Fox News “Serious Journalist” Lies About Walls

Bret Baier - Serious News GuySteny Hoyer was on Special Report with Bret Baier talking about the shutdown and Trump’s wall. Hoyer mentioned existing walls in border towns shouldn’t be removed. Now Baier is supposedly one of the Fox News serious journalists. But his partisan leanings have always been clear. So he greeted Hoyer’s statement with glee. He really believed he had a gotcha! “So [walls] work there?”

Oh, boy! Steny Hoyer made news! Except that he didn’t. No one is saying that walls don’t work in populated areas. The question at hand is whether we should put up a wall where they don’t do any good — as a political stunt to pacify people who have been whipped up to believe that brown-skinned hoards are coming over the border to kill and rape them.

The Democrats have never called for the removal of existing border walls except in the fevered imaginations of conservative commentators. And that’s all that Bret Baier’s gotcha was. In the world of Fox News it was a gotcha because in that world Democrats really are for open borders. (For the record: I am for open borders but I hardly speak for the Democratic Party.)

Fox News Has a Scoop!

I was not planning to write about this. After all, Fox News being evil and stupid is hardly worth a comment. By their standards, Bret Baier is a real journalist. But then I saw this headline at FoxNews.com: FOX NEWS FIRST: Pelosi Slammed for Attempted Shutdown of Trump State of Union; Top Dem Breaks Ranks on Wall.

Note the implication here that the Democrats are breaking ranks. Steny Hoyer did not break ranks. But even worse is the implication that Nancy Pelosi is being slammed by a Democrat. As the article makes clear, she is being criticized by Republicans. What a surprise?! Get an Extra! out for that!

And I’m not alone in saying that Hoyer didn’t make any news. Literally no other major news outlet is covering this “FOX NEWS FIRST.” Even Washington Examiner has failed to pick it up. That’s just how meaningless this story is.

Fox News and World War I

Three Arrows produced a great video, A Battle of Lies — Fake News in the Great War. In it, he mentioned that the German public was shocked and angry when their government surrendered in World War I. This is because they had been fed nothing but propaganda. They were told about every good thing that happened to the military and nothing of the bad.

Reading the Fox News article, I see the same thing happening. Their viewers are fed a steady diet of this kind of “We’re winning!” propaganda. So if Republicans in the Senate do finally revolt and reopen the government, the Fox News viewers will be convinced that the party sold them out. To them, it will appear as though the Democrats were ready to break.

The Danger of Ignorance

I understand that the Fox News model is great for them; they make a lot of money. But it is bad for the country when you have roughly 40 percent of a population being fed a false narrative. And it is truly poisonous because of Trump’s claim about how the mainstream news is all “fake” and “the enemy of the people.” So there is no countering this false narrative in the short term.

This is the kind of stuff that leads to civil wars. Luckily, Fox News viewers are all over 90 so they don’t present a huge threat. (Quick PolitiFact, rate my claim “False”! I’m sure you are very busy looking for liberal comments to offset the tsunami of lies from conservatives!) But regardless, this situation causes civil strife. In the past, I was able to chip away at the Fox News lies held by conservatives. They always came right back when these conservatives watched Fox News alone. But it was nice that one-on-one these conservatives were open to facts.

That’s largely untrue now. Now I usually get some comment about how they’d “have to see the study.” You know, if you tell them immigrants are bringing nuclear bombs into the country, they will believe you. If you say they aren’t, they will demand documentation. And when you show them the documentation, they will say it is fake.

I don’t know how we move forward with 40 percent of our people being mini-Trumps. And Fox News stands as the puppetmaster of these idiots.

Steve King Isn’t the Problem — It’s the Republican Party

Steve KingThe Republican Party has learned that Steve King is a racist because he said, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Despite the fact that this “awakening” came roughly two decades after it was clear to objective observers, the Republicans are actually getting some good press. They shouldn’t. The Republicans have been a racist party for as long as I’ve been alive.

Ben Shapiro: Synecdoche of Republican Party Thinking

Let’s start with the “cool kids’ philosopher” (CKP), Ben Shapiro. Back on 12 March 2017, Steve King tweeted, “[Geert] Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” It was widely attacked for its obvious racism. But the CKP had other ideas, Media Accuse Rep Steve King (R-IA) Of Racism. They’re Lying. Read His Actual Words. He claimed, “It could be argued that King was stating that multiculturalism, combined with high levels of immigration from non-Western cultures, shapes destiny.” (Note the weasel opening clause!)

But last week, the CKP posted an update. In it he wrote, “In light of [King’s recent pro-white-supremist] statements, this article gave far too generous an interpretation of King’s words.”

Shapiro is one step up from most Republicans in one way: he’ll admit to error if it is the only option. In my experience, articles like this one are usually simply taken down by Republicans and their apologists.

Pausible Deniability

But this isn’t saying much because Shapiro’s threshold for admitting any failure of the American right is ridiculously high. It’s also idiosyncratic. I can well understand King’s anger at all of this. After everything he’s said and done over the years, it was the magic of “white supremacist [shouldn’t be] offensive” that did it? Really?!

