Thursday, December 31, 2015

Three boys shot because of toy guns: Tamir Rice, Andy Lopez, Nicholas King - #DemilitarizeThePolice

Age: 12
Shots fired: 2
Hit: 1
Replica gun: Airsoft without orange tab that resembled a Colt 1911 pistol
Andy Lopez
Age: 13
Shots fired: 8
Hit: 7
Replica gun: Airsoft without orange tab that resembled an AK-47 rifle
Age: 14
Shots fired: 1
Hit: 1
Replica gun: Airsoft painted black that resembled a Smith and Wesson semi-automatic pistol
(Note for anyone who thinks King was treated differently because he survived: the police are trained to shoot to kill when they shoot.)

Video of the shooting of Rice:



Video of the shooting of King, who is just off camera at the beginning, then is shot, drops gun and runs, and collapses off camera.



Related: Shootings involving replica firearms | www.daytondailynews.com

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Beulah McFee page 23


For people who think Henry Louis Gates' arrest was about racism

Study on Henry Gates arrest says Cambridge police don't use racial profiling: "Of the 392 adults arrested for disorderly conduct, 57 percent were white and 34 percent were black. That racial breakdown almost exactly mirrored the racial composition of the population that Cambridge police investigated for disorderly conduct, the center's analysis shows."

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Beulah McFee page 20


On virtue signalling, new words, and Newspeak

I was thinking about a recent useful term, "virtue signalling", so I googled it and found I invented ‘virtue signalling’. Now it’s taking over the world » The Spectator. James Bartholomew defines it as
the way in which many people say or write things to indicate that they are virtuous. Sometimes it is quite subtle. By saying that they hate the Daily Mail or Ukip, they are really telling you that they are admirably non-racist, left-wing or open-minded. One of the crucial aspects of virtue signalling is that it does not require actually doing anything virtuous. It does not involve delivering lunches to elderly neighbours or staying together with a spouse for the sake of the children. It takes no effort or sacrifice at all.
Talking about the phrase's popularity, he says, "New phrases and words are the opposite of Newspeak. They make expression and argument easier."

He cannot be more mistaken. New phrases and words are the heart of Newspeak. They frame expression and argument. To use my favorite example, people got along without the pseudo-scientific concept of "race" for thousands of years: when it first appears in English in the 17th century, writers had to explain it because they knew it was a strange new idea.

Once a meme's accepted, most people who use it see the whole world in its terms. Memes are both useful and limiting: while "virtue signalling" explains a great deal of the facile political thought online, the term makes it easy to dismiss honest attempts to share information as mere virtue signalling.

When we buy a new idea, we never notice the price we pay. People throw themselves into cults because the cult's language seems to explain everything important. Only the wisest and luckiest cultists wake some time later to see that all those beautiful words were like a stage magician's gestures, making the audience see the manifestations and miss the mechanics.

I suspect I'll use "virtue signalling", a least for a while. But I'll try to use it as a scalpel, not a club.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Beulah McFee page 19


Hillary Clinton's Trickle-Down Feminism

A Clinton supporter was recently trying to gloss over the fact that her neoliberal policies would be much harder on working women (and men, of course) than Sanders' democratic socialism by claiming Clinton had made advances for women while she served on the board at Wal-Mart. The supporter linked to As a Director, Clinton Moved Wal-Mart Board, but Only So Far - The New York Times, which, being the Times, puts the best possible spin on the facts, but the truth is there for people who read critically:
Fellow board members and company executives, who have not spoken publicly about her role at Wal-Mart, say Mrs. Clinton used her position to champion personal causes, like the need for more women in management and a comprehensive environmental program, despite being Wal-Mart’s only female director, the youngest and arguably the least experienced in business. On other topics, like Wal-Mart’s vehement anti-unionism, for example, she was largely silent, they said.
I quit thinking more women in a system would improve it when Maggie Thatcher became Prime Minister of Great Britain. Systems don't care who runs them; they only need to run.

What's significant about Clinton's six Wal-Mart years is that on the issue that would've most helped working women, unionism, she stayed silent. Wal-Mart has more women in management and a showcase environmental program now, and she deserves some credit for that. But is Wal-Mart today the model for America that Democrats want?

I had been thinking neoliberal feminists should be called Marie Antoinette feminists because they're mostly nice people who want a nice hierarchy in which the peasants are content being peasants. But because neoliberalism is profoundly corporatist, I think I'll just speak of trickle-down feminists from now on.

ETA: Here's Ms. C. being proud of Wal-Mart:


ETA 2:

I never noticed that the intro to the 1950s Superman TV show promises a very different show

I know I saw the original show in reruns when I was a boy. I could come close to quoting the intro for most of my life. But today, I noticed for the first time what this suggests: "Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way."

It's not promising a show about a superhero. It's promising a show about an alien who disguises himself as a reporter. I think I would like that show.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

How I would spackle midichlorians if I was in charge of Star Wars

The basic rule of sequels is you're stuck with what went before, no matter how much you hate it, but you can explain how things were not as they seemed, which some writers call spackling.

If I was in charge of the StarWarsVerse, I would reveal that to consolidate power, the Empire and the Jedi colluded in a hoax: they taught that only people with midichlorians could be strong in the Force to hide the fact that everyone could be—what really matters is training and commitment. Why, you ask, would they do that? To have an effective monopoly on the Force. Why would the Republic continue the old lie? Because its rulers, like all rulers, want people to be content rather than free.

Monday, December 21, 2015

How Star Wars VII invalidates the idea that Storm Troopers can't hit what they aim at

Minor spoiler, obviously:

At the beginning of the movie, Finn doesn't shoot during a massacre. My first thought was this was a mistake on the part of the writers—it would be more discreet if he shot over the heads of the targets. But then I realized that would mean Finn was being cunning rather than viscerally unable to slaughter defenseless people.

And then I remembered that in actual combat, a percentage of soldiers never shoot and others shoot to miss. They may be the majority. The exact numbers are fiercely debated; if you're curious, you could start researching here:

True or false: "Soldiers tend to intentionally fire over the enemy's head, or not to fire at all." - Straight Dope Message Board

Economist's View: Manufactured Contempt and Its Consequences

In any case, all those storm troopers who shoot and never hit the movies' heroes? They may just be good people who believe all lives matter.

