey hey! Ho ho! Capitalism has got to go!” If they have other designs for 2012, I wish them luck.

So, I’ve said good-bye and I’ve wished good luck. Now, the part where I say I tried to warn the people who I was formerly allied with.

I am a reasonably intelligent woman with an ability to turn a phrase from time to time. I have a very analytical mind and am a formidable debater. The Left does not want me on the other side. For a while now, I’ve hinted that I may turn my back and if I do, I will be disgusted and if I am, I will write about it.

For all those anti-racists who are actually okay with racism, as long as white people aren’t the one’s being racist, for those who think that we should not even try to have moral conversations about what is right and wrong or what is the best way to live, to those who are willing to stand up and applaud the most racist, sexist, homophobic statements provided that the speaker is non-white I tried to warn you. I tried to tell you that this path was troublesome and ill-conceived. But you loved your Foucault and Derrida too much to realize what they were actually on about. You enjoyed your anti-Western, anti-European posturing so much that you got into bed with any non-white person with an anti-imperialist cause even though, at the end of the day, they would happily take your queer ass to the gallows. If you are of the Left, if you believe that the West is the cause of the world’s problems, if you believe that it is nothing more than imperialism for American feminists to condemn the fact that Saudi women can neither vote nor drive, you have--through your own ideologies and defenses of them, sloppy and nonsensical as they were--created an adversary. Well done. I did try to warn you.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Welcome to Britain, a breeding ground for talking hate

Welcome to Britain, a breeding ground for talking hate: "

The British convince themselves that they loathe extremism. Continental Europe experienced the devastation caused by fascism and communism in the 20th century, but Britain has not had a revolution worth talking about since the 1640s. In France, Marine Le Pen of the Front National may well be the runner-up in the 2012 French presidential elections as her father was runner-up in 2002. In this year’s British local elections, the pathetic BNP managed to win just two council seats, while in the 2010 general election Labour took the sole parliamentary seat held by Respect, George Galloway’s alliance of the white far left and Islamist religious right.

The success of the mainstream in vanquishing the fringe has reaffirmed a cheering stereotype. Dear old Blighty may not be the most exciting place on Earth, but it is a steady, sensible and, above all, safe country. Yet although extremist parties fail as badly in Britain as they have always done, Britain has become the European capital of extremist ideas.



Thursday, July 14, 2011

The level of not even wrong here is magnificent

My honey pointed this blog out to me. It is such a virulent piece of anti-gay propaganda that it cried out for a full-throated response.

Listen, homosexual friends, everything’s not okay. Don’t do that in the name of black atheism. If you are of African descent, then you accept the values, customs, and traditions of traditional African people, and homosexuality is not a traditional African custom. It is a European Graeco-Roman social custom. [That's how Europeans greet each other.] This is a historical fact. I’m not a bigot. This is not prejudice. Traditional African society prioritizes reproduction and protection of children.

No, IA, you are a bigot. What is more, you are a--wait for it--fascist. You are a fascist in the sense that you have a ‘blood and soil’ mentality. You essentials a genetic fact--that one has recent African ancestry--and make it into something that compels you to, as you put it, accept the values, customs and traditions of traditional African people. Now, you do not explain why it should be so that a particular pattern of genetics, based upon parentage, should compel you to accept the values, customs and traditions of people living in a completely different culture. What is more, you merge all sub-Saharan African people into a single cultural group when, in fact, they are not a monoculture. The cultures represented on the African continent are as varied as those spanning from Paris in the West and Beijing in the East. Could you talk about a single, monolithic culture running along the entire length of the Eurasian continent? Not hardly. In the same way you cannot speak of a monolithic culture in Africa, even if you confine yourself to the sub-Saharan part of the continent. When I call you a fascist, I am saying that because you believe that blood and the soil it is from, make an inescapable bond and that one *must* (you have no qualifiers in the statement above) obey the dictates of that blood and soil.