(A large part of the reason the Republicans turned on King is also due to his poor showing in the 2018 election. In fact, I suspect that Ben Shapiro would still be defending him if King hadn’t only barely won re-election in a heavily Republican district.)

The Republicans have long been the party of plausible deniability. And that’s what’s going on here. As long as they could continue to — as with Ben Shapiro — find an alternate reading for King’s clearly racist statements, they did. It’s the basis for the whole party.

That’s why they can claim that the 2018 tax cut was for the middle class, even though almost 70 percent of the cuts went to the upper class — after all, over 30 percent went to the rest (half of that went to the upper-middle class). And it only gets worse over time.

A Little History

It’s understandable why Republicans would act like this. For my entire lifetime, Republicans have been a racist party. In the 1964 presidential election, Barry Goldwater ran by appealing to southern racists who did not want to integrate. He lost, but the party fixed on this direction. And over the next decade and a half, all of the southern racists who had been in the Democratic Party rushed to join the Republicans. (This fact is ignored by people like Dinesh D’Souza in their farcical arguments that Democrats are the real racists.)

Then, we got Ronald Reagan — the man who got Americans to embrace their racism. His 1980 campaign is well remembered for his “states’ rights” speech in Mississippi near where 3 civil rights workers were lynched in 1964.[1] Then we got Bush with his Willie Horton ad. And on and on up until Trump who doesn’t even try to hide his bigotry and hatred.

If it weren’t for the effectiveness of racist appeals to voters, Republicans would be a tiny party because most of their votes come from people who only benefit from their relative standing compared to minority group members. So clearly, Republicans are going to be sensitive to claims of racism.

Our Useless Definition of Racism

In America, we usually define racism in the most useless way: using forbidden words. So Steve King is not a racist because of his beliefs, but because he said white supremacy shouldn’t be considered a bad thing.

Similarly, people of the left were very excited that a recording of Trump using the n-word might come out. They were excited not because they thought it was important. We all know that Trump is a bigot. We were excited because we knew that this would strip away a major part of his support. He would have lost his plausible deniability.

So What?

This whole brouhaha about Steve King is meaningless. It is just another obvious example of the Republican Party trying to keep up appearances. And our society goes along with it. As long as Trump doesn’t say forbidden words, the media will not call him a racist — even when he’s praising neo-Nazis. If King censure shows anything, it is just how far off the rails the Republican Party has gone in its racist fundamentals.

Let’s not get caught up in what a bad guy Steve King is. He always has been. In saying white supremacy isn’t a bad thing, King showed how Racist his party is and how fluid their definition of it is.


[1] There is an amusing article in RedState that claims liberals are all wrong about this. But all it does is nitpick the claim, noting, for instance, that he didn’t give the speech where the civil rights workers were murdered, but a whole 7 miles away at the state fair. Also: “states’ rights” wasn’t even an applause line. My, that is a compelling argument!

Using Immigrant Crime Statistics Is Racist

Los Angeles March for Immigrant RightsWe all know that undocumented immigrants commit less serious crime than native-born Americans. We know it from tons of articles like this one in The Washington Post, Two Charts Demolish the Notion That Immigrants Here Illegally Commit More Crime. Nonetheless, conservatives treat this the same way they do global warming by claiming that “we just don’t know!” But we do. There is no question. But fighting about this is a real problem.

When we bring up the fact that statistically undocumented immigrants commit less crime than natives, we are accepting the racist framing of the conservatives. We are implicitly claiming that if immigrants committed less crime the conservatives would be right to be concerned. We would, in other words, be treating immigrants as a monolith — as though individuals were simply representatives of their demographic.

I have no memory of anyone on the left bringing up low crime rates among undocumented immigrants as a reason for accepting them. So it isn’t like leftists are out in the world pushing this point. Instead, our acceptance of immigrants is based on humanism, inclusivity, and egalitarianism. Conservatives are, in general, against these things. More important in modern America, conservative politicians can demagogue the fear that conservatives naturally have of outsiders.

Fighting Racism With Racism?

But this puts leftists who wish to support immigrants into a difficult situation. Conservatives bring up the subject. They state what they “know” in their gut (which isn’t true): immigrants commit more crime. And leftists almost automatically correct this error: no, immigrants commit less crime as demonstrated by studies in Cato Institute, Criminology Journal, and Justice Quarterly.

It doesn’t matter. As in the link at the top, people like Tucker Carlson just ignore them. I hear conservatives repeat this nonsense as much today as I did a decade ago. No amount of data will change it because they “know” that it is true. And even if it weren’t true, they don’t care. They hate immigrants. It’s obvious today as the Trump administration tries to reduce the amount of legal immigration. But back in 2013, I wrote Conservatives Hate All Immigration. Nothing has changed except that Trump has uncovered the true nature of American conservatism.

What Can We Do?

But we can’t just refuse to engage with conservatives over this nonsense. Unfortunately, there are lots of people who are not part of the racist right who do not know this. These are the people who aren’t in favor of a wall but still think there is a security crisis on the border — that’s 12 percent of Americans!