How Magical Negroes and Mary Sues reveal the shortcomings of identitarian criticism

Identitarians will complain about a Mary Sue or a Magical Negro and fail to see how the terms obscure the underlying truths:

A Mary Sue is a female wish fulfillment character. For people who think primarily in terms of gender, her male counterpart is the Marty Stu or Gary Stu. The original Mary Sue was a character from Star Trek fanfic who got to do everything a heterosexual female Star Trek fan might want to do if she became part of Star Trek. A smart feminist critique would point out that Mary Sue was fundamentally a feminist response to the sexist casting on the '60s. Instead, a Mary Sue became shorthand for a badly done female wish fulfillment character, and now the term's used to suggest any wish fulfillment character is bad.

But adventure stories rely on wish fulfillment characters. If, as some argue, the lead of the new Star Wars movie is a Mary Sue, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo are also Mary Sues. My favorite Mary Sues are Captain America and Robin Hood.

A Magical Negro is a black supporting character, and often one who dies. Which is to say, the Magical Negro is simply a supporting character. The real complaint with the Magical Negro is not that there are black supporting characters like John Coffey in The Green Mile (who falls under another archetype, the savior figure). The real complaint is that there are few lead roles for black actors.

The list of white supporting characters whose role is to help the main character and often to die is very, very long. My favorite Magical Negroes in film are Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday in Tombstone and Chow Yun Fat's Mark in A Better Tomorrow.

ETA: Please Stop Spreading This Nonsense that Rey From Star Wars Is a “Mary Sue”

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Adolph Reed explains how race politics is a class politics

In From Jenner to Dolezal: One Trans Good, the Other Not So Much, Reed says:
...race politics is not an alternative to class politics; it is a class politics, the politics of the left-wing of neoliberalism. It is the expression and active agency of a political order and moral economy in which capitalist market forces are treated as unassailable nature. An integral element of that moral economy is displacement of the critique of the invidious outcomes produced by capitalist class power onto equally naturalized categories of ascriptive identity that sort us into groups supposedly defined by what we essentially are rather than what we do. As I have argued, following Walter Michaels and others, within that moral economy a society in which 1% of the population controlled 90% of the resources could be just, provided that roughly 12% of the 1% were black, 12% were Latino, 50% were women, and whatever the appropriate proportions were LGBT people. It would be tough to imagine a normative ideal that expresses more unambiguously the social position of people who consider themselves candidates for inclusion in, or at least significant staff positions in service to, the ruling class.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Adolph Reed on Jenner, Dolezal, and identitarianism

I failed to blog this when it came out, for which I apologize. As usual with Reed, the whole thing is worth reading, but I'll just give you this bit of From Jenner to Dolezal: One Trans Good, the Other Not So Much:
But the more serious charge is the moral one, that, as Michelle Garcia puts it, "It’s pretty clear: Dolezal has lied." But here too, it’s not clear what’s so clear. Is the point supposed to be that Dolezal is lying when she says she identifies as black? Or is it that being black has nothing to do with how you identify? The problem with the first claim is obvious – how do they know? And on what grounds does Jenner get to be telling the truth and Dolezal not? But the problem with the second claim is even more obvious since if you think there’s some biological fact of the matter about what race people actually belong to utterly independent of what race they think they belong to, you’re committed to a view of racial difference as biologically definitive in a way that’s even deeper than sexual difference.
Reed's piece is mentioned in Should we choose our racial identities?, which is also worth a look.

Friday, December 18, 2015

My experiences with Obamacare and Universal Health Care

One of the stupider things I've done in my life was failing to get Canadian citizenship when I was young. For a couple of years, I had landed immigrant status through my family, who moved to Canada when I was seventeen. I went to college in the US and decided to stay there because I really liked Emma and Minneapolis. During my time in Canada, I had some experience with its health care system, which always consisted of going to the nearest provider, getting what I needed, and walking out in a minute or two.

Though I chose to stay in the US, I kept hearing stories from my family about their health care. All of which were good.

Now, I could tell you about the hell we went through when Emma broke both of her arms, but that was before Obamacare, so let me leap forward to this October. I had a bad bicycle accident and went to the emergency room, where I was told I wasn't covered.

Here's how coverage for low-income folks works locally: You qualify for coverage through Hennepin County, which gives you a choice of insurance providers, if I remember correctly—we're with Medica. The insurance companies have deals with different medical groups—because we're with Medica, we go to Allina clinics. Which meant that on that Sunday, I had to go to the nearest Allina clinic that was open rather than to the nearest clinic. Which meant I found out I wasn't covered after taking an hour-long bus ride with an arm that might've been broken. (Yes, I could've gotten friends to give me a ride, but I am damned independent by nature, and there was nothing wrong with my legs, so I didn't want to bother anyone on a Sunday morning.)

Now, the Minnesota system is not heartless because few humans are. We figured out that Hennepin County was slow to get the paperwork done for October because they're understaffed, but I was supposed to be covered, so the paperwork could be straightened out later. I got to see a doctor and went home.

And started getting billed.

So I contacted Allina, explained that Hennepin said I was covered, and forgot about it for a few weeks.

And got more bills. So today I spent several hours, half on hold and half talking to Allina, Medica, and Hennepin county. The upshot is Hennepin County will send me paperwork saying I really was covered, which I will then send to Medica, who will then tell Allina it's all okay.

If everything goes right.

I'll add that everyone I spoke to was very nice and sympathetic—it's not their fault they're in a system designed for profit rather than people.

But, capitalists, do not tell me anything about socialist bureaucracies today, okay?

ETA:


Related :Thank you, bicycle helmet!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Beulah McFee page 18


Martin Luther King on the creation of Jim Crow

"Racial segregation as a way of life did not come about as a natural result of hatred between the races immediately after the Civil War. There were no laws segregating the races then. And as the noted historian, C. Vann Woodward, in his book, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, clearly points out, the segregation of the races was really a political stratagem employed by the emerging Bourbon interests in the South to keep the southern masses divided and southern labor the cheapest in the land. You see, it was a simple thing to keep the poor white masses working for near-starvation wages in the years that followed the Civil War. Why, if the poor white plantation or mill worker became dissatisfied with his low wages, the plantation or mill owner would merely threaten to fire him and hire former Negro slaves and pay him even less. Thus, the southern wage level was kept almost unbearably low." —Martin Luther King

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Yes, Timothy McVeigh and Anders Breivik were Christian terrorists

From Is Anders Breivik a 'Christian' terrorist?:

Anders Breivik: "I consider myself to be 100 percent Christian."

From An Accurate Look at Timothy McVeigh's Beliefs:
McVeigh: I was raised Catholic. I was confirmed Catholic (received the sacrament of confirmation). Through my military years, I sort of lost touch with the religion. I never really picked it up, however I do maintain core beliefs. 
Time: Do you believe in God? 
McVeigh: I do believe in a God, yes. But that's as far as I want to discuss. If I get too detailed on some things that are personal like that, it gives people an easier way [to] alienate themselves from me and that's all they are looking for now.
What were the personal things he thought would alienate people from him? The big clue: "Timothy McVeigh had photocopies of a portion of "The Turner Diaries" with him when he was arrested. McVeigh also sold copies of the book at gun shows around the country." What are The Turner Diaries? "The chief guidebook for Christian Identity eschatology."