What is more, the argument you are making about Europeans does much the same thing. Yes, there is a civilization one could call Western European and yet, that civilization still manages to encompass places as diverse as Poland, Brazil, England, France, and Mexico, Chile and the United States. Again, not a monoculture by any stretch of the imagination. Yet you try to collapse all of that cultural diversity into one thing “European Graeco-Roman” entity that you can then dismiss as the source of homosexuality.

Homosexuality is a by-product of western individualism [like Broke Back Mountain?]. It’s me, me, me, me, me [unlike heterosexual relations, where we are selflessly thinking only of our partner's enjoyment]. I don’t believe in God because of scientific reasons. When the topic of homosexuality comes up, I always bring up the Law of Reproduction. [This is one of those inviolable Laws taught in every biology class.] You’re not born that way. To say you’re born that way violates the scientific Law of Reproduction. It has nothing to do with religion. We’re not anti-homosexual. If you’re European, if you’re white, that’s their thing. If you go to their history books, they’ll tell you, we’ve been doing it for years; for centuries; this is our custom. They’ll let you know they have sex with animals. [Actually, I had been trying to hide that. These guys are just too perceptive.]

There is no “Law of Reproduction”, sir. None. I am willing to bet my academic background in molecular genetics over what you think you’ve understood by reading Dawkins et. al. Yes, sexual reproduction happens but that does not make it a ‘law’ in the strict scientific sense--and you are claiming thins ‘law’ is taught in every biology class. However, sexual reproduction is not the *only* way living organisms propagate themselves. What is more, in the ape brain--humans are apes whether you like it or not--sex and reproduction are not *necessarily* connected. We don’t have sex to reproduce, we have sex for pleasure. That is nature’s way of encouraging us TO reproduce. However, that is our species. There is no ‘law of reproduction’ that applies to our species. In fact, this idea you appear to have--and your argument assumes this--is that all living things reproduce themselves. That is not the case nor is it something that would be workable if it were. The vast majority of all things that have ever lived will leave around no descendants--none. For humans, non-trivial numbers of males have left behind *no* descendants. That does not mean that these men did not have sex, but it does mean that they did not leave around any descendants. In fact, one of the axiomatic statements of evolution is that there is competition for mates and that some individuals lose that competition. Your ‘Law of Reproduction’ is repealed by Nature and Nature *always* has the last vote.

What’s more, you are as much a product of Western civilization as any homosexual. You are not ‘traditionally African’ unless you were born in Africa and grew up in that culture. If that is the case, you’re not in exactly the best position to tell black Americans who or what we are. Chances are, though, is that you did not grow up in Africa you grew up in the United States. You are a Westerner and any things you’ve picked up that you believe are ’traditionally African’ are no more authentic than the blonde haired, blue-eyed second or third generation Americans, whose grandparents came over from Norway at the end of WW II, and suddenly discover that they are 1/16th Cherokee and start styling themselves Running Wolfwater or some other such rot. Your argument is a Western-style anti-gay argument. Your attempt to back up your anti-gay bigotry--and you are, after all, a bigot--with a patina of scientific respectability is very much a Western rhetorical tactic. You are no more ‘traditionally African’ than I am and I have maintained, since I first started hearing this Afrocentrist tripe 30 years ago, that any meaningful cultural connection between blacks in America and blacks in Africa died when the last person, born in Africa and transplanted to America, died. After that, we were on our own.

What’s more, the giants--the real and true demigods of our intellectual tradition in the West--almost to a person through the 19th and most of the 20th centuries recognized that to look to Africa was folly. You are not an African, you are an American. If you are British or Canadian or Australian you are STILL not an African. If we drop you off with some tribe of !Kung you will enjoy the first week. Then you’ll start to miss your laptop, just like anyone else.