I really don’t have a good answer for this. When your opponent won’t accept facts and has no shame, it puts you in a difficult position.

But I do know how I’ll counter this in the future. I’ll say, “The data is unequivocal: undocumented immigrants commit significantly less violent crime and overwhelmingly less property crime. But that isn’t the issue. That’s a racist way to look at it. I certainly wouldn’t tar you as a violent criminal just because some Americans are. So why do you want to do this to immigrants?”

Yeah, I understand: that kind of aggressive argumentation doesn’t work. But I wouldn’t be saying it for the bigot in front of me. They are hopeless. I’d be saying it for any reasonable people who might be listening. Slowly, these people might learn that immigrants commit less crime and that immigrants are individuals and not just representatives of their demographic.

Attached to a Rotting Corpse

Daisy and Violet HiltonI was watching the film Chained for Life (1952) as part of my work over at Psychotronic Review. The stars of the film are Daisy and Violet Hilton — conjoined twins born in 1908. But as Mark Weldon put it in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, the story in the film is “nothing compared to their real story.” That’s true. They lived a real horror story.

To begin with, their mother sold them to another woman, Mary Hilton, who basically enslaved them — turning them into a modern freak exhibit. They were controlled through violence. As part of this, they were trained as musicians, and you can see this in the film. They are really good. But when Hilton died, she willed the twins to her daughter, Edith Meyers. Get that? Willed! This is in the 1920s.

A Better Childhood

Their lives improved in 1931 when the twins sued to get out of their “contract” with Edith Meyers and her husband. As a result of the case, they were paid $100,000. This should give you some idea of just how much money the Meyers family (and Hilton before them) brought in on the backs of Daisy and Violet. Humans are savage when it means making a buck.

They lived as performers for most of the rest of their lives. Even if they hadn’t been conjoined, their musical skills would have been in demand — at least as long as vaudeville continued. After that, it was harder to make a living. But they continued — Chained for Life being part of that.

In 1961, they performed at a drive-in theater. Afterward, their manager abandoned them — penniless. They were forced to get a job working at a fruit stand. They worked that job for over 7 years before they died some time around the new year 1969. That was when the true horror occurred.

When Conjoined Twins Die

I had never thought what it would be like when conjoined twins died. But generally, they would not die at the same time. So when one dies, the other is attached to a rotting corpse. And this is what happened to Daisy and Violet.

They were suffering from the flu. Daisy died first. Violet died between two and four days later. So she got to spend this time with the corpse of her sister as it slowly poisoned her to death.

Real Life Horror

This strikes me as a great premise for a novel: a woman attached to her dead sister thinking back on her difficult life while she waits to die. I’m thinking something along the lines of Pincher Martin.

But more than that, I’m thinking of Synecdoche, New York. Charlie Kaufman stated that the idea was to create a horror film — but not to include classic horror elements but rather the things that terrified him.

Violet Hilton could have been too ill to have even noticed her situation. But really, wouldn’t she have gotten thirsty and tried to get up at some point?

Regardless, it’s like with people’s reaction to folklore: it doesn’t matter if it is true but that it could be true.

Spending my last hours on Earth trapped with a rotting corpse — attached to me or not — is a terrifying thought.

It makes me think of conjoined twins in a whole new way. The universe is cruel.

Wow! Copyright Ran Out for a Change

Wow! Copyright Ran Out for a ChangeThis year, works of art created in 1923 went out of copyright and are now in the public domain. This is a big deal because it hasn’t happened in decades because when copyright was about to run out in 1999 (on works published in 1923), the US government extended copyright protection for another 20 years.

Let’s think about this for a second. What does it mean, socially, for a work to be in the public domain? Obviously, it means that the work belongs to everyone. But why? I think it is because everyone knows it. To use the most important example, does anyone know who created Mickey Mouse? (It wasn’t Walt Disney.[1]) For 99 percent of people (that’s no exaggeration), the answer is no. But they sure do know who Mickey Mouse is!

But this is just a way of thinking. I’m not arguing that we use it as a test. If it were, it would allow the most famous people to hold onto copyright longer — exactly the opposite of what we are trying to do. (For example, most people around me know that Paul McCartney wrote “Yesterday.”) Once a work of art becomes suffused in society, it is in the public domain — whether the law agrees or not.

Public Domain Is Too Far Behind the Present

It has been a troubling irony that as society has sped up — as art has changed faster — works have gone into the public domain (legally) slower. Just look at the films that have just now been put in the public domain. They are all in black and white. They are all silent.

Meanwhile, films gained sound. They gained color. Video was invented. And now films are largely made on computers. And yet all that we legally allow into the public domain are films so old that children can’t enjoy them. Indeed, the only people who enjoy them are people who take film serious and understand its technique and history.

Good News?

Last year, Timothy B Lee wrote a very optimistic article, Why Mickey Mouse’s 1998 Copyright Extension Probably Won’t Happen Again. Basically, it all comes down to the fact that a lot of defenders of freedom (the real kind; not the libertarian kind) have sprung up like the Electronic Frontier Foundation that are fighting back.