Bonus:

Breivik's Christianity by Martin E. Marty: "Q: What do the following have in common? Anders Behring Breivik, killer of scores of innocents in Norway; assassins Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK) and Sirhan Sirhan (RFK); serial killers: Dennis Rader (Kansas, murdered 10); Charles Starkweather (Nebraska, 11); Jeffrey Dahmer (Wisconsin, 17); and Dylan Kiebold (Columbine, CO, 13).

Answer: they were all Lutheran Christians."

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Beulah McFee page 15


Nazis supported "no platform" tactics—where Hitler and XKCD agree

I just came across Nazi Propaganda and Censorship, which mentions this incident from three years before the Nazis took power, when they were acting purely as private citizens who, in XKCD's terms, simply didn't want to hear "bullshit" from "assholes" and therefore "showed them the door":
DECEMBER 5, 1930
JOSEPH GOEBBELS DISRUPTS PREMIERE OF FILM
 In Berlin, Joseph Goebbels, one of Adolf Hitler’s top deputies, and Storm Troopers (SA) disrupt the premiere of "All Quiet on the Western Front," a film based on the novel of the same title by Erich Maria Remarque. Nazi protestors throw smoke bombs and sneezing powder to halt the film. Members of the audience who protest the disruption are beaten. The novel had always been unpopular with the Nazis, who believed that its depiction of the cruelty and absurdity of war was "un-German." Ultimately, the film will be banned. Remarque will emigrate to Switzerland in 1931, and the Nazis, after coming to power, will revoke his German citizenship in 1938.
For years, I thought "feminazis" was a stupid term that indicated the speaker knew little about feminists or Nazis. But the subset of contemporary feminists who use Nazi tactics and mock "freezepeach" deserve the name. A few examples:

Bomb threat over bikini billboard ad

DC GamerGate meetup disrupted by 'feminist bomb threat'

Bomb Threat Targets GamerGate Meetup (Hear From Somebody Who Was There)

Bomb threat shuts down SPJ event discussing GamerGate (Update)

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

ETA:

Campus speaker touting men’s rights has fire alarm pulled on her

A men's rights advocate spoke at the University of Toronto: "The fire alarm went off, but free speech prevailed"

ETA 2: Examples of Zionist censorship in the US: The Palestine Exception

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A handy list of black mass murderers who were taken alive (for people who think being taken alive for mass murder is a "white privilege")

Mass murderers expect to die. When cornered, some kill themselves and some do their best to die by suicide by cop. But some surrender, and some are prevented from having the death they want.

Anti-racist internet memes insist that being taken alive is an example of "white privilege" for white murderers. A few minutes of googling shows that isn't so. Some examples:

John Allen Muhammad, a member of the Nation of Islam, and his younger accomplice, Lee Malvo, were serial killers who targeted white people in the hope of starting a race war. They killed 17 people and wounded 10 others. More: Beltway sniper attacks.

Hastings Wise killed four co-workers. Like many spree killers, he then tried to kill himself, but he was found alive. More: Hastings Arthur Wise.

Nathan Dunlap killed four co-workers and wounded another. More: 1993 Aurora shooting.

Colin Ferguson killed six people and wounded 19 others. More:  Long Island Rail Road massacre.

Kori Ali Muhammad killed three white men and wounded another as he targeted "white devils". More: California gunman kills three 'in race attack' in Fresno.

ETA: Willie Corey Godbolt killed a police officer and seven other people. See 'I ain't fit to live': Police say Mississippi gunman kills 8.

Related:

A handy list of white victims of police abuse, or Why #BlackLivesMatter should be #AllLivesMatter

A handy list of female mass murderers

ETA (from the comments):

US Mass Shootings, 1982-2015: Data From Mother Jones' Investigation

How common are African-American mass shooters? | theGrio: "The percentage of black assailants who kill on a scale such as Monday’s Navy Yard shootings is about equal to the percentage of black Americans, says former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt."

Are Most Mass Murderers Really White? | American Thinker:
— a comprehensive list dating from 1982 through 9/16/2013 is found at Mother Jones here — and guess what?

Of the last 20 mass killings of that period, 9 were perpetrated by non-whites.

That would be 45 percent, which exceeds non-whites’ 37 percent share of the population.

Of the last 30 mass killings, 11 were committed by non-whites — right at the 37 percent mark.

And what if we go all the way back to 1982? We then have 66 mass killings in which the races of the perpetrators were known, and 22 of them, or one-third, were at the hands of non-whites. Note here that America’s demographics have been changing, with non-whites comprising only about 20 percent of the population in 1982; thus, if we consider an approximate average non-white population of 28.5 percent during the 31-year period in question, it appears that, again, mass murderers are slightly disproportionately non-white.

In other words, there is no evidence whatsoever that mass killings are a characteristically white phenomenon.

And there never was.

In fact, the group most disproportionately represented on the Mother Jones chart is Americans of Asian descent. While only 6 percent of the population, they have been 15 percent of the 31-year period’s last 20 mass killers, 13 percent of the last 30, and 9 percent of the last 66. This is quite interesting, too, since Americans of Asian descent have a very low crime rate in general.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Why it's right to want to celebrate Thanksgiving and change the name of Columbus Day

Columbus's legend ignores the fact that the Americas were discovered at least 12,000 years ago, and Columbus's history as a conqueror and slaver is nothing to celebrate. The name of that holiday should be changed—I propose Migrant Day to celebrate the fact everyone here is a migrant or the descendant of migrants.

The legendary and the historical Thanksgiving have nothing to do with Columbus. The basic detail is the same in both cases: Europeans and the first Americans ate together in peace. The history is complicated, but there's nothing shameful about that meal—the shameful treatment of the original Americans came later. The legend exaggerates what was good about that first Thanksgiving and glosses over the troublesome parts, but that's just what legends do. There are good reasons to celebrate the best we've done. It inspires us to do more that's good.

So have a great Thanksgiving! Emma and I plan to.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Beulah McFee page 11, and a note



I've decided to release this in a series of pages rather than strips, so I've modified the earlier posts to make them consistent. I won't promise a regular schedule yet—I'll do my best to get at least two done a week.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

An update on standing desks and ergonomics for writers

One of my popular posts continues to be my standing desk. For the last couple of years, I've been using a different reconfigured Ikea desk that's been discontinued, but now my work needs have changed, so I'm looking at new options.

