Category Archives: Social Justice

Extradite Polanski!

On "Getting Over It," by Lauren over at Feministe (cited from Boing Boing):

does rape do to you? Afterward? It changed me; there is before and
after. Before, a child, playing with Barbies, looking sideways at boys,
wondering. After, confusion. Depression. A litany of fuck-ups and
fuck-its, whatevers, mistakes, trusting no one, least of all myself.
Before, sex was mysterious; after, miasma. I was tarred as a Lolita. I
was called jail bait.

Rape is not the only assault. Around rape is a large segment of the
population that questions the victim, a culture that looks down on
victims for allowing themselves to be victimized, or keep them
victimized, questions about the victim's credibility, questions about
the legacy of rape and how bad it is, because how bad is rape really?
Rape, because various levels and forms of sexual assault are systemic
and pervasive across all societies, exists alongside one's experiences
of unwanted touching, wanted touching, sexual objectification, sexual
desire, sexual harassment, incest, love, leering eyes, cat calls,
roaming hands, consent, confusion, tits, vagina, rectum, penis, mouth,
rape and not-rape, all of it loaded, all of it veering at rape's ugly
legacy, co-mingling, the legacy that tells us to be more careful, to
dress more conservatively, to BE BETTER AT BEING VULNERABLE, or BE MORE
healthy, consensual experiences. It lingers. It pervades.

There is more at the Boing Boing post about Polanski using alcohol and a Quaalude to make it easier to rape her, a link to her testimony clearly indicating that she said no and a quote from Polanski that everyone wants to have sex with girls.  This guy is amazing.  Perhaps someone should give Polanski these tips when he is back in jail:

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!

1.   Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.

2.   When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!

3.   If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!

4.   NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.

5.   If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

6.   Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.

7.   USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from
assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in

8.   Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring
friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault.
Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t
communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign
that you do not plan to rape them.

9.   Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!

10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone
“on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can
blow it if you do.

And, ALWAYS REMEMBER: if you didn’t ask permission and then respect
the answer the first time, you are committing a crime- no matter how
“into it” others appear to be.

Shutting down Kula Ring

I recently found the site Just For The Love Of It
that does pretty much what I wanted to do with my Kula Ring project.  It does not do all that I wanted to do, but since they are further along, it just does not make sense to keep Kula Ring around taking up my thoughts and limited attention, if only to worry about not doing it.

So, I am
officially shutting Kula Ring down and will keep the site around as
long as I want to pay for the domain name.  The decision took me all of two days to make, and allows me to concentrate on other projects that I have been thinking about.

I suggest that folks who want to give others the gift of their time and need a tool to help them find folks to give their time to, and more, should go to Just For The Love Of It.

New ways to measure progress

Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, at the request of the French Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, put out a report on alternative methods for measuring economic performance. Such methods include Gross Domestic Product (GDP) statistics, but the report calls for including social and environmental factors.

Herman Daly and many others in the Ecological Economics community have been calling for better measures of our economic, social and environmental progress for over twenty years.  Indeed, Redefining Progress already releases its Genuine Progress Indicator each year, though at a three year delay.

Edward Harrison of Credit Writedowns rightly points out (via Naked Capitalism) that GDP is an inadequate measure of our economic state.  Rather he wants to be sure that our economic statistics include not just income (GDP), but debt.  I completely agree with him and hope that such revised metrics, note the plural,  include measure such assets as our environment, the health & education of our people and other non-market debts and assets.

Hopefully this report will put a pressure on the world's governments to devise and track metrics that better reflect our economic, social and ecological progress.  Until then, we should create and track our own community indicators.


A few bits on sacrifice from Raoul Vaneigem's The Revolution of Everyday Life, (Chapter 12) which I am reading now:

"… the master-slave dialectic implies that the mythic sacrifice of the
master embodies within itself the real sacrifice of the slave: the
master makes a spiritual sacrifice of his real power to the general
interest, while the slave makes a material sacrifice of his real life
to a power which he shares in appearance only."


"The refusal of sacrifice is the refusal to be bartered. There is
nothing in the world of things, exchangeable for money or not, which
can be treated as equivalent to a human being. The individual is
irreducible. He is subject to change but not to exchange. Now, the most
superficial examination of movements for social reform shows that they
have never demanded anything more than a cleaning-up of exchange and
sacrifice, making it a point of honor to humanize inhumanity and make
it attractive. And every time slaves try to make their slavery more
bearable they are striking a blow for their masters."

This book and Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War are the two books I am striving to finish of late.  Sigh… the Sicilian Expedition, about which I am reading, was yet another case of imperial overstretch.  Not like our current follies.

Noble lies or Glad we got that out in the open

Irving Kristol, "godfather of neoconservatism", died on the 18th.  A friend blogged about this quote from Kristol:

"There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people.
There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate
for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and
truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion
that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a
modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work."

Here he is expounding on the need for "Noble lies".  Glad we got that cleared up.  Nice to know the "grandfather of neoconservatism" thought it was ok for elites to lie to us lowly citizens.  Its for our own good after all.