But I think there is another issue. We are now at the ridiculously long 95-year copyright. The stuff being released is so old it has virtually no value as a commodity. As a result, the bad PR is probably not worth the little money the corporation can squeeze out of these works. Is any corporation really going to release a DVD of Safety Last!? It’s doubtful.

So most corporate copyright holders just don’t care. Maybe Disney will make an effort to protect Mickey Mouse from the horrors of pornography.[2] But without the entire industry lobbying and claiming “No one will make movies anymore!” it isn’t likely that Congress is going to act.

And note, creative development is still accelerating. So in 20 years, the stuff that falls out of copyright will be even further behind the times.

My Proposal

From what I know about publishing (which is a lot), I have developed what I think are extremely fair terms for copyright owners. (Note I didn’t say “content creators,” because most owners did not create any content.) Copyright should last for ten years from publication with an optional extension of 10 years. So the maximum copyright length would be 20 years.

I actually think making the extension 5 years is fairer. But I’m trying to be really nice.

This would more than keep the film, music, book, and art industries going. The vast majority of the money they make is in the first year of publication. In fact, if corporations acted like normal people, they wouldn’t even care after 5 years. The amount of money that comes in is trivial at that point.

But as I’ve noted many times before: if a corporation could make an extra dollar by exporting its entire workforce, it would do it without thought. That’s corporate-think. And it is really something that we should fight as a society.

Good News!

So if the corporate world is really done pushing copyright to be longer and longer, we have an opportunity. We can now go on the aggressive. We can push for copyrights to be reduced.

In Lee’s article, he implies that the 56-year copyright of decades ago was reasonable. It wasn’t. And the author’s life plus 50 years was not reasonable.

We can’t allow the absurd modern copyright length to blind us from the fact that in the modern world, a copyright length of ten years is more than enough. Anything else is just corporate welfare.


[1] Yes, I don’t think much of vague notions about “ideas” when it comes to creative productions. I have millions of ideas. It all comes down to how it is rendered. And when people like Stan Lee and Walt Disney try to take credit for these things, I bristle.

[2] This is a common argument made. It is, of course, not why Disney cares about this issue. It’s all about money. It’s always all about money.

Trump’s Speech and Systemic Failure

President Donald TrumpI didn’t notice much thoughtful reaction to Trump’s speech last night. There was, of course, Lindsey Graham saying that Trump was very presidential. And there were lots of normal people making reasonable comments. But I didn’t see much analysis. And I think I understand why: there was nothing to analyze.

A good example of this comes from Matthew Yglesias, The Real Crisis Is That Trump Has No Idea What He’s Doing. It ends with, “Repudiation at the polls clearly hasn’t caused Trump to rethink anything about this disastrous approach, so we’re now all just left to hope for the best over the next two years. With luck, at some point, we’ll have a functioning government again.”

Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing. And so he just falls back into repeating his usual talking points. The only difference was that there were several minutes of him demagoguing a couple of stories where immigrants killed Americans. I’m really not sure it will move public opinion — at least after it is widely reported tomorrow that his speech was filled with deception and performed by a squinting man with barely suppressed rage. I’m sure it was a big hit with the base, however.

Beyond Outrage?

But this is what our nation has come to. It’s hard to get outraged by what Trump did last night given that he (with almost complete support from Republicans) does every day. What is there to say that hasn’t been said countless times before? If people support Trump, there really isn’t anything that he could do that would change that.

Well… There was this article in The New York Times, A Florida Town Grapples With a Shutdown After a Hurricane. This town is in the panhandle of Florida — you know: Alabama. So it’s filled with Trump supporters. And this is best summed up by Crystal Minton, a prison secretary, and single mother, “I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this. I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”

It’s a remarkable statement. Were the good things the hurting of the right people? Who are these people who need hurting? They clearly aren’t the ones with real power over her. I assume they are brown people — especially from other countries.

It hardly matters. Her big mistake was to believe that Trump (or any Republican) would ever do what was in her interest. One good thing about Trump is that he’s laid the game bare. He doesn’t speak in subtext. And he doesn’t have any problem screwing over his own voters.

What’s sad is that even if people like Ms Minton do figure out that they’ve been conned, they will continue to vote Republican. They will learn not to vote for Trump (at least for a while) but will continue to vote for Republicans with the same policy.

Our Useless Media

Most of the writing about Trump’s predictable performance last night has been focused on the networks’ choice to air this garbage. As has been widely noted, the networks gave air time for a presidential speech on immigration to Bush in 2006 and Trump in 2019. But they denied it to Obama in 2014. Oh my! I wonder why?!

Most people claim that the networks were “played” by Trump. For example, Media Matters reported, The Networks Got Played. Ten years ago, I would have agreed. Now I don’t think so.

The people at the networks may think of themselves as liberal, but they are exactly the kind of people who benefit from Republican policy. The anchors and executives (the people with power) are all millionaires. They’ve done well by Trump’s tax cut. They may prefer a less-chaotic Republican, but Trump is delivering for them.