Also, a friend mentioned that her boyfriend has been getting a lot of tension in his back while he works. The first thing I told her was that ergonomics matter. Many writers suffer physically for their art; I knew one who literally ruined his back meeting a deadline for a novel. If you don't want a standing desk, make sure your seated working arrangement is good and get up and stretch every hour or so. Ikea has a good short pdf on office ergonomics.

If I was getting a standing desk today, I would almost certainly choose Ikea's $269 US hand-crank SKARSTA Desk sit/stand:
If it wasn't a little large for my current work space, I would probably be on the LRT to Ikea to get one now. I'm hoping it'll be very popular so they'll make a smaller one.

If you're primarily a laptop user, the $49 US IKEA PS 2014 Standing laptop station looks promising.

Ikea also has a more expensive electric sit/stand desk, the BEKANT Desk, which has been both praised (IKEA Sit/Stand Desk Review: I Can't Believe How Much I Like This) and panned (IKEA Bekant Stand Up Desk Review).

Other interesting links:

A standing desk for $22

The Best IKEA Standing Desk Hacks | Lifehacker Australia

Is This The Cheapest Standing Desk Hack Yet? | Lifehacker Australia

DIY IKEA Standing Desks For Every Budget | Lifehacker Australia

(Why Google decided I was Australian, I haven't a clue.)

(And no, I don't get paid by Ikea. I'm just a fan of good cheap products.)

ETA: If you prefer to sit, consider switching from a chair to something like the NILSERIK Stool. I'm very fond of mine. (Y'know, Ikea should pay me.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Beulah resumes on Friday with a new schedule

I would love to produce daily installments, but life is too lifey to allow that now. (Not in bad ways. Just that I've got half of the cats in the herd at the moment, so I need to leave them and round up the other half.)

The next installment should be on Friday. I suspect I'll go to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule after that, but I'm not committing to anything yet.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

No Beulah today, two Beulahs tomorrow, and a bit about Insensitive Highly Sensitive People (IHSPs)

Since I haven't decided what "one Beulah" is, I'm not sure that you'll be able to tell that you're getting two installments tomorrow, but you are.

A friend shared Highly sensitive people: a condition rarely understood. It looks like HSPs are a thing now, at least on the internet. My feelings, as usual, are mixed. At the friend's page, I said,
I'm wondering if HSPs are more or less likely to be abusive. My guess is the introverts would be less likely and the extroverts, more. I may need to do a little more reading about what Zeff calls the "insensitive highly sensitive person".
Then I added,
My apologies for bringing up an ugly image, but I'm now wondering how many people who have done the worst things were artists or exhibited other symptoms of being HSPs. Yes, Godwin's Law applies here. I confess I'm sure, knowing humans, that some people will decide they are HSPs and therefore superior, while at best it only means they (or we, because I recognize those symptoms too) are different.
I'm developing a theory that the angry people the internet calls SJWs are a subset of insensitive highly sensitive persons. There may be something about privilege that creates IHSPs—the most self-obsessed people I know are rich people who surround themselves with beauty and would rather donate to the arts than to the poor. Of those, the ones who talk of injustice talk in terms of identity, which protects them from the possibility their privilege is a problem.

Now, I'm not denying that I may be among the IHSPs. I'm just not sure what my subset is.

Thinking about Insensitive Highly Sensitive People inspired me to google for art by the one of the worst of them. If the best of 25 Rarely Seen Artworks Painted By Adolf Hitler are actually by Hitler (apparently, there are forgeries out there), he wasn't a bad painter. It's a shame he gave it up.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Machiavelli on the danger of believing exiles

Via In Defense of the Late Ahmad Chalabi:
chapter 31 of Niccolò Machiavelli’s book Discourses on Livy, “How Dangerous It Is to Believe Exiles”: 
"How dangerous a thing it is to believe those who have been driven out of their country. … Such is the extreme desire in them to return home, that they naturally believe many things that are false and add many others by art, so that between those they believe and those they say they believe, they fill you with hope, so that relying on them you will incur expenses in vain, or you undertake an enterprise in which you ruin yourself. … A Prince, therefore, ought to go slowly in undertaking an enterprise upon the representations of an exile, for most of the times he will be left either with shame or very grave injury."

Beulah McFee page 8

Monday, November 2, 2015

For conservatives who compare SJWs to Maoists

I just left this comment elsewhere: Their tactics are more McCarthyite than Maoist. This is an authoritarian issue, not a political one.

If you believe that socialists do not value free speech, here's one of my favorite socialists on the subject: George Orwell: The Freedom of the Press.

And here's a longer blog post of mine: The curious contradictions of censorial socialists, and a few comments about Charlie Hebdo

1930s dancers

No Beulah installment today, but I hate to give you nothing, so here's a test illustration that pleases me:

Thursday, October 29, 2015

For people who see no significant difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton


Perhaps the most damning complaint about him is that he voted in favor of four of the last ten war spending bills. The official explanation from Bernie Sanders on Iraq:
Why did Bernie vote in favor of those four bills?

First, it may help to explain why he had voted against the other six. The Bush administration, backed by a Republican-controlled Congress, made a habit of funding its occupation of Iraq on an emergency basis in order to minimize congressional scrutiny, circumvent legal limits on the federal government’s debt ceiling, and understate the true cost of the war.

The first time Bernie voted for an Iraq war spending bill was in 2006, when the bill included funding for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The second time, in 2007, he did so because he managed to insert an amendment into the bill giving a $1 million grant to the Vermont Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) to help returning veterans cope with their health care and mental health needs upon returning home. The third time was when the 2008 legislation incorporated a massive expansion of G.I. Bill benefits that Bernie co-sponsored — and which the Bush administration opposed — that guaranteed full scholarships to veterans, including activated National Guard troops and reservists, with three years of service attending any public, in-state university and expanded benefits for students at private colleges and for graduate schools. Finally, in 2011, he voted for another spending bill, with the understanding that it would fund the conclusion to the war in Iraq as President Obama removed U.S. troops from the country.
Equally important to many is his take on Muslims: Watch: Bernie Sanders Pledges to Muslim Student That He'll Fight Islamophobia | Alternet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Another casualty in the Social Justice Wars: zamii070

I don't have the heart to blog this, so here are some links if you want to follow the story. I just hope she continues to get the help she needs.