Considering the last eight years of lies: Iraq has WMDs, we need to bail out the fat cats on wall street who save the economy, the planet isn't warming because of our emissions of CO2, housing prices will keep going up, the rich deserve their wealth, I'd rather some truth please.

The Reason magazine article, don't worry they are libertarians, that reports the previous quote has this little Kristol gem as well:

"If God does not exist, and if religion is an illusion that the
majority of men cannot live without…let men believe in the lies of
religion since they cannot do without them, and let then a handful of
sages, who know the truth and can live with it, keep it among
themselves. Men are then divided into the wise and the foolish, the
philosophers and the common men, and atheism becomes a guarded,
esoteric doctrine–for if the illusions of religion were to be
discredited, there is no telling with what madness men would be seized,
with what uncontrollable anguish." (cite).

Seems to me that the Golden Rule of "do to others what you would like to be done to you" is pretty universal.  Whether given from a god, gods, or just something we developed in our long evolution, it doesn't much matter.  However, Kristol seems to believe "he who has the gold makes the rules".  How very Machiavellian of him.  I'll leave out the Dante reference.

You’ve been robbed!

The Left Business Observer (LBO) just put out another useful issue.  There is great deal there about the state of the economy, the fact that most of the increase in consumption is due to the increase in health care costs, the attempts to fix health care, and whether the economy really is deleveraging from the debt boom we have been in for over twenty years.  Full with lots of good details while a quick read and pretty inexpensive to boot.

One thing I want to call out is one of the end articles on the rich.  Thanks to Doug Henwood of LBO, I am able to provide you with two of the graphs in the article.  By the way, the source data for the charts below comes from the IRS by way of economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty.  See my previous post The rich continue to get richer to find a link back some of their papers.

The first graph I will share is the share of income received, I won't say earned, from the early 1900s to 2007 by those in the bottom 90%, top 10%, top 1%, and top 0.1%.  Remember that the figures for the top 10% include those of the top 1% and 0.1% and those of the top 1% include those in the top 0.1%.


The graph speaks for itself, but for the post World War 2 period until the late 1970s/early 1980s, income for the bottom 90% was about 2/3.  During Reagan, and later, the wealthiest 10% claimed a greater share of the income produced in the US, to the point that they receive about 50%.  The dip in the end of the series is the 2000 recession.  Clearly eight years of Clinton didn't hinder the trend of the rich getting more.  One other thing to call out is that much of the change in the income share of the top 10% is due to increases in the top 1%.  This will become obvious below.

What is not shown is the shares for those in the bottom 50% or even 20%.  Based on other things I read, my guess is that those shares declined as well.

The next chart shows the percentage gains in income by group for the periods of 1948-1973 and 1982-2007.  Both are 25 year time periods and the first period reflects the post-World War 2 economy while the later represents the last 25 years (since the data set goes up to 2007.)


Clearly the bottom 90% saw a doubling of their income in 1948-1973, but a much smaller growth in 1982-2007.  Even the bottom 99% did better during 1948-1973 than in 1982-2007. 

Clearly, the big winners were those in the top 1%, especially the top 0.01% who saw their incomes quintuple during the 1982-2007 period.

So if you aren't in the top 1% and you are wondering where yours went, you know who got it.

Data point: Diversity among Boston-area Tradable Card Gamers

I took my son and his friend to a Yu-Gi-Oh! sneak-peak and Magic game day at Pandemonium Books & Games this last weekend.  They had fun playing the game with each other, another friend and a few of the other folks there.

One thing I noticed was how the composition of the players both confirmed and challenged the perceptions that such science fiction and fantasy oriented gaming is a white-male only activity.

It was certainly true that the players were overwhelmingly teenagers (or at least in their early 20ies) and of the seventy-five people I counted there, only four were women.

However, the ethic breakdown, albeit from my subjective observation skills and the few conversations I had, was:

8 African descent

28 Asian descent

18 European descent

10 Latino descent

1 Mixed descent

I found the ethnic distribution (though not the gender distribution) pretty refreshing, certainly compared to my work environment and even the Green-Rainbow Party.  While I was clearly in the top 10% in terms of age, I didn't feel much out of place.

I do not know if this data point reflects the true diversity of this group, but I found it interesting nevertheless.

The rich continue to get richer

Paul Krugman calls out the latest income inequality numbers from Emmanuel Saez.  The nearly thirty year trend of increasing income inequality got noticeably larger during the Clinton & Bush II years.  And yes, that is the % of income claimed by the wealthiest 1/10000th of the US population.  The wealth values are no doubt even higher.  These values only go up to 2007, but my guess is that 2008 was even higher, and possibly 2009 as well.


If we look at just the top 1%, they claim 23% of all income and followed a similar path as the top 1/100%, though not as radical.  The top 1%, by the way, represents families with an annual income above $398,900 in 2007.  Who says we cannot pay for health care and close the deficit by taxing these folks more.

Download the data and graphs in Excel format.  Table 2 has a nice summary.