Systemic Failure

All of this — Trump, Republicans, the media — come down to systemic problems in this country. We have a president who was “elected” by a minority. We have Republicans throughout the nation in charge because of gerrymandering. The Supreme Court is conservative because norms are no longer followed and our entire system of government apparently depends critically on them. It’s all a mess.

The only good thing I can say is that as the country gets more and more unequal, it will become more and more likely that the people will rise up. But until them, at least half the nation will be looking for a president who will hurt “the right people.”

Capitalist Apologetics With Steve Pearlstein

Capitalist Apologetics With Steve PearlsteinSteve Pearlstein is the author of Can American Capitalism Survive? — a liberal capitalist. Bhaskar Sunkara is the editor and publisher of Jacobin — a socialist. Vox decided to print a “debate” between them, Is America’s Future Capitalist or Socialist?

I don’t think much of it because Pearlstein and Sunkara get into the weeds of some issues and as a result, the “debate” is about one-tenth as long as it should be. The condescending tone of Pearlstein is also annoying, but that is not worthy of discussion — only to notice the way that these apologists always take this tone as a way to dismiss the idea that any systems besides capitalism are impossible. It’s their one-two punch: (1) Socialism can’t work; (2) Stalin! (They never grapple with any socialist systems that have worked.)

Stop Saying the Rich Will Care About the Poor Because they Care About Women!

But I was most struck with what seems to be the core of Pearlstein’s argument: we can save capitalism by reinstating norms. He points to the #MeToo movement. This is beyond ridiculous. Pearlstein has his head so far up his apologetics that he can’t see the truth.

I don’t know why capitalism’s apologists always fall for this. Let’s go over it again. LGBT rights were able to make headway because rich people are sometimes gay and rich people have friends and children who are gay. What’s more, LGBT rights cost the rich nothing.

The same is true of women. The rich have no problem with giving women equal rights. One way or another, they have gained their wealth through a system that benefits them at the cost of most women (and lots of other people). But they’ve got their money now! And they know their daughters will too. Mainstream feminism doesn’t pose any threat to their wealth.

Poor People Are Different

None of this calculus applies to poor people. To begin with, rich people don’t have poor children. They don’t have poor friends.

But most of all: helping poor people will require that the economy become more egalitarian. That is: it will cost them money — directly. And that’s in an absolute sense and a relative sense. I suspect if it were just absolute and the relative difference were the same, many rich people would go for it.

As a result, we will never undo, “Greed is good” — as Pearlstein fantasizes. Whatever happened to “Power concedes nothing without a demand”? How exactly do we move forward on norms by asking politely? Especially in the modern context where rich people live in different worlds than the rest of us? Twitter memes?!

The Post-World War II Delusion

How is it that people take a 25-year-long period of relatively good times and turn it into some natural state?

Pearlstein also relies on the idea that norms after World War II stopped capitalists from abusing their power. He dismisses the fact that it had much to do with unionization. I have one immediate question, “Then why were these same ‘enlightened’ capitalists so keen on ramming through the Taft–Hartley Act in 1947?” I don’t believe that needs an answer.

But also, how is it that people take a 25-year-long period and turn it into some natural state? The century before was horrible. The five-decade-long period since has gotten worse and worse. And remember, all during that time, the rich were doing everything they could to change the system. The rich never saw it as anything but temporary.

And that period after WWII when businesses did take a broader view of their mission was a fluke. That’s not the way things normally work.

Can you imagine the rich ever agreeing to even a 5 percent increase in taxes? Even if a credible case could be made that it would postpone a violent revolution? I can’t. And so I can’t imagine the rich ever agreeing to economic democracy.

What Prevents Real Change

This all leads me to some uncomfortable thoughts about political change. It’s not like we live in a democracy — or a democratic republic. As long as we don’t have economic democracy, we wouldn’t have political democracy. And without that, there is no clear way to get economic democracy.

Centuries of legal opinion make private property a given that most people can’t even imagine questioning. (Note: not personal property.) It’s very much like the centuries where poor people didn’t question the Divine Right of Kings. Now they don’t question the Divine Right of Private Property.

Going even further, the vast majority of poor people think of the standing police force and army as something meant to protect them when that is just a pretense.

Pearlstein claims that the first order of business is to get “money out of politics.” Oh yes! That will save us! (Corporate and union, because they are the same thing!) Then only the rich and well-connected will be able to win elected office. Bravo! (Pearlstein didn’t mention publicly-funded elections, so I assume he’s not for them and just has this idea if you get money out of politics the rich won’t be able to bend it to their will.)

We Are Doomed

Ultimately, I’m a pessimist. But it’s not irrational. Humans are horrible. The only thing that keeps me humble is the fact that I struggle. If I were rich, I’m sure I would have created an impenetrable philosophical system that told me it was right to be able to buy truffles while others starved.