I heard about it from a friend who shared this: I know most of you guys are gamers, so this might have flown under your radar.…

Zamii's tumblr: Pizza time fun times

At least one of the creators of Steven Universe tweeted in support of her: Zamii070 Harassment Controversy | Know Your Meme:

Some examples of the harassment she got: I pulled together a bunch of posts that show what exactly led up to the suicide attempt of tumblr artist Zamii070. What's saddest for me is that like many people who are mobbed, she tried to conform, but her conformance was found wanting.

I am reminded that a Lord of the Flies update could be told with Tumblr instead of a desert island. And I'll note once again that nearly all of the worst things done by humans are done by people who are sure they're fighting the good fight.

Beulah McFee page 4

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Two quotes about cults

From My life in the cult: How “serving God” unraveled into sex abuse, child neglect and a waking nightmare - Salon.com:

“A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.” -Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

”Often it is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act.” -Stanley Milgram

Monday, October 26, 2015

Our cat shits like a superhero

While Toby was dying, the catbox testified: his food flowed through him like sewage. Now Barnabas is the only user of the box, and his turds are tiny bullets. Barnabas lived in the wild before we took him in. Though he is fat now, his guts have kept a wild creature's efficiency: what can be used, will be used.  He shits like Superman. His waste is nothing but lead and kryptonite.

Beulah McFee page 3



Cream's cover of "Cross Road Blues" was my introduction to Robert Johnson:



This is the source:

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

About the "Captain Confederacy" who wants to #BoycottStarWarsVII

As noted at Strange Racist Hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII Exposes the Worst | Complex, twitter user @2partyhoax is using the cover of Captain Confederacy #1 to make rightwing rants about Star Wars, leftists, and social justice warriors. I left this comment at the article:
I'm amused to see one of them using the cover of an issue of Captain Confederacy as an icon. Obviously, they didn't read it—it's the story of a white man and a black woman who become lovers as they fight to overthrow a racist government in a world where the Confederacy won.
Then I sent this tweet to @2partyhoax:
Have you read the comic you use for an icon? It's about a white man & a black woman who become lovers & overthrow a racist CSA.
He (I assume for no reason at all, because I know very well that women can be loud rightwingers too) replied:
I've re-appropriated it back! Tit for tat! You SJWs got Star Wars but I took Captain Confederacy back!
That amused me, so I replied:
I grin. If it's any comfort, I prob'ly despise SJWs as much as you do, only I do it from the left.
He (again, assuming) said:
Well, the #AltRight has plenty who have come from the Left. You're welcome to join anytime!
And I left things there because I have no interest joining an #AltRight, a #NewRight, a #RebrandedRight, or any form of right-politics at all.

But I will be using the black female Captain Confederacy as a twitter icon until this particular kerfuffle quiets down. I don't know if #BoycottStarWarsVII is sincere or an elaborate goof because it just seems ridiculous to me, and I'm very aware that the only law on the internet is Poe's Law.

As for Star Wars, I wish Harrison Ford had gotten his wish and Han Solo had died at the end of Star Wars 2, leaving Lando Calrissian to become the guy who gets the princess in the next movie. I hope he makes an appearance in the new series, perhaps as the dad of the new black star, and if they're doing one-shot movies now, Lando deserves one too.


ETA: As the Class Guy, I'll note that any essay about class and race in Star Wars should include something about the working class Han competing with the ruling class Lando for the love of a princess.

ETA 2: Yep, looks like it was just trolling for lulz: #BoycottStarWarsVII and Why the Internet Is Trolling Itself to Death

Friday, October 16, 2015

My two favorite rice cooker oatmeal recipes

When cooking oatmeal in a rice cooker, use as much water as you would if you were cooking on the stove or in a microwave. I like a quick cooking steel cut oatmeal best, but go with what you prefer.

Version 1: With bananas and peanut butter.

1. Put water and oatmeal in a rice cooker.

2. Add half or a whole banana. Optional: add some raisins.

3. Waste time on the internet.

4. Remember that you made oatmeal. Verify that the rice cooker thinks it's done.

5. Scoop a dollop of peanut butter into the rice cooker. Stir it up and put it in a bowl.

6. If you're extra hungry, add dry roasted unsalted peanuts.

7. Add milk or yogurt and eat.

Version 2: With apples and apple juice.

1. Put water and oatmeal in a rice cooker.

2. Add half or a whole apple. I recommend a tart apple like a Haralson or a Greening, but go with your favorite. Optional: add some raisins.

3 and 4. Same as above.

5. Stir it up and put it in a bowl.

6. If you're extra hungry, add cashews or almonds.

7. Add milk or apple juice and eat.

Note: I suspect any fruit that you like would taste good cooked in oatmeal. Strawberries and oatmeal were surprisingly good. Mangos and oatmeal were every bit as good as I thought they would be.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How cultists read: gun nuts and the Constitution, SJWs and the Letter from a Birmingham Jail

For new readers: I often criticize extremists whose goals I share  for the same reason George Orwell, a democratic socialist, criticized authoritarian socialists and for the same reason governments insert provocateurs into protest movements: people who do bad things for good causes can be the greatest threat to those causes. In this case, I oppose banning guns, and I've actively opposed racism ever since I marched for integration as a child in the 1960s.


I'm writing about SJWs again because I recently learned I'm mentioned in Why ‘social justice warrior,’ a Gamergate insult, is now a dictionary entry and in the RationalWiki's Social justice warrior. The RationalWiki says I'm guilty of "tone policing" and links to their entry on Tone argument, which has a take on Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail that calls for ignoring both text and context.

Which reminded me of how gun extremists read the Constitution to conclude Americans have a right to keep guns to oppose domestic tyranny and, therefore, the government may not regulate gun ownership.

Here's the Second Amendment:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Gun nuts ignore the "well regulated Militia" in two ways. Some say it's only an explanation for the right to have guns. They fail to note that none of the other amendments waste words on explanations. Others say a "well regulated Milita" consists of gun owners who may gather to overthrow democratically elected officials if they don't like what those officials are doing.

The Constitution has two useful bits about militias. From Article I, Section 8:
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; 
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
From Article II, Section 2:
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States...
Militias obey the President and suppress insurrections—George Washington made that clear when he used the militia to end the Whiskey Rebellion. To believe the Constitution has anything to do with opposing what you believe is domestic tyranny calls for being in thrall to a delusion that prevents you from understanding the words before you.

As for the "well regulated" phrase, any student of history knows militias have always had regulations about training and sometimes specified the kinds of weapons militia members should keep. Switzerland today may be the best example of a culture with a well-regulated militia: adults are expected to have guns, and strict laws regulate their use.