Fascism is a very ugly human ideology. One of the most ugly and deeply disturbing ideas ever conceived by the mind of humans and we have come up with some truly diabolical ideas! it reduces people to cardboard cutouts, not even extras just background scenery in our own personal movies. When you are talking about gay people, you aren’t talking about the tech support person you spoke to, or the phlebotomist who drew your blood, or the pilot who just landed your airplane. No, you were talking about this amorphous mass called ‘homosexuals’ and in just a few paragraphs try to tie homosexuals to both bestiality and child abuse--neither of which has any meaningful or causal connection and, in fact, do not even correlate with homosexuality! Yet, as you proclaimed yourself to not be a bigot, you made statements that if some Rush Limbaugh were to make those same statements about blacks you would be up in arms, calling for his firing and banning from the airwaves. You do the very same thing with Europeans. I won’t even speculate how many other groups you fool yourself into thinking you feel superior to.

As I said at the head of my response to you, you are a fascist. Since I’m reasonably certain that you will try to deny that you have anything in common, ideologically, with fascists you’ll forgive me if invoke a European, Umberto Eco, who has the benefit of knowing fascism when he sees it since he grew up in Mussolini’s Italy.

        1. The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition.
        7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country. This is the origin of nationalism.
        12.        Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters.
        14.        Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak.

Of the fourteen points, these are the seven I think most germane to this discussion. The whole thing can be found at

It is from Ur-Fascism by Umberto Eco.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Whither the American Spring?

An online acquaintance asked me a very troubling and penetrating question yesterday in email. My initial response, which I still stand by, was not much more than a skeleton while the question has quite a bit of muscle, sinew and flesh to add to the bones. This blog post will attempt to explore why there has been no general uprising in America. In Greece, Ireland, England, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Libya and Syria there have been general uprisings against either governmental corruption or harsh austerity measures. Now, while the “Arab Spring” uprisings have been of one character--people rising up against dictators who have oppressed their people, the outpourings in the Western nations have all been about draconian cutbacks to the social safety net. And what of America? There seems to be some signs of life in Wisconsin and Ohio, a little in Michigan but not a widespread expression of dismay at the dismantling of the middle-class or sweetheart deals given to corporations that then use their legions of lawyers to write legislation and battalions of accountants to use every tax dodge possible.

Even as our infrastructure disintegrates to such a degree that it becomes impossible to even maintain the illusion that we have the best, the biggest, the fastest, the newest and the shiniest things of any nation, Americans passivity deserves some scrutiny. We are caught between essentially four different political factions all of them some degree of bad.

They are:
  • The Democratic party -- timid to the point where mere cowardice looks like Spartan heroism in comparison.
  • The Republican party -- enthralled to a meme they are no longer capable of even evaluating. They have placed themselves beyond considerations of evidence, beyond reason. They have one agenda--the destruction of the Democratic party. If that means burning the country to the ground in order to achieve their Ayn Rand dreams, so be it.
  • The Tea Party -- the zombie spawn of pure Ayn Rand economic libertarianism mixed in with a generous measure of Christian theocracy.
  • The Green Party -- They have a political program, of a sort, but it is not a program that has anything to do with this nation or this species. Instead of social democracy, they pursue socialism even though there should be no doubt that socialism qua socialism does not turn out well.
Only one of those parties, the Democratic party, has enough actual grown ups to be allowed to rule. The GOP, the Tea Party and the Greens are in no position to rule. The last one because their ideas simply are not workable in any nation that can still call itself free. The next to last because, well, they simply do not believe in governance. That’s right, the Tea Party while talking about ‘local control’ has no interest in governance. They view government as a very limited exercise in, essentially, protecting the propertied and moneyed classes from the democratic impulse. If they would just be old-style aristocratic Tories that would at least have the virtue of honesty. The GOP cannot be allowed to rule as long as they are in sway to the Tea Party’s memes and the Democratic party can be trusted to rule, just so long as no one expects them to stand up for what they believe in.