I am certain that America will continue its decline to the point that it puts someone like Trump in charge full-time. What I can’t imagine is how this mess of a nation becomes better for more than a couple of years at a time.

No amount of hoping will save us from the toxic system that our country is based on.

Why I’m Probably Not as Sexist as I Am Racist

Why I'm Probably Not as Sexist as I Am RacistI think a lot more about racism than I do sexism. The reason is that I know I’m racist whereas I don’t generally think of myself as sexist. But that’s nonsense. I am sexist.

If I were given a stack of resumes, I suspect we would find some bias in my picks. (Assuming I hadn’t been primed; I bet I’d do a pretty good job right now.)

What Is Racism? Sexism?

But let me back up for a moment because I don’t want you to think that I’m just virtue-signalling here. I define “racism” and “sexism” pretty broadly: any irrational bias that one holds against a category of people. So if your heart races when you see a black man approaching you on an isolated street, that’s racism — even if you are a black man.

I don’t beat myself up about this because it is virtually impossible not to grow up in this nation and not be racist. It even affects blacks. And I’m sure the same is true of sexism.

Even though I do not believe in free will, I am not fatalistic about this. Knowing our subconscious biases allows us to be more focused on fighting our irrational subconscious tendencies.

(None of this is to say that subconscious bias is as bad as overt racism. But I don’t usually talk about overt racism because our country’s fixation on it is a big part of our racism problem. Using the n-word is racist. Seemingly nothing else short of murder is.)

Why I Like Women More Than Men

The truth is that I like women more than men — in a general sense. And I think I know why.

Until about ten years ago, I was always painfully thin. And I have always been short. And I’ve been bullied by “alpha” males from school to work and beyond. So I’ve always felt more at home with women.

(This isn’t to say that women can’t be bullies. But mostly, they are bullies in ways that I’m better able to deal with.)

On the other side of things, my knowledge of black culture comes mostly from the media and other racist white people. (I scored “slight bias toward whites” on the subconscious bias test.)

Liking Women Doesn’t Equal Non-Sexist

I’ve known a lot of other guys who prefer to be around women. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t sexist. (How much easier it is to see others’ faults than your own!)

Indeed, the attacks from the “alpha” males is part of the general process of systemic sexism in our society. Regardless what conservatives say, there is wide-scale acceptance and admiration of brutal male culture — even in romantic comedies!

So we may end up with a man who adores women but nonetheless just assumes that an executive at his firm would be a man. That doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be any female executives at his firm. But they would be there either because they are far better than any other available man or because of some bit of luck.

Moving Forward

This, of course, is why the “there’s no racism in America because Obama was president” is such a facile argument.

But it is also why I should be even more concerned about my own sexism. And racism. And pretty much every other –ism you can name. I am a man of my time and place. And the only way forward (as individuals and society) is to fight against this.

It’s interesting that even as technology changes society at a prodigious speed, we don’t move any faster in ridding ourselves of these horrible biases. At times it seems we are going in the opposite direction.

“Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” Is a Feminist Song

Carol ChanningGrowing up, the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and Carol Channing were more or less the same thing. I know that Marilyn Monroe performed the song in the filmed version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. And Jo Stafford recorded a version of the song three years before that. But Channing originated the role on Broadway. And it has since been her signature song. (Yes, she’s still alive — turning 98 this month.)

There are lots of ways to interpret the song. It is certainly one of the most cynical songs in the history of popular music. But the real question is what we are to make of the singer.

Is the Singer Sympathetic?

In the musical, it is sung by Lorelei Lee. And it is clear that she is meant to be sympathetic. It starts with her boyfriend’s father sending a detective to track her on her trip to France. He’s afraid she is only dating his son for his money. At the end, because this is a musical comedy, the father learns to respect her and gives his consent to marry.

This is all interesting but it is hardly a case for the song being a feminist anthem. In addition to everything else, the lyrics were written by a man, Leo Robin. (The music was written by Jule Styne, which I mention only because he is probably my favorite musical composer of that era.)

Gender Realpolitik

But the truth is that the song is an illustration of a woman accessing the world as it is and then taking control. It’s gender realpolitik.

The song starts:

A kiss on the hand
May be quite continental
But diamonds are a girl’s best friend
A kiss may be grand
But it won’t pay the rental
On your humble flat
Or help you at the automat

Men grow cold as girls grow old
And we all lose our charms in the end
But square cut or pear shape
These rocks don’t lose their shape
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

It’s odd that I never listened to the lyrics all those times I heard Channing perform it. It wasn’t until 1982 when T-Bone Burnett released a subdued version that I was forced to see just how menacing those lyrics were. And hidden beneath them is fear of a society that doesn’t treat girls the same as boys (this is quite explicit in the play).

The following year, Emmylou Harris released Burnett’s arrangement on her album White Shoes, which is great:

Feminist or Anti-Man?

The rest of the song is the same:

There may come a time
When a lass needs a lawyer
But diamonds are a girl’s best friend
There may come a time when a hard-boiled employer
Thinks you’re awful nice
But get that ice or else no dice

He’s your guy
When stocks are high
But beware when they start to descend
That’s when those louses
Go back to their spouses
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

(The full song includes an introduction and a third verse — both of which are wisely omitted by most performers. Channing uses yet another verse after the first that is quite good, but I’m not going to discuss it.)