But cultists protect their belief systems by reading through warped lenses. A fine example: the RationalWiki's Tone argument insists, "Dr King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail[wp]" was fundamentally a response to white tone trolls and concern trolls" and quotes this part of his letter:
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season."
RationalWiki's interpretation illustrates two parts of the SJW worldview:

1. SJWs believe words are deeds, so when they rage on the internet, they think they're being "activists". They can't see that the white moderates King mentions were not complaining about his tone or suggesting that he should be more civil to be more effective. They were opposing the civil rights movement's "methods of direct action", the marches and demonstrations and all the things they did which were conducted peacefully and respectfully. Because the civil rights leaders believed in being civil, King's critics could not criticize his tone—he always strove to treat everyone with love and respect. In the Birmingham letter, he talks about being an "extremist for love" standing between the extremes of complacency and violence.

2. SJWs prioritize race over class, so they miss that fact that the letter is about "white moderates" who are "more devoted to "order" than to justice" and also about "middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security ... have become insensitive to the problems of the masses." King's use of "insensitive to the problems of the masses" is essential—it anticipates the current situation where black Americans are so divided by class that nearly 40% of them think it's wrong to speak of black Americans as a single race, and where privileged black graduates from expensive schools are far more concerned with issues of identity than economics.

King's letter has nothing to do with "tone trolls" or "concern trolls"—it's about privileged white and black people who do not act to end what he called in 1967 the "giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism."

I'll end with two King quotes, one that I've shared often and one that I haven't shared enough:

"This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept—so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force—has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life."

“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

John Cleese defines extremists (and thereby explains social justice warriors and "tone policing")

The biggest advantage of extremism is that it makes you feel GOOD because it provides you with enemies.

Let me explain. The great thing about having enemies is that you can pretend that all the badness in the whole world is in your enemies, and all the goodness in the whole world is in YOU. Attractive, isn't it?

So, if you have a lot of anger and resentment in you anyway and you therefore enjoy abusing people, then you can pretend that you're only doing it because these enemies of yours are such very bad persons! And if it wasn't for them, you'd actually be good natured, and courteous, and rational all the time. So, if you want to FEEL GOOD, become an extremist

You can strut around, abusing people, and telling them you could eat them for breakfast and still think of yourself as a champion of the truth. A fighter for the greater good. And not the rather sad paranoid schizoid that you really are. 
—John Cleese
ETA: Just to spell this out:

1. Being an extremist says nothing about the validity of your cause. It only says something about the validity of your approach.

2. I was recently accused of "tone-policing", so I've been thinking about what makes people believe politeness and respect are not compatible with effective protest. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and all the Freedom Riders could've explained that to them.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Thank you, bicycle helmet!

Was just in a bicycle accident, going over the handlebars braking fast for a car that turned left right in front of me and probably never even saw me. My right arm isn't happy, so I may go into the ER tomorrow. I'm pretty sure it's not broken, but it is, at the very least, suffering from tissue damage. Chipped a tooth and the front of my helmet is a bit crunched, which could've been my face. So I will always wear my bicycle helmet from now on and recommend you do the same.

Kind people gave Emma and me and our bicycles a ride home.

Napping now.

Friday, October 2, 2015

On idenitarians and people who kill strangers because of their identity

Welcome to America, where it seems like every week, a lonely, disturbed individual with a troubled childhood kills strangers and then everyone with a political agenda uses those killings to promote their cause.

The latest killer, who I will not name, was mixed-race and his main targets were either religious people generally or Christians specifically.  Had he been white, identitarians would use him to rant about racism. Had his targets been women, they would use him to rant about sexism. But the Orwell quote I shared yesterday applies: identitarians are oblivious to things that don't support them, so they ignore women who target men like Eileen Wuornos and black killers who target white people like John Muhammad and Lee Malvo.

It is likely that people will use the latest killings to call for more gun regulation. This ignores the fact that most mass murders are committed with guns that were bought legally.

As a socialist, I suppose I should use this as an excuse to rant about capitalism, but socialist countries also produce people who kill strangers. They say police in the USSR initially believed serial killing was a capitalist phenomenon, so they were slow to recognize the signs of serial killers in their society. In China, mass murderers who attack schools use knives, cleavers, or hammers instead of guns.

We know mass murderers appear rarely in our society, for all that they appear too often, and if you learn about their lives, you should have a little pity for what they endured, no matter how much you hate what they did when they broke. If we want to end violence, we need to stop focusing on the tools that broken people use and the ideologies that broken people claim and start building a society that breaks fewer people.

Now, given the number of killers whose history includes economic desperation, I could use this as an excuse to promote Basic Income, but I'll return to that on another day.

Related: A handy list of female mass murderers

ETA: There's scientific consensus on guns -- and the NRA won't like it - LA Times

How They Got Their Guns - The New York Times

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The greatest danger in talking about privilege instead of rights

I'm thinking again about privilege because I got into a discussion on Facebook that, no surprise, went nowhere. A friend said, "Every African American person I know doesn't ever use the term privilege in association with wealth." A black friend of hers agreed. I thought they had a limited set of friends, but then, most people do, so I didn't say that. I simply asked how they discussed economic privilege. They assured me they did, though they didn't say how. This is the usual way discussions go with identitarians—they assure you're they're also concerned about the things they then continue to ignore.

It made me want to write a post titled "Appropriating privilege." I was very pleased with my cleverness until I realized it would only be a recap of what I wrote in The Problem with Privilege Theory.

So I walked around a little bit, and in the kitchen, which is often where insights come, I realized this:

The difference between rights and privileges is that rights are assumed to be inalienable, while privileges only exist so long as they're tolerated. For most of my life, the argument against racism was that it denied people of their rights. But under privilege theory, there are no rights—there are only those who have privilege and those who do not. Marriage? A privilege for straight people, not a human right. Freedom from harassment by the police? A privilege for white people, not a human right. Equal pay? A privilege for men, not a human right. If I wanted to create the right-libertarian future in which the rich ruled absolutely, it would be essential to eliminate the idea of rights. Privilege theorists are doing that.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An Orwell quote about nationalists that could be said of identitarians

"The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them." -George Orwell, "Notes on Nationalism"

Monday, September 28, 2015

A little about Iroquois women, wealth, and power.

When making my previous post, I realized it's hard for 21st century Americans to think of a society with any division based on sex as egalitarian, so here's a bit from Female of the Species by M. Kay Martin and Barbara Voorhies for people who think women weren't equals in Iroquois society:
Brown (1970) argues convincingly that the key to elevated status for Iroquois women lay in their relationship to production and the distribution of wealth. As in a great number of horticultural societies, women were the exclusive cultivators. However a frequent accompaniment of matriliny—the manipulation of access rights to seeds and to arable land by matrilineal descent groups themselves—gave Iroquois women exclusive control over the production and storage of food. They were not only the primary producers, but collectively owned the means of production as well.