So why no revolution? Some of the reason is that the Right has no need of one as they are on the side of the oligarchs and the plutocrats while masquerading, quite well thank-you-very-much, as populists. That isn’t really the interesting question, though. The really interesting question is why the Left hasn’t stepped forward. Here there is a quartet of problems, all of them due to very pernicious memes. The problem for the Left, is that we have no program other than a vague Marxism that no one wants to follow. To add insult to political injury we also lack do not believe anything. I understand that we think we do but, in reality, we don’t. I say this because of the corrosive effect strong cultural and epistemological relativism has had on the Left. If the Left believes anything at all (and it is questionable if they do) it is that all cultures are equally valid, all descriptions of the world are equally valid, and that the United States is the single biggest bad actor ever to have its moment upon the world stage. The Left has spent most of the last two decades in thrall to the meme of identity politics which makes effective political action (as opposed to political theatre) well nigh impossible. Lastly, American culture as whole is in the grips of the ‘self-help’ meme of ‘The Secret’ which is just a warmed over, slightly more multicultural

The Marxist problem is two-fold. Firstly, the Marxist project failed and failed in a definitive manner. This means that the Left that advocates a Marxist program is pushing forward a program that almost every nation that actually experienced Communist rule abandoned as the curtain rang down on the twentieth century. Secondly, the insistence that we need a Marxist solution to the problems in the USA makes the Left look pathetically out-of-touch. It could be no more deserving of pity if it were a Japanese soldier who came off some island in the Pacific only to discover that his nation lost the war sixty five years before. What’s more, it causes those of us on the Left to have to distance ourselves from the Old Left which not only failed to put sufficient daylight between itself and the Stalinist regime in the USSR or the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia or Mao in China, and it makes all claims of that, for instance, health care is a human right (an argument that I think has some meat on its bones) empty. No movement prepared to make excuses for Pol Pot, Stalin or Mao (not to mention Hugo Chavez) is in any kind of position to make any claims about human rights that won’t risk the audience collapsing in peals of laughter. It is bad comedy almost to the point of giving offense so monstrous were the crimes of the three major Marxist regimes.

Not that we need worry overly much about the modern American Left making any claims about human rights as human rights. Not because the Left doesn’t use the phrase, it is used in abundance. It is that the Left no longer believes human rights exist! Human rights is just a buzzword, a meaningless and empty phrase with no more weight than hydrogen holding it to the ground. Human rights implies that these apply in all places and in all times to all people under most any circumstances. The Left has abandoned this language as a project and it is now a mere rhetorical vehicle. Rights, as the Left now construes them in both the high-theoretical and popular senses, adhere to groups. As a black lesbian I have rights that adhere to me as a woman, as a member of a racial minority and as a member of sexual minority. I do not have rights that adhere to me simply because I am a human being that navigated the dark passages of my mother’s birth canal. Those don’t exist. The reason they have become rhetorical devices and not limits upon governmental, ecclesiastical and commercial power which cannot be violated is that the former does not compel the Left to condemn or even notice the crimes of, say, a Hugo Chavez. The latter is not a negotiable position--the crime of female genital mutilation is wrong whether it happens in suburban Detroit or in the heart of Riyadh. But that is a terribly inconvenient position to take. It might require us to learn something about a culture and then make a judgment upon that culture. This we must never do because to do so is to embrace racism and advocate imperialism. So we abandon human rights and talk about group rights instead. We have elevated cultures to a place where they now stand above any given individual who might be subject to that culture.

This is a problematic stance, to say the least. While it would superficially appear to put the Left on the side of the angels these are more like angels as portrayed by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in Kevin Smith’s beautiful (if vulgar) sermon Dogma. These are not gentle angels. They are violent and callous angels, concerned primarily for their own well-being. It is also a rather humorous instance where the faction that speaks of privilege to the point of numbness shows its own privilege. If you can pick up and leave the culture of, say, the American South then it may seem that cultures are not that oppressive. Viewed through the eyes of someone who, in her lifetime, may never travel any further distance from her home at once than I do in a single week of commuting to and from work, the tyranny of culture can look like a prison so inescapable that it might as well be in orbit.