The second verse could be seen as more anti-man than feminist. But I’m not sure that’s a distinction that matters. As with all relationships, the person with the most power acts the worse. To me, feminism ultimately becomes humanism.

I’ll admit that I’m jaded. A woman who understands that a sexual relationship is ultimately an economic exchange is one that has my respect. But you don’t need to see the song as quite that cynical. This is not a “sex for diamonds” transaction.

The implication is that she’s quite happy to be in the relationship. But since she can’t be a wife, she’s going to see to her retirement.

Modern Feminism?

Obviously, the song is not modern feminism. But for 1949 ethos it does push forward. Instead of telling young women to hold on to their virginity in order to get a husband, this song says, “Go ahead and live your life. But men are awful so protect yourself.”

What’s more, it seems a lot more progressive than Sheryl Sandberg’s ridiculous Lean In philosophy. I would say that Sandberg is pitching the same “wait until you’re married” notion. It is, “Play the rules like a man and they will treat you right.”

They won’t. Get that ice or no dice.

It Is Almost Always Wrong to Use [sic]

It Is Almost Always Wrong to Use SicThere is a time in any nonfiction writer’s life when they get good enough to use [sic]. And do they use it! It’s such a wonderfully passive-aggressive way to attack other writers. Generally, such writers eventually move past that point and never use it as a weapon. But they also learn that it is almost never necessary — especially on the internet.

Based on how most people use [sic], they must think that it means, “This is wrong.” But that is not it at all. Indeed, while it often does highlight errors, that is not its purpose.

What Is [sic]?

[sic] is short for sic erat scriptum. According to Google Translate, this means “thus it is written.” But it is better to think of as “literally” or “as written.”

And that’s all that [sic] means: the words before are meant as written. So I could write, “I’m felling spacd ot toda [sic].” And this is one of its most appropriate uses: to call attention to your bad humor attempts.

Traditionally, [sic] was used to indicate that anything in quoted text that might confuse the reader is there intentionally. So in quoting Shakespeare, I might write, “And all clouds that lowr’d vpon [sic] our houfe [sic].”[1]

Clearly, in this case, the [sic] is alerting to the user to the oddness. But more than that, it is saying, “This is how it is actually printed; I didn’t screw up.” And that’s very important because I’ve seen typos in quotes that writers introduced. I’ve done it myself when transcribing text.

Fix Errors in Quotations

But here’s the thing: [sic] is not meant to call attention to errors. And it is perfectly okay to fix any obvious errors and typos.

I hear people objecting. “What?! How dare you change another writer’s prose! You monster!”

There are several things wrong with this. First, only do this when it is clear. I’m sure you’ve seen things I’ve written here like, “He went to a a store.” Is there any doubt I meant to write, “He went to a store”?

Another issue is that editors and typesetters often put errors into a writer’s work. And that was even truer before writers and publishers had computers.

Only the worst pedants will complain unless you somehow change the quotation in a fundamental way.

But if it bothers you, put the changes inside square brackets.

Never Use [sic] as a Weapon

Fowler’s entry on [sic] is more of a rant condemning the use of it as a weapon. And rightly so! This usage is totally unacceptable.

And in the age of the internet, [sic] is almost never necessary because the reader already knows that any quotes are not transcribed. They are rather copied-and-pasted. So it is exactly what was written.

I suspect we will eventually get to the point were [sic] is primarily used as I first did in this article: to point out something the writer is saying.

But my main point is this: don’t be a jerk. In the end, you will only look small to the people who matter.

Afterword

You should probably be able to guess, given the intensity of this article, that I am a former sinner. So don’t take my hectoring personally. It’s more self-criticism than anything.


[1] I don’t know enough about printing to say if any of this is actually different in substance. But it clearly is typographically, so if you require it, imagine I am writing about changes in printing.

Schopenhauer on Nationalism

Arthur Schopenhauer[T]he cheapest sort of pride is national pride; for if a man is proud of his own nation, it argues that he has no qualities of his own of which he can be proud; otherwise he would not have recourse to those which he shares with so many millions of his fellow men. The man who is endowed with important personal qualities will be only too ready to see clearly in what respects his own nation falls short since their failings will be constantly before his eyes. But every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud adopts, as a last resource, pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and glad to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.

–Arthur Schopenhauer
Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life

Note: yes, Schopenhauer is being an elitist dick-head. Did my past writing about him give you the idea that he was warm and cuddly?

The Effect of Jill Stein Voters on the 2016 Election

The Effect of Jill Stein Voters on the 2016 ElectionIt may seem an odd time to take a deep dive into the results of the 2016 presidential election. After all, is there any doubt that Trump’s win was a fluke? Clinton’s loss was overdetermined. What this means is that there were multiple factors that went against her, but had any one of them gone differently, she would have won the presidency. And I am interested in one of those potential things: liberals who voted for Jill Stein rather than Clinton in the 3 critical states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Assumptions

In order to do this, I have to make assumptions. The main assumption that I am going to make is that the increase in Jill Stein voters from 2012 to 2016 were liberals who refused to vote for Clinton. Whether you want to see this as a result of Clinton being a horrible candidate or these voters being propagandized is up to you.