The significance of this control for the manipulation of power in Iroquois society was tremendous. Since food was wealth, and since the matrons of matrilineal descent groups supervised its distribution, women had available to them a mechnanism for giving or withholding rewards. Women of the longhouse held in common a store of food, which they systematically allocated to their men and children. Since they had labored collectively to cultivate these food crops—and on land belonging to them by virtue of their common kinship—women were not obliged to feed men on demand, but more did so as an act of good faith. The elder women would simply ask any male member of the longhouse whose behavior they viewed as objectionable to leave. Such eviction notices were apparently taken quite seriously, and provided an efficient instrument for terminating unsuccessful marriages and for eliminating persons incompatible with the larger longhouse membership.

But the power of women among the Iroquois extended far beyond the domestic unit. As in most matrilineal societies, the senior women or matrons of lieages and clans played an important role in political and social policy decisions. The Iroquois confederacy or League was headed by a council of chiefs. These representatives to the governing body were male, but gained and held office only with female approval.
Google Books continues that passage here.

Recommended: "Engels and the Origin of Women's Oppression" by Sharon Smith

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Class trumps race in the US—a link fest

I often meet race reductionists (people who focus exclusively on race) who insist they're intersectionalists (people who believe different forms of social oppression like racism and sexism are unrelated and only "intersect" when someone is, for example, black and female). Now, I'm not in either group—I'm a universalist who thinks all social oppression is interrelated and springs from the social hierarchies that develop with many agricultural societies. (While we don't have time machines handy, a look at egalitarian tribal peoples like the Iroquois shows that sexism and racism are not part of human nature.)

Here are a few articles indicating that class trumps race in the US today:

1. In education:

No Rich Child Left Behind - NYTimes.com:
Family income is now a better predictor of children’s success in school than race.
When Class Became More Important to a Child's Education Than Race - The Atlantic:
According to a 2011 research study by Stanford sociologist Sean Reardon, the test-score gap between the children of the poor (in the 10th percentile of income) and the children of the wealthy (in the 90th percentile) has expanded by as much as 40 percent and is now more than 50 percent larger than the black-white achievement gap--a reversal of the trend 50 years ago.
2. In health:

In health, income has greater impact than race | New Pittsburgh Courier:
even though Blacks have higher rates of disease than Whites, “these differences are dwarfed by the disparities identified between high- and low-income populations within each racial/ethnic group,” the report said.
Socioeconomic Factors Trump Race and Geography for Odds of Living to Old Age - Observations - Scientific American Blog Network:
By studying survival beyond 70 on a county-by-county basis, a team of researchers found that a combination of social factors, such as education, marital status and income, were much more predictive than race or geography alone.
The stunning — and expanding — gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor - The Washington Post

3. In the prison system:

From “The Crime of Being Poor”:
White prisoners tend to share one thing with their black and Hispanic compatriots: poverty. Most prisoners report incomes of less than $8,000 a year in the year prior to coming to prison. A majority were unemployed at the time of their arrest.
From “The rich get richer and the poor get prison”:
Among those entering prison in 1991, about 70 percent earned less than $15,000 a year when they were arrested, and 45 percent didn’t have a full-time job. One in four prisoners is mentally ill, and 64 percent never graduated from high school.
4. In geographic location:

In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters - NYTimes.com:
Regions with larger black populations had lower upward-mobility rates. But the researchers’ analysis suggested that this was not primarily because of their race. Both white and black residents of Atlanta have low upward mobility, for instance.
Not here, surely? | The Economist:
Virtually all of the 20 poorest counties in America, in terms of wages, are on the eastern flank of the Rockies or on the western Great Plains.... The area does include several pockets of wretched Native American poverty, but in most areas the poor are as white as a prairie snowstorm.
5. In internet access:

Class Trumps Race When It Comes To Internet Access : Code Switch : NPR

6. In general:

Robert Putnam: Class Now Trumps Race as the Great Divide in America - The Atlantic includes observations like:
The class gap over the last 20 years in unmarried births, controlling for race, has doubled, and the racial gap, controlling for class, has been cut in half. Twenty years ago the racial gap was the dominant gap in unmarried births -- and now the class gap is by far.
Now, race reductionists like Tim Wise love to claim that Marxists are class reductionists. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor refutes that nicely in Race, class and Marxism | SocialistWorker.org:
To claim, as Marxists do, that racism is a product of capitalism is not to deny or diminish its importance or impact in American society. It is simply to explain its origins and the reasons for its perpetuation. Many on the left today talk about class as if it is one of many oppressions, often describing it as "classism." What people are really referring to as "classism" is elitism or snobbery, and not the fundamental organization of society under capitalism.
Or as Adolph Reed Jr. notes in The limits of anti-racism:
Yes, racism exists, as a conceptual condensation of practices and ideas that reproduce, or seek to reproduce, hierarchy along lines defined by race. Apostles of antiracism  frequently can’t hear this sort of statement, because in their exceedingly simplistic version of the nexus of race and injustice there can be only the Manichean dichotomy of those who admit racism’s existence and those who deny it.
ETA: A little about Iroquois women, wealth, and power

ETA 2: The widening class gap in black violent crime

Monday, September 21, 2015

My father, Bob Shetterly, died last night

No need to offer condolences. Dad lived life on his own terms and came very close to dying under them. While I have some regrets, I'm generally content.

He had wanted to die on his farm and had a bottle of pills on hand that he intended to take if he ever thought he could no longer live unassisted, but a neighbor found him after a heart attack. He spent his last weeks at the clinic in Tofield, where Mom died. He always hated hospitals and nursing homes, but if he couldn't die at home, that was probably the next best place. He died last night between being checked on by the nurses.

My niece was surprised that he went so quickly after being admitted. Emma's mom went quickly too when she knew she could not go home again. They were both strong-willed people, and if I filled out the death certificates for them, under "cause", I would write, "cantankerousness."

My dad and I always had a difficult relationship. I respected him enormously, and loved him too, but I don't think I'll cry about his death. I'm a little sorry a great psychiatrist never got a chance to study him, because I suspect he was either the best sort of sociopath or unusually autistic. He always tried to do right by others, and so far as I know, he never lied. He could be extremely charming, but he had no interest in conforming to anyone's expectations, and he always lived very simply, wearing old clothes and eating cheap food. He had an extreme sense of duty and a great discomfort around emotion—he didn't like to be hugged and I don't remember him telling anyone that he loved them. He had no use for pretensions of any sort. He was an atheist for as long as I knew—my first regret now is that I never asked him when he became one—and I am sure he died one. I could tell you things I hated him for, but in the larger scheme of things, they weren't important. He was a flawed man like any man, but he was ultimately a good man, and maybe a great man. If you want a slightly—and only slightly—romanticized version of him, read Dogland.

Here are my main blog posts about him:

In the 1960s, he ran a tourist trap in Florida: about Dog Land, the place, and Dogland, the novel

And he was involved in the civil rights struggle: Bob Shetterly, the only liberal in Levy County

He and my mom and my sister moved to northern Ontario, where he crashed two planes, but only one was written up in the National EnquirerCrashing a plane.

He is probably the oldest solo circumnavigator.

In 2004, he wrote a letter to my very conservative brother about American politics.

My life would've been easier with an easier man for a father, but all things considered, I was incredibly lucky that he was my dad.

ETA: My niece just informed me, "Edmonton accepted his body for science. They should be picking him up today or tomorrow." No memorial ceremonies are planned, but I'll probably toast him this evening, and the next time I'm near a large body of water, I'll toss in a rock or sail a paper boat in his memory.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Karl Marx on Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley

“The real difference between Byron and Shelley is this: those who understand them and love them rejoice that Byron died at thirty-six, because if he had lived he would have become a reactionary bourgeois; they grieve that Shelley died at twenty-nine, because he was essentially a revolutionist, and he would always have been one of the advanced guard of Socialism.” —Karl Marx

Quoted in Shelley and Socialism by Eleanor Marx 1888.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Is "warrior" the worst metaphor for a believer in peace or justice?

Saw this recently:


I commented,
Fuck no! Warriors make war: they kill, destroy, and conquer. We could use a better metaphor.
The poster replied,
warrior for peace and love.
I replied,
That's like saying "Be a torturer for tolerance" or "Be an assassin for antiviolence."
If the discussion continues, I'll make this point and then, I hope, drop out:
If metaphors matter, that one is awful. Now, I grant they often don't—few people use "classy" and intend to dis the working class. But if you want a strong noun for supporting peace and love, "worker" works just fine. Or if you want one that can be associated with violence, go with "defender" or "protector" or "champion" instead.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

On Toby, the best cat in the universe, and Barnabas, the worst

Thursday, September 10

No, this is not about The Worst Cat (which you should click if you don't know the site). This is about Toby, who was the best cat in the universe, and a little bit about Barnabas, who is still the worst cat because Toby set the bar so high.

I have been crying a lot in the last 24 hours, and I am a man who almost never cries. This is the reason why:

(© Susan Levy-Haskell)

I suspect Toby was always the best cat in the universe, even when he was a kitten whose owners called him Spider because he climbed everything. He wasn't a Spider when they gave him to us because he was a young adult cat then who had been declawed, but I'm sure he was already the best cat in the universe. Even without claws, he ruled a couple of large dogs and leaped onto tall surfaces to mock them when they chased him. We spent the night in his owners' guest room, and he came in to sleep with us, and soon after that, they had to move to a smaller place and asked if we would like to have him.

Of course we would like to have him.

We drove 500 miles to pick him up. On the way back, we were very aware of his only major flaw, extreme car sickness. But when we got back to Bisbee, we discovered that his car sickness left almost as soon as the car stopped, because he immediately surveyed his new domain and found it satisfactory.

I'm not sure why we named him Toby. We hadn't been people who gave human names to cats, but he just seemed like a Toby. He had all his virtues then. He liked people and always came to greet strangers. He had dignity: he liked to be petted and to sit with or on people, but he had a Minnesotan reserve too—he rarely demanded affection, and he usually didn't like to be held for very long, though he would happily sit in your lap. I don't remember him swatting or biting anyone, except for vets, who deserved it on principle. He was almost always near Emma or me. He had sleeping places that were nearby—the chair by my desk, the window seat by Emma's—so he could open an eye to check on us and go quickly back to sleep. When one of us was in the kitchen and the other in the living room, he would lie near the doorway so he could investigate if one of us did something interesting.

I think I miss him so much because he was always near.

He rarely spoke, and when he did, he tended to speak politely. He knew that to get respect you should give respect, and that people who respect themselves treat everyone with respect. He also knew that dignity is not an absolute goal, and sometimes you just have to chase something. He was in all ways such a gentleman that the only other name I could imagine for him now would be Mr. Steed.

He loved to sleep under the covers. I've gotten in the habit of napping, and he usually came to curl against me. Today's nap was very hard without him.

He liked to hold hands by hooking his paw with your finger.

Interruption: A friend just rang the door and fled, leaving a tupperware container of Asian comfort food on the step, and I may've cried harder than I have yet, because Toby was the kind of cat whose passing deserves all the things a human passing deserves. When we knew he was going, we joked about giving him a Viking funeral, and it wasn't entirely a joke. A wake isn't quite appropriate—yesterday, when Emma wanted to toast him, I thought she would want whiskey, but she chose a glass of milk. We buried him in the backyard in his cat bed, wrapped in a blanket with his favorite catnip mouse between his paws.

Sunday, September 13

Now, a perfect cat can't be perfect, so here are Toby's annoying traits:

1. He loved to dash outside any chance he could get. He never went far—he loved to run down the back stairs and lie in the sun on the warm cement, or go onto the nearest bit of lawn to sniff and chew the grass. I usually said something like, "Oh darn, the cat got out" and sat on the steps for a minute or two before bringing him back in.

2. He loved to shred paper with his teeth. This could be annoying in a writer's household. But it wasn't that annoying. I would give almost anything to be annoyed by him tearing up paper again.

A version of this occurred most mornings for over a decade:


I'm glad Emma never had to choose to give up Toby, coffee, or me. A good spouse knows where he can't compete. My favorite morning duty was making her coffee and feeding the cats so she and Toby could have their time together.

The hole in our lives is enormous.

We are back to being a one-cat household. Barnabas, the worst cat in the univere, has begun to work at becoming the best; here he's in the chair by my desk where Toby usually sat.


Barnabas is not very good at being a house cat. He came to live in the barn in Arizona, so for the longest time, his name was simply Barncat, but then Emma decided to coax him indoors, a process she or I may write about sometime, and calling him Housecat didn't seem to make sense. Oddly, even though his manners are atrocious, we have never asked him if he was born in a barn, perhaps because we suspect he had human owners briefly, then spent ages being semi-feral in the desert, where he would talk loudly to himself and make self-respecting coyotes flee in disgust. Though he is still the worst cat in the universe, when I saw him sleeping curled against Emma the morning after Toby died, I thought he might only be the second or third worst cat in the universe now, and he may even work his way up to best cat status when we least expect it.