Personally, I go with the latter because I saw it happening. Many of my liberal (Sanders-supporting) friends would ask me about conspiracy theories that had been debunked in the 1990s. What’s more, in as much as Clinton was a bad candidate, it was due to her long history of facing these false and often bizarre stories. Note that these have culminated in Clinton supposedly now running a sex-trafficking ring.[1]

Another major assumption has to do with how I deal with the different number of voters in each state during the 2016 and 2012 elections. There are three approaches to this. Case A is to ignore this effect and go with the straight vote totals. Case B is to weight based on the total vote in the state. And case C is to weight based on the total Democratic vote in the state. I believe that Case C is the best.

Although this assumption has a notable effect, it does not affect the result of any of the three states. However, I will come back to this issue of non-voters.

Results

I am only going to present the Case C results. This is simply because this article is already far too complicated for most people. But for those who want to check my work (which I would appreciate) or expand on it, there is a spreadsheet: Jill Stein 2016 Election. (In order to edit it, you will need to download it or — if you have a Google Drive account — make a copy.)

State Clinton Loss Margin Extra JS Votes Alt Clinton Margin
MI 10,704 18,048 -7,344
PN 44,292 29,689 14,603
WI 22,748 28,766 -6,018

As you can see, Wisconsin and Michigan would have gone for Clinton if these extra Jill Stein voters had chosen to vote for the Democratic candidate as they appear to have done in 2012. But Pennsylvania would still have gone for Trump — albeit by a substantially smaller margin (33 percent).

Clearly, the Jill Stein voters alone were not enough of an effect to have flipped the election from Trump to Clinton. But there’s more to consider.

Democratic Non-Voters

Another thing that jumps out of the numbers is how many fewer people in these states voted for the Democratic Candidate in 2016 than in 2012. This is despite the fact that there were more total votes in each state. Also: Trump got substantially more votes than Romney in Michigan and Pennsylvania and barely less (0.02 percent).

State 2012 2016 Decrease
MI 2,564,569 2,268,839 295,730
PN 2,990,274 2,926,441 63,833
WI 1,620,985 1,382,536 238,449

Taken together, these numbers clearly show that the liberals who just couldn’t vote for Clinton based on right-wing propaganda (admittedly, often pitched with leftist reasons) cost Clinton the presidency.

What We Lost When Clinton Lost

In the process, we have a conservative Supreme court. What’s more, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies in the next 2 (Or 6!) years, it will become more conservative still. We have an immigration crisis we would not have. There are strained relationships with our traditional international partners. We have an emboldened North Korea and Russia. We have trade wars.

There is no doubt that if Hillary Clinton were president today, I would be complaining about her constantly. But wouldn’t it be a lot better to be complaining about Clinton than Trump? Wouldn’t the people of the United States, and almost certainly the world, be much better off with Clinton in the White House?

No Regrets!

And here’s the thing: I have no problem with actual leftists voting for whomever they want. But most of the people who refused to vote for Clinton were not leftists. Let’s be clear: if you voted for Obama in 2012 then you weren’t making an ideological stand by voting for Jill Stein in 2016. You had just bought into the right-wing propaganda fed to you.

The funny thing is that I know some conservatives who voted for Trump and now regret it. (That’s hardly surprising; conservatives seem always to be voting for people they quickly repudiate.) I don’t know any Jill Stein voters who have done the same thing.

Faux-Revolutionaries

The truth is, you either join the revolution or you don’t. And if you don’t, you’ve got to be practical about your vote. And the people who suddenly discovered Jill Stein in 2016 are not revolutionaries. They are just easily manipulated political amateurs.

What’s more, Jill Stein is no revolutionary. Real leftists are not very keen on the Green Party. It is the party of the faux-revolutionaries.

What About the Extra Libertarian Voters?

One could, of course, make the argument that the Libertarian voters should have voted for Trump. There are a few problems with this. First, a lot of those Libertarians voters would have voted for the Democrat, not the Republican. But I admit, most of them would have voted for the Republican. But those who just could not cast a vote for Trump were not basing their decision on propaganda. They were refusing to vote for Trump because they understood that he would govern just as he has.

Clinton and Obama are pretty much identical: girl/boy scouts who are center (American) left. Other than insanity or total ignorance (Ding, ding, ding!) there was no reason for liberals not to vote for her. And if that’s you, it’s not something you need to be ashamed of. Just note it, learn, and move on.


[1] Note in this article the picture of Obama supposedly playing pizza at the pizzeria. No rational person could think that a pizzeria would have a very long hallway like that. You have to be convinced that a story is true to use such a thing as an indication much less proof. Of course, had Obama played ping-pong with a child that proves… What?!